31/07/2004

Some pictures

A couple of pictures have accumulated in the camera lately. Here's a reproduction of a very "German" picture of Graf von Stauffenberg, who was the leader of the unsuccessful assassination attempt on Hitler in 1944. The picture however has been taken in 1924 of a very youthful Stauffenberg on the occasion of a visit to his revered poet Stefan George.



Here is a very nice vignette from NZZ Folio called Eskimofrau beim Giessen ihrer Eisblumen. Unfortunately the play on words is literally lost in translation since Eisblumen is translated literally ice flowers, but means frost patterns. So the title becomes Inuit woman watering her frost patterns/ice flowers.



Finally, here's what I did from 0600h am this morning: I shipped about 7 metric tonnes of wheat to further processing. Actually, it is quite fun to do that kind of thing every now and then for your parents, but it mustn't get too frequent ...

Flat tax

Dieses Reformprojekt wäre tatsächlich sehr interessant: die Einführung einer Pauschalsteuer mit nur einem einzigen Fixabzug. Die Vorteile sind in diesem Artikel aus der BILANZ beschrieben. Verfolgenswert!

Alle Jahre wieder ...

Keinesfalls wird hier eine 1. August Rede vom Stapel gelassen, wenn nur aus dem einfachen Grund, dass ich nicht rede, sondern schreibe, und sowieso ist heute erst der 31. Juli. Der 1. August - Nationalfeiertag, ein Feiertag in der ganzen Schweiz, Dauerfeuerwerk überall, aber schon am Abend vorher, man will ja schliesslich - anders als die Franzosen am 15. Juillet - am Tag danach ausgeschlafen daherkommen!

Womit wir doch beim Thema wären: Schlaf! Der heutige Leitkommentar der NZZ handelt vom unruhigen Schlaf des Selbstgerechten und stellt andere Ueberlegungen an als so manche patriotisch-peinliche 1. August Ansprache. Er handelt von Dürrenmatts Frage, was denn das Ende der Schweiz wäre. FD beantwortet die Frage natürlich selbst - wenn sie nicht mehr rentierte; und vermag sich das durchaus vorzustellen. Die Schweiz als ehemals rationale Willensnation im Zwiespalt zwischen rückwärts gewandter, mystisch verklärter Nostalgie und unvermeidbarem Reform- und Oeffnungsdruck allenthalben. Da wird schon die eine oder andere apokalyptische Vision gezeichnet, wenn es hoffentlich nicht gar so schlimm kommen muss wie hier skizziert.

Schlimmer wohl war es noch vor 90 Jahren, als am 1. August 1914 Deutschland Russland den Krieg erklärte. Die beiden Kriege haben in unserem Land ein insulares Selbstverständnis begründet, das sich aus der Abschottung nach aussen definiert. Diese Abschottung ist heute glücklicherweise nicht mehr nötig, nicht mehr möglich, ja sogar schädlich! Werden wir es schaffen, auf unserer Insel so zu leben wie die Briten, nämlich offen zur ganzen Welt hin, aber mit einem gesunden Selbstbewusstsein? Falls sich die Geschichte wiederholt (ohne zur Farce zu werden), dann besteht Hoffnung: Zwischen 1848 und 1914 haben wir es einmal gekonnt. Wachen wir also auf aus dem unruhigen Schlaf!



P.S. Der Rütlischwur hat am 8. November 1304 stattgefunden, und die erste 1. August Feier im Jahr 1891 ...

30/07/2004

Die Alte Tante entdeckt die Blogosphere!

Hurra! Mein, Leib-, Magen- und Hirnblatt hat die Blogosphere entdeckt und bezeichnet sie erst noch als blühend! Hier der Verweis auf den Artikel.

29/07/2004

Events & plans

The other day, I was saying that not much was happening worth blogging - but then you might have missed that because it was in German. Never mind, because it wasn't really true anyway!

Just to begin with the worst experience of the lot: Today (or yesterday, to be quite precise), I started a dental treatment which had me lying on the dentist's chair for over an hour, and my tooth # 2/6 (experts know exactly which one I am talking about!) has been reduced to a rack and rebuilt again. One thing that has literally burnt itself into my brain during the whole process: The brand name of the dentists lamp, called Kavolux! Very funny - not! In cavo lux is latin for light in the dental cavity! But to the point, I guess. Unfortunately I shall have some more opportunities to observe the blasted thing in operation.

More agreeable is the fact that the Royal Overseas League has allotted tickets to me for a private tour to Buck House, a.k.a. Buckingham Palace on August 10th. Damn, so I have to go to London again - what a nuisance! ;-)

Talking of travelling plans, I have also booked my flight to San Francisco for a CFA Institute meeting in September and a subsequent trip through parts of California. In SF, I am looking forward to staying at the University Club of San Francisco, which is yet another reciprocal club of the Overseas League, as you might have guessed.

There is just one minor problem with the travelling preparations: Apparently the payment for the ticket has not yet been processed because American Express is suffering from a global vulnerability of their security, originating from a Japanese incident. That's why they are insisting on manual identification and authorisation of transactions above a certain threshold. Since it is about security, I wouldn't mind that of course, but they would have to have their act together - and they do not! I have been in touch with them more than three times now for that stupid plane ticket, and it is still not done! This is a major nuisance, honestly and without any smileys!

