Two-jobs Jobs

The good people over at CNBC have just been gushing about this Vanity Fair article about Steve Jobs on the eve of Apple's 30th anniversary tomorrow. There is a veritable tide of congratulatory verbiage (even yours truly has penned an article about the Apple universe, to be published shortly) coming Apple's way, and one wonders what, if anything, the firm will do about the occasion. At any rate, it's noteworthy that much of that verbiage seems to be of preëmptive nature, undoubtedly dodging the curse of April Fool's day ... beware (of product announcements?)!

Semantic web

Here's an interesting, although a little bit geeky, lecture on the future of the internet in its incarnation of the semantic web, delivered at close to light speed by Sir Tim who is widely credited for inventing the internet. Nice & quotable: It was really difficult to explain to people what the web would be like before the web. The fact that is was so difficult to explain to people what the web was like before the web is now extremely difficult to explain to anybody after the web. Hu? Just read it again, it does make sense. And The Economist gets an honorary mention for being the first non-geek paper to take up "the internet" in 1993 or so. Enjoy! Btw. my special field of interest with regards to the semantic web is this.



Intuition is a concept that never fails to fascinate me, not least because it is the process of getting to a destination without knowing the route or even wanting to go there, as Antonio Damasio seems to have put it very aptly during the event described. To Clifford's position that the bedrock of intuition is hard work and familiarity with a set of internalised practices and techniques, I would like to add transdisciplinary openness and curiosity, which are requisites to finding unexpected connections and conclusions. Maybe that's partly alluded to when he discusses the theory that complex and far-reaching decisions are best made - counter-intuitively - in a state of limited consciousness ...

Keeping that in mind, it's not surprising that events like Categorically Not! can be very productive incubators.

And now for something completely different (or not): This is why I don't play computer games - they want to steal my time!



Check out this wonderful selection of videos, featuring the most entertaining head of state in Europe. Pay special attention to the last one, which is a vitriolic documentary about Berlusconi, which - interestingly enough - isn't shown anywhere on TV, yet. Let's hope the Italian electorate will soon remove this reason for becoming a laughing stock and make sure that his special friends from the Office of the Public Prosecutor will soon have the opportunity to put him in a safe place.

I do wonder which domino in that trio infernale will fall first.

Rugged news

Luxuriating on my fresh smelling carpet while reading today's newspaper (some people still do it the analog way), I realised that I forgot to share a traditional DIY trick with the blogosphere. If you have a carpet to clean (especially deep nap (?) persian rugs), then the best way to do that is in winter when there's a lot of snow. Take the carpet outside, spread it over the snow surface with the walk-on side facing down towards the snow and have a go at it with a beater. Let it sit there for a few hours. That way, you'll get a carpet that's as good (or better) as new without using any dodgy chemicals. Admittedly, this trick has limited global applicability ...

Knowledge blog on DRS 2

How come my preferred public radio station DRS 2 (with Radio X being my preferred private one) has a blog and I don't know about it? That's an easy one - it's communicated awkwardly. In their jingles on air, they sell it as some sort of interactive knowledge portal wissen@drs2, while in fact, it is simply a blog where listener questions are displayed, hoping for knowledgable readers' answers. Unfortunately the Antworten all too often displays an embarrasing zilch. You can rely on communication professionals for unprofessional communication ...

Vista to the wall?

I am beginning to wonder whether Microsoft's inability to deliver timely on what was once called Longhorn is actually an indication that their development team is beginning to feel the heat of having to keep what is essentially a legacy architecture up and running? What happens to the industry when Microsoft will no longer be able to provide for OS innovation? Or are we already there, and it's actually only camouflaged by clever marketing? I wonder ...

P.S. The New York Times makes my point far more eloquently.



It's almost a week that I've returned from Bucharest (only to depart for Paris again) and I still haven't summed up my few days there. One reason is that I've been quite busy, but the more relevant one is that it's hard to sum up! Nonetheless, here is the RSS feed that should lead you to some of the pictures I took there - hope it works, it's the first time I am using iPhoto 6 that way, not least because I have already used up my flickr bandwidth for the month.

