Saturday, October 29, 2005

More restroom pictures to liven up my blog

Restroom in an European city:

Same one from inside:


Could be a solution for people who need to expose themselves.

Or imagine standing outside with a video camera suddenly pretending you can look inside.


Too bad Mr. Rove was not indicted - he actually may be innocent - though I doubt it. But at least the Bush Government now must consider some change if they want to do any governing the last three years.

See Ms. Noonan's article America is in trouble--and our elites are merely resigned. I could not agree more. Goes for the rest of the world as well.


I have learned and speak a number of languages. Some I have learned principally in school, others, the ones I know best, by living in different countries.

But recently I have come to the conclusion I speak and especially write them all badly. Even my mother language, a Scandinavian language. The reason? I have forgotten much grammar. That is embarrassing. Also I tend to mix languages. I must have reached the limit of number of languages or I am getting too old. It can't be the latter so it must be the former.

My language problems especially come to light, when writing texts like the ones in this blog. I still remember there are rules and I also remember to apply some of them. But not all.

Like when to use who or whom. I once learned some rules (sentence object, substitution with his/him, her/she) for that one. The last rule, when in doubt and the other rules don't apply - use who. At least I think that was it. Or is it whom?

I can still analyze a sentence and have no problems with tenses I think. And yet. English is seemingly a very simple language grammatically speaking. But just on the surface. There are so many rules and exceptions. Mostly now, I just play it by ear - the result is predictable.

Hmmh. I have completely forgotten punctuation rules in English. It is no excuse I found the rules illogical, similar to where to divide words in English when spelling.

I promise my reader (I only think I have one so far) and myself, that I will brush up on my English grammar.

BTW a bit out of context: Goethe once said: To know your own language you need to learn another. He was a smart man.

Conclusion: To keep up language skills you need to practice, unless you have a memory beyond mine. That is not unthinkable by the way.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Cultural differences. Europe versus America

Here one short insight on cultural differences.

I am well traveled and I just adore traveling with my wife. We are blessed with many friends in many countries. This to a point where we rarely stay in hotels, but with friends.

We prefer it that way. One of the reasons is that you must stay with the natives, if you really want to study culture of a country. Also it is great fun. Furthermore, friends are one of the best part of living.

We have lived in different countries of the western world and always tried to fit in. To be a part of the culture and at least to participate.

This brings me to my main point on differences between cultures.

Take for example Scandinavia and Southern Europe. There are many cultural differences. But know what? They are mostly on a difference of level. By that I mean, that in a certain situation a Portuguese may certainly react differently than a Scandinavian. But both the Portuguese and the Scandinavian will understand the reasons for the reaction.

Basically we share the same basic values. Maybe it is because of the common shared background. Or the age of Europe? Or relatively static societies? I don't know for sure.

The cultural shock is the one you get, when you meet a culture, where you do not understand the reason for the reaction.

I had my first one as a new kid in a highschool in the US deep South. I one day in a break gave a kiss to a beautiful European girl (or did she kiss me? At the time I still had the illusion, that we men have a saying when in comes to relationships between the sexes) in school.

That afternoon I was told by friends and family in certain terms, that you do not behave like that unless you are a redneck or black. Oops. Why?, I asked. I never did get to really understand why not. Just that you don't.

America is a different culture. This is one of the main reasons for distrust between Europe and the US. We presume as we share common ancestors, that we are alike. But we are not really. On a deep level we are different. This we must realize to stay friends.

There is world of difference between a Texan president and the French president. Both cultures are extremes even in the US and in Europe. It shows.

We in Europe had an easier time with Clinton. But he had lived in Europe, was more liberal and shared with a certain (or is it all of them) French president a taste for having young lovers. Clinton understood the cultural difference and thus could communicate with us. Also of course he had already shown an interest in other countries before becoming president.

It is so (or at least used to be) that for a French male politician to have a lover belongs to his private sphere. It is not mentioned in the press. And even if is it known, it is positively received as a demonstration of male virility. And what do we know? Maybe his wife approves or participates. Anyway it must be good for his relaxation - thus not bad for the country. How can a man refuse a pretty young girl anyway?

I once had a discussion with some Americans explaining me, why, what Clinton did with Ms. Lewinsky (spelling?), was so bad. Their argumentation went somewhat like this:

You see, he is THE representative of America. A person to show others by example how to live. A guardian of moral values. Appointed and by the American people. Practically annointed by the Will of God. More than just a man. That is why we impeached him, when he would not speak the truth on his sexual behaviour. His private life is not private. We have right to know. We ought to know.

