Tag Archives: news

The queen and the country

Acouple of days ago, the Dutch queen Beatrix announced that she is going to abdicate the throne in favour of her son Willem-Alexander (WSJ).The queen has been on the throne for 33 or some years: In the Netherlands, abdication (to make room for a new generation of royalty) is a fairly common thing. In contrast: the last time a member of the British royalty abdicated was because of a scandal, I believe.

Note that I’m not typically a monarchist: while I generally think that monarchies are left-overs from the medieval times, I’m not typically an anti-royalist either. I do recall that there were protests when Beatrix took over the throne from her mother Juliana, way back in 1980. I was a slight teenager and I’m pretty certain that I enjoyed the day off, possibly watch TV for the official (live) events. Looking back; I think Beatrix did fairly well as head of state. Rumour has it that she frequently discussed matters and personally engaged (challenged) the Dutch prime-ministers, that is, politically speaking. I hear that the monarchy did lose their power to appoint a ‘formateur’ (a person who after the general elections is appointed to help form a new government).

So, yeah: that’s it then for Dutch queens for now. For the next 30 or so years, the Dutch will have a king. Typically, female Dutch heirs do better. Well, generally. I think. Whichever.

Sandy

Earlier, I was under the impression that this year’s hurricane season would end up fairly, unremarkable. Luckily, I’m far from being a meteorologist: Just last week, Oct 29th, hurricane Sandy made landfall in NJ, USA, causing major outages and damage in New Jersey, New York and other areas on the Eastern US coast. Portions of Canada (mostly Ontario and Quebec) were on heavy rain and wind alerts: Over in SJ, the only thing we saw was high winds and plenty of rain.

As it stands right now, there are still millions of Americans without power, which is what 3 days or so before the US presidential elections? That’s right: the ultimate elections in the world is about to come to its climax. Will it be Romney or will Obama cling to his job?

If you believe the media, this seems to be a tight race: if you believe Nate Silver (of FiveThirtyEight fame), Obama has nothing to fear. As it stands Silver predicts that Obama will have 305 electoral votes and Romney 232.

I have no high opinion of “the politician” Romney: New York mayor Bloomberg (an independent) said it perfectly last week when he endorsed Obama:

In the past he (ed. Mitt Romney) has also taken sensible positions on immigration, illegal guns, abortion rights and health care. But he has reversed course on all of them, and is even running against the health-care model he signed into law in Massachusetts.

This is also what Mitt Romney’s opponents pointed out in the Republican primaries and generally the impression is that Romney will say anything for votes. Worst yet, I think I’ve pointed out at one stage that when Romney does speeches, it always appears he rants about anything unsubstantial.

If Romney will be elected, it’s going to be fun times for the writers of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show.

Debris

One of the more fascinating subjects that seem to occupy the news is the tsunami debris field that has slowly descended on western parts of Canada. Earlier this year, a Japanese HD motorcycle that washed up in Canada made the headlines after news reporters managed to find the owner of it, who had apparently barely managed to survive the disaster.

According to latest estimations, the field contains 1.5 million tons of debris, which has BC authorities pondering what to do with the problem:

“Stuff has been coming across the Pacific forever but to see the start of 3 million tonnes of debris washed off the land and head across the ocean towards us was something I never thought I would see. There’s a wait-and-see approach and most people want to take some action. But it’s a very huge job and we haven’t seen anything yet coming from the government on plans on how to be ready for it and what we’re going to do when the debris hits.”

The US’s NOAA has an extensive site dedicated to the problem (here), which includes an interesting infographic about the field itself and where most of the debris might land (using current and wind models). While the NOAA infographic doesn’t mention any possible findings of human remains, a US oceanographer expects that people might find sneakers with bones in them:

“We’re expecting 100 sneakers with bones in them,” Curt Ebbesmeyer told a tsunami symposium Monday, “DNA may identify people missing since the March 2011 tsunami. That may be the only remains that a Japanese family is ever going to have of their people that were lost. We’re dealing with things that are of extreme sensitivity. Emotional content is just enormous. So be respectful”

Ebbesmeyer, who is the co-creator of the “Ocean Surface Current Simulator computer model”, expects the amount of debris to peak in October of this year.

