Internet telephony for Mac OS X

Finally, Skype is coming with a Beta version of its VoIP client for Mac OS X - and it works!!! The great thing is, you can make international calls to POTS (Plain Old Telephony System) and calls to mobile phones for a fraction of the usual price (i.e. EUR 0.019 per minute to Swiss mobiles where it usually costs about EUR 0.20). Check it out!

If you get phone calls from me in the near future with a somewhat more shaky sound quality than usual, then you know why ...

The Economist on Bush

The current issue of The Economist has a special on the Bush presidency. There is a great in-depth analysis (subscription required) unearthing the most crucial aspects of the current presidency: the alleged ?revolution? in foreign policy, the pursuit of big-government conservatism and the dramatic expansion of presidential powers.

The most devastating statement: "Almost all governments bend the truth. This one has seldom resorted to outright falsehood; instead, the administration has manipulated public information and breached basic standards of political conduct in Congress, the civil service and public debate. Whatever the merits of increasing presidential authority, Mr Bush has achieved his aim less by winning support for more power than by weakening the authority of other institutions."

Here is the freely accessible lead article.



Es stehen einige heisse Eisen an bei der nächsten Volksabstimmung am 26. September. Eines davon ist die Mutterschaftsversicherung. Meine Meinung hierzu ist im Gegensatz zu den anderen Vorlagen noch nicht gemacht. Ein wichtiges Argument hat meine alte Bekannte Michele B. in der Radio-Sendung Rendez-vous vom 30.08.2004 (Realaudio im Archiv!) vorgebracht, nämlich dass sich der alte Verfassungsauftrag nur auf medizinische Kosten bezogen hat, die natürlich heute abgedeckt sind.

Allerdings wird Michele mit meinen persönlichen Abstimmungsparolen nicht zufrieden sein:
- Einbürgerungsvorlagen JA
- Poststelleninitiative NEIN

CH, D, AU, F, I

Was haben diese Länder gemeinsam?

Leider handelt es sich dabei um jene europäischen Länder, die gemäss Bericht der NZZ zwischen 1995 und 2003 einen Rückgang des kaufkraftbereinigten Bruttosozialprodukts pro Kopf relativ zum Durchschnitt der EU zu vermelden hatten. Und unglücklicherweise führt die Schweiz diese traurige Rangliste sogar an!

Es geht aber auch anders: Irland hat in der gleichen Periode von 99 auf 131 zugelegt!

Wenn jemand noch nach akutem wirtschaftspolitischem Handlungsbedarf für unser Land sucht, dann ist er spätestens jetzt fündig geworden!

Hier ist der detaillierte Bericht von Eurostat.


US neutrality, the second

It would appear from Perry's response that I haven't made myself quite clear on why permanent armed neutrality is not a viable foreign policy option of the US, in my view.

Let's try again, then, and look at it from a slightly different angle.

First, let's be clear about what neutrality is and what it is not. Neutrality is the (self)imposed obligation not to participate in an armed conflict between two subjects of international law. This is per se an ad hoc decision, so what Perry is looking for (and that's why I am insisting on it) is permanent neutrality. A state choosing permanent neutrality is additionally obliged to make sure that it is never in a situation where he is forced to take sides in an armed conflict. It is evident that being armed is useful in this regard.

Part of the confusion may be that we are not talking about the same thing, really. What Perry means by asking for US neutrality - if I may be so bold as to rephrase him - is not neutrality as defined above, but really a passive (a.k.a. isolationist) foreign policy.

So the question is: Why is an isolationist foreign policy bad for the US citizenry? Bad in Perry's view has two dimensions: economic welfare and (physical) security. On both accounts, the current policy is purportedly ineffective because a) growth would have been higher with "neutrality" (not substantiated), and b) Swiss nationals don't have to worry about being attacked for being Swiss.

Since Perry doesn't substantiate why an isolationist foreign policy would result in higher growth, I need not to into that (yet). As far as personal security of citizens abroad is concerned (that's the only aspect of security, apparently?) I think that isolationism doesn't reduce the threat to US citizens abroad. They are being targeted because of the US' size and importance and economic interests in the world, and those can be taken hostage regardless of the foreign policy stance. Switzerland is simply to irrelevant to provide terrorists leverage, and the US, try as it may, can never be as irrelevant.

Mind you, I am not advocating the current dilettantish foreign policy stance - my preference is with a multilateral, predictable foreign policy stance based on national interest and the rule of law.

"Me sött de Pilet go lah ..."

oder Inder statt Kinder!

