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...


I picked up this picture (left) from a Reuters slide-show on reactions around the world about Obama's election. This one was shot in Athens, Greece. By birth Greeks support Democrats, as far as I can remember. Even the right-wing Conservatives do. No surprises there... as the 1967 colonels are all dead by now!

Also, I wanted to use this posting as a farewell to my numerous comments in the last year about the Bush clan, the economy and the election campaigns. Now that we all won, it's better to forgive and forget and move on. For those of you who want to still find out some more about Obama, da man, there's a few series of Videocasts in iTunes that were maintained by his own campaign staff and worth watching. Also, for laughs, don't miss the Rachel Maddow show (Rachel's my brand new 'love') and above all the Jon Stewart Daily Show and the Colbert Report, both on Comedy Channel, with downloadable full episodes.

I'm returning to my favorite subjects which I have always known well as they were pretty close to my entire career too... like technology and software. There's lot happened in the meantime in the areas of new products, technologies, software, photography (remember the September Photokina that nobody had the time to look at because of the 'crash'?) and I could go on and on... I rather deal with those... much more fun... than going on bitching about how stupid McCain was to pick that miserable Palin and how George W. can still be life threatening to all of us even as a lame duck in the last 10 weeks of his Presidency. And about how many dogs Obama will buy his daughters before they move to the White House. These are things for the 'Sun' and 'Hello' and alike tabloid papers and gossip magazines. I'll be pretty 'apolitical' from this day onwards... Bavo rejoice!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Happy days are here again!

My very special thanks to my dear friend Scott Ponik from Portland, OR who sent me this response (screen capture shown here on the right) in the early morning hours... I am darn sure he's celebrating this huge victory as I'm writing this. He's a trained typographer and graphic designer and I am sure he maintains the copyright on the shot (nooot?).

Anyways, I watched live da man declare victory in front of a sea of supporters in the largest brotherhood of man in all shades and colors I ever witnessed in my lifetime. I am lucky to be alive and live the day, today! History on the making.

I also feel a bit sad for McCain despite my own despise of all things Republican in American Politics ever since the Bush clan came to power. The 72 year old man better go retire and enjoy the rest of his life in peace. He paid his dues in Vietnam as a POW, and needs nothing else to prove to the Nation... certainly not by implementing more of the 'John the fixer' style of GOP policies and ways. Two things I blame him in this campaign for, though. His choice of that appalling broad as a running mate (thank God she'll disappear from our TV monitors for good now) and changing for electoral purpose his beliefs to be closer to the neocons who since recent years seem to be pulling the strings in the Great Old Party. How wrong was he not? In fairness, he took all the blame personally in his concession speech, God Bless'm.

It was quite moving to see so many people gathered in Chicago at the Obama HQ glowing with huge smiles and tears of happiness. I was particularly moved by the tears in Rev. Jesse Jackson's face, a fighter for equal rights in America since the days of Dr. King! What must this victory mean to him and all those Afro-American fighters that have grown from their slavery 100 years ago into what we've come to witness today! Oprah was there among the crowds with tears in her face too, but that's how women are... they cry easy. It's a different story when a man weeps though! Way stronger, way deeper... Always felt controversial about Jackson until I saw the human factor in his face this morning. Like Socrates said: People are born good!

I am the happiest of men to see that the average Joe in America (and not that dickhead hooligan type Joe the plumber that McCain surfaced out of the woodwork) is far smarter than I ever credited him for... Probably I was biased as I have many Republican friends and acquaintances, and I just couldn't get it that they were still voting for GOP after 8 yrs of such an apocalyptic disaster... nevertheless, today's result will definitely put the US back in the world's driver's seat. We won't see the cure too soon just yet, as it usually takes much longer to build than to destroy, and one can't rebuild in a year, not even in four the damage George the President and Dick the hawk Vice President (the worst in living memory) did to this world in the last eight years. But the world is gonna get a better place and the Bush regime and dynasty will fade for ever in our memories as a bad dream of the past...