I and most fellow Europeans still do not understand. In a similar situation, I do not want to know. I wish I had never knewn. I wish that the US did not embarass itself thus. I want private life to be private.

Conclusion: The study and understanding of cultures is essential for understanding across borders. It is also one of the most interesting studies to be done, if you are interested in human nature. Different does not mean bad. And we can learn so much from each other.

Conclusion 2: Kissing girls is risky business. She is now my lovely wife.

A picture to liven up my blog

I got this from Dvorak's blog. His blog I read every day.

This picture really is interesting on several levels. For one it is a picture that illustrates the feeling you may get of the big brother society of today. On another it is great humor.

To really appreciate how it messes around with deeper psychological aspects, you need to be a male of course.

This Blog is becoming popular

According to Site Meter, I have had 47 visitors to my blog. Even though half are myself, that is still good. I have not promoted the blog yet, nor told any friends about it.

Site Meter is great though. Easy to implement. I did resist putting the counter at a initial 10 million. It still not too late though.

I am already a little tired of my blog design. On the other hand, sober is not bad either. The content should be the main "selling" point. But there are some blogs out there with great design.

With some pictures on my blog, I think it would be more appealing. I have some ideas. Now, where did I put that digital camera...

Conclusion: Just as with humans, content is more important than appearance. For first impressions the adverse is true. Sadly, first impressions often become final...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Why the rest of the world should be permitted to vote in the USA

It has occurred to me that I should be permitted to vote in the USA. I am not American, not even a resident but I am a citizen of Western Europe and also the world at large. I would not vote for Bush.

Does it really matter whom we in Europe elect to lead Norway, Belgium or Portugal? Does it really change anything?

The current leader of the European Commission was found out to be incompetent here in Portugal. Sure seems incompetent in the Commission too. Does it make any real difference who it is or what he or she does? No - because he like other European leaders does not have much room to do anything much differently than the previous one.

But now, the American President. He has power. He can change the world. He wishes to leave a mark on the world. Sole superpower. Moral obligation to use the power when you have it. Anyway what good is power if you do not use it?

We should be allowed to vote. For every European vote in the US we will give you guys a vote in Europe. Fair - ain't it?

Won't happen - why would anyone exchange a vote on the American Presidency with a vote on say, the Danish PM?

Conclusion: The American constitution gives too much power to the head of government. It is old and old fashioned. Either that or the system has become corrupt.

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald

The current brand of "compassionate conservatives" in Washington is a rather fanatic mixture of oil, religion, money spending and most strange of all: Incompetence.

I have lived in the USA. Never met nore nice people in more pretty country. We in Western Europe owe much of our high standard of living and our freedom to the US. Many of us will never forget. But the world has become dangerous - once it was safer because of American competence. I miss the Cold War. I miss real conservatives - even being a liberal on many issues.

Special prosecutors have more power than the US president it seems. Interesting to see what is going to happen this week.

I hope Karl Rove will be indicted. He seems like a very shady character.

Once politics were thought to be about ideals. A job for honest, gifted persons with a mission. Representatives of the people.

Can anybody tell me where Karl Rove fits into that role?

The Italian Mafia of old days seem to me a better alternative than current politics. At least some of the wise guys had a concept called honor. Heck, Sicily is probably more safe than Washington DC.

Conclusion: If you are a American president. Don't ever, ever, ever ask for a special prosecutor to look into your government or anything at all for that matter.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


As you may notice, I have added my e-mail address to the side-bar. I would be happy to hear from readers and I would like to publish such e-mails to permit a general and broader discussion.

BTW. I think it is embarrassing for Google, that I have to use a hotmail account instead of a gmail account. Alas I have not been one of the fortunate many to receive an invitation.

Conclusion: A 2MB free e-mail account is so much better than none

I just had a look at gmailbeta to see, if it was opened up for the general public. I did not think so either. Even though it seems to be years ago the 1GB email accounts were announced. Maybe I know the reason. There is a counter there:

Don't throw anything away.
Over 2658.010744 megabytes (and counting) of free storage so you'll never need to delete another message.

Is this the total free space for all gmail users? Then my memory card for my digital camera has more or less the same available space.

Or is this the space available per user? Anyway, not very clear...

If you do read on on the following pages it does come clear. It is the space available for each user. Lots of places on the Internet to receive invitations for an account. Got one just for the fun of it. But von Sclichtningen will not change before he receives a personal invitation.

Supposedly the difficulty of getting an account is deliberate politics to keep out the riff raff. Read spammers.

Let me laugh. It of course has to do with cost.

