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The Blog of blogs!

Since I have started to notice other blogs, it's about time that I pay homage to the blog that actually got me blogging, the blog of blogs, Mother of all blogs ;-), namely Byron's Sterilized Velcro! Byron's blog is often very stimulating, sometimes unsettling, always fun!

Another remarkable blog from California is Ben's Penciled In. I've only just discovered it today, but what I've seen is just amazing. Also based in California is Tim's flamingpoo - not artistic at all, but funny nonetheless.

There's some other blogs closer to home which I follow occasionally: Expat Kirk's and Brakeless. They all offer differing points of view and approaches, which is the best part of blogging!

CD labelling

Ever been dissatisfied about how home made CDs leave your shop, looking just like that? Sticking, printable labels wouldn't do the job either? Well, all is not lost! A Swiss teacher has designed a tool with which to write on CDs in a proper way, and you can get it here. I just ordered mine, and I'll keep you posted on how it works.

New & noteworthy: Copenhagen Consensus

First of all, try as it may, the sun didn't manage to burn me today, thanks to this excellent stuff! If you still haven't found the sun cream of choice, here it is.

But far more importantly, you may have heard that a group of economists, some of them Nobel laureates, have come to a consensus in Copenhagen about how to set priorities with solving the world's problems, given that resources are limited. I think this is a highly commendable effort which politicians world wide ought to take note of, but won't in all likelyhood. The group, led by the highly controversial sceptical environmentalist Bjoern Lomborg evaluated a slew of projects with the objective of maximising global welfare with additional resources limited to USD 50 Bio, and they came up with the following top priorities:

1. Diseases: Control of HIV / AIDS
2. Malnutrition: Providing micro nutrients
3. Subsidies & trade: trade liberalisation
4. Diseases: Control of malaria

Interestingly, the relatively worst payoff in terms of global welfare was to be achieved with projects covering:
14. Migration: Guest worker programmes for the unskilled
15. Climate: Optimal Carbon tax
16. Climate: The Kyoto Protocol
17. Climate: Value-at-risk carbon tax

Personally, I have been a very convinced supporter of all liberal measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, until I've read Lomborg's book. His economic and risk management based evaluation of the issue has hit home straight away, and I am not so sure any more at all. The fact that this kind of evaluation is not happening on an operational level, i.e. by institutions and/or people who have the power to implement things, is a confirmation for me that politics is not about solving issues, but first and foremost (and even not illegitimately!) about the promotion of client interests. Every other assumption is naïve I am afraid.


Killer Bees?

That was kind of spooky just now - I was sitting outside on the terrace, peacefully reading my newspaper and working on my tan when, all of a sudden, a menacingly low, humming buzz started out of nowhere. And then I saw it - a huge bee colony was swarming just a few metres above my head in the air and slowly moved towards the little burn in the neighbourhood. Fortunately, that wasn't too close an encounter of the first kind.

IQ 175?

There's this German spiritual distance healer (how do you translate Geistheiler?) advertising his services in today's newspaper, saying that he's got "175 IQ points" and provides a "100.00000 % Heilungsgarantie" (sic! - and so sick, too). Well, I suppose he's got his 175 points by taking the test 175 times...


Schubert, Janacek, Beethoven &c

I mostly enjoyed this evening's cultural outing with a ballet performance on Schubert's Death and the Maiden, performed by the Amar Quartett. I just love string ensembles for their expressiveness, if well played. Admittedly though, I prefer my recording to the Amar's performance of tonight. If you ask nicely, I might put it up on the sidebar ...