Die aktuelle Ausgabe der Weltwoche enthält zwei besonders spannende Artikel. Erstens mal die provokative Idee eines Oekonomen (was denn sonst?!), das Kinderkriegen nach Indien auszulagern (nicht wirklich kreativ, findet ja schon statt). Angesichts der Kosten von ca. CHF 1100 pro Monat in der Schweiz und ca. CHF 3 in Indien scheint das sehr viel Sinn zu machen. Allerdings müssten dann die Einwanderungsbestimmungen doch noch etwas gelockert werden, und der Autor unterschlägt - wohl im Hinblick auf die Steigerung der Provokativität seiner These - die nicht-monetären Vorteile der Tätigkeit, die angesichts des nicht zu vernächlässigenden Residuums an fortpflanzungsfreudigen Bewohnern der Industrieländer nicht unterschätzt werden sollten. So, genug Oekonomen-Jargon!

Aus meiner Sicht wichtig ist zweitens die Neubeurteilung von Hanspeter Born des als anpasserisch verurteilten Kriegs-Bundesrates und Bundespräsidenten des Kriegsjahres 1940 Marcel Pilet-Golaz. Wenn ich mich richtig entsinne, haben wir im Gymnasium bei Georg Kreis Pilet-Golaz' Ansprache und Position ebenfalls sehr kritisch (d.h. im Sinne Edgar Bonjours) beurteilt, was wohl im Lichte der Born-Analyse nicht mehr haltbar ist. Ich wäre gespannt auf Prof. Kreis' Beurteilung!

Für beide Artikel bzw. das Dossier Pilet-Golaz ist ein Abonnement erforderlich.


Permanent armed neutrality for the US?

Here is a very odd post which proposes that the United States should adopt the traditional Swiss foreign policy maxime of permanent armed neutrality.

From a (hopefully informed) Swiss point of view, this position is quite untenable. Firstly it displays a lack of understanding of the very different relative weights and statures of the two states in the world. The Swiss David has come to accept neutrality as his preferred mode of operation in the highly pugnacious European environment after 1600 because he lacked power and direction to behave otherwise. Proof of that hypothesis is that before the period of the growth of strong nation states, the ancient Swiss were a highly respected military great power with a fairly expansive streak. But after some strategic defeats, the virtue of neutrality in my view is a lack of opportunity rather than a deliberate policy decision. For a small state like Switzerland, neutrality and the pursuit of law & order in international relations makes sense.

Secondly, for the US Goliath with its unsurpassed economic & military resources, the world looks quite different. Any administration that would deliberately dispense with the creative options it has at its disposition in persuing its own interests would give way to either less reluctant foreign powers or a more "activist" administration. Here, the temptation to resist is power-driven unilateralism - a temptation to which the current administration obviously has trouble resisting.

In international relations, thirdly, power and the horror vacui relative to power is just a reality, to be moderated by international law. Having the most powerful state on the globe withdraw into its own shell will not help anyone, as we we were forced to observe when the US was going through one of its isolationist phases.

Being liberal in the classical European sense, I very much believe in the non-coercion principle promoted by Perry, but this principle unfortunately has a very weak standing in the world of international politics, which ultimately is about power, i.e. force & coercion.

P.S. With the evolution of a more cooperative environment in Switzerland's immediate neighbourhood, traditional neutrality and aloofness is coming under increased pressure lately. For example , the Secretary of Defense has recently called for a debate about universal conscription upon which the Swiss militia is obviously based. Consequently, many of those sham Chalets are up for sale or demolition now.

For Kerry is an honourable man ...

I don't think I like this too much. It sounds a lot like Mark Antony's bashing of Brutus as an honourable man - and Brutus was everything but!

Again, well done, Bushites! That's how the Kerry demand for a rebuttal of the Swifties was bound to backfire ...

Happy = poor memory

No, that's not a really cynical statement - much rather, it is the ultimate excuse for people with bad memory: An Australian study to be published shortly has discovered that people who are in a good mood have a worse recollection of things than their peers who are in a foul one. Isn't that great? If you generally have a bad memory (such as myself), then you may assume that you are a happy person, whereas if you're more on the depressed side, you may console yourself with your good memory. On second thought though, that might not be so good after all, since you will be bound to remember all the bad things that happened to you in the past ... but anyway, Susanne, I have herewith fulfilled my promise! ;-)

Tonight the weather was fine, so it was a good idea eventually to shift the BBQ after all! Oh, and it looks like the reason for the flash's reluctance to fire was indeed empty batteries - I still have a couple of days to get to know the darn thing inside out!


Lies, damned lies, ...

... and statistics! I think this phrase goes back to Sir Winston Churchill, when he was still First Lord of the Admiralty. He then was concerned with the German's statistics of the number of British ships sunk by their U-Boot Waffe.

Today's application is much more peaceful. I have ranted earlier about the reliability of my web statistics. Numbers minded person that I am, I have installed a new web counter in the sidebar of the blog. The counter is set to record visits only, and to exclude visits by myself.

