Tuesday, May 8, 2007


I just read 29 Happiness Hacks to Feel Better Now, and the tip I really liked is tip Eighteen:

Hack Eighteen: Silence

Listen to the quiet. Turn off every sound possible so you can actually hear what silence sounds like. It might require a drive to a more secluded location, or turning off appliances in your house but near absolute silence is so rare it is amazing how beautiful it is when you can hear it.

However it can be so hard to find a silent place nowadays. In my room I always hear music of neighbours (not that hard that it is annoying, but i still hear it), my computer, and several other small sounds.

Even when I go for a walk outside the city it still hard to get silence. Recently I took a walk along the Paterswoldse Meer, and though it's nice and relatively quiet there at night, you still hear the cars from the nearby highway.

I remember skiing down a closed black piste with a friend of mine, and since it was closed (meaning you're not insured if you get an accident) and black (meaning it's comparatively hard) there was no-one there. And as the piste went around a mountain, at some point you could see neither hear the other pistes. Shocked by the silence I first comfirmed that "Ezel" was indeed the mayor of "Wezel".

We decided to lie down for a moment and to listen to the silence. And it was right there I discovered I haven't heared silence for a long time. This was really a weird discovery, because you're in enough "silent" situations; when in the library, while making an exam, etc. However, it's only when you hear perfect silence you realise you actually never experience real silence.

When was the last time you experienced silence?

Monday, May 7, 2007

Jonathan Swift on Security Theater

Recently I stumbled upon a passage in Gulliver's Travels where Gulliver visits the Academy of Projectors. In this Academy, projectors invent great projects, however there seem to be some practical downsides (aka, the plans don't work). After visiting a professor extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, a professor who tried to restore the original food from human excrements, a professor who decided it was better to build buildings top-down, since that was how spiders built them and several others, he came into the political department. Here he met another professor:

Another professor showed me a large paper of instructions for discovering plots and conspiracies against the government. He advised great statesmen to examine into the diet of all suspected persons; their times of eating; upon which side they lay in bed; with which hand they wipe their posteriors; take a strict view of their excrements, and, from the colour, the odour, the taste, the consistence, the crudeness or maturity of digestion, form a judgment of their thoughts and designs; because men are never so serious, thoughtful, and intent, as when they are at stool, which he found by frequent experiment; for, in such conjunctures, when he used, merely as a trial, to consider which was the best way of murdering the king, his ordure would have a tincture of green; but quite different, when he thought only of raising an insurrection, or burning the metropolis.

Which reminded me of a lot of posts on Security Theater and profiling in the aviation industry which I read on Schneiers blog recently, however, it reminded me the most on the report of the development of a new technology which registers wether someone on board of a plane is a terrorist by watching how they act. Maybe they should put technology in the toilets instead ;). I really like how a 300-year old satire still is so uptodate.