Costs less, pay more?

PO boxes and online banking are two services offered by spin-offs of the formerly state-owned PTT (postal services). According to my estimates, both should cost less than delivering mail to the house and snail-mail based banking respectively, because they eliminate the most costly factor: personel. Yet both are sold at a premium, whereas the more expensive counter-parts are free. Am I missing the obvious? (If so, what is the obvious?)

Update: reworded this entry completely to eliminate rambliness, though the meaning is still intact.

Authoring hatred

“In rejecting hatred I should have shown myself a traitor to love.”

Belgian literary Nobel Prize winner Maurice Maeterlinck in his 1916 preface to his collection of essays “The Wrack of the Storm“, on why he cannot write objectively about Germans while they are defiling his country.

The curious incident of the dog that barked in the night-time

Inspector Gregory: “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

“The dog did nothing in the night time.”

“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

There is a conspiracy theory that says the US secret service did not try to extract US president George Bush jr. during the 9/11 attacks because they knew he was not a target. There is another theory that you should not ascribe to malice what can be ascribed to stupidity.

This, of course, is the matter that has kept Americans of good will engaged for some time now; is the Bush administration evil or stupid?

Whichever way the answer lies, my government will rule this country for the American people as long as it can stand on its feet! (What do you mean, they should rule it for the Dutch people instead?)

Via Sargasso.

Twisted twins

This strange face is a spectrogram, a plot of nine seconds of frequency (vertical axis) against time (horizontal axis) of Aphex Twin’s song Equation. Spectrograms are usually used for analysis of sound, and require a lossy domain shift. (Sound is the result of small pressure changes on your ear drums over time; the two elements that define it therefore are pressure/energy and time.) This is the first time I have heard of a case where the sound is derived from the spectrogram.

Edit: changed the order of two words that implied spectrograms can be made from a recording without a domain shift, which I do not think is true. 13-4-2006.

Of birds and pies

“I will tell you a story. A bird wanted to migrate South during the winter, but it left too late, and its little wings froze mid-flight. The bird crashed in a meadow. However, it was lucky. A cow grazing there dropped a warm pie on its head, making its wings thaw. The bird, happy about so much luck, burst into song. A cat was attracted to the sound, and caught the bird and ate it.”

“The moral of the story? Those that shit on you, aren’t necessarily your enemies. But most of all: if you are in the shit, shut up.”

F.C. Antwerp gets free advice from the lawyer of an angry financial backer. Via Sargasso.


My youngest brother is off to climb the Mount Everest. He is not a man of many words, but hopes to post video clips worth thousands at his team’s website.

A visit to the end of the world

Maciej Ceglowski visits the southern-most city in the world:

They realized they were not the first to pass that way, for the path that led around the left of the Great Plain was well-worn and dotted with booths. At one they bought a box of fudge, which had been baked in an oven in a cave in the mountain, which was heated by the fire of the letters that formed God’s Final Message to His Creation. At another they bought some postcards. The letters had been blurred with an airbrush, “so as not to spoil the Big Surprise!” it said on the reverse.

OK, so that wasn’t by Maciej Ceglowski, and it wasn’t about the southern-most city in the world. But this Douglas Adams quote shows that entrepeneurs are the same everywhere, whether they work at the end of the world, the end of time, or any of a dozen or so locations that are the end of the world. This is Maciej:

The only substantial city on Tierra del Fuego is Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. You will learn this interesting fact at the (southernmost!) airport and have it repeated it to you a dozen times before you can get to your southernmost hotel. Downtown, next to the Falklands Memorial, you will see an enormous sign reading “Welcome to the End of the World!”


Most of the visitors in Ushuaia don’t fly in, but arrive on one of the giant cruise ships that dock here during the summer, on the South American circuit. As a result, the city is an empire of steakhouses and porphyry penguin gift shops designed for people with five hours of shore leave. You can pretty much buy the southernmost anything you want, if you can stand the markup.

There’s more… Anyway, this is the third time I mentioned the Idle Words blog, you should be able to find your way there on your own now.

Letzte Tag der Schöpfung

There is this sci-fi book that I read in high-school, that I would like to read again, but of which I forgot the title and the name of the author. I remember that it started with the discovery of a million year old Jeep on the Mediterranean coast…

Well, you know what they say: if at first you do not succeed, come back later and Google again. Memo to self: I think the book I am trying to remember may have been “Letzte Tag der Schöpfung” by Wolfgang Jeschke. The back-story seems to fit. This novel revolves around a plan by the Americans to go back in time, put a pipeline under the Mediterranean Sea, and “steal” the oil from the Arabs millions of years before they would even discover it.