Category Archives: Non-Technical Topics

Sorry, next year Santa wont be able to come to town

.. cause I’ve eaten his reindeers. In case you ever come to Sweden, this is one of the things you should not miss out. You may not want to tell your kids what they are eating right now, but once they got hooked in, they would not care anyway.

At the minimum I’m now able to answer the question on “What is the most important question in a human’s life?”. It’s simple: “Can I eat it?”. This question works perfectly well for cows or sheep and of course also for crocodiles, emu or kangaroos. So far I’m reluctant to try to eat Gators, as I do not want to end in a movie (or upset some of the folks in Orlando, for that matter).

There is a whole world to eat – except for some weird stuff, of course – so bring it on!

My horse does not run on petrol – is this a bug?

Yesterday I decided to refuel my horse carriage, and thus brought it to the petrol station. Shortly after filling up the horse with gasoline, the stupid thing died? Is this a bug?

In case you think: WTF?!: Every other day, we receive a posting in the forum that follows a similar pattern. Users download the Citrus-PRD, create reports with it, and then publish the report to an old (=not a Citrus-) BI-Server installation. And then they act surprised if that horse dies and if the report does not work.

So if you came to this site because I posted a link to here in the answer in the forum, then please remember:

BI-Server 3.0 was released in March 2009.

Citrus is scheduled to be released in September 2009.

March – September. Do you notice the six month gap?

If we would have a reporting engine that was able to do what Citrus-PRD can do, dont you think we would have included that in the march release? And the other way around: Back then in March, how would we know what the final Citrus release would look like, as it wasn’t even written yet. As long as the Church of Einstein is in power, time travel will remain forbidden, and thus we have to point out that:

The client-tools you use for developing content for the BI-Server must be the same version or older than the BI-Server version you use. Anything else violates the Einstein-rules and may bring you in deep trouble.

Not hacker-proof: Getting a Social Security Number in Ireland

Right now I’m sitting in the local Welfare office to get a PPS number (thats how the Social Security Number is called here), otherwise I would not be able to legally earn any money here. Not that I would have problems earning money illegaly, its just that the local law-enforcement community gets a bit bitchy after a while in that case.

As Ireland, like all english speaking countries lacks organization and oversight when it comes to registering and controlling people, there exists no central citizen registration. Yeah, if they would accept a few lessons from Germany or France leaders like Bush (now Obama) or Blair could learn a valuable lesson on how to create a police state efficently. A social security number makes you a “real” citizen here – its needed to get a Job and maybe for all kind of other identifying purposes as well.

To get one of these numbers, all you need is a proof of address and a proof of identity.

Getting the proof of address is easy – just give them a utility bill. As there are no checks on your identity, any name will work, as long as your landlord believes your claim, that your mother named you “Donald Duck” . Given some basic people-skills, that should be easy to do.

The proof of identity is a bit more difficult. If you claim to be neither British nor Irish citizen, the Welfare-office requires a passport. Getting hold of one named “Donald Duck” is probably a bit too difficult to be carried out by novice con-artists. But getting a fake Windsor or scottish accent is not hard, and then you can take the easy route: British or Irish citizens need a birth certificate and a photographic ID (any ID!).

Birth-certificates are easy to “produce”. Either copy one – heck, they are plain paper and not meant to be tamper proof – or reapply for one choosing a suitable photographic ID. Be aware that this particular step may upset the law-enforcement community again, so be sure to do it right or to not do it. (Of course, as a good citizen I do not encourage any illegal activities of any kind. And if you have to do such things, then for heavens sake make sure that you at least prepare well.)

So how to get the photographic ID? Make one yourself. There are plenty of companies that offer services to produce company staff IDs or IDs for staff members for local events. They dont even check much on the background – so as long as you dont want to produce IDs from well-known locale companies you shall be fine. Just make sure, the ID you produce has a “official” looking name and appearance. If everything fails, register at the local library, in case they have a photo-ID for their members.

So once you have the ID, the birth certificate and the fake scottish accent, you are fine to apply for a PPS number. Welcome, newborn irish citizen “Donald Duck”.

Year of the Mass-Elections in Germany

A few days ago the US closed the book of having a Bush clan member as president for the next 4 years (after that, there is still a unburned Bush active in Florida), and Barack Obama slowly gets the old folks from the Clinton area back into the seats of power. All the mud-throwing and mutual cut-throat competition, name calling and general power stuggles are great to distract people from the real issues, so lets not stop them in 2009: Germany joins the club of democracy-simulating countries by throwing in 8 elections this year.

Of course, the election for the European Parliament really does not matter anymore. As soon as Ireland agrees (this way or another) to the Treaty of Lisbon, the parliament will be reduced in its importance to a old men’s club. Then Europe finally has a chance to overcome the insane ideas of 1789, and the parliament will only be allowed to comment, but no longer to veto or even influence legislations issued by the European Commision. So its only 7 elections that count.

