Mini Blog November 2005
The Mini Blog entries for November 2005
- 28 Nov 2005: To the right is tangible proof (as if proof were needed) that our British friends will take nothing seriously. Not their National Bard, not his creations, not even their garden gnomes!
If you're of broadly French or German extraction and thought that those colourful lovely little gnomes are a continental, especially a German foible, well, have a nice, relaxed drive through the English countryside, finishing perhaps with a refreshing warm beer at a rural pub… and then think again!
- 25 Nov 2005: Since yesterday pubs in Britain can be open as long as they want (they still need a licence, though). In effect, this means (in case you've never been here before) that those slightly odd calls at 11pm (“Last beers, gentlemen!”) are now a thing of the past. But what strikes me (continental simpleton that I still am) as completely normal seems to be the biggest upheaval for the country since Guy Fawkes and his chums almost blew up Parliament some 400 years ago. What a racket!
It's a huge experiment, with that I agree. But an inevitable one: people will never learn to act responsible if there's always a nanny at their back, telling them what to do and when to stop drinking. Of course, there will be trouble initially… but in the long run, the situation may well grow normal, like in other countries. Binge drinking is a growing problem in Britain and doing nothing about it is no solution either.
- 22 Nov 2005: Amazing. The Germans have a female chancellor. I never was a fan of the conservatives (to put it mildly) but I hope Ms Merkel succeeds. Not least because she seems to be a rather level-headed person and I simply can't imagine (I should know better, of course) that a level-headed person can't change the way the Germans perceive themselves, their undeniable problems and the world at large. But I suspect whatever she does, Ms Merkel will have to be at least twice as good at it as a man (any man will do) would have to be. Sad… but then again this is still a male-dominated world. And Germany, to boot.
- 21 Nov 2005: Sony/BMG is learning the meaning of the term “witch-hunt” the hard way. Amazing to watch the fury which users, lawyers (no surprises here, of course), consumer groups world-wide and even US states (the Attorney General of Texas has just announced a law-suit) unleash against the company. Well done, Sony, and well deserved. Not least because it seems that Sony/BMG, in its quest to protect its own intellectual property (a fair goal, no doubt about that), has employed software that is in itself in breach of copyright conditions. It's all a bit involved but on the face of it it seems that the XCP software on the Sony/BMG audio discs uses several pieces of open source software that are themselves under a specific sort of copyright — and which Sony/BMG did not acknowledge some details and further links).
Says Thomas Hesse, President of Sony/BMG, with a certain disarming logic: “Most people, I think, don't even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?” How arrogant can these corporate wizards get? In fact, I just love the spectacle: never mind what I wrote last Thursday, Sony BMG Music Entertainment (to give them their full name) might indeed become my favourite entertainment company… at least for the next few days:-)
- 17 Nov 2005: Sony was never one of my favourite companies: they like to do it their way (Betamax, ATRAC, BluRay et cetera) and not like all the rest of the world does it (VHS, MP3, HD DVD et cetera). Well, that's clearly corporate policy and as such it's up to them: I simply don't buy their stuff if it's non-standard. But now they (or rather their music business Sony/BMG) have put some software onto their audio CDs (in an attempt to disable illegal copying) that opens all sorts of security holes on the PCs of millions and millions of unsuspecting users (some technical details). The biting irony in this debacle is that this clever piece of Sonyware only ever buggers those stupid people who actually paid for their music CDs. As always, the copy-cats have long found ways and means to disable that sort of “copy protection”. (I have quite a few original Sony/BMG music CDs here and I am certainly not a professional CD cracker: even so, it's a matter of minutes to produce a copy.)
This way of treating honest customers is disgusting, a complete disgrace (and that Sony has not even had the simple decency to offer an apology to its customers only fits the pattern). The good thing is that this saga promises lots of entertainment for the foreseeable future: there are already class-action suits brought against Sony; what's more, the fact that millions of physical CDs with the rootkit software on them will continue to circulate for years on end means that for Sony this problem is not going to go away any time soon. This disaster could cost Sony much more than they have ever thought possible. I certainly hope it does.
- 14 Nov 2005: A certain French reader of my notes has let it be known (and in no uncertain terms) that my judgment on the French state (rotten) and government (rotten) is too harsh. I contemplated this and I stand by my words as far as the government is concerned: a more corrupt and rotten government than M. Chirac's is not easy to find in Western and Central Europe (hint to myself: begin search in Italy). I well remember all the sleaze, the black accounts saga, how M. Chirac only escaped several potentially very embarrassing court appearances because a sitting president can't be brought to justice…
But I will readily admit that the French state in itself is not rotten (I wrote it that way because it sounded better:-), shame on me). The Fifth Republic is not a very balanced thing in my view: too much power for a single person (the current De-Gaulle) and, as we all know since Lord Acton: power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely. So let's just say that the French state is sometimes perhaps a little too stubborn, a touch backwards, and could in general be slightly more tolerant of the ways of others. There's also what I would call the “Illusions of Grandeur” problem: the French state believes to be a powerful and all-encompassing entity whereas the harsh reality is that any tiny trade union can force an embarrassing climb-down. (I checked back whether this wording would be more acceptable: it seems so. Phew!)
- 10 Nov 2005: Not a bad day: Tony Blair's got what he deserved in the Commons. That's one of the things I like about Britain: the tolerance, the live and let live. And the idea to put suspects behind bars for a full 90 days (ninety days!) without charging them is just preposterous.
- 08 Nov 2005: Just heard that some Iranian newspaper (Iranians, of all people!) is berating France (aka The Republic of Paristan) about possible human rights violations by the police during the on-going riots. Can well imagine how our beloved M. “call me Mr Pompous” Chirac will react to this affront. After all, it was the French Revolution that brought us The Human Rights (though even back then the French had a certain penchant for violence and the sound of rolling heads).
- 07 Nov 2005: Weather's splendid but for once the sunshine fails to enlighten me: just heard that John Fowles, one of my two, three favourite authors, has had it. Half sad and half amused about that and the timing, as I had read, just the other day, about a bunch of people prepraring some big thing for his 80th which would have been due next March. A good man… at least he had the decency to leave some good books behind. Later had a good laugh: the NY Times sorts him into the “postmodernist” edge — just as well that he doesn't have to read that.
- 04 Nov 2005: The French are one thing, France is another: it's a rotten state with a rotten government. I always knew this but M. Sarkozy seems hell-bent on making this clear beyond doubt. Perhaps he should stop digging, the hole's deep enough already.
- 01 Nov 2005: Here I am at my boring desk, back from four weeks on Cyprus (that's the reason why there's no blog for October). A rather paradisal island, with lots of sunshine and lots of fruits I have never seen before (no, I'm not talking about pomegranates: we saw some really strange things there, like strawberry-look-alikes on trees (firmer than real strawberries but rather tasty) or a yellow fruit, just the size of an olive, but with two or three solid stones and tasting not unlike an apple). Or these strange green thingies that looked suspiciously like some GM food straight out of the fridges of USS Enterprise… Not to talk about all the stuff we knew: grapes, almonds, bananas, grapefruit, oranges… the trees were replete with produce, often so much of it that it rotted away on the ground.
So let me say something very naughty now: the Cypriots (Turk and Greek alike) are very friendly people overall, but as long as they won't get on with each other they don't deserve this feast.
$updated from: Mini Blog November 2005.htxt Sat 18 Jan 2014 13:12:47 thomasl (By Thomas Lauer)$