Storms are blowing work off course

The Netherlands had three “named storms” last week: Dudley, Eunice and Franklin. These are storms with 100+ km/h wind speeds, and they can do lots of damage: blowing down trees, pushing cargo boats off their moorings, disrupting flights, etc.

For me, they were inconvenient because I could get the train to work. Luckily (?), COVID has made everyone familiar with zoom, so we met online, but the interruption reminded me of what I wrote in 2016:

Colder winters and stronger storms will force humans, activities and infrastructure into unfamiliar territory. Impacts will be felt at all levels and sectors of society as “weird weather” disrupts agriculture, tests heating and power infrastructure, stresses ecosystems, and forces people to revisit habits of work and life…
People will cope in different ways. Virtual business meetings will become more common, family reunions less frequent… Innovations in technology and best practices will reduce or perhaps even overcome these losses, but “perfect storms” of bad conditions will surprise and kill us.

The good news is that technology has indeed helped with recent weather interruptions. The bad news is that some cannot switch to technology and that the damages of storms may outpace the solutions of technology.

But think ahead. What if there’s “no point” of going to work, either for logistical or cultural reasons. Will people sit at home, staring at screens all day? Will they earn enough from where-ever their work is to pay the costs of where-ever they live? Will someone with more talent and lower costs take their job? Will they even want to work without the human contact we’re chemically and socially evolved to seek and enjoy? 

I don’t want to live in the matrix, and I have the luxury of choosing to work, but I don’t think that’s true for 80% of the world’s white collar workers. What about those who do physical, location-based work? Maybe they will be busier coping with bad weather, maybe they will be replaced by robots.

My one-handed conclusion is that climate chaos, by limiting our transport options, is going to limit our range of choices, travel, work and life.

Interesting stuff

    1. Read: A really cool experiment showing that mafiosi are more “loyal” than normal criminals or students in prisoner’s dilemma games.
    2. Read: “Web3 [defi, blockchain] is the future, or a scam, or both” [good overview]
    3. Read: The Great Faculty Disengagement
    4. Read: Whoopi Goldberg’s American Idea of Race
    5. Listen: An excellent podcast on the value added by VC firms
    6. Read: How fires across the world have grown weirder
    7. Read: A Dutch university is caught taking €€ from China for a “human rights center” that was curiously uninterested in human rights in China.
    8. Read: The myth of sustainable fashion
    9. Read: A small share of “super abusers” are responsible for much of the ugly content on Facebook, and Facebook is promoting them as “engaging”
    10. Listen: A podcast series on the OneCoin Ponzi-crypto-scam

The Little Book of the Commons is out!

Hey everyone,

After 14 months of off-and-on writing, The Little Book of The Commons is available for you to read! You can buy the paperback or get the free digital version (why I give my books away).

From the back cover: The Commons are as widely misunderstood and overlooked as they are widespread and critical in sustaining and enriching our lives. They come from nature, but humans can also create them. They are open for all to enjoy but often suffer from abuse and neglect. This book explains how we’ve come to understand the formation, function and failure of the commons and uses examples to show how the commons touch our lives in so many ways.

Paperbacks are $5.00 at or €5,35 at

Free digital versions for PDF, ePub and MOBI (Kindle) are here.

Curious about my “writing progress”? Here you go!

Interesting stuff

  1. Read: Why mine gold that’s just going to sit in a vault. The process is massively polluting. (Why mine bitcoin? At least it’s not going to sit in a vault? 🙂
  2. Read: “How to make time with someone bad at making time“)
  3. Read: Forget the “great resignation” — take a sabbatical! Related: Teachers are quitting at record rates.
  4. Read: “The diminishing returns of productivity culture,” which reminds me of my post on Keynes and why we turned productivity into consumption rather than leisure.
  5. Read: The IRS and other USG departments are using facial recognition. Given the government’s total incompetence in protecting personal data (let alone selling it), this will not end well.
  6. Read: My “20/80 rule” inaction [sic]: “20% of Brits Are Eating Less Meat To Actively Fight Climate Change“… so the other 80% don’t care, right?
  7. Act: I’ve asked Amazon for all the data it has on me. You should too.
  8. Read: “political hacktivists” are attacking governments whose policies they dislike.
  9. Read: The Dutch like to tout their water management expertise as a consulting export, but the key to success abroad is not Dutch ingenuity but political processes and connections.
  10. Read: One of London’s most successful estate agents (realtor) is making big deals but trying to avoid mafia money launderers.