A TV commentator in Athens, Greece remarked that this election had more of a World Referendum about fundamental changes we urgently need to wash out the evils of the Bush clan (don't you just luv 'em Greeks?). Somebody on MSNBC also mentioned that Obama emerged from this as the President of the World, not just the USA. I strongly second that... I mean, the man can talk. I watched his Grand Park pitch over and over, following the actual text of his speech on the side as the clip was running (a nice gimmick by the NYT online version). Yes sir! The man has got such a brilliant way, as a pure blood evangelist, to put so much meaning into simple English words and write history every time he pitches. It's a breath of fresh air compared to eight years of George W. Bush public appearance horse-shit, especially his presumably 'funny' jokes (makes you puke) that he often used to relax the audience. Reminds me of the colonel pitches between 1967 and 1974 we were forced to listen to by the military junta in Greece. We've now come to the other extreme of quality rhetoric that we haven't seen since JFK. There's a God after all!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Windows (00)7

This site is not for Windows lovers... you must have known it by now. Nevertheless, I know many of my readers have no other choice than use Windows, and some of my best friends work for Microsoft, so I gotta show you this. It's a sneak-peek on the next Windows (disaster) after the cataclysmic success of Longhorn Vista. It's gonna be called Windows 7, don't know why, couldn't care less either...

First reports talk about clattered desktops (will they ever learn?) and larger buttons (especially done for those of the Gates and Ballmer generation who increasingly need reading spectacles.)

In any case, as always, the Ars Technica article is pretty comprehensive and fun to read. If your destiny forces you to stick to the Monkey-Boy camp, then, go have a read... you can decide then whether it'd be better to start saving some dough and go buy a MacBook by the time they retire XP and Vista and come out with the next big thing... sounds like retiring Bush and getting McCain instead! Oh me, Oh my!

Creative typography... an hommage to my eldest jr...

I came across this weird site this morning... I paraphrased it a bit to make this picture shown above... Click on it for sharper view... it's pretty big and if you download it you can make an awful wallpaper...

I got to admit... very creative. I'd print a small book with it if I were them...

Oliver's Ministry of Food


I've been watching this lad since his days of 'The Naked Chef'. He was a kiddo then and he's grown to a mature man these days... but still with loads of clever British humor. He's got a lot of business initiatives and often he offers his trade to help young people become cooks and find a meaning in their otherwise miserable life. I discovered the latest that he offers in a series of 7:30 min long recipes that can be enjoyed via the regular iTunes Podcast distribution. If you click on that hyperlink right now you'll end up on a hugely tasty recipe that I tried earlier at noon today. Chicken breast (Dolly Parton a-la Parmesan, I call it) with Parmesan cheese and Parma ham. With some great autumn salad and stuff. Yummie yummie! Especially cooked for my pal John Mecke in Atlanta Georgia for his voting Obama today! He seems to be twitting about food all the time, so this is to his honor!

Click the shot above and compare to Jamie's video to see if I'm doing well.

Bon appetit!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Twitters of the World Want OBAMA!

It's just unbelievable. Twitter launched a few days ago the TwitVote, a mock opinion poll among twitter members worldwide. Although totally irrelevant as far as the actual outcome of tomorrow is concerned, as most Twitter members are aliens with no voting rights (like myself), it is still quite interesting to watch as it reflects the opinion of a large segment of the world's geekiest geeks, us twitters! In most US polls the two candidates are pretty close with single digit percent deltas. In TwitVote though it's not about percent point difference but about orders of magnitude. Obama reached 6 times the McPalin score, 12 thousand Twitter votes vs. less than 2.5 thousand.

Meaning, that if the world, the rest of us outside the US, who see our lives so much impacted by what goes on in the US, were to decide on those two, then Obama would be da man! I don't even believe that the World is against McCain whatsoever. It's primarily the Bush clan to blame for the strongly pro-liberal world opinion because of Bush's eight year long absurdly arrogant attitude and the cataclysmic damages they caused in our security and economies. And also McCain's selection of that appalling broad Sarah 'I betcha' Palin as a running mate, as she impersonates whatever we despise most in Bush's neocon regime!

Numbers talk for themselves. I only hope, at least the smart segments of the US electorate realize that and come to their senses tomorrow.

Update on Election day: Obama still leads McPalin by 6 to 1! Way to go my man!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Been to A'dam yesterday...

At the US bookshop, pretty well known in town.

