I started something

I started another blog. Why, Branko, you say (sarcastically), how nice of you considering the many, many (*cough*) things you post here.

You would not be wrong about that. I do blog too little.

The new blog, called Beezels, because I needed a name and any silly thing would do, has a single purpose: to write about cool stuff I found on clickbait sites so that I can share them on Facebook without actually having to force my Facebook friends to go onto these clickbait sites. Cutting out the middle man, so to speak.

As it happens, most of the really cool stuf on clickbait sites (of course I mean cats) is stolen from elsewhere anyway, so this blog will allow me to do something that clickbait sites seem to be hesitant to do, which is to acknowledge and link to the originals.

I am still hammering out the details. What is online now is little more than a test version. Feedback is welcome (here).

A few of my goals:

  • Stuff I and my Facebook friends find cool and that is shareworthy.
  • In others words (though it may not look like it), this is supposed to be a personal site.
  • Leaner than lean, content is king.
  • Corollary: no ads that require interactive technology like JavaScript (which probably means: no ads—I am fine with that).
  • Facebook-ready.
  • Acknowledging sources.
  • No comments; the goal is that these links get shared in your networks, not in mine.

The content, of course, is clickbait, but my goal is not so much to draw you in but to send you on your way with something nice that you can share. No idea if and how this will work, we’ll just have to see.

An unlikely ad blocker

I’ve started using the Firefox plugin YesScript as an ad blocker even though being an ad blocker may not be that plugin’s main purpose.

YesScript will let you mark specific websites. YesScript will then tell the browser that the next time it loads something from those sites, it must skip the JavaScript programs belonging to that page.

What happened was that certain websites would make my PC wheeze like an old man with a life long history of smoking. Apparently my PC’s fan was getting old and had stopped running smoothly. Although I noticed this with all kinds of software, the main culprit was Firefox, and the wheezing would always be the worst when I visited a click-baity website.

If you look at a small selection of the files a site like Mashable pushes to my computer every time I read one of their stories (see the screenshot below), you can easily see why my PC would have trouble coping. Most of the files you see listed are for the benefit of ad networks. Look at the scroll bar to the right; this is just a fraction of the files that are loaded. Most of the files that you don’t see here are also loaded for the benefit of ad networks.

[Screenshot displaying a list of files from Mashable]

I measured it: without YesScript, a single Mashable page sends 294 files to my browser. Those files take up 2.9 megabytes of bandwidth and take 49 seconds to load and render. With YesScript running, those numbers dwindle to 14 files, 0.1 megabyte and 7 seconds. I can actually finish looking at a cat photo while you are still loading the page.

Why don’t I use a real ad blocker? It’s simply because I initially identified my problem as a technical one—too much JavaScript—and so the solution I chose was also a technical one—block all JavaScript. Ad blockers work by banning all files coming from known ad networks and should be just as effective.

YesScript has a minor advantage in this respect, in that it leaves ads alone that play nice (read: that are strictly text or image based). It also blocks all those annoying “6 misogynist articles you might also like to read” banners.

But the plug-in’s disadvantages compared to ad blockers are probably greater. Obviously whatever useful JavaScript a page is running—for instance, scripts necessary to let you comment—are also blocked. I can live with that, but I imagine others cannot.

If you are wondering if YesScript is for you, let me ask you first: is the reason you want to run it because you want to block ads? If yes, go for an ad blocker. If you do end up using YesScript, you will find it is incredibly simple to use. The plug-in adds a button to one of your toolbars. If a page is playing havoc with your browser, click the button and reload the page. That’s it. If you want to run scripts on that domain again, click the button a second time and reload the page.

(Why don’t mobile phones seem to be afflicted as much by bad Javascript? After all, they tend to be a lot less powerful than your PC but will display clickbait just fine … ish. This I honestly don’t know. It may be because a lot of websites send adapted pages to mobile devices that are easier to load.)

Sourceforge has crossed the threshold from bad to criminally bad

A bunch of years back I wrote that Sourceforge.net was “a very useful website for computer programmers (or developers, as we like to call ourselves), because it provides an aggregation point for people, code and knowledge, and it does so for free.”

The reason I blogged about Sourceforge was because the site had started to make mistakes. Next to its small and inconspicuous download links it placed large advertisements that looked exactly like download buttons and that would lead you to all kinds of nasty and unwanted software. I naively assumed that this was a mistake; something Sourceforge would fix as soon as it was pointed out to them. Somebody from Sourceforge even kindly commented to explain what was going on — although the explanation itself was rather disappointing.

