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Windows Live Messenger

September 10th, 2008

When logging into MSN with Windows Live Messenger, the contact list shows an advertisement at the bottom. Normally I don’t really pay attention to it, but just now I thought it was quite funny:

Download Windows Live Messenger

Sinterklaas!

September 7th, 2008

It’s 7 September today. Our annual Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) feast, will be on 5 December. Last time I looked at a calendar, that’s still 3 months away.

Apparently that’s the start signal for selling Sinterklaas related sweets and biscuits, as I bought this bag of ‘kruidnoten’, a typical Sinterklaas treat, at the Albert Heijn supermarket yesterday already:

kruidnoten, a typical Dutch Sinterklaas treat

Out of curiosity, for all of you who aren’t living in Holland and aren’t celebrating Sinterklaas at all; are your shops starting on the Christmas stuff yet?

Trip to Blijdorp Zoo

September 5th, 2008

picture of Bokito the gorilla, receiving a snowball against his head

The image above is of a Ritteri anemone (Heteractis magnifica), apparently the one Nemo likes to hang out in. Nemo is a clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris) of course, and the reason it doesn’t die from the anemone’s sting, is that its body is covered in a mucus that protects it against the toxin. This makes the anemone a safe place for little Nemo (and his dad!), and in return in eats algae and fish leftovers from the anemone, keeping it clean.

After an absence of eight years the polar bears are back in our zoo, and this is advertised with posters like the one on the left here, which shows the infamous gorilla Bokito, receiving a snowball against his head, with the subtitle “The polar bears are back in Blijdorp”. The same kind of posters have been made with a giraffe and an ostrich, but I like this one best.

 

Hellendoorn, Summer 2008

August 21st, 2008

This year we spent our summer vacation in Hellendoorn, at a place called Camping Eelerberg — a very nice camp site, where we rented a log cabin for two weeks. The site is run by a friendly couple, who not only take care of the administration and reception, but also the facilities, the swimming pool, the snack corner, and the restaurant, where they cook delicious meals from fresh biological products, some of which even home-grown on the camp site itself.

Hellendoorn is right on the side of the Sallandse heuvelrug (Salland hills), which offers beautiful nature, and several colour marked walking tracks. On the far north side of it, (about 40 minutes cycling from the camp site), there are the Lemelerberg and Archemerberg, two beautiful “mountains” (respectively 48 and 76.5 meters above sea level) covered in heather and pine and juniper trees. For some reason, Google maps shows the Archemerberg as Lemelerberg, and simply ignores the Lemelerberg itself.

Naturally, I took lots of pictures during these two weeks, and have uploaded a selection of them for you to see, in the photography section of the site. Hope you like them 🙂

Information Overload – Solution

June 19th, 2008

Any person with two brain cells will be able to figure out that if you check your Twitter and RSS feeds continuously, get IM-ed and emailed throughout the day and you respond to every beep your computer gives you, you will repeatedly if not continuously be distracted from whatever work you were supposed to be doing.

Last year some people with many brain cells wrote a report about it, basically saying that when many people in a company get distracted continuously, this is costing that company a lot of money[1]. Of course, they knew that before writing the report, but now that they’ve put numbers and ascending lines in graphs to it, it’s black on white, a reality that can’t be ignored. The big companies are getting worried. After all, the larger the company, the more workers, the more distraction through information overload, the more money lost, the more reason to be worried.

The good news: they’re working on a solution! 🙂

They haven’t found it yet of course, but they did form an Information Overload Research Group, whose website has the subtitle ‘reducing information pollution’. Sounds like a plan! I’ll keep a close eye on their progress, even if just to see how long it will take them to figure out that the only real solution lies in getting people off the addiction, instead of having them spend time on tweaking their filters for it. For now, their current monthly tip to the information overload sufferers themselves, is “reduce interruptions by turning email notifications off”.

Problem: people are already addicted to checking their email, so even with notifications off, they’ll feel compelled to click a button just to check if email has arrived in the last 3 and a half minutes while they weren’t looking.

The best description of this addiction I’ve found so far, is ‘ADHD 2.0′. This newly discovered disorder is documented by Aldo Bucchi, who also managed to post the first ever photo of the bacteria that causes ADHD 2.0.

While Ritalin has proved to help deal with ADHD, ADHD 2.0 may need more rigorous methods. Some suggestions in no particular order:

  • cut your umbilical cord (also called RJ-45, network cable, airport, wifi)
  • set the DNS in your network settings to 0.0.0.0
  • delete anything that’s called ‘profile’ and has your name on it
  • send your friends a ‘change of email address’ message, saying your new addy is info@example.com
  • delete (and block!) every buddy in your MSN contact list
  • delete the file you use to remember all your passwords (for the cheaters: also burn the piece of paper that has all your passwords on it!)
  • tell your 341 Twitter followers that you want to be friends with them, and if they can schedule you for a cup of coffee at their place next week. Then ‘unfollow’ any that don’t have time, as well as those you can’t fit in that week due to your own schedule.
  • ….

I bet you can come up with plenty more suggestions, so how about you help me out here? Comment with your best efforts 🙂

[1] Interestingly, back in 2002, these same people wrote a report to say that “online community and collaboration tools increase productivity and profits”.

Overdue Blog Update

June 6th, 2008

Just an update on what I’ve been up to lately 🙂

– A couple of weeks ago I celebrated my birthday and got these funny little Rebel Duckies from my brother.

Rebel Rubber Ducks

– With that birthday I reached the old age of 42, so I figured it was about time to finally watch the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for the first time ever. So yes, now I know who Arthur Dent is, and that you should never travel without a towel. But not entirely sure why everybody kept saying I should watch it…

Acrobots with lightsabers

– Last weekend I decided to earn even more geek points by watching (again for the first time) Star Wars. Not too bad, but I think I mostly liked it because it made me get the jokes in the Family Guy version of it, and I think I’ll also watch Spaceballs again. I already liked it about 20 years ago, but it must be even better now that I’ll get the references. Or maybe I should try Planet of the Apes first as well?

Dr. Who's Tardis

– Since I was in England that weekend, I also watched Dr. Who Saturday night. I like Dr. Who, and I thought this episode was quite intriguing. Where do the shadows come from, and where is the little girl? At the end it appeared it was one of them ‘to be continued next week’ episodes. Well, long live bittorents – I’ll be waiting for it to show up on btjunkie on Sunday.

ticket to Liverpool Sound

– Still the very same weekend, I went to Liverpool and saw Paul McCartney play the Anfield stadium, with Dave Grohl as special guest and supported by the Kaiser Chiefs and the Zutons. One of the best concerts I’ve been to in quite a while – I was well impressed.

flames on stage at Liverpool Sound

During ‘Live And Let Die’, I was surprised by a flash of heat against my face from the flame throwers on the stage. I was about 20 meters from the stage, so I can only imagine how hot it must have been on the front row, not to mention on the stage itself. Wonder if everybody still has their eyebrows…

young girl at concert

Other than that, no news for now 🙂

Forget offshore outsourcing – they’re coming over!

May 19th, 2008

Last week I got a phone call from an Indian lady trying to sell me programming services. I said I was not interested, but I guess my accent sounded as difficult to her as hers did to me, as I had to repeat it twice before she hung up without saying goodbye.

I just assumed she called from India, but I’m not so sure anymore now. This morning I got a spam.. eh.. promotional email in my inbox from IPH, Indian Programmers in Holland. Offering programming services. On location. Like, *in my office*.

The email included a read receipt request. I declined. Will they be ringing my doorbell next?

Just a picture …

April 12th, 2008

… of the Black Crowes at the Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam last night. I’d post more, if I had any that were worth showing. Phone camera without telelens and low light and such.

