29/01/2006

Off to L&L

If things seem a bit slow in the next few days, then that's because I'm off to the Principality of Liechtenstein bright & early tomorrow morning. I'll only return on Tuesday morning to change suitcases for the ensuing trip to London until Thursday night. But I can nonetheless be reached via the usual means, of course.

You know it's really cold, when...

you find drops of an unidentified liquid on the dashboard of your car which was parked safely in the garage and this liquid turns out to have leaked from the LCD based rearview mirror that went frozen. I guess I'll need a new rearview gadget now - how about this?

Check out the just aired 2nd show of FOWL Radio! The day temperature in my co-producer Simran's home town Pune is usually above 30 degrees ...

27/01/2006

Grounding

Yesterday night, I went to see Grounding - the final days of Swissair. I really like the movie.

But first, some expectations management: I did not expect to gain any factual information as to what exactly led to the downfall of the once proud national carrier of Switzerland. And indeed, that's not what you get. At the onset, there are a few minutes of summary about the political & managerial errors committed which led to the default, but that's that.

The real drama unfolds in the fall of 2001, when the already dire economic condition of the firm is aggravated by a succession of management changes and the final coup de grâce of 9/11. The movie demonstrates very effectively and almost in the style of a classical tragedy how a slowly building development may find its nerve shattering climax within a very short timespan. The ambition and, at the same time, the helplessness of most players are unnerving. The 24-like rythm of the piece contributes a lot to that - we're only missing: Previously on the Balsberg ...

There's some less savoury subtext, though. The inner machinations of the actual crisis are not really known, and are likely never to become public knowledge. The film posits a conspiracy of the villainous Basle gang, consisting of Ospel (UBS) with his sadistic lawyer sidekick & Suter (Crossair), against the formerly arrogant Zürich boys (and girl) around Mühlemann (Credit Suisse) and Corti (Swissair), who are defeated & in full retreat. The fact that Swissair was grounded proves that the Basle gang won. Until now, I thought the traditional regional feud between Basle & Zürich was pretty much tongue in cheek, but maybe not. Funny how federal councilor Villiger with his own numerate sidekick are characterised in an almost gnomish way.

The failure of Swissair is one of the most important events in the recent history of Switzerland. It will be interesting to observe whether Grounding will initiate the long overdue katharsis in public opinion. This is not at all improbable, since we are currently observing the long agony of the publicly funded successor of Swissair, which I think will come to a final conclusion within the year.

Linguistic protectionism

The other day, I zapped across a wireless (I like this undoubtedly endangered word) programme about the Lexikon der bedrohten Wörter, which is a dictionary of endangered words in German. I've seen it mentioned before elsewhere. That's the kind of thing that turns on word nerds such as myself! Even relatively recent words, such as Yuppie, may be threatened by extinction.

An immediate turn off however is the issue of the German Rechtschreibereform, an effort spearheaded by the Rat für deutsche Rechtschreibung to simplify the admittedly often arcane rules & regulations of the German language. That's all nice & dandy, if only the effort were independent of politics, which it isn't. That means that schools and the public administrations in the entire German speaking area are obliged to follow those rules. Not everybody is pleased, if these statements by Swiss teachers' associations are to be believed. The fact that the first attempt at a reform had to be reformed again was certainly not helpful, but very indicative as to the root of the problem: Language is a highly dynamic set of rules which is in constant flux. It is a totally ridiculous and very German endeavour in my view to try and squeeze the life out of the German language by means of red tape. Even the French have pretty much resigned.

24/01/2006

Urban Islam

Just back from a not-so-private private view of Urban Islam, where I was mistaken for the ambassador of Macedonia (no offence to Macedonians, I hope). The exhibition presents statements & backgrounds of young muslims from places as different as Switzerland, Morocco, Senegal, Suriname & Turkey. But it was a big disappointment to me: Although the concept originates from the Netherlands with its recent history of islamistic violence, there doesn't seem to be a single line of criticism about Islam in it. Please let me know if you find one! The website appears to reflect the actual exhibition fairly accurately.

