Catastrophes revisited

This is indeed a year end post, but don't worry, it won't be as long as the title & the past year's history might suggest, nor was the past year really that bad for me.

This story (via Samizdata) about ICANN's apparently clandestine factual handover of control over national TLDs (.ch etc) to governments is currently ruffling my feathers a bit. As I said in another blog earlier, I prefer the US' control over the internet to an international body's control as long as the administration doesn't actually exercise that control. That's why I was quite happy, albeit a bit surprised, with the outcome of the recent negotiations where the US retained its control. Now The Register's story explains (indirectly) why those governments were suddenly not so keen anymore to actually obtain formal control - they already received it informally! That's bad & disappointing.

In other, far more personal news, the Xmas desaster found a satisfactory resolution! I discovered a public pool which is not much further away and is similarly agreeable: Spiegelfeld.

Another thing I was rather unhappy with was the massive delay on my flight to Brussels. While the delay could not be undone of course, Swiss has taken care to put things right: they refunded almost the whole ticket, gave me a free upgrade and sent me some bottles of decent bordeaux dating back to the previous century. Everybody has a price, right? Or am I cheap?

So much for my 2005 review. Overall, it wasn't the most satisfying of vintages. But I am a positively minded person: It could have been worse. So, I hope that the coming year MMVI will be better for everyone - Cheers to that!

Stuff overheard

First, I recently overheard a bit of conversation between actors that I found quite amusing: A1: "... when I played in a piece by Shakespeare which cannot be named, I met X ..." A2 interjects " ... who played we know whom! ..." etc. This coded conversation was obviously dealing with a play related to Scotland, the mention of which allegedly brings bad luck to actors. I learned about that in Blackadder's Sense & Senility and wouldn't have thought it was true. Macbeth!

On a much more serious note, I heard a report about Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan who is currently embarrassing the British government by online publicising proof that the government knew about information it used being obtained by torture. The Foreign Office prohibited that publication in a book, so he took to the internet.


The Dark Art of Interrogation

This article may not exactly be fresh from the printer, but it deals with a topic that has become more pressing again due to current events, namely the permissibility & techniques of torture and coercion, as the lesser practices are called euphemistically. It is a long, but hauntingly captivating (no pun intended) read. As it happens, it comes to a similar conclusion as I did "earlier", i.e. before having read the article.

The recent trans-atlantic debate on US torture practices sheds new light on another interesting point the article makes, namely the allegedly useful & necessary hypocrisy required in dealing with the matter. Perhaps the current US administration, having lost most of its credibility anyway, is hazarding what remains of its relations with Europe in order to raise the credibility of its counter-terrorist threat with certain other audiences by releasing (aka leaking) some relevant information to useful fools? But this of course is an entirely unwarranted speculation on my part which has the validity of a conspiracy theory, i.e. none.


Oel & Wein

Interessante Sendung über Qualitätsmerkmale und Betrügereien bei Olivenöl - sehr empfehlenswert! Ich werde mir mal auch die angesprochene
Wein- & Oelzeitschrift Merum ansehen. Ihr Chefredaktor Andreas März scheint sein Geschäft zu verstehen ...

Xmas desaster

It's not as bad as the heading indicates, but bad enough for me! Yesterday evening I was fully set to go on my twice weekly swimming bout (2 km) only to find the public pool closed until further notice. Having heard that the pool attendant had taken to pneumonia, I suspected that they were unable to secure a substitute in this holiday season on short notice, and that was that. But no! Today I found this notice saying that a fault in the ceiling has been discovered and that the pool will remain closed until about end of February 06! What do I do?


Invasion of the bouncy balls

You know how it is: There's that song that you hear occasionally, but know nothing about, and you never make the extra effort to find out more. In my case, it is the soundtrack to this great commercial showing an avalanche of rubber balls bouncing around San Francisco. Today I discovered that it is the song Heartbeats from a relatively recent album called Veneer by José Gonzàlez. Needless to say that I bought it right away - you should, too! But I really do not agree with it being classified as Rock, though ...


War & Peace on the planet of the apes

Read this wonderfully entertaining & educational piece drawing interesting conclusions from primates' interaction for human society. There's hope still ...


All defeats are temporary

Just back from a nice cinema evening watching King Kong with A & R. The place was fairly packed, but not sold out, which does not bode too well for the movie, seeing how it was a Saturday evening show.

Nonetheless, the remake of the 1933 classic is great entertainment in a rather victorian style. Since I haven't seen any trailers before, I was quite surprised at the Jurassic Park-like dinosaur races. Skull island's indigenous were also not of the most appealing sort, which is quite appropriate since their home is a truly god forsaken place full of strange life forms whose only delight seems to consist in being after our stars' hide. There the director took some heavy loans from Mordor in his very own Lord of the Rings. I could be mistaken, but the epic & remarkably revolting struggle against the cavernous lowlife reminded me much of Deathwatch. Also, there were some well placed one liners (see title) as well as an unusual degree of self-reflective sarcasm. Other than War of the Worlds, this remake was certainly worth making.


Winter samba!

Thanks to nephew R for his pointer to this DIY samba site. Click on the musicians to relieve some of your grey winter blues ...


Roll over, Rudolph!

It would appear that Santa has found a more contemporary means of transportation!


Capitals compared

My recent trips to Washington DC and now Brussels give me the opportunity to compare impressions of those two capitals of almost continental dimensions.

First the commonality: Both places are quite obviously centres of administrations with their respective large scale building complexes. I'll freely admit that I prefer Washington's often neo-classical architecture (as designed by a Frenchman) to Brussels' more recent modernist stuff which is entirely devoid of character, I think. The whole quarter around Schuman is just plain ugly, I am afraid.

However, as far as city life & culture go, Brussels seems to be the far more interesting place. I get the impression that while it may not be immediately accessible, Brussels has a lot of hidden treasures, not least culinary ones. Dinner at a Michelin ornate restaurant was certainly good, but an ordinary Brasserie I discovered while walking past was just as good, and the whole dinner probably cost as much as one course in the Michelin place. Interestingly, the Belgians seem to be entirely unabashed public smokers - how unselfish of them, what with that evil trend of increasing longevity & dire state finances.
Incidentally, the Belgians seem to be taking issue with the Guide Michelin's rather spectacular divestiture of some stars, which I cannot confirm online. Also, I had some doubts as to the Economist's ranking of Belgian chocolate over Swiss, but having invested in and thoroughly sampled the delights of Marcolini, I gladly concede defeat. Try the thyme & orange flavoured pralinés - a bit like those Harry Potter sweets, minus the spectacular effects. Fabulous!

Finally, if you are interested in art nouveau, then Brussels is certainly your destination of choice. The Horta Museum is a must, which cannot really be said about the Horta Pavillon, which is a small neo-classical structure housing an apparently scandalous sculpture about the human passions that caused the pavillon's indefinite closing only three days after its grand opening in 1889. I am really curious now as to why that might have been so scandalous back then, but the place is tightly shut during the winter season.



Brilliant! LX760 was scheduled to take off at 0715h this morning - we actually departed at 1205h, so I missed the morning meeting. Really great - Swiss, this will not go unnoticed ... but until then, I am off to dinner - at least something to look forward to!


Brussels, anyone?

Early tomorrow morning, I am going to Brussels until Friday. Is there anything I shouldn't miss? Probably not, if Angus Lordie's hymn God looks down on Belgium as published in 44 Scotland Street is any indication:

God's never heard of Belgium,
But loves it just the same,
For God is kind,
And doesn't mind -
He's not impressed with fame.

Well, I guess it's safe to say that she's no eurocrat ...

Personal skater?

This really looks rather disturbing, especially the stairs bit ... (via rb).


Three Miles Off

I did a lot the other day! Or maybe, I am just lazy that way ... be that as it may, I really did receive Three Miles Off, the new jazz CD with Oliver Friedli on the piano, Alex Hendriksen (sax), Fernando Fontanilles (bass), Andreas Hoerni (drums) and Daniel Woodtli (wind) in the mail the other day. I've already written about it here - well, ok, not about the CD proper, but about that formation's summertime performance, and perhaps about jazz musicians' reluctance to have a useful online presence ... like Alex's, Oliver's is not very helpful at the time of writing, even though a bit of marketing wouldn't hurt sales, I am sure. What is it with those guys?!

But on to the CD! The Pessoa inspired well composed ten track piece has pretty much lost all of the progressiveness (except for Sugartree, maybe) present in the live performance I attended. But I love it! Alongside some unknown pieces, they present a few standards in a rather cool, laid back mainstream fashion which is bound to bring this CD pretty high up in my iTunes most played selection. Woodtli is definitely a valuable addition to the formation, especially in the colourful duets with Hendriksen. I love his throaty fraying in Morgan Station!

Unfortunately the booklet has its strengths more on the atmospheric rather than in the informative. The question is permitted: What's the purpose of a booklet, particularly when combined with a non-existent, yet referenced website? Come on, Oliver, you can do it!


Eschenmoser Warranty

The other day, I returned a 4 years old digital pair of scales to electronics discounter Eschenmoser where I had purchased it. The thing was fairly expensive as far as scales go, but it never really worked properly, what with it being a rather early model I guess. Since it was a real nuisance to lug around, I postponed returning it, knowing that I had a very generous warranty of 10 years on it anyway.

But there's the rub: Eschenmoser accepted that it wasn't working properly right enough, but since it was an old model, they couldn't replace it in kind. So they proceeded to refund the purchasing price minus a third because of its age - or so they thought. But that's where they hit on the wrong customer, of course. As the terms of warranty make no mention of time value replacement, I refused to accept that refund and made a general fuss about it. After a bit of that and demanding to speak to management, the clerk came around without much more ado & refunded the full price. So, never give in to unfair terms thrust upon you - it pays!



Whenever I am in the UK in the first weeks of November, I join the crowds in wearing a poppy on my lapel. People often ask what it is all about when I leave it on on the continent, and I am happy to explain that it is a traditional British gesture of remembrance for those who gave their lives in the big wars. While I do not think that wearing a poppy is necessarily the first step to Britishness, I can well understand the author's emotion about many immigrants' apparent rejection of that civil gesture of community, if not identity. The community of those that fight for their freedom reaches across borders, and that's why I like to join in even though I hail from a permanently neutral country.


Geiz ist geil

If you thought that the whole German Geiz ist geil thing, or the Buy nothing day thing for that matter, were weird, then think again: Freegan definitely rules supreme in weirdness (via rb). Enjoy your turkey, I guess ...


US nuclear strike on Iran?

Not so good news - but an interesting analysis of the strategic situation in the US-Iran relations. Personally, I do not expect that short a notice, but rather by spring next year. Also, I do not think they would be stupid enough to use the nuclear option - but never misoverestimate Dubya ... and conventional resources are already strechted to the limit.

Goldman goes green

Good news! Now that investment banking behemoth Goldman Sachs embraces environmentalism whole heartedly, you can safely say it has gone mainstream. Watch this space - interesting innovations are bound to come out of that.



You could say that yesterday's trip to InterWhisky was in preparation of the forthcoming visit to Edinburgh on the occasion of Paul D's stag do, and I couldn't possibly argue with that. However, the offering was not overwhelming to the modestly initiated. Nonetheless, the presentations were informative & meeting Avo Uvezian was worth it on its own merits. Also, I wasn't aware of an interesting new Springbank-brand: Longrow gives every Ardbeg & Laphroaig a run for its money on peatyness. The evening found it's most satisfactory conclusion in an extensive Chinese dinner with K&C in Hongkong. Avoid theatre business if you can.


Plain Living and High Thinking

After having hunted London high & low for it, I decided to purchase a copy of The Enthusiast online, seeing that you can now pay by Paypal. Today, my copy duely arrived in the mail from Northern Ireland, in a battered, obviously recycled envelope, yet accompanied by friendly salutations.

The first impression is absolutely immaculate: Well produced, nicely typeset (in lead even?), quirky & quaint illustrations & evidently like readers: From a letter to the editor, proposing to reïntroduce extinct opposites such as gruntled, defatigable, gusted, plussed & shevelled. An evidently not so Rough Travel Guide to India , Nepal & Whitstable (all unread as yet). Music recommendations from Takemitsu to progressive house. Here's a quiz for you: Which of the following are artists and which are cheeses? Which are both? - Cellini, Giorgione, Gorgonzola, Parmigiano, Reggiano, Wensleydale, Epoisse, Spenlow, Jorkin, Jarlsberg. Last, but not least: Advertisements & Employment. GENUINE NEW GUINEA PIGS FROM NEW GUINEA, 3 guineas each. Call 0700 NGGP

I think I'll take out a subscription, enthusiastically!


Cleese's monkey

Now, had he retained his original name, the whole affair would be awfully cheesy, but this way I guess John Cleese will feel very pleased with having a monkey named after him. Especially since his dead parrot sketch receives so much scientific praise lately ...


The Long Tail

Via this NZZ interview, I came across a truly remarkable market analysis of the new economics in the entertainment space in the internet age. This is what I have been talking about all along, and Anderson has written it down for me in good prose a year ago! Mandatory reading!

On a less joyful note: Bloody earthquakes! There's been another one at 4.1 Richter ... I hate them!


Merqueirro-Hennel Disease

Never heard of this terrible scourge of humanity? Fret not, and don't start searching the health sections of the web, because that's exactly what the inventors of the disease, the hacks at PR agency Prentiss McCabe from the BBC's satirical comedy Absolute Power would want you to! In order to cover for the inacceptable behaviour of one of their clients, they spun a new disease, complete with symptoms, website & all, and were very successful with it - for a bit.

I purchased the DVD on my trip to London after having seen in recommended in a blog (cannot remember which one, sorry). It's good, but not overwhelming. The cover has a pretty good testimonial: It's clever and dangerous because, like Yes, Minister - Absolute Power makes you think you know how the world works. You do indeed get that impression ...


Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Back from the ultimate Halloween movie, seen, as it were, in an almost entirely Halloween free country now that I am back in Basle. Wallace & Gromit are absolutely delightful and will put a smile on your face without a doubt. References to horror and other classics are aplenty, puns galore and for the rest, the movie oozes quaint Englishness that it will be altogether indigestible in places like Ireland or Scotland. Lady Tottington "Totty" is lovable, and the Red Barron dogfight fierce, with intermission. You'll like it.

Speaking of England: I feel very hip! Back in London I bought something as superficially dated as this Churchill CD, which now turns out to contain what amounts to a whole lot of sampling material, to be used by the likes of Tubbs in their mix The Storm, available on iTunes! Westward look, the land is bright!


Orange fails me

Hopefully, this is not a bad omen for the service quality I am set to receive with my new mobile operator Orange: The transfer of my subscription was scheduled for today at 0955h, but it never worked. Now I am told that Orange has had a power failure in Crissier, which is the reason why their transfer server stopped working, and now my transfer is delayed by "one or two days" (!). That unfortunately means that right now, I cannot receive any calls on my mobile number, even though outgoing calls are possible. So if you're trying to call me on my mobile number, you'll get a strange message for the time being, until the current operator (Sunrise) has worked out what to do. Sorry.

P.S. All is good now ... the wonders of a good night's recovery!



The movie's title has an edge, no doubt, but it's really quite smart. It's the somewhat grungy éducation sentimentale of a 17 years old thumbsucker who becomes a master debater once he's on Ritalin after a ridiculously amateurish diagnosis, but when he stops it, he turns back to - no, not thumbsucking, with exceptions - his grown up self. He's supported by a great cast - who'd have thought that Keanu Reeves is capable of irony? That's all us humans are capable of: guess, try, and hope. Ok, that's not very ironical, but go see it, then you know what I mean. Check out the Thumbsucker blog.

On the way back from Haymarket, I passed Fortnum & Mason's where I took the adjacent picture of their phrenological champagne decoration that I know of somebody who will just love it.


Day is done

Absolutely, anyway. But it's also the title of the great new album by the
Brad Mehldau Trio, my other favourite jazz band. I just found out about it (and got it right from iTunes) when checking about the trio's live performance here in Basle tomorrow night - argh! Somehow I miss them everytime they'd venture in my vicinity. Tomorrow, or actually later today, I am going to London until Wednesday night, so there's another near miss. Not that I am complaining ... somebody going to tell me how it was?


No fingerprint lock for me

Before seeing this science programme, I was considering getting a fingerprint lock for my house in order to avoid having to carry around a key all the time. But seeing how easy a fingerprint can be forged (make it visible using speed glue, take a digital picture of it, print it on a transparent slide, make a positive of the print using wood glue - that's it), I am not interested any more. It's just like leaving carbon copies of my key all over the place - thank you, Chaos Computer Club!


Cutting-edge philosophy

I am tempted to say Only in America, but then again, that's not quite true. Anyway, have a listen into The Guerrilla Radio Show, a weekly philosophy talk show with jingles, bells & whistles! I like their motto: Waging war against idiocy. Technically, it doesn't quite qualify as a podcast, yet, but apparently they're going to provide an RSS feed really soon. Check out the current show on political philosophy, containing an introductory discussion of John Rawls.


The wild Swiss

You're forgiven if you think the title is an oxymoron. While Zürich born Johann Heinrich Füssli (1741-1825), a.k.a. Henry Fuseli, was of Swiss origin, he went to London pretty early on, where he became a famous "British" painter.

Yours truly however went to Zürich today to an excellent exhibition of his fascinating works. Other than his contemporaries who did portraits, landscapes & the like, Füssli dealt in literary sources, such as Milton, Shakespeare, the Nibelungenlied & had a weird & fantastic approach to his subject. Again in stark contrast to his contemporaries, he successfully captured the emotion of the moment in his pictures, evidently impressed by the actor Garrick, whose namesake London Club I've had the good fortune to have been invited to several times already. Some of his best known pictures, like The Nightmare, have even spawned an artistic movement of its own that is still known today: gothic horror. The frequent appearance of skull moths kept reminding me of The Silence of the Lambs, a movie that Füssli probably would have liked. And last, but not least, I learned a posh new word for ... uhm ... group fun: symplegma.

Masslos nämlich ist das Erhabene. Füssli must have been a fascinating enlightenment character whose acquaintance I would have loved to have made.


Einstein & Dürrenmatt

This radio programme brought an exhibition about Dürrenmatt & Einstein in Berne to my attention. Since I am very much interested in both of those intellectual icons and especially their commonalities, I wonder whether the exhibition is worth the trip? Often times, such exhibitions are hard pressed to live up to the expectations created by abstract topics ... any recommendations?



Vorsicht - dies ist ein unverschämter Werbespot! Mein langjähriger Lieferant erstklassiger Teespezialitäten (invoice teas) Reichmuth von Reding hat endlich ein "virtuelles Ladengeschäft" eröffnet, und zwar offenbar gestern, mit grösster Diskretion. Ich bin nur zufällig darauf gestossen, weil ich bei der Lektüre des wie immer lehrreichen Jahreskatalogs neugierig wurde, ob sich seit der letzten Stellungnahme von vor einigen Jahren ("entspricht nicht den Wünschen unserer geschätzten Kundschaft") etwas verändert haben würde. Die geschätzte Kundschaft dankt!


God exists!

At last! Chinese scientists have found proof for God's existence! Ramen!

If you care to be more serious about the matter, here is an in-depth legal assessment of intelligent design creationism (I like the term!) from a US constitution point of view.


Tea time

At Sunday's tea time, I attended an eponymous concert given by the camerata variabile at the Bar du Nord. It was suitably dedicated to a programme of English music spanning four centuries, thus including Britten, Hume (Tobias), Onslow, Holst and two contemporaries, George Benjamin & Francis Silkstone, of whose Duo for violin & bass clarinet we've heard the world première in the composer's presence. Also, some poems by Graves, Auden, Yeats as well as the inescapable Bard were recited. So, it was an altogether well balanced programme.

I particularly liked the 1605 airs for viol by Tobias Hume and - quite the discovery - George Onslow's Nonett in a-minor (op. 77). Unfortunately there is no recording available of the latter, otherwise I would have bought it right away, it's great fun & the performers had a perfect grasp of it, as they did with everything else, except for the timing: The event started late & ended even later, i.e. well into dinner time for which I've had another appointment. But that's just me I guess - you never overbook on a Sunday. Another minor criticism would address the accoustics of the Bar, which was a bit on the narrow side for ten energetic musicians at times, occasionally with rather noisy brass. Apart from that, I would consider the whole setting to be very felicitous, what with tea & cakes in a bar for tea time. Repeat, please!


Restoration trouble

Just a quick note now to let you know that I haven't fallen off the face of the earth just yet. The expected harddisk crash has effectively occured last week, taking out my Powerbook's disk, but not before I thought I had a reliable backup, the restoration of which to the new & bigger disk (100GB, yay!) I am now struggling with. It's nasty, particularly my mail accounts are giving me grief! Since Apple's software is usually well designed & tested, I tend to give Backup the benefit of the doubt, assuming that its crash in the closing phase of the restoration process has something to do with the trouble the disk generated when it was still working. Morale of the story: Don't have confidence in just one backup!


No trust in Trusted Computing?

This very nifty animation against Trusted Computing is not only entertaining, but it also makes you think twice (at least) about purchasing any TC devices (via plastic).

HD trouble

My Powerbook's internal hard disk seems to behave a bit randomly lately, so I've ordered a (bigger) replacement, to be installed Monday. If I seem to be offline between now & then, you know what happened - but don't worry, my backups are up to date.


The Capitol Steps

Back in Washington, we were treated to a private performance of The Capitol Steps in the Ronald Reagan building. They are a group of Congressional staffers engaged in occasionally really vicious political cabaret / satire. They are great fun, although a tad bit tough to understand for non-natives at times. But check the website, there's a lot of stuff to download. Looking back, I think this was the first time I was ever exposed to intelligent (I hate to say in that context: European style) comedy hailing from America! But then again, there is a lot to laugh about, isn't there ...


New blog freilich

I am very happy to announce a new group blog by the name of freilich. In this, we'll be looking at life in Switzerland (and beyond) from a classically liberal point of view, so my politically motivated rants will be happening over there from now on. Have a look - but be warned, it's mostly non-English.


Electro Punk?

Well, you may be right in surmising that it's not exactly my kind of music, but it's totally my kind of niece producing it! Here are some videos of her & her husband's band VOLT caught in the act ... si vos batteries sont à plat, branchez vous sur VOLT et tout ira mieux ... that may well be true. On the other hand, that other band name looks rather plausible, too - Punish Yourself.


Madam President

Yes! On the way back from an event in Zürich, I watched Commander in Chief and all I can say is: With that kind of a President, the USA might reëstablish her respectability. Competent, confident, intelligent, engaging & charming - all traits that the current one is sorely missing. But it's still fiction, of course. Also, I wonder whether we are going to get some more political substance. At any rate, it's good entertainment, and if it flops in the US as a liberal fantasy (which I hope it will not), then it would definitely do very well in Europe.


ID in der Schweiz!

Nein, es geht nicht darum, dass ich meine Identitätskarte verloren habe (das ist ein ganz anderes Thema) - laut dieser hervorragenden Kontext-Sendung auf DRS 2 hat unsere lokale Herde christlicher Fundamentalisten Blut gerochen und will nun mit einem eigenen Propaganda-Verein den "grossen" evangelikalen Vorbildern von jenseits des Atlantiks nacheifern und die Schöpfungslehre in den Biologieunterricht bringen! Biologie! Dank der unterschiedlichen Ausrichtung der Grundsätze Meinungsäusserungsfreiheit und Trennung von Kirche und Staat werden sie hierzulande aber hoffentlich erfolglos bleiben. Das einzige, was die Progenetiker tatsächlich erreichen, ist, dass die ansässigen Amerika-Kritiker ein weiteres Cliché-Argument verlieren: Wir sind im allgemeinen mindestens genauso dumm wie die Amis - nur langsamer!


Commander in Chief - Mrs. President

In a few hours on ABC, Commander in Chief will go on air for the first time. It's the story of the first female US president. That in itself & the public reactions thereto will be quite interesting, especially since the series puts some meat on the abstract concept for the benefit of a broader audience, perhaps in preparation for Hillary C.? Just the thing the Germans should have done a few months ago instead of the rather pathetic & untimely Du bist Deutschland-campaign, which will be utterly ineffective in these times of political chaos & has a rather distasteful collectivist undercurrent to it. Could those pundits really be right who insinuate that a considerable part of the German electorate did not choose CDU/CSU because their candidate for chancellor is a woman? Is Germany really that immature? In that broader context, the latest episode of the BBC's Talking Movies programme was very interesting: It deals with the state's influence on Hollywood (and vice versa). But this is about as heavy as film gets on the Captain's channel: Don't miss today's episode of rocketboom - it's hilarious!


There & back again

Borrowing from Tolkien, I am glad to say that I am back home after an uneventful trip. That is, the travelling was uneventful, but it's not at all true for the sojourn in Washington DC. I was very busy all the time, so I didn't really have the time & energy to post. Right now, I have a bit of time, but energy is fading quickly. But of course, I am very glad to return to a country which has made the right decision for a change ...

Lufthansa is an ok carrier, although it lacks a bit the fin de siècle, Titanic-style mood of Swiss - you judge for yourself whether that's a good thing or not. Unfortunately, Flynet was kaputt on the way back. Otherwise you would have been able to read a mile high post. Too bad. In exchange, I had a really good night's sleep, which is probably to no small extent due to the massage device built into those seats - splendid! Also, I had really interesting seat neighbours on both ways.

Having all those meetings during the short time I was there means that I couldn't possibly get a comprehensive impression of the place. I was totally blown away though by the extensive email guide that I received from Kirk - thank you so much! I did try to do as much of it as possible, but there simply wasn't enough time. Well, there's always a next time - perhaps? My very general first impression of the city is so - so, though. The place clearly carries a government stamp with a large part of its population being bureaucrats or diplomats. Power & its continued struggles is also quite thick in the air without really being moderated by much cultural or intellectual refinement. The operative term that comes to mind is bland, but not without a certain French-inspired pomp (I am talking about the monuments). I wonder who would be more insulted if I compared Washington to Paris? Mind you, I don't! More later ... probably much later. Over & out.


Punctuation is hot!

Here's a wonderfully manic ode to the semicolon, no less (via Whimsy). Very much worth your while, especially since The Style Guide is able to summarise it so succinctly: Don't overdo them.

Be that as it may - on Wednesday morning, I shall be leaving for a place where the semicolon generally seems to be frowned upon, with the notable exception of the ode's author, of course. I am going to spend the rest of the week in Washington DC, and I am looking forward to it greatly since I've never been there before & I am going to meet up with lots of friends. If you have any suggestions on what to see or do outside of the conference I am there for, they'd be much appreciated!


Flat tax flattened?

One of the most deplorable collateral casualties in the wake of the German election is likely going to be the concept of flat tax. After the flogging that its proponent Kirchhof, the professor from Heidelberg has received, no politician in his right mind will want to touch the subject with a barge pole any more, and all for the wrong reasons. The German left has succeeded in stigmatising the concept as beneficial to the well off, which is utter nonsense since the concept itself is free of any bias. Its real effect depends on the concrete implementation, and that has been ways away. But if we're lucky, the British will take the lead again and show us how it's done. Lead on, MacDuff!, as they say in a play connected to Scotland.


Germany chooses to loose

Unfortunately the growing apprehension concerning Germany appears to have been well founded: The German electorate continues to err towards the left, supported by Schröder's tactical deftness & Stoiber's total lack of it. I am prepared to revise my judgment on that specific instance in the hopefully unlikely event that Stoiber comes out on top after Merkel's more or less voluntary ultimate sacrifice, but I reserve to replace it by far worse in that case. Furthermore, I am flabbergasted by the outgoing Chancellor's incredible stomach (others might call it arrogance) & tactical resilience in already claiming a mandate to form a new government. There can be no doubt that he is indeed a virtuoso tactician, but the veneer of respectability has grown transparent a long time ago.

Nonetheless, congratulations to the German liberals on their surprise performance! Eventually, I hope they will recognise that the only responsible course of action will be to form a Jamaica-coalition with the pragmatic Greens & CDU/CSU. At any rate, Germany may use the humour & singlemindedness of the Jamaican bobsled team shown in Cool Runnings. Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme! Yeah, man! As for us Swiss, let's make sure next weekend that our borders remain open for the expected inflow of Germany's best & brightest!


Web censorship in China

This article (German) provides an interesting insight into the censorship & suppression that internet users are subject to in China. Since it is quite likely that free communication & access to information will be the straw that breaks the communist party's back, this behaviour is rather rational on their part, although its sustainability is questionable fortunately.

However, I am surprised that nobody calls for apartheid-like sanctions against western firms that actively support the Chinese regime in its censorship endeavour. The article explicitely names Microsoft, Cisco, Yahoo and Google. The latter seems to be particularly vulnerable to criticism because this kind of activity appears to be in breach of at least two of their corporate ten commandments: 4. Democracy on the web works and 6. You can make money without doing evil. From the explanatory comments, it's quite obvious that those "things" are to be interpreted in a rather narrow, technical sense, but then why choose such sloppy phraseology in the first place? At the very least, this exposes the firm to ridicule.

Wealth of Nations

When I read about this the other day, I meant to look into it, but now the World Bank's Private Sector Development Blog has a pretty comprehensive post about the institution's recent report on the world's countries' total wealth. Should I mention that Switzerland tops the ranking on wealth per capita (shouldn't that be caput, I always wonder) by quite some healthy margin? Since this is a pretty uncommon capital stock perspective, as opposed to the GNP's flow perspective, it definitely deserves some attention, although the measurement, or rather, estimation challenges will be formidable.


The European social model?

Who would have thought that yours truly, a neo-liberal Thatcherite (and proud of it ;-) would ever refer to a Labour white paper as excellent? Well, Labour must have come a long way indeed ("Models that are not efficient are not sustainable and must be reformed"), and here is the paper in question which has been prepared as a backgrounder for last weekend's meeting of EU finance ministers under UK presidency. Its purpose is to dissolve the unfortunate notion of the one European social model, which is advanced with preference by our French friends in defence of their particularly rigid model. But at least Sarkozy has realised that it's not even a model, because it doesn't work. Worse: its failure might endanger the single market and the eurozone. This white paper proposes an interesting assessment of the four flavours of social models in Europe and points to the much vilified Services Directive as an important step towards completion of the single market. From a Swiss perspective, it would be interesting to see where our particular case fits into the landscape. My guess would be Anglo-Saxon, trending towards Continental.

FDP Strategie

Endlich hat die FDP Leitung ihr schon vor der Publikation umstrittenes Strategiepapier publik gemacht. War die Aufregung gerechtfertigt? Ich denke schon!

Zwar ist das Papier weitgehend windkanaltauglich formuliert und bietet an sich wenig Angriffsfläche. Dennoch setzt sich darin die Abkehr vom klassisch geprägten Liberalismus fort, der auf den Grundwerten Freiheit und Eigentum basiert. Freiheit kommt zwar vor (da kann auch kaum jemand etwas dagegen haben), aber das Institut des Eigentums figuriert nur noch mittelbar unter dem Titel schlanker, starker Staat, dessen Statur bekanntlich mit dem Eigentum negativ korreliert ist. Dem Eigentum haftet in unserer Neidgesellschaft eben der Makel an, dass es eine mehrheitsfähige Angriffsfläche bietet. Dem gegenüber steht die verdächtig häufige Nennung der Gerechtigkeit, unter deren Flagge bekanntlich schon viele Verbrechen begangen worden sind.

Materiell kommt das Papier mit seinen Visionen ebenfalls durchaus mehrheitsfähig (das ist eine Beschimpfung!) daher. Eine liberale Partei zieht aber nicht mit der Mehrheit in die falsche Richtung:
  • Staatsanteil & Fiskalquote sollen nurmehr "nicht weiter erhöht" werden - bezüglich Senkung beschränkt man sich auf die zwar systematische, aber nichtsdestotrotz unverbindliche Suche danach.
  • Das Ruhestandsalter 65 wird explizit in's Programm geschrieben, obwohl völlig klar ist, dass dies bei relativ sinkender Lebensarbeitszeit nicht nachhaltig finanzierbar ist. Zu allem Ueberfluss wird erst noch die Generationengerechtigkeit angerufen, um eine eigentlich zwingend notwendige Mehrbelastung der aktiven Generation auszuschliessen!
  • Notwendige Reformen der Parteistruktur werden nicht einmal ansatzweise erwähnt. Aber das ist ja auch nicht nötig, schliesslich werden die Delegierten des Parteivolkes das Papier am 22. Oktober bestimmt gutheissen.
  • Mal sehen, was die politische Blogosphäre davon hält - edemokratie hat mich jedenfalls beim Zieleinlauf schon geschlagen!


    Blogs auf DRS2

    Es freut mich, mein früheres Urteil über die Webfreundlichkeit von DRS 2 revidieren zu können! Aktuell gibt's einen Beitrag über weblogs in der Politik, der auch einen Abstecher über die CH Szene macht (konkret: frausinn). Zudem haben einige Sendungen einen eigenen RSS-feed gekriegt! Zum vollkommenen Glück fehlt jetzt nur noch eine Antwort auf die Frage, weshalb unter Safari der realplayer nicht startet, wenn ich einen Beitrag hören will ...

    P.S. Es hilft auf jeden Fall, die neuste Version des Realplayer installiert zu haben - danke, Andy!


    Fresse halten - wählen geh'n!

    Now that reforms may continue in Japan under the same government, it's time for Germany to face change. Listen to these cheeky hip hop election ad tracks (German, non-partisan).


    No comment

    This is not a comment, just a translation of the cartoon which relates to the forthcoming referendum about the extension of bilateral agreements with the EU in two weeks' time. From top to bottom: I fear for the Swiss identity! - What is the Swiss identity? - Fear. Fearsome. ;-)


    The myth of Tiananmen?

    If you are a faithful observer of my daily meanderings, you will know that I am all about different shades of gray, while trying to stick to decyphering what is right or wrong. That's why this article about Tiananmen has caught my eye a while ago. Since my own research on the matter was not very fruitful, I turned to a more competent authority, namely the Tokyo based far east correspondent of my preferred newspaper, Urs Schoettli. Evidently, I hit a nerve with him, because he returned my request with an invitation to an in person meeting.

    This meeting finally took place this afternoon. The discussion took off with a grand tour d'horizon touching on our northern neighbours' poor reform track record in comparison to the Japanese one with both big countries having important elections forthcoming. Then Schoettli gave me an outline of his forthcoming book which will contain a comparison of different approaches to globalisation of Japan, India and China.

    From there, the line to a discussion about China's perspectives of development was pretty straight. Despite of recent reforms incorporating certain individual rights and a guarantee of legally obtained property into the Chinese constitution, China will remain inherently unstable politically because of the communist party's absolute claim to power. Given that, rule of law as well as a system of checks & balances will remain illusionary. Nonetheless, the party deals with areas of increasing conflict in a rather transparent and open manner, as long as its preponderance is not questioned. Those battlefields are increasing differences in wealth, environmental issues and energy supply. I was speculating on whether there might be some party-like factions forming within the communist party. Those might gain control of government in a political competition similar to that of open societies, thus preparing a face-saving way out of the communist party's stability dilemma.

    Only when time was almost up, we actually discussed Tiananmen. Evidently this is still a festering wound in China herself. Due to the lack of independent and open analysis of the events, Tiananmen seems to have developed a semantic dynamism of its own which is likely to continue until the matter is finally brought out into the open. That's unlikely to happen under the present party regime, though. Nevertheless, it seems to be pretty safe to assume that the death toll at and around the square on June 4th, 1989 was nowhere near the thousands, as suggested my many reports. However, even if there were "only" several hundred casualties, it remains an unforgiveable massacre. At any rate, it would be highly interesting to read a competent analysis of Tiananmen, and maybe also compare open societies' responses to those to more recent events.


    Fuel oil discount

    This is fun! Migrol offers a tickdown auction of fuel oil where the price moves down 5 Centimes every minute from the top end of a 5% band to the bottom unless somebody orders. That way, you can get a fairly decent price (considering ...) - you just have to make sure that you check at an ungodly hour where noone else thinks of buying oil, and then you can extrapolate the time when the price touches the low band.

    The Perils of Sportswear

    I was not aware that Amazon also deals in instant literary gratification, but it's true. You can now purchase books for immediate download, which I've done today: I acquired The Perils of Sportswear by one Lord Whimsy for less than 50 Cents. And it's two quarters well spent! But Whimsy in Shorts? Somehow I doubt it.



    I still cannot quite make up my mind entirely about what to think of yesterday night's world première of Die ganzheitliche Kunst, an Areagraphie (no idea what that might be - neither Brockhaus nor the web know the term) for choir by Béatrice Mathez, performed at Leonhardskirche by the Fontesonante choir. What I do know for sure is that the experience was rather weird and uncomfortable for me, and that was probably not intended.

    Facts of the performance: An alternation of traditional romantic pieces (Schubert, Grieg, Marschner, Caccini), short poems by Barbara Groher and the centerpiece, Crystals I - V, a choral choreography (does that make sense?) on the theme of Masaru Emoto's water crystals. The members of the choir were all clad in white and illuminated with different colours. The only instrumentation of the Crystals were quartz sound bowls with their unique, yet literally monotonous sound.

    If all this appears rather esoteric, then that's probably because it was, really. Don't get me wrong: I don't mind a bit of hippidom now & again, but the vibes I received from that event were a strange combination of pagan rites, christian messages, germanic Hochkultur in the Wagnerian sense & sundry other oddities. I trust I will be forgiven for feeling queasy about this combination if I out myself as an utter philistine, but I have a feeling that there is more to it than meets the eye, and I am not sure I want to know more.

    Katrina's advice: household supplies

    The Swiss Federal Office for National Economic Supply has a nice brochure about houshold reserves - a last resort at times of shortage. Events like Katrina are good reminders for the usefulness of keeping such emergency supplies, especially if everything else fails. For that event, I would complement the shopping list with lots of water, any required medication, a couple of packs of batteries, matches, candles, a manually operated radio and, finally, a gun and enough ammunition ...


    Denkpause in Europa

    Das sieht nach einer interessanten Veranstaltung aus, die die aktuelle Denkpause in Europa auch tatsächlich als Pause zum Denken nutzen will, und nicht als Pause des Denkens ... sehnwermal.


    On being lost

    Who'd have thought? The Edinburgh Festival, Dante's Divina Comedia and Tiger's Spotlight search, all in one article! I think I'll really have to try & make it for the Festival next time round ...



    It's good to have a clear example now & then of how the movie industry turns out products of pure phantasy, just like this earthquake shocker 10.5. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is shown as a quite professional, efficient, forward looking and responsible unit, mandated by a caring, worrying President. None of which has any basis in reality whatsoever, as we now know. But that's about the only good thing in the movie ... which is yet another illustration of the old adage that nobody & nothing is totally useless: It can still serve as a good example of how not to do it.

    Liberale Frauen

    Abgesehen vom Bahnhofblues habe ich noch gar nicht über meine Samstagsaktivität berichtet. Ich war am Frauentag - Liberalismustag (flapsige Kommentare überflüssig), um mit einer der Organisatorinnen ein Projekt zu besprechen, von dem man bald hier lesen wird. Angesichts der Tatsache, dass der Anlass frühmorgens um 1030h in SG angefangen hat, habe ich natürlich den Anfang verpasst, aber der ebenfalls anwesende Mitblogger Christian hat sowieso einen Beitrag verfasst, dem es nichts mehr hinzuzufügen gibt. Es gibt höchstens was wegzunehmen, und zwar die Schlussbemerkung, die die allgegenwärtige, strukturkonservative Wettbewerbsangst stehen lässt. Dazu zwei Bemerkungen: 1. Es gibt immer jemanden, der noch besser qualifiziert ist, und 2. kann der weniger qualifizierte trotzdem seine Existenzgrundlage finden - die theoretische Untermauerung findet sich in Ricardos Lehre vom komparativen Vorteil.

    Ich bin gespannt auf Julikas offiziellen Kommentar zum Anlass, der im übrigen qualitativ äusserst hochstehend war. Ausser der Tatsache, dass Y-Chromosomen im Publikum nur spärlich vertreten waren, hat nichts auf den Frauentag hingewiesen, was wohl einerseits ein gutes Zeichen für die Emanzipation ist, andererseits aber die Notwendigkeit eines dergestalt spezifizierten Anlasses in Frage stellt. Man verstehe mich nicht falsch: Anlass & Fragestellung waren hervorragend, aber das Forum war keinesfalls zwingend. Gerade die "Herren der Schöpfung" sollten sich der Liberalismus-Debatte sehr viel ausführlicher stellen. Aber wie gesagt, man darf auf Julika gespannt sein, so ihr Internet-Anschluss innert nützlicher Frist wieder operativ werden sollte.

    P.S. Und hier ist er auch schon, der offizielle Kommentar ...

    P.P.S. Die für mich interessantesten, anderswo noch nicht erwähnten Aussagen waren Julia Onkens Hinweis auf ein Schleier-Experiment, das sie kenne: Einige Frauen hätten während einiger Tage einen typischen muslimischen Schleier getragen und sich dadurch nach kurzer Zeit in ihrer geistigen Beweglichkeit eingeschränkt gefühlt - ohne weiteres nachvollziehbar. Und Robert Nef hat darauf hingewiesen, dass auch Liberale in der praktischen Politik immer wieder Kompromisse eingehen müssten. Allerdings dürften sie das erst im Verlauf der Verhandlungen, und nicht schon in deren Vorwegnahme!


    German elections

    I was just wondering how the market expectations were behaving with regards to the election in Germany on September 18. Intrade is offering a few contracts on that event. According to the price of the CDU/CSU victory contract of 98 (victory pays 100), this looks pretty much like a done deal. Note low volumes, though.

    Basle train station blues

    It may have an eBay Xchange-Point, for which we are ever grateful, but when, oh when will the management of the Basle train station realise how very nerve saving fast lane indicators (standing and walking foot prints) on overly narrow escalators & staircases are. London has them, Paris has them, every civilised place has them. Even Zürich does ...



    Jean Baptiste le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville

    The pictures from New Orléans are tragic, sad & infuriating. But first and foremost, it is a big tragedy because of all the pain & suffering the good people of this city have to go through.

    It is sad because if the damage is as bad as it shapes up to be, it doesn't seem to make much sense to rebuild the city in the same location, thus one of the allegedly most charming places in the US might be lost for good. Even if it can be rebuilt, I doubt that it will retain its special charm, for which I always wanted to visit it at some stage - but not any more.

    If I were a citizen of the US, I'd be furious, albeit not surprised, about the apparent dilettantism that this catastrophe is being handled with. While the hurricane itself seems to have been pretty much standard procedure & luck, it is entirely incomprehensible to me how a foreseeable event such as a dam failure would not immediately trigger a premeditated, commensurate, large scale response, even if it is preceeded by a hurricane. Bad luck always comes in doubles. This is Iraq all over again, but now in the heartland of the US. And there are not even any terrorists to blame, although any sign of them would come in extremely handy, of course ... at any rate, it will be interesting to see whether this reflex will be triggered.

    But it's true (via andare), it's neither the president's nor his administration's dilettantism's fault. The ultimate culprit is Jean Baptiste le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, who in 1718 founded New Orléans contrary to better advice below sea level. "A Frenchman and a fool - what else is new?"

    Audiatur et altera pars ...

    ... as long as it is not creationism or its latest reïncarnation, intelligent design. Why? Because it's no science, duh! Here's the extended argument (via Leiter Reports).


    Only thanks to its 52 pages, it is a finite pleasure to amble along Rudolf Taschner's lecture on Musil, Gödel, Wittgenstein und das Unendliche in one evening, entertained by a wonderfully mellow 38 years old Glenfarclas. While the main topic is Gödel's rather arcane incompleteness theorem, Taschner approaches the matter very leisurely: We are treated to anecdotes about shy Gödel's habit of arranging precise time & location of meetings with nosey strangers without ever intending to meet them in the first place. Asked why he arranges the meeting so meticulously, he explained that this is so he knew where & when not to be. Another one is even more interesting: He actually started to explain to the US judge presiding over his naturalisation proceedings that he discovered a logical gap in the US constitution which would make it possible that the US becomes a dictatorship. More about this here.

    But that's not all. Wittgenstein is also featuring in this short book, and prominently so with his lie about caning one of his pupils, which apparently has haunted him for years afterwards. Not the caning, mind you, but the telling a lie! Apparently, that made him go to Cambridge, where he had his famous poker debate with Popper. Which reminds me of my bedside book, namely volume 2 of Popper's The Open Society & its enemies. Only yesterday, I came across Popper's slagging off of Wittgenstein - small world.


    Just my cup of tea

    Have I mentioned just how good Lyssa's Lounge is, especially if you read German? She does have the type of humour which easily qualifies as English, even though she's German. It probably helps that she hails from Hamburg ... but enough rambling, the only real reason for posting this is to recycle the amazingly elegant picture she published.


    Capriccio by night

    R., thank you so much for inviting me to Capriccio by night tonight - this was a great fun performance of really swinging baroque orchestra in an appropriately baroque setting! The only thing that was not quite so up to scratch was the speaker intonation of the carefully selected texts - I really think that it was his use of the PA that gave his part a somewhat preachy atmosphere. But why don't you listen for yourself - I've bootlegged the whole session, using a trial copy of mvoice on the new Treo 650 - the sound quality of the music is surprisingly good! Here's an excerpt from the eerie Vivaldi piece. I guess with that, I've just published my very first podcast!


    Only in London ...

    ... would there be a flock of homo sapiens exhibited on the bear mountain, clad only in fig leaves & firmly tongue in cheek. Very nice - but only until Monday. I guess they'll have to be back in the office on Tuesday. The historical perspective on this event is not quite so amusing, though: Up until the 1930ies, african tribesmen were very successfully "on display" in zoos on a regular basis, and it was not tongue in cheek at all, back then.

    Rodent power

    The apparently popular story about a Hamster-powered phone charger reminded me of this strange guy that I saw hanging around in downtown Sofia with his two guinea pigs & a bowl. Initially I surmised that he was proposing to sell them, but 1 Lev (EUR 0.50) looked something awefully cheap, especially since business didn't appear to be so brisk what with him having no additional supplies in evidence.

    Further research with a Bulgarian friend unveiled the unexpected: What you see in that picture is in fact a guinea pig powered crystal ball! For the aforementioned Lev, the guinea pigs would pick a slip of paper from the container on which the client's future would be described. Go figure that one!

    Referenda 25.9.05

    Since I'll be in Washington during the actual voting (and counting, sorry!), I might as well get it over with right now. So, here goes nothing:
  • 1 Personenfreizügigkeit JA
  • 2 Hanfgesetz NEIN
  • 3 Familienzulagegesetz NEIN NEIN V2
  • 4 Kinderzulageninitiative NEIN
  • 5 Finanzhaushaltsgesetz Aufsicht JA
  • 6 Finanzhaushaltsgesetz Globalbudget JA
  • 7 Landwirtschaftsgesetz JA
  • 8 Gewässerschutzgesetz NEIN
  • 9 Bildungsgesetz JA
  • 10 Ersatzwahl Gemeinderat N.N.
  • 26/08/2005

    Kein Guru-Quatsch

    Aussergewöhnlich lesenswertes Interview mit dem Philosophen Thomas Metzinger (Abo), sofern sich der Lesewert eines Textes nach seiner Kongruenz mit der eigenen Befindlichkeit bzw. Auffassung bemisst. Dann wäre er aber bis auf den Bestätigungswert nur überflüssig. Die philosophische Auseinandersetzung Metzingers mit den Erkenntnissen der Neurologie geht aber weiter, lässt sie doch einen eigenständig sozialwissenschaftlichen Standpunkt erkennen, der in fruchtbarem Dialog mit der Naturwissenschaft stehen kann. Die Haupterkenntnis? Seele, Religion, Sicherheit - alles Illusionen. Es ist kalt da draussen. Und seltsam beruhigend, sich dessen bewusst zu sein ohne durchzudrehen.

    The Enthusiast

    nthusiasm, as well as confidence, are intoxicating & inspiring - so here is definitely something for the shopping list of the next trip to London. I wonder whether that publication has anything in common with the other The E ...


    Tuesch mi wider kalfaktere?

    Dieser Ausdruck scheint durchaus gängig zu sein, findet Google doch immerhin 62 Fälle. Allerdings dürfte die hier angezeigte Verwendung speziell sein:

    Tuesch mi wider kalfaktere?

    Bedeutung: Sinngemäss: "Du kommandierst mich wieder herum!" Aber auch: "Du willst wieder provozieren!"

    Etymologie: Laut Definition Wikipedia ist der Kalefaktor (von lat. calor Hitze und factor Macher - Einheizer) eine Hilfskraft oder ein einfacher Bediensteter, der herumkommandiert werden kann. Dem kalfaktern in der hier beschriebenen transitiven Verwendung scheint somit ein Missverständnis zugrunde zu liegen, es sei denn, man verstehe es in der ursprünglichsten Bedeutung von einheizen, provozieren.

    op. 131

    After listening to the highly competent evaluation of different interpretations of Beethoven's opus 131 in Diskothek im 2, I decided to buy their recommendation which is not available on iTunes unfortunately. But it sure was well worth waiting for - this is incredible stuff! Check out the finale in the sidebar and tell me why you haven't ordered it already ...


    Embarrassing if I'd have to log this kind of radio communication (english, french, via print Cicero)! I am still not sure whether I prefer the sardonic canadian version, the pompously mocking spaniard, or the dry english ...


    Bisch alerte?

    T. war heute abend zu Besuch, was prompt zu einer Fortsetzung der Reihe führt!

    "Bisch alerte?"

    Bedeutung: Bist Du wach? Vor allem aber: Wie geht es Dir?

    Etymologie: Ein klarer Fall des elsässischen Einflusses auf den Alt-Schönenbucher Dialekt! Von franz. alerte für Alarm, aber auch flink: Bist Du im Alarmzustand / flink / "zwäg"?

    Zusätzlich zu diesem aktuellen Fall bearbeite ich gerne noch die frühere Anfrage vom Joggingfreund:

    "Das goht uff kei Chuehut!"

    Bedeutung: wörtlich: Das geht auf keine Kuhhaut! Meint: Das ist einfach zu viel! Das geht zu weit!

    Etymologie: Vermutlich ist das eine sehr alte Wendung, die sich auf Pergament bezieht, welches bekanntlich aus Tierhaut hergestellt wurde. Die Kuhhaut ist vermutlich das grösste einzelne Stück Pergament, und wenn eine Beschreibung (eines Gerichtsfalls?) darauf keinen Platz fand, dann war es einfach zu viel.


    Swiss homeland security?

    Thanks to critical investigative journalism (german) and, eventually, direct democracy, legislative garbage like this draft law comparable to the changed rules in the UK & the USA will never see the light of legal force in this country with its sorely lacking constitutional review of federal legislation. I hope!

    The crane feeds on chocolate

    Odd. I am comparing offers for getting to Washington DC in about a month's time. The comparison between the respective offerings of Lufthansa & Swiss strike me as rather odd if you take into account collectable airmiles: From BSL to IAD on business, I get some 12K miles on Swiss, but over 20K miles on Lufthansa - that's 67% more! Travelclub tells me that this is because LH premiums cost more miles, so collecting returns more miles. Considering that LH goes to DC directly (no changing planes in BOS) and costs about the same, there's no way I can justify flying Swiss, especially since the airmiles get credited to my Travelclub account as well. If I didn't know that this arbitrage option is a consequence of the newly available fungibility between the two pre-existing programmes, I'd say it's a scheme to lure paying customers away from Swiss to Lufthansa, with premium collectors going the other way ... I wonder how long Swiss will survive this cannibalisation by its very own mother!


    As you know, I am a recent convert to Pastafarianism. So I was quite shocked to find out that Wikipedia (of which I am still no friend, but might have to revise due to their changing QM policies) has an article about our movement under consideration for deletion (which Vogon started that?!)! But looking at the favourable comments, I am at ease with the world again. Particularly notable is this short comment: Keep -- 22:10, 21 August 2005 (UTC) Removing this article would be blasphemy. Ramen!


    I cannot wait to treat myself to seasons 4 & 5 of Six Feet Under, especially after reading this rave (somehow NOT!) review (major spoilers, but in a good way) of the final episode. I am not sure whether this is just the final episode of season 5, or the final final episode ... I dread the news!


    B16 everywhere

    Despite of the confirmation made evident by B16's omnipresence on all channels, Samuel The Clash of Civilisations Huntington's article on the renaissance of religion (german) is curiously devoid of analysis & interpretation. Looking at what the ongoing Weltjugendtag seems to be all about, I don't think that this renaissance is a sustainable one - the church & the audience have just (re-)discovered the attraction of mass entertainment & the feel good factor. So the church has a tryst with pop culture - there's hardly anything more fickle. The hangover will be bad.


    Glenn Gould sur TV5

    Darn! I just discovered accidentally that French CNN TV5 seems to be broadcasting a series of programmes about & with the greatest classical pianist of all times, Glenn Gould! I already stumbled across the programme last Saturday, and with today's repetition it becomes a series.

    Gould is best known for his Bach interpretations and his very early refusal to participate in the concert circus. Unfortunately he died in 1982 already, thus missing the advent of the internet on the music scene. I am convinced that he would have taken full advantage of all the possibilities that the new medium creates for musicians like him.

    The current programme Glenn Gould the alchemist contains a fascinating part where Gould directs the production of a Scriabin piece that he's recorded earlier with 5 sets of microphones distributed throughout the studio with increasing distance to the piano, thus giving him the possibility of "zooming" in & out of the sound accoustically, just like a camera would. I've got to see the rest of those programmes!


    Intelligent design

    Marvellous! That's what you get for intelligent design! I am a Pastafari - Pastafaris of the world, unite under the sign of the Great Meatball!

    Welcome to Orange

    No, I haven't returned to the Ukraine, yet. The orange revolution there seems to have some toothing problems anyway. I am just switching mobile phone providers from Sunrise to Orange's Optima 30. Anyone who signs up for a higher plan in order to get a cheaper phone should take some lessons in algebra btw., but it's all good now. The providers are really tripping over themselves again to acquire new business: I got a Treo 650 a couple hundred cheaper, and they were giving away a 100.- discount on the next phone bill, a free SIM card and an additional discount on the phone "in exchange" for the old T610, which I got to keep. Thanks, Orange! And now, I am struggling with syncing & installing all the old applications from the Palm ...

    Der Ackermann aus Böhmen

    Just back from a breathtaking performance of Der Ackermann aus Böhmen, based on a 15th century text by Johannes von Tepl. The text itself s a grand renaissance disputation about life & death between a man who has just lost his wife, and Death personified.

