September 2009 Archives

Diagnosis

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"You don't smoke," the doctor said after he had looked at my ECG.
"No," I said.
"I can see that," he said.

Zu spät für Alarmglocken

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Summary for English readers:

Drastic changes in the political landscape of the state of Upper Austrian in yesterday's regional election were even more drastic in local results. The Social Democrats are not in a crisis, they are on their way towards insignificance.

Die Ergebnisse der oberösterreichischen Landtagswahl wirken noch um einiges ärger, wenn man ehemals rote Kerngegenden, wie etwa meinen Geburtsort, betrachtet:

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Wenn man ehemals sichere absolute Mehrheiten hatte und dann in einem Satz von 47% auf 28% absackt, dann ist der Spruch mit den Alarmglocken, die schrillen sollten, nicht mehr angebracht. Im Gegenteil, das bedeutet Notoperation oder Totengräber.

Bloated women and probiotic yoghurt

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Ever since I upgraded my cable account from 35 to 94 channels in order to bring down my monthly TV/Internet/telephone bill to half of what I used to pay (don't ask -- the telecom industry is perverse like that), I've been watching slightly more TV than I used to. I'm sure it's temporary though, mostly because the ubiquitous commercials are driving me insane.

Most of them are simply stupid, many are insulting my intelligence (such as the countless attempts to convince parents that sugar bombs are healthy for their children), but a couple are annoying to the point of causing physical pain.

The most painful ones, at the moment, are for probiotic yoghurt. They are ubiquitous, they are broadcast at painfully brief intervals, and some of them are strangely bizarre.

Like the one that starts with the voice-over announcing "mothers talk to their daughters about digestive problems", or the other one in which several women talk about how bloated they are all the time. I may not be able to fully understand this as I am a member of the male species, but it seems to be a somewhat unusual behaviour, and seeing women talking about digestive problems and being bloated in quick succession at 5-minute intervals minutes may fundamentally change my entire perception of women.

Eine Geschichte des öffentlichen Verkehrs in Wien

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Summary for English readers: Ernst Lassbacher has published a new book, which traces the history of public transport in Vienna. It is, above all, a history in frustration. In minute detail, Lassbacher tells the story of projects that never materialized, of political interventions that stopped or changed important developments and of millions of money invested into projects with little or no use for the passengers.
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Ernst Lassbacher, ein langjähriger Kenner der Wiener Verkehrspolitik und Mitarbeiter der Fachpublikation Eisenbahn Österreich hat ein neues Buch veröffentlicht: auf knapp 300 Seiten zieht er ein Resümee über die Geschichte des öffentlichen Verkehrs seit dem ersten Pferdestellwagen im Jahr 1744 bis zum heutigen Tag. Sein Interesse gilt dabei vor allem den Hintergründen -- wie die Politik Einfluss nahm und welche Interessen von Unternehmen zu welchen Entwicklungen geführt haben.

In diesem Sinne ist das Buch ein unglaublich frustrierendes Werk, wird doch minutiös geschildert, was alles aus diversen Gründen -- allem voran politisches Kalkül -- verhindert, verzögert oder zum Nachteil verändert wurde.

Wussten Sie beispielsweise, dass die Straßenbahn heute kaum schneller als vor 80 Jahren ist, obwohl die Züge theoretisch die doppelte Geschwindigkeit erreichen könnten?

Random album covers

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Last week, I came across a meme that I found instantly compelling. It's called something like "Random album covers", and the concept is simple enough:

1 - Go to Wikipedia. Hit "random" or click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random The first random Wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2 - Go to Quotations Page and select "random quotations" or click http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3 The last four or five words of the very last quote on the page is the title of your first album.

3 - Go to Flickr and click on "explore the last seven days" or click http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4 - Use Photoshop or similar to put it all together.

That way, I created seven album covers during the past week.

I am now going to take this concept one step further:

Another example of the cultural divide between the USA and Europe

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Members of the US Republican Party compare President Obama to Adolf Hitler because he wants to introduce health insurance for all citizens.

Aber sonst haben wir keine besonderen Wünsche, oder?

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Summary for English readers: This alert window asks me to grant Facebook full read/write access to my computer. Why should I do this?

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Schon ein bisschen frech, das. Finde ich zumindestens. Was lässt die Herrschaften von Facebook eigentlich vermuten, dass ich das ernsthaft erlauben würde?

The library, a pirates' lair?

