Well, ok, the roar may be more of a meow ...

Fact is, I finally managed to get Tiger running satisfactorily - phew! Now I know how the Windows world dreads system upgrades. But before you start lambasting - the trouble wasn't Tiger's fault, mostly!

The first difficulties appeared yesterday evening when the installer resulted in irrecoverable errors - hard drive trouble which not even a Disk Repair with the Disk Utility would eliminate. But that's exactly what DiskWarrior did in two hours hard work! Believe me, I was getting rather nervous there and have rechecked my backup now!

The next problem arose with Virex 7.5, which is a hitherto entirely redundant virus protection software available as part of .Mac. Just so you know: I never ever had it report any infections whatsoever, and my Mac is online virtually 24/7. But what it did do is, it had a process running called VShieldCheck, which ate all available CPU resources! Very nasty! But nowhere on .Mac did I find any explicit info that this would happen, and that Virex 7.5 was not compatible with Tiger. Rather annoying, that.

The next big problem to solve was Mail: The mailbox import went rather smoothly, if importing more than 54'000 messages can go smoothly (years of usage, you see). However, when I tried to lock at any individual message, the app just crashed on me! After some lengthy debugging, it turns out that PGP 8.1 and Mail.Appetizer were the joint culprits!

But now, it's finally up & running, yay! Only, I miss another 3 Gigabytes from my HD - I guess Spotlight and other extended services do take their toll. Widgets for instance are just great! Here is the first specifically Swiss widget already (a rain radar map).


24 is good for you!

Thank god for that! Or rather, the NY Times ... here's an article about how watching modern TV dramas such as 24 actually makes you smarter. Well, how obvious is that!?

I'll have something smart to say about episode 18 of season 4, once I get round to writing it.


Submission I

Finally, I found the highly controversial movie Submission I, written by Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali (German) and directed by Theo van Gogh, who was quite literally slaughtered in Amsterdam recently for his rôle in that movie by an islamic fundamentalist whose trial is coming up soon. The movie is a very short & very disturbing description of the condition of women in islamic society, and obviously it is extraordinarily provocative to muslims since it displays qur'anic suras written on the naked skin of violated women. Very much worth watching & spreading!


Viszontlatasra Budapest!

Here is the second installment of my Budapest report! Also available are some pictures .

Saturday's programme consisted of a visit to Petöfi Csarnok where I expected to see a flea market. But since some motor bike race was on, I moved on to the Mücsarnok on Hösök Tere with its interesting exhibition of the Mayer collection of Dali which has been put together on the occasion of the artist's 100th birthday. Up until then, I only knew the best known works of Dali, which I didn't really like. But this exhibition was quite a surprise, so I bought the catalogue. Also on show are some works by Peter Weibel, pictures of which decorate this post.
Since I did want to get some market exposure, I went on to the Központi Vasarcsarnok (giving you a taste of Hungarian here), which is an impressive market hall right in the center. After a total renovation, it has been inaugurated by HM QE II in 1993. And after that, some relaxing soaking in the hot springs of Szechenyi was definitely in order.

So, what's my impression of Budapest? Language seems to be a good place to start. I love to listen to its melodious, yet entirely incomprehensible stream of vowels which evidently even follows some rules of vowel harmony. Since it is part of the finno-ugrian family of languages, Hungarian is probably entirely foreign to most other European languages, and the Hungarians themselves take great pride in their language and see it as an important source of their identity. Foreign languages are not widely known & used rarely, with English being predominant with the younger generation now while German used to take that position before (after mandatory Russian, of course). Consequently, there is some communicative insularity.

Nonetheless, Budapest gives the impression of a solidly European city with a unquestionably metropolitan attitude. That probably has to do with its great pre-war history as an important center of European culture & intellect as well as having been the twin-capital of the Austria-Hungarian empire. But being on the losing side of both wars, it lost much of its Hinterland, which still appears to be a sore point for some. Having been on the forefront of opposition against the iron curtain is definitely another, more recent source of pride & identity, even though some people may look back in nostalgia on their positions of power. Going forward, I would not be surprised if Budapest were to re-assert herself as an important thought leader in European matters - but only if it comes to terms with its own still controversial recent past. Berlin & Paris, take stock, here they come!