These days, Sourceforge not only places problematic ads, it also bundles the software it hosts with extra downloads. And what is worse, it has hijacked high profile projects to do so.

Apparently the GIMP project (a photo editor) had already left Sourceforge in 2013, but had kept an account active to act as a mirror, an extra download site in case the primary site is down. The maintainer of the GIMP’s Windows distribution discovered on 26 May of this year that he had no longer access to his own account.

Earlier that day, the GIMP developers had received word that the GIMP download from Sourceforge was being wrapped in an installer. According to Ars Technica, that installer would try and lure you into installing extra software.

I don’t know much about criminal law, but this seems to be something that should have landed Sourceforge’s owners, Slashdot Media (once a geek-loved brand), firmly into gaol.

Anyway, the lesson is clear: stop downloading from Sourceforge. The company has since promised that it would stop hijacking accounts, but I don’t trust serial abusers.

What is the alternative? Well, for one thing there is a tool called Ninite that promises to help you manage a great number of freeware and FOSS installations, including GIMP, and that promises to do so without installing any kind of spyware or other malware. I am not sure if and how far they can be trusted, but it seems to me that if “no malware” is one of their defining features, they may not wish to throw away their reputation by breaking that promise. Here’s hoping that this is not me being naive again.

Google’s former diversity chief opens misogyny temple

This is rich. A museum in London that was said to become a much needed and desired women’s history museum turned out to be a museum glorifying famed killer of women Jack the Ripper.

When confronted with this strange change from celebrating the things women achieved despite adversity to becoming part of that adversity, the museum’s founder Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe engaged in a bit of victim blaming: “It is absolutely not celebrating the crime of Jack the Ripper but looking at why and how the women got in that situation in the first place,” Palmer-Edgecumbe told the Evening Standard.

Palmer-Edgecumbe, former diversity chief of both Google and Barclays, lied to the Tower Hamlets council when applying for a permit to build “the first women’s museum in the UK”. Critics of the museum have pointed out that the museum:

  • Glorifies Jack the Ripper by showing a figure of him as a gentleman in the museum’s logo.
  • Insults the Ripper’s victims by reducing them to smears of blood on coffee mugs.
  • Is on Cable Street, but is not about the rich history of Cable Street women – whereas Jack the Ripper exhibits and tours are a dime a dozen.

The Tower Hamlets council is reviewing the situation, but has already announced that it is unlikely to revoke any permits: “Ultimately, however, the council has no control in planning terms of the nature of the museum.” The council will instead look into other irregularities, such as the opening hours and the design of the front of the building (the Jack the Ripper imagery), which may both go beyond what the permits allow.

(Via PZ Myers.)

Quick comparison: Canon EF-S 24mm v. Sigma 17-70mm mk 2

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Last week I bought the new Canon EF-S 24mm F2.8 STM lens from Canon. This is a lens that only works on crop sensor cameras. STM is short for stepper motor and provides a relatively fast and quiet means of focussing. What the name doesn’t convey is that this is also a very flat lens (a so-called ‘pancake’) and at 125 grams a very light lens.

For comparison my Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4.0 zoom lens (second edition) weighs four times as much, which may not sound like much, but when you want to travel light every little bit helps.

I bought the 24 so that I don’t always have to bring the 17-70 with me (I already have a solution for 50mm and higher).

Reviews of the 24 are glowing without fail, but when I started shooting with it, I did not notice much difference with my Sigma zoom, which is generally known as a rather pedestrian lens. So I wanted to know what’s up and took a couple of test shots on my Canon EOS 600D camera.

Note that the following is definitely not even close to what in pixel peeping circles is termed ‘scientific’. I don’t need to know what a lens does at pixel level as long as it holds up well for photos that get scaled down a couple of times, because when I publish photos it is generally at a web resolution of 1 or 2 mega-pixels.

The following photos are available at 1200 pixels wide. Click them for the full size. In every comparison the Canon photo is shown first, followed by the Sigma.

Wide shot

I expect to be using the lens a lot for this type of shot and for medium shots.

I shot using (cover your children’s eyes) the automatic setting (P). The camera chose F9, 1/320s, ISO 100 for the Canon and the same settings except 1/250s for the Sigma. The DXO Labs comparison of the two lenses suggests that the Canon lets in more light for the same F value, so that might explain the differences in shutter speed. The photos were taken hand-held and focus was acquired using CDAF on the top left white window of the nearest building.