Like i was saying, I did enjoy the really classical stuff. But as with all well meaning directors, the audience first had to endure some more recent works, namely Janacek's Kreutzersonata and Gavin Bryars' String Quartett No. 1, obviously also with some ballet thrown in, au sujet "En passant" and "Beauty 2.0". Now, call me reactionary, but I just don't get it. Take the case of the Kreutzersonata: I have been a fan of that piece by Beethoven for a long time, and I still love it, but I didn't have the foggiest that it was about that Tolstoj story until I saw the program! Reactionary - they don't like it when it gets obvious that they're just too dumb. Dumb - that's me. Anyway, the second bit was - conveniently - Beauty 2.0: we get the following images on scene: a flamingo (!), a breakdancer, an athlete, a face upside down and a kid with dog. And obviously some dancing. See above - but don't get me wrong: the individual elements were fine (I haven't heard such eery flageolets as in Bryars Quartett in a while!), it was "just" the combination.

Schubert was quite another story though - very well (and comprehensibly, even to hillbillies such as myself) thought out and choreographed. Not to talk about the execution, which was just flawless. I am always extremely fascinated by adaptions of materials in different media. Examples? The present ballet adaptation of Schubert's Quartett, the movie adaptation of the same, an old video adaptation (which I failed to find a reference to) of the Kreutzersonata, the way the Swiss author Friedrich Duerrenmatt adapted his "Stoffe" to paintings (go see them here, it's worth a visit!) - et j'en passe. I guess Almadovar's quote really holds true that everything in art is either biographical or plagiarism. Dissenting views, anyone?


Minority Report

Do you know Minority Report? I just watched it, and it's a really quite smart SciFi movie - despite of Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg & Hollywood! ;-) But the fact that issues such as free will as opposed to destiny and an anti-totalitarian, viscerally sceptical message predominate over some fine action, smart product placement and cool gizmos probably prevented it from becoming a real runner. So I guess we won't see too much of that where this came from ... pity!

Today, I remembered an article which I read in the plane to New York. It's about how the Feldenkrais method teaches to re-learn movements and hence reconfigures the neurological map of your body. I have to get my dad to try that - maybe it's a helpful therapy against his Parkinson's disease. Let's hope!

NO! DON'T go there!!

Well, I warned you, didn't I?! Here is a worthy successor. Thanks to Expatter for showing the world what it had been sorely missing without even knowing!!


Hippocrates was right!

Have you been complimented on your sweet breath lately? Well, it may be time to go see the doctor then, since this may be indicative of a galloping diabetes!

According to this German article in NZZ, small US firm Menssana has developed a technology to screen the ca. 3000 volatile compounds which may be contained in your breath for indications of health problems like breast cancer, angina pectoris or a tumor of the lungs. Impressive! And I like the firm's name (is it presumptuous to have one with a latin name?) - it certainly takes a healthy mind to come up with something like that to further the healthy body!

On a less seriously scientific note, the second of my almae matres, i.e. Edinburgh University in its Edit Magazine lets it be known that the phenomenon well known to Guinness drinkers of sinking bubbles is not the product of the drinker's imagination gone haywire under the influence of the sombre brew, but rather well proven scientifc fact! Who would ever have doubted that it's Good for You?! Hooray and Slanshe to that!


Death & the Maiden

Cool! I just won two tickets for this Friday's performance of this in Basel! Thank you, Stadttheater!!

Who wants to come along?



Now this is a really cool blog. Mind you, I am talking about the design & structure, less so about the actual content - it wouldn't look like we had a lot in common.


Kurt Dreier

Happy Birthday, Fratello mio!

Oh, if you're surprised about the slight difference in spelling of the surname - he is my brother alright! The difference comes from the fact that our grandfather thought Dreyer with a Y looked snappier than just with an ordinary I (to which view I fully subscribe, of course). So he started spelling it that way, regardless of what the spelling was in the official documents. My dear brother, regularly Swiss that he is, reverted back to the official spelling again for his family branch. Interestingly though, my official documents, for the first time in family history, are all spelled with a Y - so I guess that will be a challenge to future genealogists!


