Quick memo to self re life goals

You cannot be a better person, but you can be a good person.

Claiming to be insulted is the new admission of guilt

* It started in September of this year. Labour party member Geke van Velzen, city councillor for Amsterdam, had just nicknamed the upcoming national government “Brown I”. Maurice Limmen of the Christian Democrats, the party that was about to collaborate with Geert Wilders in said national government, got indignant. He asked for and got the mike: “Can you tell me what you associate with those words? For me ‘brown’ is indelibly connected to the Second World War.”

The best defence is a good offence. Geert Wilders party PVV are the philosophical heirs to the NSB, the Dutch Nazi party that collaborated with the German Nazis during the occupation. Calling a group that collaborates with the PVV ‘brown’ is just not that far fetched. But Limmen got what he presumably wanted, as the right wing press started its hate campaign against Van Velzen.

* Next stop was parliament itself. As you might imagine, Geert Wilders pretends to be the law and order type. And as you can imagine, that probably means rather a lot of his party members have broken the law themselves once or twice, because that is how these things work. When RTL News decided to test the hypothesis in November, they found out that about 25 % of the party consist of criminals. Or rather, 25 % as far as they could tell, because former policeman Hero Brinkman, already well-known for starting bar brawls, refused to co-operate with them.

(It later turned out that once, while a cop, Brinkman ignored a alcohol check when driving. His fellow police offers went in pursuit, and caught up with their colleague just as he got home. The head start gave him the seconds he needed to start drinking from a brandy bottle as soon as he got out of his car. It is left as an exercise for the reader why that was the first thing he did.)

Wilders response to allegations of bad behaviour by his MPs? An indignant “My group is not a bunch of criminals. You are damaging people […]. You must stop.”

I am sure not everyone associated with the Mafia has actually committed crimes. Yet the Mafia are rightly considered “a bunch of criminals”. But Wilders managed to convince his fan base that this was yet another example of the so-called smear tactics of the Left. If elections were to be held today, his party would even gain a seat. Not a chink in their armour.

* So now we get to this week.

In the following I am going to use the name Indymedia. Don’t beat yourself up if you have never heard of them (it’s a them). Indymedia are an organisation for publishing alternative, often left-wing or anarchist news. Their lack of fame and success are the embodiment of the falsification of every conspiracy fantasy about the press that Noam Chomsky has ever held.

(It would not matter one iota if every news venue on the planet were controlled until the last damned exclamation mark by champagne swilling illuminati, because the people would still get the news they prefer either way.)

Despite managing to sideline themselves pretty effectively, Indymedia managed to become a household name when they portrayed Amsterdam mayor and labour party member Eberhart van der Laan as a fascist in a photo collage. Not that anyone would have noticed if the story had stayed at Indymedia and Van der Laan had treated it with derision or even a “no comment”. But Van der Laan just had to get indignant, condemning the cartoon in the harshest of terms.

That to me suggests two things:

  1. Indymedia do indeed have a reader.
  2. Van der Laan thinks of himself as a fascist.

Snowvember

snowvember_01I cannot remember the last time we had snow in November … a last time. It is so quiet outside, not a creature is stirring, not even a climate change camp guard.

Coffee pads revisited

A while ago I discussed moving from making pots of coffee to making cups of coffee. My famous last words then were: “Still haven’t bought a Senseo, though.”

Well, the cups of coffee back then were made by making instant coffee, which sucks, because the flavour of instant sucks. I failed to notice that right away, but the difference with coffee drank at other places (coffee shops, friends, customers) was too big to remain unnoticed or unappreciated.

So… I bought a Senseo.

And here are the results of the Dutch jury: I went from 2 cups a day to 4 and sometimes more. Considering the industrial amounts of sugar I add to each cup, I would not necessarily consider this a good thing. (I have to admit, the creamy Senseo coffee needs less sugar to make the bitter go away.)

Senseo, good or bad? The jury’s still out, but I would not want to bet either way. Perhaps the transactional costs I saw looming over my head back in the day actually served a purpose.

What happens on Gauda Prime, stays on Gauda Prime

Blakes 7

What do you do when you want to review something, you know you like it, and yet you cannot express or do not know what you like about it?