Soooo, what do we see? If you go to the counter, you'll notice a whopping 6 visits for yesterday in the sidebar counter. The webstats of my website however reports no less than 72 visits, with a daily average of 78 even! Here's the graph:

So, the yellow bars showing visits look nice and stable. But I really don't like the huge difference of over 90% between the latest counts. OK, I admit that there are a couple of reasons why the count may be lower, but do they add up? I don't know:
  • webstats reports for the entire site, not just the blog

  • my visits are included in webstats, but they're verylimited

  • new counter presumably counts blog page only, but not archived entries (?), so direct hits are not reported there

  • Does that make any sense?


    Market predictions

    On the Irish Futures trading platform Intrade, you can check out the market expection of who will win the US presidential elections. It doesn't look too good for Kerry, judging by the current price of the Bush Future, which is still above 50 (if he wins, a holder will garner 100), while Kerry trades at about 40ish.

    Unfortunately for us Mac users, the Java scripts used on that website appear to be so non-standard that they periodically kill both IE and Safari, so I was able to glean only very little of the action. Dear Intrade Owners, if you want to broaden the liquidity of your market, make it usable for Mac users!!

    What's happening to my own personal prediction from early June that Kerry will win? Well, I still maintain it, even though thanks to his laggard and tepid response to the Vietnam debacle, it doesn't look so good now. The Swifties attack is really quite well crafted, I have to admit - it's probably asking too much of the electorate to differentiate between the soldier's action (which was impeccable in the words of the President) and the subsequent politician's action (i.e. attacking the Vietnam war - which was at least legitimate).


    q.e.d. in der Tat, und zwar sowohl direkt wie im übertragenen Sinne. Danke an den Tobistar für diese vermutlich unfreiwillige Stilblüte!

    P.S. Noch belangloser: Ich ziehe hx vor!


    The Mont Pelerin Society

    Darn! The NZZ publishes a large summary of the proceedings of The Mont Pelerin Society's general meeting in Salt Lake City on the same page as Ota Sik's obituary, and neither are available in the non-paid service! I suppose there is a reason for that ...

    Anyway, that reminds me of the MPS general meeting I attended in Bratislava in 2001, actually on September 11th, 2001. I don't think I will ever forget that event again, for obvious reasons, especially since I was planning on flying to NYC the very next day. But despite of the overshadowing event, the meeting was fascinating and intellectually challenging. And although it took place not far from Transsylvania, there certainly weren't any vampires on display - just a bunch of very open & friendly, yet highly opinionated and pugnacious intellectuals from all over the world.

    One item particularly caught my eye in the report: My then host, Victoria Curzon-Price has been elected President of the Society. Congratulations!

    Ota Sik

    Sad news from St. Gallen - Ota Sik, one of my University professors, has died at the age of 84. Here is a good obituary.

    Ota Sik was one of those professors who impressed me personally, even though his approach of a third way between communism and capitalism - tempting though it may have been during the cold war period - never convinced me, with the exception maybe of a short period during high school. Most convincing though was his demonstration of how the Soviet style planned economy worked, or rather, wouldn't work. And finally, his hands-on mentality as a communist intellectual who survived the concentration camp of Mauthausen and took on government responsibility in the Prague Spring of 1968 was exemplary and deeply moving.

    The Downfall

    On September 16th, a German movie is going to hit the theaters which I am sure we are going to hear a lot about very soon. Apparently, it shows Adolf Hitler as a human being, which technically speaking, he undoubtedly was.

    This breach of a taboo, however controversial it will be, may have a wholesome & useful effect in that it demonstrates again that evil is always part of the human condition. We permanently need to keep a watchful eye for it and keep it in check whereever it may flare up. It won't do to declare Hitler and his regime (or any other political enemy for that matter) as a singularly inhuman monster, thereby precluding that similar atrocities may happen again.

    I am looking forward to this debate.

    This just in ...

    ... from the purveyor of fine reading materials to the Captain, a travel guide to California with seven hundred and thirty six pages choke-full of travelling advice for next month's trip to the Golden State, stoking anticipation!

    Meanwhile, here is a graphic illustration of the reason for the cancellation of tonight's grillfest, a.k.a. BBQ:


    The final curtain

    If you are into outlandish topics with an occasional penchant towards the macabre, then look no further than The Economist. Here is an analysis of the US market in - coffins and funeral services! The conclusion? Despite of the recent availability of discount coffins and the steep ticket of some $6K for a full price item, "Costco (a supplier of discount ware, CD) may find that its customers do not want the final goodbye to be a good buy".

