Ecclesiastical competition?

While the world's hungry eye is drawn towards the dying pontifex maximus in Rome, there is a more interesting story unfolding in a remote corner of the roman-catholic empire by the name of Röschenz. This is the parish of unruly priest Franz Sabo, who allegedly went public with dissenting opinions on several issues. Consequently, the local bishop withdrew his missio canonica, his license to preach, whereupon he duely would have to be sacked by his parish.

However, the powers to be did not take into account the revolutionary spirit of the parish! Apparently, the parishioners are standing by their priest and now, they are even considering to defect from the roman-catholic church to join the dissenting christian-catholic faction. Today, it transpires that the roman-catholic bishop has written an angry letter to his christian-catholic counterpart, accusing him of mingling in internal affairs. Apparently, somebody is getting nervous ...

One wonders whether this is a reënactment of Kulturkampf on a local scale in the 21st century, or simply ecclesiastical competition? Whatever it is - I like it. Nothing like a good argument to get people actually thinking!

Addressbook 2 map.search.ch

Here is a very cool Applescript that enables you to display Swiss addresses right out of your OS X Addressbook into übercool map.search.ch. Easy to install, works like a charm. Get it if you have some Swiss addresses in your book! (via Pi.a)


Donate a click

Interesting! I've never seen a charity asking for your mouseclick instead of your money. But Aquaplastics 2005 (via gebsn) seems to do just that. If they reach 1.5 mio clicks on their website by June 22nd, then the European plastic industry will donate EUR 150'000 (10 Cents per click) to WaterAid to provide people in Ethiopia with clean, safe water & sanitation. Hell, I've clicked on infinitely sillier links than that - and so have you!

FYI: the counter currently stands at only 324'140 clicks ... 1'175'860 more to go!

Return of the Mac

Nice. And very true!


Master of Toast

After having read an article (not available anymore) in Saturday's NZZ about it, I attended a meeting of Toastmasters of Basel for the first time tonight. Toastmasters is not a cooking association vying for the best in French toast - it's a non profit organisation "devoted to making effective oral communication a worldwide reality." This happens in a very structured procedure with different formats, disciplined time keeping, formalised feedback and lots of improvising. All things that I am not good at.

The meeting was rather good fun and quite intense, although I wouldn't mind the feedback to be a bit more detailed. But possibly, it's ok as it is because one will not be able to correct for too many things at a time, so it's a matter of repeating the experience, which I guess I will do.

Interesting tidbit: They tried to start a club with German as business language, but there wasn't enough interest to keep it going. This is another instance of this horrible reluctance of ours to give form at least some credit relative to substance! That's not to say that the substance of every presentation held by a Swiss German is immaculate - quite au contraire. But you need to be aware that Swiss Germans do not trust politicians who speak well. Amazing, but true. There's several reasons for that: 1) envy, because most people are inarticulate, 2) an inferiority complex towards the Germans who are generally much more comfortable with what is in effect yet another foreign language for us, and 3) more than just a sneeking suspicion that a good speaker has to make up in form for his lack of substance. All of that is nonsense, as far as I am concerned.


Goodbye Azureus

Meet my new bittorrent client: Bits on Wheels. 100% native for the Mac (no more Java), very small footprint (<1 MByte), very fast & elegant. The better is the enemy of the good!



As promised, here's some pictures from this afternoon's bunny quest! Enjoy!

Easter hints

Every once in a while it should be worth while to read my blog, so here's a couple of hints for avid bunny & egg hunters ...



Die Alte Tante NZZ widmet der Generation der heute 20 bis 30 jährigen (die i-Generation oder die Generation Anführungszeichen) ihren aktuellen Bund Zeitfragen. Gemäss diesen Artikeln zeichnet sich besagte Generation durch einen stark ausgeprägten Pragmatismus aus, den böse Zungen wohl auch als Orientierungslosigkeit bezeichnen könnten - womit ich mich offiziell als nicht (mehr!) dieser Generation zugehörig geoutet habe. Daher gebührt die Zusammenfassung Mikael Krogerus:

