Tuesday, September 21, 2004

New meaning to going Dutch

A post in Javaranch regarding e-mail reminded me of a little enclave of Baarle-Hertog near the Dutch border. It's 5,000+ parcels of land are split into the towns called Baarle-Hertog and Baarle-Nassau.

Houses on the opposite side of the street or even those attached can be in different countries.House numberplates have either a Netherland flag or Belgian flag. The local governments have offices 200 yards from each other run their own towns and the policw patrol their own towns.

A Belgian sending a letter to his Dutch neighbour using a Belgian post-box would be picked up by his Belgian postman taken to the nearest big town, Turnhout which is in Belgium proper, and re-directed to Brussels. From there it would be flown to Amsterdam and sent on to the post-man in Baarle-Nassau where a Dutch post-man would deliver it down the street (probably as the Belgian postman who picked it up was walking past).

The Belgian poster would in reality have posted the letter in a Dutch post-box which would have been delivered by local mail.

The situation arose from political ties that go back to the 12th century.
It's quite interesting. Godfrid of Schoten gave the land to the Duke of Brabant.The duke loaned out some land, gave some to the Counts of Nassau and some back to Godfrid, keeping all the inhabited land for himself. With time his land ended up in the ownership of Belgium while the others were lands belonging to Netherlands. In World War I the town was not invaded by the Germans because some of it belonged to then neutral Netherlands.

Seems to me here's something for delivers of e-mail to learn from.


Do all these labour saving devices actually save time?

Because we have washing machines we wash clothes maybe twice a week.
With a tumble dryer you are more likely to up the washdays to 3 days and maybe also wash and dry the odd item just because you can bung it in.

All that time far exceeds ye olde washday once a week which included washing the occupants of the house. (No ironing labour saving device as yet, none that do the job properly.)

These days you probably have not one but two or three computers. You can get parts and software cheap from e-bay. You are probably building machines with all sorts of capabilities from them. Sooner or later I'm probably going to rip mine apart after visiting car boot sales and raiding the kitchen of it's utensils, spoons, forks and colanders. I reckon I am going to build me some art. Full armoury and steel animals come to mind.

The point is, we are stuck in a time machine of our own making.

The solution is apparently to plan ahead to save time and money. A month from now you should know what you'll be eating because you have stocked your freezer up on all the bargain offers. Holidays are planned a year ahead soon after you have been on your last one. Lack of planning can catch one out. You should know just how much detergent you use and calculate to the penny how much garbage you generate. Soon the more garbage you produce the higher the council tax you pay.

Face it, those are some of the few variants you are likely to be able to control. Though it'll be nice to have some surprises planned in and may they turn out to be pleasant ones.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Pragmatic Programmers on Software Gardening

This analogy is so unusual in Software Development. Most developers would probably have laughed at the idea but since it's written here in Black & White (well Blue on Grey) by two very esteemed authors perhaps more developers would take up gardening.
It would be like working at your hobby and not seem like work at all.

Kill two birds with one stone and have Software Gardening Design Patterns. The authors borrow from Charles Alexander's Design Patterns but find SD is not like buildings. I guess these guys like to poke and potter around code a lot.

Dahlias - follow the recommended spacings in planting bulbs otherwise the blooms get smothered in the bushy growth.
Geraniums - don't overwater or feed these Mediterranean plants
Begonias - ideally pinch off the females as the male flowers make bigger longer-lasting blooms and don't run to seed.
Daisies - they like to be dead headed every so often to produce more flowers
as do petunias who also like to be overfed.

This much I know from 6 months experience.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


Bear Bibault a bartender at the JavaRanch created this game Enter the Blackbox from a 70's board game.

It's really good. He created it using JSP 2.0 and HTML running on a TomCat server.
I find that inspires me so much but cannot think of a board game that translates well to playing on the web. Creating the game as a multiplayer option is a pre-requisite I feel. Bear is working on his game with this in mind. But what a great start.

The inspirations I have in mind run from a game based on professional people,lawyers and estate agents and politicians that you might get to dunk as the game progresses.That would best be kept single-player.
Wonderland(Stinky & Loof) from http://www.BigFishGames.com is a family favourite. I can see this one getting there too.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Words from an old poet

Written by W.H.Auden as Hitler was infiltrating Poland, this poem has been distributed in memory of the tragedy of September 11, 2001 following terrorist attacks. The terrorist attrocities at a school in Beslan is Russia's own 9/11.
My nephew remembers images of 9/11 when he was only three but he can only recall it as a bad fairy tale like those found behind a Brothers Grimm cover. We didn't dare probe his understanding of the horrors at Beslan but children miss so little these days.