Flora and fauna

If I eliminated statistical weather data, I would say that this year’s weather is going to beat all records. First we had too much snow. When March came, we slowly went to wet weather. Which is about the same weather we have right now, and it’s the end of June. Not that it’s cold: it just appears that it has been raining now every weekend. Obviously, this is good for the grass and the weeds. As for the birds and other animals: besides the groundhog around the property, I highly doubt they love this weather.

I read that Canadian geese are not welcome in some parts of Canada. The NB town of Nackawic (Google maps) has applied for permits to cull some of these birds. According to CBC, there’s even a Facebook page dedicated to these geese. Apparently.

One of the first things that came to my mind when I came to SJ was that it was an ‘artsy city’. On top of that, I thought there were too many derelict buildings around. Take for example the former Kings Square Cinema theatre: It must have been empty for ages now. Last year, it looked like someone was doing some construction to the front and facade, but, today, the building looks like it needs to be demolished. Hopefully that will be soon.

Predictions

Now that we know the Rapture has been delayed to September (previously at xsamplex), we nw have a couple of months to make sure that things are running as smooth as they used to be. Like make US Politics the laughing stock around the world: to be honest, I laughed when I heard Thatcher snubbed ms. Palin. Reportedly one of her aides said the following:

Lady Thatcher will not be seeing Sarah Palin. That would be belittling for Margaret. Sarah Palin is nuts.

You wouldn’t say so?

Earlier this month, Saint John’s Sea Dogs won the (Junior) Memorial Cup, which is a kinda big deal in Canada. The city organized a parade for the winning team, from Kings Square right down to Market Square. I was there also, shooting pictures (my set). I’m not a fan of hockey or something: I was surprised to see a lot of people lining up to catch a glimp of the hockey team. Only in Canada these kind of events go by without any incident, that is, unless you’re talking about those funny blue guys running down the street before the parade started.

As you’ve noticed, I’ve not been writing much the last couple of weeks: this is mainly due to the obligations around the house (yes, it’s fairly sunny these days). Additionally, I found out that I prefer to browse around on my tablet, which is unfortunately less keyboard-inclined than the laptops that are laying around. On the good side, soon it will be time to write a review of this tablet. Soon-ish.

From bridge to evolution

A bunch of links, collected from the Internet:

The prime-minister was in Saint John last Friday and gave away a freebie for the people of Saint John: The toll booths on the Saint John Harbour bridge will disappear. I’m not sure how much traffic hits that bridge (and the Harbour bridge authority’s website doesn’t really reveal a lot either), but apparently it has never been self-sustaining. I believe the fare is 50 cents, which when I heard the first time of this toll, I thought was really low.

You’ve probably heard that the TSA (the American organization that is responsible for the safety at airports) has changed safety rules, by enforcing pat-downs and using backspatter X-Ray machines (wikipedia). The use of those X-Ray machines is (still) controversial because of privacy concerns (MSNBC article with a proud ms. Hallowell showing off, well, her gun so to say. The lady’s photo is also used in ACLU’s campaign against this device). Anyway, Metafilter had a posting about the TSA apparently going amuck out of revenge against a traveller who dared to ask for an alternative screening of her breast milk because she’s afraid that X-rays might be harmful. Regardless if it’s harmful or not, what is exactly the point of X-Raying breast milk? And, yeah, what does the president think of this?

With Winter right around the corner and the snow already on the ground, please take a moment to read the drawbacks of our species’ evolution (link to Smithsonian) into standing hominids: backaches, hernias (that is a wikipedia link) and yeah, a 50-50 chance of choking because:

Simultaneously, our upright posture put the trachea and esophagus in a near-vertical orientation. Together these changes leave falling food or water about a 50-50 chance of falling in the “wrong tube.” As a consequence, in those moments in which the epiglottis does not have time to cover the trachea, we choke. We might be said to choke on our success. Monkeys suffer the same fate only rarely, but then again they can’t sing or dance.

