Archive for Thoughts

Cloud, Kluit, Clod?

Just a quick demonstration of the power of I dubbed my “personal cloud” experiment kluit: a Dutch word meaning both clod and the ball of earth around the roots of a tree. In other words, kluit is firmly grounded because you’ve got your own ground with you wherever you go. Be like Dracula. With a name in mind, I also wanted a matching logo. Following a quick search for leaves, root (or was it tree) and after a little initial play something like attraction, this is the quick and satisfying result.

A couple of floating leaves still connected with their roots. This arrangement symbolizes how creating your personal cloud keeps it grounded.

And of course the remix is free for all. Enjoy.

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Troubleshooting Your Network Connection: Power Off!

A few months ago the network connection on my desktop computer stopped working. I tried what I considered to be the obvious troubleshooting methods: a different network cable, connecting the network cable to my laptop to see if it worked, forwarding the wireless Internet from my laptop to my desktop… all of which pointed to one unavoidable conclusion: the network port in my desktop had to be busted. As a last resort, completely expecting it to do nothing, I turned it off for about ten minutes. Subsequently, everything was working the way it should.

Of course I’m familiar with the 30-30-30 rule for routers, but I didn’t realize some variety of the process might be helpful on desktops as well. Just to clarify, I hadn’t changed anything about my networking setup as it had been for years. I can only imagine some kind of static charge snuck in somehow.


Only Literary Discourse?

[I]n matters of race, silence and evasion have historically ruled literary discourse. […] The situation is aggravated by the tremor that breaks into discourse on race. It is further complicated by the fact that ignoring race is understood to be a graceful, even generous, liberal gesture.

Toni Morrison, Playing in the dark: whiteness and the literary imagination. 1992. Harvard University: Cambridge. p. 14.


A Clove of Day

The Middle-Eastern man opposite him was characterized by a distinct garlic smell. Why did people make such a fuss about the smell of garlic by making funny faces, especially when there were disgusting smokers stinking up the air, with what seemed like years’ worth of cigarette fumes stuck in their clothes? Yet it would be strange to assume smokers washed their clothes any less than other people. The tram was driven by a madman — no, a madwoman. Better yet, by someone trying desperately to keep the tram on schedule. The big truck trying to turn in a tight corner didn’t help, but the driver was determined to make it to the next stop on time. She wasn’t going to make these poor people miss their connection. Earlier that week she’d been reprimanded because her GPS-based performance review was below average. You need to drive faster. I’ll try, she said. Choo, choo!

He was just about the only white person in the tram. Was it racist to notice? Of course it’s not, not unless you think the other people don’t belong. Fuck, I’m an immigrant myself. Not that he was what the haters thought of when they used a word like immigrant — they didn’t think of Caucasians who spoke their native language. Spoke it better than they did.

As the crowds mysteriously dissipated inside the central station, he sat down to study a bit before the train arrived. A couple of pages till he had to move would be nice, but just about everyone seemed to have a cold. Sniffing, sneezing, wheezing, coughing, blowing noses — the other travelers were trying their best to produce an orchestrated cacophony. Their timing was impeccably unrhythmic. A whiff of garlic sauce interrupted.

Oh yes, it was lunch time.

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Musings on Window Switching

While I do like Unity’s Super + # idea, there are some rather serious flaws with the concept: the first and most obvious flaw is that you have to use Super + # first, after which you’ll have to utilize Alt + ` to actually select the window you want. The second major flaw, which may not be obvious while you’re trying Unity on a LiveCD for the fist time, is that # is all it is. The logical continuation of the concept after reaching 10 windows or applications would be [a-z]. I assume the reason they didn’t implement that is because it would interfere with various other Super + something keyboard bindings.