100 million users with 2 1/2 gigabyte each would need a lot of diskspace not to mention bandwidth. And that is probably a low estimate for gmail possible users. Why not one billion in a few years? Diskspace will soon become a small problem; but bandwidth and processing power is expensive. In 15 years time we will probably see 1000 terabyte disks or other storage media with the same capacity. More than 10E14 bytes. But you would still need 250 of those disks today for say 250 million users each using an average of 1 gb. Or 250.000 one terabyte disks in a couple of years. E-mails are becoming larger as well.

The state of Portugal. Recent news: Prime Minister thinks strike of Judges absurd and unjust

I will try to have a recurring article here concerning the "State of Portugal". As the state is not well at all, and there are hundreds of issues to take on I will have to choose. Although, I am preparing a list for future presentation of 100 points, where I would take action, were I head of government.

First though, let me say that Portugal is very dear to me. It is the country where I have chosen to live and bring up my children. It is a beautiful, varied country with the best climate of Europe. Lisbon is actually the capital in Europe with the highest mean temperature because of the mild winters. The people of Portugal have always treated me very well indeed. I like the people and their temperament. Much more reserved and serious than the Spanish but also more pragmatic and hardworking. Family and friends still have great value here.

The main reason why I get upset considering the state of Portugal is because I care. And on behalf of my children, who are half Portuguese, somebody has to speak up. Thus I am entitled, even as a guest living here, to criticize.

Now then, what is wrong in Portugal? I don't know where to begin. It would be much faster to tell about what is going well. Brief in fact. But instead I will take an issue a time.

Today a little about the political crisis.

Our last prime minister(PM) was sacked not even a year ago by the president, after he was given only 6 months to prove his worth. Sacking is basically the president’s only real power.

The PM before that ran away from his job. He was offered a better one (ha!) as the European commissioner - compromise candidate number 17 or so. Good riddance I say. A man that can leave a job in spite of promises and in the middle of a economic crisis - is worth nothing. Now of course the European Union has a problem, but it is a bit further away from our daily lives.

The PM before that one - just gave up... With no clear reason as far as I can see.

Finally our current PM is the lucky head of a majority socialist government. He entered with promises of no corruption, no favoritisms and a program to solve Portugal's problems.

So far the "major" policy changes are:
  • Tax up 2% for good earners
  • VAT up 2% to 21%
  • Raised retirement age to 65 for public employees
  • Lowered the 80 or so days of Juridical Holiday with a month
  • Started moving all public employees to the same or similar social security retirement funds as the rest of the population
  • Started to abolish many special health insurance programs for the public employees and moving them to one program only
  • Abolishing automatic career advancement for public employees
This so the Portuguese state can lower its deficit.

Of course the only upset people are the public employees and especially the judges. Even considering the public sector employees having better salaries than in the private sector (yes no mistake on my behalf) and not ever having to fear losing their jobs no matter what their performance.

Except for raising the taxes I can't say I disagree with the changes in the public sector, which is too big, too ineffective and too expensive.

Whether the judges strike or not - even for months - does not worry me one bit. We will not feel the difference anyway. The juridical system is kaput. Cases take forever and there is no justice. Millions of cases are pending and any lawyer worth a minimum knows how to delay a case until it is closed automatically when a certain period of years have passed. Thus only poor people and some real criminal cases have to face the music.

But what about promises about favoritism? Well, statistically speaking it is the government ever that has placed the largest number of friends in public and semi-public jobs. It is a scandal. To get a management job needing certain professional qualifications in the public or semi-public sector - you need not apply if you qualify. It will be to your disadvantage.

And what about urgent reforms? We are talking education, health care, justice, life quality, fighting corruption, extinguishing forest fires, creating a future business structure for the now failed one and so on and so on. Portugal at the time of entry in the European Union was behind on all fronts. It became a full member in 1994 as far as I recall. A while ago I read an article where point for point it was demonstrated how Portugal had fallen even further behind. We need to catch up - not fall further behind. Education wise we are the bottom of Europe. The bottom!

As long as political success is when public schools start more or less 2 weeks within the planned date, because 90% or so of teachers then have been assigned, this country has no future. How can we teach our children to be punctual? How can we teach our children to be not corrupt? Not even mentioning honest.

One day we will find a small notice in the newspaper: The police is out looking for the PM. He was last seen three days ago walking around the docks in a depressed state. So what? It will just be the fourth PM in a row...

Conclusion: The political class as a whole in Portugal is a failure. Politics of now are the means to acquire power and wealth - not to work for ideals. We await another generation. Maybe a benevolent dictator would be better...

Celebration - I got my first comment

Somebody already discovered my blog.