At any rate, I hope to be back before long.


Sic transit ...

In the lounge of Budapest airport yesterday, apart from the free WLAN service, the Weekend FT was the only paper in a comprehensible language, so I took the opportunity of scanning it and came across this remarkable piece on being in transit as a lifestyle by Pico Iyer. While I don't consider myself to be a citizen of flux country just yet, I think I can relate to it rather well - and there, I am certainly no exception. It appears to me that most articulate people, and certainly those subject to the dictatorship of relativism, aspire to this style, which has consequences on the content of publicised opinion. Yet, this does not correspond with the fabric of the real world, because the silent majority even of the industrialised world lives in relative stasis, both physically and mentally. So what gives?

It's an interesting thought, though, and one that I think applies to economic subjects at least, i.e. corporations which are active in multiple markets. Thanks to globalisation, they are citizens of flux country, at least so long as the static majority doesn't decide that they want to shut down the place.



It's about time for an interim report (so no pics!) from Budapest, I guess, especially since I'll be back home in less than 24 hours. Even though I've been here before, this is the first blog post about Budapest because last time was in February last year, i.e. a little while BCBE (Before Chris' Blogging Era).

To start with, the hotel is very recommendable; it's a smallish place in Bauhaus style with very attentive staff. But the best thing is that they didn't have broadband internet in the room they put me in first, so they ended up giving me the Ambassador Suite instead, no less. Now I am essentially living in a four room appartment ... nice! And very handy, too because I could do the interview that I gave to BBJ in the office.

What else? Well, I went to the House of Terror yesterday. This is not an amusement ride at all - it is a very effectively done museum about the terror of the communist era dictatorship, located in the former headquarter of state security. This place is truly terrifying and strongly recommended for every Budapest visitor. Just don't expect to be entertained. Most impressive were the slow descent to the cellar dungeons in a darkened escalator with a video narration about the execution procedure, and a room full of portraits of people who held positions of responsability during the era, many of whom are evidently still alive, and some of them even appear to be MPs. That obviously poses tough questions to Hungarian politics and is the reason why the museum is a political statement in its own right.

To complement my dosage of totalitarian history, I went to Szoborpark today. This is the place where the Hungarians have deposited a lot of their disused communist monumental statues. It's way out in the countryside, and it's well & truly the scrapheap of history, if ever there was one. The experience is quite worth while.

To compensate for the solidly bad impression of Russian influence on Hungary that I got, I treated myself to a fabulous ballet version of Tchaikovsky's Onegin in the sumptuous State Opera House tonight. Other than last time's (this seems to become a tradition fast) rather modernistic interpretation of Mozart's Magic Flute, tonight was a thoroughly classic one, complete with period costumes and all. Both were memorable experiences, for the standard of the performance as well as for the setting and the excited audience which obviously still loves to dress up rather formally for the occasion, and has a strange habit of clapping rhythmically.

Stand by for the final report about tomorrow's projects, complete with some pictures...


Travelling plans

Apparently there's some curious people out there who want to keep track of me. So, I'll let them - for now. Tomorrow way too early in the morning, my plane leaves for Budapest, where I'll be staying here. I am scheduled back on late Saturday night. Then, I am staying home for a full week (it's my birthday!) and some, only to leave for Philadelphia on May 4th. In Philadelphia, I am going to stay at this place. On May 10th, I hope to be back safely from the land of the slime mold bugs, only to depart for the land of Wiener Schnitzel and the epotopical Waltz the following day. I don't know yet where I'll be staying, though.

Habent Papam...

This is my final post on the subject of the selection of a new head of the roman catholic church - it has just been announced that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany has been selected and has assumed the name of Benedict XVI.
Dissing via pieceoplastic.

