Tuesday, December 30, 2008

148 apps

To all iPhone and iPod Touch aficionados who don't know this site yet, go and have fun with 148 Apps. You got all the app news your heart would ever desire. And, if you happen to have bought your iPhone in order to play video games rather than place or receive calls, this is your Shangri-La!

Don't forget to check out their one single page that shows all apps available on the App Store. Real cute! If you're pretty bored one day and you got no clue what to do next, surf to that page, cover your eyes with one hand and left-click at random on the page with the thousands thumbnails with the other. You'll pick one out of 13,5 thousand apps +, as of today. The click links you to iTunes where, if you like what you see, you just click further to buy/download the darn thing! Anyways... a taste of contemporary habits, that is.

The news, that they put up on top today at 148apps, was about a group of app designer companies who are about to launch a New Year sale initiative on a number of their apps (20 right now). Check this out here. Why is this important? To most rational beings out there, this is not such a big deal, innit? To me though, a chronic Mac addict who looks stunned every time His Jobness launches a new market, this oligarchic 'sale' get-together is a signal about future great things to happen on the cybermarket space. First, we had a 'simple' model of the App store: It only takes a few (not too sophisticated) app designers who'd only need a cool idea and turn it into an iPhone app; then, let Apple do the rest, that is, marketing, delivery and collection. Now, some wizkiddo's got together to create 'sale cartels'. Why not? Next thing we see is volume discounts... who knows what else? Creativity is the best virtue of the human kind. We are where we are as the dominant species of earthy nature, after millions of years of Darwinian evolution (sorry, Miss Palin!), only because of one half of our brains... the creative half!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Almighty Macintosh

I've been a switcher for almost ten years (from the last versions of MacOS 8 and 9 something) and I discover something new every day. Mostly, something useful that if I had known earlier it would have saved me a pile of work. More often than I'd like to admit, the new 'discovery' has been sitting there, staring at me all that time, but I was far too sophisticated to 'see' it. Problem is, I'm still suffering from chronic BluScreen-itis, even ten years later... the syndrome that gives you the shivers every time you got to try something new in Microsoft Windows.

How about this as an experience I had this afternoon while trying an iPhone/iPodTouch app that goes under the name of NumberKey. Very simple app that is... it just simulates an external numeric pad, especially useful if you are using a laptop Mac. As you all know, Macbooks have their numerals on the top row and this is not exceptionally convenient if you're used to keyboards with dedicated numeric pads on the right of the alpha section.

How this little marvel achieves that is to use the available Wifi to connect to your Macbook and transform itself into a genuine numeric pad as shown in the picture here. So far so good. What happens though if there's no Wifi available? Suppose you're in the middle of the Kalahari desert! What would you do then?

Well, it appears that Apple thought of that too. With literally two clicks (sic) you turn your plain Macbook into a base station of a new WLAN to which any other wireless devices can connect! Just like that! Well, try that with a Windows box! It actually took twice as much time to connect a freakin' Windows netbook to the Macbook network than it took me to create the slick network in the first place. Anyways, the iPhone/iPod-Touch with the NumberKey swiftly connected to the fresh Macbook WLAN like it'd do with any other WLAN.

That's good to know. Suppose you router gives up the spirits one sunny day. And it's Sunday afternoon! And you got no base station replacement. And you got a bunch of kids screaming about how they crashed their IM chatting with their pals and a spouse who wants to check her mail and surf the 'Gardener's World' of all things. What'd you do then? If you got Windows boxes (I'm sure they can do the same too) you swear yourself to death thru all sorts of manuals and the latest driver updates that you just happen to miss and by the time you fix the mess, if at all, your kids' chatting mates gone away and the spouse hijacked the master TV with the weekly episode of 'Royalty' (true story).

With a MacBook WLAN being able to get set in a microsec though, Bob's your uncle! Everybody's up and running within moments from realizing something was even wrong with the junkyard router you picked up at a discount store the day before.

Morale of the story: Mac rules!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Phantastic World of the Great Depression 2.0

Every news story I see on the online and printed Press nowadays is about the economy. For the last four months, at least, every story has come up with superlatives about how bad the economy is. We are not even talking about tabloid Press. Serious papers and magazines like the New York Times, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and even the online liberal Huffington Post are full of negativity on the economy and how everything is depressed. Records of all things measurable are daily being broken and negative statistics became the modern day Armageddon that implodes readers' hopes for improvement into a massive black hole.

I tried to verify some of these stories via my local US source, my pal John in Atlanta, Georgia. Sad to say, he sounds even more depressed than the rest of them US reporters and bloggers. Apparently the evil is already happening in the US, big time! The stories sound... true. Scores of companies go out of business, banks use the bail out money for God knows what and continue to deny credit to normal businesses and the common man on Main Street. The remains of the Bush Administration are far from being capable to even keep an eye on how US taxpayer bailout money is being used. Talking about a monumental clusterf#ck! In less than three months the economy in the US imploded. How can that be?!

I have tried for months to experience the same symptoms inside the world I am living in... godforgotten Flanders, one of nine provinces in wee-tiny Belgium, a 'country' with one of the highest population densities on the planet. Is this a place of welfare and excellence? Is it a place where wise government cabinets manage the market conditions so well that we don't yet see or feel the recession, let alone depression? God no! We got the most incompetent cabinet and PM in living memory. It took the sob almost a year to form something that looked like a cabinet, and before his second year in power was over, he f@cked up so big that he had to resign with his entire team. Reason: he abused his position to sell out Fortis to the French. Even Bush wouldn't dare challenge the checks and balances in the US, despite Cheney and his other hawks! Well, our genius PM, Yves Leterme is his name, did just that. And when it came to light, he went cowardly to get his Justice Minister fired first, like Nixon did to Spiro Agnew, before he eventually had to resign himself, under the political pressure.

So, this government lot of ours is way incompetent to even spell the term 'economy' properly, let alone manage it. Nevertheless, despite this monumental lack of skilled steering of the economy, we are still looking for signs of a Depression Made-in-Belgium.

Let me give some examples. Fnac and Media Markt. Both of them being super retailers for all stuff electronics, music, and the like. Something like Best-Buy in the US. The last days before Xmas and the day after (yesterday) I happened to pay a visit to both shops in Ghent, East Flanders. I gave up even entering Fnac as the crowd was so big that people could walk on the heads of buyers to get to their department of choice. The queues in Media Markt were triple the size I am used from the past. Last Tuesday, I tried to enter the parking of the Shopping Center Basilique, West of Brussels. After half an hour of wasting time and queuing in the car, trying to find a parking spot, I made a U-Turn and got my ass out of there as fast as I could.

The entire highway, both ways, between Antwerp and Breda (Holland) was packed in a traffic jam yesterday and the Dutch were to blame. You see, Boxing day is a bank holiday there (not in Belgium though) and scores of them Dutch drove down to Antwerp for shopping. The day before Xmas there have been 10 million electronic payment transactions in the Netherlands alone (2 out of 3 Dutchmen used his/her bankcard to buy stuff), a record of all times. Belgium was not far behind that. All our highways are continuously jammed, on weekdays and weekends, by millions of cars driven by work goers, consumers and vacationers. The Benelux is booming! If you call that Depression, well, gimme more of it. I'll buy that any given day!

So, what's wrong? Many different reasons for that... that's my empirical (as opposed to scientific) cut on it.

1. Folks in the Benelux are real 'slow'. They don't get what happens to the rest of the planet and continue to live in prosperity without bothering. Crisis? What's that? Never heard of it!

2. Folks in the Benelux are great money savers. The liquidity available here is per capita probably one of the highest on the planet if not the highest. So, why have a crisis? Wanna buy something? Get out and buy it! Credit Cards? Who needs 'em! Pay like a Mafioso... cash!

