June 29, 2014

Surfbook patent struck down in US court

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 11:21 am

mark-zuckerberg-elaine-and-priscilla-chanEarlier this year Facebook was sued by American patent trolls Rembrandt IP, allegedly representing the deceased Jos van der Meer.

Van der Meer’s heirs claim that the Dutchman invented the concept of Facebook in 2001, calling it Surfbook. The Register reports that an American jury disagreed in no uncertain terms: “the Eastern District of Virginia jury decided that the patents were “shabby” and shouldn’t have been granted”.

In 2001, a full two years before Facebook was founded, Van der Meer had patented things like keeping a personal diary on the web. Damning evidence indeed if you squint your eyes for a moment and forget that Geocities was founded in 1994 and the word ‘weblog’ was coined in 1997.

On its website Rembrandt IP writes: “[our company] undertakes a rigorous diligence process to investigate all intellectual property it considers for enforcement actions. […] Due to the high level of internal resources needed to complete this in-depth process, we are very selective when determining which opportunities to consider.”

Did their process fail them this time around or did Rembrandt IP expect to lose? Given that they started a lawsuit in January against another tech giant, Apple (PDF), a reasonable person would probably forgive me for thinking that they start these cases for the publicity it generates. (I am not sure how effective a strategy it is to lose your cases).

See also:

(Photo of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg by Elaine and Priscilla Chan, some rights reserved)

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February 18, 2013

How to build bigger floodplains

Filed under: Nature,Sustainability by Branko Collin @ 1:08 pm

‘Room for the River’ is a Dutch state project that intends to widen the floodplains of the major rivers.

The project does something that is quite rare for the Dutch, it gives land back to the water. In 1993 and 1995 we had major river floods, the latter even leading to the evacuation of 250,000 people. Geographically, the Netherlands is a river delta, and the Dutch have always had to live with river floods. However, today the population pressure has made the consequences of floods much more expensive.

As the project website says: “The rivers are wedged between increasingly higher dikes behind which more and more people live. At the same time, the land behind the dikes has sunk. It is also raining more often and harder, causing rivers to swell. Water levels are rising and so is the chance of floods with a large impact on people, animals, infrastructure and the economy.”

The New York Times has visited one of those projects and uses it for an opinion piece on how big government is good.

Short read: The Ruimte voor de Rivier site has Nine easy infographics on how to give the river room.

(Photo: Waal beach by Rijkswaterstaat / Ruimte voor de Rivier / Martin van Lokven)

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February 10, 2013

Title sequence for Dutch TV show Het Klokhuis uses stop motion video by PES

Filed under: Art,Shows by Branko Collin @ 1:43 pm

Dutch educational TV programme Het Klokhuis (the apple core) has just replaced its old intro. The new leader was made by American animator and Oscar nominee PES (the stage name of Adam Pesapane).

The animation is similar to the previous title sequence which was made by Irish animator Johnny Kelly according to Animated Review. You can see all the previous intros at the Klokhuis website.

Het Klokhuis is a daily educational programme for 8- to 12-year-olds which deals with a single theme each episode using both reporting, skits and songs. It was originally created in 1988 by the actors behind the Stratemakersopzeeshow, Aart Staartjes, Wieteke van Dort and Joost Prinsen.

(Photo: crop of the video. Video: YouTube / PESfilm)

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March 17, 2012

Stephen Colbert explains what US presidential candidate really meant with his lies about the Netherlands

Filed under: Shows,Weird by Branko Collin @ 12:50 pm

We suggested last month that politician Rick Santorum may have broken the world record on bald faced lying in his weight class when he talked about the horrors of the Dutch health care system.

If anything Santorum’s statements left Dutch pundits flabbergasted. Yesterday US comedian Stephen Colbert came to the rescue of every confused Dutch person and explained why Santorum says just the darndest things. The part about the Netherlands starts at 2:58.

“Evidently Santorum’s comments about the Netherlands were yanked out of … his nether parts.”

Stephen Colbert is a comedian who pretends to be a right-wing blow-hard pundit styling himself on the likes of Bill O’Reilly.

See also: Dutch beer for America’s Black History Month.

(Illustration: Colbertnation.com)

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February 25, 2012

The American ambassador’s jewels have been found

Filed under: Weird by Branko Collin @ 12:25 pm

So this news was already covered two weeks ago by DutchNews.nl, but I thought it so remarkable that I felt it’d warrant another mention.

Six years ago Dawn Arnall, wife to then-US ambassador, sub-prime crisis architect and billionaire Roland Arnall, forgot her 9,000,000 US dollar jewellery in the lobby of an unnamed hotel in The Hague.

She reported the jewellery as stolen, though the press doesn’t say to whom.

Hotel staff found a satchel containing the jewellery, which was apparently so big and garish that they mistook it for costume jewellery.

Presumably neither the insurer (who paid out) nor the police bothered to check with the hotel, and the treasure went unclaimed for six months. It was then handed over to a cleaning lady who left it in her linen closet for five years, until her curiosity got the better of her.

