Buildings in Buitenveldert

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Buitenveldert is a neighbourhood in the South of Amsterdam, and it is there where I photographed these buildings, except for the last one which is across from the RAI, right next to where the last two buildings in this set used to stand.

Kantjil To Go

Restaurant: Kantjil & de Tijger

The Dutch have a love-love relationship with Indonesian cuisine stretching back to colonial days. The Rijsttafel, literally meaning rice table, is a colonial invention, putting together all the specialities of the Indian archipelago into a single menu.

The darker side of this tale is the ‘Chin. Ind.’ restaurant, the fusion of Chinese entrepreneurship and kitchen with Indonesian food and Dutch boorish taste. The result is a type of take-away restaurant where lacklustre personnel serve you sweet and fat food in a setting that must have stopped looking stylish in China 50 years ago, but that persists here because it is what the owners think the Dutch working class perceive as authentically Chinese.

If you want to enjoy the genuine Indonesian kitchen—disregarding for a moment that that is an imperialistic product that only truly exists in the imperialist fantasies of those Javanese who think they own the country—you should therefore steer away from the Chin. Ind. nightmare, the Dutch equivalent of the ‘Paki,’ and look for restaurants that bill themselves as Indonesian only.

Kantjil & de Tijger is such a restaurant. Whenever you walk past it on the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal in Amsterdam, it looks warm and cosy and filled with people having a good time, and their take-away has a hip name, Kantjil To Go, and uses an abstract red and white styling to kill any lingering fears about the ‘classic’ Chin. Ind. take-aways. It’s the sort of place you expect the account managers, advertising execs and stock brokers of the city to pop by when too busy to cook for themselves.

Unfortunately when I tried it, the rice was fried dry, and the rendang meat was chewy. Considering that Kantjil To Go only serve 8 or 9 relatively simple dishes, they simply should not even manage to mess these up. Kantjil To Go is therefore an experience I am not going to repeat.

So where do you eat good Indonesian food in Amsterdam? I am afraid I still do not know. I associate good Indonesian food with the meals the mothers of the ‘Indo’ girl-friends of my brothers used to cook, but unfortunately my brothers have long since started dating outside the Emerald Chain.

My rating: 2.0 stars
**

The Super User Problem

In offices you have this thankless job called super user—not to be confused with the UNIX role of the same name. A super user, sometimes called ‘power user,’ is a person who is not part of the IT department but who does menial IT-related tasks such as fixing broken printers, explaining colleagues how to bold text in a word processor, and so on. He, usually a he, is the colleague who knows a bit about computers. The IT department are grateful for his existence, because he is their first line of defence against really dumb questions. He is the chap who checks that the printer is on when other users complain it is broken.

Although not every field has a name for the type of person who sits between the laymen and the experts, most fields do have them. The problem with the super user is that unlike the layman and the expert, he is never right.

You can see how this works by looking at a simpler realm, that of time-telling. There are broken watches, regular watches, and high-precision watches. The third category always tells the right time, the first tells you the right time twice a day, and the second category, the super user watch, never tells the right time because it is always a bit off. That is to say, the regular watch knows enough about time that it can take a pretty good guess at what time it is, but it almost never tells the time precisely. If it did with any regularity, it would be an ‘expert.’

In the law business you can see this principle at work too. People who know nothing about the law still have opinions about it. And since these people are the customers of the law’s salesmen (lawyers, judges), they tend to be right about the law once in a while. The lawyers and judges are the legal experts. They tend to be right a lot. But the person who has made it a point to get to know the law a bit almost always guesses wrong about where the law stands.

I am afraid that is the point where I am right now with regards to copyright law. I can see the point of the laymen, and I can see the knowledge of the experts, and all I can hope at the moment is that I can have some kind of useful role in bringing the two together, because this law is broken.

Simple fix for US health care debate

It seems everybody and their kitchen sink is discussing the debate around US health care reform, with only a few opinion leaders actually reading and analysing (typically: cherry picking) the actual text of the law. But if the American right doesn’t want to suffer the consequences of these reforms, there is a simple solution. Give them what they want. Let them (well, at least those of over 18) opt out of any state funded health care.

Oud Zuid

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I tried to experiment with lines and shapes, but that did not work out as much as I had hoped. Nevertheless there were a couple of photos I liked.

Bonkers: either I or the Tax Service

Belastingdienst, the Dutch tax service, sent a form for me to fill out in which I needed to indicate projected future earnings. They do this almost each year—well, regularly—so that they can let you pay your taxes for 2020 in 2019 instead of the more reasonable 2021. And every year I postpone filling out this form (deadline August 1) as long as possible, so that I can always include my latest earnings in the estimate.

That’s the pre-amble. When I checked the form yesterday, I noticed the tax service wanted me to fill out my projected earnings for last year, 2008. I received this form at the end of May, two full months after I had reported them my income for 2008 (the cut-off date for which is April 1 in the Netherlands). More than a year after they had charged me income taxes over 2008 based on their own estimates. And two full days after they had corrected my income tax over 2008, presumably based on my April report.

In other words, have I just gone mad or is the tax service not quite right in the head? What am I missing here?