Ich bin fast fertig, nur noch ein paar Dinge, die wir lernen müssen, um uns hier zurechtzufinden. Erstens: Entscheidungen treffen. Nicht immer ist es klug, jede Option bis zuletzt offen zu lassen. Nicht immer hoffen, dass etwas kommt, das noch besser ist; wir können nicht mehr als alles haben. Zweitens: Ernsthaftigkeit. Meine Generation hat viele Namen, weil immer noch jemand meinte, sich selbst erklären zu müssen; Golf und @ und andere Albernheiten. Ein passender Name wäre: Generation Anführungszeichen. Nichts mehr wurde ernst genommen, weil man Angst hatte, sich selbst ernst zu nehmen. Die Idee der Ironie: «Ja» sagen, wenn man «Nein» meint. Das Problem der Ironie: Wir finden die Welt verlogen und jene naiv, die sie verändern möchten. Das ist nicht witzig, das ist traurig. Drittens: Grosszügigkeit. Jeder freut sich, wenn er gut behandelt wird. Wenn jemand etwas Gutes macht, sollte man sich mit ihm freuen, nicht versuchen, einen Fehler zu finden. Viertens: Schweigen. Nicht für alles gibt es Worte. Wenn man meiner Generation wirklich etwas wünschen möchte, so wäre es: Einfach leben, anstatt Geschichten wie diese hier zu schreiben.

Feel the rhythm!

Go with the beat - this is great (via curiosum.org)!! The Apple silhouette campaign is proliferating ...

The Russian Dreyfuss

Prospect features an excellent article on recent developments in Russia, comparing Yukos to the Dreyfus affair - "a scandal that briefly illuminates and brings to a head normally half-hidden contests over power and principle."



Hier gibt es einen herrlichen, doppelten Bushismus zu lesen - einerseits handelt er natürlich vom besagten Präsidenten (a.k.a. Strauch), andererseits ist er in bester Dubyia Busch Manier geschrieben! Bemerkenswert.

Hyperlinked graffiti

Interactions between the real & the virtual world are fascinating! Here's a Wired report about Grafedia, a variation on the yellow arrow theme.

If you see a graffiti somewhere which contains an underlined word written in blue, then chances are that you've encountered your first grafedia, a real world link into the virtual one. Somebody has left something @grafedia.net, and you can retrieve that content by sending email to word@grafedia.net, preferably from your mobile device.


Qur'an reviewed

Wow - Mr. Widmer has guts! Here (German) he publishes a rather easy going literary critique of the qur'an, comparing it occasionally to its predecessor, the bible. Not only is its tone casual & irreverent - the article outright questions one of the qur'an's central allegations, namely that it is the immediate word of god. From a literal reading point of view, the act of reviewing alone presumably might be seen as blasphemous already. So I guess that might easily spell trouble. Widmer's departing shot won't change much, I don't think.

So, congratulations on a very provocative piece! Since the content alone would not necessitate its style, I suppose it is really meant to be a challenge to the orthodox to test our freedom to insult, which is an extremely important freedom indeed!

P.S. Very timely proof of the importance of the freedom to insult comes from this story (via Samizdata.net).

Fülle des Wohllauts

Now this sounds like an interesting theatre project: An actor recites a chapter from Thomas Mann's Zauberberg and plays old shellack discs on his gramophone. It can hardly get any more analogue than that. I'll be there.


German economic weekly Handelsblatt has joined media enterprises which give their journalists personal blog space. Some of the stuff seems to be quite vicious, like this post in which the Moscow based author rants about the recent flourish of colour coded revolutions in Russia's neighbourhood dictating his wardrobe!


Who's next? Lazarus?

Just saw Seabiscuit (I know, not the freshest off the shelf), and it is one great, uplifting movie! It's about a loser horse (small, gluttonous, sleepy), a loser jockey (tall as far as jockeys go, half blind, broken leg), a loser coach (type stoic, sensitive loner, horse whisperer) and a loser millionaire in a loser period (Great Depression) - you get the picture. And naturally, against all odds, they turn out winners. Just the kind of thing you need to end a depression - and apparently, that was a true story.

The film is particularly remarkable for three reasons. First, I've hardly ever seen such a detailed, complex exposition. But without it, we'd have been lost. Second, the soundtrack is amazing. Extended periods of - silence! Quite unheard of in Hollywood. And finally, wonderful use of allegory.

Absolutely worth your while!

Economy cat

While my other cat was being serviced today, I was given an S-Type as a replacement car. Note to self: Don't bother evaluating that, it just doesn't feel like a Jag any more. I'd much rather have a Mini instead. Or, erm, a Bentley Continental GT. Well, yes ...

Castings of sorts

Benjamin has finally come up with his beercasting post - yay for that! But the sound quality is really not that convincing. Well, let's give it a break, after all it was unplanned, and on a MS operated mobile phone ...

As for podcasts, people have been wondering about some resources. Here they are: Podcast Alley is a good directory service. And here's the feeds that I am currently subscribed to: The Dawn & Drew Show, Radio Clash, Science @NASA, Tracks up the Tree, Whole Wheat Radio, In Our Time. I guess you want to just copy/paste them into your RSS reader of choice if it has audio support, or otherwise there is also podcast receiver software. I personally find that a bit cumbersome however, because after a while, you get lots of audio files sitting around, possibly redundantly (ipodder & iTunes) and nobody does the housekeeping (as of yet). That's why I don't go all the podcasting way, I just listen to them on NewsFire.


Le Chevalier de Sainte-Hermine

Le Figaro reports the discovery of the unpublished, final grand novel by Alexandre Dumas, French 19th century author and creator of The Count of Montechristo and The three Musketeers! With 900 pages, it seems to be quite the roller coaster of a novel, and it is scheduled to appear in print on June 3rd. So, there's something to look forward to, and not only for the screenwriters who, I am sure, cannot wait to get their hands on it!


You will be surprised to hear that the title's reference to the Nokia 3310 mobile phone does indeed have a lot to do with the previous post's title. According to an interesting article about South-African languages by Frances Gordon in the current issue of the Royal Over-Seas League's members magazine Overseas (not available online), 3310 is actually a Sowetan reference to a male's sexual strength! How odd is that?! I expect Nokia should make a killing out of it.

The article describes nicely how language evolution and mixing of South Africa's incredible 11 (eleven!) official languages (Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu) is "proof of the birth of a rainbow nation." And I thought Switzerland with its four official languages is exceptional. Fascinating!

A couple of interesting SA terms: yebo gogo literally means 'yes grandma' in Zulu, but has become a general greeting as a consequence of a mobile phone commercial. Drumsticks are legs, and a Ferrari refers to the Zimbabwean currency, as it moves so fast. Tata ma chance!

Sex sells

The journalist who did this piece (German, via Matti) about the recent blogger meeting in Basle is certainly well aware of that old marketing addage. Which of course I am piggybacking on myself now.

It is a widespread bad habit to beef up a story by appealing to man's basest instincts, such as voyeurism. Maybe it also helps to cover up a lack in substance sometimes ... but none of that here. No juicy bits on this blog, I am afraid.

P.S. Sexblogger im Birseckerhof? Matthias, you're definitely OTT now! Next thing we'll hear is that Lyssa was at the table, too!


X is dead

The name George F. Kennan is known to every student of international relations, at least for his long telegramme from Moscow 1947, which was subsequently published in Foreign Affairs, signed by "X". This article was one of the most influential pieces of political analysis in the last century. In it, the concept of containment of Soviet expansionism was described. This concept means in essence that while neither reasonable negotiation nor outright confrontation are options, the USSR's expansionism should be opposed in all quarters, letting the Soviets' system's inherent instability run its course. The collapse of the USSR 32 years later proved the ingeniousness of the concept.

To commemorate the passing on Thursday of George Kennan, one of the most important foreign-policy thinkers of the twentieth century, Foreign Affairs has made available a comprehensive selection of his writings from this magazine. Covering a span of 50 years, the selections begin with the seminal "X" article of 1947, "The Sources of Soviet Conduct."

Un long dimanche ...

Today was the perfect day to go see Un long dimanche de fiançailles - it is Sunday and the first day of spring with spring still not being quite here just yet. On my way home, I had time to leisurely reflect on the film over one of Bach's French Suites, performed by Glenn Gould.

The movie is a story of detection, built on a love story which is set against the gruesome background of the trenches of the Great War. The storyline is handled brilliantly, with just a touch of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot - in fact, even the detective is there. The production is extraordinary - although it blatantly romaticises 1920ies France, it does do so in a stylish and sensitive way with warm sepia tones everywhere. Even the war scenes, despite of not being romanticised, are broken to us relatively gently by narration. And it wouldn't be a Warner production without a happy ending ...

However, there is one issue that I am not comfortable with. I doubt whether it is in good taste to construct a harmonic, romantic love story directly on the tombs of the madness of WWI. Yet, being Swiss and, to my knowledge, not having lost any family members in any of the wars of the last century, I must abstain from passing judgement on this matter. If the movie is acceptable in France & Germany alike, then I am more than happy to see the issue behind us.



Very interesting - as well as disturbing! This article (German) points us to project Onyx, an electronic eavesdropping scheme comparable to Echelon, but operated by the Swiss Department of Defence (and Sport!). There's a couple of problems with this: 1) Cost control has gone completely haywire, 2) control procedures are inadequate, and 3) observance of civil rights is virtually impossible to enforce.

Common sense might add another issue: If even the biggest boys' toys do not work properly, why should we bother to spend hundreds of millions on toys which are by necessity less effective? If you are in the business of having substantial strategic operations abroad, it makes sense to collect appropriate intelligence. If you are not (as we are), it does not. Period.

Here is last year's report (German) by the Audit Committee of Parliament.

Winter's final dawn

OK, I admit, I did play around with the controls, but just a little bit.

Swiss cheekiness

Things are definitely looking up around here! Spring is in the air (actually, it's going to be official in 12 minutes' time!), a confident, if slightly crazy young ice king is world champion, Switzerland doesn't have a military budget for the first time since 1848 and thus has taken the first real step towards breaking Konkordanz (more are to follow), and it looks like we're finally going to get rid of this state airliner of ours - and that is accompanied by some cheeky advertisment!
(On the left, there's an ad by Swiss, but the one on the right is by Denner, a Swiss retailer, claiming that Swiss is not the only bargain on shelves.) Personally, I would have preferred a transaction involving BA / Oneworld instead of Lufthansa, but that looks improbable now. Here's what Swiss Travelclub tells me in response to my email (note the time!):


Response (Effie Baumann) - 20.03.2005 00:31
Sehr geehrter Herr Dreyer,

vielen Dank für Ihre E-Mail.

Wir danken Ihnen für Ihr Feedback. Wie Sie wahrscheinlich selbst in den Medien verfolgt haben, können wir Ihnen immernoch keine konkreten Informationen über das Projekt "Lufthansa" geben.

Die Verhandlungen sind auf Hochtouren, bestätigt und unterschrieben ist jedoch noch nichts.

Die Zukunft ist für uns alle ein bisschen ungewiss, wir hoffen jedoch, dass wir Ihre langjährige Treue auch weiterhin geniessen dürfen und Ihnen im Gegenzug einen erstklassigen Service bieten können.

Sobald wir über genauere Informationen verfügen, werden Sie vom Swiss TravelClub Gold Management persönlich kontaktiert.

Member (Christian Dreyer) - 11.03.2005 11:49
Gerade lese ich die Gerüchte über eine zweite Verhandlungsrunde mit Lufthansa bezüglich Verkauf von Swiss an Lufthansa. Als treuer Kunde und STC Gold Mitglied möchte ich hier anmerken, dass ich BA sehr stark vorziehen würde. Schade, dass die seinerzeitige Uebung aus von aussen nicht nachvollziehbaren Gründen abgebrochen worden ist!

Freundlich grüsst
Christian Dreyer

24 all over again!

No, it's not what you might think: I am not having a premature second coming of spring or my midlife crisis, thank you very much!

Rather, thanks to Azureus and btefnet, I am up to date with 24, season 4! As always, I cannot wait to see the next episode! It's fun to see old acquaintances pop up again all of a sudden. The PC statement with the two middle eastern gun store owning brothers supporting our heroes was a little blunt, though. Also, some patterns are beginning to be obviously recurring. I am not saying that it's boring - far from it! But I guess a potential season 5 might become tedious.

Blogger meeting

Just back from my first ever real world blogger meeting in Basle. There was a motley crowd of some 20 people from all over the place (Switzerland, that is) and lots of interesting conversations & stuff. I even learned what beercasting is; and no, it's not throwing around jugs of beer! We're actually expecting a case in point to be published here! Some people were also taking pictures, so I might link to them later on.

P.S. As promised, here are a few pictures.



In today's BaZ, there is a very worthwhile denkstück (in German, by subscription or pdf) on provincialism. I am interested in the matter on two accounts: 1. I live in (the vicinity of) Basle, and 2. I am on the record for saying that Basle is provincial because she's constantly worried about being just that.

Mr. Sommer posits, in short, that smallish places like Basle tend to develop a P trauma, the feeling to be forgotten by the world. The only way out of that trauma is either by imitation of metropolis or by ignoring it. He proposes a third way, however: To be aware of one's marginality (Randständigkeit) and take that as a chance to critically and creatively observe what happens in "the centre" - or even to take a sharp counterpoint to it. He quotes important characters who did just that in Basle: Jacob Burckhardt, Friedrich Nietzsche, Franz Overbeck. You can see the whole picture better from a distance.

This is a very interesting attitude, and one that I entirely support, despite of its apparent contradiction to my statement. My statement does nothing but question the P trauma and implicitly advocates for more confidence in our "marginal" position, beyond imitation & ignorance. The trouble with the third way is that its alternatives do not require what is often in short supply: the capacity for reflection & debate.


An eternity of boredom?

"I was bored a lot during my lifetime. And my life has been very long already." Thus goes Swiss author Peter Bichsel, who is turning 70 next week (still below average life expectancy). You should know that the German word for boredom is Langeweile, which translates directly into long duration, so this gets another layer of double entendre.

But the funnest part of his truly credible, for otherwise quite boring interview (his voice is monotonous & he speaks rather languidly), was his explanation for not being convinced by the religious concept of life after death: "An eternity of boredom? I can do without that." Nice! One wonders what might be less boring - heaven or hell?


Dynamik des Radikalismus

Wieder einmal ein grossartiger Aufsatz zum Thema Islam in der NZZ. Meine Einschätzung dürfte zu einem nicht geringen Teil darauf beruhen, dass der Autor (wie ich) der Meinung ist, dass der islamische Radikalismus zu einem guten Teil mit der wörtlichen Interpretation des Koran sowie der Todesstrafe für Apostasie im Zusammenhang steht.

Leider dürfte auch dieser Artikel nur heute öffentlich zur Verfügung stehen, also beeilt Euch mit der Lektüre!

34 Grenzpunkte der Freiheit

Ein schöner Titel der NZZ. Er bezieht sich auf die Liste der Daten, die die EU Fluggesellschaften (inkl. Swiss) über ihre USA-Passagiere an die USA liefern. Erstaunlich, dass da nicht auch noch die Schuhgrösse drauf ist!

Die Daten werden laut der einschlägigen Medienmitteilung während 3.5 Jahren aufbewahrt. Wichtig: "Die Fluggäste erhalten zudem das Recht, von den US-Behörden Auskunft über die gespeicherten Daten und nötigenfalls deren Richtigstellung zu verlangen."



This is neither a misunderestimated Bushism nor is it an anti-disestablishmentarianist pasttime for stupid Prince George. No, we are actually reporting (via NZZ) a most serious internet resource presented to us by the US Department of State. Its purpose is to enable us to deal with misinformation that comes in all shapes & colours.

The only problem with this meritorious effort is that it is in vain for two reasons. 1) Conspiracy theories and other similar misinformation is systematically constructed to include the other side's assertion to the contrary, thus it is not falsifiable (and therefore cannot be taken seriously by critical rationalists such as myself). 2) Since believing in that kind of information is thus a question of creed more than anything else, its refutation hinges on the pre-established credibility of the source. I am afraid I am not jumping the gun when I say that the Bush administration's perceived credibility is not beyond doubt.

Swiss quality of life tops

According to this Mercer survey, the overall quality of life is best world wide in Swiss cities Zürich & Geneva. If you're interested to know where your city ranks, check the top 50 list here!

Myths confirmed

I wonder why otherwise reputable Foreign Affairs has published this article on The Overstretch Myth, the purpose of which is to dispel the notion that the US current account deficit & foreign debt are threats to its global position.

While the question is an extraordinarily valid one, deserving a lot of well reasoned attention, the "reasoning" it receives by Messrs Levey & Brown is less than convincing. What the article boils down to are a few dogmata, embellished with some remotely connected numbers. Here's the crucial bullet points to save you reading the article:
  • "The economy will at some point have to adjust to a decline in the dollar and a rise in interest rates. But these trends will at worst slow the growth of US consumers' standard of living, not undermine the United States' role as global pacesetter."
  • "Although the net international investment position will surely continue to grow for many years to come, its increase will be far less dramatic than many economists fear."
  • "Although the period of global rebalancing would be painful for U.S. consumers and workers, it would be even harder on the European and Japanese economies, with their propensity for deflation and stagnation. Such a transitory adjustment would be unpleasant, but it would not undermine the economic foundations of U.S. hegemony."
  • "Only one development could upset this optimistic prognosis: an end to the technological dynamism, openness to trade, and flexibility that have powered the U.S. economy. The biggest threat to U.S. hegemony, accordingly, stems not from the sentiments of foreign investors, but from protectionism and isolationism at home."
  • The last point, while certainly true, illustrates the warped, US-centric perception of the piece to perfection: Economically, we're the best, and we'll stay that way because - we'll stay that way. Does that sound dogmatical? To me, it does.



    "Very nice. Very baroque." Thus the summary review that I've overheard of a fellow member of the audience of the dernière performance of Händel's Oreste that I've been to tonight. And so it was!

    While the theater's austerity and the stage setting oozed more of a school group performance's atmosphere and thus was not opulent at all, the pasticcio renano performed very well indeed. The small ensemble was precise and lively and the singers were much better than I expected. The stage was set in a rather surprising way: Diana's temple on Tauris looked very much like one of those little greek beach shops, complete with miniature statues for sale and all.

    The direction had quite a few fun ideas as well. So, the evil tyrant received his comeuppance perched over an ice cream freezer (consequently there was no ice cream on sale during intermission). Or Herbert Grönemeyer's Der Mensch was featured at one point - and surprisingly, it made perfect sense. And the programme contains a unexpected treatise of sorts on the relative merits of tshapkas (a.k.a. ushanka) vs. Astrakhan hats (pictures of both here), which were worn by the tyrant and his dogsbody.

    All in all, a really nice evening! Oh, and thank you to the anonymous donor who left a beautiful, yet empty tin of Yardley English Lavender Soap on the boot of my Jag in the car park. I can take a hint, you know! But given the current weather, surely it would be a waste to use that kind of soap, even on an English car!


    By Jove!

    If you have known me for any length of time, chances are that I have annoyed you by quoting Asterix or one of the derivative characters of this quintessentially European comic strip which has been around for decades. I just love the volumes that have been produced before the texter Goscinny's death - they're extremely funny & subtle at the same time, often building on classic education without boasting it, and making gentle fun of national clichés - just look at the volumes on the British or the Swiss! At one time, I've been able to quote all of them quite extensively, but I've been lacking practise recently.

    Care for some examples? With pleasure! This is my all time favourite: There's this Egyptian architect coming to see the druid on accounts of having to build a palace for Cleopatra to impress Caesar. He greets him with the memorable sentence (translated from the German version): I am, my dearest friend, much more than glad to see you! To which the druid replies with a knowing smile to the bystanders: That is an Alexandrine. Which of course it is, and in more than just the sense that his visitor hails from Alexandria. Also, since the Romans are the beloved enemies of the Gauls, there's plenty of latin quotes, which are always translated in footnotes (!). So, there's this Roman officer going: Gnôthi seäuton! A fellow soldier aks what that meant, to which he says: That's Greek to me, so I don't know! Logically, we are not treated to a translation. (If you have to know, it's Know thyself!) But don't bother looking for such treasures in volumes following XXIV. The more recent issues have become so much more representative of real French humour...

    Now, Asterix is entering the internet era! Here is his official website, which I've only just discovered. Enjoy!


    Quel scandal!

    That's a very nice picture, wouldn't you say? It's clearly inspired by Da Vinci's Last Supper. One should congratulate fashion designers Girbaud for its refined taste. So what about it?

    According to this BBC story, this poster has been banned in France and Italy (that's two European countries, one of them clearly secular even!) because it is "a gratuitous and aggressive act of intrusion on people's innermost beliefs"! This is outrageous! What about freedom of expression?! Are we back in the dark ages of the Spanish Inquisition? If this is considered to be religiously intrusive, then I'll join Rowan Atkinson's freedom to insult campaign - right now! Count me in!

    Again, congratulations to Girbaud - not only for creating a nice fashion campaign, but also (inadvertently, I presume) for fighting for freedom of expression. Please appeal those injunctions, I am pretty sure you'll come out on top! And there's a lot of free advertising ...


    In Our Time

    The BBC is experimenting with their own podcast of sorts: Apparently for a limited time, they are publishing In Our Time as an mp3 on an RSS feed. The current programme on Stoicism is really good: The group discusses modern utopias and dystopias in a laid back, yet very thoughtful way. Just one little gem from the debate for you to think about: Nazism and Communism contaminated imagination.

    As for the format of pushing audio (formerly know as radio) programmes on an RSS feed, I think that's a brilliant idea! Because of this programme's utter professionalism, it's definitely not like your garden variety of a podcast, that's for sure. But why should it have to be? I think of it as a way to remind you of radio programmes you do not want to miss. You just subscribe to the feed - no more fiddling with timetables, tape recorders, or archives and stuff. The programme you're after is just one click away, where you expect it & whenever you want it. This could very well be the "radio" programming of the future! Way to go, dear Beeb!


    Russlands Sündenbock

    Interessante Geschichte! Es macht den Anschein, dass Russland nun in der OSZE einen passenden Sündenbock für den Verlust eines wichtigen Teils des nahegelegenen Auslands gefunden hat. Indem man ihn in die Wüste schickte, könnte man auch gleich in Zukunft derart unangenehme Differenzen zwischen dem Blankoscheck der GUS-Beobachter und der massiven Kritik der OSZE-Delegation an den Wahlen in Bjelarus vermeiden. Denn schliesslich ist Russland ja ein demokratischer Staat und Mitglied des Europarates!

    Wenn ich mich recht entsinne, hat die Schweiz seinerzeit als Pate bei der Aufnahme Russlands in diese Organisation gewirkt. Vielleicht sollten wir jetzt unsere Verantwortung wahrnehmen und den Ausschluss Russlands betreiben?


    I humbly ask forgiveness from my English only audience. This post is about German legal humour & hence certifiably intranslatable.

    "Das Huhn ist aus ethologischer Sicht ein sozial und territorial lebender Scharr- und Flattervogel mit klar strukturierter Rangordnung, dessen wichtigstes Fortbewegungsmittel die Beine sind. (Deutschland)

    Eier sind die von einer unverletzten Kalkschale umgebenen, unbebrüteten Keimzellen des Haushuhnes oder anderer Vogelarten. (Lebensmittelverordnung, Schweiz)

    Ein Lutscher zeichnet sich dadurch aus, dass der zu verzehrende bzw. zu lutschende oder schleckende Karamellteil auf einem Stiel aufgebracht ist. Ohne einen solchen Stiel würde es sich nicht mehr um einen Lutscher, sondern vielmehr um ein gewöhnliches Bonbon handeln. (Deutsches Gerichtsurteil)

    Der Wertsack ist ein Beutel, der auf Grund seiner besonderen Verwendung im Postbeförderungsdienst nicht Wertbeutel, sondern Wertsack genannt wird, weil sein Inhalt aus mehreren Wertbeuteln besteht, die in den Wertsack nicht verbeutelt, sondern versackt werden. (Deutschland)"

    Herrlich! Mehr hier. Da gibt es doch tatsächlich auch eine Kurze Einführung in den Juristenhumor, mit Fussnoten und allem drum und dran. Allerdings bin ich bis dato nicht über Seite 14 (von 214) hinausgelangt - Humor ist ja etwas schönes; aber Juristenhumor, und dann erst noch deutscher Provenienz, ist, sagen wir es einmal höflich, doch sehr anspruchsvoll. Aber die zitierten Stellen sind schön. Um beim Einführungsbeispiel zu bleiben:

    "Das BGer unterscheidet dabei mit dem LG zwischen 'Konversationsgegacker' und 'Legegegacker'. Es sei, so führt das BGer hierzu aus, gerichtsbekannt, dass nach der Ueberzeugung zahlreicher ländlicher und kleinstädtischer mit Hühnern vertrauter Personen die Hühner nach dem Legen eines Eies in einer besonders charakteristischen Weise gackerten ('Legegegacker'). Ein solches Gegacker komme vor allem im betonten Hervorheben eines der ersten Gackertöne zum Ausdruck." (Stader, 1993, S. 103)

    Nach dergestalter Klärung kommt das Landgericht (sic!) in der Sachverhaltsbeurteilung alsbald zum Schluss, dass es sich bei der bestrittenen Werbebotschaft trotz Tierstimmenimitators in der Tat um Legegegacker handle. Was allerdings die Rechtsfolge dieser Konklusion ist, verschweigt uns der Autor gnädig.


    Auschwitz aus der Luft

    There was a very interesting & disconcerting Channel 4 documentary on Swiss TV tonight about how the allies had very detailed information on the holocaust happening in Auschwitz in summer 1944 already. Also, they had the means to stop it, yet they didn't. Why? Nobody knows.

    The programme will be aired again on the 13th at 1710h on SF2. See it!


    Earned Sovereignty

    Here's an interesting debate including one of my pet subjects, Russia. Well, maybe my perception of it being interesting is biased by the fact that I have been one of the main contributors. OK, the only contributor, apart from the blog's owner ... but do feel free to chime in!

    Smiling nations

    So, where does your smile come from?


    Warsaw impressions

    From my earlier posts, you can tell that I am back home for a while already - the trip back from Warsaw was rather uneventful, as it should be. I finally got round to sorting out the pictures of the trip, which you can see here.

