Life is for Living

This blog is to collect random thoughts that don't really have a structure, except a publishing chronology, and even that is unlikely to follow the creation chronology.

My Photo

Calm, excited, weak, strong, funny, serious, lazy, worker, irresponsible, thinker, shallow, selfish, generous, spontaneous, impulsive, undecided, poor, rich, tall(ish), ignorant, cultured, sophisticated, procrastinator, stoopid, clever. Pick any two, or more... ;-) 
One of my favorite quotes: "Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well reserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming... 'Wow! What a ride!' "

Generally interested in a lot of subjects:
- Artificial Intelligence (mostly because there's so little Natural Intelligence around)
- 3D printing
- DIY projects (including home foundry, electronics, general hacking)
- Scuba diving
- Mountaineering
- Paragliding
- Music
- Arts (mostly visual arts) including street art
- Dance
- Intentional communities
- Society in general, how to fix the current mess in particular, or rather how to escape it

Saturday, August 31, 2013

World War Three ?

My thoughts after watching this video:
I think it's oversimplified and dramatized for effects, leaves out a few key points, but overall pretty accurate. That's the world history since 1945 seen in an American-centric way. A lot of the events he cites are accurate (adoption of the $ as universal trading currency, drop of gold convertibility, 1st invasion of Iraq after the tentative use of Euro and/or gold for trading).

A lot gets left out, as if actions by other world players did not alter what's happening. In particular Asia, Russia, Europe and the greater Palestine area.

I'm not too upset by the fact that some general had plans to "invade seven middle east countries in five years". What else should army generals do? Plan tea parties? That's their job, what they're paid for: plan wars. The fact that these wars get declared is a political decision, so far, not a military one.

It's very difficult to plan events long in advance. But events arise from a context. If you militarize a country, a region, and incite religious division, prevent peaceful settlements, heighten problems and exacerbate tensions, violence is going to inevitably erupt. If you have military forces in place, instead of embassies and grass-root level organizations, your only means of action is war. It's the old saying about every problem being a nail when all you have is a hammer...

The militaro-industrial complex is a good example of what I'm talking about. Aside from a few lunatics, no-one wants war. Yet many people work for the military industry (outside of purely military jobs). The arms manufacturing sector is thriving. If you ask individuals in that branch of the industry whether their goal is to achieve war, they'll probably be offended that you could even think their contribution to that effort is meaningful.
Yet the concerted effort of all involved results in the production of massive amounts of war-mongering machinery that HAS TO be sold in order for all to be gainfully employed. 
Stockpiling weapons does not produce enough demand, so their use is inevitable...

Don't have time to add more, but I welcome the discussion and will reply later.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Sunday breakfast...

Sunday breakfast... by ParaScubaSailor
Sunday breakfast..., a photo by ParaScubaSailor on Flickr.
... that I wish I'd had on Saturday.

On Saturday morning, I met with my cousin and some of her friends for breakfast on the beachfront, She had booked a table at Blue Waters Cafe, and it was a magnificent morning. There were lots of people milling about, as usual on a beautiful Sunday in Port Elizabeth, quite a few divers too.
The view from the balcony or the dining room is stunning. When the waitress gave us the menus, I chose the "Salmon Breakfast". Scrambled eggs and salmon on wholewheat toast with cottage cheese and capers sounded very appetizing.
A few minutes later, we were advised by the kitchen that they had run out of wholewheat bread, would we mind brown bread? What was our choice?
Anyway, the company was good, which was fortunate, as the breakfasts arrived after a looooong wait.
And what a disappointment it was!
A white plate you get in most canteens, with two slices of toast in the middle and a couple of lumpy scrambled eggs speckled with pinkish bits, and a tiny bowl with cheese mixed with bits of capers.
It really looked like nothing. Talk about unmet expectations...
Then, at the end of the meal, the waitress came to us with an iPad to "get our feedback", but the feedback form had no question about the food, it looked designed to catch the service personnel that was not friendly enough.
Wake up!!! How difficult is it to serve something that matches the surroundings?

Sunday, March 04, 2012


... if I don't burn
if you don't burn
if we don't burn
how will darkness turn to light?