These photos already tell me most of what I wanted to know, namely that the two lenses are similar enough that scaled down to a resolution close to what I typically use, there is no significant difference along any vector you care to choose: sharpness, colour rendition and so on.

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sigma-17-70-23-full

Checking that window at 100%, you can see that the Canon seems slightly sharper, but the difference is too small to worry me. The difference may be caused by a number of variables that have nothing to do with the lens. I certainly wouldn’t leave the Sigma home over this bit of evidence.

canon-sigma-crop-distance

When I look at the 100% view (not shown here) of the nearest red roof in the picture, the vertical lines separating some of the roof tiles disappear in the Sigma picture where they remain visible in the Canon picture. As you can see that sort of detail makes up a tiny proportion of the final picture. That type of detail is not something I am interested in retaining for the sort of photos I generally take. Still, it is good to see the Canon pancake do well in this respect.

Macro and close-up

Both the Canon and the Sigma have an interesting feature in that you can get very close to a subject and still get it in focus. They both advertise this as macro capability. Since 24mm is equivalent to 38mm on Canon’s APS-C cameras, you can get really close and still get a nice bit of blurry background in the photo.

canon-efs-24-full-macro

sigma-17-70-23-full-macro

What’s interesting here is the change in perspective. I shot these close-ups on a tripod and took care not to move the tripod in between photos. Note that the camera doesn’t tell you which focal length you are shooting at. I had to shoot a test scene first using measurements I got from the dimensional field of view calculator I found at one Max Lyons’ site. In English, I placed an object that was 93 centimetres wide at a distance of 100 centimetres from the sensor, zoomed the Sigma in to the point where the entire width of the object filled the screen, and kept that zoom setting for all the test photos I took with that lens.

When I looked at the EXIF data of the photos, the Sigma results said 23mm instead of 24mm. It could be that such a small difference in focal length already results in such a great difference in the photos. Or maybe the way zoom lenses are constructed cause this difference, I really don’t know.

What you cannot see here is that you can get even closer with the Canon, because it is such a small lens. The Sigma will at one point cast its own shadow in your photos.

Both photos where shot in P mode resulting in F4.0 (F4.5 for the Sigma), 1/60s and ISO 100.

The following are 100% crops (after the click).

canon-efs-24-100p-focus

sigma-17-70-23-100p-focus

I focused on “EOS” in “only in EOS digital cameras” for the Canon test, whereas I accidentally changed to “EOS” in “für digitale EOS Spiegelreflexkameras bestimmt” for the Sigma photo.

When you peep pixel you may notice that both lenses are nice and sharp, that the Canon has slightly more chromatic aberration (both seem well controlled though), but that the Sigma has a fairly nasty rendition of high contrast out-of-focus areas. Your may well disagree, the differences seem small. I had noticed the busy high-contrast out-of-focus areas in Sigma photos before – I’ve been shooting this lens for a while now. If the Canon does better in this area I am going to be a happy camper.

Finally I will show you two 100% crops of out-of-focus areas. I find both renditions fairly pleasant.

canon-efs-24-100p-oof

sigma-17-70-23-100p-oof

So here’s my conclusion.

For the type of photography I do, my copy of the Canon may be slightly better than my copy of the Sigma. I would have been happy even if the results were reversed, so this is good news. The one thing I haven’t tested is shooting the Canon wide open (F2.8) in dark environments. The shutter speeds I will be using it at are 1/60s – 1/160s, depending on the subjects. The Canon, unlike the Sigma, does not have image stabilisation, but since I will be mostly photographing people (who will move without notice), I will probably have to keep the shutter speeds relatively high anyway.

In the end it seems I have achieved my goal of getting a lighter lens for my wide-angle needs.

On a more general note, the Canon EF-S 24mm F2.8 STM seems to be a nice pancake. If your needs are similar to mine, but you need to change focal lengths a lot, you may prefer the zoom lens. Note that a new version of the Sigma tests significantly better than my version at DXO and is also smaller and (slightly) lighter.

Pity, John Oliver, I thought you might be one of the good guys…

British comedian John Oliver is the front man of a popular American rage vlog (and TV show) called Last Week Tonight, in which he tries to work viewers into an angry fit by spinning a mock cathartic narrative around injustices that are both major and very real.