My vision of the correct way to implement window switching would look something like this (image manipulated based on a superswitcher screenshot):

If you press Alt + Tab and keep Alt pressed, a window much like superswitcher pops up. Perhaps most importantly this means a list of windows, consisting of an icon followed by the title of the window. This means a rejection of near-useless giant icons and thumbnails without any means of differentiating between various windows of one single application. All the windows in this list should be numbered: first [0-9], followed by [a-z], and I suppose in the somewhat less likely event that more is required, [A-Z]. Hence pressing Alt + [0-9a-z] or Alt + Shift + [A-Z] immediately takes you to a certain window. Other than that, superswitcher’s keyboard shortcuts could be retained as they’re quite intuitive: Alt + F1, F2, etc. takes you to a different workspace, Alt + arrow keys allows you to select a window, Alt + Esc closes a selected window, you can click on windows to activate them, etc. Activate the switching interface with Alt + Tab first, hold Alt, and then do your thing.

superswitcher’s search functionality is something I’d probably never even think about if this functionality were present, but it could be retained by pressing Alt + : or some such to activate it.

I would retain the Caps-Lock-override functionality, for Caps Lock may well be the most useless key on anything that isn’t a mechanical typewriter, but I’d make it into a toggle. A Switch Lock, if you will. But that’s probably something that should be configurable.

The most straightforward means of obtaining this functionality would probably be a few modifications and additions to the source of superswitcher. Unfortunately my knowledge of C++ is insufficient.

I did manage to hack in regular Alt + Tab behavior, with major emphasis on hack, through XBindKey and XGrabKeyboard. It works in Unity, but Metacity just laughs at me even if I disable its own stranglehold on Alt + Tab. I guess it also has a stranglehold on Alt or the keyboard as a whole or something.

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Beyond the Walls

There's a fourth wall that needs to be broken down.
Governments and official voices point out forever that good fences make
good neighbours, and tighten the border controls in an effort to make us
happy where we are.

But something there is that does not love a wall, and it's called humanity.

From Vier Mauern by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean (1990).


Uw Kinderen — Your Children

I thought this poem by Annie M.G. Schmidt was quite amusing; it also nicely characterizes the prose texts in the bundle from which I took it. The poem’s short, so you’ve got no excuse not to read it — assuming you speak Dutch, of course.

Een sprookje voor het slapen gaan
over de bijtjes en de maan,
over de elfjes teer en fijn,
die Artistiek Verantwoord zijn,
en over ’t zoete bloemenfeetje…
uw kind vindt het wel mooi, een beetje…
maar gooit de elfjes grif terzijde
voor strips met nare blote meiden.
Een kind is al zo gauw tevree:
een overval — een moord of twee.

Kind, huil maar niet, wees maar bedaard:
ik gooi Rie Cramer in de haard.
Hier is de strip, met stromen bloed.
Beng, weer een lijk. Dus wees maar zoet.

From Voeden, verschonen en in de wieg mikken. 2009, Querido.

For the speakers of English among us, I hereby offer you an impromptu translation:

A fairy tale for sleeping soon
about little bees and the moon,
about little elves frail and fine,
of artistically sound design,
and about the sweet flower fairy…
your child thinks it's nice, not very…
but promptly the elves aside it whirls
for comics with nasty naked girls.
A child is easy to entertain:
a robbery — a murder or twain.

Child, don’t cry, just be as if in a daze:
I'll throw Rie Cramer1 in the fireplace.
Here's the comic, with streams of blood.
Bang, again a corpse. So be good.

1. Rie Cramer is a Dutch author and illustrator of books aimed at little children.


Multiple Nationalities

I seem to have missed Donner’s latest brilliant idea for a new law. It seems that the Dutch government is looking to limit the number of people with multiple nationalities to a minimum. In today’s NRC Handelsblad Ulli d’Oliveira wrote a great opinion piece about the matter on page 14. Some highlights:

De rabiate weerzin in delen van het politieke spectrum tegen het verschijnsel van de meervoudige nationaliteit heeft een gevolg dat pas laat aan het licht kwam – dezelfde beperkingen aan het behouden van de oorspronkelijke nationaliteit die aan buitenlandse aspirant-Nederlanders worden opgelegd, gelden voor Nederlanders die een buitenlandse nationaliteit willen aannemen. Een petitie met meer dan vijftienduizend handtekeningen van mensen in het buitenland keert zich tegen deze collateral damage.