The past year I have been watching Blakes 7 on my laptop, a lot. (The name, by the way, ought to be Blake’s 7, but the BBC never bothered to fix it.) With all the TV and film science fiction I could watch, I nevertheless pick Blakes 10 out of 10 times.

And for most of that year I have been wondering: what is it I like so much about this? Especially given that so much of the series stinks. The acting, the props, the plots, it’s all pretty abysmal at times. The good stuff should stick out but it doesn’t seem to.

Blakes 7 is a late 1970s sci-fi TV series with hammy acting, cardboard props and stories with sometimes huge plot holes.

What I like about it:

* The chatty bits. Whether it’s the bad guys or the worse guys, they always have these enlightening strategic discussions before they plunge into the action that are much more interesting than the action itself.

[Federation Space Headquarters. Servalan’s office.]

RONTANE: Which is why the President has asked me to come here personally; to express his own very grave concern over this matter. The destruction of the communications center has far-reaching political consequences. Controllers from some of the Outer Planets, whose loyalty to the Federation is, uh, delicately balanced, have been openly critical of the Administration’s defense system. There are even one or two radical voices that speak of withdrawal from the Federation.

BERCOL: My department has done all in its power to suppress information about Blake and his actions — there is a total blackout on all reports concerning him — but still the stories get out. They spread by word of mouth, by whispers, by rumour; each time the story is told it is elaborated upon. Any damage to the Federation is attributed to Blake. The smallest incident is exaggerated out of all proportion until it becomes a major event. Blake is becoming a legend. His name is a rallying call for malcontents of all persuasions. He must be stopped.

SERVALAN: Gentlemen: I share the President’s grave concern. And I am aware of the danger should Blake become a legend. But let us keep this matter in its correct perspective. It is true that Blake has command of a superb space vehicle, but he is just a man, backed by a handful of criminals, and that is all. He is not invulnerable, nor is he superhuman. He is just a man, who has been extremely lucky to evade capture — so far.

RONTANE: With respect, Supreme Commander, we are aware of the facts. They are simply that with all the resources that the Federation can call upon, this one vulnerable, lucky man is still free to cause havoc.

SERVALAN: You have some criticism of my handling of this matter, Secretary Rontane?

RONTANE: Not at all, I hoped merely to convey the concern shown by the President when he briefed me for this visit.

BERCOL: It would be very helpful to all of us if we knew — if you could indicate what action you will NOW be taking against Blake.

SERVALAN: Very well, Councillor Bercol. You may tell the President that I am appointing a Space Commander to take absolute control of this matter. He will be exclusively concerned to seek, locate, and destroy Blake.

BERCOL: Oh, excellent, excellent.

* I also like the fact that the bridge of Blake’s ship Liberator looks more like a living room than a bridge. They even serve drinks there from time to time. (Apparently Soma & Adrenaline is a popular cocktail.)

* I further like that there is not much hand holding by the story teller. There is a scene in the Firefly movie Serenity—a movie that otherwise reminds me a lot of Blakes—in which the bad guy starts to explain the way of the world to his victim. There is little of that in Blakes, and when it happens events often make it clear that the exposé doesn’t actually explain the way of the world, but is just a character’s opinion.

J.W. Herring expands on this a bit in his contrasting review of Blakes 7 episode Duel and Star Trek TOS episode Arena:

The whole purpose of that ending is nothing more than ethical pornography for the viewer – so that he can pat himself on the back and say “yes, like Captain Kirk, I would have spared the giant aggressive lizard who destroyed Cestus III and Redshirt O’Herlihy and who was trying to kill me too because killing is WRONG. If only, if only the rest of humanity were as advanced as I am.”

Blakes 7 is the best televised science-fiction that has ever been made. That’s just my opinion.

I am afraid none of this is going to convince anybody. Should you download the show from Bittorrent or thereabouts to check it out, be forewarned that the first episode introduces a lot of characters that you won’t see again. That episode exists just to introduce the title character, Roj Blake (Thomas Gareth). In fact the show doesn’t really get underway until the fourth episode

In the Netherlands the Free Record Shop tends to sell the show on DVD for 15 euro per season.