3. There's a real recession, alright, which the known businesses feel more and more, especially in the US where it all started, and then, there is a (Depression) Myth that is continuously driven by the Economy gurus, and the Media Moguls, and their slave reporters, serving a purpose that I don't quite understand. Sounds like the low inflation Euro myth. Since we introduced the Euro as the common currency here, most day-to-day consumer articles tripled in price... bread, coffee, milk, beer; however, the officially stated inflation figures during all this time were less than 3 %. Explain to me that, please!

Based on these experiences, and fed up by the depressing articles of the specialized and the general press, I have a simple proposal to make: Let all News Agencies and News Media run their next edition with a front page looking like: "Folks, it's true, the economy is seriously f@cked up and there's nothing to do about it. Get on with life." And then, they'll have to make sure that they won't publish any single story anymore about nothing and nobody living in Depression, especially Joe the plumber having difficulties to cope with the freakin' crisis! I betsa (I missed her for sure, that Sarah Palin broad...) we'll get over the current recession easier than we ever thought!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Photosynth games

To play around with the 'recent' Microsoft initiatives go to their LiveLabs.

Seadragon and Photosynth are interesting technologies. I screen captured my wondering around with ScreenFlow and then exported it to iMovie for some retouching and there you are, uploaded to YT. Enjoy. Based on a demo of the Photosynth technology about Times Scquare, Manhattan...

Seadragon experience

Just a few of my deep zoom test photographs... You need to install Microsoft Silverlight though... I know, it's tough to use Borg technologies for fear of blue screens but this one appears to work unusually well... focus on particular picture and start zooming in... you discover details you never thought existed...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Human stupidity knows no limits.

It's a well known Bertie (Einstein) quote that goes like: The universe and human stupidity are infinite... eh... though, I am not so sure about the former...

That came to mind as I was reading this story. A dude, called Rob, had his iPhone stolen from him as he was at his dry laundry shop (literally going to the cleaner's, that is...).

"He immediately chalked it up as gone forever, and proceeded to purchase a brand new one that same evening. It was the next day when unfamiliar contacts began to appear on the new phone. The (not-too-bright) thief was unwittingly supplying him with names and phone numbers of his or her closest friends, via the magic of MobileMe synchronization from the stolen phone to the cloud and eventually to his new phone. "It didn't take long for me to realize that MobileMe was leading me right to the thief!" wrote Rob."

Now tell me... is it that you got to be stupid to be a 'criminal' or is it that often some stupid people get so desperate and then eventually turn into 'criminals'? Don't know which way it goes... one thing is for sure... human stupidity knows no limits. Einstein's law of human nature proven right, again.

The deeper meaning of this story though is that MobileMe is just flyin'! Works like a charm. Makes possible moving important records from any desktop (PC, or Mac) to the cloud, back to a laptop or iPod Touch or even the iPhone! And back to the cloud! Happens almost instantaneously, most of the times. If you manage to set up the sync preferences properly in all your environments, MobileMe becomes an ideal strategy for syncing your mails, contacts and calendars, to name a few goodies... the best backup on the planet for your most critical stuff. No worries about stolen laptops, iPhones, or whatever, or Blue Screens on Windows garbage gear. It all comes together with a push from the cloud. I am convinced, this 'service' is even more valuable to Windows users than to us ol'time loyal Mac-lovers. All you got to do is buy an iPhone or iPod Touch and an annual subscription of less than 100 bucks onto MobileMe. The rest is sef-explanatory. Lose your phone like Rob did? Buy a new one and restore in seconds. No messages lost or contacts or agenda events. Got a new PC for X-mas (one of these unbelievable netbooks...)? No problem. Install the Control Panel MobileMe app and up you are. Configure Outlook for the MobileMe account and all your cloud folders find their way into your new gear within minutes. All are level set... there's a law in hydrodynamics that does the same with free fluid surfaces in a series of tubes... what's called again? Jeez, I used to PhD in these things and I even forgot the alphabet... oh, aging pains, oh, Alzheimer's...

The Apple Ecosystem approach to succesful marketing. Offer complete solutions and you'll master the world! This is the Steve Jobs first law of Marketing. Brings to mind a good deed I did yesterday. I was on Skype messaging with a dear friend and, knowing her recent buy of an iPod Touch, I am like: "Do you use 'Air Sharing'?"; she goes, "What's that?". I'm like, "C'm on, this is the best app ever since iPint"..."So, what does it do?", she sez... I'm like, "How do you transfer files from your Mac to your iPod Touch, like PDFs, PPTs, 'n stuff?"... Here it comes: "I... email them to myself", she sez, "too much trouble, I know, and hard for large docs"... "I know", I sez, "Trust me, try Air Sharing and pass the word"... "I'll have to do that" she goes... "Many thx, I gotta go now"...

See, it's not always useless subjects people chat about on IM sessions... IM is a serious platform for viral marketing, passing the word kinda-thing... not?

In conclusion, another lesson learnt today: If you happen to 'find' or 'steal' an iPhone or iPod Touch and don't intend to return it to their lawful owner, then, install iTunes on y'r pathetic Windows PC (Mac users don't steal things) and do a factory reset... but, I guess, that's too complicated for double digit IQ morons who'd do that sort of thing...

Top-gun hairdresser.

Peculiar something happened to me this Saturday morning. Stepped lazily to the dining room to have my daily ritual microwaved cereals with milk and read my long forgotten HuffPo blogs (Weber and Arianna Huff, are my favorites), at the soft music sounds on Radio 3, when the doorbell rang. Oh yes, I had forgotten all about it. The burden of every Saturday morning... A young woman entered with a large carry-on bag on wheels... my spouse's hairdresser, good looking, a typical provincial character, with loud voice, trained to throw more decibels into the air and overcome the torturing pain of the dryer's enervating noise. My spouse's weekly brushing was just about to happen.

A few long minutes into the brushing noise and loud chattering, as I got increasingly desperate and was about to wear my Bose noise canceling headphones, the dryer suddenly stopped, and -unwillingly, not?- I overheard my spouse's gossip with the simple lady, a local variant of an Essex girl. Always exciting to overhear women do 'girly' talk! You see, as it turned out, the poor thing was married to a Belgian Army pilot, flying an F16, who serves the country in Afghanistan, of all places, amid campaigns against the Taliban. I was flabbergasted. The gal was talking about him being away from home for quite a long time like being the most natural thing in the country. She got recently pregnant during one of his long vacation-returns back home and she's been explaining that he wanted to be with her at the gynecologist's every time she had to check-up. To which Rita, the spouse, very wisely responded: 'if he can fly an F16 he can sure watch the delivery of his own baby...' (wify laughs) Gimmee a break!

Is it the Belgians that are so thick, or naif, I don't know. I mean, this is bloody Afghanistan for crying out loud. Where the superpowers get defeated, one by one, in turn, for many years now. First the Russians, now us from the west, who knows who's next... the Chinese? Indians? The guy was away on flying campaigns with the Yanks and the Britts and all those other morons fighting the Bush war against terrorism and the savages of the Taliban. It's not the kinda vacationing flying to the Bahamas, innit? Apparently, to our girl, that was a husband's job like any other. Of course she's been proud of him... not so much about defending the flag (which one?) but about being a top-gun (she's probably seen the movie). I mean, it'd take a 'hard' character of a spouse to easily cope with a husband going off to work every morning to chase some Taliban, innit? Wow! The thought made me feel like a pathetic chickenshit, I swear!

And the courageous broad was chatting loud about his next coming back and that's a great job to have as he'd take another six week or somethin' paid vacation and bla... bla... bla... I seriously doubted whether to look at her with contempt or admiration. I reckon the latter, as if I were a parent of a kid serving 'there', or a spouse of someone in combat, expecting soon of all things, I'd be very worried... very very worried... But then, that's me!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

'Fake Steve Jobs' is definitely dead...

