Blog 2017


It would be too easy a subject here, criticism on everything that Donald Trump does or says.  It would even be quite counterproductive to spend attention on him.  So I will comment as little as possible, but sometimes it will alas be necessary.

Obviously the same applies to his counterparts in other countries, such as Marine Le Pen in France, Nigel Farage in the UK, and Erdogan in Turkey.  Good luck in 2017 everyone…

2017-12-20 08:09 Quiz programme “The Chase”

Yesterday on ITV’s “The Chase” quiz everything went fine until the moment the last contestant took a very large amount of cash to the group.  The prize fund ended up at 100’000, and all four were still in the run.  In addition, on the last round the group got to 24, a very high number of correct answers.  It looked like they were going to go home with 25’000 each.  But then the chaser beat them with quite a lot of time left and only one pushback.  She got a list of very easy questions.

Quite often I have thought:  who guarantees the questions are fair?  Nobody sees how they are picked.  It is well possible for those behind the scenes to tweak them, depending on the contestants, the amount of money at stake, how long since a game was last won, and so on.

There is a fair way to run this show:  put a box on the stage with a large number of unmarked envelopes, say at least 100.  The envelopes contain sets of questions.  For each run, cashbuilder or chase, the contestant then picks the envelope they will use and the same happens in the final chase.

As the game is run now, it is impossible to know if the questions are not fixed.

2017-12-15 18:20 Net Neutrality

Net neutrality is not about everyone getting free acces:  you do and should have to pay for better bandwidth.  If I only use text e-mail but my neighbour watches movies all the time, he should probably pay more.

It is not about free access to all content:  some people do provide services that need a lot of work and they should be paid for that work.

It is not about the costs of infrastructure or stimulating competition or stifling innovation.

Net neutrality is about freedom of choice:  you decide what you look at, and you can look at everything available.

What the opponents of net neutrality really want is to sell you a package which includes only what the content providers have paid them for.  The service providers think they should compete on the selections they make for you.

This is much like other grouping of goods, which is or was forbidden:  you cannot sell two only vaguely related goods as a package, thus forcing the consumer to pay for something they do not really want.

If the service providers sell you an internet package which strongly selects content, then that is much like selling a car with the obligation to fill up only at petrol stations of a certain brand, or a fridge that will only keep food from a certain retail chain cool.

There are already many such hidden deals:  supermarkets do not sell the products of every brand available.  They make deals.  Car manufacturers make deals with tyre manufacturers.  Mobile phone companies sell packages that are biased, but not yet by content.  These deals are relatively innocent and can be easily circumvented.  Getting around the limitations imposed by service providers in a non-neutral net will be nearly impossible.  Already providers of high bandwidth internet decide on which TV channels reach your home, just like cable TV companies have always done:  it is not possible to add a channel like you might have done by adding an aerial on the roof.

The loss of net neutrality is like getting a selection of TV channels that is severely restricted.

2017-12-11 10:01 Jerusalem again

Netanyahu says “Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3’000 years”.  So what?  Does that give Native Americans the right to claim North America back?  Does it mean the Turks, Hungarians etc. should move back to Asia?  Things change!

There are two real problems:  (1) the “West” has not done enough to help solve the Middle East problems, (2) the people living there have not been constructive either.

Abdicating, as the current US administration does, will not help.  All sides should discard their religious bigotry and get to work helping each other and the planet.

And, Mr. Netanyahu, stop sowing discord among European nations by hinting that each one may independently do what you want.  That is destructive.

2017-12-06 20:09 “recognition of reality”


2017-12-04 10:09

Closing a school that teaches women to be obedient is a good thing:

But both sides use the same wrong argument:  the school pleads to promote traditional culture, the government wants socialist core values.  Traditionalism has no more foundation than any religion, socialist or not.

