Angry Birds, Gingerbread Level

There’s never going to be an end to the Angry Birds stuff, is there? Someone with clearly a wild imagination and far too much time on their hands thought that there was a need for a gingerbread version of an Angry Birds level, complete with marzipan birds and pigs and even a traditional for Angry Birds TNT box at the base of the house.

Wonder what their high score was ūüôā

–° –Ě–ĺ–≤—č–ľ –≥–ĺ–ī–ĺ–ľ – Happy New Year

To all my friends in Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Belarus (and my Russian speaking friends in Amsterdam), I would like to wish you

–° –Ě–ĺ–≤—č–ľ –≥–ĺ–ī–ĺ–ľ¬†–ł –Ĺ–į–ł–Ľ—É—á—ą–ł–Ķ –Ņ–ĺ–∂–Ķ–Ľ–į–Ĺ–ł—Ź¬†–Ĺ–į 2012 –≥–ĺ–ī

Happy New Year and best wishes for 2012

“Oliebollen” – Holland’s Contribution To World Cuisine

It’s one of the most unhealthy foods you can think of. Large wads of dough, mixed with¬†raisins, and cooked in boiling oil and grease. It’s a winter favourite of the Dutch and every year they make a big song and dance about the “quality” of the nations Oliebollen. Literally translated as Oil Balls, it’s not hard to find out why. The oil and grease slithers down your fingers as you bite into them, and the dough usually sits in your stomach until next winter.

Whilst the rest of the country has gone to pot, the government slashing everything here there and everywhere so that the cost of living will¬†sky-rocket¬†in 2012, it’s reassuring to know that according to the Algemeen Dagblad, a Dutch daily broadsheet, the standard of these lumps of lard, has¬†improved¬†this year. They tested 113 samples, of which 79 received a passing grade. At least SOMETHING good in the news then, ‘ay?

However, what I laughed at most, and what seems so profoundly and typically “Dutch”, was the fact that they take this crap food so seriously to the point that “suppliers of the raw materials organised meetings where the technical details of the trade are extensively discussed”. If you’ve had the (dis)pleasure of living in the Netherlands, you’ll know immediately that this translates into a bunch of loud mouthed, know-it-all cloggies all¬†arguing about the best recipe, whilst at the same time trying to follow the usual Dutch political discourse of everyone meeting a general consensus so that everyone “agrees” on what the overall recipe and consistency should be.

However, the usual result of the so-called “poldermodel” is that Jan Dutchman will feck off and do his own thing anyway, and screw the rest of them. Why so much time should be devoted to lumps of lard is beyond me, but then, I never could understand Cloggy “logic”.

Honey, are there any mince pies left?

UPDATE – A Friend took this photo at Almere today where a huge queue built up for their much loved Oil Balls!! Madness!!

Should The Ship Of State Abandon The Euro?

Irish economist, David McWilliams wrote and excellent article on Ireland’s options. Have a read below.

If the Irish Finance Minister is to be believed, we will be asked to take to the polls once again. The decision this time though will be to decide the economic fate of the Nation and choose to stay or leave the euro. To stay in means continued loss of¬†sovereignty¬†over our economic¬†affairs, which will continue in the form of austerity budgets and continued attacks from the French and Germans over Ireland’s competitive corporate income tax rate. But what would the landscape look like if Ireland were to vote with her feet and elect to leave the euro? What does having ones own exchange rate mean for a debt beleaguered small nation such as ours, and what might having your own exchange rate allow you to do? How might this be a valuable alternative for Ireland.

For the moment, the core central mantra Irish economic policy is something called “internal devaluation”. It’s a concept and mantra¬†backed by the “Troika” mechanics of it go something like this: Ireland needs to export its way out of the recession. But Ireland’s “running costs” and high wages mean that Ireland is uncompetitive. Since we’re tied to the euro,¬†we don’t have an exchange rate that can fall. So the only other alternative is to slash at wages and drive them down over a period of years so that Irish industry can become competitive once again.

At the same time that we’re forcing down wages, we must also reduce government expenditure, because we can’t afford to pay for it. As the government deficit at the start of the IMF bailout programme was 14% of GNP and we need to get the deficit down to 3%, we will reduce spending by 11% of GNP over the next two or three years.

With government spending reduced so drastically, who then is left in the country to spend our way out of recession?