Daniel Lyons, a.k.a. Fake Steve Jobs, is for ever gone. This is the saddest thing that happened in the last thirty days, far worse than yesterday's announcement by Apple Inc that the real Steve Jobs was ditching the MacWorld Expo keynote next month, and sending stand-up comedian Schiller instead. What happened?

Lyons had a phenomenal talent to blog as the Fake Steve Jobs. He's been an inspiration to many 'cranky' bloggers out there, and I have to admit, to me personally as well. His way of saying things was just incredible. His FSJ blog is still up out there and you can go read some of his archives if you feel sad one day and need something to laugh about... He's done this for some time, drawing millions of hits to his page, and even making it to the list of the most influential dudes in America. However, one bright day in the summer of 2007 another moron reporter blew Lyons' cover. Good ol' Daniel decided two things then. Continuing the old gig was waste of time now that everybody knew who he was (the man behind FSJ). And, with all the attention around him, it'd be quite interesting to think about monetizing his fame (to feed his hungry 3 year old twins, he sez).

So, we got a new blogging spot from Mr. Lyons, going by the title: The Real Daniel Lyons. In the meantime, Lyons left Forbes where he was active as an editor, to join Newsweek Magazine, within the Washington Post family.

All's fine except for two more things: First, his new blog was nowhere close to what we got used to. I kept going back looking for some familiar postings and they weren't there. And second, the final coup was given by a recent (end of November 2008) posting in which he presumably insulted Yahoo's chairman Roy Bostock who then complained to Newsweek's management, who, in turn, reprimanded the 'wrongdoer'. And Lyons decided to ditch his second blogging initiative for good as he needs the day job real bad.

So, this is the end. Between you and I, it really felt like this from the moment his cover was blown. It's a sad story for all of us, as Lyons 'uncovered' writing style has proven sofar, from his other books and articles, to be far below to what we've been used with Fake Steve.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

R U sh#ttin' me?

End of November the number of download-able apps on Apple's App store surpassed 10,000! Downloads to this day are over 300 million. In less than just six months after the launch of this market, astronomical sizes became the norm. Now, if you look carefully, there are many apps that often do the same, like calculators, clocks, cooking, shopping lists, note takers, and games. Nevertheless, it's remarkable to see the (absence of) limits in the human imagination when relatively 'easy' earnings is the reward, like in a sort-of present day El-Dorado's. A couple of months ago, the story hit the press about a few kids who got together and created Air Sharing, an app for exchanging files between PCs/Macs and iPhones/iPods Touch, that sold millions of copies overnight and turned its creators into instant millionaires. If that is not so cool, I don't know what is.

Goes without saying, it is Apple that deserves most of the credit. Their idea to port OSX to the iPhone/Touch which thus became their mobile OS solution, together with a marvelous and robust SDK, make phenomena like Air Sharing quite possible. All you need is a great idea that promises to cover some useful consumer needs and the rest is simply history.

Now, talking about 'useful' consumer needs... I couldn't say that would be the case for this app, that goes by the name Poo Price and costs .99 cents. What the darn app does is to kick-off a time teller when you enter the toilet to do your business and keeps track of all the time you spent there during a day. Based on your monthly income it calculates the total money you made 'doing your business'. How useful is that... I'm pretty sure there will be enough morons around who wouldn't mind wasting a few cents to show-off their stupidity to friends and relatives. 'See dude, I made 30 bucks today, sh#ttin' and p#ssin! Ain't that cool?!'

Reminds me of the CEO of a semiconductor company, here in our little town of Oudenaarde, (East Flanders, Belgium), just over twenty years ago. He went to the bathroom one day and overheard one of his employees in the neighboring toilet making a familiar noise like reading a newspaper. Next thing the moron CEO does is to call maintenance and order them to change all lamps in all toilet spaces with much lower power lamps. This trick wouldn't work today though, definitely not with me, as I'm reading most of my news on my iPod Touch! And this can happen in absolute darkness, if needed. Like, under the sheets on an early winter morning here in the north, before the spouse wakes up...


It took decades for Greeks to get their act together and clean the city for the Olympics four years ago. Look at the state of what remains of Athens today, the city of the Golden Age twenty five hundred years ago, the eternal symbol of our western civilization. Look what the savages have done to it. The so called Modern Greek youth, college students or high school pupils!

Many compare what happens in Greece today to the French suburbs uprise a few years ago. You wish. Those incidents were primarily led by residents of the French capital but not necessarily natives with roots in that country for centuries... most of them were unemployed immigrants who revolted in their slums as the result of their misery and hopelessness. Trying to idealize, politicize and rationalize the incidents in Athens is loss of time and energy. The wrongdoers are savages who deserve to live the rest of their miserable life behind bars. Spoiled children from upper middle class are many among them. Bored with wasting their parents' drachmas they came to the streets to burn down Athens, like modern time Nero's. To oust a democratically elected (albeit waste of space) PM Karamanlis, they destroy, burn, wipe the city away from the face of the planet. They are the scum of the earth. Open up Websters' on this entry and you'll find shots of Greek anarchists fighting with Police forces, like the one hereunder.

What's in a man's mind...

Chinese artists The Gao Brothers perform during the award ceremony of the Kandinsky Prize in Moscow December 10, 2008. An enormous red star against a swath of real gold by Alexey Belyaev-Gintovt took Russia's top modern art award late on Wednesday, but the painter was met with jeers and labelled a 'fascist' by some viewers.

REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Good to know... the Obama Inner Circle.

Click on image for sharper view...

Tell'em Colin! If they only listened to you...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Μάνα μου Ελλάς

A 15 year old teenager, probably bored from attending classes, if any at all, decided to throw some stones to a patrolling police car in a suburb of Athens, Greece, known for its affiliation with anarchists. Εξάρχεια is the name. Ironically, this is phonetically not too different from Αναρχία, Greek for Anarchy.

A 'cowboy' policeman steps out of the targeted car, pulls his loaded service gun and shoots the young brainless kid in the chest... in so doing he thus managed to send him to his ancestors in eternity and beyond. Similar incidents happened before in the US, in Africa and Asia and South America, did actually happen in Belgium as well as in many other Eurozone countries. It could still happen everywhere!

In Europe, police usually shoots immigrants and colored people, as of habit. Don't know why, but they generally do that. Couple of years back they shot that Brazilian kid (a foreign student) in London, I remember. He seemed to them to be a terrorist suspect! They actually shot so many bullets into his body and skull that it looked like a Mafia payback. Very rarely are indigenous whites shot in incidents like these. Except... in Greece. In Greece they do shoot anything that moves.

A 15 year old kid died because of his own stupidity and that of a moron a-hole police officer and the whole country stopped functioning. What a better opportunity for opposition parties and unions to call for general strikes and paralyze the system even more, in times of worldwide recession? Greek temperamental natives wouldn't care less. Destroy shops and the life earnings of innocent and hard working citizens, burn and destroy people's houses, cars and any valuables, ready to start a bloody 'revolution'! Gimme a break brother! How can that be... in a country of the United States of Europe, a so called 'cradle of civilization' (dream on...) its youth acting like in a third world country at the lowest end of the spectrum (I mean, they're much worse than Somalia and Myanmar, aren't they?).