28/07/2004

Metaphysical economics

If you always thought that economics is all about worldly, rationalistic, boring bean counting (I am over-generalising, I know!), then think again! Here is an interesting piece of research done by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, showing that there is a positive correlation between a nation's belief in hell and its per capita income! Now, statistically speaking, you're absolutely right that correlation does not mean causation, but there certainly are some interesting trains of thought to follow on that topic, irrespective of whether or not you share the belief in the key concept or its reverse ...

Equilibrium

Equilibrium is difficult to classify. Let's begin with its face value: It is apparently a science fiction movie about a future totalitarian society which forces its members to eradicate all emotion by means of a drug for the noble purpose of avoiding war and conflict, which are consequences of emtions, of course.

The movie is quite a complex convolute of allusions and quotations. The main character, who ultimately turns out a Neo-like liberator, is member of an elite troop called Tetra-Grammaton (which incidentally represents the Hebrew four-lettered name of god), but being called Clerics, they very much remind us of the Spanish Inquisition, the Jesuit Order or an even more sinister version of Opus Dei. Since they have to protect the system against the underground resistance (who do not take the drug), they are first rate fighters of course who have developed a gun kata, a kind of sword fight with pistols - smart idea, that! There is also a lot of Nazi symbolism and behavioural patterns, like kids spying on their parents (but ...), and 1984 is being quoted frequently, too (lots of really huge screens with "the Father" preaching). So, plenty of things remind us of the Matrix trilogy, not least the fighting choreography. On the other hand, it is also a nice éducation sentimentale of our hero - touching how he has his emotional Damascus experience by accidentally listening to the opening scores of Beethooven's 9th symphony.

But is it a science fiction? In my book, science fiction is obviously not reality, but it has to be at least credibly imaginable, thinkable, and thus "realistic", given the proper societal and technological development. In Equilibrium, that is not the case (I am not sure about Star Trek either, btw). A society in equilibrio would die of instant "heat death", in my view: Human robots without emotion and thus motivation would just not "work" for any extended period of time, let alone a generation or so. That's the crux of the film: Its foundation is utopian in the classical sense of the word: It is nowhere land, it is unthinkable. But it is fun trying!

27/07/2004

My new rasor!

Gosh, I have to have it!!

Sorry, SonyEricsson, I am a goner! Motorola rules!

26/07/2004

Zufallshaiku

Heute gibt's nicht viel zu bloggieren, daher einfach mal wieder ein zufällig aufgeschlagenes Haiku aus diesem Buch. Irgendwie gibt es auch die etwas trübe Stimmung nach den letzten paar Sonnentagen sehr gut wieder.

Nebliger Tag.
Auch die Himmlischen
langweilen sich.


Issa

25/07/2004

Health warning

Uhm, there is no way that this can be good for you! But it may as a matter of fact be very good indeed - I'll just have to find out!

Summary of the US presidential campaign to date

Here is a very entertaining summary of the said process - not overly informative, but neither is the original. Credits to Jay for sharing the laugh!

But seriously: As The Economist notes very appropriately, it may be high time for Mr. Kerry to actually give the electorate some substance on which it can base its support for him - after all, we do not want to be all negative ...

24/07/2004

Psychoactive Swimming

One of the most popular summertime leisure activities in Basel is swimming in the river. Being an avid swimmer myself, I could never really pinpoint what makes this quite so attractive, since the only thing most people do is get in, float some, get out again further downstream ...

But now we know! It would appear that recent analyses have uncovered an antidepressant substance in the water which has been released by a pharmaceutical firm further upstream. Little wonder now that people are always so happy when they come out of the water!

23/07/2004

The perfect dinner party

Reading in an antiquarian catalogue about Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin's (1755-1826, "Tell me what you eat, & I shall tell you what you are") Physiology of Taste, I came across his expert guidance on how to have the perfect dinner party:

  • "That the number of guests does not exceed a dozen, so that the conversation can constantly be general.

  • That they must be carefully chosen, that their professions be different but their taste similar and with such point of contact that one will not have to resort to the odious formality of presentations ...

  • That the men be witty without pretensions and the women charming without being too coquettish.

  • That the choice of dishes should be exquisite but restrained in number and the wines of the first quality, each the best of its kind.

  • That the order, for the former, should be from the most substantial to the lightest, and for the latter from the lightest to those with the greatest bouquet.

  • That the speed of eating should be moderate, dinner being the last affair of the day and that the guests behave like travellers who aim to arrive at the same destination together.

  • That the coffee be scalding hot and the liqueurs specially chosen by the master of the house."

  • Since the copy referred to in the catalogue being a first edition of 1826 may be a bit on the expensive side (£5750), here is a more affordable contemporary edition.

    22/07/2004

    More tricks

    Here is another one of Joe's tricks. Note the unusual amount of will power it takes to actually decipher the domestic still life with cat ...

    Thirty-eight dishonest tricks

    Here is a very useful list of dishonest tricks in argument with their respective antidote! The great thing is, I think it works (the antidote)!