2017-12-04 Jordan’s appeal

The Middle-East conflict between Israel and the surrounding states is based on religious bigotry (from both sides).  Tensions will only decrease by removing the religious/traditional components.  Moving an embassy to a place perceived by one side as its capital would only increase them.  Another step in the direction of an anarchic nuclear war?  Jordan is right, but warning Trump has the opposite effect.

2017-09-20 Hurricane Maria over Puerto Rico

Many islands have been flattened by hurricanes Irma and now Maria.

Praying will not help:  fight global warming (or “climate change” as some want to call it euphemistically), and put your electric power cables under the ground instead of hanging them from poles (OK, unfair to most of the victims).

2017-07-31 A Hundred Years Passchendaele

The first world war was fought between European monarchies, not the nations.  Is it not somewhat ironic that the ceremonies in Flanders were attended by monarchs, and should they not at some time apologise for still being monarchs?
(by the way, the village’s name is spelled “Passendale”)

2017-07-06 Electric Cars

M. Hullot wants to ban fossil fuel cars by 2040.  I’m all for that, but…

M. Hullot also wants to close nuclear power stations.  I’m all for that too, on condition that we can generate enough electricity and store it.

Make a rough calculation, only about private cars.  They run about 15’000km/year on average, and there is about one per family in France.  France has 60 million inhabitants (I’m going low, so as to avoid overestimation) which means 15 million families (the INSEE says 17.9), so there must be about 15 million cars (the INSEE says 31.8 million).  As you see, I’m certainly lower than the actual numbers, but not far off, i.e. my off-the-cuff numbers are not more than a factor of 2 out.

Average consumption will be around 5l/100km, which means each car uses 15’000*5/100=750l of petrol per year.  A litre of petrol holds about 40’000’000J, meaning we need 40’000’000x750=30’000’000’000J=30GJ per car and per year.  There are 60x60x24x360 seconds in a year, or a trifle more than 31 million seconds, that means we need 30’000’000’000/31’104’000 J/s = 965W to power one car.  That is almost 1kW, running all the time (that’s correct: a car a uses much more, some 30kW while it runs, but it does not run all the time).   For France we need 15M of those, i.e. 15GW

France’s biggest nuclear power station generates 1.5GW

M. Hullot, we would need more than the power of the top ten nuclear reactors just to drive your electric cars.

And:  given that today’s wind turbines produce about 1MW (they do not run all the time, that’s an average) we would need to put up 15’000 turbines.  Good luck.

But I totally agree we need to work at it!

2017-07-31 The US thinks that a UN Security Council meeting on North Korea is of no value

Yes, I agree, and please reflect on why the UN is so powerless:  because the superpowers have consistently blocked resolutions or blatantly not supported them, and in that way castrated the UN.  It’s irritating that the organisation was first set up, then systematically diminished, and now criticised for being ineffective, all by the same set of countries.  Shame on humanity.

2017-07-29 Women march in Turkey against pressure on dress code

Well, at least one encouraging happening:  women in Turkey resist pressure for “more conservative dress”.  Keep it up girls!  We need more of this!

2017-07-24 Free Speech endangered

Once again:  Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, Communism, … :  they are ideologies, systems of thinkig.  They can be criticised.  Richard Dawkins’s talk was cancelled because of his past criticisms:  free speech is thus reigned in.  There is no comparison possible between attacking a person and criticising a system of ideas.  Anything said can be arbitrarily deemed offensive to someone.  I am offended by the stupidity of all religions.  Richard, keep it up, your defence is brilliant.

2017-01-11 Macron speaks in English

This happened in January but came to my attention late.  It should be obvious to the critics of Macron (such as Marine Le Pen, of course) that it is better to speak a common language to your audience than anything else.  Macron was in Germany, where the majority has a good grasp of English, but not of French.

Many years ago I participated in a meeting in Brussels at the European Commission.  We all spoke English to each other.  There was a series of presentations, all held in English too.  Except for the French delegate:  she spoke French.  The moment she started everyone scrambled for their headsets to listen to the interpreters. There was an awkward minute of shuffling, clicking of buttons.  It would have been totally unnecessary, because I had chatted to the speaker before her talk, and she spoke perfect English.  But at the time there was a directive of France that delegates had to speak French in public, and she obliged.