    Naturally, this calls for a comparison of how things final are handled over here. Again, there is a marked difference: In the nearby city of Basle, everybody has the right to a free, albeit simple, coffin, and it would appear that this right is exercised rather frequently. It gets worse: Recently the right to the free coffin was proposed to be abolished so as to reduce the state deficit. I am not really sure whether there has been a referendum on the matter, but the proposal failed. Even better: subsequently to that decision, the administrative unit responsible (the municipal nursery) tried to replace the standard upholstery with cheaper litter and thereby almost created an resuinsurrection! You see, Swiss politics occasionally really is a matter of life and death!

    To conclude on a more serious note, though: this just looks like another instance of the notorious Swiss parsimoniousness, however reasonable it may be (I am Swiss, after all).


    Super Constellation

    Cool bird, isn't she? I just came across this picture taken by my brother who is a member of Super Constellation Flyers.

    On choosing friends

    It's always nice of course to have friends in high places, especially if they have humongous villas in the mediterranean at their disposition ...

    As the British Prime Minister however, I'd be really concerned with who I am seen to be friends with, namely outside of government obligations. I would have my doubts about a commendatore of a southern republic who may soon be found a convicted crook and fraudster, and whose most important motivation to take the reigns of said republic obviously was to protect his very own private interests - after all, he has still not dissociated himself from his media empire despite his election promise to do so within his first 100 days in government, and otherwise he has not achieved any of his important goals. So I suppose my assertion about his motivation is valid.

    But at least, the Cavaliere's "Pirate of the Mediterranean" look is more honest in a way than probably intended. Would you have guessed the reason for that guise? Well, after his recent face lifting (sic!), Mr. Berlusconi felt like improving on his wig some, so it appears that he has got a hair transplant. One would wonder where he's got that hair from? Surely we will have news of him chasing after young boys before long.

    Well, some people go to ranches in Texas, others to villas in the mediterranean, but such are the more ridiculous sides of the coalition of the drwilling ...


    Singing in the rain

    What the heck is he talking about, it wasn't raining today, was it.

    Just coming home from a very entertaining CD christening of the Lisette Spinnler Quartett. She is a really powerful young Jazz singer experimenting with a variety of styles, most notably African inspired ethno pop. She also plans on going to Burkina Faso for four months to study their music in vivo, and she does well to do so, if I may comment, for her voice does have a distintly European timbre which to my ears fits quite squarely with African vocal music... should be interesting to hear her in a couple of months' time!

    OK, that explains the singing to some extent, but what about the rain? Well, it has been raining yesterday night, and usually I really enjoy falling asleep to the sound of rain falling on the walnut tree right next to my open bedroom window, but yesterday night, I was basically falling into a bottomless pit, i.e. I just couldn't go to sleep well into the wee hours of the morning, so I am actually really knackered right now! And I am sure that will help to explain my warped logic ... GOOD NIGHT!


    Der Schneider von Ferrara

    Diese Geschichte ist einfach zu schön, um wahr zu sein. Man möchte nach Ferrara fahren, um sie zu überprüfen ...


    Rien ne va plus!

    Interessant! In meinem letzten Eintrag zur Rechtschreibereform wollte ich eigentlich noch über die Grande Nation herziehen, deren Académie Française bekanntlich über Wohl und Wehe der Sprache Molières bestimmt, somit auch deren korrekter Schreibung.

    Nun lernen wir aber aus diesem Artikel, dass die Franzosen in sprachlicher Hinsicht ja gar nicht so progressiv sind wie ich ihnen das gerne unterstellt hätte! Quel scandal!

    Verliert der Westen den Krieg gegen den Terrorismus?

    Hier eine auch materiell ergiebige Rezension zweier neuer Bücher zum Thema, u.a. einer offenbar recht spannenden Arbeit eines CIA Analytikers (inkl. Kriegszielen bin Ladins). Einige dieser Kriegsziele widersprechen direkt westlichen Sicherheitsinteressen. Erschreckende Essenz: Bush macht nicht zu viel, sondern zu wenig und erst noch falsch!

    Ethisch am stärksten beunruhigt mich aber schon seit einiger Zeit eine Frage, die mindestens in der Rezension nur anklingt: Was, wenn die neuartige Strategie der network based warfare mit ihrer Betonung schneller Präzisionsschläge gegen gegnerische Kommando- & Kontrollinfrastruktur mit vergleichsweise geringen Kollateralschäden, mithin die "zivilisierte westliche Art der Kriegführung", von einem in apokalyptischen Kategorien ("Ihr wollt das Leben - wir wollen den Tod") denkenden Gegner nicht als zivilisatorische Leistung, sondern als moralische Schwäche wahrgenommen wird? Was, wenn wie weiland bei den Babyloniern der Sieg des Gegners nur akzeptiert wird, wenn der Triumphator mit dem Kampfwagen über Abertausende abgeschnittener Köpfe fährt? Oder ganz direkt und unverblümt: Kann ein Vernichtungskrieg zur Wahrung westlicher Sicherheitsinteressen - selbstverständlich als ultima ratio - richtig und führbar sein?

