My two feet

[photo]

These are (unlike most of my shoes, as I found out today) models of my feet. I made them out of poplar plywood. One is marked L because the corresponding foot is called Lucifer. The other is marked R because that is the model for the right foot. (R = Right. Surely you don’t think I’d name my right foot? That would be insane.)

Invention #5: the fat supermarket

I eat a lot of TV dinners, simply because when I arrive at home, it’s been a long day and I really don’t feel like cooking. Unfortunately the supermarket monopolist of this town only sells high calorie TV dinners. What is a guy to do?

Well, you know, there ought to be a supermarket for fat people, one that sells filling but low calorie dinners. I imagine a tower, five stories high, no parking lots, no elevators, the store at the top floor. Every step tells you how many calories you’ve just burned. At the top they will only sell you food for a day. They won’t deliver. And their customer loyalty scheme will let you save for free use of the gym.

(I could of course stop buying crap, and start exercising more. Sure, and pigs could fly!)

See also:

Code Rush: Netscape during the dot com boom

A couple of months ago Jeff Atwood pointed out a 60 minutes long PBS documentary about Netscape during the dot com boom called Code Rush. He seems to like it, so I downloaded it off Youtube where its makers put it up under a Creative Commons license. To quote Atwood:

Remember when people charged money for a web browser? That was Netscape.

Code Rush is a PBS documentary recorded at Netscape from 1998 – 1999, focusing on the open sourcing of the Netscape code. As the documentary makes painfully clear, this wasn’t an act of strategy so much as an act of desperation. That’s what happens when the company behind the world’s most ubiquitous operating system decides a web browser should be a standard part of the operating system.

Everyone in the documentary knows they’re doomed; in fact, the phrase “we’re doomed” is a common refrain throughout the film. But despite the gallows humor and the dark tone, parts of it are oddly inspiring. These are engineers who are working heroic, impossible schedules for a goal they’re not sure they can achieve — or that they’ll even survive as an organization long enough to even finish.

What Atwood is perhaps too polite to mention is that the behemoth Microsoft wasn’t just competing with Netscape at the time, but it was doing so with a superior product and with the deck stacked for them—Microsoft owned the platform upon which Netscapes products had to run. These were the days of the Microsoft monopoly trials.

(Downloading off Youtube? I use the Download Helper plug-in for Firefox. I don’t entirely trust them—their website looks way too slick—, but am too lazy to investigate further. In other words, I am mentioning the plug-in, not recommending it.)

Outcasts

In 2007 the BBC announced they were going to produce a new science fiction series “with echoes of Blake’s 7” (the Sunday Times wrote at the time). Good news for science fiction fans, and even better for Blakes 7 fans (the misspelling is intentional, as that is what the show was called). With all the blogging scifi writers and blogging scifi fans I follow, and all the surfing I do for scraps about Blakes 7, it is inevitable that I will be warned in time when Outcasts will start to … what, you say? It’s already on? I am five episodes behind?

So I caught the sixth episode yesterday. They broadcast it in an unfortunate time slot. I think that in the future I will use the Internet Video Recorder to watch it.

Solid TV science fiction. Shades of Battlestar Gallactica—and not just because it had Jamie Bamber in it for one episode. No, it has a mother and a father figure. The father figure is more of a scrappy Patrick Stewart than an Edward James Olmos though. The mother seems to be a blond, older Elizabeth Weir. And there is a bad guy, who I assume is supposed to be the Gaius Baltar slash Kerr Avon slash dysfunctional child.

The back story, from what I have read, is that the show revolves around a fairly recently colonized planet. Contact with Earth is sparse. And that is all that Wikipedia and IMDB have to say.

Yesterday’s episode has one self-contained story line, and two developing story arcs. The self contained thingy was a whodunnit, with a proper rescue of the prospective murder victims at the end. Police officer Cass has a secret that precludes him from sleeping with his colleague Fleur, a hottie with a lot of hair and a Scottish accent. So instead he sleeps with a woman who for reasons that do not become quite clear tries to ferret out his secret, and then steals his gun. She then becomes part of a fairly basic murder plot, or was already part of it—the story focuses more on how Cass becomes a suspected kidnapper. In the background president Richard ‘Jean Luc’ Tate does the wise man walking into the hills thing—Shaka, when the walls fell, except that these hills harbour cannibals.

Outcasts is no Blakes 7 though. For one thing, the show is full of basically decent guys who just seem to have landed on the wrong side of the law by accident. There is a reason why in Blakes 7 the writers landed a building on top of Gan halfway season two. Not that Blakes 7 doesn’t have its fair share of basically decent guys—it’s that the not so decent sides of them keep popping up with the result of pushing the crew deeper into misfortune. Which is, I guess, what makes it a better show.

(ORAC – When we reach the appropriate coordinates, I can simulate the necessary signals to open the silo and allow this flyer to enter.

DAYNA – Oh, sounds good.