The Sun never sets over Schoenenbuch

Ok, that may be wishful thinking on my part. But I completely forgot to mention something important! I have a mobile phone subscription with Sunrise which up until a week ago was virtually useless in Schoenenbuch because there was as good as no reception. I took Sunrise because they have the best offering, in my view, and you need mobile phones when you are just that - mobile! When I was at home, I just forwarded calls to voicemail.

But not any more! Thanks to the expansion of the network, the reception is great now, so you can actually call me anytime AND expect me to pick it up! Apparently, we are not quite as paranoid about mobile phone antennas as other areas. I'll never understand how people can use phones all the time, and yet complain when they get an antenna in their vicinity, that's just pure hypocrisy and double standards if ever there were such things!

So, thank you, Sunrise!

New addition

Please note that starting today, I will occasionally add a piece of music to the sidebar which I like particularly well. Have fun!



Another first tonight: I've tasted the 15 year old Glendronach (79 Jackson points) which I've been presented with by a good friend of mine on my birthday (thanks, Thomas!). And what a pleasant dram it is! While it will not quite dethrone Glenfarclas from my top distillery preference due to its somewhat smoky and peaty edge, it's certainly not far from it. I understand perfectly well however that that's exactly what you may be looking for in a whisky, but it is not exactly my cup of tea entirely, so to speak.

I am still going for the harmoniously rounded complexity of the 25 year old Glenfarclas (89 points) which to my experience has only been beaten by bottling 1.100 of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, containing an indescribably mellow, yet sparkling 36 years old Glenfarclas, distilled in 1966 and bottled in 2002. A miracle turned liquid! Unfortunately there are only four fingers left in the bottle...

Swimming in open air!

Yes, the time of the year is back where you can go swimming open air again! I went to the Bachgraben for the first time this year, taking out a season ticket. And 'lo and behold, I was not the only one having that bold idea - the place was packed. What's more, despite of the warm weather the water is still a tad bit too cool to do some serious swimming, so I'll have to go to a heated open air pool to do my program. Call me wimpy, but I only did 10 laps.

During the drying, I resumed reading somebody else's blog where I left off in the fall last year. The period I caught up with was what appears to have been a relatively poor summer in London (even for London!), namely July 1660. Admittedly, Samuel Pepys his blog was more of a pen & parchment affair rather than being written on a silicon based powerbook, but - well - the times, they are a'changing. Cheerioh!


Meta Review

More reviews of reviews and of authors talking about themselves and others. This time in English again, since you can see in my last post what happens when I write German. And it's just too tedious to write ae instead of ä all the time!

Remember what I said about Dan Brown's bestseller The Da Vinci Code? No? Shame, my words are supposed to be gospel! You can read it again here, though. Well, for once I am glad to say that I am not the only one who is mildly dissatisfied. To witness, check no less illustrous source than The Economist.

Also, it would appear that it is too long since I have last read some Mario Vargas Llosa - here is a brillant interview from the Weltwoche - watch out, it's in German. Apparently, he's not quite the agnostic I am: "Es wäre doch absurd, wenn so komplexe, reichhaltige, widersprüchliche Phänomene wie das Leben, die Geschichte oder die Evolution keinerlei Sinn hätten und nichts als Werke des Zufalls wären. Sofern es eine Form der Transzendenz gibt, ist sie jedoch sicher ganz anders, als es uns die grossen Religionen schildern. Denn diese Schilderungen sind schlechte Literatur." That's a bit cheeky, isnt't it?



Heute bin ich endlich dazu gekommen, den Berg von Zeitungen durchzusehen, der sich in meiner Abwesenheit erhoben hat. Es wäre zwar wesentlich einfacher gewesen, ihn direkt in's Altpapier zu geben, aber dann hätte ich eine Zeitlücke gehabt bezüglich dessen, was in der Welt ausserhalb der USA passiert ist. Davon hört man nämlich dort nichts, sofern es nicht die USA betrifft.

