Aug 312016

According to Wikipedia, as of 2010, some 1’200’000 people died in traffic-related accidents. Here’s how that looks geographically:


The take-away is fairly simple: you’re better-off driving in (interesting how these same countries come back every time): Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland and, unexpectedly, Israel. The rest of Europe, if you don’t stray too far east, is relatively harmless, along with Canada and Australia, which are only twice as dangerous as the ‘model’ countries. In the USA, your chances of dying are quadrupled. From there, the multiplier is on a bender: Mexico 5, Bolivia 6, Kenya 7, Iran 8, Ecuador 9, Oman 10, Nigeria 11, Thailand 12 and the winner if Erithrea, where you are 16 times more likely to die on the road.

Why did I go to all this trouble for victims of car accidents, you may well ask? Because it represents about 1’200’000 who die every year for no good reason, yet we find it perfectly acceptable. In contrast we wallow in grief for one death:

A while back, Pakistan hung Shafqat Hussain, found guilty of having killed a 7-year-old child, and the whole twitosphere is in uproar because he was too young to be executed. This suits journalists, who can use said tweets to justify their perception of ‘public opinion’. A false premise that even a tapeworm could understand, because tweets are not votes, carefully counted in a ballot-box; they are tweets, and as their name implies, they are mindless drivel, most likely generated by a computer.

What’s interesting is that nobody questions that Shafqat did actually kill a 7-year-old, but nobody, especially journalists, gives a shit because the life of an innocent young boy is much less news-grabbing than the sob-story of a supposedly-persecuted adolescent. I’m not sure whose testicles I’d prefer to crush in a vice, Shafqat’s or the journalists. From a Darwinian perspective, all those testicles seems the most sensible approach.

You’re not reading/listening anymore because I questioned the reality of the twittosphere? Your single-digit IQ brings forth my greatest compassion.

May 292016

I was quite surprised how much the choice of anti-aliaser affects a render. Here I’ve rendered a scene with all the 3DS anti-aliasers, to compare how they fare. The scene is a ring (which you might wear on a finger), using Neil Blevins beautiful gold material. The subject is 5 intersecting toruses, scanline renderer, with an HDR skylight based on Desk_Sm_Blurry.hdr. I discovered that all the anti-aliasers are very susceptible to the radiosity quality, there is a huge difference in the artifacts between the 85% default and 99% radiosity that I used.

Area, nice at first glance, but a bit cartoony


Blend, not suitable for this kind of texture


Blackman, a little blurry but quite realistic


Catmull-Rom. Convincing, but a little too much


Cook Variable. Very crisp in the highlights, a bit blurred elsewhere


Cubic. Poor unlit areas


Mitchell-Natravali. Crisp compromise, my favourite


Quadratic. A little surrealist and over-smoothed


Sharp Quadratic. A little better than the basic quadratic, but still too smoothed


Apr 292016

Disclaimer: I have never flown a model aircraft in my life. I unboxed RF7.5 at 23:30 and crashed my first trainer at 23:50.

They were an instructive 20 minutes and I’ll detail them, hopefully you might find it useful.

RF is a trivial install; pop in the DVD and run setup.exe. The only thing you might like to change is the install directory; the RF install is 6.5GB, if you’re tight on space on your C: drive you might like to put it on another disk. Otherwise, just be patient, it takes several minutes but couldn’t be easier.

If you’re in America, skip this paragraph. We Europeans will launch RF and get “Invalid or corrupt version of WMVCORE.DLL”. This is par for the course, ‘N’ versions of Windows don’t have the correct components of Windows Media Player. With a little sleight of hand you’ll find the reason for your OS and from there (for me Windows 7 N or KN editions) get the Media Feature Pack. Once you’ve installed that, re-booted your PC and uttered a spray of profanities, you’re ready to start flying. Double-click RF on the desktop and you should see something like this:


This might not seem very impressive. Well, take off and you’ll see this:


I played with my first flight simulator on an IBM PC with 2 5.5″ disks back in 1988 and I’ve seen many in-between. Here I was gob-stopped by the simulation; the specular lighting and level of detail is truly astonishing and the aircraft behaviour is incredibly realistic.