VILA – No it isn’t. Sooner or later we’re going to drop into one of these holes in the ground and never come out.

And then they do.)

But as I said, and as far as I can tell based on watching just one episode, a pretty decent series. No worse than any of the Star Trek franchises if you ask me. Battlestar Torchwood.

Tips for online presentations by Dutch house sellers

I have started looking for a new place recently. Although many sellers create excellent on-line presentations of their apartments, there are a few interesting properties that I nevertheless never look at simply because it would take too much of my time. Maybe that’s just a luxury that results from living in Amsterdam, where so many apartments are screaming for my attention that I can afford to be choosy.

So here are a few tips from a buyer’s perspective:

  • If you are not on Funda, you don’t exist.
  • If you are with some weird ass real estate agent like iBlue or Makelaarsland, you might as well not exist.

These two are basically the same point. Although there are truckloads of things that can be improved about Funda, the site is still miles ahead of any other of the on-line housing marketplaces (at least as far as non-rental properties in Amsterdam are concerned). Forcing me to use another site means imposing on my time: I need to learn how to work with a myriad of substandard home grown interfaces.

I will, however, look at jaap.nl and huizenzoeker.nl from time to time. Both are sites that obviously took long and hard looks at how Funda does things, then decided to copy them as closely as possible.

The “weird ass real estate agent” rule is simply because these agents with their special approaches to selling houses tend to make the process of enquiries more difficult.

Continuing:

  • There is no such thing as too many photos (unless we are talking dozens, but I have yet to come across those).
  • Also publish photos of connections between rooms, not just of the rooms themselves.
  • I adore floor plans. (A real estate agent told me they have a gizmo that makes it really easy to produce these.) See also: www.floorplanner.com.
  • Please do mention everything that does not belong to the ‘woonoppervlak’ (lit. living area) but does belong to the apartment like sheds, attics, balconies and so on, and make sure they are listed on Funda’s Kenmerken (Features) page.

Also, a tip gleaned from Freakonomics: the more concrete your description the better. So “wooden countertop” beats “beautiful countertop”. (As it happens I do like the look of wooden countertops, it is just that I do not like the way they age. Which means that in my specific case, “wooden countertop” probably means “buying a new kitchen”. Forcing me to find out about these sort of details after I took a paid day off from work to look at your apartment is not going to earn you points.)

Obviously I need exact measurements to go with the floorplans: I want to see if my stuff will fit.

All of the above is just IMHO, of course.

More things

How bail-outs work—here, let me rewrite that for you

First, read this deranged metaphor by Sue Cameron, columnist for the Financial Times. The crazy, it burns.

So I decided her fairytale needed retelling. I am not saying mine is more realistic, I just want to show how easy it is for a metaphor to lose its magical powers.

The rain beats down on a small Irish town. The streets are deserted. Times are tough. Everyone is in debt and everyone’s credit is cut off. A rich German arrives at the local hotel, asks to view its rooms, and puts on the desk a € 50 note for reasons only crazy Germans know. The owner gives him a bunch of keys and he goes off for an inspection.

As soon as he has gone upstairs, the hotelier grabs the note and runs next door to pay half of his debt to the butcher. The butcher supplies the hotel owner with € 100 worth of meat on credit, then hurries down the street to pay half of what he owes to his feed merchant. The merchant supplies the butcher with € 100 worth of feed on credit, then heads for the pub and uses the note to pay half of his bar bill–the bar owner is so happy that he extends the merchant’s credit with € 100. The publican slips the € 50 note to the local hooker who’s been offering her services on credit. She gratefully gives him the full service, all € 100 worth, and all on credit. Then she rushes to the hotel to pay half of what she owes for room hire. As she puts the € 50 note on the counter, the German appears, says the rooms are unsuitable, picks up his € 50 note and leaves town.

People did lots of work. Everybody except the wealthy German is 50 euro further in debt. Everyone is feeling better, for a very short while. And that is how a bail-out works?

Old joke

Blah-blah-blah-blog. I’ve got nothing to say. My mind is empty. May I entertain you with a joke you’ve probably already heard?

An uggly man walks into a bar. He has got a parrot on his shoulder. “I will sleep with anybody who can guess what I’ve got on my shoulder. For free!”

Silence descends on the room. People carefully back away from the man.

A pretty woman feels sorry for the man and figures she’ll guess wrong just to humour him: “An elephant!”

“No,” says the man, “but it’s close enough.”

(Where’s my rim-shot? I am sure I left it here somewhere?)

That 2011 thing

Here’s the Happy 2011 e-card I sent to people whose snail mail address I do not possess. If I forgot to send one to you, call me names in the comments. And a happy 2011 to you, too.

Snowy saddles

This is old stuff (about two weeks old). We no longer live the life of the Blizzard People.

[photo of snowy bikes]

(Amsterdam at Station Zuid/WTC, the rest is in Zoetermeer.)

[photo of snowy trees]

[photo of snowy cars]

[photo of a red light in the snow]