(I returned the form with the box checked that says they already know my income over 2008, which should be sufficient.)

80 hour work weeks

My friend Natasha pointed me to an article in De Pers about people working 80 hour work weeks in the Netherlands, rare creatures indeed. Fortunately, she also pointed out that it is apparently a slow news day. The author had interviewed five or so people and the article consists mainly of their words, which is a nice job if you can get it. It almost made me feel sorry I once quit journalism.

I have a problem with people in intellectual jobs claiming to work 80 hour work weeks, and it is this:

80-hr-work-week.pngThe actual amount of work done seems to be overshadowed by large swaths of posturing. I’d say:

  • Actual work, 37.5 %
  • Harassing co-workers with mindless meetings and micro-managing, 10 %
  • Being at the office, going through the motions, 27.5 %
  • Being at home, being available and reading documentation, 25 %

I know these 80 hour work weekers. It’s not that they don’t work hard. I am an entrepreneur, so I put in a fair share of hours myself. I have customers who call me at 10 at night on a Saturday evening, expecting me to drop everything to listen to problems that would easily survive the weekend even if nobody did anything—and some of whom would be irked if I billed them for that time. The thing is, being available all the time, not really having your own time, that sort of gets to you. There is rest and there is rest. I can well imagine that people in similar roles want some appreciation for what they do. But it’s not work.

The Polish guy who came to the Netherlands to put in your second bath room that you are paying for with your 80 billable hours per week, now he is actually working 80 hours a week.

One of my biggest fears is getting in an accident, because I don’t want to be operated on by the sort of goofball who thinks putting in 80 hours in the operating room makes him a hero. Give me a fresh and relaxed surgeon any day.

Dreams

When I was still in bed in the morning and not quite ready to get up, I was listening to Eddie Izzard’s Definite Article on my audio player, and apparently I had dozed off, because at one point I was sitting in a living room on a fairly high rug or carpet, wedged between a couch and a flat screen TV with the BBC on. And I was laughing about the show on my headset, which must have been not at all compatible with what was going on on the TV. And I was feeling slightly guilty about that, because it seemed a little a-social, to be watching a program with somebody and then actually be listening to something else.

But she must not have minded very much, because she did not say anything about it. Instead, her foot moved slowly closer and closer to my face, until it brushed me, as if accidentally, which gave me the impression that she wasn’t very much interested in the television either, but wanted to play.

Except that in that half-wake, half-dream state you do somewhat realize what is real and what is not, so I decided to keep listening to Eddie Izzard, which sort of chilled things between me and my dream date.

Before that I had actually woken up around six, which was a bit early for my taste, so I decided to stay in bed and had all kinds of intermittent dreams. One was the famous naked-in-public dream, though I was saved by two things. One, I got to keep my underwear on (thank you subconscious!), and two, the guy next to me started stripping and jumped in the water, which signaled to me that it apparently was OK to sit there barely clad. Even if it was at the tram stop.

Amsterdamse Bos with a new old lens

I unscrewed the lens from my Praktika L, screwed it on top of my EOS 1000D’s body, and took the contraption to the Amsterdamse Bos to practice. First thing I noticed that in full sunlight and with a wide open aperture, I had to set the exposure time to the fastest setting, 1/4000th second, to avoid large areas of pure white in the photo. Another thing, which I had noticed in tests before, is that everything that is out of focus gets a very dirty sheen about it, as if I had smeared grease on the lens. Great kit for wedding photos I guess, :-) but does anybody know if this is normal for fast lenses?

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A wide-angle shot of the water under the bridge effect can be seen here, taken two years ago during the Summer.

Exploitation obligation for authors

Just me brainstorming.

Authors should be obliged to exploit their works. When they don’t do that for a set period of time—ten years tops sounds reasonable—their copyrights should be transferred to an entity that will exploit it for them. Authors of works that are only fixed in rapidly decaying media, such as anything digital (where not only the physical medium but also and especially the software environment deteriorate) should be obliged to keep their works ‘executable,’ as IT types call it. It should be possible in ten years time to still disseminate the digital works. Publishers will have the obligation to keep digital works accessible for at least the duration of copyright. Failure to do so should result in huge fines that reflect not only the damage to buyers, but also to society as a whole.

Here’s the problem set. Many works linger unexploited. Copyright law says nobody can touch these works, even though they have been injected into the public consciousness at some point in time, and have shaped public discourse. It should be possible to disseminate these works more easily than is currently possible. It is estimated that so-called orphan works form between 75 and 90 % of all works in most jurisdictions.

Current economic theory, especially a very little (and badly) understood theory called The Long Tail, holds that if all works are made readily accessible, all works will be consumed. Popular works, which typically have a monopoly on shelf space, will each still be consumed much, much more often than individual unpopular works made accessible, but since unpopular works outnumber popular works by quite a large degree, the consumption of all works should about double. This is good for everyone.

This should be written into law and the law should be applied retroactively.

What do you think? What would the objections against such a law be? Are there advantages I missed? Am I overestimating the size of the problem space? Perhaps publishers will wise up, and will have made their entire back catalog accessible in ten years, and we’ll all be laughing at my worries.