From Fazil Say's oratorio "Nazim".

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"Real" democracy.

I made a big discovery this week. After following a few links on YouTube recordings of public interventions and debates of people like Alain Soral, Pierre Jovanovic, François Asselineau and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, I landed on a conference by Étienne Chouard: "Sommes-nous en démocratie ?" (Are we in a democracy?)

This is quite a revelation. I have been saying for quite a while that the representative regime in which we live is a trap: the only freedom the average citizen has is to elect the politicians that are going to fleece him (or her). The fact that the political class is composed of people that are distinct from "the 99%" basically guarantees that these politicians will not try to fundamentally change anything to the current system.

The main thing I learnt from the above conference (and a few others with Étienne Chouard), is that what the Athenians called Democracy was quite different from the regime we call of the same name. The key element that made Democracy work was the random selection of "officials", drawn from the pool of "ordinary" citizens. Mandates were short, and limited to one. This ensured that the rich had very little chance of colluding with people in positions of power. The (real) Democracy lasted for over 200 years in Athens, and while one must be careful not to idealise that regime (they also had their flaws: racism, bigotry and slavery were some of the more salient characteristics we'd better avoid), it did not fail for political reasons, but simply because they lost a war.

Compare this to our government by representation. What has it really achieved for the majority of the people? Do politicians represent the people that elect them, or the moneyed 1% that finance them?

The current politicians get elected on the wrong criteria, more time and energy get spent discussing the merits of the candidates (that are mostly all the same anyway) than the features of propositions, on which there is little chance of the general public weighing in any significant way. The debate then centers around which candidate has the whitest smile, the shiniest suit, or the best hidden extramarital affairs rather than how to improve the situation for all. The candidates make vague promises, and there is no way for the citizens to force their representatives to follow through.

This state of affairs is the same in any modern representative form of government. Etienne Chouard's contention is that the common point to all these regimes is the way the constitution was drafted: mostly by an elite either elected or hoping to be elected. They made sure the constitution absolves them of responsibilities, this being most visible in the European constitution, where most of the power gets given to the commission (short for the commission of ministers), with little counter-powers.

In practice, Chouard proposes to select the constitution commission by a random process. A "short" list gets drawn up by simply having citizens nominating whomever they think could be a member of the commission. They can nominate as many people as they want. People currently in an elected position would be ineligible, as would be professional politicians, syndicate representatives, and TV or media people. A process would then eliminate names that were nominated too few times (less than two or three times?) and people that were nominated too many times (more than a thousand? five thousand?). This would constitute the short list. A totally random process would then draw a hundred (or five hundred? more? less?) names of the people that would then draft the constitution. The members of that commission would be ineligible to any political appointment or government job, other than the one they had before becoming a member of the commission.
This insures total impartiality, and that they will not have any temptation to build mechanisms in the constitution that would favor an elite.

Input from specialists and the general public could (and most likely should) be sought, in a similar way to what happened lately in Iceland.

Friday, November 04, 2011

I first started writing this after clicking on the "Send feedback" button on my Google Plus page, but this is not a bug or problem report, more of a statement of what I would like G+ to feel like, and I'm not sure the "Send feedback" feature is designed for that. It certainly doesn't feel like it. When viewing my Stream, all items are listed chronologically, and since most of the time I'm not watching the Stream continuously, I miss "important" items. Similarly, when scrolling rapidly through the items, the "important" ones don't immediately jump at me. I put "important" in quote marks, as what I define important is different to what most other users define important. My desire and vision on how G+ should work is that there needs to be some measure of "importance" of posts. The first measure would be the circles. Does the author belong to one of my "special" circles? If so, the item should scroll much slower in the Stream (take longer to disappear). In the ideal world (a few years from now?), the Stream would be divided in columns (streams?), corresponding to the circles, and items would fall at different speeds in those columns. If items gathered a lot of +1s, they would be slowed a lot, especially if they were +1d by my circle of friends. The top of the columns would be quite close to me, and their foot would recede in the distance, down below. They'd still be visible, just much smaller, packed more tightly together. I would also like to see less of the items that are reposted in different circles with not much addition. Right now they show up as duplicates in my Stream, because several of my circle-friends are reposting them. I would like to not see that, or to have some aggregation done on my Stream that would show me that one particular item was reposted multiple times. It might at first have slid to the back of its column, and even quite far down, but if enough people repost it, it would climb back up, and be brought more to the front. All this supposes a screen of a decent size, with enough resolution to scale the size of items smoothly between "normal" reading size at the top, to very small at the bottom so as to pack more items. My mobile phone would not be capable to display that, at least not now. In a few years, the mobile phone display will probably be virtual (a projection on a surface away from the phone, or floating in the space in front of my field of vision). Right now, I seldom use my mobile phone to browse the Internet, or even G+, and don't expect doing so for quite a while: when I'm out and about, my attention is far from Internet and Internet-related things.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Working, what for?