    Thanks to Birger for publishing it and to Chris for referring us to it! And thanks to Joe for this trick - honest!

    21/07/2004

    More Intelligent Life

    It would appear that somebody has taken note of what I said about the Economist's "lifestyle" magazine's missing website and has given us one which even clarifies the thorny issue of how often it appears: it is an annual publication! What a pity!

    Diamonds are forever - or are they?

    This Economist report on the diamond cartel should make owners and prospective buyers of diamonds for reasons other than becoming somebody's second best friend very weary indeed! It's a stone, after all, and there's lots of them around ...

    Soporific profligacy

    Never mind me, I picked up those two words recently in Wit and The Economist, and they seem to form a nice couple, albeit somewhat oxymoronically.

    Contradistinction, anyone? ;-)

    P.S. I am thinking of starting the Longest English Word Competition (Welsh is not English!) - Prize: A German dictionary!

    20/07/2004

    Legalise it!

    Hier ist die website des Komitees Pro Jugendschutz, gegen Drogenkriminalität, das eine Verfassungsinitiative für die Legalisierung des Cannabis-Konsums eingereicht hat.

    Aus meiner (liberalen) Sicht ist es - pointiert formuliert - Unsinn, die extremen Margen der Drogenmafia durch staatliche Stützungsmassnahmen (i.e. Verbot) nachhaltig hoch zu halten. Zudem halte ich es für heuchlerisch, Cannabis zu verbieten, wenn der vergleichbar ungesunde, aber mehrheitsfähige Alkohol zugänglich bleibt. Es ist mir vollkommen unverständlich, weshalb meine Partei (FDP) vor kurzem in dieser Frage eine Kehrtwendung vorgenommen hat und nun die im Parlament bereits weit fortgeschrittenen Aktivitäten zur Legalisierung wieder hintertreibt.

    Daher unterstütze ich diese Initiative und bitte Sie, geneigte Leserin, geneigter Leser, das ebenfalls zu tun, z.B. indem Sie auf der besagten website den Unterschriftenbogen herunterladen, ihn unterzeichnen (auch von Freunden und Bekannten in der gleichen Ortschaft!) und einschicken. Danke!

    One small step for man ...

    To celebrate the 35th anniversary today of the world's biggest media hoax, here is irrefutable proof to it!

    If you are still as naïve as I am, then you may want to watch the NASA anniversary video premiering tomorrow!

    Redefiguren

    Manchmal muss man wieder den Brockhaus aufschlagen, um sich an den Rhetorik-Unterricht zu erinnern. Hier eine Auswahl von Redefiguren:

    Pleonasmus: überflüssige Häufung sinnverwandter Wörter (z.B. weisser Schimmel)
    Tautologie: synonyme Wortwiederholung (hegen & pflegen)
    Katachrese: uneigentlicher und fehlerhafter Gebrauch sprachl. Bilder (spitzer Schrei)
    Anakoluth: Satzbruch durch Veränderung der Konstruktion (wenn ich bedenke, wie man wenig ist, und was man ist, das blieb man andern schuldig)
    Metapher: bildlicher Ausdruck aufgrund von Aehnlichkeitsbeziehungen (das Gold ihrer Haare), u.a. als Personifikation (stählerne Arme für Kran) und Synästhesie, die Umschreibung aus dem Reich der Sinnesempfindungen (schreiende Farben)
    Metonymie: bildlicher Ausdruck aufgrund von Berührungsbeziehungen (der Homer für die Werke des Homer) u.a. Synekdoche, die Vertauschung der Beziehungen zw. Teil und Ganzem, wobei oft ein Teil für das Ganze steht, Pars pro toto (eigener Herd für eigener Haushalt)
    Periphrase, Paraphrase: Umschreibung durch charakterisierende Eigenschaften (Athen des Nordens für Edinburg)
    Epitheton ornans: Attribut als schmückendes Beiwort (der listenreiche Odysseus)
    Epizeuxis: ein- bis mehrfache, nebengeordnete wörtl. Wiederholung (er kramt und kramt)
    Anapher: wörtl. Wiederholung an der Spitze mehrerer unmittelbar aufeinander folgender Sätze oder Satzteile (Geld war sein Streben, Geld war sein einziger Gedanke); Gegensatz Epipher
    Paronomasie: Wiederholung desselben Wortstammes in anderer syntakt. Funktion (betrogene Betrüger)
    Parallelismus: wiederholter Satzbau (sich predigen Verzicht und nehmen sich doch alles; sie predigen Wasser und trinken Wein)
    Oxymoron: Kombination von sich logisch ausschliessenden Begriffen (helldunkel)
    Antimetabole: paralleler Satzbau und chiastische Wortanordnung (entweder ihr wollt, aber ihr könnt nicht - oder ihr könnt, aber ihr wollt nicht)
    Asyntedon: Unverbundene Aufzählung (er kam, sah, siegte)
    Polysyntedon: Verknüpfung durch dieselbe, wiederkehrende Konjunktion (und es wallet und siedet und brauset und zischt)

    Wieder einmal bedaure ich, kein Griechisch gelernt zu haben - diese Ausdrücke haben einen ganz eigentümlichen Klang. Uebrigens bin ich gespannt, wieviel Suchverkehr nach Katachrese auf meine Site geleitet wird ... ;-)

    19/07/2004

    Realpolitik

    I just read this rather disturbing special report summarising the findings of the British Butler report and the report of the Senate committee on the secret services blunders in the current edition of The Economist. It is not necessary to go into the details - they are sufficiently well known and widely discussed.