So if you were watching Bristol Palin on ‘Dancing with the stars’ and you enjoy watching hominids dance: the combination of dancing and eating can be fairly dangerous.

Oh NOES! (part II)

Erlier today, BBC reported that the Polish president Lech Kaczynski died in a plane crash in Russia (link). Besides the president, 80 or so other senior politicians died, leaving Poland in a sort of political and constitutional vacuum. It will be interesting to see what’s next for the Polish people.

Politically, Kaczynski was on the centre-right side of the political spectrum: surprisingly, Poland has been ruled by the right since it got rid of the communist party. Of course, the only reason I bring up the death of the Polish president is because he was featured in an older posting (“Oh NOES!”): a couple of years, Poland was the first country that had an identical twin take the highest offices (that of President and Prime-Minister). I don’t think that we’ll see that again for a long while.

On. I think.

Meteorites collectors, astronomers and researchers are trying to pinpoint the track of the meteor that lit the Prairies’ sky, last week. According to the latest calculations (Newtonian, hahaha), the meteor had a mass of 10 tons. I say, it was probably a good thing the meteor hit a not-so-densely populated area.

Cancer rates are down in the US, and hopefully, the same is true for other areas in the Western world. As for the US, maybe this is tied to the ‘Obama’ effect?

I’ve been carrying a virus with me the last couple of weeks and it appears that my immune system is slowly getting a grip on it. I’ve not been sick that often as relatives know: I’m fairly resistant against colds, but when it gets to me, it gets me. Maybe my system got too comfortable.

This also means that I postponed some of my coding projects, including the ‘safe translation’ of DAWG from Delphi to C#. I’m surprised how popular my wordfinders are, and have been, the last, what, 6 or 7 years? I’ve been planning to slowly move these applications over to something more reasonable, but never had the time to work on the newer algorithms. Sooner than soon, I hope.

Someuropean.

I read an interview with Mitt Romney, who says that now that Obama has won the presidency, he should:

…forget entirely about reelection and focus solely on helping the nation at a critical time. He should dismiss the people who helped him win the election and bring in people who are above politics and above party. He should surround himself with statesmen and economists, businesspeople and leaders.

I’m not sure why Romney still matters in some circles: I thought his ‘I cancel my campaign because otherwise he Democrats will win and if the Democrats win the Terrorists win!’-speech was one of the lows in the US primaries, particularly when he started his rant about Europe. If I had to pick one Republican candidate who wasn’t ready for the presidency, Romney would be high on my list.

Germany marked the 70th anniversary of ‘Kristalnacht’, in which Merkel urged fellow Germans to do something about anti-semitism. Or something like that.

I also noticed that the Dutch government has decided to scrap a controversial blasphemy law. Generally, the law raised concerns about who was protected and who wasn’t, as pointed out by a member of the (Dutch) Socialist party (Aren’t these guys supposed to be evil?)

“The law was already a dead letter, but it is was principally wrong that believers should have more protection than non-believers. Thank goodness this has now come to an end. And anyway, who decides if God feels offended or not?”

The Radio Netherlands article also brings up the ‘Reve affair’, which tested this blasphemy law: In 1968 the (in)famous Dutch author Reve found himself in court after he wrote an essay (or was that a novel?) about God coming back to Earth as a donkey and describing in detail the main character having sex with this donkey (or God, if you say so). OK, you’ve got that? Anyway, Christian parties urged the Justice department to prosecute Reve: it did so, but found the author not quilty of blasphemy, mainly (if I remember correctly) because it couldn’t convict the author for his fictional characters and their actions. The decision to not convict the author was hailed as a landmark decision and has rendered the specific blasphemy law useless since then.

Silly Season

So: Political Silly Season is finally over and word has it that Obama and Bush are going to have an arm wrestle match next week. Besides McCain officials throwing each other in ‘front of the bus’, I also read that (with the Democratic win), historians are finally willing to rate the current sitting president. I mean, how history will see him. One word: ‘Incompetent’.