There were a few items in the news lately that have coalesced to bring a few issues into focus for me. One of those was fairly discrete, a side item that did not make headlines, but that reflects a general attitude: a gentleman employed by EDF (the historical French National Electricity provider, now privatized) was complaining that his job was going to disappear. His task consists in inspecting the electricity counters to record the consumption of the users. His complaint is that this is a job that could be done by children during school holidays, and people without much education, and these counters are now being replaced by models that can be read, and controlled, remotely. When he soon retires, his post is not going to be filled by a new person. He was also bemoaning people that use automated teller equipment at the supermarket, thereby eliminating the jobs of cashiers. To me, the issue is not one of the maintain of low-level jobs, but of wealth distribution. When suppressing jobs, the additional profits are typically appropriated by the capital owners. This in turn derives from the balance of power between the working class and the capital owners. As long as the power balance remains the way it is now, nothing will fundamentally change. The working class will remain exploited by the owners class. Changing the faces in the political class will not introduce any significant change to the balance of power.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Frustrating dinosaur.

There are fights I'd rather not pick. Mostly because the problem will go away by itself. Unfortunately, it takes time, a lot of time...

"This Painting is Not Available in Your Country"

This is emblematic of the territorial rights that kings held over their subjects. Why would kings go to war? Mostly to gain more territory, meaning more people to subject to taxation.

We get hammered that globalization is inevitable, and we should just accept it. Except that when we act globally, we get quickly reminded that we shouldn't.

My most recent frustration is with PayPal. I've been purchasing more and more items over the Internet, and even started using Ebay lately (looking for a decently priced oscilloscope). To make things easier, I decided to open an account on PayPal. When trying to enter my address in the US, I realised that was just not possible.

Along the way, I got this priceless language trap:
Paypal - unHelpfull Center

After an email exchange with one of their support personnel, the solution I was proposed was to open one account per country. Of course, a credit card with a bank in that country is needed...
Do it OUR way

What happened to FaceBook came to my mind: a few weeks ago, they were the biggest, no one could imagine another company taking over that social market. PayPal is in that category, and we're getting tired of the "too big to fail" not failing.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Climate change and energy companies.

Very interesting article on Good that looks at how the companies that were (and some are still publicly) denying climate change are planning for... climate change!

In parallel to that, there was a report of an oil pipeline burst in the Yellowstone river, in Montana. Trust them, they are operating for the public good!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Getting ready for the plesidential erection.

A few days ago, while at the public library, my gaze fell upon a most interesting book title: "How to shovel manure - and other life lessons for the country woman".
Everybody wants to live in the great outdoors, it seems, and on hearing the BS spewed by politicians on the approach of the plesidential erection, I thought this book certainly would have many an advice for the immediate future.

Politicians (May the fleas of a thousand camels infest their genitals and their fingers turn to fish-hooks) are positioning themselves for this race, and advertising, media and other propaganda executives rub their hands in delight.

The amounts spent during the campaign get little attention beyond the sensational magnitude. Who pays these costs?
But more importantly, what is the use of the campaign? Impartial electorate information ?


Que se vayan todos!

Préparation à l'érection plésidentielle...