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The Library is also a deposit library, which means that publishers in Vienna and the neighbouring federal states are required by law to send two free copies of everything that they are publishing to the Library. Recently, the colleague in charge of these reference copies told me about the reluctance of some publishers to fulfil their legal duties, the publishers' arguments why they do not want to submit the required copies, and how only threatening with a lawsuit seems to convince some of them.

In some ways, all of this reminded me of the whole Internet piracy debate; I found that the two parties involved here (Library vs. publishers) seem to have pretty much the same opposing arguments as the opponents in the online piracy debate; only in the library case, things seem much more in perspective.

"Begin the unnecessarily slow-moving dipping mechanism"

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Here's a list of things that can seriously curb my enthusiasm about TV series. Unfortunately, I have recently started watching a series in which all of these things seem to occur excessively.

  1. Scriptwriters that don't know the difference between "mystery" and "convoluted plot".
  2. Minor plot elements that seem insignificant after they have been dealt with turn out to be major parts of some great master plan and/or conspiracy two seasons later without any prior clues to that effect.
  3. A simple storyline is made complicated merely because a character is behaving uncharacteristically out of character.
  4. Storylines that would not exist at all if a character hadn't time-travelled into the past.
  5. Erratic character behaviour is disguised as "character development".
  6. More than one dead character turns out not to be dead at all, and/or is resurrected from the dead.
  7. More than one character turns out to be merely a figment of someone's imagination.
  8. A character has more than one doppelganger, or more than one character has a doppelganger.
  9. Characters who have superpowers that could make the entire storyline obsolete, if only they weren't too stupid to use them properly.
  10. A supposedly super-intelligent villain whose inconsistent action and/or blatant incompetence allows the heroes to escape.
  11. A supposedly super-intelligent hero whose inconsistent action and/or blatant incompetence allows the villain to escape.
  12. One storyline is repeated after a while with different characters.
  13. A character changes from being a good guy to being a bad guy to being a good guy pretending to be a bad guy to being a bad guy pretending to being a good guy pretending to be a bad guy and is finally revealed to be a bad guy after all. Well duh, big surprise.
  14. A likeable character with a central role in one season is relegated to an insubstantial B-plot in the following season.
  15. A kickass female character in one season behaves all mushy and emotional in the following season.
  16. Characters who remember and forget what they know and/or can do depending on which stunt effects might be more optically impressive.
  17. A character appears out of nowhere in a later season and is revealed to have been an integral part of the plot all the time from the very beginning.
  18. An entire season's worth of episodes turns out to be just one character's dream, an alternate reality that ends up being erased, or is otherwise invalidated.
  19. All characters are revealed to be connected in some way, or, even worse, related to each other.
  20. Pointless and/or pompous voice-overs from know-it-all characters.

Coincidence?

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Yesterday morning the electrician whom I had called because the house intercom was broken made a second attempt at repairing it after having failed to do so the day before due to technical problems (cf. technických důvodů). I could see his minivan across the street and was impressed by the logo, which consists of an impressive red flash striking into the owner's name.

Later that day, a friend told me that she was dj-ing at a bar called Das Jetzt. As the bar is at quite a distance from my flat in an area that I rarely ever go to, I wasn't really thinking about going there, especially as I had never been to the bar and didn't even know how to get there.

On a sudden whim, I went there anyway, had a nice evening and left in time to catch the last tramway home. When I sat down on the bench at the tram stop and saw the shop right across the street from it, I couldn't believe my eyes.

On the shop sign, there was the red flash again. By what can only be described as a spooky case of coincidence, of all places in all of Vienna I had ended up right in front of the shop of the electrician who had repaired my intercom in the morning.

It's that kind of coincidence that makes you doubt that coincidence exists.

Wahl zum Sommerloch des Jahres

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Summary for English readers: In German, the term "Sommerloch" ("summer hole") describes the lack of newsworthy news during the summer months and the ensuing ridiculousness that appears in the media instead. This summer, however, saw a surprising amount of news about, well, holes. Vote for the hole that you think is the most interesting one.
Sommerloch des Jahres 2009
 Welches ist das beste Sommerloch?

Das Loch im Konto von SkyEurope, durch das 280.000 Flugtickets wertlos wurden.
Das ein Meter tiefe Loch in Klosterneuburg, in dem eine Pensionistin mit ihrem Auto versank.
Das fünf Meter tiefe Loch an der Wiener Ringstraße, in dem eine Pappel versank.
Das 12,8 Mrd Lichtjahre von der Erde entfernte, bisher größte entdeckte Schwarze Loch im Universum.
Das Loch-Ness-Monster, das The Sun auf Google Earth entdeckt haben will.
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