    But it was the setting & execution that rendered the experience so special. This was the final performance of a series set open air in the Hörnli cemetary, which is a rather huge, quiet funeral site. There's a natural stage against the backdrop of a couple of old trees, and the weather was also playing its part in that it was laboring with a thunderstorm, complete with some showers, distant lightning and rolling thunder. That was not the only accoustic accompaniment, though: In a side tent, a bassist & a percussionist were playing something close to Indian raga style music, which was suiting the mood perfectly.

    If you read this as a recommendation to go and see it, then you're certainly right. Unfortunately, the Basle series is over now, but there will be some more performances at the Bremgartenfriedhof in Berne. Go see it!


    Wo ist die FDP?

    Vielleicht kommt's doch nicht gar so schlimm? Laut Auskunft des Generalsekretariats der FDP handelt es sich beim zitierten Artikel um eine tendenziös-böswillige Interpretation des einen Journalisten, da von einer Neupositionierung nicht die Rede sein könne. Allerdings ist das besagte Strategiepapier leider Parteimitgliedern von der Basis nicht zugänglich, demnach können wir es also nicht selbst beurteilen. Wir können allerdings Präsident Pellis Positionierung beurteilen, und die ist tatsächlich nicht koscher, ist doch für ihn die Finanzpolitik sekundär, die Rentenaltersdiskussion aufzugeben, und die SVP-Wähler verloren zu geben.

    Warten wir also noch ein wenig ab. Vergnüglich war allerdings die Reaktion eines Parteimitgliedes am Parteitag von gestern abend auf mein Votum, mit dem ich meine Befindlichkeit ausgedrückt hatte. Man hat mich da lautstark als Extremisten geziehen, was ich aus der Optik einer durchaus nicht sehr staatskritischen FDP BL ohne weiteres als Kompliment verstehe.

    P.S. Leider kommt eine informiertere Quelle (Abo) zu einer ähnlichen Einschätzung wie ich. Der Titel dieser Eintragung müsste wohl geändert werden in Wohin die FDP?


    We are not afraid

    Thanks to pieceoplastic, we haven't missed this excellent BBC documentary about the online phenomenon that werenotafraid.com has become in the wake of the London attacks. Fascinating!

    G'chotzt wie ne Gärbihund?

    Dieser Eintrag ist der erste in einer lockeren Reihe über seltsame und amüsante Dialektausdrücke, die v.a. in der Konversation mit bzw. zwischen meiner Mutter und ihrer Schwester immer mal wieder auftauchen. Also dann ...

    "Dr N. het g'chotzt wie ne Gärbihund"

    Bedeutung: Er hat sich andauernd übergeben müssen.

    Etymologie: Der Gärbihund ist ein Hund, welcher Gerbereiabfälle frisst und sich danach übergeben muss.


    Bach 2005

    While a fair share of this country's younger population is probably still recovering from the afterparties and chill out sessions of this year's Street Parade on this rainy Sunday afternoon, I've been reminded of why entering Bach as a search term into my iTunes collection returns a solid 1.3 days of music: Unreal clarity and light-hearted harmony despite of the music's formal complexity. That's what you get (for free) when you go to listen to Bach cantatas in the Predigerkirche.

    FDP links der Mitte?

    Sofern dieser Bericht der Sonntagszeitung bestätigt werden sollte und die FDP damit tatsächlich noch weiter nach links abrutscht, muss ich leider meine Parteimitgliedschaft so lange sistieren, bis sie wieder auf den "rechten" Weg zurückfindet oder aber bis eine Partei auf den Plan tritt, die sich tatsächlich an ein urbanes, weltoffenes, liberales (im Sinne von Hayek, Popper, de Jasay) Publikum richtet. Die vom neuen Präsidium der Partei eingeschlagene Richtung ist somit genau falsch, liegt aber immerhin in der Logik der früher schon ventilierten Fusion mit der CVP, beackert diese doch nämliches Gärtchen. Damit dürfte auch klar sein, dass ich nicht zu "der anderen" Partei wechsle, mindestens so lange diese AUNS Inhalte repräsentiert ... die Zahlung meines FDP-Mitgliedschaftsbeitrages konnte ich jedenfalls gerade noch aufhalten.



    Yesterday evening, I received my second ticket in a row for not putting on display the bloody parking disc in the exact same half empty car park (Bachgraben for those in the know) after having parked there for years without doing it (ok, they changed the rules - so what?). Don't I just hate the police, especially when they are obviously so much more efficient at prosecuting small fry traffic violations such as mine while they let go the big fish! And the officers in question wouldn't even listen when talked to sensibly. This is my equivalent of showing them the finger, I guess. And I wonder whether I should just put a graphic depiction of one on display in the close vicinity of the parking disc next time I park there ... childish, I know, but satisfying.


    Stay crazy, stay foolish!

    Weltwoche prints the German translation of college dropout Steve Jobs' (founder & CEO of Apple & Pixar) Commencement Address at Standford. Great stuff!

    P.S. I am happy to welcome the 10'000th unique visitor to my small abode in the world wide web since August 25th, 2004, and that's not counting my own visits ... keep coming, I am glad to have you here!


    UK stays multicultural

    The Beeb offers encouraging results of a survey about the multicultural character of Britain. The survey has been conducted among "original" Britons and Muslims and shows that both group's ideas are by and large the same. I am glad to see this, because it wouldn't make sense otherwise. After all, it makes no difference from which misguided religious fundamentalism (catholic - IRA, communist - Brigade Rosse, RAF, islamistic - al Qaeda et al) the current strain of terrorism arises: they will be neutralised. I wonder whether similar surveys have been made in the Netherlands. Any Dutch correspondents out there?

    Diamonds are forever

    Shirley Bassey's song would be the ideal backdrop to this post. Then again, the eponymous 70ies Bond movie could be redone to an entirely different script ...

    But the Fisher family from Six Feet Under should definitely reëvaluate their business modell. They could turn it from a gold mine into one churning out diamonds! Swiss firm Algordanza offers to turn a deceased's cremation ashes into a one carat diamond. Margaret would certainly have had second thoughts about throwing Bernard's ashes out over the balcony sill if she had known that!

    While the business idea is absolutely fascinating, what with all the symbolism involved, it is also open to a lot of scheming which could only be overcome by a reliable audit. (via handelsblatt)


    Remember September 2005

    Barring a surprise outcome of the deliberations of the German Constitutional Court, this coming September promises to be a politically memorable month for two big countries - Germany & Japan. Both are going to have premature parliamentary elections, and in both cases, action in economic policy is urgently required. Unfortunately, the odds are rather against that happening in Germany, I am afraid ... nonetheless, a prize to whoever recognises the source of this post's illustration!

    Negative information

    What generations of students of bad teachers have known intuitively is now scientific fact: Information can be negative, i.e. you know less after receiving it than you knew before. But you needn't worry about this being some sort of brain virus snatching that laboriously collected education from under your eyes (or from behind there, actually), because we're talking about the wonderful world of quantum physics, of course. Here is a popularised description of the concepts, together with links to the tough stuff (via slashdot).

    Independent alarmist

    Articles like these (via Samizdata) in the otherwise quite sensible Independent do not seem to be very well advised. It's not obvious to what degree the evident alarmism is cooked up by the editors and how much is actually in the sources, but the numbers game seems to be a bit nonsensical to me. Argueing that way, the pretty strong Swiss community with its widespread standard military training (not "just" AK-47!) should be considered a risk factor, too! No, it's not just the sheer nonsensicality, it's bordering to racism & alarmism, neither of which is the Best of British now, is it.


    No Bushism

    Why many Americans complain about their P going on an atypically long vacation is quite beyond me. According to this article, he has already racked up more vacation days in the 4.5 years of his presidency than his rather relaxed predecessor, the late R. Reagan has in his full 8 years! But the aforequoted Tallahassee Democrat has got it right: I wouldn't even begrudge a permanent vacation to him, starting immediately!

    Dandy - ism?

    A rather amusing ontological treatise without any pretension to objectivity on the ever green, ever changing phenomenon of the dandy, as appropriately & entertainingly reflected in a contemporary medium. "So, dear reader, purge yourselves of philosophical pretensions, emulate the lilies of the field, and ponder life's most important question: What will you wear?"