    Why do I post this, then - especially since I don't hide the fact that I have been and still am supporting the removal by force of the former Iraqi regime? I do it because to me, what is most disturbing and disappointing in both reports' results is the apparent lack of professionalism, a.k.a. dilettantism in the preparation of the operation and its aftermath. And it is a nice fit with yesterday's post in which I posted the link to a German interview with German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk who puts this so much better than I could. Hence, for the benefit of the English speaking community, I'll just translate the most important passages dealing with the subject matter of this post.

    "Dilettantism is probably the worst thing that you can say about politicians like Donald Rumsfeld subscribing to the views of Realpolitik.
    The term Realpolitik has been introduced in the late 19th century to tie professionalism with political craftsmanship ...
    ... you are alluding to Bismarck ...
    ... who had his advisers prepare about twelve different alternatives for him in every critical situation. After detailed studies, he then chose the most appropriate among them. Realpolitik along Bismarck's lines means that for reasons immanent to the subject matter of politics, politicians need to emancipate themselves from the imperatives of conventional moral common sense. Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and their neo-conservative think tanks however managed to make professionalism entirely subservient to dilettantism. They pulled all the strings in military technology, media manipulation, administration and justice to make their dilettantish position appear professional.
    But where does this fundamental dilettantism come from? Those people are not dumb in the conventional meaning of the word. Not even George W. Bush can be as dumb as he is often portraied.
    The foundation of dilettantism is grounded in the idea of being the Chosen one. You are not on stage because of your capabilities, but rather because you believe to have a vision which legitimates your every action. Vision in a manner of speaking is the working hypothesis of the Chosen. In the case of the USA, this appears so much more absurd because the Bush administration has not come to power thanks to its visions, but rather thanks to a more or less obvious, hence dilettantish electoral fraud."

    Mind you, Sloterdijk's political standpoint is a long way from mine, but the nice thing in differentiated argumentation is that you can sometimes agree with your political opponent and yet arrive at different conclusions, most likely based on different values.

    The devil's iPod!

    18/07/2004

    Wit

    I just watched a great TV production called Wit. Here is a good NYT review of it for your perusal.

    Wit is about Emma Thompson as a zealous professor of English, specialising in John Donne's poetry, and she is dying of terminal cancer. Wit is about her 8 months travail, and it is very moving, fascinating, intimate and full of life. All the characters in it - the ambitious young doctor, former student of hers, the compassionate nurse, the cold researcher - are wonderfully modern variations on the baroque memento theme. Watch it if you can.

    And for those of us without a classical English education, here is one of the most famous poems by John Donne (1572-1631), often referred to in the film:

    Death Be Not Proud
    DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
    Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
    For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
    Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
    From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
    Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
    And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
    Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
    Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
    And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
    And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
    And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
    One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
    And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

    Interessantes aus der Weltwoche

    Dieser Artikel über das bestensfalls zweideutige, wenn nicht gar positive Image Hitlers ausserhalb Europas bzw. der USA ist beunruhigend. Wo Hitler in Europa nach dem Ende der Relativismus-Debatte als der Inbegriff des Bösen überhaupt gilt (einer der Hitler-Attentäter, Baron Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager, glaubt in der heutigen Ausgabe der Sonntagszeitung gar, dass Hitler vom Teufel geführt wurde), so scheinen die Meinungen im Nahen Osten, in Afrika und Asien unendlich viel positiver zu sein. Es wäre schön, wenn dies, wie die Autoren vermuten, tatsächlich nur mit der zu geringen Information über historische Realitäten zu tun hätte. Zu befürchten ist vielmehr, dass politische Naivität und Eindimensionalität ausschlaggebend sind. Im Nahen Osten scheint er z.B. verehrt zu werden, weil er der Feind des Erbfeindes (Israel) und somit "natürlicher Verbündeter" (Sadat) war! Der Islamo-Faschismus scheint hier tatsächlich zu den Wurzeln zurückzufinden. In Afrika scheint man ohnehin den Greueln absoluter Macht gegenüber abgebrühter zu sein und unterstützt "starke Männer", in welcher Form auch immer sie auftreten. Gefährlich sind diese Phänomene, weil sie indirekt auf unsere Hitler-Interpretation zurückwirken könnten.