Some thoughts on Greece

I last visited Greece (Corfu, Athens, Samos) in 1991, so my return there in January was an opportunity to “reset” my impressions (hot, dirty, not as nice as Turkey).

First of all, it wasn’t that hot, but this was in January 🙂

Second, I found the people we met (casually but also in longer discussions) to be really nice (even kind) relative to other Mediterranean cultures.

Third, I am pretty sure that Athens about as clean/nice as Istanbul 😉

But here are a few more impressions, based on Leiden University College’s six majors.

Culture, history and society: Greece has a long and well-documented history. Its influence on Rome, and thus Europe, was profound, even if it was often mythologized. As a society, the Greeks are more traditional (conservative) than northern Europeans. The culture is a lot more relaxed, but that attitude can also be annoying. My favorite phrase on the trip (learned from a Greek) was “in theory…”, which should be offered near any statement regarding timing, opening of shops, office or museums, pricing, etc. Oh, and the British should give back the bloody Elgin Marbles. It’s a crime against the Greek people.

Global public health: The population is relatively poor, but there are government and NGO-efforts to keep people safe(r) from Covid. Public bathrooms were not common, street markets were cleaned up quickly after close, there were very few stray dogs (but many cats). The lifestyle is lower stress, but poverty can end it prematurely.

Governance, economics and development: Corruption is widely-acknowledged but change is unlikely (dynastic politicians). Much development is/will happen if/when the post-financial crisis diaspora returns. The cost of living is very high relative to wages (Greek PPP-GDP/capita is half the Dutch level). Foreigners/tourists can bring money but exacerbate corruption. Government treatment of “anarchists” in Athens is appalling.

International justice: The Greeks are on the front-line of tensions with (authoritarian) Turkey and (shitshow) Syria. The EU should have done a lot more to fund the Greek/EU border control. I doubt TR will attack GR, but Cyprus is always a sore-spot. It would be better if Cyprus would reunite, but — as we saw in Lebanon and Bosnia — it cannot be run by sectarian factions.

Sustainability: The people are too poor and few (10 million) to worry much about sustainability. They are experiencing record heat and wildfires (made worse by cutting fire fighting budgets and spending on weapons). The prices for meat are lower than for fish or cheese (!), which is good for tradition/protein but bad for sustainability.

World politics: Greece was abused by DE and FR after the financial crisis, as those governments wanted their banks to get repaid. As a result, IMO, the Greeks have turned to China, which will not end well (my recent post). Greece’s importance (see “justice” above) will only grow as forced migrations increase with climate and political instability.

My one-handed conclusion is that Greece is a lovely country full of nice people who are mis-led by corrupt politicians who make them poorer and abused by foreigners who have forgotten how heavy is the burden of poverty.

Interesting stuff

  1. Read: Black parents are breaking a tradition of (stress-induced) bad parenting. (This advice applies to non-Blacks, of course!)
  2. Watch: Limits to Growth update: MIT Has Predicted that Society Will Collapse in 2040
  3. Read: A great analysis of the current “superbubble,” which will make the 2007-8 crash look like a walk in the park when it bursts. Get ready!
  4. Listen: A really interesting podcast with a founder of the Pirate Bay on copyright, Swedish vs American “justice,” and access to information.
  5. Read: This Decision Making Under Deep Uncertainty post gives some useful tips on converting uncertainty to risk via qualitative methods and institutional modeling, which is an improvement on typical models that are too cheap (=no effort) and inaccurate.
  6. Read: In 1970, Bruce Kirby created the perfect single-person sailboat. What made the Laser so unbeatable?
  7. Read: It’s not conservatives (in the US) who are spreading fake news, but “low-conscientiousness” conservatives that want the system to burn down.
  8. Listen: One of the better discussions of the “hot” watch market, collectors and poseurs
  9. Listen to this interview with Stuart Brand. He’s 83 and has many wise things to say about humans and nature.
  10. Read: ‘The treeline is out of control’ — the Arctic is tipping fast towards climate chaos.