For a long time we took pride in mastering Latin as the “lingua franca” that everyone understood.  Today the lingua franca is English.  Dear Marine:  French is an archaic language, that has nowhere near the vocabulary of English and is saddled with a nonsensical grammar.  I know what I’m writing about, because while my own mother tongue is (some) Dutch (dialect), I speak and write grammatical French better than many native French.  Using French, Dutch, German, is interesting and good, but it is at the level of importance of a folkloristic hobby.

Macron was perfectly right to use the tool of expression that was understood directly by his audience.  No fiddling with headsets and listening to the potentially incomplete versions of interpreters.

2017-07-21 Resignations at the White House

This looks very bad:  get more and more bootlickers and you will be convinced even more that you are right when manifestly you are totally wrong.  The path to dictatorship.  But what to do about it when “the people” refuse to see?  We live in an “unpresidented” era indeed.

2017-06-01 Trump on Climate

Now we can no longer hesitate:  Trump is mad.  We can only hope that some type of revolution will remove this dangerous man from office.

Let’s all get together, work on the technology needed, get the job done, and ignore the current USA government.  Our friends in the US know that they are welcome again as soon as the wind in Washington changes.

2017-05-26 G7 in Taormina

There we have it again:  bully Trump says his things, and everyone else is embarrassed, divided, and meek.

Agreement on terrorism, but probably not the right kind of action.

No agreement on climate.  But at least a solid stand of the “G6” against the “G1”.  Possibly good…

2017-05-17 Macron’s cabinet

Now we know who the ones are we should be wary of:  those who resist change, on the right the conservative 570 who signed a counter-statement (BBC) and on the left Hamon who still thinks in left-right terms instead of solving problems.

Some warning to Nicolas Hulot (not yet made up my mind as to whether I like him or not):  “sortir du nucléaire” is a long-term goal that I agree with, but until we’ve seriously made our calculations about how to manage the transition to purely solar, we definitely need nuclear, and we need it much more than fossil-fuel based alternatives.  Getting out of nuclear can only happen if any closed-down nuclear power station is 100% replaced with renewables at the same time.

2017-05-08 Thought on “Europe of Nations”

The “Europe of Nations” (read: independent nations) that many want, including Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage and others, is not a way forward.

We have had that for 2000 years.  It has been 2000 years of continuous warfare among those independent nations, even up to the times the absolute monarchies had been replaced by democracies.

The wars stop when the states have to discuss their problems and follow agreements.  Of necessity those are “supra-national”.  Of course they are.

Going back to independent nation states will only lead to increasing political stress, independent actions and later wars again.  There may be vague situations that some would like to bring back out of nostalgia, but those situations had big downsides, which are conveniently forgotten.

There may be different ways forward.  Some form of accepted supranational institutions is an inevitable part of the good ones.

2017-05-07 21:00 French Elections

2/3 versus 1/3, now that’s how an election should end, reasonably far away from 50-50.
Hope now that Macron will also act, possibly with the same vigour as Trump, but towards good ends.

More danger from religion

Should any religion get official protection as seems to exist in Ireland?  Read  I completely agree with what Fry said.  We have freedom of speech and certainly should have freedom of thought.  Those who are offended have only themselves to blame.

2017-05-05 Religion creeping in again?

Reading I find the famous confusion yet again.  There is the phrase target “all forms of bullying, including that which is based on religion, race, gender, faith, sexuality, disability, skin conditions, social standing or political persuasions”

So far so good.  But then it goes on to say that “tolerate” is not enough, we should “accept”.

Depends.  I would not dream of bullying schoolkids (or anyone else) over whether or not they believe the Earth is flat.  I’ll accept the person, but I reserve the right not to accept the manifestly wrong belief.