Now, a purist 3D-modeller might argue that the perspective of the fence-posts doesn’t change with the viewing angle, nonetheless when you drive the plane gently into the fence, you hear the propeller tapping the wires:


The simulation could hardly be more perfect.

I’ll be back with more when I’ve got a bit more experience with what appears to be a very polished piece of software.

Mar 232016

Another few dozen dead in Brussels, apparently the work of islamic suicide bombers. Almost customary news-of-the-day, followed by the customary heart-rending of politicians, eager to gain media-time for their own self-glorification. After ‘nous sommes Charlie’, we have ‘nous sommes Paris’ and now, predictably, ‘nous sommes Bruxelles’. Trite, self-serving and an utter waste of media bandwidth.

The drivel served up to us, ad nauseum, wallows between indignation and glib sound-bites about tolerance and the necessity of doing something for the down-trodden poor. These poor souls apparently are (almost) justified in resorting to violence because they can’t find employment, whilst clamouring for equal treatment despite the djellabas, thick beards and a thick misogynistic streak that doesn’t quite jig with our society.

Whether it was Voltaire or Rousseau who said “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” makes no difference; you have the absolute right to worship who/whatsoever you choose. However, your rights end where my rights start, and vice-versa. Having respected your right to worship, you have the logical obligation to respect my right to do something else.

The moderate, respectable muslim will object that the suicide bombers don’t represent his views. The problem is that the suicide bomber claims to represent islam. If the moderate muslim doesn’t take steps to stop the suicide bombers, he shouldn’t be surprised to find himself bundled with them.

A muslim, you have decided to come and live in Europe. You’re more than welcome, many of us came from elsewhere and we thrive on diversity. However, it’s not a one-way street; when we visit a mosque, I take off my shoes and my wife wears a veil; quaint to our culture, but I respect yours. When you come to Europe, your daughter at school has the obligation to learn how to swim. We don’t do this to look at her breasts, we do it because in Europe there are many lakes and rivers and we don’t want our children to drown.

Is all this really so hard to understand? Or, as I suspect, are you doing it deliberately?

Jun 242015

So Tsarnaev apologises for his crime. Predictable, as in the USA, showing remorse seems to infer some kind of leniency, on the American model “You’ll always be forgiven your fuckups and given a second chance”.

In business, you create a venture, it goes tits-up, you go bankrupt, you get a second chance. This is eminently fair, after all, your backers were venture capitalists who were fully aware that they might lose their shirt.

Tsarnaev’s case is very different, he maimed and killed. Purportedly in the name of a religion. Said religion does not, in its majority, condone maiming and killing, although it’s a fine line, given the lack of condemnation by the muslim community.

Let us be perfectly clear, the death penalty has little dissuasive effect (on psychotics, who by definition aren’t in ‘our’ world). The death penalty serves a simple purpose: the culprit cannot do it again and he cannot propagate his genes. There is no credible argument which would allow the remote possibility that Tsarnaev could reproduce; his crime is so ignominious that he must be eliminated.

Apr 262015

in 1959, at the time of the first Sputniks, René Char wrote

L’homme de l’espace dont c’est le jour natal sera un milliard de fois moins lumineux et révélera un milliard de fois moins de choses cachées que l’homme granité, reclus et recouché de Lascaux, au dur membre débourbé de la mort.

Which renders, roughly, as

The spaceman born today will be a billion times fainter and will reveal a billion times less things than Lascaux’s stone-age Neanderthal recluse, whose strength was dredged from death.