The segment of 21 June was titled “Online Harassment“. It dealt largely with the harassment women undergo when they dare to do as much as open their mouths on-line. Two of the victims Oliver named and interviewed were Brianna Wu and Anita Sarkeesian, but shamefully he omitted mentioning their attackers, the Gamergate movement.

By not naming and shaming the attackers he wilfully let them off the hook. The Gamergate movement’s only goal is to harass women both on- and off-line. Surely, naming a movement that is a sort of modern day Ku Klux Klan (except aimed against women instead of people of colour) is exactly what you need to do when you’re trying to pretend that you are putting on-line harassment in the spotlight?

It’s not like the people in the know don’t realise what’s going on. Gamergate was very quick to acknowledge that John Oliver was talking about them. If not to keep the Gamergate hounds at bay, why did Oliver refrain from calling the attention of the public to one of the worst hate campaigns currently laying waste to the internet?

The major reason I can think of is that as long as on-line harassment is alive and well, he can produce shows around it. Oliver doesn’t really want to tackle injustice, he only wants to use injustice as the emotional hook with which to reel in his audience.

Shame on you, John Oliver!

Ads for something you’ve already bought

Lately this happens a lot to me:
1) I search the web for a product.
2) I settle on product X.
3) The ad network remembers my choice.
4) I buy product X.
5) The next two weeks, the web inundates me with ads for product X, even though I have already been sated with said product.

In other words, I keep seeing ads on the web for products I’ve already either bought or rejected.

The mechanism behind this is called targeted advertising. Basically you visit website A which tells ad network Annoy Inc. what you’ve been looking at, then you visit website B which loads ads by Annoy Inc. based on what they know about your interests.

Apparently I am a little bit behind the curve, because this sort of thing was already happening in 2012. The Slate article calls the practice creepy and focusses on the fact that the advertisements follow you around without actually serving a purpose. I’d probably use a less strong word and call it strange rather than creepy, but then I don’t need to draw in many readers in order to serve them targeted ads, like Slate does.

It seems to be that advertising has become smart enough to realise what you are interested in at any given point, but not smart enough to realise when that interest drops abruptly or changes in nature. The funny thing is that advertising for something that you are no longer interested in is actually worse than advertising for something you have never been interested in. It’s a bit like the one night stand from two weeks ago showing up at work five times a day to nag you about wanting to do the sex thing again – well, at least they have a chance you will say yes.

Why are companies so stupid? I think part of the problem may be that ad networks really don’t have an incentive to change things. They get paid by the view and can in fact prove that you’ve shown interest in the product that’s being advertised. If manufacturers and sellers want to stop annoying their core customer base, maybe they should get involved more into on-line advertising. (Or maybe the companies really aren’t that stupid and get something out of it that the consumers have yet to suss out.)

See also:

How Moulinsart lost Tintin in the Netherlands

The Moulinsart foundation, which manages (or, as you will see in the following, claims to manage) the rights to Hergé’s estate – in other words to Tintin – has lost an important law suit earlier this week against the Dutch association of tintinophiles, Hergé Genootschap.

Foreign press have reported superficially on this case, perhaps because the court’s verdict is in Dutch.

I speak Dutch however. What happened?

According to the verdict (PDF), the Hergé Genootschap was founded in 1999. As part of the services it provides to its members, it publishes a number of magazines which contain essays discussing the works of Hergé. Obviously critiquing a comic is greatly aided by quoting the comic, a technique the association employed.

Until 2009 the association had a working agreement with Moulinsart about the reproduction of images from the works of Hergé. In that year, Moulinsart introduced a new contract for all tintinophile associations to sign. This contract was presumably much more constrictive than the one that had existed between Moulinsart and Hergé Genootschap before and anyway the result was that initially the association refused to sign (but they caved in 2012). At that point things turned ugly. The association continued publishing its magazines and continued to include quotations from the works of Hergé. Moulinsart shouted ‘copyright infringement’ and after negotiations failed, demanded payments for the period 2009 – 2012 to the tune of 35,000 euro. (Some reports state that this is 35,000 euro per publication, but the court report doesn’t mention such a distinction.) Unsurprisingly, as one Belgian newspaper put it, the association refused to pay, and was sued.

Moulinsart lost the first law suit, which took place in 2012. The association had argued before the court that Dutch copyright law allows for the reproduction of copyrighted works under certain conditions (a principle called ‘fair dealing’ in legal circles), including the right to quote works in order to criticize them.