In het nationaliteitsrecht is het nuttig om politics of identity te onderscheiden van politics of interests. De laatste jaren wordt het Nederlandse nationaliteitsrecht gedomineerd door de vurige wens om aan buitenlanders die Nederlander willen worden eerst de eis te stellen dat ze ideaaltypische Nederlanders zijn geworden. Ze zijn ingeburgerd, spreken de taal, participeren in de samenleving, verdienen behoorlijk, hebben hun startkwalificatie op zak, hebben geen strafblad en zo meer – alsof Nederlandse losers niet bestaan. Deze Nederlandse identiteit mag niet worden bezoedeld door vreemde smetten, zoals een buitenlandse nationaliteit. De identiteit van de would-be-Nederlander moet exclusief Nederlands zijn.

Het wetsontwerp houdt geen rekening met burgers. De argumenten van expats zijn verstandig en invoelbaar. Mensen willen settelen in den vreemde zonder hun Nederlanderschap te verloochenen. Om praktische, zakelijke overwegingen nemen ze een vreemde nationaliteit aan, zonder dat ze erover piekeren hun Nederlandse identiteit weg te snijden. Het zijn dezelfde overwegingen die buitenlanders ertoe brengen om Nederlander te willen worden.

Quick, messy, summarizing translation: the dislike in some parts of the political spectrum against multiple nationalities has an unexpected result: the same limitations that apply to aspiring Dutch apply to Dutch people who wish to assume another nationality.

In recent years Dutch politics has been dominated by demanding that foreigners become idealized Dutch people, part of which is being exclusively Dutch.

The law design doesn’t take citizens into account. The arguments made by expatriates are reasonable and can be empathized with. People want to settle in a foreign country without renouncing their Dutch nationality. For practical reasons they assume a foreign nationality without considering cutting off their Dutch identify. These are the same considerations that make foreigners want to assume the Dutch nationality.

I have little to add to that. The whole shebang about multiple nationalities is ludicrous. Perhaps the Dutch municipalities should stop automatically submitting babies born of Moroccan-Dutch parents for Moroccan nationality if it’s truly a problem of such massive scale — although they might’ve stopped it by now, since I think a some Moroccan-Dutch parents sued Amsterdam over this gross misconduct. Nobody will apply for multiple nationalities just for the heck of it.


Mental Conversations

She remembered the day a furniture van from Portland had shown up with a two-thousand-dollar sectional sofa. Scott had been in his study, writing with the music cranked to its usual deafening levels — she could faintly hear Steve Earle singing “Guitar Town” in the house even with the soundproofing — and interrupting him was apt to do another two thousand dollars’ worth of damage to her ears, in Lisey’s opinion. The furniture guys said “the mister” told them she’d let them know where to put the new piece of furniture. Lisey had briskly directed them to carry the current sofa — the perfectly good current sofa — out to the barn, and place the new sectional where it had been. The color was at least a fair match for the room, and that was a relief. She knew she and Scott had never discussed a new sofa, sectional or otherwise, just as she knew Scott would declare — oh yes, most vehemently — that they had. She was sure he’d discussed it with her in his head; he just sometimes forgot to vocalize those discussions. Forgetting was a skill he had honed (emphasis mine).

From Lisey’s Story by Stephen King (p.148 of the 2006 Scribner hardcover).

My wife alleges I do just that.


On Critical Thinking

Written in response to someone talking about thinking critically “against the powers that be.”

Given your phrasing, it’s highly improbable that you’re actually talking about critical thinking. One does not think critically against anything. You think critically, period, about everything. Perhaps most important, this includes yourself and your own notions. If you only think critically about (let alone against) others, you’re not thinking critically at all. If you think critically against someone or something, rather than about, you’re just out to find flaws so you can justify your own preconceived notions.


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