Will the day come I’m no longer allowed to say that most of religion is wrong?  That we should not tolerate certain religious practices?  Will I have to “accept” everything?

Bullying is one thing.  Accepting arbitrary forms of religion, faith, social standing or political persuasion is another.  I reserve the right to criticise religion, to criticise the overly rich and criticise people of certain political persuasions, and to discuss these issues with them when needed.

“All forms of bullying” should have been enough.  It’s the bullying that must be targeted.

2017-05-04 The English language

In Jean-Claude Junker reportedly says that “English is losing importance in Europe”

I doubt that is true.

There is also another aspect:  if we are going to be efficient in the EU (and I hope so) then we need an efficient language to communicate in.  I have long argued that language is a tool, a technology.  There are efficient ones and less efficient ones.  English has many faults (try to explain how to pronounce it), a better tool can be imagined.  But I’m willing to bet that it is the most efficient one we have on the planet today:  all other languages I know or have looked at are far more complicated, convoluted, lengthy and difficult to learn.  Junker’s mother tongue was Luxembourgish, try to learn that.

I live in France and can say that my French grammar and spelling is better than that of the average native speaker.  But that also gives me some right to say that French is difficult, archaic, and lengthy.  See my article on language as a tool.

2017-01-23 Funny


The French word “amalgame” is used to denote an incorrect fusion of several ideas that serves to make a point.  The recent website tuckfrump commits such an amalgamating error on its front page.  It writes (I quote):

Telling off Trump Muslims, Latinos, gays, women, moms, Asians, Blacks, Jews, heavyset & disabled people beat back the bigoted bully

All categories mentioned in this quote are of people who did not choose or cannot choose to belong to that category, except Muslims.  Islam is an ideology, one can very well decide not to carry it.  Muslims are in the same category as Christians, Buddhists, practicians of Judaism, etc.  They are not a race, they do not have a biological condition.

I do not and will not discriminate against any of the other classes, but I reserve my right to oppose bad ideas, such as Donald Trump’s, and those of most religions, including Islam.

2017-01-18 Apple lies to you?

I wasted a lot of time updating the Kiwix application on a Macbook Air running Sierra (OS 10.12).  The operating system kept telling me that the app I had just downloaded was damaged and should be moved to the trash.  I tried a fresh download, then from the development server, then from an alternative server, but always got the same message.  The app was also not available from Apple’s OSX app store, but it was available for iOS.  Digging down I found a forum which mentioned that since the Sierra version of the OS it is impossible to install an app that does not come from the app store or an identified developer.  The option to install from anywhere has disappeared.  I had to resort to a command-line override of that security feature, and then everything worked fine.  The security measure is understood, I even accept that the security option to download from anywhere has been removed.  What I don’t accept is the text of the error message.  It should have been:  “This app cannot be installed for security reasons because it has not been checked”.  Apple, don’t tell me it was damaged, because it wasn’t.

2017-01-16 Vocabulary

Notice that we now have a new political adjective:  “rigged”.  The US elections were going to be “rigged” (and apparently they were, but not in the way originally meant).  Now Israel (where many seem to be very happy with Trump) has said that the Paris conference on the Palestinian/Israeli question is “rigged”.  A “rigged” conference? (the French news used the word “truquée” for how the Israeli PM qualified it).

If you don’t want your opponents to believe something or work for it, you call it “rigged”.  Great.

2017-01-17 Brexit again

On the BBC site:  Theresa May’s Brexit plan “could see the UK quit the EU single market”, according to many of Sunday’s front pages.
“could”?  Is that not guaranteed?  Surely the EU should not make a half-in half-out deal, and anyway, it’s not for the UK to decide what the situation will be like.

We saw a report on UK TV about prices having gone up. It looks like a larger percentage of people are dissatisfied with that than the percentage that voted Brexit.  Who will they blame next?  And these price hikes only reflect the fall of the pound, not any import taxes.

2017-01-06 Hacking during the US elections

There are a few interesting things here: