The Amsterdam subway and railway map in anagram form. I live near CDU Witz (German for “conservative joke”). I rarely take the subway, though, unless it is to go shopping near the Kwijlbeul (“drivel executioner”) station. Or I get off at the Hert Noch Del (“doe nor tart”) station to play golf.

(Via: BoingBoing.)

Responses to E.C. digital libraries consultation

The responses to the European Commission’s consultation on digital libraries (and related subjects such as orphan works) have been posted on its website. Among the respondents are libraries, museums, accessibility groups, publishers, software houses, and private persons such as li’l ole me.

Invention #3: the battery charging coat-rack

Abstract: see title.

They say men never stop being little boys, and in my case that is certainly true. OK, so nowadays it is pretty much unlikely you will find marbles, dead frogs and pieces of rope in my pockets, but I still buy coats with many deep pockets, for I still have many important things to carry around with me.

Some of these toys work on batteries, or they would if I did not forget to charge them regularly. On any given day you are likely to find at least a dead cell-phone and a dead Palm Zire in my coat.

The thing is, I am never reminded of these toys until I need them. But when I need them, I need to recharge them first, which is a nuisance only then.

So how about this: I come home, hang my coat on the rack, and the rack automatically seeks out all my electronic toys, assesses their need for juice, and gives it to them if they need it.

Earlier inventions:

#2: the multi-alarm alarm clock

#1: the pay-me-to-talk-to-me phone

Bad Medicine

Another story I was going to read over Christmas was Robert Sheckley’s Bad Medicine, from which I quoted the beginning:

On May 2, 2103, Elwood Caswell walked rapidly down Broadway with a loaded revolver hidden in his coat pocket. He didn’t want to use the weapon, but feared he might anyhow. This was a justifiable assumption, for Caswell was a homicidal maniac.

Sheckley writes lovely mild satire. It just happens to take place in the future. I don’t quite get the comparison with Douglas Adams, except that they are both science fiction authors who use humour. I’d compare Sheckley (just on the basis of this one story, mind!) with other satiricists, such as Ephraïm Kishon.

The story is about a homicidal jet-bus driver who represses his tendencies by robot-therapy sessions. Accidentally, he receives a robot that is pre-set to treat Martian conditions…

Definitely got me interested in his other works, several of which he published at Scifiction Magazine, a magazine closed down by its corporate owners, the infamous SciFi Channel. At the time of writing, their archives are still open though.

Bad Medicine by Robert Sheckley, 7/10. Reviewed by Branko Collin on February 22, 2006.

(There is also a human-read (by Sheckley?) audio book version of the story.)

Edit 4 June 2006: adapted this review to the hReview microformat.

Four Max Carrados Detective Stories

As I wrote earlier, I was going to read Bramah and Sheckley over Christmas, which I have. I also suggested that Bramah’s Kai Lung may have influenced Terry Pratchett; but I read a book from that other series of Ernest Bramah, so I won’t be able to compare the authors. Yet.

Max Carrados is yet another soldier in that large army of super-detectives that was so popular during the late 19th and early 20th century: Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown, Hercule Poirot, The Thinking Machine, Bill Clifford, and of course the granddaddy of them all, Dupin.

The four Carrados stories are neither better nor worse than their contemporaries. If anything, the story type is starting to grate a little. Still, great escapist stuff.

Max Carrados is, like Poirot and Holmes claim to be, a consulting detective. They listen to your story, and then, solely based on what you told them, the mud on the gold watch you inherited from your father and the fact that the queen’s stable boy has a cold, solve your “case” using nothing but deduction. Carrados is “aided,” so to speak, by his losing sight in his younger years, sharpening his deductive facilities. (Father Brown’s deductive facilities are aided by extreme bigotry.)

Ernest Bramah, Four Max Carrados Detective Stories, 6/10.

(Bill Clifford, by the way, is like Sherlock Holmes a parody of these types of detectives, written by Dutchman Godfried Bomans, and unfortunately won’t return to the public domain for a long time to come.)

Kazakh Orgasmatron

Motörhead’s hits throated by Yat-Kha (as well as Hank Williams, Kraftwerk, the Stones), through Reinder.

German for beginners

With the World Cup coming up in Germany this summer, the Dutch football union KNVB have seen it fit to produce a German language course for those Dutch fans visiting the matches.

You’ll learn to tell a German:

It is indeed a pity to lose to Togo.
Eine Niederlage gegen Togo ist wirklich schade.

I do not think that waste paper basket is to be blamed.
Ich glaube nicht, dass dieser Papierkorb etwas dafür kann.

The host country rarely gets kicked out in the first round.
Es kommt wirklich nicht häufig vor, dass das Gastgeberland schon in der ersten Runde rausfliegt.

Perhaps you lack a sense of humor.
Vielleicht haben Sie keinen Sinn für Humor.



Guaranteed downloading

[cropped screenshot]

Linotype promises to replace any fonts that you bought and may have displaced or damaged. I thought this so remarkable, that I’d blog about. The truly remarkable thing is of course that this sort of service should not be remarkable in the first place, but standard practice.

There are other companies that replace the copyrighted works you license from them, but usually at a cost, and not so prominently through their website.

Some other features of the Linotype website that seems to indicate that the company, unlike so many others, think that they can engage with their customers in a friendly manner, rather than through all-out war: the download of the Font Explorer font manager (their iTunes of fonts) does not require you to register for sixty newsletters, and they link to font tools by third parties, meaning they trust outsiders.

These are little things, but it makes them look trustworthy in return.


Memo to self; must keep track of the efforts of the Utnubu group, who try and keep track of the differences between Debian GNU/Linux and Ubuntu GNU/Linux, and integrate everything that is “good” into the former. Their experiences could help make maintaining forks easier, something I am looking forward to.

(As referenced somewhere on Everybody Loves Eric Raymond.)

The freedom to prattle

Mr Bean: One Muslim protester, photographed holding a banner with the slogan “Freedom Can Go To Hell” on it, said that this violation of the West’s most sacred taboo was intended “ironically”.

Archbishop: Across Europe, newspapers showed solidarity with Denmark by printing cartoons about pedophilia and essays by holocaust deniers.

Andrew Rilstone on the things we don’t always say.