Bei dieser Gelegenheit bin ich auch auf einige interessante Dinge gestossen, die es verdienen, hier wiedergegeben zu werden. Es handelt sich dabei praktisch ausschliesslich um Artikel aus meinem Leib- und Magenblatt (der Neuen Zürcher Zeitung für die, die mich noch nicht lange kennen).

Erstens weist Heribert Seifert auf die Renaissance im Internet der Pressetradition von Foren für Meinungsbildung und gescheite Auseinandersetzung hin. Für besonders erwähnenswert halte ich persönlich den Neuen Phosphoros sowie den französischen largeur.com. Ah, und dann wäre da noch Cosmopolis.ch! Ich werde die alle mal weiter verfolgen.

Ebenfalls spannend ist ein Artikel von Pio Pellizzari von der Schweiz. Landesphonotek in der Ausgabe vom 7.5. über die Konservierung alter Schallplatten via Photographie! Tatsächlich: Die Rillen werden photographiert und ein Algorithmus errechnet aus den Bildern völlig berührungsfrei den akustischen Inhalt dieser Platten. Faszinierend!

Und zum Schluss: Gut gibt es Meinungsvielfalt. Der Streitgegenstand ist Pablo Almodovars neuer Film La Mala Educacion. In der NZZ am Sonntag steht ein grossartiger Text, aus dem ich einfach zitieren muss:

"So sind wir denn, mit den ersten imaginierten Toten, mitten in einem Film, der erst ein mögliches Drehbuch ist. Das erst geschrieben werden muss. Und dessen Ende erst der Anfang des Films von einem Film im Film ist. Einem Film auch von den Anfängein eines brillanten Filmemachers, der zwanzig Jahre später aus der Höhe seiner Kunst und seines Erfolgs zurückblicken wird auf die Menschen - die Opfer? -, die er hinter sich gelassen hat. Ein Regisseur, der natürlich Almodovar heissen könnte. Doch die Frage nach dem autobiographischen Gehalt scheint nicht wirklich von Belang, denn, sagt Almodovar, in der Kunst ist alles Autobiographie, und der Rest ist Plagiat. Einzig die ungewohnte Distanz, ja geradezu emotionale Kühle, mit der der leidenschaftlichste der zeitgenössischen Regisseure hier inszeniert, lässt auf besondere Nähe schliessen."

Soweit Pia Horlacher. Kurz und bündig dagegen Christoph Egger in der NZZ vom 12. Mai: "Zähflüssig, kitschig, banal, ist 'Die schlechte Erziehung' nach so bedeutenden Filmen wie 'Todo sobre mi madre' und 'Habla con ella' eine herbe Enttäuschung." Nun, da wird uns wohl nichts anderes übrig bleiben als eine eigene Meinung zu bilden ...

So, jetzt ist es aber Zeit für 24. Over and out.


The second shoe drops

... or the third, as the case may be, but that would be spoiling the picture, wouldn't it?

Anyway, I just received news that I have been elected. What to? I have been elected to be a member of the communal "Wahlbuero", which is the committee tallying votes on elections and referenda. And there's quite a few of those in Switzerland, every quarter or so. So, it's actually quite a responsible job, although naturally underrated. We'll see. Surprisingly enough, I have made 141 votes. That's not bad on a population of some 1500 souls with maybe 900 eligible to vote, is it.

Talking of politics: I really don't like the outcome of today's federal referenda. Clearly, this country is going to the dogs. We were not even able to lower taxes in a very moderate way, even though Switzerland holds the less than favourable OECD record on growth of the rate of Government spending compared to GDP. And that's disastrous - envy and vested interests ("Kantoenligeist" for you Swiss out there) roam all over the place. And the changes of the second pillar haven't gone through either. The fact that the VAT raise also received the boot was only consequential, although it wouldn't have surprised me if we had voted to raise it anyway, just for good measure. How did Max Weber put it so succinctly - "Politik ist das langsame Bohren dicker Bretter" (politics is like drilling bulky boards very slowly)? In the case of Switzerland, those boards seem to be particularly thick ...