    Angenehmere Lektüre ist dieses Interview mit dem deutschen Philosophen Peter Sloterdijk. Besonders interessant finde ich seine Aussagen zum Thema Individualismus ("Nach meiner Definition gibt es ohnehin keine Individuen, es gibt lediglich Dividuen, das heisst Teile von Paaren beziehungsweise von Haushalten, wobei ein Alleinlebender in der Regel ein Individuum ist, das durch geeignetes Training gelernt hat, mit sich selbst ein Paar - oder einen Haushalt - zu bilden.") bzw. über den Dilettantismus der amerikanischen Realpolitik z.B. im Vergleich mit der von Bismarck'schen. Dilettantismus! Dass ich das besonders interessant finde, wird wohl damit zu tun haben, dass ich den Rest nicht verstanden habe ... ;-)

    Liberty vs. Egality in Germany

    This German article in NZZ reports what may amount to a coming seachange in German politics, namely an apparent reversal in the secular trend of increasing preference of egality over liberty, as it was rather obvious in the last couple of years. Particularly relevant is the change in young people from East Germany: in 2003, 34% of under thirtysomethings thought they are responsible for their own success or failure, which compares favourably to 1996 where the same figure was 28%. In the whole country, the preference changed from 42% )1996) to 50% (2003). In the printed edition of the newspaper, there was a chart which showed the trend reversal much more clearly. It is a pity it is not online.

    This is great news - let's hope it will be confirmed by political action!

    Bericht vom Kulinarischen Ausflug

    Noch steht eine Pendenz offen!

    Normalerweise ist es ja eher bemühend, darüber zu lesen, was andere Leute essen - daher publiziere ich in der Regel auch nicht meinen Speiseplan. Wenn ich aber heute eine Ausnahme mache, so sei mir das angelegentlich vergeben. Die Einladung in's Restaurant Stucki war ganz einfach ein kulinarisches Erlebnis besonderer Güte. Der Chefkoch Patrick Zimmermann hat sich selbst übertroffen und macht aus den ihm zur Verfügung stehenden Ressourcen dieses Restaurants das Beste! Der Service ist aufmerksam, kompetent und freundlich und das Ambiente adäquat. In einem Wort: ein Muss!

    Das Menü Zimmermann

    Marbré von der Entenleber und Wachtelbrust
    an Banyoulssülze und Chutney von schwarzen Kirschen
    ***
    Fristo - Misto vom Bretonischen Hummer, Safran und Wacholdersauce
    ***
    Steinbutt an Zitrusfrüchten, Karotten und Ingwerjus
    ***
    Im Ofen gebratenes Sisteron Lammkarrée,
    Erbsen - Mille feuille mit Estragon verfeinert
    ***
    Käsewagen
    ***
    Die kleine Ueberraschung unseres Pâtissiers
    ***
    Erfrischendes Pfirsichsüppchen mit Safran,
    rosé Champagner, Melonensorbet und roten Beeren
    ***
    Friandises


    Edith, Rosi & Christof, ganz herzlichen Dank für die Einladung und einen wunderbaren Abend!

    Hier noch die Fotogalerie des Restaurants zur Illustration.

    15/07/2004

    Kulinarischer Ausflug

    Ich freue mich schon jetzt auf das Nachtessen heute abend im Stucki auf Einladung von Rosi & Christof! Ich bin extrem gespannt, ob bzw. wie der Chefkoch Patrick Zimmermann, dessen Künste ich schon seit langem in seinem eigenen kleinen Restaurant Le Boeuf Rouge in Hagenthal bewundert habe, in diesem bekannten Haus seinen Weg findet. Berichterstattung wird zugesichert.

    Bis dahin noch ein haiku von Basho:

    Der alte Teich.
    Ein Frosch springt hinein -
    das Geräusch des Wassers.

    Yesterday ...

    ... is not quite so far away, thus I'd like to give you a quick update on what happened.

    Since the summer seems to feel like having a second spring (that's a nicely warped metaphor, innit?), I was able to go swimming al fresco again, for a change. That was good, but still somewhat chilly. Later on, Master Tiziano paid us a visit (accompanied by his RUs, of course). He hasn't changed much from the picture, although his baby overall is already a bit close lengthwise. Shame on his parents for not giving him proper attire! ;-) Anyway, I held him for the first time, and fortunately, the young man chose to behave most appropriately, i.e. no screaming, crying or other untimely bodily functions. I was rather flattered by that, especially since it represented a pause in that sort of activity from earlier and later holders. Maybe it has to do with a little trick I played on him - I'll have to verify that next time.

    Even later, we went to see Spiderman II. I am happy to report that in stark contrast to Troy, this Hollywood production fully lived up to expectations. It is a very genuine rendition of the cartoon which I devoured quite a while ago. It is amazing how lively the one dimensional very bad and bad characters come across, and how very humane the super-loser heroe appears. And there is a lot of rather subtle humour of the not-at-all-in-the-face kind, as well. This contemporary stuff mixes well with the adult's childhood nostalgia, so go see it! Fortunately, the groundworks for the next sequel is laid as well.

    14/07/2004

    More on American coffee

    Guys, you had it coming!

    Although my earlier ethnological inquiry into the social patterns of American coffee drinking resulted in the realisation that Jim Jarmusch's repeated representation of Americans clinking coffee cups is a pure product of his deranged fantasy, the comments received so far remind me of another dear American cliché: Coffee! (The previous sentence indisputably originated in a German thinking mind ... sorry!)