Our local Belgian National TV showed footage yesterday of a ravaging protester, another teenager, appearing on camera and shouting the loudest he could : 'Cops, murderers, they killed that kid, it's payback time...bla...bla...bla...'. The reporter's mic gave up on the kid's voice decibels and subsequent sound distortion made it extremely hard to understand where the obvious anger was coming from. As a matter of fact, Greeks usually shout in conversations to intimidate the opposite party and win an argument. The more they are wrong the louder they shout. This all stems from their emotions of 'φιλότιμο', their love of 'honor', so to say. Like Arabs stoning and throat-cutting their daughters and wives if the latter dare look some 'foreign' male in the eyes. The Greek youth, always spoiled and bad mannered as hell, is now about to take control of the country, to rage and revenge and payback the 'forces of Law and Order'. Yep... it sounds like Afghanistan Iraq insurgency and, that smells pretty much so.

Athens newspapers found again a new and terrific opportunity to sell more of their tabloid filth with front page news blown out of proportion, launching cries like 'the headless country is in civil war'. A-hole reporters doing their usual thing, throwing more oil to the fire to earn themselves another pathetic euro! Only care about yourself, bro. Screw all the rest! And convince yourself (lie to yourself) that you are right and all the rest are certainly wrong. And shout your lies loud and clear! Like Lenin once said: A lie, often repeated becomes the truth!

Take a look at the front-page of 'Ta Nea', shown above (click for better view). They effin' burnt down the Christmas tree, freaking retards, for crying out loud! The one standing at the infamous Syntagma Square, in front of the National Parliament! Useless morons! Makes you proud to be a Greek, eh? What else?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Superlatives of kudos... well deserved...not?

Quite an interesting article by Ben Cohen. About the Ten Worst Republicans who need to go. He even got 100 thousand hits on his site for this. He also wrote a sequel, about the top ten list of Democrats that need to go as well. With Joe Lieberman figuring on the first and also last position of that list... twice in fact, as he's such a 'dick-head', he sez. He published his top 10 Worst Democrats list on the Huffington Post, by the way. Anyways, back to the neocons list, I like most Ben's account of Georgie Walker, at the tenth and most prestigious spot:

"10.George Bush

I've saved the best for last. The 'Decider' will go down as the worst President in the history of the United States, and as Chris Rock put it "Bush is not just the worst ever president of the USA, he’s the worst ever president, period. Of anything." It's hard to top the hyperbole commentators have used in describing just how bad Bush really was, because there aren't really words to do it justice. Bush has presided over monumental fuck up after monumental fuck up, groping his way through the president with the finesse of a 800lb gorilla. I tried to come up with a list of accomplishments he has achieved, and came up with the following: 1. He has increased financial support to Africa to alleviate AIDs and poverty. 2. ............ Uh, that's it. He has presided over two disastrous wars, an increase in poverty at home, an increase in wealth inequality, an increase in the number of people without health care, a crisis in public education, the break down of national infrastructure, the literal drowning of a city, the use of torture as official policy, the biggest financial crisis in 80 years, and the irreversible decline of America's prestige abroad. Here is something to think about. Every ex President (aside from Ronald Reagan who had alzheimers) has a role to play in public life after office. They give advice, do lecture tours, write books, sit on boards of huge companies and head non-profit organizations. How many people do you think will be itching to receive advice from W? How many companies would have him on their board? Who would buy his autobiography? Who would pay to hear him speak? No one. And that pretty much sums it up...."

No further comments.

Terrorist Tweets

What more are we gonna read about? Please, read this article. Can you just believe that? I mean, not that Twitter or any of the social(ist) Web 2.0 sites are potential tools for terrorists, but more think about the morons whose insane mind makes them think and write reports like the hyperlinked above! Pays well though! Writing online reports like this... Sounds like real news and is fun to gossip about among friends : 'Heard the latest about Twitter? Lemme tell ya'...

Now tell me, what moron terrorist is going to use a Web 2.0 site to launch an attack? I mean, it's already more than enough that Secret Intelligence Services worldwide fool themselves with ideas like this and pay their staff real salaries to screen each and every message appearing in blogs worldwide to identify (remember Minority Report with Cruise?) traces of potential insurgency and go after the wrongdoers... mostly kids who are having cyber-fun and use Internet to impress their classmates and potentially get laid or somethin'... I mean, really, I never thought authentic terrorists (from Al Qaeda and their likes) would ever publish on a WSJ frontpage their intent to go after a specific target, would they? It would spoil their 'fun'. I know, most of them lack a serious chunk of IQ in their brains as they believe they serve a noble (my ass) cause by doing what they do, bloody cowards! But even so... go tell 3 billion people about it? C'm on! Even they'd know better.

OMG, in what a monumental clusterf#ck the Bush doctrine has turned us to. Rachel Maddow has been making some emotional points last Friday about Bush's hawky doctrine. I could hardly believe what I heard! I never realized ever before the deeper meaning of all that! Initially I thought she was just kidding the way she explained it. Have I been livin' under a rock the last eight years? I might as well have.

Go google the words 'Bush Doctrine' and link to the Wikipedia article. Sit down then and have your blood-pressure pills by your side before you start reading. Having done that myself, I turned eventually into being proud of... Sarah Palin, the hockey mom who couldn't explain the Bush doctrine to an interviewer (she's been supportive of it though - what else?). The woman, thus, has never been a real 'insider' element of the evil neocons after all... just a Stupid (capital S) cheerleader, she was...

Anyways, if you happen to be a Twit, or a Blogger, or anybody making a habit of calling upon 'funny' URLs from time to time, then beware... Big Brother Uncle Sam is watchin' you. They may already own gigabytes large data files with details about you that you've never imagined about yourself to this day. No kiddin'.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Thank you much, Dickie and George! God Bless!

Take the time and read this article in full if you got the time. Often I wonder whether we shall ever hear the complete story about the entire damage DBR (Dickie, Bushie and Rumi) and their 'security' advisers have incurred to the world with their Iraq 'liberation' games. For one thing, they were able to establish in charge of the 'liberated' country the third most corrupt administration on the planet, after Somalia and Myanmar. I doubt Iraq in Sadam's times was ever that high on the corruption scale... Anyways, Halliburton and Blackwater sure made some great deals down there for themselves not only by damaging innocent Iraqi's but more so the hundreds of thousands American soldiers. And all this at the US taxpayers' cost. What a mess!

A Georgia man has filed a lawsuit against contractor KBR and its former parent company, Halliburton, saying the companies exposed everyone at Joint Base Balad in Iraq to unsafe water, food and hazardous fumes from the burn pit there.

Joshua Eller, who worked as a civilian computer-aided drafting technician with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, said military personnel, contractors and third-country nationals may have been sickened by contamination at the largest U.S. installation in Iraq, home to more than 30,000 service members, Defense Department civilians and contractors.

“Defendants promised the United States government that they would supply safe water for hygienic and recreational uses, safe food supplies and properly operate base incinerators to dispose of medical waste safely,” according to the lawsuit, filed Nov. 26 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. “Defendants utterly failed to perform their promised duties.”

Eller and his attorneys are seeking to have the lawsuit declared a class action.

Diana Gabriel, a spokeswoman for Halliburton, said her company is “improperly named” in the lawsuit. “As such, we expect Halliburton to be dismissed from the action as Halliburton has no responsibility, legal or otherwise, for the actions alleged,” Gabriel said. “It would be inappropriate for Halliburton to comment on the merits of a matter affecting only the interest of KBR.”

Continue reading...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Goliath vs David... who's who?

I enjoy immensely articles like this! Nokia (Goliath) is gonna pick a fight against Apple (David). Oh me! Oh my! And we all know what happened in that fight, don't we? If we believe the Holy Book, that is...

C'm on... just look at this line from that article:

'The N97 will feature a 3.5-inch touch screen with 50 percent greater resolution than the iPhone. It will also have a slide-out alphabetic keyboard, making it similar in overall design to the Xperia X1 recently launched by competitor Sony Ericsson.'