I am not sure why Moulinsart even took the road of attacking the fairly well established legal doctrine of fair dealing. I seem to remember reading in French newspapers that French courts ruled against the reproduction of frames from Tintin as a form of legal quotation. Maybe Moulinsart felt Dutch judges would be equally pliant?

And now comes the interesting part. Moulinsart appealed the decision but not on copyright grounds. They dropped the copyright claims altogether and instead focussed on a claim of breach of contract. The Hergé Genootschap, they argued, had had a contract with Moulinsart from 2012 onwards. The association replied that they could not have a contract with Moulinsart because – dun! dun! – Moulinsart did not control Hergé’s copyrights!

In a twist worthy of a Tintin adventure, the association produced a verified copy of a contract between Hergé and publisher Casterman, in which the former grants the latter exclusive reproduction rights for all Tintin albums. The association said that, on the basis of the contract, Moulinsart had misrepresented itself as a party who could negotiate Tintin rights and that therefore any contract between Moulinsart and Hergé Genootschap should be considered null and void.

The appeals court agreed with Hergé Genootschap’s position completely and ruled accordingly.

Could Moulinsart go all the way to the Dutch Supreme Court? I believe they have a good chance (note I am not a lawyer). The contract between Hergé and Casterman reads:

Art. 1 – Monsieur Georges Rémi concède aux établissements Casterman le droit exclusif de publication de la série des Albums Les Aventures de Tintin […] parus ou à paraître, dont il est l’auteur sous le pseudonyme de Hergé.

Art. 2 – Le droit de publication concédé s’étend pour toutes éditions en langue française et étrangères.

I don’t speak French very well, but it seems that Hergé gives the exclusive right to publish both existing and future Tintin albums in both the original French and in other languages to Casterman.

To me this reads like a copyright license, not a copyright transfer. The latter means that in the eye of the law, you are now the holder of the copyright, in other words you control the copyright. Considering that as a franchise Tintin is about much more than just comic books and that it also includes newspaper and magazine syndication, films, merchandise and what have you, it’s obvious that Hergé did not transfer his rights. He did not even give exclusive rights to the comics to Casterman, only the right to produce books.

Assuming that the widow of Hergé still owns the copyrights and that she has appointed Moulinsart as the manager of those rights, there is no reason to see why Moulinsart could not negotiate with Hergé Genootschap about those same rights.

Moulinsart seems to have considered the association’s suggestion that Moulinsart did not manage the entirety of the Hergé estate so evidently irrelevant or untrue, that it refused to enter anything into evidence to counter the association’s claims, instead offering to provide the court with evidence at its request. In Dutch civil law there is a principle similar to the Anglo-Saxon preponderance of evidence, meaning that if you provide evidence of a thing (as Hergé Genootschap did) and the other party fails to provide evidence of the opposite (as Moulinsart did), the court now considers that thing to be a fact. The exception to this rule is if the claims you make are evidently untrue or preposterous, for instance if you said that the sky is green or up is down.

It seems to me that Moulinsart, as the representative of the copyright holder, can claim that it has every right to bring suit against tintinophile associations even for rights granted exclusively to other parties. The supreme court could agree with this position but would likely still uphold the verdict of the lower courts on the grounds that there is no copyright infringement (remember, Moulinsart dropped those charges!) and therefore no breach of contract – and would Moulinsart please pay the association 60,000 euro in lawyer fees. (Yes, that really is how insanely expensive IP cases are in the Netherlands.)

If Moulinsart lose an appeal to the Dutch Supreme Court, and it is very likely they would, they can still appeal to the European court, which has been creating a lot of copyright case law lately. As a result I am not confident to predict how such a last court of appeal would respond.

A thing I read between the lines of the verdict is that Moulinsart appear to have irritated the court by constantly changing their claims. The reason appeals courts exist in the Netherlands is that another set of judges can take a fresh look at the same case, but if you keep changing your demands, how much will a case remain the same? The result is that on every junction where the court could have been lenient towards Moulinsart, it took the hard line and said: “Denied!” Moulinsart wanted the Casterman contract to be refused as evidence because it was entered too late: denied! Moulinsart wanted the lawyer fees to be lowered because it was no longer a copyright case: denied! The only time the court denied something to the association, the court helpfully explains that this is because the association was going to win anyway.

