30/09/2004

Plattentaufe Kontaminiert! sowie flat tax

Nicht verpassen: Morgen nacht findet im Nordstern die Taufe der neuen Scheibe (keine CD, kein Schellack - Vinyl!) von Tomi Z. statt.

Nachtrag: Hier noch ein Artikel über Tomi Z. in 20 Minuten!

Hmmm, und dieser Veranstaltungshinweis richtet sich wohl an ein völlig anderes Zielpublikum, aber wo wir schon dabei sind: Am Montag, 25. Oktober 04 um 1815h veranstaltet die Statistisch-Volkswirtschaftliche Gesellschaft Basel (die hat doch tatsächlich keine Website!) ein Referat von Markus Schneider über Eine Flat Tax für die Schweiz. Diese Idee unterstütze ich persönlich - mehr Informationen dazu hier.

Down and Out?

Not at all! Down may be down there and out all over the place, but far from down & out! Thanks to a concerted international effort in prodding and probing (I'd like to think), he has taken up posting seriously about his trip to India.

His reports from Mumbai & Chennai make for a brilliant read, although they confirm me in my conviction that this would not be a good place for me. And I am not so sure whether Kolkata is the right place to seek respite from the unfavourable climate - why not go to Shimla right away? I suppose the Viceroy knew why he spent his summers there ...

In short: Folks, you've got to read Joel's travel blog!

29/09/2004

Sakrileg!

Na gut, es handelt sich eigentlich um einen angemessen differenzierten und sogar halbwegs respektvollen Testbericht in einer der liegengebliebenen Ausgaben der Weltwoche, aber für einen Fan ist halt jede kritische Aeusserung, und sei sie noch so berechtigt, Majestätsbeleidigung.

Von wegen "Schaukelstil" & "Wackelkiste". We are not amused!

27/09/2004

Baroque hippies

I smuggled these fine specimens of Swiss hippies into my California presentation and the audience fell for it - almost!

Staatliche Bevormundung

Die Sonntagszeitung meldet heutegestern auf Seite 6 (so wichtig ist das Thema in der Schweiz generell) etwas skandalöses: Bei den Pizzakurieren wird neuerdings das Nachtarbeitsverbot durchgesetzt, was bedeutet, dass nach Mitternacht bzw. 0100h am Wochenende keine Pizzen mehr ausgeliefert werden dürfen. Laut Staatssekretariat für Wirtschaft (seco) bestehe dafür "kein Konsumbedürfnis". Pizzas seien keine "täglich notwendige Ware oder Dienstleistung, deren Fehlen von einem Grossteil der Bevölkerung als wesentlicher Mangel empfunden würde." Es gehe u.a. um den "Schutz des sozialen Lebens der Arbeitnehmerinnen und Arbeitnehmer." (Zitate der SoZ) Dass die besagten Arbeitnehmer und -nehmerinnen dann vielleicht gar keine solchen mehr sind, ist dem seco offenbar egal. Die stationären Gastrobetriebe sind davon interessanterweise nicht betroffen, was wohl für deren besser etabliertes Lobbying spricht.

Wir sehen hier wieder einmal einen typischen Akt der staatlichen Bevormundung, wie er einer ständischen Wirtschaft wohl anstehen würde. Offenbar strebt unsere Verwaltung immer noch diesem Ideal nach, was zu einer Unterdrückung von Wettbewerb und Innovativität führt. Das darf doch nicht wahr sein! Ich will auch jetzt noch meine Pizza bestellen können!

Nachtrag: Immerhin nimmt jetzt auch 20Minuten die Geschichte auf und ergänzt sie mit einer Online Umfrage.

26/09/2004

A few more weeks...


They certainly do not like Bush, these Californians - and they don't hide it, either. I was actually considering picking up a rather graphic "Good Bush - bad Bush" T-Shirt, but I have a reputation and my site's rating to watch ... ;-)

Here is a more substantiated Wall Street Journal analysis of the putative situation in the US electoral college - rather encouraging, actually! But it stands in contrast with the current price of the Bush future which is at about 68 on Intrade. A price above 50 suggests that market participants expect that Bush will win the elections.

Down and Out

The title of Joel's blog sounds a lot more downcast than the author's usual self - at least mentally! But what do you want - he is Down after all!

Anyways, we would much appreciate it if he posted a bit more frequently, especially what with his premature retirement to India! Some interesting observations to be had there, I am sure! Keep going, Joel!

And I'll be damned if this does not rouse a comment ...

California top ten!

Good things come to those who wait - remember? Well, here is a selection of the best pictures taken in California. I've taken many more photos, so beware if you come visit soon - you might be forced to see them! The ones I've published earlier are not available online anymore now.

It was a great trip altogether, showing a very different world from the one I'm used to. Here's the contrast:


Oh, I forgot: there's also similarities!

25/09/2004

Astrology?

Some people probably will start wondering what I might have been smoking in Yerba Buena that I am coming down with something astrological now, but these horoscopes are really funny and quite amusing even if you don't believe in the stuff.

Discovered in both the Monterey Weekly and the Santa Barbara Independent.

Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow

Here is a movie that the Captain has to review if only for nominal reasons. I've actually seen it in SB, and it is pretty good.

The most astounding thing about it is its peculiar aesthetics. It is really a comic strip come alive and worth seeing for that alone. The story line is not a lot to write home about, but being a pre-WWII science fiction adventure story, it is enough to justify good entertainment. In combination, it amounts to an interesting mixture of Batman, Dick Tracy, Star Wars, Orson Welles' War of the Worlds, Fritz Lang's Metropolis and probably sundry other classics I didn't recognise.

I'll probably go watch it again when it comes to the theatres here. Strangely, I haven't found any indication as to when that might be.

The other movie I watched in the US was a bit of a disappointment despite of Denzel Washington's participation: The Manchurian Candidate is just a wild concoction of conspiracy theories, political current events and remote control killers. Not really worth paying to see ...

Berge von Dingen

Da ich nach nur 5 Stunden erstaunlich erholsamen Schlafs sowieso nicht mehr weiter schlafen kann, kann ich mich auch um die Pendenzen kümmern, die sich in der über zweiwöchigen Abwesenheit angesammelt haben, u.a. die Post.

Es gilt hier den neuen Katalog Nr. 6 von Manufactum Schweiz anzuzeigen. Die Manufactum-Kataloge sind das literarische Gegenstück des sprichwörtlichen Versandkatalogs und gehören in jede zeitgenössische Bibliothek. Dass sie darüber hinaus noch über einen erstaunlichen Gebrauchswert verfügen, macht sie desto unverzichtbarer.

Reisende betrachten mit Vorteil diese Globetrotter-Kopie. Als überzeugter Globetrotter-Benutzer musste ich mir eben einen solchen Koffer bestellen - der Preis erscheint mir allerdings unverschämt tief - ca. 1/20 des Originals. Ich bin gespannt auf die Korrektur.

Finally, Manufactum is not exclusive to the German speaking part of the world any more. Here is the English website.

23/09/2004

Goodbye California, auf Wiedersehn!

Tomorrow early in the morning, the long journey back to Switzerland will begin: First, it'll be by car from friendly Santa Barbara to San Francisco Airport where the car will be left behind. Afterwards it is down south again to LAX with AA. The longest leg of the trip will be from LAX to ZRH on Swiss, if they are still operating (haven't heard otherwise). There I have a little something to look forward to since I have taken out an upgrade to first class in the new A340 jet. Business class was quite good & comfortable already, so I wonder what first will be like.

The final bit is going to be from ZRH to BSL via good old Swiss Federal Railways ... even though that's only about an hour, I am sure it will be the longest hour!

How do they love to say here: "I'll be back, baby!"

21/09/2004

Santa Barbara calling

Would you believe it - again?! The place we checked in after a really long drive from Monterey to Santa Barbara doesn't have wireless internet, either! It's got a pool alright, but who needs a pool if you've got the beach within easy walking distance, hu? Well, there is a very nice and comfy alternative nonetheless: I am currently sitting outside in the court lounge of the neighbouring Inn, perusing their wireless connection (with permission) during a mild and agreeable SB night. From first impressions, Santa Barbara seems to be a rather vibrant place, even for Monday nights - very mediterranean & stylish. But we'll see tomorrow ...

Meanwhile, it was great fun to watch this excerpt from Swiss TV News about the President of the Swiss People's Party's (SVP) personal problems with personal abuse of Cannabis. For you non-Swiss out there: They are firmly opposed to personal use, but apparently, Cannabis plants have been found in the Party President's garden, planted by a member of his own family. Maybe that will get him thinking? If you are Swiss however, please support this popular motion! And thanks as always to Judge Jonathan for making us aware of this gem on the other side of the globe!

20/09/2004

Go South!

Since we cannot go West any further without walking on water, we'll start going down South for real today, planning on arriving in Santa Barbara some time. It'll be Big Sur again, this time in splendid sunshine!

Yesterday was a fine day as well. The 17-Mile Drive holds an incredible amount of raw natural beauty - and serious money, as it would appear from the real estate on (extraordinarily discreet) display. Here's a fine example of Pebble Beach:

Later on, the Jazz Festival was entertaining as well! EST are really great, or as someone behind me would have it really loudly: "Real Music, yeah!!" Unfortunately they didn't play the signature tune from their new album, but they were very energetic, and the audience loved it.