The answer to that question rests with us…the ordinary people. We are expected to spend and keep the local economy going. But we’re not. We’re worried (and rightfully so) about the future, so we are saving. Who is spending the missing 11% of our income which has just been taken out of the Irish economy? Now here is where our policy gets a bit overly optimistic, to say the least, because in order for our economy to stay just as it is, foreigners need to massively increase their buying up of Irish goods.

But why would they do this? Have Irish goods become so much cheaper or gained so much increased value in the last twelve months?

The theory of “internal devaluation” says that the Irish economy and workforce are so flexible that we will all take dramatic paycuts, this will drive down wages and we will become competitive this way. It can also be helped along with the mass exodus of¬†emigration¬†abroad in the search for work. Because we have no exchange rate and are members of the euro, we will devalue by cannibalising our own wages, or sons and daughters. But according to the governments present policy, even at these much lower wages we will be able to service the huge debts built up in the credit bubble. How is that even possible? Well frankly, it is not.

But before we explain why debt dynamics at lower wages makes servicing old debt impossible, let’s examine the first bit of the theory which says that Irish wages have fallen dramatically and will continue to do so. Let us examine the evidence that Irish workers — or any workers for that matter — accept reductions in their wages as the theory says.

Ireland and Latvia are in the euro (well, Latvia has a fixed exchange rate with the euro). We are both locked in austerity programmes, and we are supposed to be devaluing internally. Iceland on the other-hand has its own currency, the kroner.

Irish and Latvian wages have remained more or less the same since 2008 against our competitors. In contrast, Icelandic wages against its competitors have fallen dramatically. Iceland has become dramatically more competitive compared to Ireland and Latvia because it devalued its currency dramatically in 2008/09.

Iceland in one sharp devaluation swoop has achieved what Ireland and Latvia are supposed to achieve over years of eroding wages. If we are supposed to achieve Icelandic levels of wage competitiveness, we will have to shrink the economy over the next few years. By having their own currency the Icelandics did in a few weeks what we have been trying, unsuccessfully, to do over the past four years.

Having its own exchange rate allows a country to adjust quickly. Yes, living standards when measured in euro fall, but that has to happen in both the Irish and the Icelandic case. The question is how do you achieve this and are you giving your people a chance?

There is a reason why no economy in the world has ever emerged from a recession like ours without changing its exchange rate. The reason is that it simply can’t be done. There is no evidence anywhere, ever, that shows that a country can operate a successful “internal devaluation”, particularly an economy carrying as much debt as we have.

So if it can’t be done, what are we trying to do? And more to the point, what is the cost of this lunacy? Much is made of the “flexibility” of the Irish labour force. But the flexibility is not in wages but in levels of unemployment. The Irish labour market adjusts alright, but the adjustment comes not in falling wages but in rising unemployment and emigration. This is what we don’t want to happen, yet this is what the policy is leading to.

So those getting paid too much in Ireland still get paid too much, yet the people who feel the real cost of the “internal devaluation” are those who lose their jobs because rather than cut wages, employers cut staff.

When people are laid off, it is very difficult to get a new job because no one is spending in the economy. The government is not spending and the people are not spending. But what about the the much heralded export-led growth which postulates that foreigners will buy loads of Irish goods, more than compensating for the fall in domestic spending?

Well it doesn’t happen, partly because Irish wages haven’t fallen, so Irish goods are no more competitive than they were a few years ago. Yes, exports have risen, but nowhere near enough to offset the local contraction. This is why unemployment has trebled in three years and why emigration is running at over 1,000 people a week. It is not that the policy of internal devaluation is not working, it can’t work. It has never worked anywhere, ever.

Yet the really strange thing is that it is billed as being mainstream economic thinking. It is not mainstream economics, it is highly radical. What is mainstream and proven is the power of devaluations. Yet those recommending the course of action that mainstream economics tells us to do are labelled radicals.

Language will be very important in a referendum year and you will notice that the Irish and European economic establishment will deploy language to paint those who support the country returning to its own currency as extreme. The truth is that what is extreme is following a policy which has never worked anywhere and the cost of which is mass unemployment and mass emigration. Now that is truly radical.

Going To Ukraine For Euro 2012? Best Not Take The Car!

No, the reason I’m advising you to not take the car has nothing to do with the crazy standard of driving that exists throughout Ukraine and Russia, even though that is enough reason to leave the car at home. No, the reason is much simpler than that. And it’s all to do with whom you’ll be sharing the roads with on your way to beautiful Ukraine….Yes, you’ve guessed it….those crazhy Dutch and their plethora of caravans will be blocking the highways and by-ways of Ukraine and the rest of Eastern Europe this summer.