En passant dans une bibliothèque, il y a quelques jours, mon regard a été attiré par le titre de ce livre:
Pour ceux qui ne parlent pas en Glais, je traduirais ce titre par "Comment peller le fumier - et autres leçons de vie pour la campagnarde".
Il est de notoriété publique que le provincial moyen veut habiter à la campagne, ainsi, les préceptes de ce manuel pratique me semblent-ils tout à fait adaptés en vue de l'érection plésidentielle qui approche à grand pas.
Les hommes politiques (Que les morpions d'un millier de chameaux leur envahissent le pubis, et leurs doigts se changent en hameçons) se positionnent pour cette course Ò combien illustre, et les publicitaires, journaleux et autres industries de propagande se frottent les mains.
On entend parler ici et là du prix, sans cesse augmentant, des campagnes politiques. Qui paie ces coûts?
Bien plus important: à quoi sert la campagne? A informer de façon impartiale l'électorat?
Que se vayan todos!

Monday, April 18, 2011

About the Wunch of Bankers...

I wanted to keep track of a couple of articles...


Damn them all!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Overall, has capitalism made the world a better place?

One of the websites I frequent had this question. My (short) answer was:

No. The world has become a better place DESPITE capitalism. People make the world a better place, not a political system. Name ONE thing capitalism invented that made a positive impact in the world (sub-prime loans? hedge funds? credit default swaps?)

This is none of the subjects that get me fired-up quite regularly, and there was no space to expand on it on that website, so I thought I would write about it here.

Image from Wikipedia

First of all, how can we reasonably evaluate what contribution capitalism had to the world current state?
I suggest to limit the scope of this discussion, first of all in time, to the "beginning" of capitalism: the generalisation of private ownership of the means of production, around the fourteenth century. Second, the geographic scope of the discussion. Far from wanting to limit it to England or Europe, I would like to observe the effects of capitalism on the whole world.
Here are my justifications for doing so:
- On the time frame: ownership of the means production (mostly land) was largely distributed between Royalty, Church and Commons before that time. The twelfth and thirteenth centuries saw the development of the castes of merchants, artisans and industrial producers. The ownership of human labour (in the form of slaves at first), became widespread as money started circulating and enabled the owner's class to purchase labour power.
- On the geographic frame: a lot of simplifications are made, treating uncomfortable consequences as "externalities", but as has been demonstrated amply lately, globalisation makes the whole world the stage for our antics.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Ma Révolution de Nouvel An.

Tous les ans, j'entends des gens se plaindre déjà à la deuxième semaine de l'année de n'avoir pu tenir leur promesse d'aller à la salle de gym, ou de manger moins. J'étais sûr que c'étaient donc des sujets à éviter. En fin de compte, c'était assez facile de déterminer quelle devait être mon but pour l'année, particulièrement parce que c'est un processus que j'ai amorcé à la fin de 2010. En septembre, plus exactement. Septembre, en France, est le mois où les impôts sur le revenu doivent être payés.
J'ai seulement versé 75% de ce que le gouvernement dit que je leur dois. Mon raisonnement est qu'ils gaspillent déjà bien trop de NOTRE argent, si on continue à leur donner ce qu'ils veulent, ils ne changeront jamais rien de fondamental.

Nous avons besoin de progrès. De réformes. Sur les impôts de l'an dernier, j'ai retenu 25% du montant. Cette année, je vais retenir 50%, l'an prochain 75% et je laisse les mathématiciens calculer ce que je ferai l'année d'après.

Rage against the machine...
Si vous voulez en savoir plus sur ce qui m'a motivé, lisez ma lettre aux Ministre du Budget, Ministre des Finance et Percepteur de Thonon-les-Bains ...

My New Year Revolution.

Every year, people complain on the second week of January about having failed to keep up with going to the gym, or eating less. So I knew those were subjects to be avoided. In the end, it was fairly easy do decide what my goal for the year would be, especially since it was something I started at the end of 2010. In September, more exactly. September, in France, is the month where income tax payments have to be made.
I only paid 75% of what the gummint said I owed them. My reasoning is that they waste far too much of OUR money as it is, if we keep giving them what they want, they'll never change anything fundamental.

We need progress. On last year's taxes, I withdrew 25% of the amount, this year I'm going to withdraw 50%, next year 75%, and I'll let the mathematically inclined figure out the amount for the year after that.

Rage against the machine...

