On-page link, opens in this window 04/02/22 Current events, links, novel progress #29
On-page link, opens in this window 04/02/14 Current events, links, novel progress #28


The Dutch lower house of parliament has approved a controversial bill from the centre-right government to expel 26,000 asylum seekers. The plans would force the failed applicants, many of whom have lived in the Netherlands for years, to leave over a three-year period.
Off-site link, opens in new window BBC News: Dutch MPs to approve asylum exodus

One side of the story is that the asylum seekers have gone through every possible legal process trying to obtain a permit to stay, and have failed to do so. It's only due to the lax approach of previous governments and the slowness of the system that these people been able to stay for so long in the first place, and they couldn't reasonably expect to be able to stay indefinitely. Allowing them to stay would send out the message that the legal process is not to be taken seriously, and also it would be unfair to those asylum seekers who decided to leave the country when their application failed.

The other side is that making these people wait for years for a final decision, something that happened in many cases, was not only inhumane in itself, but also stimulated people to settle down and build a life here. When, after their application for asylum had failed, no effort was made to actually make them leave the country, they were allowed to hope that they would be able to stay after all. There's also the whole question whether the 'safe countries' that asylum seekers are being sent back to are actually safe - reports in the media seem to indicate that this isn't always the case.

All in all, what we have here is an ugly mess - only made worse by the way that economic immigration and asylum seeking seem to be lumped together both in some ongoing debates and in the media.

Economic immigration is here to stay. We need to think about ways to regulate it so that it will benefit both the immigrants and the country at large. Asulym seeking, alas, is also here to stay. We need ways to deal with it without keeping people in legal limbo for years, without sending people back to areas where they are in danger, and without having large groups of refugees floating around Europe looking for a country willing to admit them or for a chance to slip through the net. And it's unclear whether this latest bill serves any of these purposes.

More Dutch politics and current events:
On-site link, opens in this window Dutch politics in 2004


Brain, mind and writing.
Off-site link, opens in new window The Chronicle: writing like crazy - a word on the brain
Off-site link, opens in new window Why brain science failed - or, the mistake from writing
Off-site link, opens in new window Mind, brain and adaptation in the nineteenth century - cerebral localization and its biological context from Gall to Ferrier

Under the hood of Win2K. Actually the author seems to be quite happy with what he finds there. In the struggle to meet deadlines, I think pretty much all programmers have put in comments they might later regret, including swearwords and acerbic comments about other code or requirements. Also, any conscientious coder will put in prominent comments warning others about the trickier parts of the code. Comments like "UGLY TERRIBLE HACK" tend to indicate good code rather than bad: in bad code ugly terrible hacks are considered par for the course. It would therefore be both hypocritical and meaningless to go through the comments looking for embarrassments. But also fun, so let's go.
Off-site link, opens in new window K5: we are morons - a quick look at the Win2K source code

Bookmouth.com features author interviews, interviews with people making cool things happen in the publishing scene, and biting commentary on the book industry. The main focus is books, but there will also be interviews with people making cool projects outside of the book industry. Book marketing and DIY publishing tips are also featured, as well as a web log on books, the book industry, and cool websites in general.
Off-site link, opens in new window Bookmouth

In traditional Yiddish society a musician is a sort of necessary evil - you have to have them to fulfill the commandment to make the bride happy at a wedding, but you would rather your daughter did not marry one.
Off-site link, opens in new window Jewish music in Eastern Europe - resources for playing and research

Pope Long Haul II, The organist played Blackadder, The 12 Days of Kitschmas, Ariel Sharon lookalike, OK to be Christian and gay? Getting that Colditz feeling at a Christian holiday camp, 10 things you'd hate about John Wesley, Fundamentalist paranoia in the Left Behind novels, the Virgin Mary appears in steamed-up window, while the Blessed Rowan Bear weeps, why Jesus loved asking questions by Conrad Gempf, Canon John's lookalike, take The Ark guided tour.
Off-site link, opens in new window Ship of fools - the magazine of Christian unrest
Off-site link, opens in new window (via Apothecary's drawer)

Novel progress #29

One new episode in the past week, 767 new words, 51,335 words total.
On-site link, opens in this window Introduction
On-site link, opens in this window Introduction and start of part 2
On-site link, opens in this window After the war (77)


Can someone in a position of authority have sex with prostitutes and keep their job? Just one or two years ago this might have been a non-issue over here, but not anymore.