Never mind, that the comment was a commercial anonymous spam one I had to delete.

It was my very first comment!

Should I turn off anonymous commenting? Will I be completely spammed?

Conclusion: I am a bit mathematically inclined, but it is difficult from this one comment to extrapolate the future success of my blog with any certainty. But let me remind you, that even 1 looks good on a logarithmic curve. All beginning is just that. A beginning.


While I am wondering about religion, here is an interesting link to a website: scientomogy

It makes fun of Tom Cruise, the actor and marketing representative of Scientology.

Scientology seems to be upset with the scientomogy website. I have heard before they do not take it graciously, if you don’t take them seriously.

I have most of the founder’s, L. Ron Hubbard, fiction books and a copy of the infamous Dianetics. I like his fiction books. I have spent some little time studying the history of scientology, including statements from Ron’s own son – and as far as I can ascertain with the time spent, it was Ron’s scheme to get rich.

BTW it is worrisome how lawyers of rich clients can shut down criticism with big lawsuits, because of the cost of litigation.

Watch out for the Scientology suicide squads. If they are 9th level or above, the may be airborne by levitation. Sorry for any perceived blasphemy. I could not help it. It is a joke. Tom Cruise is 8th level I read. No joke. Also level 9 and above (10 and above does not exist yet here on Earth) may levitate. You need to be rich to go so far, as the levels are expensive.

Reminds me of another joke:

Al-Queda has recently taken responsibility for the flooding of New Orleans. It was done by a suicide plumber.

I have never met Tom Cruise. He may in fact be a very nice person, even though it seems to me, that most superstars are not. He seems a bit eccentric. I like eccentric people more than most, even though I might think them mad. Most very smart people are eccentric. And I like to disscuss. Eccentric people are the best discussion partners. I read that he on some talk-show danced in the sofas because he was in love. For some strange reason that was criticised. It seems a very human thing to do.

Disclaimer: The statements I here make of Scientology are meant to be taken mostly humorously. They are based on things I have read, but I have not tried to check the veracity the sources. Let me also point out that Scientology scepticism of psychology and mind altering drugs are shared to a degree by me and many other non scientology people. And the main "treatment" as described in Dianetics to talk over traumas with other people is very good advice. If you have been through a trauma, you need to share it with other people.

Conclusion: Religions that can take no criticism are not to be taken seriously religionwise. But do be careful with suicide squads as they are volatile.

Secular societies

My last musings made me remember another curiosity I have wondered about.

Have you noticed how Arab (all Muslim?) leaders never can say anything without mentioning God, Gods will and his Almightiness? We and they know for sure they do not represent secular societies. Clear lines!

Side remark: Even as a non-believer I find it a bit blasphemous to always use God’s Name and express his Opinion so often. Also it makes it seem as there is a doubt. None of my business though.

But it reminds me of another country. And yes, it is the USA. Boy, does the American President ever often mention God. Even to the point of claiming to follow God's will. (Maybe there's another red phone we don't know about?). When I hear the constant "God bless America", I half expect to see the president in a frock. Am I mistaken or is the USA not a secular society by constitution? Sadly it seems not to be.

Is it only me? I have this wish for a separation of politics and religion. On the other hand, when some American politician, including the president, uses the ambiguous "The American people wish/desire/want..." with an absolute certainty it is also a question of faith. Sadly, I have noticed the same expressions to a small degree here in Europe. Maybe there is no possible separation anymore.

Conclusion: Secularity is less popular than this my new blog.

Danish newspaper drawings of Mohammed

Blogging is more fun than work. Here I already spent much more time than I should on my rants.

Anyway, this morning I read a great editors opinion in another large Danish newspaper considering the other Danish newspaper drawings of Mohammed (Mohammed being a prophet - the major one, if you ask muslims - of Allah - same God as the Christian God). You can read in detail in English about the story here at Fjordman. (Fjordman is very critical - excessively so in my opinion - of Muslim immigrants in Europe, but he does raise many valid points).

Briefly: 12 drawings, not all flattering, by professional drawers were published as a provocation to illustrate the principle of liberty of expression. Also probably to provoke a reaction from Muslims. You see - it is not permitted to draw Mohammed. I don't really know why. I think even the few indigenous Indians in the Amazon basin know by now that your soul is not robbed by a photograph or a drawing.

Obviously, morally, it was not nice thing to attack a religion in this way. You should not hurt peoples feelings by blasphemy (dangerous concept that one), that have no purpose except provocation.

On the other hand freedom of expression and freedom of the press are in my opinion much more holy than any religion. I believe it is one of the few things worth to lay down your life for. Thus even distasteful opinions have a right to be published.

