Buffer states are just anvil states

“Buffer States are just anvil States.”

H.G. Wells in his essay “Holland’s Future”, in Current History, A Monthly Magazine: The European War, March 1915.

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I feel like such a rube! The Discovery Channel is organizing a reality show “in which the contestants will build elaborate Rube Goldberg machines“, according to BoingBoing. Being of a sometimes curious nature, I decided to check out the site they linked to, RealityWanted.com, but in order to view the entire application form I had to log in. Still being of a curious nature, I decided to look at the registration page. This is what I saw:


In case you don’t get the joke: in order to register, you need to log in first. In order to log in, you need to register first. And so on ad infinitum.

Perhaps they want you to make Escheresque Rube Goldberg machines? Or perhaps they want to test your inventiveness? (The Rube Goldberg site has a similar test: a “skip intro” link that doesn’t work. Or does it…?)

Dutch e-books from Project Gutenberg, DBNL and Project Laurens Jz Coster

About a month a go I promised I would blog a bit about the difference between the major Dutch projects for public domain e-books.

I’m talking about:

  • books
  • in electronic format
  • with the copyrights expired
  • in Dutch
  • available for free
  • over the internet
  • in a format that allows mix, rip and burn.

That’s a pretty narrow subset of all literature ever created, but it works for me, because I’m Dutch, I can read, I have an internet connection, and I don’t like others to dictate what I should and should not do with that which I download. Also I don’t mind reading off a screen as long as that screen is attached to a pocket-sized lightweight hand-held device.

The major distinctions between Project Gutenberg, Project Laurens Jz. Coster (henceforth: Project Coster) and the Digitale Bibliotheek der Nederlandse Letteren (DBNL) in terms of literary content are:

  • Project Gutenberg also produces non-fiction, magazines, and translations of foreign classics,
  • Project Coster seems to have most of the Dutch classics
  • Project DBNL has in-copyright works

All three projects carry some of the major public domain classics, and all three projects carry obscure novels.

There are some differences in process that may or may not matter to you, depending on your needs. The DBNL claims copyrights on all of its works, regardless of whether they are really in the public domain or not. I tend to regard copyright notices on public domain works as declarations of intent to bite, and will stay away from them.

Project Coster seems to be “dead”. I e-mailed with its head honcho Marc van Oostendorp a couple of years ago, and he as good as confirmed that nothing was happening at Project Coster. Perhaps that has changed in the meantime; at least someone is still taking care of the hosting. On the other hand the broken image on its homepage may be a gentle reminder that you need not look for new versions of old books there.

Project Gutenberg takes all of its works from volunteers, and most of them from a volunteer organisation called Distributed Proofreaders. What’s that to you? Well, if you have scans of public domain books, you might try and run them through Distributed Proofreaders. They’ll do a large part of the error correction and formatting, leaving the stitching together of the pages to you.

Although the DBNL and Project Coster do not release data on the size of their catalog, sampling of their database leads me to believe that their catalogues are bigger than the one of Project Gutenberg, which does release such data.

At the time of writing Project Gutenberg is about to hit 300 etext numbers for Dutch works, which equates approximately to 300 unique works (there are a few bundled works there that are also available separately).

This just in: when checking the DBNL link, I noticed they now prominently feature a rich linguistics section on their front page.

Distributed translation experiment, two years later

Summary: two years ago, I asked people on the internet to help me create a public domain translation of a public domain source text, Poe’s The Tell-tale Heart. The goal was to help establish whether it was possible for a disparate group of translators to create a literary translation. You will find both a description of the experiment and the results below.

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CP: Soft Cell’s Tainted Love

Coolest song on the eighties channel, mainly for the complete change in mood right smack in the middle.

Edit: I am talking about the Tainted Love/Where did our Love Go? version. The mood change is the switch to Where did our Love Go.

F.A.S.T. wants to swap courts for ISPs

The British “Federation Against Software Theft,” a sort of RIAA for software, wants ISPs to determine whether their paying customers are file sharers. Until now F.A.S.T. had to go through that most horrid forms of mediation: the legal system. The organisation’s boss John Lovelock thinks that to “go through the courts and get a court order […] is […] awfully long-winded [and] archaic.” Dutch internet lawyer Remy Chavannes comments: “The vigilantes of F.A.S.T. are frustrated […] and would like to play judge. […] But even on the internet taking the law in your own hands is not a solution.”


Via the Iusmentis blog (Dutch).

Joep’s wonderlijke avonturen

Joep’s wonderlijke avonturen

When I first read Herman Heijermans’ “Joeps wonderlijke avonturen” (Jack’s Wondrous Adventures) I was pleasantly surprised for two reasons. The first was that it was by far not as bad as I had expected based on what little I knew from Heijermans, third hand knowledge I had about his play “Op hoop van zegen” (translated in English in 1928 as The Good Hope). You see, in the days I first read Joep’s, a film had been made of the play; and though I had not read the play, nor watched the play or watched the movie, the latter was talked about so much that it was hard not to escape the idea that “Op hoop van zegen” was melodramatic trash.

The second was that for a large part, Joep’s is a sort of Dutch Frankenstein. Although there apparently were some late 19th / early 20th century Dutch authors that had dabbled in the fantastic (I am thinking of Carel van Nievelt), back then I had yet to come across one.

Joep’s tells the story of a man who has lost sight in both eyes. An eccentric professor tells Joep that he can cure him by transplanting animal eyes. Having little to lose, Joep agrees to the procedure. Unfortunately, he manages to damage his new eyes on several occasions and has to get new ones.

Shelley’s story about Frankenstein’s monster is typically pessimistic in tone; it questions what makes us human, and whether this ‘what’ can be transplanted into non-human beings. And when does a human being lose his humanity? Joep’s does something similar; when the protagonist gets a different animal’s eyes, his character changes too.

This character growth is for the long term though, and so the story nicely segues into its second half. Where Joep starts out as a major misanthropist, his regained eyesight also forces him to see not just his surroundings through new eyes, but also himself.

Upon second reading, the book has lost some of its sparkle to me. Authors could be very wordy in those days, and from what I have read by Heijermans, he particularly seemed to like the sound of his own written voice. The “what I’ve read by” includes fragments of Diamantstad, which ends on a very moralistic note, as does Joep’s. Something I could have done without, especially since Heijermans proves himself to be a talented author otherwise. Critics of his time claimed that his lack of quality was the result of his prolific output. In 1908, the year he published Joep’s, he published four other works. Speaking in his defense though, Heijermans has a knack of realistically shielding the protagonist from seeing other characters the way the reader sees them, which can produce nice foreboding, if the author can pull it off.

I had hoped to send this book to Project Gutenberg, but unfortunately my copy is from 1934, whereas PG for copyright reasons only takes works printed before 1923.

My rating: 3.0 stars