Shuffle incoming

Engadget is right, the new Apple iPod Shuffles are shipping! Although my Apple store pre-order status still shows ETA of 3 November, I just received a call from DHL or some such announcing delivery tomorrow morning. Yay! Btw, I ordered on 28 September.

Update 1 November: Oh well, the surprise delivery wasn't to be, it was something else. But now, ETA is tomorrow.


On Wednesday, the jazznojazz-Festival 2006 is going to start in Zurich. I am looking forward to attending a live performance of Brad Mehldau for the first time. I have most of his albums (the latest one being Metheny Mehldau). I am really looking forward to that!


The Great Game of Genocide

Read this excellent interview with Donald Bloxham, author of The Great Game of Genocide and lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. I really like his analytical, unagitated approach to an ugly topic. The interview's subject matter is the Armenian Genocide, an apparent historical fact which is still rather aggressively contended by contemporary Turkey, probably against better knowledge. However, it is interesting to see that another Edinburgh historian, Norman Stone, takes the opposite view to Mr Bloxham's in Weltwoche, namely that the genocide technically was not a genocide because it cannot be proved that the Ottoman government had ordered it. That's probably what happens when you try to adjudicate on historical matters by using non-legal historical terms.

The reason for this accumulation of articles about the Armenian genocide is an ongoing political controversy in France and Switzerland these days.

Topics from 192 countries

This morning, I woke up to find a request from Shinji from Tokyo in my inbox, asking whether I would be interested to contribute to Topics from 192 countries, a group blog bringing together one blogger from every country in the world. There's already 35 contributors. Of course, I wouldn't let the chance to represent my country to the Blogging Nations get past me. Go check it out!


Why Mac is cool

Mac is cool because 1) it just works. In those rare events where 1 temporarily doesn't hold, 2) you can always rely on a little help from your friends to get it back up.

A case in point is an issue with Mail that I was able to fix yesterday, with the assistance from a friend I didn't know I had who lives in Barcelona, Spain. ¡Muchas gracias, David!


Tante Hänsi

Tonight I went to see Tante Hänsi, a contemporary musical theatre (not to be mistaken for a musical) about Swiss death rituals. This is an amazing piece of tension between past & present, rural & urban as well as life & death, no less. The music oscillates between contemporary music performed by two fine voices, a countertenor and a mezzo soprano, and yodeling, which creates a very unusual atmosphere indeed. The texts are mostly in Swiss German, but there is a booklet with a German "translation". Hurry if you want to see it - there's only two more performances here, then they will go to Mexico & Berlin.


Bushisms = Putinisms?

One wonders what's worse ... the utterances of the President of the United States or those of the President of the Russian Federation. On the occasion of the burial of Anna Politkovskaya, a murdered Russian opposition journalist who was very critical of the Kremlin, he said that her murder has done more damage to Russia than her writings (I am paraphrasing because I couldn't find the exact quote).

It is one of my maxims never to assume bad will where sheer incompetence suffices ...

Good commercials

I am a great fan of good marketing communication, better known as commercials. So much so in fact that I am prepared to spend money and a night in the cinema to watch the awards of the Cannes Lions Festival if they come to town.

However, I cannot tell you what makes a commercial a good commercial - otherwise I'd be in the wrong industry, I guess. After all, even Henry Ford (I think) said that half of his marketing budget was a waste of money - he just didn't know which half. So I'll confine myself to giving you two examples of bad commercials. The first one is the ad for Swiss wine shown in this post. The caption says: "Sex is just a substitute". And the second one is a TV commercial for a French car, featuring Sean Connery. Both are prime examples of bland, boring, guaranteed brain-free advertising of the worst kind. That's the stuff that should have been rejected and probably would not show up here either. What does that tell us about buyers of advertisements?


Domesday Mead

Sometimes when I am in experimental mood, I go out and do something mad, like buying English wine. That happened during my recent visit to London, where I got a bottle of red, white and English Mead from Fortnum & Mason. I can now relate the news to you because the mead has been tasted yesterday, and I live to tell.

If you wonder what mead is, then rest assured that you're not alone. It's the first time that I've tasted it myself. Mead, or German Met is the ancient beverage of the Germanic gods imbibed (copiously, I am sure) in Walhalla. It is a gold coloured wine made of fermented honey and it tastes accordingly - very sweet. If you have a sweet tooth like I do, then this is a desert wine for you. It is pretty much like a Sauternes, but mostly without the underlying slight acidity, or complexity for that matter. But nice no less. I am surprised that mead is not better known. But then again, the other day when I tasted an excellent Sauternes on a Swiss flight and they had to open the bottle for me, I learnt that this is not a widely held taste among Europeans, whereas people from the Middle East seem to like it much more. Interesting.


Geographical data

It looks like Switzerland is slowly growing up to the internet age! Here is a portal site to cantonal geographical information systems which, as is the case for my canton, may offer precise geo information down to and about individual lots of land. Impressive!


Why I don't play strategy games

As you know, I've tried (in vain) to give Second Life a shot. Which is curious because I was never really interested in those popular strategy and simulation games, which are not so far away from Second Life, you might think. So why is that?

The reason for that uncharacteristic lack of curiosity is that I think those games are terminally boring; they can be played in single player mode, which presupposes a defined set of algorithms within which the parameters of the game are set. These algorithms probably do not allow for evolutionary change of conditions, which is the domain of real life. Hence these games will only happen within the limits of the parametric equations that the developers could think of, however creatively this fact will be disguised. Incorporating other human players into the game does not fundamentally change that characteristic since they also will be subject to the same parameters. In fact, I wonder whether other human players are distinguishable from random robots - what was the name of that test again??

Whilst there is no way (yet?) that Second Life can get around some parametric limitations of a virtual reality, the available degree of creativity seems to be of a different order, so that it appears to be a better approximation of reality. That's why I was interested in it. Ironically, the proof of the pudding is not available to me because of a stupid video card incompatibility ...


Recent acquisitions

My music buying patterns have changed quite a bit lately, I noticed the other day. Nowadays, the standard procedure would be that I hear something enticing on a podcast, and then go to iTunes to get it. That has happened with two rather obscure-ish Russian composers (namely Khandoshkin, whom I've heard about on the Naxos podcast, and Taneyev, whose remote acquaintance I am pleased to have made via the Gramophone podcast) as well as with The Lament for the Laird of Annapool, an entirely thrilling Scottish bagpipe piece from The World's Greatest Pipers, which I've heard played on Radio Clash. But there's also the conventional, fail-safe purchase based on previous knowledge: E.S.T.'s new album Tuesday Wonderland. Enjoy!

Speaking of buying & selling ... the phone is gone!

Second Life

Despite of my well established negligence of gaming, this Economist article convinced me to have a look at Second Life, a well populated virtual reality, it seems. However, after signing up, downloading & installing the required app, it turns out that the required application is not really Mac compatible, despite of their claims. Their system requirements need to be taken very literally, especially with the video card. Boooh, Second Life! Mac users are not used to having to check for some system components compatibility when they're on a standard machine!


ISDN to go

As you know, the days of POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) are gone for my house, so I really don't need that wireless ISDN telephone setup anymore. You can buy it here! Watch out, there's already a bid for it!