For Germany, the main question will be: Will the long bearded evil guys or the criminals win?

The long bearded guys.
Over the last years, governments all around the world worked hard to slim their processes down (by removing controlling organs and participation) in order to increase the efficiency of our society. Removing oversight always unlocks the progressive forces in a free market and is guaranteed to make people rich*.

So in this country, in this year, we have to choose sides: Do we want known criminals deconstruct our society via full scale surveillance, police state tactics and a general “take from the poor, give to the rich” behavioral pattern, or do we want a change towards a true multi-party system, instead of having the “mult-party, single agenda” system of the CDSPU?
So far, it seems realistic that neither the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU**) nor the Social Democratic Party (SPD***) wont get a majority. The fun will start, if both get not enough votes to even form a 2-party coalition. If that happens, I will throw a party.

* Not all of course. If all people have the same amount of money, no one would be rich.

** Neither the words Democratic nor Christan has no meaning here. Its just a marketing gag, really.

*** Social-Democratic should not be mixed with either “social” or “democratic”. Meanings changed, and in the same way, the “War ministry” is now called “Defence ministry” words no longer tell the truth.

How to become Dollar Millionare

(1) Take 10 Euros and place it in your cupboard
(2) Wait until the FED drives down the dollar with unreasonable bailouts of Wallstreet banks
(3) Cash in your Euro to receive your dollars.

Hmmm … When I said I want to become millionaire anytime soon, I hoped to be able to afford a caribean island or so. Now I could be happy to get a coffee at Starbucks for that amount of money. Thanks Mr. Bernanke and Mr. Paulson for messing up my plans!

Jobsecurity for Spies

Imagine you are an agent for the ministry of homeland security.
Imagine you are an agent nobody likes as everybody knows that “everything you said can and will be used against you” while the agent is around.
Imagine you’ve heard that everyone has fun playing online games.

And now, after a stressful day of hunting Mr. Bin Laden you want to play it too. But you want to play it while on duty.

What do you do?

You come up with a secret plot how “terrorists” could use the game to plan and coordinate attacks. Like this, for instance.

And now you can convince your boss that all the time spent training your Dwarfen Wizzard is actually helping to catch Mr. Bin Laden (a ugly looking Orc, of course :)) …

Two weeks offline and the world goes crazy ..

Exactly at the day the commercial-mega-event called Olympia started, I decided to not endure that kind of non-sense and to make a trip to the British Main-Island. Getting out of Europe for a while is relaxing.

In Edinburgh I learned that you can get a nice little tomb for just 100 pound. (David Hume stated that he wanted to be buried on the Calton Hill, but as he was a true scottsman, he ordered that the cost of his tomb shall not exceed 100 pound. Nowadays, the fine for dropping dead in a non-designated area for dropping dead is probably much higher than 100 pound.) With two or three festivals going on at the same time, I’m not entirely sure that I’ve actually seen natives anywhere. I guess most of this shy population moved into shelters on the highlands to wait until the tourist invasion (including me) is gone.

There’s not much to say about our next stop: Southampton. If you have ever been to communist-area east-germany, then the picture is familiar. Most shops on the main-street were owned by a chain called “To Let”, although they did not seem to offer much to sell there. The people in the streets were depressed and just to imagine living there sent me cold shivers down the spine. The constant rain did not help to lighten up our mood there.

And finally, London, was – as usual – a better place. Roaming the northern and western parts of Greater London, we were truely amazed how many green spots and lovely neightbourhoods you can find there. Although we avoided the southern and eastern areas (as this was not meant to become a adventure trip), London turns out to be a sweet spot to live. And speaking about expensive living: If you have the patience and don’t trust the High-Street lettings agencies, then it is quite possible to find affordable homes. They key is simply: Dont trust the glossy internet and paper ads of the large agencies, speak to the smaller local agencies instead.

But comming home and opening my news crawler, the world does no longer look so bright. Georgia attacked Ossetia (which is protected by Russian Peace Forces under a UN-mandate), and naturally got heavily slapped. As Georgia plays a important role as transit country for oil and gas from Asia to Europe, the country automatically is counted as democracy. Therefore the NATO, the US and some countries of the EU stepped up to defend that garden of freedom. (Give us a couple of years with our own governments, and all NATO members will have the same high standard of freedom of speach as Georgia.)

For now, it seems as if the NATO and Russia are heading towards a new cold-war (that’s the positive alternative) or a real war, if we insist of supporting that war-monger. But then again, attacking without cause is common nowadays, and if the US can invade countries for no real reason, Georgia can surely do the same. It really does not help the cause that Poland is a base for the US missle shield. And we Europeans would probably be in a better position, if the majority of our gas would not come from Russia. In times like these, you learn to apprechiate the global warming, as it helps to reduce our dependency for gas.