The penny dropped for me the other day when I was reading an article in the paper. Admittedly I got a clue earlier in the week from a Dutch colleague who told me that it was too far to drive for him…..DRIVE? To UKRAINE?? It’d take fucking ages to get there. And it would taker even longer if you were stuck in a contraflow behind the bane of every motorist in Europe….the Dutch Caravaner!!

European traffic from the Ardennes in Belgium to the French Riviera slows down annually every summer as tens of thousands of Dutch families hit the road in their caravans. Except this summer, the forests of the Ardennes, and the French and Spanish countryside will be somewhat more tranquil and spared as most football fans have already elected to take their trusty rust buckets on their adventures east to enjoy the regalia of the Euro 2012 finals in Ukraine.

Half a million of the towed mini-vacation homes are registered in the Netherlands, making the Dutch continental Europe’s biggest buyers, according to BOVAG, the local caravan dealers group. Caravaners include former Prime Minister Wim Kok. A quarter million caravans are used every summer, and most head for France, with traffic peaking at the end of July, figures from the Dutch Automobile Association show.

A typical summer exodus follows a very set regime. Families leave at precisely 6:30pm on a Friday (after dinner, of course) and will all hit the highways via car-caravan or campervan at the same time, stocked full of ample supplies and all things Dutch (think tents, sleeping bags, deck chairs, toilet paper, cheese, milk, potatoes, hagelslag, kroketten and drop and their other favourite Dutch staples).

Of course you may be wondering¬†why the Dutch feel the need to bring their own food (or toilet paper for that matter) on vacation¬†‚Äď well, you can‚Äôt expect any good food to be found across Europe’s top culinary locales can you? I am going to assume that it must be their fear of not getting a decent meal abroad ‚Äď as it couldn‚Äôt possibly be due to their infamous‚Ķ.umm‚Ķ.cheapness!

According to the Volkskrant, the Dutch¬†owner¬†of a camping site in Ukraine reduced the prices at his campsite after several complaints. The organisation has now cut the price for a three night stay from ‚ā¨269 to ‚ā¨209 ‚Äď provided campers have their own accommodation.¬†Which means one thing….given that the Dutch LOVE a bargain, and it’s now cheaper, they’ll surely arrive en masse with their rust buckets in tow, full to bursting with their cheese, milk and hagelslag.

The Oranjecamping initiative was set up by a Dutch national, Jokko de Wit, who told the Volkskrant he is ‚Äėpleased‚Äô to be able to offer a reduction in the prices so the company can offer affordable accommodation ‘in combination with lots of Dutch fun’. So you know what that means…..Oom pah pah music being belted out until four in the morning, and wild blonde haired and blue eyed brats running around and misbehaving whilst their parents watch on with pride as their little ‘Jan’ is “expressing” himself.

And you are sure not to miss the familiar Dutch flag flying from the caravan roof. God forbid they ever be confused for a bunch of Germans!!! Wonder what the Ukrainians will make of it. They might think that the Wehrmacht has returned en-force!

Honey….fancy going to Bali this summer??

Is It A Bird? No!!! It’s A North Korean Floating Traffic Warden!!

The bullshit and humour is strong with this one. I can’t really fault North Korea’s Kim Yong Il for his inventiveness on this solution. His solution, to which he has yet to suffer from in North Korea given how few cars there are on the streets of Pyongyang, is to dispatch traffic wardens from the sky to strategic traffic hotspots throughout the city.

The brainwave involves having the traffic girls strap themselves to a floating platform, by way of magnets in the platforms floor, and then they get pushed out from the back of a cargo plane so they can float down, by way of a very large umbrella (I guess parachutes are old hat to the North Korean’s) where they will land, aided by GPS to the exact location of the traffic jams.

I don’t know what made me laugh the most…that an umbrella is indeed capable alternate to a parachute in stopping a large heavy platform and very skinny Korean girl from falling at breakneck speed from above, the strapping in by magnets on the floor or the idea that it could be used to send enemy cargo trucks the wrong way in times of war. From the sounds of it though, the girl sounded pretty excited towards the end ūüôā

Mind you, if it really is a viable and technically feasible solution, then I’d like to order several hundred for the cities of Moscow and Kiev please.

Don’t try this at home kids!