September 1, 1939

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odor of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analyzed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Peking Duck

No I'm not about to wax eloquent about Chinese and Thai food. These have been featuring a lot in our get-together menus of late, popular with both work-stressed adults and carefree children on summer holiday.
* Aromatic Duck Pancake Rolls with Spicy Plum Sauce
* Thai Chicken & Vegetable Samosas with Chilli Jam
* Honey Mustard Coated Gourmet Cocktail Sausages
* Mini Beef and Seeded Mustard Mayonnaise in miniature Yorkshire Puddings
* Chicken Satay Skewers

Rather, recently having worked with people from China I was struck by their down to earth honesty, goodness and attitude to hard work. It's very easy to stereotype people based on a few experiences but I decided to try and learn a bit about the culture. I'll listen if anyone wants to dwell at length on the art of Sheng-Fui and I feel every garden has to have a Japanese garden spot for meditation.

The epic, Wild Swans chronicles the lives of three generations of women, grandmother and concubine to a warlord , daughter and grand-daughter,Jung Chang, the author of the book. The grandmother's story, (probably the best read in the 3 part book) details the lot of Chinese women living out their lives in excrutiating pain with their feet bound from birth, unquestioning subservience to the whims of their men, masters, husbands and in their late years, their sons.

It also explains why the madness that was Mao took hold over this great culture.
Mao wanted to rid China of all western ideology.The story Jung's mother brings to life is the maddening irrationality of the Great Leap Forward, the famine of 1960 and the Cultural Revolution. The description of life during these years is superb if completely surreal. The writer goes to a lot of trouble to make the three heroines emerge as pearls among the swine.The reader has to continually try and remind themselves that perhaps the other characters weren't as black as painted. Not having had any similar experiences to compare, a lot is beyond our ability to imagine.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress : A Novel I feel would give a more balanced read about the Mao era. It is the story of two young men sent to a remote re-education camp, and how their discovery of a suitcase full of classical Western books changes their lives, and the life of the object of their love - the book's heroine, the little Chinese seamstress.
I've only read the reviews which highly recommend the book on many levels.

Grass soup is by one of China's best-known writers. Declared a Rightist by the authorities in 1958, Zhang spent 22 years in a labor reform camp in western China, condemned as an "intellectual." "As a hod carrier, he subsisted on scraps of food with an occasional "treat" such as live toad ("a cold appetizer... delicious"). He traces the weakening of his body and spirit to the point where he cared about only two things: the bowl of grass soup that was his evening meal, and taking his next breath. Starvation, he explains, is an effective government policy: "Only by making people endure hunger can you make them submit to you, worship you.".."

From a vantage point in this century, people will find the story hard to believe, apparent from the reviews.

Friday, September 10, 2004


I don't know what's happening here but this site is up there on Steven Berlin Johnson's Blogshares and up-for-trade.
(Sep. 14 - it's off now)

Time for a chunder.
Ok, think we have it sussed. It's a way of determining how many valuable links a blog has, incoming and outgoing. By including these links here(outgoing) I don't believe this blog's blogshares will sky-rocket overnight. But I'm leaving them here for a while to watch. I cannot believe ebay is worth more than General Motors and has only been in existence for a mere six years.