But enough of those disgruntled mutterings already. Happy Birthday, Lili!

The weirdest dream ...

... and other jetlag induced experiences.

Yesterday I was doing quite well jetlag-wise. Or so I thought.

Until I woke up this morning, all bleary-eyed and knackered. And I had the weirdest dream. Granted, I usually do not remember my dreams, so I don't have much to compare it to in terms of weirdness, but it was all the same. It started when I realised that I had a strange deformity in my right foot, and - forgive me if I'll spare you the gory medical details - all of a sudden, out popped an old, battered ... golf ball! And that's it. How weird is that!? Care to analyse, anyone?

The second. substantially less metaphysical revelation occured later on in the swimming pool. I discovered why I could never to more than a lap of freestyle without being totally exhausted afterwards. It's quite trivial, really: I was always totally tense and used far too much strength, especially in the legwork, whereas it is sufficient to only paddle a bit. Subsequently, I was able to do double the laps on half the strain. I am quite pleased with myself, I must admit.

It seems I should fly more often.


Good morning, Schoenenbuch!

Surely I cannot be turning into a morning person? The landscape is still in the twilight of early morning, the blackbirds are singing with a vengeance and I am wide awake! Most unusual. Must be the effect of the jetlag.

Just thought I'd let you know ....


Home, sweet home

You're right - I am back in cool Switzerland (that's not comparing to Britannia - it's meant meteorologically!) and fully in the grips of the jetlag. Everything went relatively smoothly with the trip, with the exception that I had to make do with an aisle seat, which I HATE! But the plane was really quite full.

Did I mention that I gave Bill Gates some money? In Chicago I bought the upgrade to Office 2004. Unfortunately I always want to be up to date with software, so that's where Bill's safe comes into play. After all, the poor guy will have to deliver a load to Brussels. Too bad! I also got a Belkin radio transmitter so that I can use the iPod in the car without much trouble. Seems to work fine from what I see.

But now, do not expect more verbiage from me - I am going to turn in early because tomorrow, I volunteered to proctor a CFA practice exam in Zurich, starting at 0830h!! Am I mad or what!


New stuff!

I say! The new blogger is really great - new templates and a built in commenting feature. Now I am perfectly happy with this.

My day in Chicago went very well. In the morning, I almost got a sunburn on a river tour, and in the afternoon, I very nearly drowned during a thunderstorm. So that's the climatic diversity you get exposed to when in the Windy City!

But it's fun! Did you ever have this kind of view when having a cocktail? This was on the 96th floor of the Hancock Observatory.

And shouldn't we all be members of this particular society? It appears however that they limit their activity to cats and dogs - literally! When you peer through their windows, you see a collection of cages for those - probably stray - species which subsequently are to be placed with new keepers. Very nice.

Finally, a little view of La Salle Street, Chicago's Wall Street after closing ...


Good bye, Denver - Hello Chicago!

I have left the high plains of Denver now, and safely entered the windy city of Chicago.

If you go to Denver, be careful about anything containing air that you carry with you. Here's the lense liquid bottles status in Chicago, and by inversion, you may conclude what happened in Denver with the lower pressure:


Mental health month?!

Do they have a serious problem with mental health in Denver? There's a whole lot of those posters about screaming "May is mental health month - do you feel it?" all over the place. Very odd. I mean, it's ok to have a mental health day or something, but ONE MONTH? I certainly *did* feel something!

This strange first impression has not exactly been weakened by about the highest concentration of seriously ugly people I have encountered on 16th Street which appears to be the main shopping mall in this city.

But then, things improved. First, I came across a really good and committed bookstore which - judged by it's size and selection - leads me to expect a rather considerable community of well read people. And secondly, I had a delicious dinner in a very commendable restaurant on the sidewalk of 16th street while enjoying a wonderfully mild evening (ca. 23 degrees I'd say). Well, we'll see how Denver comes along.