My rating: 4.5 stars
****1/2

Science regressing—why Scott got scurvy

Maciej Ceglowski has an excellent piece on the failure of the Scott expedition to the South Pole:

Now, I had been taught in school that scurvy had been conquered in 1747, when the Scottish physician James Lind proved in one of the first controlled medical experiments that citrus fruits were an effective cure for the disease. […]

[…] Somehow a highly-trained group of scientists at the start of the 20th century knew less about scurvy than the average sea captain in Napoleonic times.

The scary bit is that scientific knowledge can be lost, and not just that: scientific progress can make it harder to regain that knowledge.

Another example would be the rediscovery of the fact that hot water can freeze faster than cold water. Tanzanian high-school student Erasto Mpemba apparently got ridiculed time and again for his rediscovery, and if it weren’t for his stubbornness might never have published about the effect that now carries his name.

See also:

Zoetermeer train station

A.k.a. “learning to lie”.

I am slowly getting to the point where I can see the good picture before I take it.

The problem is I still prefer to tell the truth. And Zoetermeer train station is very ugly—a dreary place where the wind tries to get under your clothes and the grime manages. I hope to be able to show you the truth about the place one day, but for now I am happy I can sort of make it look good.

Polo

I had never seen polo being played live, and there was a tournament in the Amsterdamse Bos, so I went and watched the finals. I guess you can learn to like the sport if you start to understand it more, but I got bored and left early.

The website had mentioned a dress code: smart casual. Either smart casual includes jeans these days, or this was really a case of not being able to tell an Amsterdammer anything.

Afterwards I went into the forest to see if I could find mushrooms. Did not get any (pictures that is), but I did manage to shoot this weathered leaf or whatever it was.

Samples from the new pocket camera (Canon IXUS 300 HS)

ixus_300_hsLast month I mentioned that I bought a new pocket camera, the Canon IXUS 300 HS (or Canon Powershot SD4000 as it is known elsewhere), but have so far failed to tell you much about it.

In Europe Canon has two ranges of pocket cameras, IXUS and Powershot, where the former is aimed at those who just want a simple camera for holiday pictures.

As you can see below, the camera completely botches up night shots by overexposing the hell out of it, but I figure it was intended to do that. Lots of holidayers take pictures in the evening and may wish to do away with the flatness produced by flash. This is what you get in return, but at least you get something in return. (And if that is not good enough, buy a much, much more expensive camera. As long as you are the best photographer in your circle of friends, hauling all that DSLR equipment around won’t necessarily lead to you being shunned outright from parties.)

It’s much better than my old camera at close ups (macros). I can get as close as 1 centimetre with this one, whereas my previous pocket camera stopped at about 5 centimetre. I have been getting complaints that my photos don’t show the single life that I lead because my house looks so clean in them, but I assure you—and you can verify this with the answering machine close-up below—that was just because of the quality of the photo equipment!

My previous pocket camera was much better in pretty much anything else. The 300 HS has a very nasty tendency to blur towards the corners. It also seems to have a barrel distortion throughout most of its zoom. The screen is much better, but it cannot be tilted, so that I’d need to carry a mirror with me at all times for those ‘over the crowd’ shots (not going to happen).

One more nice thing about this camera is that its predominant type of noise is luminant rather than chromatic. I understand that chromatic noise is good for sharp pictures, but it is also the sort of thing you cannot ‘unsee’ once you have started noticing it.

I would assume that the intended audience for this camera would tend to buy one of them newfangled superzooms, so I really wonder why Canon would bring out such an expensive camera in its low-end pocket range.

Did I make the right trade? I think it about evens out. Keeping in mind that my primary aim with this camera is making simple product shots for web sites, and that my secondary goal is making HD videos, I think I did OK. The better camera for me would have been the Canon Powershot S95, but that one wasn’t out yet when I bought this one.

kid_on_a_statue

answering-machine

olympiaweg

noorder-amstelkanaal-vanaf-lyceumbrug

The photo below of Zydeco Fever performing at De Nieuwe Anita was the only sharp shot of the bunch, but it was taken under circumstances where even my SDLR would have struggled.

zydeco_fever

Bicycle with basket against semi-frosted window

Hush, I’ll let the work speak for itself: