Monthly Archive for November, 2005

Money Out of Thin Air

After reading that some neighborhood Jon Doe bought an ice-cold rock in a virtual universe for 100.000 real dollars, elsewhere players die or merry online, now the next step comes in form of Second Life. Following Will Wright’s vision of new forms of entertainment, Second Life’s virtual world promises that

…built-in content creation tools let you make almost anything you can imagine, in real time and in collaboration with others.

Companies like Linden Lab are on the safe side with their bussiness plan, there’ll be always people who have a reason to escape their real life just to enjoy a virtual one they can control better – or at least have such an impression. I can’t think of another reason why people play excessively. Nevertheless, I think this feeling of a better grip on one’s (virtual) life is an illusion, the only difference is that you can choose the starting point yourself. After that, you’re on your own, like everybody else and usually rules don’t hinder players to harm each other. In real life, you’re born without having a say in anything, be it outward appearance, character, (future) profession, etc., but in the end, a real life is more intense, diverse and fascinating than any virtual universe could ever be.

Taking a closer look at Second Life’s website, I noticed that you can buy a complete island, so, in other words, they’re making money from thin air – how does their price translate in bits and bytes? Would you buy a virtual beach resort?

Kijiji Düsseldorf

Competition for craigslist, who’re starting their service in Europe as well. Ebay, although not mentioned on the site is behind Kijiji. There’re others who’re fighting for their slice of the cake, we’ll see who’s going to come out on top.

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How Things Should Be

I’m back. Bonn and the DAAD Freundeskreis convention were great. We’ll construct a main portal with space for each regional group, so this unprofessional pell-mell of private emailaddresses, not standardised or even missing websites is soon going to end. Since having a website depends on having a tech-savvy member in the group we’re going to centralise all regional groups and build-up a technical support group for the clubs who need help.

And now to something completely different: I’ve been in the city today – too bad I didn’t have a camera, because this is what I encountered. A vibrant crowd strolling through the city, enjoying the day (despite of the snow) and shopping. Please note that today is sunday – which doesn’t mean much to people who don’t live in Germany. On sundays, German cities look much like this. See the difference? There’s nothing wrong with Germany’s economy when you look at the export. We’re top-notch exporters of high-quality products and services – but the national economy is ailing. The regulation of opening hours strangles consumption and lowers employment. I’m well aware of the sociocultural (and even religious) reasons to keep things as they are, but as far as I’m informed there’s no other country in Europe keeping the lid on the opening hours as we do here.

The first time I got to experience the pleasure of being able to go shopping in the middle of the night was in Jackson, Michigan in 1995. I don’t remember anymore what I bought, but I can recall my fascination about some mall in the area being open at midnight as if it was yesterday. Four years ago I had the opportunity to buy new glasses for a couple of ? on a sunday afternoon and get them adjusted to my visual acuity in no time. Good luck with getting your local optician to do that for you in return for money in Germany.

I can only hope the new coalition is going to do something about the national economy, but their coalition agreement doesn’t look too promising.

Annual DAAD Alumni Convention

I’m gone for the weekend for the annual DAAD Alumni convention at the Gustav Stresemann Institute in Bonn. I’ve been told they have an internet station in the lobby, but the schedule looks pretty tight. Anyway, this is a good opportunity to point to our local Alumni Club’s website. Guess who’s the administrator.

Why This Blog Will Fail

Lately, I often come across howtos, tutorials, guides, etc. about blogging. Finding this one, I thought I’ll share my thoughts why this blog will never be a success.

