Anarchist!!! ... Cleaner!!!

This is cool! Katharina Zaugg, my former cleaner is becoming an outright star! She is an ethnology graduate and has her own operation, complete with cleaning school, publishing house (she has already published three books) and performances (where she is known to dance with brooms!). Today, she's had a big show on national public radio DRS 2 - you can listen in on it here. I guess I should have taken an equity stake in the early days ...



All is calm, all is Swiss

It would be a pity if you missed this unexcited travel essay about Switzerland in Saturday's Financial Times. Granted, it's stereotypical, but there's a grain of truth in it nonetheless.


Blogging against music taxes

The Swiss Supreme Court has upheld a decision to introduce a hefty levy on digital music players and HD recorders. The proceeds go to collecting societies, which then redistribute the leftovers (after admin) to artists. The levy will be substantial, and consumers will start paying it on 1 September, irrespective of whether they use the player for music they bought legally. This is grossly inappropriate.

The Swiss Consumer Protection is requesting your support to mount a political campaign in the Swiss Federal Parliament to change the law which allows for this nonsense. Please give your support by sending an email - just click here!

This blog campaign has been started at freilich. If you want to support it, just use the following code in your own blog to encourage your readers to protest:
<a href="mailto:mp3@konsumentenschutz.ch?subject=freilich.ch gegen Musiksteuer!&body=Sehr geehrter Herr Parteipräsident%0ASehr geehrte Frau Parteipräsidentin%0A%0AHiermit fordere ich Sie auf, das Urheberrechtsgesetz so zu ändern, dass Abgaben auf digitalen Abspielgeräten und Festplatten-Recordern nicht mehr möglich sind. Es liegt in Ihrer Hand, die Abgabe zu verhindern, die vom Bundesgericht aufgrund unklarer Gesetzeslage beschlossen wurde. %0a%0aBesten Dank für Ihr Engagement!%0aDer Absender" rel="nofollow">Mit zwei Clicks ist es schon getan!</a>


Drumming as martial art

Been to Basel Tattoo with C. yesterday night. What a splendid night it was! Especially the incredible performance of Basel natives Top Secret blew me away. Those guys truly redefine drumming as a martial art - see the video of their Edinburgh performance last year (mine wouldn't do it justice).

The only odd thing about the event was its closing, what with people standing up to sing the national anthem &c. To me, somehow that just doesn't feel right - our patriotism (or mine?) as a non-nation is not of the pathetic sort, it's more of the constitutional type, sans constitution for some ...


Quatorze juillet

What better way to while away a sweltering Sunday afternoon than going to the nicely air conditioned Fondation Beyeler to see the special exhibition about Edvard Munch which is on display for just another week? The exhibition assembles a great selection of works spanning all his life. And what an angst-ridden life that must have been - speak about inner demons. I was not aware that love, angst, death can be seen as a unity, but Edvard Munch clearly achieved that.

The previous evening was spent more unequivocally pleasantly. I've had C&R over for a nice barbecue that was started with a beautiful 1990 millésime and concluded with a much older Scotch to go with the fireworks to celebrate the French national holiday from the neighbouring French communities. A great evening that we vowed to repeat in following years.


Local news

Go check out local.ch! It's a very useful site if you're in Switzerland for it gives you a map based access to yellow and white pages as well as to events and classifieds. It's really useful and it works. Yesterday I was looking for a dental technician that I could visit on the way to the train station, and today I was looking for an unlisted hairdresser in Rheinfelden on behalf of my sister. Both worked perfectly smoothly. Oh, and it also displays blog posts from geotagged blogs from the map area. This is the Web 2.0 stuff that's really useful!

In other local news: My mom is currently in hospital to have both her knees replaced. She's had her second operation yesterday, and I am glad to report that everything went well. She's well on the path to recovery, which includes a few more weeks of hospital and rehab stays away from home. In order to make that easier on her, I gave her a digital picture frame today. It's a little TFT monitor that displays a slide show of all pics, movies & sound files that are on the memory card you plug into it. She's enjoying it a lot, especially since it contains literally hundreds of conversation starters. I tested a cheaper one before, but that was a bad experience: apparently buggy software, bad physical quality &c. I spent quite some time trying to get it running, whereas the Kodak one was just plug & play.


Urbi & orbi

One of the smaller things I took home from London was the July / August issue of Monocle, which is dedicated to an evaluation of the world's most liveable cities. The ranking of the 20 most liveable cities not published on the public site is as follows: Munich, Copenhagen, Zürich, Tokyo, Vienna, Helsinki, Sydney, Stockholm, Honolulu, Madrid, Melbourne, Montreal, Barcelona, Kyoto, Vancouver, Auckland, Singapore, Hamburg, Paris, Geneva.

While I am certainly glad to note that 2 Swiss cities made the cut, I am surprised at the bile expressed against Berne, the nation's capital. I am not exactly saying that Berne is a global metropolis - quite on the contrary. But if easy access to a long haul hub is such an important criterion as it is made out to be, then the metropolitan area of all of Switzerland should actually enter the competition, thanks to the country's small size. After all, Singapore is there, too, and some people are beginning to think of Switzerland as one big metropolitan area with a really huge natural park (the alps) in the middle. At any rate, I think I am not going to buy another issue of Monocle, because I am going to take out a subscription.

Speaking of cities & the world at large, I also stocked up on those new Wallpaper* Guides of the cities that I currently have an active interest in: Bangkok, Basel, London, Singapore. Great concept!

Obama for president? Yes, please.

In a recent conversation, I reserved judgment over whether I would support Mr Obama's candidacy until after having read his recent Foreign Affairs essay - as if anyone cared. I can now say that indeed I would. Mr Obama's foreign policy programme seems to be a well considered mix of hard action items while not forgetting about the softer repair operations in international trust & confidence necessitated by the current administration's dilettantism. Unfortunately he doesn't mention how this policy is supposed to be financed - it probably won't come cheaper than the unsustainable ongoing Iraq operation, which he proposes to conclude.

Live hypocrisy

There's really nothing much favourable I can say about spin events such as Live Earth. Not only were most participants quite hypocritical in their own answer to the call, other than jumping on a well prepared PR bandwaggon. What's more, the message promulgated by Messrs Gore et al is one of pathetic over-dramatisation. The planet needs no saving, nor does mankind as such. I don't contend that "we" are likely to run into quite a lot of trouble and pain in adapting to the changing environment, and that it may be reasonable to take mitigating measures now, but the missionary zeal in evidence does little to alleviate my suspicion that there is more to it than meets the eye: Politicians will jump at every opportunity to expand their own sphere of influence, even though the single most effective strategy would be one of a government-neutral increase of the relative price of fossil fuels. Politicians however are loath to hear the bit about government-neutral, of course ... they are part of the problem rather than of the solution.

In fact, I am wondering whether we're on the way to a carbon standard economy. This refers to the world currency system, as in gold standard, or the Bretton Woods system. Already today, the influence of one form of carbon (i.e. oil) on the global economy is very strong and may be seen as an alternative currency.

Anyway, arcane considerations such as that apart, I've come across a good evaluation of voluntary carbon offset programmes by Tufts University. I am glad to see that one of the recommended companies is Swiss MyClimate. Amazing that my forthcoming trip to Singapore for instance will release about 10 tons of CO2, the offset of which would set me back some €260. I need to consider my policy options.


Parallel worlds

Check out the rest of these excellent commercials for Parallel's virtualisation software, which I can highly recommend. The Coherence mode is kind of eerie, though!