Archive for July 2008

How not to win friends

by Ulf on July 29th, 2008

“If we have more NATO troops in Afghanistan, then that’s potentially fewer American troops over the long term, which means we’re spending fewer billions of dollars, which means we can invest those billions of dollars in making sure we’re providing tax cuts to middle class families who are struggling with higher gas prices that will have an impact on our economy.”

Way to go, Mr Obama. He said this (in a CNN interview) while still being in one of the countries he’s asking to contribute more, no less. As the WSJ notes, this is not the way to keep up a flowering romance. The rebuke was short and swift: “Under no circumstances will [ taxpayers ] pay with more money and more troops for Afghanistan for tax cuts in the U.S.”

I’m not sure if this Middle-Eastern/European trip achieved its aim of convincing voters in the USA that Mr Obama is not the foreign-policy lightweight he’s made out to be, but by this remark alone he undid all the good will he might have accrued over here. Maybe foreign politics isn’t so simple after all.

My life skills need upgrade

by Map on July 26th, 2008

Ulf blogged about Barack Obama’s visit to Berlin, and we have something going here, in San Francisco, too. I just learned that last Christmas a tiger escaped from SF Zoo and killed a visitor. Now, I live about ten blocks from the SF Zoo, and I can’t say that a thought of tigers roaming the neighborhood thrills me. San Francisco is located in an earthquake-ridden zone, and when I moved here I decided it would be a good idea to get some “Surviving SF” classes. I was taught how to assess whether a building is safe to enter a damaged building, or how to pull dead bodies from under debris. (The woman who taught “corpses excavation” course had an awesome sense of black humor. I still shudder when I remember her jokes.) Best of all, I was given a free helmet upon graduating, so I think I am pretty well prepared now. But tigers… I certainly need to learn some tiger fighting techniques and probably get some anti-tiger ammunition.

Charming hitmen on the loose In Bruges

by Ulf on July 25th, 2008

A couple of hitmen need to hide out for a while and are sent to Bruges. While one enjoys the sights of the medieval city, the other is looking for less exalted pleasures. Eventually, things become … more complicated, involving their boss, a dwarf, a couple of Canadian tourists, a couple of locals preying on tourists, romance, beer, a weapons dealer, a pregnant landlady and much else, not least beautiful pictures of the city. In the end, a surprising amount of humanity is on display, considering the profession of the protagonists. Not that all of them survive, mind you. Having seen images of the city for the first time, I’ve resolved to go there myself some day, so it’s a cinematic ad for the city as well.

More info at

Marriage by the Bay

by Map on July 24th, 2008

San Francisco Chronicle announced that currently the majority of Californians oppose the proposition to forever define a “Californian marriage” as a holy or unholy union between a man and a woman. (Likely voters oppose marriage initiative) Is inevitable going to happen in our time? It came as a surprise to me, because up to now I thought that the majority considers it their moral duty to throw their unarmed bodies in front of marching progress — in hope to stumble it, I think.

The number is not-so-impressive-but-still-promising 51%, even though in the Bay Area the supporters of our rights to marry whomever we are damn pleased to marry outnumber defenders of a marriage as we know it by 3 to 1. We didn’t get that “Sodom by the Bay” title for nothing. ;)

Quote: «Fifty-one percent of likely voters in the state oppose Proposition 8 on the November ballot, a constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage by defining marriage as only between a man and woman, according to a Field Poll released today. The poll shows voters are divided by where they live, their age, gender and political party.»

What does Sun know about how Java is used?

by Ulf on July 24th, 2008

John O’Conner -a Sun employee until recently- blogged about his Java experiences outside of Sun. He lists three things in particular that were news to him:

  1. Companies don’t always use the latest JDK for their flagship products.
  2. Teams like the Eclipse IDE.
  3. Java isn’t always the preferred rich client.

Frankly, I’m shocked that this is news to anyone, much less to a Sun employee who’s actively using Java.

What’s a good symbol to associate with?

by Ulf on July 24th, 2008

Much ado about Senator Obama in Berlin

Today Mr Obama is visiting Berlin, and as part of the visit he gives a public speech on … something. We don’t know yet what it’s about. All we know is that there has been a two-week-long brouhaha about where he could give the speech.


Fresh at the box office: CSN&Y / Déjà Vu

by Ulf on July 15th, 2008

CSN&Y Deja VuIn 2006, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young came together for yet another reunion tour, this time under the motto Freedom of Speech with a decidedly anti-war message. Although the protagonists are all in their 60s now, their fire, song and guitar playing is still almost what it was 40 years earlier. Musically, this is somewhere between the Neil Young captured on film in Year of the Horse and the one in Heart of Gold. Besides the music, the film also has interviews with the musicians, reactions of concert-goers (both positive and negative), and some footage of 60s/70s performances of CSN&Y at the height of the protests against the Vietnam war and the Kent State killings. The music may not be the best Young’s ever written -although some is quite good- but seeing the audience and media reactions, and hearing the band tell their point of view makes for a memorable concert/tour movie.

More info at

Fun Stuff

by Ulf on July 12th, 2008

I don’t like to email tons of people pointing out some fun or interesting web page I saw, so here’s some stuff I nonetheless want to plug to a wider audience (yeah, right, who am I kidding is reading this blog?).


Lonely Planet doesn’t just publish useful travel books, they also put out the occasional travelcast covering various and sundry locations: web site and RSS feed

German humor (yes, it exists) told live by Horst Evers -the funniest man in the universe, according to his publisher- every week: RSS feed


Jay Grandin made a lot of entertaining clips, including the widely watched How to Shower: Women vs. Men, and practical everyday advice like Pre-cut bagels suck.

Ernest Friedman-Hill brought the Tales Of Mere Existence by Lev Yilmaz to my attention, e.g. A typical conversation with my mom, Never Visit Your Girlfriend At Work, Procrastination and I have to get ready.

And there are numerous hilarious sketches by Rowan Atkinson, from before he became Mr Bean.

The Earth in pictures

by Ulf on July 9th, 2008

NASA being a public agency, it makes a lot of the pictures taken in space available to anyone who’s interested. The Earth Observatory is a site that collects many of these images, along with descriptions of what they show, and how what’s being pictured is changing over time. One neat feature of the site is the weekly email service that tells about new images added to the collection. Amongst this week’s additions were Algal Bloom along the Coast of China, Flooding in Des Moines, Iowa and Wild Fires Near Big Sur, California, but not all images relate to current events.

I find a lot of these images and their stories fascinating, and some just plain beautiful.

The new American embassy building in Berlin

by Ulf on July 5th, 2008

Yesterday the new American embassy building in Berlin was officially opened. The building has been a long time in the planning and making, but various security considerations have repeatedly led to postponements. Now that it‘s been built in the same spot where the USA had an embassy in the 1930s -a very rarefied spot at Pariser Platz, close to Brandenburger Tor- it has been variously described as functional, but uninspired. The comparison to the old Blücher Palais is interesting, but of course unfair – times have changed, and so have the ways of diplomacy. It‘s hard to say how much of that is due to said security constraints, but the building is certainly less adventurous than the nearby French and British embassies.