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.