If you want to know more about this, you might want to read my letter to the Budget Minister, Finance Minister and Tax collector. It's in French, but if I have enough requests, I'll translate it.

Monday, December 06, 2010


Yup, the web is abuzz these days with the release of the diplomatic "secrets". There are a lot of reports about the DNS failure of the domain, soon replaced by the, and wikileaks.xx and and mirrors popping up all over the place.
That prompted me to make a small donation to Julian Asanje's defense fund:
From my gesture, you can conclude I support open gummint, accountability to citizens and control of the demos.
I'm quite pleased that the French gummint is trying to kick WikiLeaks from the servers that host it (those servers are on French soil), as it shows they have something to fear from the revelations. So far, most publications have covered fairly innocuous comments regarding our national midget. Nothing new there. I particularly look forward to cables pertaining to the Terrorist sinking of the Rainbow Warrior in 1985, perpetrated by the French gummint, and the Terrorist attacks on French citizens in Pakistan when France stopped paying back-handers that were financing political parties for the 1995 election campaign...

Monday, November 01, 2010

Wasn't aware of this argument, until now...

While randomly browsing xkcd, I came across a very convincing argument against kooky phenomenons of all sorts (mostly religious):

Monday, October 18, 2010

Les pôvres sont-ils cons parcequ'ils sont pôvres, ou les cons sont-ils pôvres parcequ'ils sont cons?

Question un peu provocatrice, mais née de la frustration de constater que malgré les actions de notre nabot national, suivant ses promesses électorales, une portion non négligeable de l'électorat Français se prépare à voter pour l'extrême droite aux prochaines élections présidentielles de 2012.
Est-il utile de continuer à lutter pour une amélioration de la société Française, si ceux pour lesquels l'amélioration souhaitée se laissent convaincre si facilement de voter pour la droite (extrême, au premier tour, puis "modérée" au deuxième)?
La peur des cocos est-elle si forte, la lutte des classes si oubliée que la majorité de la classe ouvrière vote pour le parti qui va les exploiter, ou les livrer aux exploiteurs?
Il me semble évident qu'une des raisons de la désaffection avec la gôche vient de la réalisation que les politiciens de tous bords appartiennent à la klasse politike: tous se nourrissent à la même auge, remplie par la klasse possédante.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

La monnaie...

Voilà pas mal de temps que j'essaie de trouver quelque information au sujet de la monnaie. La monnaie est un concept compliqué, débordant dans de nombreux champs d'activité (presque tous les domaines d'une vie humaine, en fait).
Il y a quelques années, j'étais tombé au hasard d'une ballade sur le net, sur la transcription d'un discours que Douglas Adams avait fait en septembre 1998 au Collège Magdelene à Cambridge, où il livrait une réflections sur la monnaie en passant, et l'aspect exclusivement humain de cette invention.
La transcription du discours est disponible à

Le discours et sa transcription sont, bien sûr, en Glais, mais l'effort de compréhension en vaut bien la peine. J'ai cherché une traduction en Français, mais je n'en ai point trouvé. S'il y a assez de personnes intéressées, je m'y attellerai peut-être...

Le titre du discours est "Y a-t-il un Dieu artificiel?" et Douglas Adams y aborde de nombreux sujets, allant de la religion à la science, en passant (brièvement) par la monnaie.

Le passage qui m'intéresse aujourd'hui est celui-ci:

Well, here's another fictitious entity - money. Money is a completely fictitious entity, but it's very powerful in our world; we each have wallets, which have got notes in them, but what can those notes do? You can't breed them, you can't stir fry them, you can't live in them, there's absolutely nothing you can do with them that's any use, other than exchange them with each other - and as soon as we exchange them with each other all sots of powerful things happen, because it's a fiction that we've all subscribed to. We don't think this is wrong or right, good or bad; but the thing is that if money vanished the entire co-operative structure that we have would implode, but if we were all to vanish, money would simply vanish too. Money has no meaning outside ourselves, it is something that we have created that has a powerful shaping effect on the world, because its something we all subscribe to.