Feb 222015

Recent events have weighed heavily on the notion of tolerance, which Voltaire described nicely in his prayer to God in 1763, some 250 years ago. Despite being a dyed-in-the-wool atheist, I have to admit his text was premonitory:

No longer then do I address myself to men, but to you, God of all beings, of all worlds, and of all ages; if it may be permitted weak creatures lost in immensity and imperceptible to the rest of the universe, to dare to ask something of you, you who have given everything, and whose decrees are immutable as they are eternal. Deign to look with pity on the errors attached to our nature; let not these errors prove ruinous to us. You have not given us hearts to hate ourselves with, and hands to kill one another. Grant then that we may mutually aid each other to support the burden of a painful and transitory life; that the trifling differences in the garments that cover our frail bodies, in our insufficient languages, in our ridiculous customs, in our imperfect laws, in our idle opinions, in all our conditions so disproportionate in our eyes, and so equal in yours, that all the little variations that differentiate the atoms called men not be signs of hatred and persecution; that those who light candles in broad daylight to worship you bear with those who content themselves with the light of your sun; that those who dress themselves in a white robe to say that we must love you do not detest those who say the same thing in cloaks of black wool; that it may be all the same to adore you in a dialect formed from an ancient or a modern language; that those whose coat is colored red or violet, who rule over a little parcel of a little heap of mud of this world, and who possess a few round fragments of a certain metal, enjoy without pride what they call grandeur and riches, and may others look on them without envy: for you know that there is nothing in all these vanities to inspire envy or pride.

May all men remember that they are brothers! May they hold in horror tyranny exerted over souls, just as they do the violence which forcibly seizes the products of peaceful industry! And if the scourge of war is inevitable, let us not hate one another, let us not destroy one another in the midst of peace, and let us use the moment of our existence to bless, in a thousand different languages, from Siam to California, your goodness which has given us this moment.

Jan 162015

Yesterday evening I was fortunate to be amongst a select few who had the privilege to be invited to hear the investment advice of the chief strategist of a major Swiss bank. (I should mention at the outset that the vast majority of the audience’s reference currency is the Swiss franc.)

The speaker was clearly an erudite man and his delivery was flawless. The underlying theme of his speech was divergence in today’s economy: in interest rates, in GDP, in unemployment, in central banks’ strategies, and so forth. Render unto Caesar, his presentation was concise, well-researched and extremely persuasive.

The conclusion of his argument was the bank’s investment strategy. In a nutshell, Swiss and European equities present few opportunites. On the other hand, the USA appears to have left recession and is showing strong growth perspectives, which he estimated at around 6%. The bank’s strategy is thus to move their clients’ assets to Swiss and European gilt of the highest quality for portfolio protection and to US blue-chips for revenue.

When questioned on the Swiss National Bank’s strategy of locking the Swiss franc to a floor of 1.20 CHF/EUR, he was of the opinion that the floor to the Euro would be replaced by a floor against a basket of currencies, probably EUR/USD/JPY, sometime in 2015.

Were I to have followed his advice, this morning, first thing, I would have moved my investments into US blue-chips, the stocks that participate in the Dow-Jones Index: American Express, Boeing, Caterpillar, etc. in the hope of a return of some 6% instead of the measly percent or two that I get on Swiss franc holdings.

With the most tragic timing for our strategist, some 14 hours later the Swiss National Bank announced that it had abandoned the 1.20 floor. The effect was instantaneous: the EUR and the USD crashed against the CHF, settling at day-end to ~0.86CHF/USD and CHF/EUR at a similar rate.

Had I bought those American shares some hours previously, I would have taken a 15% hit on my portfolio in so-many hours; even if the strategist’s predictions come true, I’ll have to wait two and a half years before breaking even.

There are several lessons to be learned from this story:

  1. Despite everything that your banker, hand-on-heart, assures you, he has no interest whatsoever in your financial well-being. His sole aim in life is to persuade you to trade your holdings as often as possible so that he can gather a maximum commission. If, despite the commissions, you make money, he’ll congratulate himself on having helped you. If you lose money, he’ll appear heart-broken at your misfortune, which was entirely due to the unfavourable market.
  2. If your reference currency is the CHF and you invest in higher-yield USD-labelled assets, you’re exposed to the CHF/USD exchange risk. Momentarily you might get away with it; as this example shows, you are likely to take a caning.
  3. Inversely, if your reference currency is the EUR and you buy CHF assets, your yield will be much more frugal… but your capital will be better preserved.

