Archive for January, 2006

the national trademark

January 31st, 2006

I'm starting this with an experimental exercise, please go along. First, get a teaspoon and a plate from the kitchen. Go on, I'll wait. Ok, now get a plastic bag. It can be the one from the supermarket, it can also be that transparent one that you package fruit in, it doesn't matter, as long as it's a plastic bag. While you're at it, get some toilet paper, 50cm should do. Ok, go. Got it? Ok, one last thing, I need you to get a glass of water, don't fill it up to the top so you don't spill it as you race back up the stairs. Go.

Great, now let's begin. Dip the teaspoon in the water, so that you have one teaspoon of water. Dump the water in the spoon onto the plate, don't distribute, dump it all in one place. Now take the plastic bag and dry up the water on the plate. Go ahead, dry it up. What? It's not working? Ok, now grab the toilet paper and try the same thing, dry up the water with the toilet paper. What's that? You got it? Good. Now, let's analyze that experiment. You see paper absorbs water, plastic does not. That fact alone is enough to account for the astounding observations made today. (And you probably thought today would be a complete waste, huh.)

No doubt on the basis of such experiments, a bright, young Polish thinker conceived a product that would take the country by storm - the water tight paper napkin. If you stop by one of the countless "bar's" in the country, in cities, alongside highways, they're all over the place, and sample the local cuisine, you will without fail encounter these unique but omnipresent curious napkins. And they have not changed a bit for 20 years. Their most interesting quality is that they're completely useless as napkins. You spill something, try to dry it up with a napkin, it doesn't absorb water. It's not completely water tight, it's semi water tight. It still feels mostly like paper, but with a significant blend of plastic (or what have you) in it. So what if you get your hands greasy from the food? Napkins sure don't do shit for you, that's for sure.

And you have to understand, this is not a regional phenomenon, they have them all over the country, everywhere it's the same napkins. Go to any restaurant in the country and you'll find them. Perhaps in a real upscale place they will have the normal paper napkins, but otherwise that's what you get. The curious thing is that while this is a nation wide product, I don't think they export it. I haven't seen the semi water tight napkins anywhere else. Perhaps they tried and failed, I don't know. If you do come across them elsewhere, please let me know. If you think you may have found them but you're not sure, ask the proprietor for a teaspoon, a plate, a glass of water and some toilet paper..

crumbling cookies

January 30th, 2006

Geh. Crumbs everywhere. How long is it gonna be until we see a patent on cookies that don't crumble? I would like to see that.

assimilation

January 29th, 2006

So apparently, a week was enough to give the impression that I've become Dutch. This guy on a scooter asked me for directions today, and props for not running me down!

Transporter 2: if at first you don't succeed..

January 27th, 2006

I'm impressed, I'm really impressed. They cut out the bs plot knowing they can't write a good plot anyway and just focused on what they do well, which is action scenes. If you haven't caught onto what I'm talking about, it's The Transporter 2. The first Transporter movie had a great first 20 minutes, action packed driving, cool scenes. Then it completely faded. It wasn't good because it was trying to be good. The second installment from Luc Besson doesn't try so hard, it just knows what it's good at. First of all, what completely dominates and sells this movie is Jason Statham's character. This guy is so cool it makes me want to drive a car. I love the little details - the gloves, the super clean car, the suit, the haircut - it's all so well worked. What I mean about not trying too hard is that Besson is content with basing the whole story around Frank, because that's the only interesting concept of this story. There's plenty of funny physics, another thing I liked. You will see wild scenes of cars racing to an instant complete stop, impossible martial arts and so on. They don't even try making it look real, and why should they, it's much more entertaining this way. But to show you just how badly they fail when trying, the movie comes complete with an uber fake Italian bad guy. There isn't a thing about this guy that says Italian. His protege is a greatly annoying bimbo small arms expert, the only one besides Frank who has funny physics. This one parades around in her underwear shooting guns, but in bed with the big boss, though she's naked, she covers herself up. Roight. I used to think a good action movie needs a great bad guy, movies like 'Die Hard with a vengeance' have taught us that. But if you see this, all you expect to see is Frank and he's worth the hour and a half all on his own. From the cool black Audi to the supply of shirts and suits right in his trunk.

Oh that reminds me, the music is very cool at times, but it doesn't have the kind of long, powerful sequences like we'd like. Come to think of it, the plot is a bit like 'Man on fire', except it's not.

crash boom bang

January 27th, 2006

I didn't think I would say this, but 2 years on (sorry, 2 days on) I have to register my first grievance. I was hit by a bike today. I'm walking on the side walk, there's two guys walking in front of me. Now, I walk faster than most people do, so I have to overtake people all the time. The problem is (as we learnt 2 days ago) that the sidewalks are narrow here, because they decided to accomodate the bikers by giving them their own section of the sidewalk. So I step onto the bike-sidewalk and then I hear a bell from a grandma bike behind me. I step to the right, to let the bike pass me on the left, I can't literally get back on the sidewalk cause the two guys are in the way, so I just walked up on them and expected the grandma to ride along. Next thing I know my right sneaker is hit by a wheel. I feel the impact of a wheel on my new. clean pants. The word "Jesus" is heard behind me. What the hell, I just kept on walking. I turn around, yell "sorry". The lady, 25-30 years of age, is looking at me like I just slapped her. Ok, I admit I pulled that one out of thin air, I've never slapped anyone so I don't know how they react, but let's just say for the sake of argument that it's that look of disbelief actresses put on when they're slapped around in soap operas. I wasn't hurt, my sneaker suffered momentarily but the impact barely broke my gate.

Now let's analyze the situation for a minute. I'm walking on the bike-sidewalk because I'm trying to get past people on the sidewalk. Tell me how often it happens that people walk past other people on the sidewalk, pretty damn often, right? I wasn't trying to do something noone ever has before. I hear a bell behind, I go right, in the direction of the sidewalk, I do not step out into the road, there's traffic. I do not turn around because by the time I turn around, I will already have been hit, it's much quicker to just get out of the way. Now, set aside the logic of me moving right, in the direction of my real place in traffic, the sidewalk, there is another striking fact about this incident. You see, bicycles are not vehicles at the mercy of inertia, they do have steering. Some are even fitted with a mechanism perfectly appropriate for this situation, usually in the form of a lever of some kind, to the rest of us they're called brakes. So cry me a river, lady.

The thing is, if you drive a car and you hit a pedestrian, you're fucked, no matter where you're driving. If you're on the freeway, you can't possibly stop in time cause you're going too fast. But pedestrians never, ever, ever appear on freeways. So the point is moot. Now, in inner cities, with two sidewalks, one for pedestrians, one for bikes, you are forced to step into the bike zone ever so often, when crossing the street, getting around a pile of bikes on the sidewalk which block the way, other people on the sidewalk etc. So it's no great shock that pedestrians find themselves in that zone from time to time. In fact, in places that have no pedestrian sidewalk, that's the only place to walk. See, as a biker since the age of 6, and a fairly reckless one at that, I know that pedestrians deserve biker's attention because bikes go much faster (yes, even the grandma bikes go faster than pedestrians). The rule applies for every faster vehicle over a slower one, the faster has quicker steering, it's up to the faster vehicle to steer clear. And I respect that principle, I don't ram into people when I'm driving or biking or skiing. Sometimes the only way to avoid it is by engaging the brakes.

One disturbing fact: motorized scooters also ride on the bike-sidewalk, those things are capable of doing much more damage considering their weight and velocity.