Tuesday, February 26, 2008

German police dogs get shoes

Today saw the beginning of the end for German Parmesan as the European Court of Justice dealt with the question of what is Parmesan. The German government argued that in Germany Parmesan was a generic name for hard cheese. However the court said that only the authentic product bearing the name "Parmigiano Reggiano" could be sold using the name.
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet." said Juliet. It is an old trick. A specific product is given the name of a similar, but better, more exclusive product in the hope that more people will buy it. Sherry, champagne and feta cheese all have their names protected for the same reason, to prevent cheap imitations spoiling the reputation and the sales of the brand. But how do we decide on the names of things? By common consent or after a struggle over markets and definitions. What would happen if I called my cat "iPod?" Could Apple sue me? Of course not. Often the naming process ends up with the top brand (such as Hoover or Biro) ending up being the general name. (Don't worry by the way. We'll get to those police dogs in a minute.) Thus we google as well as search. In the future the German consumer will not need to worry about where the Parmesan came from. Words have power, and so it is that people will go to great lengths to protect them. Not just consumer products but also ideas are subject to the same struggles over ownership. Copyright and patents are the subject of much political and legal debate at the moment. One issue in particular is of vital importance to future generations. As a result of the trend by biotechnology companies to patent seeds, much of the world's food diversity is being put at risk. Recently India and Pakistan have taken steps to protect the name and the genetics of Basmati rice from attempts to patent them. Brand recognition means big bucks and so the temptation to deceive is also great. But what about the German shepherd dogs with shoes? Well they got them because of an idea maybe. The dogs are being given shoes in Dusseldorf because of broken glass on the streets in the famous Altstadt where the Cookiemouse has drunk many glasses of Altbier, one of the best beers in the world. Some years ago, in order to help the environment, the German government put a deposit on cans of beer, and so the glass bottle became popular again. Sadly it seems that the habit of throwing the empties on the street also caught on to the extent that the poor police dogs now need boots! Last night I had to walk home because a piece of broken glass punctured my bicycle tyre. So a plea to drunks with empty beer bottles to dispose of. Can you maybe think of the dogs and bicycles who have to deal with the consequences of your throwaway mentality? Ideas tend to develop a life of their own. Now it seems that as well as giving a dog a bad name, we can also damage its paws with our carelessness. To close on a positive note here is some random Berlin photography that's well worth looking at, and a Lhasa Apso snowdog in Central Park. Wonder if he needs boots?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Happy Birthday, Chalky!

Happy Birthday, Chalky!, originally uploaded by Cookiemouse.

Do you know who was number one when you were born? In 1950 when I saw the light of day the best selling song was "The Fat Man" by Fats Domino. On my birthday Nat King Cole was number one with "Mona Lisa" which is still one of my all time favourites. Chalky shares her birthday with Nina Simone, which seems only fitting for the writer of a blog called Terrible Love Songs and so Chalky, I would like to wish you a great day, and thanks for the tea tips!
Here is my Nat King Cole favourite, with George Shearing on piano. This song cures all known ills, at least for me!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Some random search and browser numbers

After the recent takeover bid for Yahoo I thought I would check some of the search and browser numbers for the Cookie Mouse blog. Almost 99% of my search traffic came from Google, while just under 2% came from Yahoo. No wonder Yahoo must be worried. MSN was nowhere to be seen. Then when I looked at the browser numbers I got another surprise. Check this out:
Internet Explorer 48.92%
Firefox 41.35%
Safari 9.19%
Opera 0.54%
Now for me the Firefox number is the big surprise, much higher than I would have expected. These are the Wikipedia web browser stats which give Firefox a much lower percentage. OK, my little blog may not be representative but I'll be following this trend. Open source seems to be far more widespread than media reports indicate. So here's a little promo for the browser I use most myself. The other one I use is Safari as I have a MacBook.
Firefox 2
The most popular pages were, hardly surprising, the chocolate pages and I must say that I can think of a few worse niches to be in.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Auf Wiedersehen, Polaroid...instant art moves on

Polaraude..., originally uploaded by Cookiemouse.

We must say goodbye to the Polaroid picture as the company announces that it will be ceasing production of the film for its cameras. The technology that produced this picture is what brought it to an end. Digital is instant so the demand for instant film has disappeared. Nowadays we upload via our mobile phones. The image has become ubiquitous. Yet it was Polaroid that first got rid of the middle man and allowed us to see our pictures just after we took them. Speed mattered more than quality. When I was small I had my picture taken at the beach with my mother(left) and my aunt. The photographer sent us the picture later, through the post. Polaroid changed all that, and now, like the cassette tape Walkman and the VCR, has become part of the history of technology.

The ability to produce instant content and publish it from just about anywhere is one of the forces that is driving the information revolution. Words and images become memes that spread virally, self organizing and building new connections. Sonia is back blogging and has posted a book meme, which is also a form of instant art that depends upon the speed of the spread of ideas. Most of my philosopher friends are not post-modernists, but somehow the news of the demise of the Polaroid after such a short period (around forty years) does leave me in a mood to deconstrust my world view and to realize how transient it is.
My Polaroid Blog

Thursday, February 07, 2008

tuttobene... innovative design collaboration

The Amsterdam public library had a presentation about innovation in the city today. Young designers showcased some of their new ideas on the various floors of the building. Tuttobene were on the ground floor. Their website says that they like "design with guts, that is visually challenging and tells a good story too.

Tuttobene believes that design has a strong influence in making changes, not only visual changes, but also in a cultural or social way.
The environmental and social consequences of many items that we produce cannot be neglected. But we are consumers too and are seduced by beautiful objects. Therefore Tuttobene stands for design that contributes to a economic, ecological and social sound world, design that initiates from designers that are aware of the consequences of their actions and that suits a wide range of our human demands."

Amsterdam wishes to promote itself as a knowledge capital and centre for ICT. The Dutch have always been famous for design. I like Tuttobene's ecological approach and was happy to see that some of the products they had on display were made with recycled materials, including this bag.

The project follows the "cradle to cradle" design philosophy invented by Walter R. Stahel in the 1970s and popularized by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their 2002 book of the same title. This framework seeks to create production techniques that are not only efficient but are essentially waste free. In cradle to cradle production all material inputs and outputs are seen either as technical material that can be recycled or reused with no loss of quality, or biological nutrients that can be composted or consumed.

Chinese Buddhist New Year, Amsterdam

Kuan Yin receives the new year offerings at the Mahayana Buddhist temple on the Zeedijk in Amsterdam's Chinatown. The traditional new year service started just before midnight, and afterwards we all received some small presents as blessings for the coming (Cookie)mouse year, which the nuns said would be good for prosperity and success. It was a lovely moment and I was quite moved by everyone's quiet sincerity and devotion.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Cookie mouse year mission statement

This is ground control to Major Tom. The Beatles went "Across the Universe" yesterday. Thanks to Chalky's Terrible Love Songs for putting me on to this event, as well as introducing me to Cat Power. Here's one of their laid back tracks:

Now to the mission. Cookie Mouse already has a fair trade, organic mission statement. Now Cookie Book needs one too. With the Chinese and Tibetan New Year almost upon us this seems like a good time for some more resolutions as well as a few fortune cookies. More green issues again maybe, or how about some art? Photography would be cool as it is one of my passions. I feel the need to focus on something that is creative but also allows me to dabble in the music and ideas that I like. So if anyone out there has any ideas I'm open to suggestions. I'm looking for another niche and the challenge of trying to find and develop it. While I'm fascinated by the internet I'm no expert and at best report ideas developed by others in that field. So don't be shy. What would you do with a blog that has a middling page rank but needs a sense of direction?