    Diese Fragestellung ist meines Wissens neu, weil der Luxus dieser Differenzierung im noch nicht so lange vergangenen Zeitalter der Massenkriege gar nicht verfügbar war; zuvor wurden Kabinettskriege unter der Kontrolle von Eliten geführt, die Sieg und Niederlage von einem strengen Ehrenkodex diktiert sahen. Und dann sind wir wahrscheinlich schon bald wieder bei den Babyloniern ...


    Harold and Maude

    This evening, I watched Harold & Maude for the first time in full, and what a wonderfully optimistic film it is! Not half as hippiesque as I thought it would be from the bits I already saw.

    Harold, about to "improve" his classic Jaguar E-Type by turning it into a mock hearse - what a sacrilege!!

    And here is small capture of one of the best sequences when he realises how to best handle some pre-arranged dates after having set himself ablaze - sorry about the quality!


    Anti-Amerikaner aufgepasst!

    Aber erst mal gibt's einen Hinweis auf diesen Artikel in der Weltwoche, der für alle jungen Eltern und Erziehungspolitiker von grösstem Interesse sein sollte, räumt er doch gründlich mit Piaget auf. Na denn, Kinderlein, ran an die Schulsäcke!

    Jetzt also doch noch zu den Anti-Amerikanern, die den Amis gerne in tiefschürfender Analytiker-Manier Oberflächlichkeit vorwerfen. Jenen also möchte ich gerne die Lektüre dieses Artikels (Abo erforderlich) ans Herz legen! Wie der Autorin ist mir eine oberflächlich-freundliche Kassiererin hundert Mal lieber als eine griesgrämig-rüpelhafte mit Philosophie-Diplom!

    Und wo wir schon dabei sind: Der neue Chefredaktor der Weltwoche bemerkt zu recht, das das Leben der Europäer auch nach der (allseits erhofften) Wahl Kerrys auch nicht einfacher werden wird (s. Kommentar). Na also!

    Öffentlich ist, was nicht strikt privat ist

    Das Bundesgericht zeigt einmal mehr bewundernswerte Courage, wenn auch die Entscheidung - wie nota bene jede heikle Entscheidung - durchaus diskutable Aspekte aufweist. In seinem jüngsten Urteil zur Rassismus-Strafnorm nimmt es eine Praxisänderung vor, die die Anwendbarkeit dieser Norm wesentlich ausweitet. Damit sehen sich natürlich die Grossmäuler aller Parteien (wobei es in der einen Partei wohl mehr davon hat als in der anderen) in ihrer Meinungsäusserungsfreiheit eingeschränkt.

    Wenn sich daraus nun wieder - wie bereits beim Einbürgerungs-Entscheid - ein veritables Bundesgerichts-Bashing entwickelt (und die Tatsache, dass die website des Gerichts momentan nicht zugänglich ist, weist darauf hin), so übersehen die Heisssporne, dass es präzis die Aufgabe des Bundesgerichts ist, solche Interpretationsentscheide zu fällen.

    Und wenn sie korrekterweise statt des Sackes den Esel, d.h. den Gesetzgeber schlagen wollen, weil sie mit der Regel grundsätzlich nicht einverstanden sind, so kommt es noch schlimmer; sie scheinen dann nämlich ihre Meinungsäus-serungsfreiheit dahingehend nutzen zu wollen, um öffentlich gegen eine Person oder eine Gruppe von Personen wegen ihrer Rasse, Ethnie oder Religion zu Hass oder Diskriminierung aufzurufen und anderes mehr (soweit Art. 261bis StGB).

    Jederzeitige Wachsamkeit gegenüber Beschränkungen von Freiheitsrechten ist wichtig und angebracht, aber genauso wichtig ist es in unserer sonst von Ochlokratie bedrohten halb-direkten Demokratie, eine sinnvolle Balance der Gewaltenteilung zu halten.

    Cry wolf?

    Good article in the latest edition of The Economist on the questionable motivation behind the recent terror warning in the US ...

    Since we're at it: Said magazine has another important article on the future of property rights in the electromagnetic spectrum. Now this may sound somewhat arcane (the summary is by me, after all), but it is definitely an important aspect for all corporations which have expensive frequency licenses on their balance sheet which they may soon discover to be worthless. The prospect of open spectrum is likely to introduce another disruptive technology in many more industries, and governments may loose a weighty revenue contributor. I am pretty sure this is not a matter of Cry Wolf!