On the economic side of life, Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac seem to struggle whether to bite the dust sooner or later. If they wait any longer, and their shares fall further they probably won’t have enough money to buy the rope to hang themselfes. But letting them drown may or may not be a viable option, as China seems to be a bit upset if they would loose money in that process.

Is it time to worry? Traders of physical gold and silver report an very high demand from people who want to buy. But nonetheless, the gold price goes down. Yes, both switzerland (1000 tons) and the European Central Bank (500 tons) sell their gold deposits like crazy, yet still that does not explain the falling prices, as many fonds seem to play games with the market right now. But once the crisis hits as hard as 1929, then being in the possession of gold may be a act of treason (as it was in the US until 1974). So *if* you intend to buy gold, do it in a country with free markets, like Switzerland.

Nuclear power is safe*

*except for certain black-out dates

Yesterday, once more nuclear power has been proven to be to dangerous to be handled by humans. At the site of nuclear plant of Tricastrine, about 360kg Uranium leaked into the local water system.

So far, that’s nothing big, such things happen from time to time. Eventually, we get used to it. But it shows, that not only the plants itself are a can of worms, but all activities around the nuclear power production chain can have devastating long term effects.

The radioactive half-life time of Uranium-235 is 704 million years. So in only 352 million years, the radioactive pollution in that area will be down to half of the level it is today. Great, so your grand-grand-grand-(repeat 10 million times)-grand-kids will be lucky enough to live in a somewhat healthy area again.

But this incident must not be seen as a singular incident. Nuclear waste is generally disposed in rock salt and old salt mines. The salt is supposed to keep the waste dry and to prevent any contamination of the ground water. So far the theory. Newer research showed, that this disposal schema is not safe at all. Nuclear waste still generates heat as the nuclear processes never stop. Research now has shown that salt rock deforms when being exposed to constant temperatures of 100 degree celsius and more. Although the experiments were conducted in a laboratory only, the result indicates a great risk of storing large amounts of nuclear waste in such salt mines for  a couple of thousand years. As a result, the only safe way to store nuclear waste is to monitor it actively for the next … 350 million years.

(Home work exercise:  Calculate the full costs of 1.70 MWh nuclear power under the unrealistic assumption that energy companies are paying for *all* clean-up costs for as long as the nuclear waste is dangerous to humans. 1.70 MWh equals one barrel oil.)

During the last years, nuclear power plants have been proven less safe than advertised. In 2006 at  Ringhals nuclear power plant in Sweden, a fire shut down the plant and a faulty emergency power aggregate almost lead to a melt-down. The emergency power is required to safely shut down the plant in case of black-outs. Without a safe shutdown, a melt-down is the guaranteed result.

The very same security architecture was installed in the German nuclear plants in Brunsbüttel and Krummel (link in German), which also had to be shut down after a fire and short-circuits in the emergency power system.

And just in June this year, a Europe wide nuclear alert was issued after a accident in a Slowenian nuclear plant.

Despite the fact that Germany has a rather strict monitoring of the security of nuclear power plants, the list of incidents and accidents in German nuclear power plants is still impressive.

How many Chernobyl-style disasters have to happen, before we realize that the risk and long term costs  do not justify the short-term profit of nuclear power.

Germany, Sweden and Spain agreed to stop using nuclear power within the next years.

Italy had been a nuclear free zone for the last 20-years, but due to the current power-holder Silvio Berlusconi Italy will most likely return to use nuclear power in 2013.

So the question is: What do you value higher: Short-term solutions to well-known energy problems which everyone chose to ignore for the last decades or long-term safety and a healthy environment.

Why OpenSource is the thing that changes the world

During a TED conference back in 2005, Yochai Benkler gave a great talk about why OpenSource and the whole social production schemas we saw emerging during the last years are a revolution as big as the transition of agricultural societies into the industrial age.

We in the OpenSource crowd of course know that our path is leading to a bright future. But if you go out and randomly select one of the many OpenSource community members to explain, why this thing is THE BIG THING, you probably end up drowned in words but you wont be smarter than before. Until now, I haven’t found a explanation as clear and simple as the one given in this 17 minutes talk.

Watch the  recorded conference talk.

It’s election time: Lets bash the poor!

Starting this year and continuing next year, Germany entered a series of state-government elections that will find its culmination in the federal elections next year. OK, given the fact that both major parties were to weak to dominate the politics and (fortunately) to stubborn to put their differences aside, the last three years were a low-intensity election campaign.