Remember that I obtained The Da Vinci Code a couple of days ago? Thanks to hours on end of air travel, I've already finished it.
It's a while since I finished a 500 page rollercoaster in just a few days, and yet it didn't quite live up to my expectations. The first reason for that probably is that it is too ostentatiously erudite - something that its "benchmark" Umberto Eco ("U.E. on steroids") would never be. Probably it is lacking in humour. Secondly, it is a well constructed story with plenty of surprises popping up all the time. But that's exactly where to rub sits: in my view, the drawing board construction is a bit too obvious. And that's a pity. And thirdly, as in most conspiracy related books, an ominous Swiss bank account has its appearance, although it is so totally beside the point that I will not go into any details. I guess Brown just didn't care about this particular piece of information to do some real research on it. To sum up: I don't regret having read the book, but I am not going to read another Dan Brown anytime soon.


New York, New York

Just a quick impression from NY this afternoon - all in sepia, i forgot to switch back:

And the presentation went down really well, btw.


Media ...

You may be interested to hear that the Swiss economic weekly CASH has just promoted me to the position of supreme Swiss analyst. Very interesting what editors get to to spice up their stuff. Here is the article.


I am happy to report (from NYC incidentally!) that "the Americans" are becoming more reasonable again! You are now allowed to use full metal cutlery again in the airplane, even for knifes! It just wouldn't do to have to cut a nice filet steak with a plastic excuse of a knife when you have a nice 1997 Cantenac Brown and immaculate linen 12000 meters above sea level ... yes, you guessed right: I did enjoy my flight! But no, wait, there was one glitch! They stopped serving Martini!! They can't do that, I'll have to complain!



There is something intensely peaceful
about speeding a powerful car through the rainy night
while listening to Glenn Gould effortlessly
drawing sketches of eternity...

And with that, I am signing off for a bit. The next post likely will originate from across the Atlantic. Good night.


Praise to Amazon?!

Did I mention that Amazon actually filled my order mentioned earlier?

Well, they did, and the parcell arrived in good order right the day before the party, so I was able to use the additionally ordered item to very good effect. "Good Bye, Lenin" is a very nicely and weirdly German film well worth watching for everyone interested in the post-unification German psyche. The sequence where the saluting Lenin statue flies past is just hilarious!

Anyway, I am still waiting for Isajah Berlin's Romanticism - I wouldn't be surprised of the delay if he'd been a romantic himself, but since that excuse is definitely not applicable in this case ...


Haunting past

The other day, I have read an article about how your past may come haunting you when you Google. Now this is happening to me! I didn't know that I have been quoted for this!

Guest appearance: Of Brains and Brawns

Isn't it bad enough that nowadays you cannot get decent personnel anymore that keeps their mouth shut when they get flogged? It is fine with good gardeners and the like - after all, you can take praise for being their employer. Or the bodyguard - it's ok, too when he excels at Sports, as long as it's not Polo. But come on, he is not supposed to beat me at school! For God's sake!

Replacement bodyguards please apply here!


The Aftermath

I cleared out 12 empty bottles of red wine, 18 b beer, 2 b champagne and put away sundry half empty (nah, still half full!) ones of the more demanding stuff - and the cigar box, of course! Taking care of the debris the day after is always hard work, even without a hangover ...

But luckily the sun was out in the afternoon, so there was room enough for a bit of basking and recovering. Mind you, there is still some surplus of the notorious Schwarzwaelder pie (ca. 10% weight alc., isn't that about right, Christine?) featuring quite prominently in the picture as well...

The Party

The manifestation has taken its course! And it was fun, thanks to every helping hand in the background (I mean that!). For you nosey parkers out there, here's a careful selection of pictures which should limit my liability for embarrassment to the strictly necessary.
Note the gadgetry on the top left corner.
Some of the crowd. Campfire fun!

One is not so sure of the outcome of the following sequence (I haven't taken the pictures): ...

But eventually, fatigue set in ...