In order to compensate for that lack of a critical attitude, here is today's BBC interview (via her blog) with dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

23/01/2006

Papa Razzi


B16 is a continuous source of amusement. First Gucci shoes and Prada eyewear (or was it the other way round?), and now this. Evidently, the Jesuit injection of worldliness is doing the church a whole lot of good. Good bye, sanctimoniousness, hello pop culture!

21/01/2006

Oh, ein Klavier, ein Klavier!

Wenn Du schon immer mal den berühmten Sketch von Loriot hast nachstellen wollen, dann gibt es jetzt eine günstige Gelegenheit!

Ich habe ein wenig gebrauchtes Qualitätsklavier der Marke Schimmel zu verkaufen. Das Baujahr ist 1973, die Seriennummer 141601, Ausführung in Nussbaum satiniert. Die Bauhöhe ist 109cm auf 147cm breit. Das Instrument ist gut im Schuss und trotz jahrelanger Stehdauer im Keller nur leicht verstimmt (im Schnitt ca. -30 cent im Korg). Der Käufer kümmert sich selbst um Transport und Stimmung. Bei Interesse bitte umgehend bei mir melden! Mehr Bilder gibt's übrigens im flickr stream.

PowerBook

While I've outed myself as a PB partisan, I do not need a shrink just now, thank you very much!

20/01/2006

FOWL Radio on the air!

It's live, on the air - or on the wire, as it were ... now I wonder whether this is progress or actually a step back behind the wireless. But then again, I get my internet via a wireless connection ...

Enough waffling. Move over to FOWL Radio already & check out the podcast. Or subscribe to it straight away here. Feedback is mandatory!

19/01/2006

Tolkien, abridged

The smart people over at How It Should Have Ended show us how middle earth could have been saved far more efficiently (via His Honour). Watch this.

18/01/2006

16/01/2006

New pool!

Yay! I found yet another new swimming pool, which is quite literally new: it has been reopened after an extensive renovation on January 7, and it's very nice! I am certainly happy about this discovery because I've already become quite cranky for lack of exercise. The best thing, though is that there aren't very many visitors, and, being the egotist that I am, I hope that this will stay that way. Fortunately they are not doing a whole lot of marketing for it, so I only found out about it because of an article in the newspaper. But their online presence is really quite meagre, even though they certainly have a lot of real time information (number of current visitors in map.search for instance, webcam, water temperature, events etc) available in such a completely refurbished & well equipped facility.

In other news, Simran has created a great new title caption for this blog - check it out!

15/01/2006

Log news

First of all, some embarrassing news and an apology: A while ago I activated the comment moderating function in blogger without realising that new comments would require my approval henceforth. Thus a couple of comments got stuck in virtual no man's land, and I was becoming increasingly discouraged by the apparent lack of reader feedback despite of the recent additions in RSS subscriptions (hello there!). But thanks to Simran's intervention (thanks!), all is well now: stuck comments have been freed and you can comment to your heart's delight again!

The really attentive blog reader may have noticed the new flickr tag way down in this log book's sidebar, indicating that I've joined the world of photocasting (yes, even before the impending arrival of iLife '06!) by posting pictures on flickr. RSS readers will either have to come visit the blog occasionally (highly recommended for leaving comments anyway), or go subscribe to the photofeed.

Even more earth moving news is the release of Google Earth, a very fascinating and complex free Geographical Information System. Incidentally, it is also available on the Windows platform.

That's that for now. Oh, one more thing: I got Garageband to run again by simply deleting /Library/Application Support/com.apple.garageband.plist. The reason why I am learning to use Garageband will be the object of a later post.

P.S. There is a known issue with comments on posts dating pre-host move. Those posts will show the html source when viewed individually. This is due to the lack of Apache Multiview support on the new server, and blogger for some reason does not republish each invididual post using the modified template, which now includes an .html ending. Will check with blogger whether there's a non-manual solution to this.

Oliver Twist

Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist is a Must See movie. This high praise no doubt derives to a large extent from the quality of his epic original script, to which he does justice atmospherically, if not by the letter (there seem to be some substantial abridgements towards the end). The feeling of doom is permeating, and yet, the goodness of the more complex characters often surfaces and eventually wins. While Dickens' gets the credit for developing some of the most complex characters in literature that I know of, the cast certainly deserves the same for an extraordinary rendition. The boys deserve special mention: They do not fall one jot behind their world class adult acting partners! The Artful Dodger has an incredible screen presence, for instance.