So, the iPhone is all about a large touch screen and about keyboards! Forgive me father for I have sinned!

OK! Here's my five cents!

Marketing geniuses of Nokia and the rest of you freaktards... The iPhone has not been successful because of its hardware, can you actually grasp this? (ok, there's the element of superior hardware design in it, but, so what?). It's the iTunes factor, stupid! It's the OSX, stupid! It's their SDK, stupid! It's the App store paradigm, stupid! It's the 200 Million apps downloads in less than six months after the App Store launch, STUPID! It's the fact that his Jobness has been able to select, motivate and surround himself with the most creative team on the planet and he has been able to change the rules of design and marketing of consumer products for ever, STUPID! (Once I thought Gates was that kind of genius... but Apple runs circles around Microsoft nowadays. Monkey boy can only jump up and down and look even more moronic than he actually is.)

The iPhone, a sequel to the iPod, is not just a piece of hardware, folks... it's an entire bloody system! An ecosystem altogether! I just don't get it for monstrous size companies like Nokia to still fall into the trap and believe in their wildest dreams that they can beat Apple on the iPhone! Sounds like IBM beating Microsoft out of MS-DOS 25 years ago! By the time Goliath raises one foot, little David has catapulted him to the kingdom of hell for good! By the time Nokia or anybody else like them launches iPhone challengers, Apple will have designed the next gen of appliances that will change our lives for ever again, at the workplace and in our living room! Beats me how all this is possible, but having worked for some of the big and dinosaur companies myself, I am not surprised. In the Nokia's or IBMs of this world top management is blindfolded by seer arrogance due to their company-size and of all the BS coming to them from their gray and plain average (sex-lagging) middle managers who are telling their bosses only what the latter wanna hear (emperor's new clothes sort-of-thing). And all (that same) top management cares about is not how to change established paradigms and become innovative, but how they'll just make another quarter, receive bigger than life bonuses, travel in corporate jets, play some golf, get pissed and get laid with up-market hookers in tittie bars, and find excuses to justify their fat pay to the shareholders while making a mess of the company's 'strategy' (whereas most of them can't even properly spell the word).

Dream on Nokia! If product design and marketing was only that simple we would all be billionaires by now!

Heaven and hell...

I've seen variants of this joke, like the demo version vs the real thing, but this one is not bad at all... Enjoy!


While walking down the street one day a US senator is tragically hit by a truck and dies. His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.
'Welcome to heaven,' says St. Peter. 'Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you.'
'No problem, just let me in,' says the senator.

'Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.'

'Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,' says the senator.

'I'm sorry, but we have our rules.'

And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.

Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people.

They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.

Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he
realizes it, it is time to go.

Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises ..

The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.

'Now it's time to visit heaven.'

So, 24 hours pass with the senator joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.

'Well, then, you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity.'

The senator reflects for a minute, then answers: 'Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell.'

So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.

Now the doors of the elevator open and he's in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage.

He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above...

The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder. 'I don't understand,' stammers the senator. 'Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?'

The devil looks at him, smiles and says.......
'Yesterday we were campaigning. Today you voted.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Another Belgian joke

A young Dutch woman, Nathalie Lubbe Bakker, having lived for some time in Antwerp, moved recently to New York to study acting and theater. She makes her living by working as a waitress, as of recently in a bar owned by a Belgian, and she shares an apartment with another student of performing arts. She lives from tips as usual... fix income for people waiting in US restaurants and bars is subminimal if not non-existent... all waiters live on tips, something we don't quite know in this lovable country of ours!

Oh, yes, our lassie keeps a blog. She posts all sorts of news from her daily life in the city of cities. Unfortunately her blogs are written in Dutch... they are fun to read if you master the language.

A 'non-event' that she recently blogged about made her an instant celebrity. Was about the visit at the bar by our Defense Minister (see above) 'on mission' in New York. Nathalie sez that his Excellence was pissed drunk as he came in. Far less appetizing though was her short dialog with him, if you believe what she reported. His meeting was canceled, he said because all important folks were in Geneva instead. So, why did he come to NY at all then? Well, there's not much to do in Brussels nowadays, so why not come to Big Apple? Never been there before anyway! That's the point she makes then... whereas the world is in crisis and people lose jobs and fall into poverty everywhere, his Excellence decided to have a good time midtown Big Apple at our Belgian taxpayers' cost...

Well... that's not news! I mean, if we had to report each and every anomaly (abuse) performed by the scores of family clans that are occupying the Belgian political scenery (well known fact: Belgium is one of the most corrupt countries on the planet, based on recent statistics), then there wouldn't be any space left to report anything else. The real news is what followed when the Minister came back home, short after the incident. This is what the Belgian joke is all about:

Last Friday, His Excellence discusses the 'non-event' incident at a hearing in the Parliament, where among others he sez:

I'd like to take this opportunity and use this 'non-event' to signal a dangerous phenomenon in our Society. We are living in a spirit of the times where everyone is free, according to his beliefs and without responsibility to post blogs. This is worse than throwing mud. And, together with you Mr. President, the rest of you my colleagues of the Parliament and colleagues from the Government, I recognize that it is almost impossible to defend ourtselves against this (phenomenon). Everybody among you, colleagues, Mr. President, colleagues of the Parliament and colleagues of the Government, is a potential victim. And I am asking you all to collectively examine this (followed by applause of members of his Party fraction and of a few from the Opposition parties)

Now tell me... there's two things anyone paying taxes in this country can do about news like this. Either weep or burst into laughter... Good thing that the Minister sobered up by the time he appeared in the House on Friday, otherwise he'd spoil the joke if he said what he said under influence...

Oh, BTW, Nathalie was fired soon after someone from the Minister's entourage called the bar owner in New York to complain about the gal's post!

Was it Black or Bloody Friday?

An employee at Wal-Mart was killed yesterday when "out-of-control" shoppers broke down the doors at a sale at the discount giant's store in Long Island, New York.

People were queuing outside shops all over the country waiting for the doors to open at... 5 am! First official reports from companies monitoring formally tens of thousands of retail outlets concluded that more stuff was sold yesterday (10.6B USD) than a year ago...

So, where the crisis? Where's the Big Depression V2.0 ? I mean, c'm on! BTW, early reports on Black Friday shopping published yesterday have been talking about lesser sales due to the current financial crisis and 'related recession'. Based on no real data, a pathetic reporter somewhere was predicting more of the negative horseshit we are fed up listening to as he thought that he was serving the interests of the public by providing his own recessionary perceptions in writing. What an a-hole...

Nowadays, all media worldwide make a habit of bullshitting in spades as they try to spread bad sentiment and panic among the herds of consumers and drive down anything that moves. It smells so much like a global conspiracy fed by worldwide sources of evil so badly that, at the end, I'm gonna believe the theory after all. Only thing I don't know is who's behind such a conspiracy, if any, if it was for real. Would it be members of the G.W. Bush clan? I doubt it. They are far too stupid to pull out somethin' like this! How about KGB Inc? Nay... Maybe that North Korean dictator (from his grave...not?).

Anyway, if people are crazy enough to queue out in the cold in freezing temperatures in front of the Wal-Marts, Macy's, J.C. Penney's and all the rest, and they end up stampeding workers to death in the process, what more can I say? You got it! Yep! BIG DEPRESSION!

I don't even believe there is a single place in entire Europe with our 500 million inhabitants where one shop (other than occasional grocery night-shops) went open ever at 5am. In the US you have shops opening at midnight for special launches of long awaited products and of course you have the 5th Avenue Apple Store, a non stop circus of shoppers and geniuses, that is open 24x7. I'm still waiting for real evidence of the crisis hitting consumers, other than a few Banks going down because of the greed, arrogance and stupidity of their managers; the rest is quasi fiction concentrated around whatever the leeches of the press decide to publish to make an extra pathetic buck and lead their miserable lives into nothingness!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Smells like X-mas

I took these shots in Brussels yesterday, in the area around the Stock Exchange and the Grand Place, where shops are already being set for the year end holidays. Sweets, chocolates, cookies and sugar all over the place. Click the picture above to be transferred to my Flickr set for the rest of the photographs...