    I had a great time with my Polish friends, particularly W & A - thank you very much, guys! But I am not entirely sure what to make of the place as such. One thing is for sure: Warsaw has a distinctly separate identity from other Eastern European cities I've seen so far, i.e. Budapest, Prague and Vienna. It's probably not a coïncidence that these places have once been imperial cities of the Austria-Hungarian empire, which gives them a lot of common heritage, despite of their respective differences. Not so Warsaw: This is clearly a separate country with a strong slavonic influence, not least in the language, which seems to be largely untainted with English. Also, relatively few people seem to speak foreign languages - it was rather odd to occasionally have to resort to Russian as the lingua franca.

    Another very sad difference is that Warsaw has been virtually obliterated during WWII. This city has seen far more than its fair share of attrocities, violence and wars in the not too distant past, and this still reverberates eerily in its atmosphere. If you see the pictures of Warsaw's beautiful old city centre, you wouldn't think that it has only been rebuilt from scratch some 50 years ago. And yet, the veneer feels precariously thin.

    But the future looks bright, I think: Despite of their often tragic history, the Poles appear to be a proud, confident & incredibly resilient people. Probably for the first time in their history, they will have the opportunity to bring that to bear in the peaceful environment of the European Union, upon which they could have a very favourable influence if they set their sights to it. Stolat to that!

    In other news, I was unable to resist the temptation to invest in a fine piece of graphic art by Andrzej Kasprzak from this place, which has a great selection of contemporary (apparently, they'd better be alive, otherwise you'd have trouble exporting them!) Polish artists.


    If you're looking for some fine mediterranean cuisine in a smart & relaxed atmosphere in central Zürich, then look no further - the Hirschberg at Seilergraben 9 (they haven't got a website, apparently) is the right place! They may have just four starters and four main courses to choose from, which leaves you with a selection of 16 combinations in total, but given the quality, that's entirely satisfactory. Dinner for two with drinks will set you back some CHF 140. So, the invitation to yesterday's CCRS Pavilion Lecture did not only pay off intellectually, but also in food terms because it led to the discovery of this place by walking by on the way to the lecture location.


    Shake the power!

    I say! This kind of functionality probably was not on the minds of the prudent people over at Apple who were merely concerned with the detrimental effects that an over-exposure to gravitational forces might have on their good wares when dropped. But you can certainly trust the emo Apple crowd to come up with an MCUI (Motion Controlled User Interface) for iTunes! What's next - surfing the web in wave motions, the PB going wheeee when thrown around? At any rate, I want a new PB!


    c = 5 x d + 2

    Here's a fascinating (German) article about Swiss physicist Guerino Mazzola's mathematical theory of music, an important part of which is Fux' rule which I've quoted in the title. In essence, it shows the relationship between consonant and dissonant intervalls in western music. Based on that, Mazzola develops a comprehensive and explanatory model of music in his book The Topos of Music.

    What thrills me most about the idea is that the differences between western music and indian music for instance are just a matter of parameterisation of the modell. Consequently, it should be possible to have Beethoven's Ninth Symphony "translated" into raga - and the other way round! Imagine whole new universes of musical masterpieces becoming available to the uninitiated ear! If this is really true, I hope it will happen very soon. Possibly, Mazzola's role in music might be similarly revelatory like that of Luther in religion, who brought the text of the bible to the common man because it was only available in Latin before he translated it.

    Easter bunnies

    Easter is approaching fast - but, wow, I've never seen such a great selection of chocolate rabbits! Check it out!



    In a special edition Issues 2005, Newsweek asks whether our generation is measuring up to the leadership examples set by the likes of Churchill, JFK and FDR.

    Naturally, the answers given are mixed. Most surprising to me is the one given by Churchill biographer Martin Gilbert, namely that time (and the consequent release of archives) will tell that B&B did indeed have what it takes. I simply cannot follow the comparisons he draws!

    Far more accessible is Zbigniew Brzezinski (being in Poland helps to spell that correctly!) closing remarks:"Roosevelt, Churchill and Truman at one point were each politically very divisive and personally even despised figures. Yet each transcended himself when confronted by an almost apocalyptic encounter with destiny. So let us hope." I am having trouble sharing that hope, I am afraid, and that's for a simple, almost trivial reason: The current president has become divisive & despised after his not that apocalyptic encounter with destiny ...

    Oh, and don't overlook the article on the leadership exercised by Alpha-Bloggers. Now, would you link to my blog already - PLEASE! ;-)