The situation is like this. One faithful evening Amsterdam city council member Rob Oudkerk had a late-night discussion in a bar with columnist Heleen van Royen, and at one point the conversation drifted to his experiences with hookers. Apparently she made a gesture mimicking typing on a keyboard, he didn't respond, and she went ahead and wrote about their conversation in her newspaper column. For a while the affair was the talk of the nation, and eventually Oudkerk had to step down.

There doesn't seem to be consensus on why, exactly, Oudkerk would be unfit to continue in office.

Using prostitutes may be conduct unbecoming to a member of the city council. But, then again, prostitution is legal over here, and the city of Amsterdam markets its red-light district as one of its main tourist attractions.

Oudkerk frequented an area where many street prostitutes are illegal aliens who might have been forced into prostitution, and / or drug addicts. Some commenters opined that it was this that was the problem, and that things would have been fine if Oudkerk had just visited one of the regular, legal brothels. I tend to agree but, on the other hand, I do wonder where to draw the line. Does buying products that involve, let's say, child labour make you unfit for office? And, to look at it from another angle, if bad things are going on in this area, why isn't it closed down? Is whatever happens there OK as long as government officials aren't directly involved?

Apparently Oudkerk had been reprimanded earlier for surfing adult sites on a laptop provided by the city council. Now, porn surfing has been reason for dismissal in several cases (though courts of law seem to become more reluctant to uphold the dismissals lately). However, as far as I know in those cases it was excessive porn surfing during office hours and / or harassing collegues by sending adult content through e-mail that was the problem.

At the end of the day, the main cause of Oudkerk's downfall may well have been his lack of discretion. What we're seeing here might be the old mores versus the new: the strict separation of the public and the private spheres that we were used to, versus - what, exactly?

More Dutch politics and current events:
On-site link, opens in this window Dutch politics in 2004


There has been a dramatic rise in the number of people detained or sentenced for internet-related offences in China, according to the London-based rights group Amnesty International. There are now at least 54 people who have been imprisoned for emailing, setting up websites or exchanging pro-democracy messages online - a 60% increase from a year ago - the group said in its latest report on the repression of internet users by the Chinese authorities. In addition, an unknown number of people remained in detention for disseminating information over the internet about the spread of the Sars virus.
Off-site link, opens in new window BBC news: China tightens web control

A highly respected and intelligent pair of innovative musicians are making a power grab on behalf of artists. They are taking advantage of the general chaos in the space, and the apparent cluelessness of the big labels vis-a-vis the internet. In other words, the music industry's Hell just got a lot hotter.
Off-site link, opens in new window The Big Picture: musicians looking to let internet replace record companies
Off-site link, opens in new window Billboard: Gabriel, Eno launch musicians alliance
Off-site link, opens in new window Mudda: the magnificent union of digitally downloading artists

An insider's view on manuscript rejections. Good article, even better discussion.
Off-site link, opens in new window Making Light: slushkiller
Off-site link, opens in new window (via Apothecary's drawer)

Salon article covering the same subject matter.
Off-site link, opens in new window Salon: confessions of a slush pile reader

Frodo, on child stardom. Gandalf, on porn. Arwen, on whatever it is she’s talking about.
Off-site link, opens in new window The Wave: Lord have mercy

Novel progress #28

Two new episodes in the past three weeks, 1,319 new words, 50,568 words total.
On-site link, opens in this window Introduction
On-site link, opens in this window Introduction and start of part 2
On-site link, opens in this window After the war (75)
On-site link, opens in this window After the war (76)

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