    The commentators expressed their concern over drinking too much coffee. Well, I think I can reassure them by saying that this habit can cause bad teeth at worst, since American coffee (with the notable exclusion of Starbucks etc) invariably has the taste and texture of heated diet Pepsi! The other day, I was served "coffee" at a formal dinner in Denver, and I could literally see the bottom of the cup! So, drinking a lot of that stuff won't do you more harm than drinking water. Or, as Marianne Sägebrecht put it so succinctly in Paris, Texas: "Dis is no koofe, dis is braun wota!"

    In order to re-establish my balanced approach towards things and to rebut the allegation of Anti-Americanism, audiatur et altera pars, represented by Mark Twain:

    "Recipe for German Coffee
        Take a barrel of water and bring it to a boil; rub a chicory berry against a coffee berry, then convey the former into the water. Continue the boiling and evaporation until the intensity of the flavor and aroma of the coffee and chicory has been diminished to a proper degree; then set aside to cool. Now unharness the remains of a once cow from the plow, insert them in a hydraulic press, and when you shall have acquired a teaspoon of that pale-blue juice which a German superstition regards as milk, modify the malignity of its strength in a bucket of tepid water and ring up the breakfast. Mix the beverage in a cold cup, partake with moderation, and keep a wet rag around your head to guard against over-excitement."

    13/07/2004

    Avenir radical - Strategische Projekte der FDP

    Mitglieder und Sympathisanten der FDP können hier die Zukunft des Parteiprogrammes deutlich beeinflussen - und es ist nötig, es hat einige Projekte dabei, die m.E. nicht wirklich liberal sind!

    Shutting down Microsoft

    Apart from the money making machine that it is thanks to its certified monopoly, running MSFT cannot be much fun indeed, so this piece flaunts a fairly interesting concept which certainly would cause a bit of upheaval in the markets and elsewhere. Ever considered this, Bill & Steve? I think it is the most creative idea that MSFT can possibly come up with nowadays - talk of creative (self-)destruction!

    12/07/2004

    Tod eines Schoko-Hahnes

    Hier noch ein paar Schnappschüsse von der rituellen Hinrichtung des 1.3 kg schweren Schoko-Oster-Hahnes, der ausnahmsweise die Stellung des Hasen eingenommen hat. Schokolade & Champagner passen erstaunlich gut zusammen, aber mir ist ja soo schlecht!

    Delusions of Grandeur

    Tonight, I went to see Troy, and what an utter disappointment it was! Mind you, my expectations were not high, but what with all the rather benevolent reviews from authorities in the field, I wouldn't have expected that it could fail on such grand a scale. It is not worth going into detail, suffice it to say that in the movie, the ten years of the siege feel like no more than three weeks. Something must be wrong there. I am not sure whether this is a consolation to the director, but let's say that the failure is proportionate to the suject matter of the movie.

    Hollywood, let's go back to Spiderman & Co.! As for us, let's read a book again every now and then...

    11/07/2004

    Just one more!

    Ha, here's an interesting blog which I'll follow more closely for sure! Just have a look at their self-description:

    "A blog for people with a critically rational individualist perspective. We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.
    The Samizdata people are a bunch of sinister and heavily armed globalist illuminati who seek to infect the entire world with the values of personal liberty and several property. Amongst our many crimes is a sense of humour and the intermittent use of British spelling."

    I like it!

    10/07/2004

    Imperial America

    Here is your opportunity to get something for free from a Swiss bank which normally caters to people with assets of $1 Mio plus - and it is actually good!

    It is a monograph containing a 50 page essay in both the original English and a German translation, by Lewis Lapham, the editor in chief of Harper's Magazine, on the evolution & quasi-religious motivation of the US thrust for Empire from a US-liberal (i.e. leftist) point of view. The text is solidly polemic, and thus may be taken with more than a grain of salt, but there is certainly truth to it. Do not forget to read the unusually informative foreword by Hans-Dieter Vontobel, one of the eponymous patrons of the bank!

    As a Swiss reader, I was surprised to read of a "doctrine of American exceptionalism", which reminds me very much of our jealeously guarded "Sonderfall Schweiz". Every country is its own special case to the overly patriotic part of its citizenry, I suppose.

    And with this, I hope I have regained credit from readers who have scolded me for not attending to their needs during the last two days! ;-)

    Anton Pavlovitsch Tschechow (1860-1904)

    «Wer nichts will, auf nichts hofft und nichts fürchtet, der kann kein Künstler sein.»

    In der aktuellen Literaturbeilage der NZZ findet sich dieser schöne Artikel über Tschechow, dessen früher Tod sich heuer zum hundertsten Mal jährt.

    Ich muss zugeben, dass ich noch nichts von diesem schreibenden Arzt gelesen habe. Immerhin habe ich schon das eine oder andere Theaterstück gesehen, aber Theater ist für mich immer eher flüchtig. Ob er trotz seiner kompromisslosen Modernität und fast un-russischer Nicht-Romantik ein für mich wichtiger Autor ist, darauf bin ich gespannt. Vielleicht versuche ich auch mein eingerostetes Russisch wieder einmal an einer seiner Kurzgeschichten. Hier zum Schluss noch ein Werkverzeichnis.

    Weblogging as communication tool

    It would appear that there are conferences on weblogging in Vienna! That comes as a bit of a surprise to me.