Green footballs politics (B$10,719.46)/
Instapundit.com (B$9,339.00)
Seeing things (B$9,054.27)
whiskey river (B$8,992.22)
snowdeal.org - conflux (B$8,492.24)
The Poor Man (B$8,450.06)
Index: Best of Dappled Things (B$8,446.87)
stevenberlinjohnson.com (B$8,357.90)
monkeyclaus - The latest news from the world of monkey (B$7,831.05)
Blogue dos Marretas (B$7,195.11)
Alex Ross: the Rest is Noise (B$6,652.99)
Jim Romenesko\'s Obscure Store and Reading Room (B$6,616.78)
Oxblog politics review (B$5,442.89)
Nomen est Numen. (B$5,350.76)
Blogue dos Marretas (B$4,993.30)
Cruzes Canhoto (B$4,762.60)
The Poorman (B$4,697.57)
Overlawyered.com (B$4,494.40)
Sheila Astray's Redheaded Ramblings (B$4,057.78)
Roll_The_Bones (B$3,759.53)
Diderot's Diary (B$3,400.00)
Snog Blog (B$3,313.52)
largehearted boy (B$3,288.15)
à Gauche (B$3,217.88)
ebalogaalne (B$3,170.15)
Rebel Prince (B$3,148.53)
Jerz's Literacy Weblog (B$3,099.43)
EconLog (B$2,949.70)
barnabé (B$2,881.55)
Limbo (B$2,854.49)
gapingvoid (B$2,760.37)
Absoluteyi (B$2,750.00)
Silêncio (B$2,691.62)
Blog.org (B$2,652.14)
sparky v3.0 storm - but in this I'm a rain cloud (B$2,644.69)
Sodden Revelations (B$2,640.37)
Sand in the Gears (B$2,612.31)
Editor: Myself (Persian) (B$2,605.09)
Via da Verdade (B$2,533.93)
Bijoy Venugopal @ LiveJournal (B$2,515.42)
KWSnet Radio Weblog (B$2,488.21)
Media, Technology and Society (B$2,303.27)
wood s lot (B$2,302.06)
Qualia (B$2,284.19)
Pejmanesque (B$2,274.72)
Limbo (B$2,244.70)
About last night (B$2,180.34)
The Big Eye (B$2,175.49)
Blog of Color (B$2,146.83)
The Blog of Color (B$2,139.01)
Tongue Tied (B$2,128.28)
hiving (B$2,110.41)
A Girl Called Johnny Panic (B$2,086.73)
Searchblog (B$2,010.76)
Legal Theory Blog (B$1,949.01)
Mark A. R. Kleiman (B$1,921.93)
the Literary Saloon (B$1,901.71)
d-42.com: the electronic home of Josh Cohen (B$1,873.46)
blog riley (B$1,844.53)
Eric Scheske: Notes Quotes and Aphorisms (B$1,833.33)
Harry Hatchet & friends (B$1,809.79)
Mr Power's Blog (B$1,806.97)
reverberations (B$1,799.58)
Epeus' epigone (B$1,737.53)
Orson's Telescope (B$1,726.33)
Gooseyard (B$1,693.76)
languagehat.com (B$1,691.93)
timcat's ModBlog (B$1,689.87)
Steven Allen (B$1,650.00)
O Mundo de Claudia (B$1,626.14)
david foster (B$1,608.04)
GAUCHE (B$1,578.18)
The Whale of Ignorance (B$1,566.20)
Gulfstream (B$1,528.80)
Crapass (B$1,517.45)
Ghetropolitan Journal (B$1,515.08)
James Brink (B$1,512.66)
wood s lot (B$1,502.50)
The Early Days of a Better Nation (B$1,498.81)
The New York City Anti-Hipster Forum (B$1,487.56)
02sweb design (B$1,466.67)
Knowledge Problem (B$1,440.49)
close your eyes (B$1,427.97)
Open Brackets (B$1,421.51)
collision detection (B$1,421.08)
newthings (B$1,411.67)
Quartzo, Feldspato & Mica (B$1,410.36)
James Brink (B$1,379.46)
The Peking Duck (B$1,379.35)
due torre (B$1,317.17)
House of Hock (B$1,283.25)
Crooked Timber (B$1,273.48)
A saintly salmagundi (B$1,263.28)
Overholt's Observations (B$1,256.86)
Blog Left: Critical Interventions (B$1,247.19)
Socialism in an Age of Waiting (B$1,240.52)
meatTossMonster (B$1,226.62)
whiskey river (B$1,216.70)
Out of Step Jew (B$1,215.30)
Alex Ross: the Rest is Noise
Arts Journal
Brothers Judd
Current Electoral Vote Predictor 2004
Daily Dish
daily star
Green footballs politics
Healing Iraq
Jim Hightower
Jim Romenesko's MediaNews
Jim Romenesko\'s Obscure Store and Reading Room
Legal Theory Blog
Marginal Revolution
Martin Kramer on the Middle East
NathanNewman.org - News and Views
Opinion Journal
Oxblog politics review
Political Animal
Semi-Daily Journal
SEO Reviewer
Straight Up
Talking Points Memo
The Command Post
The Edge Of England's Sword
The Loom
The Religious Policeman
The Revealer
Tom Paine
Turning the Tide
words without borders

Thursday, September 09, 2004

How the Colonies were won

Ever watched How the West was won ?