Eh bien, voici une autre entité fictive: la monnaie. L'argent est une entité entièrement fictive, mais il est très puissant dans notre monde; nous avons tous des portefeuilles, qui ont des billets de banque dedans, mais que peuvent faire ces billets? Vous ne pouvez pas les élever, vous ne pouvez pas les rôtir, vous ne pouvez pas habiter dedans, il n'y a vraiment rien que vous puissiez faire avec qui ait quelque utilité, autre que de les échanger entre vous. - et dès que nous les échangeons entre nous, tout plein de choses puissantes se passent, parce que c'est une fiction à laquelle nous souscrivons tous. Nous ne pensons pas que c'est juste ou pas, bon ou mauvais; mais le truc c'est que si tout l'argent disparaissait, la structure coopérative toute entière que nous avons imploserait, mais si on disparaissait tous, l'argent tous simplement disparaîtrait aussi. La monnaie n'a aucun sens en dehors de nous, c'est quelque chose que nous avons créé qui a un effet de formation puissant sur le monde, parce que c'est une chose à laquelle nous avons tous souscrit.

Show me the money!

La monnaie est un outil. Comme la majorité des outils, mis à part les armes, c'est un objet neutre. Toutefois, à la différence des outils simples, la monnaie a des potentialités qu'on ne soupçonne pas au premier abord.

What's life worth?

Je passerai sur la présentation classique de la genèse de la monnaie, avec les histoires de coquillages dans les sociétés primitives, pour me concentrer sur les deux fonctions de l'argent: un moyen d'échange et un produit de thésaurisation. Il me semble que le fait que la monnaie remplisse (ou puisse remplir) ces deux fonctions est à la racine de nos problèmes.

Money makes the world go around...
En effet, pour remplir la fonction de moyen d'échange, la monnaie doit être aussi libre de circuler que possible, et largement et facilement disponible. A l'opposé, pour remplir la fonction de thésaurisation, l'argent doit rester rare, et sa circulation doit être restreinte.

D'où, entre autres, la création de monnaies parallèles. Le journal Fakir y a consacré un court article au mois de juillet 2009.

La liberté des individus est fortement conditionnée par le contrôle de la monnaie, son émission, ses conditions d'utilisation et d'acquisition. Nathan Mayer Rothschild a dit: “I care not what puppet is placed upon the throne of England to rule the Empire on which the sun never sets. The man who controls Britain's money supply controls the British Empire, and I control the British money supply.”
("Je me moque de quel pantin est placé sur le trône d'Angleterre pour diriger l'Empire sur lequel le soleil ne se couche jamais. L'homme qui contrôle le flot de monnaie contrôle l'Empire Britannique, et je contrôle le flot de monnaie.")

Cette leçon est bien comprise à la lumière des événements qui secouent l'Union Européenne en ce moment. Les puissants on décidé de faire presser les citoyens Grecs comme des citrons. Ceux qui s'imaginent que cela s'arrêtera là sont d'innocents imbéciles. Le Portugal, l'Espagne, l'Irlande puis l'Italie et la France seront les prochaines cibles de paris à la baisse.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Let Greece default on its payments...

Lots of talk in news bulletins and on newspapers front-pages go back and forth about the IMF and Euro-zone "help package" to Greece.

I reckon these packages are poisoned gifts to the Greek people. A better issue would be for the Greeks to insist that their governments default on repayment.

First of all, how good are these "rescue packages" ? How was it possible to lend billions to banks at virtually nill interest rate (and without penalties, nor controls in the ways that money would be used by the banks), but the interest demanded of the Greek government exceeds 8%? Who can believe that the FMI would lend the money without conditioning the loan to the usual "economic adjustment policies" ?

I say default on payments, and then let the lenders who think they should be paid ask for rescue packages from the Euro-Zone or the FMI, publicly.

I, by no means, support the Greek government. I don't believe a miracle could be invoked to explain how they could be demonstrably different from any other government on this planet. But I resent the fact that the consequences of bad policy choices are always left to the workers to correct...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hung parliament...

On WikiNews one of today's articles was: Current polls show high probability of hung parliament in 2010 UK general election and I could help wondering if there will be enough rope for everybody...

Second thought: why do the British have all the luck?

Hangman's noose
Those knots consume a lot of extra rope!