    NZZ zur Rechtschreibereform

    In der Samstagsausgabe hat die NZZ ihre bekannte skeptische Position zur sogenannten Rechtschreibereform aus aktuellem Anlass erläutert und ergänzt.

    Zum einen nimmt Peter von Matt in einem ausführlichen Kommentar Stellung, indem er die kantonalen Erziehungsdirektoren darauf aufmerksam macht, dass die Katastrophe nicht erst durch die Rückgängigmachung der "Reform" entsteht, sondern bereits real existiert, da die Reform schlicht nicht akzeptiert wird. Er fordert die offizielle Schweiz auf, in den kommenden heissen Debatten eine moderierende Rolle einzunehmen, um eine reformierte Reform ohne Eingriffe in den Wortschatz zu ermöglichen. Zum anderen veröffentlicht die NZZ eine aktualisierte Version ihrer eigenen Rechtschreiberegeln, die ich im übrigen für sehr sinnvoll halte.

    All dies ist im aktuellen Dossier Rechtschreibreform zugänglich.


    Interessant! Kaum entwickelt sich eine kleine challenge-response Beziehung, schon wird unser blog zum Gegenstand systemtheoretischen Anschauungsunterrichts. Da wollen wir doch mal sehen, ob wir mit diesem kleinen Eintrag die Komplexität der Selbstreferenzialität nicht auf eine neue Ebene heben können!


    Murder Rooms

    Yesterday evening, I got round to watching the first of the DVDs recently purchased in London: Murder Rooms - The Dark Beginnings Of Sherlock Holmes. It was quite the spontaneous buy since I had never heard of it before, but when I saw that Ian Richardson plays a lead role, that it is set in victorian Edinburgh, and it is kind of a backgrounder to Sherlock Holmes, I was done for.

    Anyway, as you can see from the official website, this original episode spawned some sequels because of its great success. And well founded that success is!

    The plot goes as follows: Arthur C. Doyle (creator of the Sherlock Holmes character) is a medical student at Edinburgh University in the 1870ies and he is not at all satisfied with the lecturers. There is one lecturer however who challenges his somewhat parochially rationalistic mindset: the forensic pathologist Joseph Bell (Richardson). Crime detection based on careful observation & scientific methods is Bell's unconventional hobby horse and he uses his intellectual brilliance rather irreverently. This tantalises young Doyle, who invariable ends up as Bell's invaluable Watsonesque clerk. As it is in the nature of things, they come across a serial killing and solve the mystery rather splendidly - I shan't go into any spoilers.

    The film is a fascinating genre-picture of the victorian period society with plenty of great acting, wit & style as well as social critique and tragic romance thrown in for good measure. Edinburgh University at that time opened up to teach female students, against fierce opposition from both the lecturers' and students' bodies, of course. And this is were I can end this post on a surprising, almost personal note: When I was toiling away for my Master's degree at Edinburgh University, I was a resident of Masson Hall in South Lauder Road. Masson Hall prided itself on having been the first Women Only student hall of residence at the University - bygone times when I was there, of course. Nonetheless, many a good natured quip was had at the expense of us male students there ...


    Kapitäne, Richter und Moralisten!

    Es gilt hier ein neues neues blog von einem Richter Jonathan anzuzeigen, der anders als gewisse Moralisten auch über ein klares politisches Urteilsvermögen verfügt! Mögen Deine Urteile gerecht sein!

    AirPort Express

    You might think that I have had enough of airports lately - I couldn't possibly comment ... suffice it to say that it is only an hour since I unwrapped this little darling and already my dysfunctional CD & MD players are flying from the balcony ...

    More specifically: Setting up a WDS network went smoothly, so now I have a distributed, private wireless network with digital audio stream distributed to my hi fi system. And that for just CHF 201! Perfect!

    A Pioneer CD and MD player, anyone?

    BIG mistake!

    As an attentive reader of the earth shattering publication that is this blog, you will know that I spent the last 24 hours in London (where it was raining, for a change!). And that may turn out to have been a big mistake. Oh no, not the purpose of my visit there - the meeting and the private evening tour through Buck House (sorry, no photography permitted) were quite enjoyable, and so was the fact that I didn't have access to a computer for almost two days without suffering from withdrawal syndrome!

    No, I am talking about deferred side effects. I bought this, this and this! All in all a solid 24 (hey, how fitting!) DVDs full of pure viewing pleasure! Btw, the House of Cards DVDs are quite cheekily blank (ok, there is something on the DVDs I hope, but there's nothing printed on any of them). I also got a couple of other, less noteworthy things which will certainly take up much less of my time ...

    On top of all that, this has finally arrived, too! I'll post a review as soon as it is up and running.