    But that's not really the issue of this entry - I just would like to point you to this post where one of the founders of a tool similar to blogger publishes her speech on blogs as communication tools. It contains pretty good categorisations of weblogs (looks like mine is quite jumbled) and an insight into their future.

    08/07/2004

    Words from beyond the grave

    By virtue of his macabre sense of humour apparent, I hereby declare Mr. Robert Barrows honorary Englishman. And his invention makes good business sense, too!

    Being stupid for forest

    How far are you willing to go, indeed? This is just ridiculous, and the people of that "environmental" organisation even have the nerve of using an idealist pretext to get their cheap thrill. I think they should be prosecuted, charged and convicted.

    Coffee & Cigarettes, addendum

    What is it with Americans clinking their coffee cups anyway? If that's a habit over there, then I have totally failed to notice it to date. And it would also match rather strangely with the following observation:

    I have noticed that the Americans I met (together with the British, btw) have not picked up the very nice European habit of clinking wine glasses before starting to drink at lunch or dinner, even if it is a formal occasion. It is just one of those small details, but interestingly it is considered to be rather bad manners in Europe to start drinking without doing it. Well, live & learn ...

    Nikola Tesla ...

    seems to be a seriously eminent person in the eyes of Jim Jarmusch, at least according to the recurring homage paid to him in Jarmusch's latest film Coffee and Cigarettes which I am just coming back home from seeing. A really funny, weird, entertaining, enchanting, and embarrassing collection of short vignettes around the common theme of drinking coffee or, where an Englishman is involved, tea and smoking cigarettes (incidentally, said Englishman smokes french cigarettes - how odd!). Interesting sound track as well, from Iggy Pop & Tom Waits (both appear in person, albeit not in the jukebox) to Henry Purcell & Gustav Mahler (both dead, and definitely not in the jukebox either).

    On another note: I forgot how nice it is to ride the bicycle home on a mild summer night with Eric Satie's Gymnopédies on the iPod. I'll do that more often again!

    07/07/2004

    24, Season One

    Wow, that was intense! I just finished watching the sixth DVD of 24. Tough stuff with amazing twists and turns. I think I'll need some Miss Marple now ... check out the sidebar!

    05/07/2004

    Constitutional Poddies

    Talking of Poddies (short for enthusiastic users of Apple's iPod music device): There seems to be a good number of them among constitutional lawyers - check this site, where you can download the US Constitution for your iPod! Imagine that done with the new EU constitutional treaty ... ;-)

    Ostindien in Shanghai?

    Anlass für diese Frage gibt dieser NZZ Artikel über die Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, welcher eine gewisse Aehnlichkeit zur britischen Ostindien-Gesellschaft wohl nicht abzusprechen ist. Könnte es sein, dass die SCO als Kern des fernöstlichen Machtprozesses fungieren wird? Trotz des grossen Einflusses wird offenbar recht diskret vorgegangen - eine englische website scheint nicht zu existieren. Amtssprachen sind nämlich nur Mandarin und Russisch ...

    04/07/2004

    1660 is over!

    I am a bit behind times, you might suspect?

    What I mean to say is this, however: I took the opportunity of finishing off the year 1660 from Samuel Pepys' diaries today at the poolside while drying after having done my customary laps.

    One remarkable quote from October 13, 1660: "But my Lord not being up, I went out to Charing Cross to see Maj.-Gen. Harrison hanged, drawn, and quartered - which was done there - he looking as cheerfully as any man could do in that condition. He was presently cut down and his head and his heart shown to the people, at which there was great shouts of joy."

    It seems to me that this is a very nice confirmation of two things very English: a) a macabre sense of humour on the part of the observer, and b) the proverbial stiff upper lip on the part of the observed.

    Furthermore, I wonder whether the support for death penalty would rise or fall if the executions were to be performed in this manner? The case for the rise obviously being sheer blood lust while the barbarianism of the act might lead to the opposite as well.

    For the record: I am opposed to death penalty on principle, if only for the fact that there is no way of precluding that the conviction may be faulty, but the penalty cannot be undone.

    Intelligent Life

    There's a new lifestyle magazine out which totally defies the category. It's called Intelligent Life, and it originates from The Economist Group. Very strange things about it: It's got loads of text, no glossy fashion pictures (but one), no website, no subscription advertisments, unclear periodicity (the issue bears "Summer 2004"), and it is actually very interesting & stimulating! I bought it during my recent trip to London, I haven't seen it around here, yet.

    It is subdivided in sections on Opinion, Travel, Leisure, Health, Sport, Motoring, Technology, Luxury, Work, Wealth, Blue yonder and Trendlines and each section has a summary Action Box with exceptionally to the point and novel weblinks. For lack of a link to the magazine, here are some of the Action Box links:

    If Earth is not enough
    For those who want to know everything about their airplane seats
    Want to check whether your song has what it takes for the Charts?
    The site for Poddies such as myself
    Bartenders' Guide
    The end of the battery as we know it
    Specialist store on scales, in casu to identify forged diamonds

    The trendlines section is a bit over the top in terms of illegible 3D graphs, and the Wealth section is a little bit trivial, but that's me, I suppose. Everywhere else, I found surprising information gems. Let's hope that the experimental look of the publication doesn't mean that there will not be a second issue!