Hazard a guess that the Colonies were won because of feminine obsessions with gardening. Out of all the relics built in the past still stand these glowing testimonies to the olde gardeners. Cottage gardens packed with colour or perfect green lawns outside palace windows, flanked by topiary hedges,rose gardens and perennial borders.

English women made their fair contribution to colonisation, perhaps more than their fair share because some of them were notorious adventurers who literally helped carve up countries when maps were redrawn. Others were wives, trapped in Victorian married existence, who threw themselves in parties and their gardens with the aide of servants if they had any.

Gardening is a passion especially in these isles and their ex-colonies. It's good business, too with more and more supermarkets selling gardening implements and seed bar actual composts. City Analysts' reports have targeted gardening centres and asked for better retail management. Cue all those television shows out there tapping into seams of pure gold. Television gardening programs do not encourage the gardeners of today to create gardens meant to last and evolve, but gardens to be reworked every year. The costs can spiral each year.

It has caused a backlash of "true gardeners" who refuse to spend more than £40 a year on their garden but re-cycle, become composters and grow plants from seed or propogation. But they can't do without the garden centres because new pests and viruses are introduced all the time. Garden Centres seemingly have such a huge responsibility; luckily there are Environmental Laws to keep them in check and some very public spirited people to keep the latter in check. Who knew that heavy farming near rivers would cause such damage to water life that the fish are bi-sexed and infertile.

Juggling Browsers &

I've been so used to running up Firefox that I neglected to check how this blog viewed in Microsoft IE6. One word to describe it - pants. Fortunately it was just the last post that needed tweaking but the table-rendering needs some more attention.
At least this isn't something you need to worry about from day-to-day, working on an Enterprise project. They usually kow-tow to Microsoft when it comes to browsers and the Desktop.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Winter Colour

Start planning the colour scheme of your winter garden now. To get it right plan early August and start planting by mid-August.
For autumn flowers, cyclamen and autumn flowering crocuses are a good bet.
I'm picking a deep pink and a bright pure white varieties of cyclamen. Snow at Christmas is getting to be a rarity so large bands of white cyclamen would work very well lined with deep Christmas-red ones. Going with a Christmas theme a red and white planted-pansy Santa in a wheelbarrow hitched in reverse with sleigh bells to willow reindeers... Outlined with brightly lit outdoor lights... Jeez! Next year we'll probably be lighting up the whole rooftop following the British trend to keep up with their Jonesy cousins.
In the lawn I'm planting some autumn flowering crocusses, intermingled with spring flowering daffodils and narcissi. The scheme: mauve and lavender crocuses to be followed by tiny spring yellow and peach or off-white narcissi and daffodils. This isn't as horrible as it sounds. Dolce and Gabbana do a mauve and lavender tie but I'd feel sorry for the person who gets it as a Christmas gift. I'm actually working up to mauve, peach, yellow, lilac and lavender colour scheme between winter and spring if I've got the bottle but perhaps Nature will stop my well-laid plan in it's tracks.
In spring, the cyclamen borders will be followed by the pink and white Salome narcissus, pink Angelique double headed tulips, white hyacinths and some pink hyacinths.
Spring and autumn are the times to work on the lawn and it's a good time to be either removing bulbs or adding them while weeding at the same time. I find overseeding with grass seeds helps to give a thick carpet. And so what if the birds eat some seeds. I musn't forget to pick some onion sets and perhaps plant some barrel-grown potatoes in time for Christmas. I'm already a few weeks late planting but try getting the stock from Garden Centres. Suppliers are over-stretched and there's hardly anything in store. Preparation is key.
As I haven't done winter planting before I need all the luck.
Actually I find lilac too cold (who wants to be reminded of the cold in deep mid winter) so I'm switching to lilac-mauve. You'd just have to imagine these as tulips ,crocusses and narcissi. Of course the theme could be continued into the summer with roses and hydrangeas of the same hues.
In the summer I prefer hot reds,magentas,hot pinks and oranges. They seem to accentuate the heat better.Or make up for the lack of heat, so either way you're on to a winner. But plants with these colours tend to be annuals so that means starting all over again the following year.

Friday, September 03, 2004


The way the RSA organisation introduced itself triggered some half memory of a group called the Freemasons who operate through Lodges throughout the world.
Some Lodges have a very good Christian centre and others are deemed "irregular" to even Satanic. Even the regular ones have rumours going around of strange rituals like " *edited- family members invited to read* " at initiation ceremonies.