I, the undersigned...

With two good friends of ours, my bride and I went cultural last Thursday evening. At the Beursschouwburg in Brussels. We watched 'theater' work created and performed by an Arab performance artist, Rabih Mroué, from Lebanon of all places. Google him and you'll be stunned by the hits pointing to his works. Born in 1967, the 41 year old artist, actor, playwright and TV station (day-job) illustrator is, to say the least, remarkable. Very much so, if you consider the environment in which he was born and raised to become the man he is today. A country torn by 15 years of civil war between Muslims and Christians, Lebanon had a few years of opportunity to rebuild and raise from its ashes until a new wave of assassinations, terrorist attacks and turbulent local politics came to shake its wellbeing and security once again. Under these circumstances, to become a performance artist and via your skills to express criticism on the established bold authority is, at minimum, ...heroic. Rabih Mroué is a simple, fragile looking individual, with deep and expressive eyes and a face that glows with goodness as he humbly speaks and blushes full of gratitude and humility when someone pays compliments to his work. After the performance, as Mroué approached the bar for a soft drink passing right next to our party, Christos, my pal, addressed a few kudos to him about his performance being 'inspiring' and 'quite creative'. Mroué nodded softly, overwhelmed with gratitude as he quietly whispered 'thank you, thank you very much...'. He resembled very much a Byzantine Saint in the subtle and sober lighting of the moment. Made feel a strange magnetism in the air.

All we westerners know and feel about Muslims nowadays is that they are bunch of deadly religious fanatics, oppressive to their own kind and cowardly to the Christian Westerners whom they want to convert to Islam with violence if needed as 'we are all the infidels', in their mind... Oh, yes, and they want to exterminate the Jewish from the face of the earth... Real pathetic! The recent Mumbai incidents are the latest evidence of this.

What we all seem to forget though is that those religious fanatics who make frontpage news with appalling acts of terrorism represent only an extremely low percentage among the millions of Muslims on Earth. The vast majority among them are peace loving folks like the rest of us who only happen to operate in a different monotheist religion than ours. They also have an exceptionally rich tradition in achievements that stem from the deepest roots of the history of mankind. At the back end of the first millennium Arabs explored sciences and arts to the point that we owe it to them today to have preserved the works of the Golden Age of Ancient Greece and to have created ideas and concepts that dominate astronomy and mathematics, to name a few, to this day. Being Arab or Muslim has far more to it than being a... terrorist. Of all people, the Israelis, who know Arabs quite well, are the first to admit that. That's why it is beyond contempt to keep the entire Middle East region in the vast turmoil of endless wars for so many years instead of helping them build welfare states like ours in the 'West'.

This is what I kept thinking as we watched Mroué perform his play on Thursday night. There you have a braveheart, someone courageous enough to challenge the current Lebanese bureaucracy and its old-fashioned  authority agents, to be fearless in his choice of words against cowardly Hezbollah militias, a performance artist with a voice that represents all what is good in those parts of the world and what we, in the West, have chosen to ignore and forget. What are we gonna do about it, now then? Not much I'm afraid... we don't even have a clue these artistic brave souls ever existed! Performance artists of that kind are very scarce and members of the western community who are well aware of their existence can be counted in just a few fingers.

The performance lasted few minutes above the hour. All this time Mroué sat behind a lean table and, as he talked, he operated a MacBook Pro (I respected the lad even more for this). On his left he had a large projection screen where he projected a Powerpoint slide-show (maybe it was a Keynote, I couldn't tell). From time to time he showed us some short video footage, rather old with low resolution, amateurishly shot, with plenty of VHS copy-on-copy artifacts, but always with a fascinating content. Muslim guerilla fighters at a Civil War battle, often laughing and having good macho time, ready to spread ravage the way they are used to... a young girl suicide-bomb commando talking into amateur video moments before she blew herself into 'martyrdom'...

The key theme of all these was Mroué's 'personal archive'. A Pandora's box of excerpts of modern history as he's seen them deploy in front of his eyes for most of his adult life. Right thru the deadly silence of his audience, he kept talking about his archive in broken English with unseen charm and passion. Simple words that went far deeper than meets the eye! At a given moment he made some fascinating remarks about the concept of human memory, the past, present and the future. I didn't really get it first time, wondering what the rationale of his reasoning actually was. It only flashed in my logic subconscious when he later showed us a beautiful eighteen year old girl, a soon to become 'martyr', expressing her feelings on some amateur video footage a few hours before she perished in a suicide bomb attack of her own. Mroué made the point about her talking from the past, being dead and alive at the same time. It was just grotesque... but even in his broken English he was able to make a deep philosophical point that left us speechless.

Imagine such a theater performance to be covering tragic facts and events like this, in a comic, self cynical way. Gives a man an unusual feeling to say the least. All started with Mroué spending a quarter of an hour to talk about the titles he typically selected to assign to his performances. The one we watched was called "Make me stop smoking". This blog's title, "I, the undersigned" is another example he mentioned, that I am not even sure if he's ever used on any of his works. His argument was that a 'performance' should basically bear no relationship whatsoever with its title. Why should it, anyway? Even real life doesn't do that, he said. Look at me! My name is Rabih, which in Arabic means, spring! Do I look like spring to you? (spontaneous laughter in the audience).

What impressed me the most though was the fact that never ever did Mroué make any bitter fingerpointing whatsoever towards external to Lebanon Forces in order to pass blame for his country's destruction and war misery. Not even Israel or the US. Except when he took a few clever shots at the Hezbollah. Mroué remained patiently a pacifist to the end. And immensely entertaining... with a huge respect towards the rest of us in the audience. And towards whatever we happen to believe in.

Another perfromance high was one moment when he showed us Sigmund Freud transformed into a Hezbollah cleric via the miracles of Photoshop (thank you Adobe!). He said that, when he showed that same poster to an Austrian audience once, nobody laughed as nobody could 'see' the transform. Knowing the Austrians, it must have been dead hillarious!

In his closing 'statement' Mroué quit his slide-show; his MacBook desktop emerged with icons of the presentation files... he click-selected them together and threw them to the Trash bin. He then opened the bin and... after hesitating for a split second, he clicked the 'empty' button at the Finders' top right window corner... A good symbolic 'finish'... I am dead sure he's kept a backup though... not?

It was an unusual experience, to say the least. The good news for people living in Belgium is that Mroué is back here next April for a series of similar performances at the KVS in Brussels. To share with his audience some more of his bottomless 'personal archive'.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

To all my US great friends and readers of these blogs:


and spend as much as you can this next Black Friday!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Rachel's looking for change... here and now!

In an earlier blog I declared that Rachel Maddow was the new 'love' of my life! Don't suspect anything romantic though... no woman of this age, intelligence and looks would ever, in her sane mind, fall for my fat belly, for sure. No, it's about the fun I enjoy when I watch her take shots on US politicians. Her favorite one since a few weeks has been that senile geriatric sample from Alaska, Republican Senator Ted Stevens, or 'Uncle Ted' as they like to call him. We know that moron from his declaration not long ago that the Internet was a series of tubes, when he instantaneously became the laughing stock of the entire cyber community... and by doing that he put Alaska on the map, long before the Northern State's other star, creationist Palin, appeared on the scene as Sen. McCain's (desperate) choice of running mate. Oh, yes, Uncle Ted also made a recent name by becoming a convicted felon on seven, I think, counts of corruption, and he now risks a jail sentence at the age of 85! Greed! 40 years of Senate service down the toilet, flushed! He's most probably praying now to die before he gets to serve his sentence behind bars...