Some hacks say that Polanski's Oliver Twist is altogether too contemplative - they obviously suffer from Great Expectations disappointed. To that I say that quality does not always need to be spectacular.

14/01/2006

It's the breakfast, stupid!

The discoverer, or host, as he prefers to see himself, of LSD, Albert Hofmann has celebrated his 100th birthday three days ago. Since he lives in the region, he was in the media quite a bit. There is also a Symposium ongoing in his honour. It is incredible to see how a man of 100 years is more vital and intellectually inquisitive than most people half his age! So I guess it's only natural to wonder whether this might have something to do with experimentations with the object of his discovery? No, we're told: It's in the breakfast. Hofmann always has two whisked raw eggs mixed with Birchermüesli for breakfast. Yuk!

12/01/2006

New host

If you read this, then it means that my site has successfully moved its abode to Hostorama, a competitively priced hosting service with a user interface that even I can understand.

11/01/2006

His Steveness

While other corporations are struggling to keep their plattforms just barely operational with urgent & critical security patches, Apple has done it again: It's powering ahead with its innovation-empowering plattform transition to Intel chips, ahead of even its own ambitious schedule, thriving on well above expectations sales, churning out innovative new software along the way. And, incidentally, giving its shareholders reason to gloat also.

There's just one minor thing that I am not happy about: MacBook Pro. What a monster of a mouthful compared to the sleek Powerbook! Mind you, I don't have the slightest issue with the laptop as such (I'd take one in the blink of an eye), it's just that I don't see why Apple should drop such a powerful name. Jobs remarked in his show that "we're done with Power", obviously referring to the demise of the PowerPC chip (not the Pope). But I think that us not-so-geeky PB users have long forgotten about what piece of silicon actually runs our machines, wouldn't you agree?

10/01/2006

Wemme's het ...

Und schon wird die Reihe mit dem Schönenbucher Sprachkurs fortgesetzt!

Wemme's het und vermag ... cha me 'ne Geiss ha.

Bedeutung: "Wenn man es hat und vermag, dann kann man eine Ziege halten." Diese ungewöhnliche Redewendung wird in der Regel in Reaktion auf eine übermässig aufwendige Anschaffung angewendet - ich höre sie also relativ oft.

Etymologie: Völlig unklar, insbesondere da Ziegen als Nutzvieh gelten und gerade in bäuerlichen Kreisen kaum als Luxusgegenstand betrachtet werden.

Edinburgh


Unfortunately, my short trip to Edinburgh has already come to an end & I am back home again. However, I enjoyed the trip down Memory Lane immensely! It was almost as if I'd been living there just a fortnight ago. Well, the place has changed a bit alright, but only for the better. The Capital of Scotland has certainly gotten its act together!

The Clubhouse proved to be the perfect location for my stay. Bang in the middle on 100 Princess Street with a spectacular view of the Castle & the Mound right from my large room, which cannot be said to be overpriced at £60 per night, and that's including tax, breakfast & dinner. I was very pleasantly surprised about the quality of the food at the restaurant, which is also available to non-members & highly recommended: There is no way you can have a good three course dinner for just £18 overlooking the Castle anywhere else! The only minor complaint I'd have is that I was served a (nice) fish course with an ordinary knife instead of a fish knife, but that's to show how good it was. Also, the choice of side dishes might be a little more imaginative. But it's certainly better than the London Clubhouse. What's not so good just now is the internet connectivity. But they're holding off investing in a wireless LAN because apparently, the whole of Princess Street will be converted in one big wireless zone within a few months, so that seems to make sense.

Of course, I drunk too much during the stay, especially when I joined Paul's stag party, which I will not be indiscreet about. I noticed a marked change in the beer offering however: Most people seem to be drinking bottled foreign beers (mostly lagers) instead of the tasty local Ales. That is something I cannot understand at all: Lagers are mostly tasteless anyway, and in bottles they're definitely more expensive also. Very odd - let's hope it's a temporary marketing induced fad.