Ratzinger is considered to have been the "neo-con" brain behind the late Pope JP II. Only on Sunday, he has preached that "We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as definitive and has as its highest value one's own ego and one's own desires." He seems to have made an impression on his electorate, selected by his predecessor.

Let that dictatorship arise, I say ...


Confessions of a Liberal

A big Thank You to Weltwoche for printing Confessions of a Liberal, the 2005 Irving Kristol Lecture by Mario Vargas Llosa, in a German translation, and thereby making me aware of it!

Renaissance, the second?

Do you remember William of Baskerville, the detective character in Umberto Eco's fantastic novel The Name of the Rose?

It transpires from this fascinating story in the Independent that Brother William would have a high tech enabled field day. Researchers at Oxford University have been able to read the Oxyrhynchus Papyri thanks to novel infrared technology. The previously unknown texts, read for the first time last week, include parts of a long-lost tragedy - the Epigonoi ("Progeny") by the 5th-century BC Greek playwright Sophocles; part of a lost novel by the 2nd-century Greek writer Lucian; unknown material by Euripides; mythological poetry by the 1st-century BC Greek poet Parthenios; work by the 7th-century BC poet Hesiod; and an epic poem by Archilochos, a 7th-century successor of Homer, describing events leading up to the Trojan War. Additional material from Hesiod, Euripides and Sophocles almost certainly await discovery.


Bugs in the White House?!

According to this BBC story, some republican entomologists have come up with the fine idea of naming three kinds of slime mold bugs after the leaders of the free world, namely Agathidium bushi, Agathidium cheneyi and not to forget the unknowable Agathidium rumsfeldi.
Surely, this was well intended, but I question the responsibility of those scientists' action: Those poor bugs will never know why a large majority of the genus homo sapiens non-americanensis is suddenly turning so violently against them. Someone send in the exterminator already ...


Flatten it!

Great! The Economist leads with some articles on flat tax, and I just found this paper assessing its pros & cons for Switzerland from the point of view of the Federal Tax Administration. Tactically savvy, it concludes with a theoretically nice, BUT ... - more about flat tax in Switzerland as usual here.


Bottleneck federalism

Swiss think tank Avenir Suisse organises a panel discussion about the pros & cons of Swiss federalism, which along with half-direct democrary is the major form factor of the Swiss political system. Remember, we're a tiny country, 41'000 square kilometers, some 7 mio inhabitants, but 26 cantons with some 3600 municipalities. You can imagine that things don't move fast around here - some also call it stability.

Check out the live feed of the debate here (Realplayer), starting tomorrow at 1600h UTC.



If you are interested in the non-altruistic modes of human interaction, then The 48 Laws of Power is an absolute Must Read for you! While the cover text attributes "Amoral, cunning, ruthless, and instructive ..." are certainly true, it is much more than that.

Here are those laws in summary, just to give you a sample of the style. Yet, in the book, each of those timeless rules is expanded in a set structure over several pages. For instance 35 Master the Art of Timing is set in Observance of the law, Interpretation, Keys to Power, Reversal. In the observance or transgression sections (of which there are often up to three), you get historic examples of the law in action, spanning from ancient Chinese, Persians, Greek to Japanese tea masters, Macchiavelli (of course), Gracian, Louis XIV, Madame de Pompadour, Napoleon I vs. III, up to early 20th century con artists. There's a wealth of stories there! These examples are set in relation to the law in the Interpretation section.

The Keys to Power section gives you the parameters of the law and explains what context it may be applied in and where it is overly risky. This is the manual section, if you like. Finally, in the Reversal section, the author demonstrates how, if at all, the law may be applied in the reverse, which very often is surprisingly true as well. To sum, it is a comprehensive guide to human interaction as qualified above. In its amorality (which is not the same thing as immorality), it is a worthy contemporary successor to Macchiavelli's Prince.