The take-away from all this is that in today’s liquid markets there is no free lunch. If your ambition is to receive the rate of inflation plus a whisker on your investments, there’s a strong likelihood that you’ll get it. If your ambition is get 6%, be prepared to lose 15% momentarily when things go tits-up.

P.S. For those whose mother-tongue is not English, the title is a pun

Dec 022014

Mr. President,

I stand before the world as a proud representative of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. I stand tall before you knowing that truth and morality are on my side. And yet, I stand here knowing that today in this Assembly, truth will be turned on its head and morality cast aside.

The fact of the matter is that when members of the international community speak about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a fog descends to cloud all logic and moral clarity. The result isn’t realpolitik, its surrealpolitik.

The world’s unrelenting focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an injustice to tens of millions of victims of tyranny and terrorism in the Middle East. As we speak, Yazidis, Bahai, Kurds, Christians and Muslims are being executed and expelled by radical extremists at a rate of 1,000 people per month.

How many resolutions did you pass last week to address this crisis? And how many special sessions did you call for? The answer is zero. What does this say about international concern for human life? Not much, but it speaks volumes about the hypocrisy of the international community.

I stand before you to speak the truth. Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, less than half a percent are truly free – and they are all citizens of Israel.

Israeli Arabs are some of the most educated Arabs in the world. They are our leading physicians and surgeons, they are elected to our parliament, and they serve as judges on our Supreme Court. Millions of men and women in the Middle East would welcome these opportunities and freedoms.

Nonetheless, nation after nation, will stand at this podium today and criticize Israel – the small island of democracy in a region plagued by tyranny and oppression.

Mr. President,

Our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It has always been about the existence of the Jewish state.

Sixty seven years ago this week, on November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted to partition the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. Simple. The Jews said yes. The Arabs said no. But they didn’t just say no. Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon launched a war of annihilation against our newborn state.

This is the historical truth that the Arabs are trying to distort. The Arabs’ historic mistake continues to be felt – in lives lost in war, lives lost to terrorism, and lives scarred by the Arab’s narrow political interests.

According to the United Nations, about 700,000 Palestinians were displaced in the war initiated by the Arabs themselves. At the same time, some 850,000 Jews were forced to flee from Arab countries.

Why is it, that 67 years later, the displacement of the Jews has been completely forgotten by this institution while the displacement of the Palestinians is the subject of an annual debate?

The difference is that Israel did its utmost to integrate the Jewish refugees into society. The Arabs did just the opposite.

The worst oppression of the Palestinian people takes place in Arab nations. In most of the Arab world, Palestinians are denied citizenship and are aggressively discriminated against. They are barred from owning land and prevented from entering certain professions.

And yet none – not one – of these crimes are mentioned in the resolutions before you.

If you were truly concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people there would be one, just one, resolution to address the thousands of Palestinians killed in Syria. And if you were so truly concerned about the Palestinians there would be at least one resolution to denounce the treatment of Palestinians in Lebanese refugee camps.

But there isn’t. The reason is that today’s debate is not about speaking for peace or speaking for the Palestinian people – it is about speaking against Israel. It is nothing but a hate and bashing festival against Israel.

Mr. President,

The European nations claim to stand for Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité – freedom, equality, and brotherhood – but nothing could be farther from the truth.

I often hear European leaders proclaim that Israel has the right to exist in secure borders. That’s very nice. But I have to say – it makes about as much sense as me standing here and proclaiming Sweden’s right to exist in secure borders.

When it comes to matters of security, Israel learned the hard way that we cannot rely on others – certainly not Europe.

In 1973, on Yom Kippur – the holiest day on the Jewish calendar – the surrounding Arab nations launched an attack against Israel. In the hours before the war began, Golda Meir, our Prime Minister then, made the difficult decision not to launch a preemptive strike. The Israeli Government understood that if we launched a preemptive strike, we would lose the support of the international community.

