Once upon a time there was a fairytale that yet had to be told.

The slippery slope argument for coffee pads

A while ago, one of my brothers explained that he had not only made the switch from making pots of coffee using the traditional method of Putting the Kettle On to making cups of coffee using a Philips Senseo coffee maker, but that he actually liked the switch for practical reasons. As it turned out, he started making coffee on a need-to-drink basis, and saved a lot of undrunk coffee in the process.

Though I still think the whole Senseo concept is too much marketing and too little coffee, I have been experimenting with cups vs. pots, and I must say this new method seems to be a winner. Sure, coffee is a drug and Philips the enabler, but I find half the time I drink only one cup, and most of the rest of the time only two cups, as opposed to two or more from my pot making days.

I guess there is a practical reason for that; I need that first cup, and will overcome huge transactional costs just to get my fix. But making the second cup is often too much of a bother, and I will only drink it if it is already available (usually in the form of potted coffee). I guess I save on average ten cups of coffee a week using the new method. Still haven’t bought a Senseo, though.

Why do I believe hypnosis exists?

Title says it all. Suggestions?

Damn monkeys!

From an unnamed book currently doing the rounds at Distributed Proofreaders, as quoted by one of the volunteers:

And here let us remark, that this German prince, in order to read that work, was obliged to have the German translated into French by his friend Suhm, the Saxon minister at Petersburg.

Chasot, who had no very definite duties to perform at Rheinsberg, was commissioned to copy Suhm’s manuscript,–nay, he was nearly driven to despair when he had to copy it a second time, because Frederic’s monkey, Mimi, had set fire to the first copy.

It’s about oil, dummy!

So why did we attack Iraq? Not merely because it rhymes, I hope. Your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps even Robert Newman’s guess is as good as mine. It’s certainly not as bad as the raison du jour that Bush and his cronies hand out.

From his show History of oil:

I was in North Carolina, reading the papers in the back yard with the guy who lived next door. And it was the day that news first broke from Iraq about the united Sunni and Shiite uprising against the US led occupation. Same day there was news of an African union declaration condemning US foreign policy.

The guy next door said to me: “I’ll tell you this much about the United States: we are sure bringing about world unity. Because the entire planet hates us. It’s like it’s become one big nation called The Rest of the World.”

And I said to him: “Well, actually we did. In fact, we’ve even got our own flag.”

“Well, yeah?” he asked, “what is it?”

I said: “Same as yours, but on fire.”

You must watch it, if only for his Tony Blair as Joseph Goebbels impression. (Some of Newman’s older work here, from his show with David Baddiel.)

Keeping honest people honest

Now there’s a surreal title for this entry. Speaking of Dali; in 1965 he donated a painting to Rikers Island Prison, on account of that he could not be there in person. The painting, depicting the Saviour on a cross, hung in the prisoner’s dining hall a good many years, until somebody recently decided it probably wasn’t very safe there. So it was moved to the lobby, from where it was stolen in no time at all by four prison guards.

Who woulda thunk,” a guy in the street was overheard saying.


Neuromancer is about a bank job. Case used to be an ace safe cracker, until he got cocky and took off with his customer’s money. They broke both his hands in retaliation. But that is what makes him perfect for this job: nobody will suspect he is involved.

The team that is collected around him is an equally unlikely bunch. The team leader is an ex-army colonel with a grudge against the world. The driver of the get-away car is hired from a rastafari colony. And the client? Case will find out who the client is when he finds out what it is he is supposed to steal.

Except of course that Case is not a safe cracker but a computer hacker. It wasn’t his hands that were broken, but his mind. The safe is a networked system. And the rastafari colony is in an orbit around Earth. Still, doesn’t sound very original, does it? It’s still a bank job, by any other name.

You want original? How about this for original: this book coined the term cyberspace. This book coined the term matrix (and “jacking into the matrix”), long before the makers of a certain movie went on a borrowing spree. This book coined the term meatspace. It is chock-full of concepts that even today, twenty years later, when many of them are becoming reality, many people still do not understand. The author is one of the founding fathers of the Cyberpunk genre.

I should have read this 20 years ago, when I needed to read it. I won’t say that it has aged badly, but I have gotten used to the concepts of cyberspace without Neuromancer’s aid. The intimate relationship I could and should have forged with this novel is no longer possible, and what is worse is that I know this.

If you haven’t done so before, you should still read it.

Neuromancer, by William Gibson, 6/10.

Review of Neuromancer published on Aug 13, 2006 by Branko Collin.

A book with a complex installation procedure

At the Teleread blog, where I blog, regular visitor Roland Rohde was talking about the troubles he had with DRM, and in the run-up to his story he casually remarked that: “[the book] had a rather complicated installation routine, I can’t exactly remember what I had to do to get it working“.

A book with an installation procedure!

Now in the the days of yore (that is to say, before the mid-1990s) I would have smiled had I read that, because it would have meant that digital books were finally becoming a reality, and the teething problems we were experiencing were proof of that.

Today however, even though e-books have not caught on yet, there is no shortage of e-book standards and e-book readers, and even if you do not use these specialized items, there are enough wide-spread technologies that can be used to read electronic books, such as HTML and MP3 for file formats, and iPods and mobile phones for devices.

You know the story; this bloke John Gutenberg “invents” movable type. Publishers take authors’ books and make thousands of copies, without reimbursing the authors. Other publishers (“pirates”, as one author once called them) copy these books, not reimbursing the original publishers (or, indeed, the authors), thereby greatly upsetting these original publishers. Publishers get laws passed that evolve into so-called “copy rights”, so that other publishers can no longer “steal” from them.

Then the digital age comes along, and publishing changes from being “fairly easy, if you know what to do and own a printing press” to “so trivial, even a legless goat could do it”.

There is a popular argument that says we need DRM, because otherwise publishers won’t jump on the e-book bandwagon. Somehow the people who claim so fail to mention that readers won’t jump on the e-book bandwagon unless they can do more with e-books than with p-books.

Unless of course publishers are going to play the same sort of shell game they did with the LP/CD, where from one day to the next you could no longer buy vinyl, and had to go for CDs (at extremely inflated prices). In which case we’ll be able to do less with p-books, because there won’t be any.


This reminds me of a Max Tailleur joke from our toilet. (That is to say, his book of jokes was our toilet reading material back when I was a kid.)

A boy comes home from school and starts talking enthusiastically about what he learned during biology class. Apparently, they have been discussing evolution, and he finishes his story: “Don’t you think it’s great, dad, how we all derive from monkeys?”

Up to that moment the christian fundamentalist father has been listening to his son’s story in silence, and with rage building up in him, but now he cannot take it any longer. He bursts out: “Monkeys?! Monkeys?!!! Perhaps you stem from a monkey, but I certainly don’t!

OK, so I cannot tell a joke, so what are you going to do about it, eh?

Da summer maintenance

As you may have noticed, I started publishing old drafts. One was so old, it had passed its sell-by date and I had to throw it out. The rest needs a lick-a-paint here and there and will be up shortly.

Removed from the blog-roll for inactivity: CoCo and Natasha. Added to the blog-roll: Wisse Words by Martin Wisse.