Douwe Osinga's Blog: May 2005

Monday, May 30, 2005


So the French have voted 'No'. And I suppose so will my fellow country men. The end of the EU constitution. The interesting thing of course is that most people are not against the constitution. They are just dissatisfied with a number of things and feel like saying no. And things were going so well at some point.

During the nineties I often thought that roaring would be the word for the decade. At least in the Netherlands, economic growth was high, crime decreasing, unemployment almost non-existent. These before then end-of-the-bubble days were great. The government looked very reasonable too: a grey haired statesmen led the bunch, going to his work on a bike. You'd think they would be returned after the elections with an even greater majority.

They were not. The mood had changed and people were unhappy. They suddenly complained about crime, foreigners and the state. Fortuyn came along and captured the mood perfectly, became enormously popular and was then murdered.  Also begann Holland's Untergang.

What's wrong with these people? The Dutch have always had somewhat of a reputation for complaining, but it always concentrated more on the lousy weather and the football results against Germany. Now they've become a nation of grumpy old men. Where are those liberal traditions of tollerance now?

Social welfare is a great good, but sometimes I'm affraid it makes people lazy. I don't mean lazy in that they don't want to look for a job because they'll get money from the state anyway; that may be too.

The first generation under a social welfare economy is of course happy. They're used to work and now they can work in the secure feeling that should they lose work, a leg or their youth, the state will step in and help out. Now the second generation thinks it is a right, this welfare and forgets that somebody has to pay to make it work. So mis-use becomes the norm and things have to be reformed.

The third generation just feels ripped off, since the system isn't so great as it used to be, but they grew up believing it should take care of them. So they complain.


Monday, May 16, 2005

Fame and fortune

A couple of weeks ago, a reader send me a scan from an article in PC-Magazine. In the list of the 100 websites you didn't know you couldn't live without, was mentioned.

"Don't miss the Google Hacks page on this eclectic site. Google Talk starts with words you supply and 'talks' by adding words found in your search, repeatedly by searching on the latest few words. Poetry in translation translates text through German and French and back to its original English. And more!"

May be not completely accurate, but still very nice. Or as a friend of mine said, I don't see a lot of other homepages in that list.

In the Googleplex a fellow engineer approached me saying I should buy People Magazine, which didn't seem like the kind of thing I usually would do. So I asked him why and he said that I was mentioned in the list of 50 most beautiful people. As it turns out, he meant that they had used (presumably) Google Talk to say some things about these beautiful people, which is an entirely different compliment. Unfortunately I only got around looking for the magazine when they had replaced it by a new edition, so if anybody out there has the article and could scan it for me, that would be greatly appreciated.

Lastly, I just got an IM from Danny Friedmann, pointing out to me that my site was mentioned on BBC world. The broadcast is linked from this page:
The site is mentioned just after the 19th minute. That's my 15 minutes of fame for this month

Monday, May 9, 2005

Closing Time

Visitors to Europe from the US are often confused by the opening hours in Europe. Why are shops closed on Sundays, but not bars? What about museums? I suppose every country has its own ideas of what makes sense to close at what times. Except for the US, I hear some people say, there everything is open all the time. Well, they'd be wrong.

I just (around 11) went out for a little something to eat to keep night starvation at bay. But about everything was closed. No late night shops, no quick shoarma. There might have been a Chinese restaurant with three customers left in a darkening noodel shop and the Irish bar was still open, but it was half empty and there the kichen was closed. You can complain all you want about Johanniter in the Niederdorffstrasse but at least they serve their solid Swiss meals until 3:30 am.

And what's the deal with the 'no alcohol after 2am' rule? Bars may stay open after 2 in California, but they can't sell beer anymore. Even worse you can't drink beers you bought before 2. There's something very weird of going to a club that stays open till four with no alcohol the last two hours. In 24 hour supermarkets, it is the same deal. They'll sell you beer after 7am again.

Makes you wonder what's worse, finishing a beer at 2am or opening one up first thing in the morning at 7.

Saturday, May 7, 2005

60 years

60 years ago the Second World War ended. I just read in the economist that three quarter of German soldiers that died, did so on the east front. Considering how tough it was to beat the Germans on the west front there is no other conclusion possible that without Stalin sending off his compatriots to the slaughter of the Great Patriotic War it would have all ended very badly.

In the Netherlands we tend to concentrate on the Canadians as the country that freed us. And so they did, but only because they happened to be there first. Now, considering how things ended, we can be glad that it were the Canadians and not the Russians, but if you look at the numbers with the Canadians losing 37 000 people in World War II and the Russians 27 000 000, we should at least mention the Russians when we celebrate the 5th of May.