Black Crowes in Amsterdam

The Snow, The Dragon And The Flame

April 7th, 2008

Yesterday the Olympic flame passed through London, and there were several festivities planned on different locations. The one I was most keen to see, was a mini-carnival at Ladbroke Grove, at 11am. I like the yearly Notting Hill Carnival in August, so why not have a taste of it in April, and get the tropical feeling going a bit already. Or that’s what I thought.

Sunday morning I looked out the window to see which turn the weather would have taken after an unexpectedly warm Friday and a drizzling Saturday, and much to my surprise, I saw that it was snowing! Everything was white, and the wind was blowing big snowflakes around the hotel. Quite a beautiful sight, but entirely unfitting for a carnival. Even if a very small version of it in April.

Here’s a couple of impressions of the day:

Tower of London

Tower of London with snow on the rooftops

Camden

ho ho ho, merry summer!
some left over snow

Ladbroke Grove

butterfly costume in snow
lion costume

Beep! Information Overload – Access Denied

March 25th, 2008

Josh Catone of Read/WriteWeb calls it the Lifestreaming Backlash.

I call it ‘What were they thinking?!’

First we all lived happily in our respective communities, and we talked to the neighbours about the new family that moved in two streets away from us, and discussed the weather with the baker’s wife. Then the internet came along (yes I’m skipping radio and TV and telephone), and all of a sudden we were all important people who had a blog to tell the world about the new family that moved in two streets away from us, and about the weather in our small part of the world. Then.. Twitter came. Causing loads of people to tell the world that not only a new family moved in, but we’re going to the hairdresser in 5 minutes, now we’re in a traffic jam, and we had a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. Oh, and my nail just ripped. And of course it’s majorly important to send out a Tweet to the world about what colour we’ll paint the kitchen wall.

Do we really think that our 341 followers have only our Twitter feed to follow? Maybe if you’re an internet celebrity, all your Tweets will be deemed important and interesting (regardless of whether they are!), but for the rest of us, it’s mostly meaningless twittering. And now, people are starting to see the light. They subscribed to Twitter feeds, Facebook feeds, and Flickr feeds, and realize it’s too much work keeping up.

So they got a feeds feed. A feeds aggregator that gathers all your different feeds into one big one, and called it “lifestreaming”. But even when using a lifestream aggregator such as FriendFeed, the amount of information is immense. You still have to read every Tweet before you can say whether it’s worth reading, or not. Too late, you read it already. Unlike regular website or blog RSS feeds, Twitter feeds are updated constantly. People update websites and blogs once a day, or once a week, or even less. Tweets are sent out a lot more often, causing a stream of unstoppable information.

Now, instead of simply considering Twittering less, they invented filters. Facebook uses sliders for that – show more, or less of a certain type of information. But what does that do? I think it means that the Tweet about a ripped nail might perhaps not reach you. Or, it does, but you won’t be aware of your friend’s new colour for the kitchen wall. On the other side of it, the Tweet about your peanut butter sandwich, may not reach any one of your Twitter followers. So why did you Tweet it? Wouldn’t it be far more productive, satisfying and meaningful to just call your Mum on the phone, and while asking her how she’s doing today, tell her you had a peanut butter sandwich?

Josh Catone defends the lifestreaming concept by saying it’s in its infancy, and someone will come up with a solution to the information overload sooner or later.

My personal totally illogical and of course never coming true prediction is, that not the filters or any other yet to be invented solutions are the answer to the information overload, but the people. They will (eventually – my guess is around 2010) stop Twittering meaningless information that no one but their Mum is interested in. I can see two ways of Twitter remaining in existence: either the Tweets will be limited to (semi-)useful information, or Twitter will adapt to being nothing more than a personal shoutbox where no one reads anybody else’s Tweets anymore. After all, texting your minute-to-minute whereabouts is still easier than jotting it down on a piece of paper.

As I said – illogical, never coming true.

In the meantime, it’s the perfect celebrity test. If you can send a Tweet about eating a simple peanut butter sandwich, and anyone but your Mum or closest friend thinks it’s worth responding to via Twitter, you’re a celeb.