I should also mention that it is exceptionally well designed with its classical red & black type colour scheme and the small stories, fables and quotations set in the margin in red. And maybe, it would be wise not to tell people that you have read the book ...


Beyond redemption

OK, it is official now. I am stupid. Beyond redemption.

What caused this unusual bout of self-depreciation? Well, ever since playing around with iChat, Skype and other audio chatting systems, I've been dissatisfied with the sound quality provided by my setup, so I considered getting one of those USB headsets.

I did NOT think however of the bluetooth headset that I've had sitting around for ages! Until now! And it works! Yay!

But now for something completely different. This is actually a birthday post to commemorate the 1st anniversary of this weblog! One year ago today, I started blogging - and I am still going strong. Unfortunately, blogger.com's statistics are currently turned off, so I cannot tell you how many posts there are, but I've got another statistic: Since starting the blog counter on August 25th, I've had 5022 unique visits (excluding myself), so this blog has had 22 visitors per day on average during that period. Lately though, the average looks more like 60, and that's not counting the subscribers to the RSS feed. So, thank you for your attention & your comments - keep them coming!



I am just coming home from an unusually captivating client event about microfinance of an otherwise very traditional private bank that I am not even a client of.

Microfinance is a successful approach to provide very small size loans (in the $100s per client) to micro-entrepreneurs in developing countries, who usually are not creditworthy in the traditional sense. But these loans often make a real difference. We were treated, among other things, to a very informative & energetic presentation cum Q&A by Maria Otero, CEO of Accion International, which evidently was awarded the strange animal of a Social Capitalist Award 2005. Closer to home are the financiers of resonsAbility whose investment fund I'll have to look into. Also, there's likely to be a TV report on the event in tomorrow's 7vor7.

There's two things I wonder about, however: 1) Why is this considered to be a market failure, since the market is beginning to provide microfinance without a great deal of prodding from the public sector, and 2) why is this apparently usually not done for profit even though there seems to be a prima facie viable business case?

NZZ on blogger meeting

The long expected article in NZZ about the recent blogger meeting turns out a mild disappointment. The journalist basically reports a few personal viewpoints from the random sample of people he talked to. Materially, he posits that there are no political nor critical Swiss blogs. Well, obviously he doesn't read mine ... ;-)

Forensic mathematics??

What? NZZ writes (German) about the CBS TV show Numb3rs, which is essentially about the forensic use of ... mathematics! Rather strange & potentially interesting - check out available episodes on btefnet. Forensic medicine, accounting, and now mathematics - that's all very well, but how about forensic philology, for instance?
Talking of numbers, here's the latest email I get from Swiss with the trip coordinates following next:
1 LX 7407 D 4MAY ZDHZRH HK1 0942-3 1056-3 C-D<
2 LX 52 A 4MAY ZRHBOS HK1 1300-3 1520-3 F-A<
3 LX 52 D 4MAY ZRHBOS HK1 1300-3 1520-3 C-D<
4 US 836 F 4MAY BOSPHL HK1 1700-3 1827-3 F-F C*1G<
5 US 634 F 9MAY PHLBOS HK1 1530-1 1650-1 F-F C*1G<
6 LX 53 A 9MAY BOSZRH HK1 1855-1 0815-2 F-A<
7 LX 53 D 9MAY BOSZRH HK1 1855-1 0815-2 C-D<
8 LX 7406 D 10MAY ZRHZDH HK1 1004-2 1118-2 C-D<
Everything clear? Thought so ...


Mac friendly Swiss service

While there is plenty of politically entirely justfied badwill around regarding Swiss (personally, I would have just let it go, or maybe bought a controlling stake in BA instead), some compliments are in order occasionally! Here's one:

Yesterday night at 2102h, I finally got round to complaining about a website problem I've had for a bit now. As a consequence of that problem, I carelessly misbooked a deep discount flight to Vienna a couple of weeks ago.