In a recent article (spring 2008) of the Stanford Magazine Rachel was described as: "Maddow, 34, has a growing reputation as the sharpest knife in the left-hand drawer, but even conservatives might fall for the wholesomeness of her show, which eschews the rude language and coarse stunts that have become staples elsewhere on radio."

And a sharp knife she is. She won't miss a chance to state the facts in a way that you have no other choice than just believe her and feel disgusted about the protagonists of her stories. It's not so difficult though when she talks about Stevens or Palin... those two deserve, more than anybody else, anything they get coming to them.

Since the Obama election three weeks ago Rachel reports daily about the new President Elect's movements to form his new cabinet. It started initially as a soft commentary but threatens to evolve into major cynicism. It's all about the Obama campaign's declared 'Change we need' and the way it's been turning into reality. Actually, Miss Maddow gets increasingly irritated by watching Obama pick-up old timers, especially from the Clinton era, and even from the current appalling administration of Bush and Cheney (ie. Defense secretary Gates). However, to be fair to her, she brought Malcolm Gladwell at her show yesterday to present his new book 'Outliers' that you probably heard me talking about a few blogs earlier... One of the questions she asked the bestseller author was about his feelings concerning Obama's cabinet choices. And Gladwell promptly responded with a reference to the rule of the ten thousand hours of practice that he develops at large in his 'Ouliers' work. He said, that it was to Obama's credit that, as he lacked some experience, he was quite right to resource his cabinet with seasoned actors. The 10K hours rule states that an expert only becomes an expert after he/she spent at least 10K hrs of practice in his/her domain of expertise, roughly 10 years. It's good to have a cabinet that is composed of at least a few individuals with experience and expertise... rather than having them all trying to figure out what their new job is all about, and Obama, not too experienced himself either, trying to firefight the blunders... I am sure that convinced our good fairy Rachel to be a wee-bit more careful in her moaning about Obama's choices in the future.

I was high on Gladwell before from reading his bestsellers... but as I saw him argue live in a show, I must say, I admire the kid even more. A extremely smart cookie. A credit to human race. If you want to watch him on this episode go find Rachel's show in podcast format via iTunes (I watch all these on AppleTV, of course) and look for yesterday's show. Great fun to watch!

It's good to see women of this caliber in action... sort-of female Jon Stewarts... with pairs of balls the size of melons!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Good to know...

Most of us outside the US know that when a company in the US tells you to call their toll-free number (1-8xx) it 's not gonna work... you need to be located inside the US to take advantage of a toll-free call. Until Skype came along. I experienced that today... I had to call an 1-866 nr of one of my suppliers in Dallas, TX. I also maintain a small credit with Skype for calling landlines or mobile phones worldwide. Each time I call someone in another country, the call is transferred via IP to a local 'outlet' that then reaches my correspondent via the normal telephone operator and Skype charges me a 'local' call.

Same fashion, if you Skype a US toll-free number, the destination does not reject your call as 'coming' from outside the US since Skype carries it to a US look-alike caller somewhere in the States. Long story short... not a penny leaves your Skype credit for a toll-free call like this, but most important, the call indeed takes place flawlessly and your correspondent doesn't even have a clue whether you're calling from Hoboken, Belgium or Hoboken, NJ.

Skype's the best invention since sliced bread, innit?

Looking for logic and reason!

Couldn't be more true... I believe, one day in the distant future, when all is said and done, and we look back to the fall of 2008 and the 'financial crisis', we might elevate this cartoonist to the level of one of the most visionary gurus of our century! God bless'm.

Web 2.0 marvels

Strictly speaking, Web 2.0 is not just about forums but, for a long time, forums about everything and nothing represent zillions of gigabytes of up and downloads. Sometimes I happen to read one or two of those and have some good laughs. Click on the capture left as one such example to read for yourselves... here's the text copy:

"...From what I've been hearing, the hate-Bush Liberals have decided to hold over the recession for all of 2009, it's working out so well. They've already got 2009 wiped off the calendar as a year with no reason to live. They've done such a good job of fooling the public into tumbling the market, they're just going to keep the misery going. So that means you get to see Rosie and Whoopi and Oprah and the gang with their rhetoric for a long time to come. Ole perky Katie, and old Georgie Porgie Stephanopolopolopolous, and the rest of the little Libbies smiling big while they report all the GOOD things their Dems are trying to do to fix bad Bushes' dastardly deeds..."

Isn't that a 'scream'? Poor George S. (I can't help liking the guy as he's a fellow Greek somehow! And he seems pretty smart too... compared to Bill O'Reilly that is...)

Incroyable mais vrai!

I really done my best to remain apolitical after the Obama election, more so because opinions (mine too) are like a-holes (as my old boss used to say). Everybody's got one... So, who cares what I think, anyways...

However, this was too big to let go... The title is like "Texas grand jury indicts Cheney, Gonzales of crime"

I'm kinda like "Duh??" He's not even out of office yet! I mean Dick the VP. Please read and judge for yourselves... if they already start going after the known hawks of the Bush Jr. administration, even more so out of GOP loving Texas of all places, my Goad... we're gonna end up with shitloads of monumental soap operas in the next dozen years.

The only news I had no idea about (why should I anyway) is that the VP maintained 'some' form of economic participation into the privatized prison business! Well done Dickie boy! Why not? Those script writers of the "Prison Break" and "24" episodes are dudes pretty well informed! Who could tell?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Macho Men

One of the studies Gladwell referred to in Outliers was Geert Hofstede's research on cultural differences of the peoples of the World. Hofstede did this research for IBM and to demonstrate those differences he used five dimensions along which each country or ethnic group that he studied scored a particular number score. One of these dimensions is shown on the table, here left. Here's how he defines it.

Masculinity (MAS) versus its opposite, femininity, refers to the distribution of roles between the genders which is another fundamental issue for any society to which a range of solutions are found. The IBM studies revealed that (a) women's values differ less among societies than men's values; (b) men's values from one country to another contain a dimension from very assertive and competitive and maximally different from women's values on the one side, to modest and caring and similar to women's values on the other. The assertive pole has been called 'masculine' and the modest, caring pole 'feminine'. The women in feminine countries have the same modest, caring values as the men; in the masculine countries they are somewhat assertive and competitive, but not as much as the men, so that these countries show a gap between men's values and women's values.

This table shows the ranking of Western World countries on the MAS dimension (click capture for sharper view). There are some interesting findings if you look at it carefully. First I'd think that Spain and Portugal should have scored a lot higher. No surprises at the bottom 5 countries though... proves my point that nine times out of ten, when you see a Dutch family automobile on the road it 's always the wife that's behind the driver's wheel. Also, proves the point that the Dutch belong with the Nordic in many ways. Some companies actually do group the Dutch with the Nordic. I used to manage such an organizational country cluster in the beginning of the millennium.

What I found most pleasing is Hofstede's finding that Greeks and Belgians are virtually equal on the MAS scale. That's to prove to many friends in Belgium that their long time argument how 'we Greeks want our women in the kitchen, to raise kids and work in the fields while we are enjoying coffee, ouzo and play the comboloi at the local cafe' is actually a horse-shit claim. Numbers talk for themselves dudes! 

I was astonished by the differences between the Czechs and Slovaks. These folks have been living under the same roof for ages and you'd expect they were much closer to each other culturally. Couldn't prove more wrong! It's not at all bad they did separate from each other after the fall of the Berlin Wall...