So, after meeting the guys on Friday night, going for a fun round of Curling on Saturday afternoon, followed by Dinner and a late (or early) night out, I woke up to a sunny Sunday morning, having a cooked Scottish breakfast with the aforementioned view. Thereafter I went on an extensive walkabout with a stop at the Castle and down the Royal Mile to the Scottish Parliament, where I took advantage of a guided tour since I've never seen it before. Apart from the fact that it cost about ten times more than planned, it is a really fascinating & smart building complex which fits in very well with its sophisticated surroundings of Holyrood Palace & Salisbury Crags (pictures to follow). I like it a lot.

Then on to the National Gallery of Scotland where I saw the Turner in January exhibition of watercolours. I am increasingly taken in by Turner, having recently heard a fascinating report about The Fighting Temeraire. Back to the Club to have dinner and on to the Jolly Judge to have a quiet pint by myself and read Friends, Lovers, Chocolate. Had I known that the Jolly Judge has an open wireless LAN and is blogland, I'd have posted from there, of course!

Speaking of McCall-Smith's latest book (is it? - no spoilers, don't worry): I finished it on the way back, having started only on Friday. I love it & recommend it with gusto! It is really hard to describe, but I think the author goes a long way in sketching the unagitated, yet disciplined civility mixed with a rather moralistic trait that is Edinburgh. And then go and read Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus stories ... there's an entire universe of crime in such a small, guarded place! Incidentally, there was an intriguing article in the FT Magazine, speculating on the reasons why British authors are featured so disproportionately highly on the Index Translationum. "English can be earthy when it chooses to be, high-flown when it cares to. It is one of the few languages in which one can swear like a German and make love like the French."

05/01/2006

The Auld Reekie

I am signing off from Switzerland tomorrow way too early in the morning: The plane to Frankfurt leaves at 0605h ... hopefully! But all should be well, it's going to be Lufthansa. Well, we'll see. In Frankfurt, I'll have some lounging to do (the iPod is fully charged), and then onwards to Edinburgh, where I haven't been for far too long. The plan is a business meeting and Paul's stag do ... looking forward to that! And yes, I am taking the camera! I'll be staying at the Edinburgh Clubhouse for the first time. Eventually I should be touching down in BSL again at 1750h on Monday. See you then (or earlier, depending on time & connectivity)!

Aper aber häl

Nach Monaten ohne Schönenbucher Sprachkurs gibt's heute wieder mal eine Fortsetzung der Reihe!

Dr Neumattwäg isch aper, aber häl.

Bedeutung: Dieser Ausdruck bezieht sich - der Jahreszeit entsprechend - auf den verkehrstechnischen Zustand einer Strasse oder eines Weges. Ein Weg, der aper, aber häl ist, ist frei von Schnee, aber spiegelglatt.

Etymologie: Es wird angesichts der bekanntlich umfassenden humanistischen Bildung der Schönenbucher kaum erstaunen, dass der erste Teil des Ausdrucks aper vermutlich vom lateinischen apertus (offen) stammt. Die Etymologie von häl ist mir allerdings unbekannt - Tips werden gerne entgegengenommen.

Artstübli II

To be completely honest with you, I am a bit surprised to find a second issue of artstübli, the virtually glossy Swiss design magazine the first issue of which I discovered in May. But not only did they bring out another issue - apparently a print edition is under consideration, and there will even be a non-virtual, i.e. real world exhibition in Basle from February 20 to 26! Could be interesting! But they will really have to come up with an RSS feed for their site, ere their notes will forever go undiscovered in the spam filter trash ...

03/01/2006

Wohlstandsverwahrlosung

Isn't that a wonderfully German word, which would be translated to something like wealth waywardness? Especially if it refers to one's place of residence, as per this article in BaZ. Hooray to the garden gnomes!

I wonder what gave rise to this article about Schönenbuch, which I think is portrayed fairly well in its outstanding mediocrity. Fortunately our mayor is a man of the world: He grew up partly in Pratteln (some 10km from Schönenbuch, and worlds away), where many of his school buddies were Italian immigrants ...