Today at 1218h, I received an adjusted electronic ticket free of charge, followed by this answer at 1235h:

Response (Miriam Dietrich) - 07/04/2005 11:35
Dear Mr Dreyer,

thank you very much for your correspondence.

We are actually aware that MAC users may encounter this problem, bot only on swiss.com but on other sites as well. Our homepage is running perfectly on PC's, but is sometimes instabel with MAC. However, since there are more and more MAC users, our IT department is working on adjusting our system accordingly.

Therefore, we did exceptionally change your reservation as follows :
(details omitted)
You should have already received a modifies receipt of your electronic ticket in a separate e-mail. We hope we have been of assistance. For any further queries you are more than welcome to contact us again.

It goes without saying (I'll do it anyway) that I am very pleased - not just by the unexpected swiftness and completeness of service, but also by the phrase about "more and more MAC users"! So, kudos to Swiss for working towards ending Mac discrimination!!


Old Europe?

What's with Europe these days? Public attention is entirely consumated by events such as the death of the Pope with literally millions expected to his funeral on Friday, the death of Prince Rainier III of Monaco, who still held near absolute power in his tiny principality, the funeral induced delay of an embarrassing marriage between the Prince of Wales and his true, albeit divorced consort of three decades and last, but not least the destruction of yet another ring of power and sundry other arcane proceedings dictated by Universi Dominici Gregis to bless the world with a new Pope. What's next? The reïntroduction of monarchy to Austria-Hungary and Italy? The self-coronation of l'Empereur Chirac, Jacques I?

Seriously, reading the papers nowadays feels like going through a history book of some 300 years ago ... fortunately, come May this hysteric, histrionic, historic season should be behind us - I hope!

P.S. This is one of the more interesting marginal notes in this, pertaining to the Big Game.


USB Fondue

What the hell ... ???

24 - the game

To lighten the mood from the previous post, here's a reference to the upcoming game version of 24. Everything you need to know you can glean from this obviously hard working student's blog. Add to that this. ;-)

Philosophy online

Here is an amazing online resource: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. With this kind of thing, the physical reference book is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Also, it is a serious competitor to the Wikis of the world because of their editorial randomness.


Working the net

Here's an interesting article containing The 10 Secrets of a Master Networker. It may be more than two years old, but other than with technology or science, stuff like that matures rather than ages ...

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

So here it is, the result of the work of 1'300 experts from 95 countries.

After having scanned the 38 pages (!) executive summary, I somehow doubt that this thing will make a big splash in the real world, other than maybe introduce some fancy new (to me) jargon, such as ecosystem service users - aren't we all? I haven't seen a great deal of really new insights, nor proposed measures which are beyond what common sense indicates anyway. Once again, my initial suspicion of immateriality caused by the hypertrophic exec summary seems to have been confirmed.



Or should I say: phobie de Google? The Economist (again) is smiling at the French efforts to go all Agincourt again, this time incarnated by evil Google (which incidentally is now available in rumantsch according to matti). See the full article here.

The Economist on NZZ

Yay! I just found this story in my preferred English language magazine about my preferred German language newspaper. Since the article is subscription only, but rather short, I'll make an exception to my usual linking policy & quote it in full:

The old aunt of Zurich
Mar 31st 2005 | ZURICH
From The Economist print edition
A traditional newspaper struggles in a competitive world

IF YOU glance at racks of European newspapers, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 225 years old this year, and said to be Europe's oldest quality paper, stands out like a tombstone amid bold headlines and colour photographs. Barring a daring switch from its gothic typeface in 1946, the NZZ has changed little since the 1930s, when it was banned in Germany for suggesting that Hermann Göring was responsible for the Reichstag fire.

Affectionately known as "Die Alte Tante", the NZZ prides itself on the background to its analysis. The emphasis is on international news (the paper has 40 foreign correspondents), business, finance and high culture. Features and lifestyle stories are kept to a minimum. Snippets of gossip are out of the question: any story must be backed by two separate sources. As Salomon Gessner, printer, poet and friend of Goethe, who founded the NZZ in 1780, put it, the aim is to "catch up with the world".