Of course I'd suspect the Italian macho's and even the Swiss (the old saying, if a Swiss loses on a bet he goes home and beats his wife) to score pretty high on the MAS scale... but, the... Austrians? And the Irish? And the English just above the Germans? And all the above more masculine than us Greeks? Oh, shoot! Makes me wanna jump off the building! Dearest Geert, are you surely sure you weren't high when you did those stats? Beats me...

In order to prepare the table above I searched the data on the net by Googling Hofstede, etc... One of the things I did on Excel was to rank the countries shown above (after filtering out the rest of the world) per each of the Hofstede dimensions. The MAS ranking is shown in this blog table. By doing this I accidentally discovered a 'mistype' that Gladwell printed on page 203 of his book where he shows the ranking per the Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) as:


In my ranking that I believe to be the correct it is not Belgium at the bottom of this top five list but Malta. See the list as it comes out:

El Salvador

So, Belgium is actually on the eight place. The fact again that Greece is on top of this particular list beats me. Counter intuitive as it can possibly be. Definitely not me... Maybe my mum, but not my dad and sure not me...

Gladwell's Outliers

I am not much of a book reader but I like a good book when I see one and will mostly end up buying it... Amazon must have become rich of the number of books I've been buying from them the last 10 years... and I never got a descent discount or extra bonus, damn them... Anyways, I also never managed to read a book thru more than, say, 10%, and for quite a few among them I've never even gotten thru the preface part... never mind.

Not this one. I knew Gladwell from Blink and The Tipping Point, both of which I own in print and audio format. Even so, I don't believe I ever managed to read any of those two in full but, in any case, I remember I was quite enthusiastic about the bits I eventually got thru. So, during wait time for my flight to Barcelona from the Brussels National last Thursday I fell upon Gladwell's latest, titled 'Outliers'.

I eventually surpassed myself by managing to swallow the 299 pages of the book in almost one go. By the time I have been landing back to Brussels from Barcelona yesterday at almost past midnight, I had been thru 3 quarters of the book which I eventually finished this morning. Almost never happened before. It must have been a real good book.

Above all, like his other two bestsellers, this is not a fiction book. It's not scientific either but as I know Gladwell, he does some hard research work before approaching a subject and to an agnostic it might seem kinda of 'scientific'... in any case the subject is fascinating and I found that I agreed wholeheartedly with most of what he writes. I often thought about these facts as well but I had no basis to explain the reasons behind them other than some 'theories' of my own... sort-of empirical kinda thing.

In a few words, Gladwell searches the reasons behind successful people (whom he calls outliers) and tries to break the myth that only the very smart succeed (those with highest IQ's so to say). His thesis is that you need to be at least of a certain smartness level but once you are there by birth, then it is a series of other factors that kick in... and he goes on about 'proving' his 'theory' about such factors by exposing a myriad examples and psycho-socio-research outcomes about individual success. The most fascinating part of the book I found to be the story about many Jewish immigrants, tailors and garment craftsmen from Eastern Europe, who arrived at the Bronx, NYC, at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century to work themselves thru poverty and persistent hard labor and become successful entrepreneurs with the generation of their siblings becoming even better businessmen and the following generation turning into successful doctors, financiers and lawyers.

In his chapter about IQ and how being (IQ) smart could help someone get successful (but never that alone), he presents Raven's last IQ test question that I found quite interesting. I spent about half hour to figure it out before falling asleep in a dry Novotel room at Sant Cougat del Valles, west of Barcelona. I think I got it... Take a try by clicking on the scan above for sharper view and tell me why you think that is if I told you that A is the solution. I promised my youngest sibling a 100 euro bill if he found out... He's still trying... Let me pass a hint... the reason, I think, doesn't lie behind any patterns but behind appearance frequencies of the three card signs (hearts, diamonds and clovers*)...

Another intriguing chapter was developed about the reasons behind airplane crashes. Funny thing is, I started reading that part of the book by the time our plane was taking off at the Barcelona airport... And I am not too much fond of hanging 10 km above the ground at 900 km/hr. Even after I have flown thousands of hours in my life.

Anyways, that was indeed an extremely interesting book worth spending a few leisure hours to read. Another slam dunk for Gladwell getting a new National bestseller.

*I'll describe my solution in the 'reactions' below in a few days... I'd ruin the fun if I did it right away, nooot?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Black and White

Happened at a late night BBC comedy quiz show (Have I got news for you!). The quiz master asks a question : "What did George Walker Bush told Obama on his first ever visit to the White House?"... A black comedian from the US, sitting in one of the panels, is like: "Boy, put my luggage in the back"...

It takes some getting used to a Black President. Especially one who is half white and by the same token one could have said (if one is black) that the new President elect is White... You know, like the half full half empty thing...

As far as I am concerned I couldn't care less whether the dude was even purple or green. What really counts is the cabinet he's about to put together (in honesty, I'd have liked to have seen Paul Krugman participate in this, but I guess Paul's pretty 'communist' by US standards...), the policies he plans to implement, how he'll deal with the Economy that keeps going downhill, and how he'll make sure that some minimum regulation comes to play in Wall Str. to protect us from future greed of its players. Because, the way we see them behave to this moment, I am not so sure that they got the message yet. As Rachel Maddow mentioned in her show yesterday, Wall Str. mavericks use government funds out of the $700B bailout to pay themselves some hefty bonuses! Pretty cool! Talking about their solidarity with the millions of those facing foreclosures... Welcome to the land of opportunity, folks. 

It is true that Barack Obama has somehow written a new chapter in the US history by having been elected the first Afro-American (Black) President. Funny thing though, anything he does nowadays, as a Black President-elect, seems to be characterized as 'historic'... like Obama's historic visit to the White House in Washington. If you define as historic even all trivial things that a Black man elected to President does for the first time, then I'll buy it. And 'historic' becomes the most popular adjective on Internet for months to come. But many of these things are plain irrelevant... to be historic you must have some impact to the rest of the world... like, you can't paint 'historic' Obama's first visit to the White House rest rooms because the dude just happened to be 'pressed'! In fairness, no reporter yet mentioned that, but it's simply my way of getting the point thru... right?

Anyways, one of the best expressions I recently heard was from Bill Maher, a known US comedian, who said the following at the Larry King show the other night: "You know Larry, the thing is, we've proven that America is a country where, if things seem to go no more, we can simply reboot!" I believe that to be true. And it smells like the sixpack Joe had a jump in his IQ from double digits to above 120. Well done America! You rock!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Tarte Tatin

Saturday today and to celebrate Obama's victory one more time, I decided to use Jamie's recipe for a tarte tatin, a little cracker as Oliver puts it... Pretty straightforward, you just do as he says and... Bob's your uncle! That's what I thought!

I gotta admit... first I forgot to put the cinnamon in the sugar mix for the caramel, then I had to use a soy based fluid 'butter' instead of the regular butter that Jamie said... my caramel came out far too much (yep, I also used twice as much sugar than normal, sonovabitch) and the puff pastry wasn't enough to cover all the apples... oh, yes, I used apples instead of bananas, as the spouse (who's supposed to eat this as I am marginally diabetic and try to avoid sugar stuff) loves apples and hates bananas... Anyways, the darn thing eventually baked pretty straightforward, 25 min at 190 C°... we got this wonderful ATAG oven that bakes like a beauty. The last trick, turning the baked pie, while still hot, upside down on another plate, as Jamie correctly suggested, ended almost to a quasi disaster... as the caramel was hot and fluid and in excess, it ran all over the table and I had to clean it as fast as I could as it cooled pretty quick and stuck on the plank. Good thing Rita was gone for shopping at the local supermarket and I had plenty of time to clean up my mess... oh, dear me!

Anyways, see the result here above and one more shot on my Flickr postings and tell me what you think... Eh? I'll let you know about the taste later...