After the technocratic reign of Gerhard Schöder (who not only managed to trash the social security systems by granting tax breaks for the rich and boosting the replacement of ordinary jobs into a new low-wage job sector (low wage jobs are exempt from paying taxes and from contributing to the social security system), the Social Democrats got massively slapped for their right-wing politics. As the “social” party’s actions were indistinguishable from the actions the conservative and neo-conservative parties would have done if in power, these parties got slapped in 2005 as well (for not only allowing but actually actively supporting this policy). With both major parties throttling each other, the government was finally busy just blaming each other than doing yet another reform. This way, the country at least got a break.

But with the formation of a new left-wing party to fill the gap the declining social-democratic and conservative parties, everything is open now. The new party already is strong enough to win a massive number of seats in the parliaments – and it’s movement still growing. To the traditional parties that used to be in power since the end of the war, this possible loss of influence is horrible. Loosing 20% of their market share within two years is a shocking experience. And shocked people tend to react in strange ways. But listen:

Of course, (despite the fact that banks are crashing and the weak dollar is a deadly thing for the export-oriented German economy) we are at the beginning of a boom. (Remember: Its election time, so truth is one of the few things you can’t expect from the propaganda system right now. If you’d only listen to the media coverage, you would have known that we have been at the beginning of the boom since the dot-com bubble crashed.) And so, officially, the number of unemployed people is as low as never before in the last 20 years. Right now, the official number tells that 3.413.921 are officially unemployed. This is the number you’ll hear throughout repeated by politicans and media all the time. But reading the statistic tells a different story: 1.531.940 people were “employed” in so called trainings and employment incentives and therefor do not count as unemployed. The effect of these trainings is proven to be equal to nothing, but hey, we cannot afford the negative image of 5 million unemployed people.

(Compared to March 2005, the number of people receiving well-fare or unemployment support did not change much; it went up from 7.977.502 in March 2005 to 8.027.980 in April 2008. But we are in a boom! You just have to believe in it and it will become true.)

According to the report of April 2008 a total number of 8.027.980 persons depended on additional well-fare subsidiaries for their survival. Given the official 40 million people that form the German workforce, this means that 20% of the people out there either have no jobs or cannot live from the minimum wage jobs they have. Of course, Germany does not have minimum wage laws, as this would harm the market. Therefore in some regions where hourly rates of 2 to 3 Euro for full-time jobs have become common.

The social-democratic*  changes of the poor-laws already introduced lowest-wage work throughout the country. Nowadays, it is common (especially in the declining traditional industries) to find yourself replaced by temporary workers or subsidized workers from one of the many employment incentives. Why pay 15 or 20 Euro, if you can get workers that are forced to work (quitting or getting fired means you would not get well-fare support anymore) and that are guaranteed to not complain? And of course, these forced-labor workers have no union-rights, no job-security or any other protection a regular worker might enjoy.

The negative impact of that policy now starts to become widely visible. The costs for the social security explode, as the income generating high-wage jobs erode and cost-generating low-wage jobs grow like cancer.

In that situation and with a clear road to destruction ahead, what is the most stupid thing you can do? Right: More of the same bad medicine. The latest plans (as usual paid for by the Bertelsmann foundation, a neo-conservative think-tank of the worst kind) outline a model where everyone who receives well-fare is forced into a low-wage job. But as there are not enough of these jobs, the industry should be allowed to participate on these programs. Of course, the industry would never ever think of replacing their regular workers with these slaves. Never, especially as the plan forces the industry to offer the products created by this system not under a minimum price that is equal to the price of the product when created by regular workers. Or in other words: they get a guaranteed profit margin for all the troubles they have.

Of course, this only speeds up the decline of the whole social system, and makes sure that the Inverted-Robin-Hood principle comes true: Take it from the poor, give it to the rich. Or as all criminals know: It is easier to extract small amounts of money from a million persons than to extract millions from a bunch or rich persons.

The study itself talks about the positive effects a similar system had in the US. Hmmm .. funny, Michael Moore tells otherwise. And even such old studies like Gabriel Kolbs “Wealth and Power in America: An Analysis of Social Class and Income Distribution” (1962) tell us, that only one third of the unemployed are covered by social security and that 35-40% of the families in the US were forced to live below the maintainance standard (which is the minimum income needed to maintain a sustainable living) a while 12-25% even lived below the emergency standard (which is the minimum income needed to survive for a short time) (Source: Wikipedia). Well, if the future our politicans want to achieve looks like the past and current state of the U.S., then our society will be back in the same dark times as before the war, with extreme differences between the poor and the rich and no or only minimal connection or exchange between these two worlds.

What a brave new world we build.

* I use the term ‘social-democrat’ loosely here, as the words ‘social’ and ‘democratic’ should not to be mixed with the party or social system we have today. Calling the ‘social-democratic’ party social is like calling the roman-catholic church a progressive think-tank.