London eye

I came across this picture of a robotic camera eye on Google Maps. Hah, fooled you! It’s a picture of Wembley Stadium in a state of repair.


Copyright notes

I have no account, so I am dumping this stuff here. Nothing to see, move along.

NVJ trying to stretch the contours of traditional copyright in the consumer sphere: here and here. The only earlier case I know of where consumers got prosecuted or sued over copyright infringement was in the case of a couple of search engines (either mp3s or torrents) where Dutch brownshirts BREIN managed to get a subsidiary of customs involved. I’ll update when I remember.

Some extra-gratis context for this discussion here.

BBC talks about a study that shows how only popular acts get pirated. Even though I like the conclusion, the study seems to have a number of methodological shortcomings. Unfortunately the BBC doesn’t link to the study, so I have no idea what the actual conclusions of the study were. Perhaps BBC just misquoted.


Just because we have to die one day, doesn’t mean online personas cannot live on forever.

You must check out Flight of the Conchords

The Grammy and Emmy they won failed to put them on my radar, so I may be late to the game. I just discovered this New Zealand duo that writes and sings funny songs. If you don’t know them yet, I urge you to check them out. I have spent hours on Youtube Wednesday night just playing all their clips.

Think Asylum Street Spankers, but leaning more heavily on the comedy aspect and with a far greater eye for a finished product. With the ASP it appears to be more about the performers having fun. I’d be curious to know how they’d mix, though.

My favourites so far:

The Americans liked these guys so much, they gave them their own show (only HBO, though). I’ve set my internet video recorder for it. The first clip is of one such episode. It would appear that they are repurposing their songs for these shows, but so far I feel it only worked for the LotR song.

Euro-skeptic message still drew pro-European voter

Dutch voters who voted against the European constitution, voted for Europe. It’s really not rocket science, but at the time the media seemed to have great difficulty grasping the concept.

Here’s how daily Dutch newspaper NRC explains it:

It looks like the voter turnout for the elections for the European Parliament will reach an all time low this year. The polling agency of the European Commission predicts that only 34 % of the eligible voters will show up. But for the Netherlands the turnout is predicted to be higher than five years ago, going from 39.3 to 47 percent. We phoned Peter Kanne, pollster of TNS-NIPO.

Q: How do you explain the high turnout in the Netherlands?

A: “I believe we’ll get a circus similar to the one for the referendum about the European Constitution. Euro-skeptic parties like the Socialist Party and the [extreme right] PVV will try to mobilize voters with a simple, anti-European message. This may very well act as a catalyst for both pro- and anti-European voters. With the referendum for the constitution we saw a similar pattern, with a turnout of 63 percent, which is extremely high for a European vote.”

Q: During the referendum 62 % voted against the constitution. Can we expect another Dutch vote against Europe on June 4?

A: “The vote against the constitution was probably not a vote against Europe. On the whole the Dutch are very positive about the Union. 52 % is for, 34 % is neutral and only 14 % is really against. The Achilles heal for the EU in the Netherlands is the perception of Europe as a meddling bureaucracy. But a majority of the Dutch is for a European approach to contintental problems such as climate change, the economic crisis and terrorism.”

As you can see, NRC still doesn’t get it, and the interviewee has to correct the interviewer. How can you work for a so-called quality newspaper and remain so dense for four years?

You’ll find the full article, date April 15, 2009, here, in Dutch.

Feel the Christian hate

A group called NOM tries to rally forces against gay marriage by using language that is intended to inflame the like-minded. On their blog I tackled their talking points one by one, but my reply was deleted. Since I expected such an action I saved my comment to my hard disk, and repeat it here in full:

Ah, feel the Christian hate.

Lets address those facts for a moment and see them in a wider context:

1) “I’m a California doctor who must choose between my faith and my job.”

I can come up with any number of situations where MDs have to choose between their faiths and their jobs. This is because even MDs are bound by secular law. Is NOM saying the Christian community is greater than the USA and its laws?

2) “I’m part of a New Jersey church group punished by the government because we can’t support same-sex marriage.”

The building in question was, like a restaurant, open to the public. The court likened refusing gays to the building to refusing to serve blacks in restaurants. I don’t even dare think what NOM is suggesting here.

3) “I am a Massachusetts parent helplessly watching public schools teach my son that gay marriage is OK.”