Keeping in touch via VOIP telephone from Starbucks is fun, too, even though some people on the other end seem to have trouble parsing the somewhat patchy audio quality. Ostensibly, it's not a matter of age, though ...

19/09/2004

Back online

Who'd have thought it ... I am staying at a place here in Monterey which doesn't have decent internet access, so I am a bit at loss to keep blogging. However, thanks to open networks, I am back, doing a very American thing, namely sitting at the Alvarado Street Starbucks in Monterey, checking on email & blogs on an unprotected network. T-Mobile won't like it ...

Anyway, I am having a great time here. Yesterday, we did the Pacific Highway ("Big Sur") down to - yes - San Luis Obispo! Despite of the somewhat overcast weather, it was a great drive, and SLO is also a charming place. It looks like there's festivals all over the place - in SLO as well as here in Monterey. Would you believe that the Monterey Jazz Festival is on just now? We'll be attending tonight, listening to EST. The other festival is a bit more visible on the streets: The Monterey Classic Car festival. Walking the streets, you feel transported back into the 40ies with the occasional interspersed boom machine ... great fun to watch!

Alright, that's it for the moment. I know, no pictures, still ... good things come to those who wait! Conceited? It better be, it's my blog.

17/09/2004

Alps meet Pacific Ocean

Well, this may be just a little bit far fetched, but isn't overdoing part of the spice in life? Anyway, right now I am sitting in the Commons Room of Asilomar in front of a cozy fireplace, listening to someone playing BeethovenMozart on the piano and a group of other people playing a board game. This is one of the most amazing places I've ever been to - and I am still under the influence of a dramatic sunset over the Ocean and a ride along its shores in a convertible. Just great!

The people here are extremely friendly and approachable - someone at the restaurant we've been to started to talk to me just like that and suggested a whole bunch of places to go to over Dinner. I cannot really imagine that happening in reserved Switzerland ... finally, to complete the picture: my sunglasses, which I deemed lost only yesterday, have been waiting for me at the lost&found place of the cinema.

As for more pictures: just a little patience, they'll be coming! I am certainly looking forward to tomorrow.

16/09/2004

Powerbook - regionfree!

Yay! I just discovered that the firmware of my PB has finally been patched so that I can actually watch multiple region DVDs without worrying. Thank you so much, cynikal! For other models, the patches may (or may not) be found here.

P.S. Tough workout for the plastic today - spotted the first new iMac in the SF Apple store. And even they have just the one which gets centre stage attention, of course. And damn - although I may not have left my heart in San Francisco, my sunglasses will certainly not make it back to Switzerland with me, I am afraid ...

13/09/2004

California pictures

The conference is over, so let the fun begin! Consequently here are the first couple of pictures.

Today, I went on a city tour with Raimondo and Wojtek from Poland, and later on, we had lunch/dinner in Chinatown, which is a incredibly vibrant place. The second installment of the pictures bear witness of all that. Oh yeah, regards to the Ladies from upstate NY with their strange predilection for cemeteries!

Finally, I am glad to say that my travelling companion Joe has arrived safely from the UK. So, we're all set to go!

11/09/2004

Typisch Schweizerisch

Faszinierend, sich aus dieser Perspektive

mit der Schweizer Eigenart auseinanderzusetzen!

09/09/2004

Yes!

I made it safely to SF, but it is one hell of a trip. Note to self: Try to avoid LAX next time!

Glad I took the camera however:

Next project: SLEEP!

08/09/2004

Up, up and away

Folks, I am off to you know where when you listen to the piece in the sidebar. So next time you're going to hear from me is either in quite a while or direct from there. And I hope i know which one of those alternatives you prefer!

07/09/2004

The Art of Travel

You will be wondering why I haven't spared Alain de Botton's The Art of Travel for the imminent trip, since this appears to be the quintessential travelling companion. Having finished it now, I assure you it is not! As a matter of fact, it is the ideal book to read before taking off to distant places. Here is the final paragraph which sums up rather nicely:

"We meet people who have crossed deserts, floated on icecaps and cut their way through jungles - and yet in whose souls we would search in vain for evidence of what they have witnessed. Dressed in pink and blue pyjamas, satisfied within the confines of his own bedroom, Xavier de Maistre was gently nudging us to try, before taking off for distant hemispheres, to notice what we have already seen."

De Botton's book is a wonderfully unhurried eye opener towards today's high speed, long distance frenzy. Its classical style and execution in five sections (Departure, Motives, Landscape, Art, Return) together with its lavish accoutrement (I have the first edition) makes it splendid reading for the discerning armchair traveller with an occasional spike in his airmailairmiles account. About which he may feel uncomfortable when reading about John Ruskin's travelling habit of never making more than fifty miles a day ...