(Note: the Moulinsart foundation is called Hergé Foundation in English. Note 2nd: the Dutch word the association uses for ‘misrepresentation’ is ‘dwaling’; although I could find no English translation for that word, ‘misrepresentation’ seems the closest fit.)

Free speech can be dangerous

A commenter at the New York Times wrote: “There are zero conditions for freedom of speech. Only that it doesn’t cause an immediate danger to the public (i.e. shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre).”

This is a sentiment I come across often and with which I have a couple of issues.

One is that it is absolutist. If the conditions of free speech are rigid, they become comforting. You now know what the contours of free speech are, so you no longer have to worry about them. In my opinion, however, free speech becomes less free if you can easily define its contours.

The crowded theatre phrase was uttered by a judge in an opinion in 1919, almost a hundred years ago. Judges live in a kind of fluid world. They create law by jurisprudence, but they also know that if their arguments aren’t strong enough, the next judge will overturn their laws. If Oliver Wendell Holmes said something about shouting fire in crowded theatres, he was probably vain enough to hope for immortality, but unlike the average internet commenter, he also knew his opinion could be replaced at any time by another court.

The other issue I have is that the crowded theatre statement betrays a really low opinion of free speech. Apparently free speech is never dangerous, is always ineffectual. As soon as it challenges, mocks, riles, irritates, provokes, speech becomes dangerous and loses its privilege of being protected.

The above mentioned judge did make that distinction, by the way. The New York Times quote is incomplete. What Oliver Wendell Holmes actually said was: “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.”

The distinction is in the word ‘falsely’. Dangerous speech can be good. It can topple a dictator and set a people free. It can alert a group of theatre goers of a fire. In the ensuing stampede for the exits some people may be trampled to death, but generally that is to be preferred over everybody dying in the fire.

When people get trampled unnecessarily is where judge Holmes draws the line.

Saint Nicholas Parade 2014

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On 15 November Saint Nicholas arrived in the Netherlands with his Black Peters having traveled here on his steam boat all the way from his palace in Spain.

The day after, he participated in parades all over the country. I went and took pictures of his parade in Amsterdam.

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The past two years there has been an intense debate, if you even want to call it that, about Saint Nicholas’ famous helper, Black Peter. There are people who figure if they cannot destroy racism, they could at least have a go at what they perceive to be a symbol of racism. Racists have come crawling out of the woodwork by the hundreds of thousands to ‘defend’ Black Peter, by which they mean that they claim the right to call every person of colour ‘black peter’ any time they want (reducing said person to a cartoon character).

And everybody else (the majority) is closing their eyes, hoping this will all go away.

The anti-Petes started a lawsuit last year, claiming that the city of Amsterdam should not have issued a permit for the Saint Nicholas parade in Amsterdam considering that Black Peter represents a negative stereo type of black people (bright red lips, golden earrings, curly hair and so on). The court agreed with them (Dutch) and came to the curious conclusion that the city should reconsider the permit for an event that had already taken place.

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Lacking a time machine, the Netherlands did not go back to November 2013 to cancel the parade.

One of the reasons Black Peter is black, legend has it, is because he has to clamber down and up chimneys to deliver presents. The soot is so persistent that it no longer comes off. That is why the city of Amsterdam decided that this year some of the Petes would appear in a semi-sooted state. To be honest, I did not notice many Roetpieten (Soot Petes), as they were soon dubbed. Most of the Black Peters in the parade looked the same as they did last year.

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You have to wonder if this was a serious attempt of the city to find a middle ground, or if the people that govern us belong to the group who want all this to just blow over.

Interestingly the Head Pete (Saint Nicholas’ right hand, bearer of the book of names of all children and the most authoritative figure in the parade after Saint Nicholas himself) did show up as a Soot Pete this year.

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Shown throughout this posting are a couple of photos I took this year.

In 2013 I posted the photos I took of the parade that year as an album on the Flickr account of 24 Oranges. My co-blogger asked me not to do that this year. That is why I posted them to my own Flickr account. See for yourselves if you think Amsterdam has done enough to kill of any racist stereotypes. You can find my 2013 album here, and my 2014 album here.

Note that the 2013 parade was already supposed to be toned down in that Black Peters had shed their golden earrings.

You would probably like to know what my opinion is of all this. The thing is I do have a position and I would love to share it, but my position is based on a lot of anecdotal evidence and I am not sure it would hold up to even the lightest scrutiny. As a result I don’t think sharing what I feel about this sordid affair would, at this point, add anything meaningful to the debate.