And Now for Two Things, Completely Different

Two productivity-enhancing additions to the internet that at least a couple of our readers may not have noticed in the last 24 hours.

Google is putting the image archive of the American magazine LIFE online. Over the next few months, this will mean access to some 10 million images, the vast majority of them never published. In the meantime, some of the best-known are already online. Add the text “source:life” to any search in Google Images to specify something from the archive. Browse pictures dating back to the 1750s, though searches max out at 200 results right now.

If you still haven’t whiled away the entire day, there’s an official Monty Python channel on YouTube. As if the site itself weren’t bad enough.

A Friday night out in Europe.

It’s Friday afternoon, and if you, gentle readers, should want to leave the gloomy reality of a world in economic crisis behind you for a night out in Europe, you may be interested in having a look at a new web service called Happenr for hopefully useful suggestions about what to do.

According to a techcrunch review by Erick Schonfeld, Happenr is a new search engine, operated by a Belgian company, that currently collects information about events in Germany, Ireland, Belgium and the continent’s most important cities by scouring tourism, town, and cultural websites. While the review author sceptically remarks that “event databases are a dime a dozen,” he also mentions that “Happenr thinks there is still room for a comprehensive events search engine in Europe, and it believes it has a better way of indexing events automatically.”

Well, see for yourself. I for one actually found something I might do later on.

Odd Moments in Political Economy

I’m beginning to think that our neighborhood grocery store here in Tbilisi could be an interesting source of stories about the politics and economics in the Second World. The tastiest corn chips come from Turkey, the cooking oil brands are almost all Russian (though with relations being what they are, I don’t know if the products themselves come directly from the neighbor to the north), the peanut butter from China looks too suspect to buy, and a fair amount of the pasta is Italian Barilla. Stocks sometimes still seem a question of what the store can get, rather than what the customers want. There are a whole bunch of fancy-looking Dutch cheeses just now, but they seem to be going for about EUR 16 a kilo, which is an awful lot for here. Particularly as I think behind the nice packaging they’re probably pretty ordinary, rather than actual super-artisan stuff that might command the price. And some of the choices are just odd: of the main shelving (the display area in the middle of the store) fully one-twelfth is given over to nothing but ketchup. Ketchup is the perfect condiment, but still. Further, the 750-ml Heinz regular in a squeezable plastic bottle with a label in Dutch is about 7.50 lari, while the the 750-ml Heinz regular in a squeezable plastic bottle with a label in French is about 9.50 lari. This does not look like a rational market. Maybe someone in management speaks English and I can find out why.

How the markets really work, by Bird & Fortune

You do not always need to write long essays to explain the current financial crisis, the following video sums it all up quite well in a few minutes. Money quote: “It’s not us that will suffer, it is your pension fund.” BTW, this was originally broadcast exactly one year ago. Some of you may already have seen this.

(hat tip Sargasso)

Second time as more tragedy

[16:36:17] David Weman skriver: hey, I just thought of something?
[16:36:25] Alex Harrowell skriver: yes?
[16:36:36] David Weman skriver: what’s the difference between realists and neoconservatives?
[16:36:45] Alex Harrowell skriver: tell me
[16:37:20] David Weman skriver: realists are bismarck, neoconservatives are wilhelm II.
[16:37:38] Alex Harrowell skriver: +1
[16:37:59] Alex Harrowell skriver: or worse, Conrad von Hotzendorf * (actually his reported political views are remarkably similar to those of NRO et al)
[16:39:27] Alex Harrowell skriver: what worries me most of all about this is that being Wilhelmine Germany’s enemy was tough, but it was nothing compared to being one of their *allies*

It’s All About Me

One of the consequences of Montenegro’s split from Serbia was the country’s need for its own top level domain, following its departure from .yu and .cs. In September 2007, ICANN settled for .me, potentially setting up another odd, little-country bonanza like .tv and .to.

Miquel Hudin Balsa relates his experience playing around to get a tasty .me name. The process looks like it’s set up as much to monetize the connection to the English-speaking world as to actually get people in Montenegro registered. As for the assignment itself, 21 of a possible 26 dot-m-whatever combinations were already taken; Macau, Malta and Mongolia had already claimed some of the likelier candidates.

There’s a second-level academic domain like the UK has. I sure hope that some wag will name servers on it after Warner Brothers cartoon characters.

For the misanthropes out there, bad news. (Is there any other kind for misanthropes?) The registrar says that the domain bite.me “is a premium domain and has not yet been scheduled for release.”

The best amusement park in Europe

It’s Playmobil Funpark, just outside of Nuremberg.

— Big: you can stay all day and still not do everything.

— Cheap: just 6.50 per kid. Food prices are also reasonable (okay, by amusement park standards) and you can bring a picnic if you like.

— Varied: whether your kid wants to climb, dig, play, or run around and scream, there’s something.

— Interactive: instead of passive “rides”, pretty much everything at PFP is interactive, from the huge sandbox to the large building full of toys. (Playmobile toys, of course.)

Really, I was astounded. It’s not Disney World, no — not as big, not nearly as over-the-top amazing — but on the other hand, a family of four can have a wonderful day for under 100 Euros.

About the only negative is that it’s targeted at a fairly narrow age group: big enough to climb and build, small enough to think it’s cool. Say ages three to ten. My six year old thought this was a solid slab of heaven. Five years from now he’ll be curling his lip. But you’re never going to make “Playmobile Land” interesting to teenagers, and the narrow-guage marketing makes it work better.

Oh, and: not to indulge in national stereotypes, but this park is just astonishingly clean.

It’s the end of July: vacation time. Where would you take the kids?