The cleaning lady brought the jewellery for appraisement to a jeweler who, the police of The Hague joke, is probably still on artificial respiration.

She then brought the jewellery to the police, who sent it back to the US, whatever that is supposed to mean.

The jewellery consisted of a necklace containing a 4 million euro pink 5-carat diamond, and various other jewels worth 3 million euro. The finder is hoping for a reward, although it is not certain that anybody is obliged to pay one.

Since there are holes in this story big enough to park an entire zoo in, if our readers have any additional information I would sure like to hear about it.

(Photo of unrelated costume jewellery by GlitzUK, some rights reserved)

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February 19, 2012

US presidential candidate’s Minute of Lies

Filed under: Weird by Branko Collin @ 12:14 pm

Said conservative US presidential candidate Rick Santorum during a campaign stop:

Well in the Netherlands people wear a different bracelet if you are elderly. And the bracelet is ‘do not euthanise me’. Because they have voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands. But half the people that are euthanised every year, and it’s ten percent of all deaths, half of those people are euthanised involuntarily at the hospitals, because they are older and sick.

And so elderly people in the Netherlands don’t go to the hospital. They go to another country. Because they are afraid, because of budget purposes, that they will not come out of that hospital to [inaudible].

Look at what has happened just in our tolerance of abortion. Fifty years ago, people who did abortions, sixty years ago, people who did abortions were, you know, in the shadows, or people who were considered really bad doctors. Now abortion is something that is just accepted. Well, of course people do abortions, it’s legal, it’s fine, there are no moral and ethical problems. This is the erosion, and it happens in the medical profession, and it can happen very fast, and I think Obamacare will lead us down that road.

None of this is true, of course, and even though it is the weekend the Dutch press is already having a field day with this. NRC writes: “Santorum thinks he knows the Netherlands“. Powned dubs Santorum’s “a surreal view“, OK, so maybe not a field day. Everybody knows that you just let a madman spout his gibberish, I guess.

Should this mentally unhinged person ever become president of the USA though, he will control the world’s largest arsenal of chemical and nuclear weapons. Besides that minor worry, just enjoy this bit of mainstream crazy, because it does not get much sillier than this.

(Video: Youtube / RightWingWatch.org. Photo by Gage Skidmore, some rights reserved.)

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April 5, 2010

The Starry Night in breakfast cereal

Filed under: Art,Food & Drink by Branko Collin @ 12:59 pm

It would seem corn and Van Gogh’s The Starry Night are indelibly connected in the American imagination. First Don McLean wrote a popular song about the painting, and now pupils of Sky View high school in Smithfield, USA, have recreated the work in breakfast cereal.

Using the school’s gymnasium as a canvas, 150 pupils poured two tons of colourful Malt-O-Meal on the floor to create a 22 x 27 metre masterpiece. The school hopes that this will get students to appreciate art. The project was finished on Saturday and was removed afterwards and fed to pigs.

Fox has photos.

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March 28, 2010

Rescue of a drowning tourist in Amsterdam

Filed under: Health,Photography by Branko Collin @ 12:24 pm

Marien van Os was walking with his camera through Amsterdam when he heard a big splash. Turned out a drunken tourist had jumped into a canal. Van Os photographed the ensuing rescue by Erik Blom and other bystanders.

(Via Making Light. See also: interviews at AT5. Source photo: Flickr / Marien van Os.)

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January 31, 2010

25 years of Tex-Mex in the province: Rowwen Hèze

Filed under: Music by Branko Collin @ 2:47 pm

For a long time the band Normaal symbolised music from the sticks, the ZZ Top of the Achterhoek (literally: back corner) sang in their local dialect about beer, women, and any combination of the two. Then in 1985, the Limburg band Rowwen Hèze was founded, and suddenly people were speaking of a trend.

Like Normaal, Rowwen Hèze makes good party music, based oddly enough on the continental immigrant music of the United States: Tex-Mex, polka, fanfare, Irish folk. They take standards (or songs that sound like they ought to be) and add silly local texts to them: Enselma becomes Bestel Mar (order up), and Ay Te Dejo En San becomes Kroenenberg (a place name). Of course, when they sing Los Lobos’ and Flaco Jimenez’ songs, they invite these guys onto stage too.

The other side of Rowwen Hèze (named after a local tramp) is introspective:

Saint Anthony was said to know
— dear friend, he wrote, it is true —
it can be better to lose something beautiful
than to never having had it before

(Link: AD.nl)

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September 8, 2009

Rem Koolhaas condenses the country a bit further

Filed under: Architecture by Branko Collin @ 8:15 am

With 16 million people occupying a mere 14,526 square kilometres, the Netherlands is considered a densely populated country. For world-famous architect Rem Koolhaas that isn’t dense enough though. He imagined what the country would look like if the Dutch population density was that of Manhattan (shown here) or Los Angeles.

Strange maps doesn’t seem to mention where they got these images.

(Link tip: Tom Schuring. Image edited by me.)

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