    Die Herren der Welt

    Eben habe ich das Buch Die Herren der Welt von Clemens Verenkotte fertig gelesen. Als Herren der Welt wird natürlich die Administration Bush und insbesondere eine kleine Gruppe einflussreicher Neokonservativer bezeichnet. Das Buch ist eine kenntnisreiche und wohldokumentierte Abrechnung mit dem Umgang der Administration mit den internationalen Beziehungen der Vereinigten Staaten, der nur als imperialistisch bezeichnet werden kann. Dabei kann der Autor nicht einmal des in Europa virulenten Anti-Amerikanismus geziehen werden, beschreibt er doch oft die vernünftigen Praktiken früherer Administrationen, u.a. jener von Bush senior.

    Vielmehr zeigt er die fundamentale (und fundamentalistische) Abkehr der Administration vom früheren Gleichgewichtsdenken, welches in der Folge von 9/11 ersetzt wurde durch primär unilateral ausgerichtetes Verfolgen nationaler (Energie-)interessen. Wenn das auf geschickte und nachhaltige Weise gemacht würde, wäre das ja nicht einmal schlimm bzw. durchaus nachvollziehbar - übel wird es aber, wenn man des Mal für Mal nachgewiesenen Dilettantismus bei der Umsetzung ansichtig wird! Ganz kleines Beispiel: Das aus meiner Sicht unverzeihliche Fehlen einer nation building Strategie im Irak nach dem Sturz des Regimes scheint darauf zurückzuführen zu sein, dass die nationale Sicherheitsdirektive 24 des Präsidenten den Irak rein dem Pentagon unterstellt hat, welches die umfangreichen vorliegenden Pläne des Aussenministeriums nicht einmal zur Kenntnis genommen hat. Oder: Wiederholt werden Aussagen belegt der Art, dass irgendeine Bedrohung "grösser sei als von den Geheimdiensten dargestellt" - wer wenn nicht damit betraute Regierungsstellen könnte derartige Einschätzungen vornehmen, und dabei erst noch derart spektakulär scheitern (in die falsche RIchtung)?! Klammerbemerkung: Einige der beschriebenen Verhaltensmuster erinnern mich an bei der SVP beliebte Argumentationslinien - bedenklich!

    Fazit: Hoffen wir auf die Weisheit des amerikanischen Volkes! Andernfalls werden wir wohl ca. im März 2006 eine Invasion des Iran mitverfolgen können.

    Tomi Z. for BSounds Star! - adjourned

    If you are waiting to hear from Tomi as announced here, I am afraid there's bad luck with his appearances on air. Last time, he had to break of after a short while because the turntable wouldn't agree with him, and this time, the moderator has had an accident.

    I'll keep you posted ...


    The purr-fect cuppa or even more on coffee ...

    In Blackadder Goes Forth, where Baldrick serves as a WWI army cook in the trenches (rat au vin incidentally is rat that has been run over by a van, then soaked in a puddle), there is frequent reference to sustenance that has passed through the digestive system of a cat before being served. Up until now, I have taken that rather metaphorically ...

    Not any more! Today's newspaper cites this somewhat dated research on Kopi Luwak, a highly expensive speciality coffee, the beans of which have effectively made a detour through this little critter before ending up in John Cleese's cup, just to name one connoisseur consumer of the brew (why am I not surprised?). What a pity that Samuel Clemens isn't with us any more - I am sure he would have something fierce to say about that!

    Kirchmattfest 04

    Wie versprochen findet Ihr hier die Schnappschüsse von heute gestern abend. Vielen Dank an die Organisatorinnen!!

    Und wie gesagt: nächstes Jahr, gleiche Zeit (letzter Samstag vor Ferienende), gleicher Ort! Und meinen Namensvorschlag findet Ihr auch schon im Titel ...


    In praise of Sloth

    "The art of living is the art of bringing dreams and reality together. I have a dream. It is called love, anarchy, freedom. It is called being idle."

    Here is a very elaborate & literate piece on the art of being idle. Strangely enough though, it seems to be diligently done (presumably largely before dawn) and excuses idleness by the creative productivity it spawns (sometimes). Do we have to conclude therefore that ultimately, idleness for its own sake truly is not socially acceptable?

    But be that as it may, it is an excellent collection of quotables in support of your convalescence from industriousness!


    As mentioned, I am planning to go to California on September 8th. Guess what? There is an earthquake prediction for Southern California, warning of a high likelyhood event of magnitute 6.4 or above until September 5th. What with my recent history in shaking experiences, it would be just my luck if it struck with a couple of days delay ...


    ordhokravishä gOnderefolluziohn

    Hurra! Endlich mal wieder gute Nachrichten aus Deutschland - möglicherweise setzen wir Gegner der hochnotpeinlichen, sogenannten Rechtschreibereform uns doch noch durch!