As the Arab armies advanced on every front, the situation in Israel grew dire. Our casualty count was growing and we were running dangerously low on weapons and ammunition. In this, our hour of need, President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, agreed to send Galaxy planes loaded with tanks and ammunition to resupply our troops. The only problem was that the Galaxy planes needed to refuel on route to Israel.

The Arab States were closing in and our very existence was threatened – and yet, Europe was not even willing to let the planes refuel. The U.S. stepped in once again and negotiated that the planes be allowed to refuel in the Azores.

The government and people of Israel will never forget that when our very existence was at stake, only one country came to our aid – the United States of America.

Israel is tired of hollow promises from European leaders. The Jewish people have a long memory. We will never ever forget that you failed us in the 1940s. You failed us in 1973. And you are failing us again today.

Every European parliament that voted to prematurely and unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state is giving the Palestinians exactly what they want – statehood without peace. By handing them a state on a silver platter, you are rewarding unilateral actions and taking away any incentive for the Palestinians to negotiate or compromise or renounce violence. You are sending the message that the Palestinian Authority can sit in a government with terrorists and incite violence against Israel without paying any price.

The first E.U. member to officially recognize a Palestinian state was Sweden. One has to wonder why the Swedish Government was so anxious to take this step. When it comes to other conflicts in our region, the Swedish Government calls for direct negotiations between the parties – but for the Palestinians, surprise, surprise, they roll out the red carpet.

State Secretary Söder may think she is here to celebrate her government’s so-called historic recognition, when in reality it’s nothing more than an historic mistake.

The Swedish Government may host the Nobel Prize ceremony, but there is nothing noble about their cynical political campaign to appease the Arabs in order to get a seat on the Security Council. Nations on the Security Council should have sense, sensitivity, and sensibility. Well, the Swedish Government has shown no sense, no sensitivity and no sensibility. Just nonsense.

Israel learned the hard way that listening to the international community can bring about devastating consequences. In 2005, we unilaterally dismantled every settlement and removed every citizen from the Gaza Strip. Did this bring us any closer to peace? Not at all. It paved the way for Iran to send its terrorist proxies to establish a terror stronghold on our doorstep.

I can assure you that we won’t make the same mistake again. When it comes to our security, we cannot and will not rely on others – Israel must be able to defend itself by itself.

Mr. President,

The State of Israel is the land of our forefathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is the land where Moses led the Jewish people, where David built his palace, where Solomon built the Jewish Temple, and where Isaiah saw a vision of eternal peace.

For thousands of years, Jews have lived continuously in the land of Israel. We endured through the rise and fall of the Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek and Roman Empires. And we endured through thousands of years of persecution, expulsions and crusades. The bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land is unbreakable.

Nothing can change one simple truth – Israel is our home and Jerusalem is our eternal capital.

At the same time, we recognize that Jerusalem has special meaning for other faiths. Under Israeli sovereignty, all people – and I will repeat that, all people – regardless of religion and nationality can visit the city’s holy sites. And we intend to keep it this way. The only ones trying to change the status quo on the Temple Mount are Palestinian leaders.

President Abbas is telling his people that Jews are contaminating the Temple Mount. He has called for days of rage and urged Palestinians to prevent Jews from visiting the Temple Mount using (quote) “all means” necessary. These words are as irresponsible as they are unacceptable.

You don’t have to be Catholic to visit the Vatican, you don’t have to be Jewish to visit the Western Wall, but some Palestinians would like to see the day when only Muslims can visit the Temple Mount.

You, the international community, are lending a hand to extremists and fanatics. You, who preach tolerance and religious freedom, should be ashamed. Israel will never let this happen. We will make sure that the holy places remain open to all people of all faiths for all time.

Mr. President,

No one wants peace more than Israel. No one needs to explain the importance of peace to parents who have sent their child to defend our homeland. No one knows the stakes of success or failure better than we Israelis do. The people of Israel have shed too many tears and buried too many sons and daughters.

We are ready for peace, but we are not naïve. Israel’s security is paramount. Only a strong and secure Israel can achieve a comprehensive peace.

