Best of 2006

I don't like year-end reviews, but for this one, I'll make an exception. First, because it's made by my preferred German language daily newspaper, and second because it's in a 7x12 matrix format. I like tables! The rows are German literature, foreign literature, history, contemporary analysis / philosophy, art, architecture & design, art music, on stage, movies, pop & jazz, institutions, people and the columns contain evaluations exceptional, classical, surprising, rediscovered, avant-garde, funny, annoying.

I am not sure whether I should be pleased or disconcerted about the fact that several of the tabled items have been discussed on this blog during the year ... at any rate, Happy New Year to you & your family, dear Reader, and thanks for all your comments and contributions during the past year!


No, Prime Minister

If you are interested in all things happening on the Fairest Isle, this is for you! 10 Downing Street has opened its door to virtual visitors. The rooms do in fact very much look like those we already know from the famous TV serial. One wonders whether they were shot on location?


Aunt Emmi

This post is in loving memory of my late great-aunt Emmi. She was a robust woman who died a few years ago in her nineties, but her memory is still with us every day - during the cold season. She was an avid knitter, you see. Right on time for every Xmas, we received a huge parcel choke-full of hand-knitted socks and jumpers and one bar of chocolate each. Naturally, I was far more interested in the chocolate back then, but nowadays those hand-knitted socks of hers have their great comeback. Her colour scheme never was beyond doubt, I agree, and with the jumpers, it was outright criminal. Or perhaps it's just beyond all reasonable doubt ... anyway, whoever cares about the colour scheme when the socks are comfortable & warm is just envious! So, I'll beg your pardon in advance if my quirky choice of socks might offend your eye these days. Which reminds me of stupid Prince George's famous words in Blackadder: "Socks are like sex: tons of it about, and I never seem to get any!"

Reason's Greetings

In line with my favourite English language newspaper's current promotional slogan, I finally got round to reading this comprehensive, yet somewhat contrarian piece on the New Atheism. It is probably in reaction to the ascendancy of religious fundamentalism that there have been some topical publications which now serve as focal points for the New Atheist movement called The Brights.

Personally I harbour strong sympathies towards that movement, although I accept some people's need to hedge against the negligible, but non-zero probability of god's existence. However, I wouldn't go as far as to reject the approach on that ground, as the article's author does in conclusion. My biggest problem with it is the apparent doctrinary approach, which brings it into the vicinity of another neo-movement. Combine that with the contingency of faith's reality and you have a recipe for failure. It is much more promising to just let the idea quietly run its course. The genie of Reason is out of the lamp ...

P.S. It just crossed my mind that another reason against being a fervent New Atheist is that faith can be, and in the posited absence of freedom of religion rightly should be, seen as an instance of the freedom of thought. To which The Brights surely cannot object.


Punk music is a joke ...

it's only just baroque! This clip is great, especially since I only just bought Pachelbel's Canon in a brass version. Merry Xmas!


The Poincaré Conjecture

I like reading about mathematics. Take this article about the proof of the Poincaré conjecture for example. You get an eerie impression of the spectacular inadequacy of common language to describe mathematical concepts, which are often hermetically clad in visual representations. While those representations may be describable, the description in turn would loose its conceptual representativeness of the idea that is represented in the graph. But that's merely a conjecture of mine - you may call it the Dreyer Conjecture.

It is consoling no end however that despite of the apparent superiority of mathematical language, mathematicians themselves are not aloof from the fickle deficiencies of human nature even in the conduct of their business. Which is probably just another piece of anecdotal evidence supporting my conjecture.


UK condones corruption

This story is very bad news for the rule of law in the UK and removes the last vestiges of credibility of Prime Minister Blair's whiter than white cabinet. "It has been necessary to balance the need to maintain the rule of law against the wider public interest" (Attorney General Lord Goldsmith in the House of Lords this afternoon). Furthermore, our conclusion about the motivation for the Saudis' opposition against the SFO investigation in question is now inevitable indeed.



Fondue is one of, if not the single most stereotypical dish of Switzerland, as gauged by the probability with which it would feature on the menu of a touristy restaurant in summer (It's never eaten in summer - ever!). What's the most surprising about it is that I love it! Here's a fairly good recipe for it - but make sure to use only Swiss cheese, it's just not authentic otherwise (or so I am told by the local cheese industry).

As it is winter in the northern hemisphere now, this is the season for fondue, so we've had some yesterday. But it was a fondue with a twist; a twist that I heavily recommend. If you've never had a fondue, then try the recipe mentioned above first.

Now that you're a seasoned cheese soup eater (remember the rules: if you loose your bread in the fondue, you have to sing a song or do something else embarrassing), you can go for the twist - a morel fondue! Prepare by soaking 40 grams of dried morels in a 50/50 mix of milk & water for two hours. Then, instead of using Kirsch according to the recipe, use the same quantity of brandy and add the morels (without the water!) to the fondue when the last cheese lumps are gone.



Nuclear chocolate

If you follow my business blog, you're aware that I've spent the last two days in Brussels. While the weather was miserable, everything else was very good: I was the first ever non-member guest to the FEE annual dinner which was held at the recently reopened Atomium, which was a great honour. And no, there wasn't any polonium on the menu, thank you.

Then, after the conference, I spent too much money on Belgian chocolate. Have a look at the flickr gallery for some pics. Galler's Kaori is incredibly imaginative, and delicious. Culinary calligraphy - awesome! Equally fanciful, and in keeping with the nuclear theme, is Pierre Marcolini's winter collection Molecule de Chocolat. It's a pity though that Belgian chocolatiers are running circles around their Swiss competitors these days - I guess they've just become too inert.

P.S. For more entertaining references to nucelar, erm, nuclear food & weaponry, check out this week's The Now Show.


DIY earthquakes

This is madness! I certainly don't mind geothermic energy and all, but an ongoing research project is known to trigger small earthquakes in my area. Well, the one we felt half an hour ago with a magnitude of 3.4 is certainly not a "micro" earthquake anymore. It has even widened a crack in the kitchen's plastering! Guys, this is definitely not funny!

Here is the special page of the Swiss Seismological Service, and they even have a bloody blog - fortunately for them, the comment function is not available there!

Thanks to Schweiz aktuell for telling us about this!


The brain queen

I like intelligent crime fiction. Unfortunately, there isn't much of that genre available in German. So when I came across an interview with Thea Dorn, I decided to read one of her stories. I went for Die Hirnkönigin, and I do not regret it. The story is just a little bit splatter, as it's about a classically educated female serial killer who is driven to free good men's brains from their bodily confines (literally). It feels a bit like CSI. The most amazing parts, however, are where she goes for the kill, regularly quoting directly & by heart from the Greek, preferably from the battle scenes in Homer's bloodthirsty Iliad. The pulse of the language and the build up of tension are almost classical, and they compensate for some thinness in the overall structure. It's recommendable, but just. I enjoyed it, but I do not feel compelled to read any other of Dorn's books.


Pyntlus communis

For a sample of weird Eastern Swiss humour, have a look at this dissertation about Pyntlus communis. Finally, the missing link between flora & fauna has been discovered! Vegetarians all over the world will be forever thankful! I can see a whole new export industry for Eastern Switzerland!