To me the above provocation seem small. But so did the Satanic Verses of Mr. Salman Rushdie. And he must live hidden away in eternal fear of "holy" men.

The reaction was stronger than the newspaper anticipated. There have been several threats of death to the newspaper.

Beyond mad men's threats there has been official protests from ambassadors to the Danish Government. The Danish PM handled those gracefully.

And now we finally get to the editors opinion (strongly abbreviated and transcribed)

The Turkish ambassador, a lady (I presume but a woman for sure), protested as well. She asked that the Danish Government takes "all necessary steps" to stop the Danish newspaper.

This from a representative of country asking to be let into the European Union (of democratic countries). As if a Danish prime minister has any direct power to control the Danish press.

Only the courts may do so and only within the law. As the Ambassador should know.

The editor then asks the ambassador to explain how she as a representative of a secular society asking to join ranks with the EU can raise such a religious issue - even more as a formal protest.

Obviously the ambassador has not answered - as there is no answer.

Europe must carefully consider whether we want Turkey in the Union. "All necessary steps" has a sound of ignorance, fanatism and totalitarian regimes.

Conclusion: The provocation of drawing Mohammed has shown itself to be necessary as it raises important issues and demonstrates our need to handle religious fanatism.

Why are European second rank clients of American corporations?

For now I choose to do this blog anonymously - not that I really plan to write anything that I have to hide. On the other hand I might one day choose to criticize some Taliban chieftain or even worse in my agnostic ignorance come to criticize some deity, its prophets or its disciple. And I would rather not have Jihad or other holy wars (oxymoron!) at my doorstep. Just see what is happening in Denmark now after a newspaper invited 12 people to draw Mohammed (fjordman, look for article Holy War Against Danish Newspaper, also see Danish PMs comment on protest for ambassadors)

Anyway, I digress. To be anonymous I created a hotmail email account: (please send me nice emails).

And I noticed what you often notice as an European. Hotmail gives 250MB account space to an American (US only?) and 2MB to an European. That is one huge difference.

It is symptomatic, though. American corporations count Europeans as second rank clients.

Try to find a site where say a Portuguese resident can pay to download a popular song. Itunes? Through windows media player? Forget it. It is not possible. Unless you have a credit card address in the US.

Try to get access to a discount from say to buy some software. Sorry - only for Americans (Microsoft, I am sooo sorry for that fine the EU gave you...)

Not only that. When we Europeans finally find some American corporation that want second rank clients, then we pay extra - even double at times. The price is higher numeric wise. Say 100 will be 130 here. Not dollars, but Euros! On top of that we pay VAT.

But for the VAT I do blame the American corporations.

There are numerous other examples. DVD region code harassment. Not accepting credit cards from some European member countries - we talk Western Europe here. Not being able to enter an European postal code (notice to American business men: In Europe we hardly ever use American zip-codes). I could go on and on.

I will give you a prediction though. Americans control the Internet for now. But I think it will not last. When we second rank European clients get an European business alternative I believe the American Corporation will find out what elephant customer memory is like.

By the way, there are some few exceptions. For example: I am a on-line subscriber to the New York Times. It is free for Europeans. Probably because we will not/can not buy many American newspapers anyway. But still - nice! We second rank world citizens will know to appreciate such companies in the future.

Conclusion: Marketwise the Internet is still a local market.

(why can't I get spell check in blogger to not only find spelling mistakes but also correcting the mistake?)

Blog in Firefox versus Internet Explorer

Funny, but the blog looks different in Explorer. All letters are bigger?! Anyway I prefer and recommend Firefox, where I like the letter size better. Though for all I know, it might actually be Firefox, that does not show the stylesheet correctly.

Risking to sound like my son: Firefox rules!

Finished with design

That was easy. Sign-up and design of my blog in a bit more than one hour. I must send my thanks to Google. I salute this great innovative company.

Need I say more?

(there is more - check out all the other Google inventions)

Oh. Just this. Watch out for the danger of them taking over the Internet or maybe worse controlling Internet access to content without you realizing. Using just one search engine may be dangerous...

Is small always better than too big? You know what they say: Power corrupts and absolute power... How can great innovation be separated from domination? Google should do themselves a favor and look into this.

New blog

This new blog will be a collection of thoughts on our society and events I find curious. I live in Portugal, but I am originally Scandinavian and consider myself European.

Be prepared for some stories on the Portuguese society (curious it is) and otherwise world affairs as I see them, where America (curious it is) of course take a prominent place.

The title of the blog symbolizes that I do often wonder and sit down to think...