And then, a LIBRARY!

The German newspaper whose website could be better organised has a very good article about the Gurtel, Vienna’s other great boulevard, once described as the proletarian Ringstrasse. I never knew this, though:

Wobei auf dem Gürtel früher Linksverkehr herrschte, wie in England. Siegfried Tschmul, ein Wiener Jude, erinnert sich gut daran. Als er 1938, nachdem die deutschen Truppen in Wien einmarschiert waren, eines Morgens aus seinem Fenster hinunter auf den Währinger Gürtel sah, fuhren alle Autos plötzlich rechts, wie in Deutschland. Über Nacht war der gesamte Verkehr umgestellt worden, und niemand hatte ein Problem mit der neuen Ordnung. Da sei ihm klar geworden, dass er Wien verlassen musste. Mit seinen Eltern floh er aus Österreich.

They used to drive on the left? Who knew? And the image of everyone suddenly driving on the right, the morning after the Nazi seizure of power, is better than any novelist could have invented. I liked this, too:

Denn die Rotlichtszene, lange untrennbar mit dem Gürtel verbunden, verliert ihr Publikum, vor allem dort, wo der Gürtel so schick und quirlig geworden ist. Eine der Unterweltgrößen, in Wien “Strizzis” genannt, hat den Sittenverfall schon in einem Interview beklagt. Erst seien die Stadtbahnbögen ausgeräumt und Kulturzentren eingerichtet worden. Und dann hätten sie ihm auch noch “eine Bibliothek hingebaut”.

What did the porno boss find most offensive? The library, damn it.


Well, MMDCXXXVI, actually.

That’s how many posts WordPress tells us we have put up in four and a half years of AFOE. It’s been a while since we marked an anniversary. Europe Day seems as good a time as any to thank the authors, the guests, and especially the readers who have made and continue to make this endeavor so much more than fun.

I’ll keep an eye on the WordPress ticker, and we can all make Homer Simpson jokes at MMM.

Witch Doctors of the EU

Orac reports on the curious case of a Bulgarian witch doctor, practising in Serbia in a creditable interpretation of the Bologna process, who advised a patient suffering from premature ejaculation to sexify a hedgehog. It turns out in comments that Bulgaria actually licences shamans.

Bulgaria is now a member state. I’d like to see the DG Education & Culture meeting where they try to define a Europe-wide qualification for necromancers.

Brio and Open-Source Hardware

Intellectual property rights in technology. Great, aren’t they? Consider Brio, the middle-class fave range of wooden toys, whose manufacturers have neatly locked out competitors who want to make toys that will go with theirs by using couplings and fasteners that are proprietary and non-standard.

Elsewhere, on the NANOG (North American Network Operators’ Group) list, they discussed the thorny problem of cooling increasingly powerful servers and routers, and arrived at some consensus around using much more water cooling. Paul Vixie argued that in the future, rackmount equipment would have standard connectors for cool water in and warm water out, as it already has standard power connectors, USB ports, and RJ-45 Ethernet ports.

Cool idea! Naturally, there are already racks with water connectors, but inevitably they are proprietary and incompatible. Amusingly, someone pointed out that standard connectors and flexible pipes exist in the beer trade, which is a start. But what does intellectual property actually bring society? I know the standard arguments about the necessity of rewarding invention, but it’s very noticeable that a lot of innovation happens in the open-source world and in what you might call the non-patent space, among academic researchers and the like.

When Bell Labs invented the transistor, they didn’t try to enforce patents on it. Instead they published all their results in peer-reviewed journals and organised technical conferences to spread the knowledge. Perhaps the optimal solution isn’t to look for a total solution, but just to start pushing back the limits of the IP-sphere and see what happens, tolerating any anomalies? Again, seeing that the EU’s misbegotten software patents directive is now dead, this is something we could get started..

HOWTO Protest with a Tank

Der Standard reveals all you need to know about driving a stolen tank into the police lines. Apparently, the man who stole an ex-Soviet T34/85 from the 1956 revolution commemorations and used it on the Hungarian riot police has been arrested. He is reportedly a former soldier (no surprise, as Hungary either has or used to have universal conscription) who might conceivably have driven one before.

This is not that likely but is possible. The T34/85 was possibly the best tank of the second world war and remained a mainstay of the Red Army into the 50s, but was already being replaced by the T54 series in 1956. By the time anyone likely to be fighting with cops in Budapest this week would have been serving, the Warsaw Pact armies had long since flushed most of their T34s out of the ranks, and for that matter their T54s. Most of the T34s that avoided scrapping, museums or use as targets were exported to the Third World – as is well known, there’s nothing you can do for poor people that will do them more good than sending guns.

Anyway, the report in the Standard gives some useful hints on how to protest with a tank. You’ll need enough voltage to turn over a really hefty diesel engine. The Hungarians solved this with several car batteries hooked up in series (not in parallel, mark!). You’ll probably find the tank is locked or worse, so bring an angle grinder, oxy-acetylene torch or arc welding set. In Budapest, the tank’s hatch proved to be padlocked – so it was a good job he came with the right tools.

It doesn’t sound likely that the tank would be fuelled up and ready to go, so the wise man would want to bring a jerry can or three of diesel – after all, once you get it started you can always stop and fill up. Given all the equipment, you’ll almost certainly need an accomplice, or perhaps several. But when arrested, remember to say that you acted entirely alone.