06/09/2004

Shorting Russia and sundry other items of the day

Who needs terrorists if you have security forces like that?

Beslan is already the second time in a row after Moscow where the Alphas proved themselves completely incapable of handling a situation appropriately without any apparent corrective action being taken on the political level to address that incompetence. Quite on the contrary: The editor in chief of Nowije Isvestija is being sacked "suprisingly" shortly after authorising a highly critical account of the machinations of the government. That's not talking about the human grief, which hardly ever is of concern to governments which are not subject to close public scrutiny. And then there's Yukos, and ..., and ... like I am saying, I am getting rid of all Russian equity exposure now since obviously the Russian government is increasingly moving away from its earlier path which led it more and more towards a modern, western style open society. And that is most unfortunate.

On a more enjoyable note, and one which has precious little to do with Russia, apart maybe from some orthodox musical influences, Björk's Medulla was in the mail today, together with Joni Mitchell's Song to a Seagull, which album they now decided to call Joni Mitchell for reasons unknown. I haven't had the opportunity to listen to either of them intently, yet, but I certainly will on the trip over to SF. The one thing I can tell you already: Björk is always good for a surprise, that's why she's one of the very few pop icons I have made a habit of watching.

Again less pleasing is the email received from Amazon: The guide to the road trip in California left their dispatch centre only tonight, so it's hardly going to make it by Wednesday morning ... but hey, I've got 736 more pages to deal with when there!

So, that's about it for the day. Oh yeah, swimming was great - I've had the whole 25m pool to myself! It's a very gratifying feeling to plow through totally still water. OK, I may be overdoing the metaphore a little bit, but you get my drift.

Still alive!

Yep, I am still here. Boy, that was quite the weekend. First, the preparations for the wedding party (where I wasn't really involved), then the wedding itself (or rather, the sacramental deluge of The Bride's confirmation, the actual marriage and subsequently, the christening of Tiziano), where I was involved as the photographer.

After the party, the preparation and publication of the pictures was my job until dawn. But thanks to iPhotos excellent exporting features with BetterHTMLexport, that went like a breeze, if it hadn't been for the fact that there's a couple of hundred pictures ... enjoy - and do leave a comment in the Guestbook!

03/09/2004

Counting down ...

Well, the countdown to my nephew Nicola's wedding tomorrow is in its final approach. The preparations here (the party site) have come to a frantic climax today, and the weather seems to be cooperative as well. Myself being the court photographer, I have made sure that all relevant accumulators are fully charged and I am cognisant of all the camera's technical intricacies - and there's quite a few! I've also got my hair cut in preparation for my departure to California on Wednesday.

Later tomorrow, you will be able to see the wedding pictures on this new site specifically dedicated to the Dreier branch!

02/09/2004

24, final

I am happy to report that I am now an alumnus of 24, having watched the third season from this pack.

All in all, 24 is an awesome TV production, full of suspense, speed, good acting, high drama, tragedy even, heroes, bastards, in-betweens, surprising turns at every corner, nice gizmos. I could go on ... oh, and the special features are really good & surprising (they invented their own virus). Nice quote: "Our fast food chains are weapons of mass destruction!" says one expert on communicable disease.

01/09/2004

Athens in review

Watching sports has never really been my cup of tea (would you believe that I have only ever been to one football game and a horse race (where I actually won a bit of money:)), so I have not posted about the Olympic Games in Athens - until now (that they are over). As a matter of fact, when I was in Athens three years ago, I was convinced that they would never manage to have the city ready for the games in time, but apparently, their eleventh hour effort paid off handsomely. Alright, taking the cost into account, the payoff may be quite questionable ...

Now, we are approaching the heart of the matter of this post! In today's paper, there is a pretty funny article (if you think that looking at things from different angles is funny, that is) about the medals won in the games. Conventional wisdom would have it that the USA, China and Russia won the most medals.

But that's not really fair now, is it? Those are huge countries with large populations, so you may expect them to take a lot of the medals. If you adjust that to number of medals per head, then the ranking looks quite different: 1. Bahamas, 2. Romania, 3. Norway!

And since poor countries will not have the same opportunities to develop their athletes appropriately, you would want to adjust for that, too. Here's the first ranks of medals per income per head: 1. China, 2. Ethiopia, 3. Russia.

Here is the ranking of the first ten & Switzerland ... and here is the article bei Zürich economists Frey and Lüchinger.

Hmm, that gets me thinking - how about introducing a handicap for large populations or wealth, just like in golf where good players get a handicap so that they can also play alongside with weaker players?