The NZZ still has a reputation as a world-class newspaper. A Zurich banker who is one of the paper's 1,500 shareholders claims it is second only to the New York Times. But, as Hansrudolf Kamer, deputy editor, admits, the average reader is now over 50. Falling sales (the paper sells just under 160,000 copies, of which 4,000 are in Germany) and fewer ads have led to a 65% drop in the NZZ's (unquoted) share price in the past five years. Yet, even as Germany's sober-minded Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has cut costs and modernised, the NZZ clings to high-brow austerity, sometimes holding back big stories so they can be reported "dispassionately".

In the 1930s Thomas Mann, exiled in Zurich, chuckled at the paper's caution. A recent decision to break up long stories with sub-headings was taken only after years of debate in the NZZ boardroom, says Thomas Maissen, a professor at Heidelberg and author of one of two new books on the paper's history. Elaborate jargon-filled sentences are now discouraged, but the NZZ recoils from widening its appeal. "We don't think it's clever or expedient," says Mr Kamer.


Just returning from the première of Fülle des Wohllauts, performed in a grand patrician villa which suited the bourgeois mood of the event just fine. The performance was quite a surprise. My expectations were set based on the description in an earlier post. The text material is excerpted from two chapters of Thomas Mann's Der Zauberberg. But where we were expecting a mere lecture, Mann's intricate & complex language was freely & vividly recited - extraordinary! The synaesthetic qualities of the evening were even enhanced by the narrator who was smoking a Cuban cigar during the first part, which left its fine perfume hanging in the room. Very European in more respects than one ...

But the evening's core synaesthesia was the interaction between Mann's texts about music and actually hearing the pieces referred to (Offenbach's Orpheus, Puccini's La Bohème, Verdi Aida, Bizet Carmen and Schubert's Winterreise). What a great idea to combine the powerful language of a Nobel price laureate pundit with the actual objects of his review!

The other surprise was a bit of a disappointment, though: While the advertised gramophone was taking centre stage alright, it wasn't utilised. Whereas that may be comprehensible, I don't approve of all the choices of interpretations played, which include a 1981 Karajan and a 1979 Maazel. I really would have expected to hear only period interpretations that Mann could have referred to. But I guess I am nit-picking. Or am I?

At any rate, the evening was certainly enjoyable. In the course of it, I accidentally remembered a weird statement by the Salzburg festival director in yesterday's Silentium. I am paraphrasing: Hitler was such a sensitive man about noise - he couldn't stand it. And he loved Wagner. Well, I wonder whether that wasn't in fact a contradictio in adiecto ...



Yesterday night, I went to see Silentium with M., P. & S. Silentium is an Austrian thriller set in a Salzburg catholic boarding school where quite a bit of foul play is at work. No spoilers given.

I liked the movie for a lot of reasons. The detective is an ambivalent character tending towards being a loser, a bit similar to Inspector Rebus. There's a lot of terse, dark humour - occasionally you might just choke on it, though. The humour goes together well with the somber mood, supported by the odd soundtrack, a hint of which you get on the website. The camera direction is rather conventional, but there are some provocative scenes which religious watchers will not approve of. So, it is not likely to be played in the more religious countries, even if well translated. Ah, translation: In principle, the movie's language is German, but because of the actors' heavy dialects, some sections were virtually unintelligible, so German subtitles would have been good! They usually do that with Swiss German films, so why not with Austrian ones?

So, overall, very much worth watching, even though the artsy cinema's seating really is outrageously uncomfortable indeed. Presumably, the play the best movies there in order to attract at least some people!

Btw, I am happy to say that I haven't fallen victim to any April Fools jokes yesterday, although there were loads of it around. Most of them were awfully obvious, but one sticks out as rather funny: the local tram operator proposed to introduce a First Class section in their transport contraptions, together with white gloved food service staff and all.