    Schönenbucher Gartenparty

    Vielen Dank an Rosi & Christoph für die wie gewohnt wunderbare Gartenparty, es hat viel Spass gemacht! Und Danke natürlich auch an alle die tollen Models, die für meine Uebungsschüsse mit der neuen Kamera zur Verfügung gestanden haben. Die Ergebnisse könnt Ihr hier und hier betrachten. Viel Spass!

    03/07/2004

    Die Geschichte vom Blumentopf und dem Bier

    Ein Professor stand vor seiner Philosophie-Klasse und hatte einige Gegenstände vor sich. Als der Unterricht begann, nahm er wortlos einen sehr grossen Blumentopf und begann diesen mit Golfbällen zu füllen. Er fragte die Studenten, ob der Topf nun voll sei.

    Sie bejahten es.

    Dann nahm der Professor ein Behältnis mit Kieselsteinen und schüttete diese In den Topf. Er bewegte den Topf sachte und die Kieselsteine rollten in die Leerräume zwischen den Golfbällen. Dann fragte er die Studenten wiederum, ob der Topf nun voll sei.

    Sie stimmten zu.

    Der Professor nahm als nächstes eine Dose mit Sand und schüttete diesen in den Topf. Natürlich füllte der Sand den kleinsten verbliebenen Freiraum. Er fragte wiederum, ob der Topf nun voll sei.

    Die Studenten antworteten einstimmig "ja".

    Der Professor holte zwei Dosen Bier unter dem Tisch hervor und schüttete Den ganzen Inhalt in den Topf und füllte somit den letzten Raum zwischen den Sandkörnern aus.

    Die Studenten lachten.

    "Nun", sagte der Professor, als das Lachen langsam nachliess, "Ich möchte, dass Sie diesen Topf als die Repräsentation Ihres Lebens ansehen. Die Golfbälle sind die wichtigen Dinge in Ihrem Leben: Ihre Familie, Ihre Kinder, Ihre Gesundheit, Ihre Freunde, die bevorzugten, ja leidenschaftlichen Aspekte Ihres Lebens, welche, falls in Ihrem Leben alles verloren ginge und nur noch diese verbleiben würden, Ihr Leben trotzdem noch erfüllend wäre."

    "Die Kieselsteine symbolisieren die anderen Dinge im Leben wie Ihre Arbeit, Ihr Haus, Ihr Auto. Der Sand ist alles andere, die Kleinigkeiten. Falls Sie den Sand zuerst in den Topf geben", fuhr der Professor fort, "hat es weder Platz für die Kieselsteine noch für die Golfbälle. Dasselbe gilt für Ihr Leben. Wenn Sie all Ihre Zeit und Energie in Kleinigkeiten investieren, werden Sie nie Platz haben für die wichtigen Dinge. Achten Sie auf die Dinge, welche Ihr Glück gefährden. Spielen Sie mit den Kindern. Nehmen Sie sich Zeit für eine medizinische Untersuchung. Führen Sie Ihren Partner zum Essen aus. Es wird immer noch Zeit bleiben um das Haus zu reinigen oder Pflichten zu erledigen."

    "Achten Sie zuerst auf die Golfbälle, die Dinge, die wirklich wichtig sind. Setzen Sie Ihre Prioritäten. Der Rest ist nur Sand."

    Einer der Studenten erhob die Hand und wollte wissen, was denn das Bier repräsentieren soll.

    Der Professor schmunzelte: "Ich bin froh, dass Sie das fragen. Es ist dafür da, Ihnen zu zeigen, dass, egal wie schwierig Ihr Leben auch sein mag, es immer noch Platz hat für ein oder zwei Bierchen."

    Danke an Raffi für diese kleine grosse Tagesweisheit!

    Enjoy!


    Es ist Kirschenzeit!

    The infant Matrix

    Now if this recently granted patent is not reminding us of The Matrix, I don't know what is, particularly taking into account whom it has been granted to ... graceously The Economist has chosen to omit that association it its article pointing us to it.

    01/07/2004

    New RSS reader

    The guys over at Shrook are not going to like me for this, but after expiry of the trial period, I just switched to PulpFiction Lite which is a free reader. Since reading is all I ever do with newsfeeds, AND Apple has announced that RSS will be part of Safari in Tiger, I am afraid that the business case for standalone RSS readers is dwindling fast. I really don't like to say this, but the progressive integration of functionality into the OS reminds me of some other corporation's strategy ...

    Tomi on the air!

    My nephew Tomi is going to host the radio show Night Experience on Radio X on Saturday 3rd from midnight to 3am (UTC+2). He is going to present the highlights of his shellac collection, so that should be interesting to all oldies fans out there!

    If you want to listen in, Radio X also has a livestream. Watch out though, its format is ogg/vorbis, so it's not exactly trivial, depending on the player you use. I've installed Whamb, which works just fine. The Quicktime plugin referred to here isn't working yet, but that's maybe because I haven't rebooted the machine.

    Have fun!