All Saints yesterday and we visited our eldest son working out of Amsterdam (A'dam for insiders). Has been three months ago I was there and not much had changed. Nevertheless, it is remarkable how much more an advanced country this is, as it appears to us from the south, with all the pluses that this brings about. From the quality of their highway asphalt decks to their bookshops in the middle of towns; from their planning of residential areas to their buses and trams. Things seem to work simply and effectively. Only negative spot of the visit... the hordes of weekend hooligans from England coming here to enjoy some grass in coffee shops and have a go at the hundreds of sex clubs stack inch by inch at the city's red district. Oh, yes... the weather was miserable too... drizzly rain all day long.

Anyways, the two hour drive was quickly forgotten once we got there and met our sibling. He's got a nice apartment that he shares with two colleagues, in the North area of the City... a district that I believe was built from scratch in the waters of the Ij, a kinda gulf (or is it a lake?) that expands north of old A'dam. It's cool to look at the organized way they built residential areas at this part of the town. Use Google maps to navigate to the area and see what I mean.

On our way by bus to the Central Station we passed by the Maritime Museum with a hundreds of years old armada boat parked outside, like those used in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. With side canons and all. I made a point to go visit the place next time over. It makes a wonderful opportunity for some unusual shots.

All Saints is a dead day in über Catholic Belgium, like those celebrated dead, with everything public hermetically closed. People have only time to visit their diseased relatives in cemeteries. Not in Protestant Holland though. All shops were Saturday open and tourists were present everywhere, German, English, Belgian, French! Even Dutch from Eindhoven were there... was really funny to see Dutch tourists visiting A'dam from the Deep South... the city of Philips 'Gloeilamp' Company, that is.

I had no other camera with me than my mobile phone Nokia N95 that, with the necessary attention, can shoot some remarkable scenes, at least if you are a wee-bit careful. Click the shot above to link to my Flickr postings of the day, if you're interested at all.

If not, don't worry... as long as Barack wins on Tuesday... ;-)

R U havin' a laugh?

Obama is a marxist !

I don't know which is true, really. Is it that the McCain campaign leaders are incredibly stupid, or is it that they are phenomenally smart as they strongly believe that half of the US citizens are incredibly retarded idiots? Either way, their attempts to scare people away from Obama are so pathetic that all of us, watching this election from the outside, are in the process of losing the last wee-tiny bits of confidence we had in the greatness of this nation. The final coup will be if the Republicans indeed win the Presidency again this time, after eight years of cataclysmic performance only second to an Armageddon-like meteorite impact on the planet. It will be the end of the US as we know it! I'll go learn Mandarin Chineze as a new pastime.

The 8 year old regime of the Bush Jr clan has diminished the reasoning and IQ of a 'normal' person living in the US to levels only comparable to plants. I watched clips and reports in the hundreds in the last year and my ears and eyes could not believe what was happening. 'Obama is a Marxist!' Oh no! 'Obama is going to redistribute our wealth!' Which wealth? Haven't you folks yet realized that you've been living, years now, on cash you borrowed from the Chinese and then went back to them to spend it on products they made for you? Do you still believe you are 'wealthy' and afraid to lose it? Got news for you. You already lost it. You wasted it on hamburgers and Starbucks coffee. OMG! 'Obama's auntie is an illegal!' BTW, aren't you all illegal as you came to this land from Europe and elsewhere and stole it from the natives! Remember your 'intellectual' ancestors? Jessey James and Billy the Kid? 'Obama is a terrorist'. 'His name sounds like Osama!' cried someone from Oklahoma...'Obama is a Muslim'. So what? Who said he had to be Christian or Buddhist, for that matter? I thought your Constitution allowed freedom of religion, right? 'Obama is the Antichrist!'... (that was the 'best' I ever heard, BTW). 'Obama is against free weapon trade!' Moses! What an anathema! I thought neocons were good Christians and creationists and church goers! Is there a spot in the Bible that sez about your rights to use arms and kill thy neighbors?

Worst of all, those who regularly came up with such arguments on TV looked themselves very much born losers; most I've seen looked like miserable double digit IQ white supremacist boneheads whose knowledge of the 'English' language made you doubt whether they were ever able to write down orthographically any English ten word sentence. Unfortunately, they all have one thing in common that is still alive and well, I am afraid, and may decide the outcome of this election. Their deep hate and contempt for the blacks. Sad story...

All the rest is pure motherhood and applepie...


To put undecided voters in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.
I mean, really, what’s to be confused about?