The state makes no moral judgment, it merely states that for the law both types of marriages are the same, which they are. Would NOM like schools to teach subjectively? Or would it prefer that schools stuck with the facts, and that parents would take the responsibility of instilling values in children?

4) “But some who advocate for same-sex marriage have not been content with same-sex couples living as they wish. Those advocates want to change the way I live. I will have no choice.”

The arguments given in your set of facts say that there will be conflicts, but not what these conflicts will be like. Please be precise, so that I can refute your reasoning with this point as I have done the previous three. Sure, there will be conflicts between groups. There always have been and there always will be. Is NOM claiming the religious are special, fragile ones that may never be touched?

By the way, I fully respect a publisher’s choice of what to publish and what not. I myself will either delete or change comments I don’t like, and have done so many times in the past. My rule for deciding which comments to edit or erase is a simple one to describe but at times difficult to apply: those (parts of comments) that are intentionally or unintentionally sapping the dialogue.

Some examples:

– spam (will be deleted),

– spammy contributions (I typically will take out hyperlinks).

– bad spelling (I may correct it if it’s too egregious),

– and so on.

I have in the past also deleted insults where the comment was nothing but. My rather confused post All games illegal has drawn comments like that; the more I am grateful to people who actually addressed the point in that thread.

In defense of NOM, not that it deserves to be defended, they have allowed critical comments to their message so far, such as this one.



Bought me some flowers and a vase.


Without context

I found the following in a mail from a client:

I want this done tonight or tomorrow. It can’t take long and I don’t understand how to do it.

I have nothing to add.

Why Icelanders became bankers, or: a machine for turning cod into PhDs.

What went on before: fishing highlights the tragedy of the commons. Since there is no incentive for fishermen to limit the amount of fish they catch, they tend to catch too many. The supply does not have the time to restock, and the price of fish is low because everybody is selling fish. The classic solution is to turn common property into private property, so that every owner suddenly has an interest.

This insight is what led Iceland to go from being one of the poorest countries in Europe circa 1900 to being one of the richest circa 2000. Iceland’s big change began in the early 1970s, after a couple of years when the fish catch was terrible. The best fishermen returned for a second year in a row without their usual haul of cod and haddock, so the Icelandic government took radical action: they privatized the fish. Each fisherman was assigned a quota, based roughly on his historical catches. If you were a big-time Icelandic fisherman you got this piece of paper that entitled you to, say, 1 percent of the total catch allowed to be pulled from Iceland’s waters that season. Before each season the scientists at the Marine Research Institute would determine the total number of cod or haddock that could be caught without damaging the long-term health of the fish population; from year to year, the numbers of fish you could catch changed. But your percentage of the annual haul was fixed, and this piece of paper entitled you to it in perpetuity.

Even better, if you didn’t want to fish you could sell your quota to someone who did. The quotas thus drifted into the hands of the people to whom they were of the greatest value, the best fishermen, who could extract the fish from the sea with maximum efficiency. You could also take your quota to the bank and borrow against it, and the bank had no trouble assigning a dollar value to your share of the cod pulled, without competition, from the richest cod-fishing grounds on earth. The fish had not only been privatized, they had been securitized.

It was horribly unfair: a public resource—all the fish in the Icelandic sea—was simply turned over to a handful of lucky Icelanders. Overnight, Iceland had its first billionaires, and they were all fishermen. But as social policy it was ingenious: in a single stroke the fish became a source of real, sustainable wealth rather than shaky sustenance. Fewer people were spending less effort catching more or less precisely the right number of fish to maximize the long-term value of Iceland’s fishing grounds. The new wealth transformed Iceland—and turned it from the backwater it had been for 1,100 years to the place that spawned Björk. If Iceland has become famous for its musicians it’s because Icelanders now have time to play music, and much else. Iceland’s youth are paid to study abroad, for instance, and encouraged to cultivate themselves in all sorts of interesting ways. Since its fishing policy transformed Iceland, the place has become, in effect, a machine for turning cod into Ph.D.s.

But this, of course, creates a new problem: people with Ph.D.s don’t want to fish for a living. They need something else to do.

Michael Lewis in Vanity Fair, Wall Street on the Tundra, via Scalzi.

Maciej Ceglowski was once in Iceland, and I only mention it because any reason to link to his writing is good.

Amsterdamse Bos revisited revisited

Near Nieuwe Meer:

Sky, trees:


Would you please leash your dog? Please please please, pretty please?