The past month should make it clear to anyone that Israel has immediate and pressing security needs. In recent weeks, Palestinian terrorists have shot and stabbed our citizens and twice driven their cars into crowds of pedestrians. Just a few days ago, terrorists armed with axes and a gun savagely attacked Jewish worshipers during morning prayers. We have reached the point when Israelis can’t even find sanctuary from terrorism in the sanctuary of a synagogue.

These attacks didn’t emerge out of a vacuum. They are the results of years of indoctrination and incitement. A Jewish proverb teaches: “The instruments of both death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

As a Jew and as an Israeli, I know with utter certainly that when our enemies say they want to attack us, they mean it.

Hamas’s genocidal charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews worldwide. For years, Hamas and other terrorist groups have sent suicide bombers into our cities, launched rockets into our towns, and sent terrorists to kidnap and murder our citizens.

And what about the Palestinian Authority? It is leading a systemic campaign of incitement. In schools, children are being taught that ‘Palestine’ will stretch from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. In mosques, religious leaders are spreading vicious libels accusing Jews of destroying Muslim holy sites. In sports stadiums, teams are named after terrorists. And in newspapers, cartoons urge Palestinians to commit terror attacks against Israelis.

Children in most of the world grow up watching cartoons of Mickey Mouse singing and dancing. Palestinian children also grow up watching Mickey Mouse, but on Palestinians national television, a twisted figure dressed as Mickey Mouse dances in an explosive belt and chants “Death to America and death to the Jews.”

I challenge you to stand up here today and do something constructive for a change. Publically denounce the violence, denounce the incitement, and denounce the culture of hate.

Most people believe that at its core, the conflict is a battle between Jews and Arabs or Israelis and Palestinians. They are wrong. The battle that we are witnessing is a battle between those who sanctify life and those who celebrate death.

Following the savage attack in a Jerusalem synagogue, celebrations erupted in Palestinian towns and villages. People were dancing in the street and distributing candy. Young men posed with axes, loudspeakers at mosques called out congratulations, and the terrorists were hailed as “martyrs” and “heroes.”

This isn’t the first time that we saw the Palestinians celebrate the murder of innocent civilians. We saw them rejoice after every terrorist attack on Israeli civilians and they even took to the streets to celebrate the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center right here in New York City.

Imagine the type of state this society would produce. Does the Middle East really need another terror-ocracy? Some members of the international community are aiding and abetting its creation.

Mr. President,

As we came into the United Nations, we passed the flags of all 193 member States. If you take the time to count, you will discover that there are 15 flags with a crescent and 25 flags with a cross. And then there is one flag with a Jewish Star of David. Amidst all the nations of the world there is one state – just one small nation state for the Jewish people.

And for some people, that is one too many.

As I stand before you today I am reminded of all the years when Jewish people paid for the world’s ignorance and indifference in blood. Those days are no more.

We will never apologize for being a free and independent people in our sovereign state. And we will never apologize for defending ourselves.

To the nations that continue to allow prejudice to prevail over truth, I say “J’accuse.”

I accuse you of hypocrisy. I accuse you of duplicity.

I accuse you of lending legitimacy to those who seek to destroy our State.

I accuse you of speaking about Israel’s right of self-defense in theory, but denying it in practice.

And I accuse you of demanding concessions from Israel, but asking nothing of the Palestinians.

In the face of these offenses, the verdict is clear. You are not for peace and you are not for the Palestinian people. You are simply against Israel.

Members of the international community have a choice to make.

You can recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, or permit the Palestinian leadership to deny our history without consequence.

You can publically proclaim that the so-called “claim of return” is a non-starter, or you can allow this claim to remain the major obstacle to any peace agreement.

You can work to end Palestinian incitement, or stand by as hatred and extremism take root for generations to come.

You can prematurely recognize a Palestinian state, or you can encourage the Palestinian Authority to break its pact with Hamas and return to direct negotiations.

The choice is yours. You can continue to steer the Palestinians off course or pave the way to real and lasting peace.

Thank you, Mr. President.