So buyer beware. That last could have been recounted to me just to keep me away.
For a bit of background on Freemasons read on:

"Great Britain, the cradle of freemasonry, has 350,000 members. The name "Freemason" is a contraction of "Free Stonemason", a guild of mediaeval cathedral builders.

As the techniques of the trade needed to be kept secret, every apprentice wanting to become part of the guild had to take part in a very strict initiation ceremony. At the outset, freemasonry had religious influences, which the Masonic symbolism embodies. Life is viewed as a building to be completed and each man is a block of "rough ashlar" or unhewn stone that must be worked on to be a part of the invisible Temple."

more here


This has been a week of invitations and the week hasn't ended yet.

Alright, I solicited one invitation by sending an e-mail to someone who was offering to give GMail invitations away. My life has just become easier by a factor of 20.

The second invitation arrived by post. The letter said "The Trustee Board has noted your success and has asked me to invite you to stand for election to Fellowship of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce. Election is only available to those whose achievements set them apart."

I checked the date. No it wasn't April the 1st. Did I do any kind acts in the last year like help old ladies cross the street? Not by a long shot. Success ? Hah! Nil!

Puzzled, I read further. The RSA's five key challenges are Encouraging Enterprise, Moving towards a Zero Waste Society, Fostering Resilient Communities, Developing a Capable Population, Advancing Global Citizenship. In 1754, a William Shipley was inspired to develop a fund to support improvements in the liberal arts, sciences and manufactures. The first meeting was held in a coffee house in Covent Garden.

People who make up the membership of the RSA ?
Benjamin Franklin, William Hogarth, Samuel Johnson, Joshua Steele, Karl Marx, Sir David Attenborough, Sir Terence Conran, Betty Jackson, Baroness Kennedy, Lloyd Grossman, Cherie Blair, Lord Rogers, Tom Stoppard, Sir Simon Rattle, Jon Snow, Stephen Hawking, Nelson Mandela, Alex James, Anthony Gormley, Julie Walters, Gavin Esler, Dianne Thompson, Manolo Blahnik, Andrew Marr, Ben Okri, Sir Christopher Ondaatje, Tim Smit, Sir Adrian Cadbury and Professor Martin Rees.
Lloyd Grossman and Cherie Blair kind of spoilt the list for me. I'll have to mull this over and promptly forget it afterwards. In all probability. They appear to have a good library.


Thursday, September 02, 2004

Harry Potter in Latin ? That is just devious

I think learning Latin should be mandatory from quite young so pupils will be thankful forever after to be learning French and even German. Harry Potter in Latin is devious.
A London teacher struggled to teach inner city kids from backgrounds as far reaching as Somalia, Ethiopia and even Bangladesh. Almost giving up in despair she stumbled on a series of books set in the 1950s about a group of schoolboys and girls and read aloud to her class. She was amazed at how well they seemed to relate to the characters and based all her lessons around them. Perhaps the books touched on experiences of life-after-war. Listening to The Diary of Anne Frank read aloud is an experience never forgotten.

I forget the name of the book series now but I may recall where I saw it.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Well then don't look...

Learn a language or two by reading books written in a foreign language.

Persepolis and Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return.
Two books,originally written in French,have now been translated into 11 languages.
Persepolis is written by an Iranian woman in comic book style, featuring blunt black and white graphics reminiscent of Persian miniatures. The French narrative is humourous though it deals with living in war-torn Iran, especially sufferings by Iranian women. The heroine is 10 year old Marji.
In one sequence Marji runs to catch a bus when she is stopped by Guardians of the Revolution guards who admonish her for running telling her that her posterior makes obscene movements."Well then don't look at my ass", yells Marji so loudly that the guards don't arrest her.

A reviewer on Amazon describes Persopolis as 'To Kill a Mockingbird' for today's world. He also likens it to the classic 'A Catcher in the Rye'.

Frenchy by Benjamin Cros (in French) about persecuted minorities, Parisian-Texans in Hornflat, Lone Star,the American Deep South.

Mill,Alm,Money,Lemon: A Family Conversation by Bolivar Lamounier (in Portuguese).
The author reckons he is from an ancient line of European labourers - millers, lemon growers, financiers or almsgivers. In pursuit of his ancestors he ends up tracing much of world history. Ultimately a story about all of us.