After Warsaw and Sofia, Bucharest is the third central European city that I've been to for the first time lately. Of those three, it certainly was the furthest trip back in time. What struck me first and strongest is how much time the Romanians have lost, not only up to the 1989 revolution, but even afterwards when they did not perform a clean break with the past. And this is what seems to be haunting them still today. When you walk the streets, you still get an idea how great a place Bucharest must have been in the roaring 20ies of the last century, but nothing much seems to have happened since, except for the decay.

A lot is happening, however. Building activity seems to be very strong, and real estate prices are at dizzying levels. Corruption, I am told, is virtually gone and frowned upon. Yet, again, on the streets there is not as much entrepreneurial spirit in evidence as in other similar places. Rather strange as well is the virtual absence of youth culture in the streets the nation's capital - hardly any graffitis etc., and not very many young people either. Apparently there has been a lot of emigration (to the US, mostly), which leads to a projected drop of the population by more than 10% within 20 years. That's probably already evident now. There is hope however that many of those emigrants will return again soon, once the perspectives in Romania are seen to be picking up again, as they seem to be, especially with the country's EU accession which should be completed shortly. Interestingly, many emigrant Romanians seem to be having trouble to find a new home abroad, what with being used to a closely knit social network which cannot be that easily replaced. That way, Romanian society seems to be rather mediterranean, although the southern influence was much more in evidence in neighbouring Bulgaria, with which Romanians seem to have a healthy, if a bit unilateral, competitive rivalry. Strangely noticeable, for more so than in Bulgaria, is a Greek influence, which seems to come from ancient times.

My impression is that Romania's best chances might be in the cultural tourism industry. Romanians seem to be a very passionate, warm & welcoming people who easily take to other languages. There's a lot of heritage (and infrastructure that needs investing!) and great scenery as well as the black sea. Other industries, like financial services, have advanced a lot in the region, however, which is why it won't be too easy to catch up there.

The more I see of it, the less I can get my head around how phantastically diverse a place Europe really is.

Quel bordel!

This title might risk to attract some unsavoury traffic, but it's to the point for yesterday afternoon - I am glad to have made it back! Rather than arriving on Easyjet in Basle yesterday evening at 7pm, I did on trusty Swiss via Zürich at 11pm. Let's just say that Mr. Murphy was having a field day, including a small kerfuffle with an aggressive person who I accidentally pushed when hurrying on a bus. Charles de Gaulle (CDG) is certainly not my airport of preference, especially when you're supposed to reach it via shuttle bus on a Friday afternoon with all Paris heading out of town. Next time, I will go by train.

Otherwise, the stay was a very agreeable one. Seeing & dining L&J at Le Morosophe was great fun as well as delicious, and staying at Hôtel Duret was good. My first public speech in French at Université Paris-Dauphine went surprisingly well. And no, there weren't any issues about student unrests, for Dauphine is a University where students wear ties rather than masks. I used to not like Paris, but now I think that that was due to first impressions that I'm working out of the system now.


Punctuality explained

The Swiss Federal Railways are notorious for their punctuality (although that notoriety has gained some ambiguity lately), and we're proud of it.

You can gain a little insight into just how big that pride is by an article (not available online, but published in print) I've seen in last Sunday's NZZ am Sonntag. The article answers the question why the second hand of the famous station clocks always takes a two second break on every full minute. The article deploys mathematical set theory and theory of measurement to demonstrate that this break is actually a cunning trick to make it mathematically at all possible that a train may depart on time. For if time were to flow by continuously, as we know it does, it would be mathematically impossible (i.e. the statistical probability would equal zero) that any train could depart on time. So, that's why Swiss trains are so reliable.


Latin hip hop

Germans seem to have a thing for bringing classical education to the hip hopping masses: First, it was 200 years old Schiller, and now they're going back even further, battling rhymes with Catullus in his native tongue. For more details and some mp3 samples, visit the pagina domestica (aka homepage) of Ista (via DRS2).


Mögen Sie Brahms?

Try as I might, I still cannot bring myself to like the stuff. Nonetheless, I spent a pleasant evening at a concert with Filarmonica George Enescu in Bucharest's splendid Atheneum. I even met some acquaintances!