I had this link for the longest time in my ‘bookmarks': a couple of amazing close-ups of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. With the change of politics in the US, maybe there’s hope for science in America.

And then, there was a (female) jogger who was attacked by a rabid fox and ran a mile with it on her arm. She managed to throw the thing in her trunk and was able to reach the closest hospital. I think the best part of the story is that the fox apparently bit a control officer afterwards. This could be a perfect script for Monty Python.

Whirl

So, Obama has become the Democrats’ presidential candidate, which reminds me of his best moment of his campaign, a rebuttal to laughter from Hillary Clinton on the question why there are so many Clinton advisers on his team:

Hillary, I’m looking forward to you advising me as well.

It also appears that Obama is highly favoured in countries outside of North America. It’s the economy, stupid!

During my brother’s visit here, we didn’t have much time to watch the Euro 2008 (Soccer/Football). Later this afternoon, I found out that the Dutch team is doing very well. It’s their second win in the “Pool of Death”, which means that they’re literally going to the quarter-finals. I was able to watch the tail-end of Supersport’s coverage of the win and watch the commentators discuss the Dutch coach’s (Van Basten) options for their last (pool) game against Romania: sent in his best players or have a ‘B’ team play.

Not that I’ll be able to watch the next games, or lets say, summaries of the older games: the EUFA (the European soccer association) has complete control over who is allowed to broadcast their games, how it’s being sent to soccer fans and the amount of money they charge to them. Watch for a crackdown on YouTube the next couple of weeks.

Off-ice.

A couple of observations:

I follow the US Democratic race but tend to keep it off xsamplex: However, I keep thinking if the Clintons are just bad losers. Seriously, when is enough is enough? Keith Olberman’s summary perfectly illustrates the race.

I noticed something when using a (more) recent version of Microsoft Word (2003+): it loads documents in a background thread, updating the scrollbar and thumbnail size accordingly, until it is completely loaded into memory. I’m not sure who thought this was a brilliant idea, because, simply stated: it sucks because it suggests that the document is ready to work on when it clearly isn’t.

With the sun coming out longer, it appears that now it’s a good time to get rid of the Winter clothes. This is obviously good weather for a stroll and the camera.

I read that thousands of illegals keep eluding the Canadian Border and Imigration Services (the official count is at 41,000). Is that a high number, I wonder (I wish I had numbers of other countries).

In the past, I’ve read a couple of books by Martin Amis (son of Kingsley Amis, who’s books were, and maybe still are, part of English literature classes in The Netherlands). I especially liked ‘Time’s Arrow’ but since then, I’ve not read any of his books. The CBC has a brief interview with the (nowadays controversial) British author.

Update 1: Not at all related, OpenOffice 3.0 Beta review, courtesy of ArsTechnica.

Temporal timelines

Some off the record remarks:

  • There’s an obvious correlation between the price of gas, the amounts of snow and distance from sea. There’s a special place in hell (or heaven, depending on your particular religous beliefs) for people who discover that correlation too, I believe.
  • I have heard the remarks about the upcoming WordPress 2.5 release, and I’m proud to announce that AHCommentCentral is compatible. But then, that’s what you may have already figured out too.
  • Via Kottke, I found this absolutely hilarious ‘International Association of Time Travelers: Members’ Forum Subforum: Europe – Twentieth Century – Second World War’, written by Desmond Warzel. I’m going to make a bold prediction here: in the next 10 years, writing IRC-style is going to be extremely fashionable. I can’t wait for the first Martin Amis book in this style.
  • Talking about early and upcoming releases, Reuters reports that Firefox 3’s release is imminent. Uh:
    “Mozilla is in a battle with Microsoft, which unveiled an experimental version of its Internet Explorer 8 in Las Vegas earlier this month and is looking to expand its presence on the Web through its bid to acquire Yahoo Inc.”
    Oh. OK. I see, that’s all the Tech news condensed in one paragraph.
  • And yes, a boomerang returns all the time, even in space.