H/Ts to AB and MM

Greece and China

Socrates and Confucius, An Encounter

I just spent a few weeks in Greece, on holiday. Greece has been through a lot of stress since the 2008+ financial crisis (I think the country should have declared bankruptcy), but now it has a “friend”: China.

China is investing in Greece’s largest port, exporting plenty of goods to Greece, and also building “soft” ties like these ==>

The accompanying text (left) is a bit cringe (click to enlarge), but it is typical for Chinese diplomacy: allowing for some overlap between China’s greatness and that of the supplicant country. (There was also an American-sponsored plaque at this location. It was all about how the Americans were proud to pay for restoring Greek history, under the direction of Greeks. No USA! USA! I miss the old days…)

So my story here is simple: China, as Greece’s new “friend,” is not such a good friend.

It goes like this: Greece is that girl in school who has not taken good care of herself. Yes, she’s a bit obese, but she’s facing issues beyond her control as best she can. Sadly, the cool kids — France and Germany — are not that interested in obese Greece (they even tease her!), so Greece is a bit depressed. But China is there! China says nice things to Greece, helps her with her ports and economy. China is a real friend. Why not date?

So then Greece ends up pregnant, and China is busy. “But China — we were friends and now I’m pregnant — can’t you help me?”

After some silence, China reacts: “Sure you can have my kid, but I’m not gonna support you, and neither will anyone else, since it’s my kid. I’ll call you later… maybe.”

The story, in other words, is that Greece — like many countries participating in China’s “Belt and Road initiative” — is getting fucked (watch this), and it’s not going to turn out well.

Just remember what’s happened to Tibet, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang.

My one-handed conclusion is that China’s “friendship” is worse than isolation and poverty.

* Why do so many countries accept it? China is totally fine about bribing rulers who don’t care about their citizens and then leaving those citizens with debts even heavier than the French or Germans might assess.

Interesting stuff

  1. A bunch of university-educated types are worried about “1 million missing students” in the US. I am not so pessimistic (1) because a lot of university education is bullshit, (2) because some young people should wait for university, as they need time to figure out what they might want to study and can use their experience to get a better education, and (3) because there’s good money and good work in some trades — read Shop Class as Soul Craft!
  2. Listen: Poles Apart: Why We Turn Against Each Other and (related) Liberalism in Dark Times
  3. Read: Some theatre types in the US announced they would only accept vaccinated guests. They received many angry emails but no cancelled tickets. The angry people weren’t even customers.
  4. Watch: China’s high speed rail system (like its dams) have go so far as to become a (political) liability.
  5. Explore: Import Yeti allow (relational-database) lookups for sea-based shipping supply chains. It’s a gold mine for anyone trying to understand/investigate global trade. Here’s a related site with trade data. Bonus: Cost of living comparison between cities
  6. Read: The challenge of making new friends when you’re middle-aged.
  7. Read: The long history of pregnant women (mostly) failing to claim their fetus allows them to use the carpool lane.
  8. Read: Omicron makes “endemic” Covid more likely, which means a return to infecting each other as business-as-usual rather than life-threatening.
  9. Read: Venice is taking my advice and trying to attract digital nomads. There are a few issues on both sides, in terms of expectations (Wifi or caffé?)
  10. Read: These “innovation prizes” are so over-the-top that I can’t tell if they are trolling. This is the entry from Global Mayors Challenge Winner Rotterdam:

    Unemployment in Rotterdam is double the national average and rising. But public budgets, stressed by the pandemic, have limited funding for employment programs. Rotterdam is creating “Rikx,” a new digital marketplace that connects local social entrepreneurs to investors so that they can deliver innovative projects, while helping the city’s most vulnerable residents find work. Through Rikx, private-sector partners can purchase digital tokens that monetize social impact generated by entrepreneurs, similar to “offsets” in the carbon market.