The programme consisted entirely of German romantic staple diet (why's that anyway?), but - with the exception of Brahms' 3rd symphony (not quite sure whether it contains the theme to Schindler's List or not) - it was bearable: Mendelssohn's Uvertura Hebridele (aka Hebrides Ouverture) and two piano pieces by Liszt. I particularly appreciated his Danse macabre with its dies irae theme. I think I'll start collecting the variations on that theme: I particularly like Danse des ombres and Les furies from Ysaÿe's six sonatas.

It was fun to talk to my neighbour - make that: try to talk to my neighbour: He was an elderly chap from Moldova who only speaks Moldovan & Russian. Tonight, I learned that there is not only Moldova as a proper country, but also the Romanian principality of Moldavia, and Gagauzia as an autonomous territory within Moldova. I'll not even start about Transdnistria, a self-proclaimed independent country recognised by no-one but Russia, I think. How's that for a geography lesson on St. Patrick's Day, eh?


Zürich Apple Store

Did I really have to go to Bucharest to find out that I missed out on this rumour? There's been talk about a Zürich store before, but apparently, it's getting more palpable now. At least, there's an address: Bahnhofstrasse 77.

In other news, I am happy about the internet: The hotel tried to charge me $340 a night at the desk, but going online, I found a quote for $265, and that's including a dinner ...



The vampires are long gone, I am sure, especially in the nation's capital. Nonetheless, I am looking forward to spending a few days (until Sunday) in Bucharest. I can be reached here.


The Physics of Friendship

Fascinating! While I imagine that this approach may not appeal to some "idealist" students of human interaction, I think it's an interesting model. Obviously it doesn't say much about the individual "particle's" motivation and such, but as long as you look at clusters of particles, motivation is not really that important, unless it shows in a class of behaviour that can be generalised. A case in point might be the alleged differences in sexual and social contact networks.


Bad Palm experience

So, I've moved back to my trusty old Motorola RAZR mobile phone. The experience with the Treo 650 was ... interesting. If it works, it's fine. But unfortunately, that's a really big if. I had it working for a couple of months now. Admittedly I am a heavy user, with lots of apps and stuff on it. That's probably the cause of my trouble: The device became increasingly unstable. So, I was hoping for the system software upgrade to 1.20, which has been posted January 18. But this upgrade is only posted in a Windows installer version, and we're still waiting for the Mac installer, which "should be available shortly" ... we're still waiting. Heavy thumbs down, Palm!


Snowed in

When I last posted a few winter pictures on flickr (unfortunately I wasted my monthly quota with a stupid mistake in the process), I thought that was the last we'd see from winter. Boy, was I ever wrong! Tonight, we've had the most snow falling since 74 years apparently! This morning when I started working on clearing the stuff up, it stood at 53cm. That's a lot of snow, I can tell you. Normally, if we get a fifth of that, there's already a good bit of snow ... well, I am glad it's the weekend. But surprisingly, the Sunday newspapers got delivered, even with a bit of a delay, and apparently trains are running again already, although with a quarter of an hour to 20 minutes delay. I've heard of countries where trains stopped working in fall because they had "leaves on tracks" ...


Band of Brothers

Just finished watching Band of Brothers, the story of Easy Company, a unit of US paratroopers which was at the European frontline during the whole European campaign. It's a very well made piece war drama, showing lots of bravery & heroism by incredibly young guys. Tom Hanks & Steven Spielberg have delivered another piece of fine work. But seriously: the current generation of Europeans fortunately doesn't know from personal experience what war is. But I am not sure whether we're using that privilege to our full advantage.

Six Feet Under is another excellent HBO production the fourth season of which I just started with.

No need for more speed?

Very cool! My ISP has just let me know that they're going to boost my subscription's download speed from 2 Mbit/s to 5 Mbit/s at the same price! Don't we like that - 150% more bang for the same buck! However, the problem is that I am already rather happy with 2 Mbit at this point, so I am actually looking into opting for a downgrade in combination with switching my landline to their VoIP phone offering now. Interesting!