    Akzeptabel ist höchstens - wenig verwunderlich - die massiv verwässerte Version der NZZ, die sich natürlich durch diese Bewegung in ihrer als reaktionär verschrieenen Position bestätigt sieht.

    Tomi Z. for BSounds Star!

    I am just reading here that my nephew Tomi Z. will be on the air again this Monday August 9th between 2100h and 2200h CEST. Check out the instructions on how to listen to their livestream here!

    In the meantime, you can vote (and you are expected to, if I may say so) here for his song Sexy kleine Hexe!


    Political philosophy

    Here are two links to some classical texts which have been formational formative to my political attitude. There's more of course, and I'll post links when I come across them.

    The first text is Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France which may not exactly appear current affairs to us, but it certainly was back when it appeared in 1790.

    The second text is in German by sociologist Max Weber, and it is a presentation on Politik als Beruf (Politics as Profession). It appeared in 1919 and introduced the fundamental distinction between Gesinnungsethik (ethics of disposition?) and Verantwortungsethik (ethics of responsibility). You will have to search for the title of the essay way down the page since it does not appear to be anchored.

    Happy reading!

    Spekulative Archäologie

    Das NZZ Folio enthält in seiner neusten Ausgabe eine anregende Spekulation darüber, was Archäologen in einigen Tausend Jahren von den diesjährigen olympischen Spielen finden werden. Das ganze wird sinnigerweise als spekulative Archäologie bezeichnet. Wahrlich eine interessante Uebung in Bescheidenheit!

    Random act of kindness

    Here is a really nice story about a New Zealand pizza boy being given a really huge tip by a church congregation. Whether this "random act of kindness" is just coincidental with the growth in philanthropy predicted by the Economist, we shall never know. And that's ok.


    Abschaffung der Wehrpflicht?

    Na, wer sagt's denn - die Schweizer Politik bewegt sich nicht?! Ok, ich hab's gesagt, und zwar hier und hier. Dass aber das zuständige Mitglied des Bundesrates (und dann erst noch SVP - ok, Berner Flügel, aber immerhin) die allgemeine Wehrpflicht zur Debatte stellt, das ist schon bemerkenswert. Angesichts der neuen Bedrohungslage, die wohl keine grossen Volksarmeen mehr rechtfertigt, ist diese Debatte vermutlich angebracht. Ob der Zeitpunkt mitten in der problematischen Umsetzung des neuen Armeekonzepts XXI gut gewählt ist, steht auf einem anderen Blatt.

    Und nochmal auf einem ganz anderen Blatt steht, ob die zeitliche Koinzidenz mit der vernichtenden Kritik an der Departementsführung des besagten Regierungsmitgliedes wirklich zufällig ist, zumal besagtes Mitglied den kritischen Untersuchungsbericht als "Vorentwurf" hat klassifizieren, einsammeln und vernichten lassen ... dieser "Zufall" scheint uns doch sehr an ministerielle Praktiken anderer Länder zu gemahnen. Man darf gespannt sein auf die Fortsetzung der Geschichte!

    Und im übrigen - und damit kommen wir wieder zur Einleitung: An Debatten hat es ja in der Schweizer Politik noch nie gefehlt. Woran es mangelt, ist Aktion! Ob sich aus dieser (Alibi?)-Debatte Aktion ergibt, wird sich weisen. Mich würde es wundern.

    Car commercials

    Check out this hilarious commercial for a car with continuous gearbox! Unfortunately the format is not perfect, but the fun definitely comes across. In the US of A, this car probably comes with quite a specific health warning.

    I am not so sure I like the new Renault commercials (couldn't find them online) which are set in Africa and play on Caucasians who are considered to be primitives by Massai in full tribal gear who own Renaults. Clearly, it is intended to be ironic, but this is a very slippery slope, indeed. Are they trying to do a Benetton, I wonder?


    Sleep profiling

    Well, which is yours? (Solution provided in the linked story!)

    It would appear from this story that the way you sleep will give the observer clues to your personality. Fortunately, sleeping usually is not a public activity ... but for the record: I am switching between the latter three.

    This is the sort of thing that you can learn from the sophisticated literature available in the dentist's waiting room. I am glad to say that I've had my last treatment today, and I wasn't even treated to a Kavolux branded lamp.

    Oh yes, and here is another ingenious item! Since Robocops are still science fiction (& for some time, I should hope!), let's have a robocleaner! Price inquiry has been sent ...

    P.S. Walking through town, I came across this excellent collection of mostly pre-war recordings of legendary violinist Fritz Kreisler. Check out the sidebar for a sample of his wizardry!

    P.P.S. The price inquiry for the robocleaner has resulted in them sending me some promotional material, without a price indication. A 'phone call resulted in a ludicrously expensive (still) CHF 1990 - and that's supposed to be promotional!