  1. No Author Biographies. True, there’s none. Nobody asked so far, so there’s none missing. 😉 This blog is far less about me than stuff I find worth noticing, remembering, thinking about it. Actually, many blogs I encounter have an egocentric touch or shout “look at me, look at me”, which I find irritating.
  2. No Author Photo. No biography, no image linked. There’s one in the gallery, if you’re really curious. I’ve seen myself on Google once, too. My physical appearance is nothing to brag about and wouldn’t add much to this blog’s content either. Lack of credibility? What, you don’t trust me?
  3. Nondescript Posting Titles. That’s probably true every now and then. Aside from blaming it on a certain lack of imagination and creativity, I like to think it’s because I write in a foreign language. It’s a good way to practice English. It’s fun, too.
  4. Links Don’t Say Where They Go. Guilty as sin, your honor. I often use links like this, this or this one. Especially here.
  5. Classic Hits are Buried. Classic hits? On this blog? If I had any, I might even put up a section in the sidebar. I like these two entries, but they’re less than a year old. Classic? Come back in twenty or so years.
  6. The Calendar is the Only Navigation. I don’t even have a calender set up. Categories and the search form should be enough for most users. I thought about tags, but that’s too much for a little blog like this one. Are you looking for something but can’t find it? Just ask.
  7. Irregular Publishing Frequency. That’s a direct hit. Now, I’ve got several jobs, family and an inexplicable urge to have a life offline. If I wanted to post more and frequently, I’d have to cut on my sleep. If visitors don’t want to wait for content (you know who you are), I recommend to use Thunderbird and read the feed whenever there’s something new. Following blogs by actually surfing there on a daily basis is so 20ieth century…
  8. Mixing Topics. Another one. I’m sorry to have such a broad interest. I’m certainly guilty of being too curious, Faust has my full sympathy. In my defence, I really try to stick to less than two dozen categories. The attentive reader will notice a jack-of-all-trades category where I can stuff in everything that doesn’t fit elsewhere though.
  9. Forgetting That You Write for Your Future Boss. I know lots of people who don’t think about what they’re publishing on the net is going to be there forever. When I started writing online, I didn’t think much about it either, but if you read my opinion somewhere, I stand by it. My opinion can change over time, of course (remembering some ideas and opinions, this is a good thing), especially after lively discussion when I’m introduced to new aspects or ideas. I might change my opinion about 1.) in this list in the future. The general idea here is, I don’t write anything I wouldn’t say in any other situation. Let’s call it authenticity. My future boss might not like it, but then again, I could end up as my own boss.
  10. Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service. I’ve started with Google’s free Blogger service, and my actual domain, Grabic.name is still owned by my internet provider, but that’s going to change in february. I don’t agree with Jacob Nielsen’s assessment that a typepad or blogger address ending is the equivalent of the mark of a naïve beginner. There’re lots of well written blogs hosted py Typepad or Blogger. Not everybody needs all the perks of an own weblog software installation, plugins, themes, etc. Content is king. The problem I see with webservices, once you use them, you rely on their continous existence in their current form. Flikr was bought by Yahoo, who knows what they’ll do with it in a handful years? I rather use a gallery2 installation I own, 100% control is better than zero.

Thinking about my introduction, why this blog will never be a success… define success. 😀

Jakob Nielsen: The Top Ten Design Mistakes

Travelling Through North Korea

Dan Schorr recently travelled through North Korea. He describes the English language Pyongyang Times as follows:

No news about other countries. No sports scores. No crossword puzzle.

No crossword puzzle? No fun in Kimjongil-land.

Koreanbook

This is Paradise!

The best place to get Korean books about and from Korea:

Koreanbook.de

Currently, I’m reading Ihr seid hier im Paradies (engl. This Is Paradise!) by Kang Hyok and Phillippe Grangereau. Great book so far, rather short with 256 pages, but with such detailed information about misery and sorrow about his life as a kid in North Korea that it blows my mind. I thought I know about the life conditions since my wife told me quite a lot about it in the last four years and I’ve read about it before. We’re actually reading it together… but I had no idea how bad it really is. There’d be too many pieces from the text to quote, so I’ll leave it at a general recommendation: If you have ten bucks to spare, go and get it.

News from Harvard

A worth while article why Harvard should be a role model for German universities by professor for Japanese Studies in Tübingen, Klaus Antoni:

Offener Brief aus Harvard

Support Free Speech on the Internet

From the EFF‘s website:

EFF is a donor-funded nonprofit group of passionate people—lawyers, technologists, volunteers, and visionaries — who depend on your support to continue successfully defending your digital rights. Litigation is particularly expensive; because two-thirds of our budget comes from individual donors, every contribution is critical to helping EFF fight —and win—more cases.

You Have the Right to Blog Anonymously. EFF has fought for your right to speak anonymously on the Internet, establishing legal protections in several states and federal jurisdictions, and developing technologies to help you protect you identity. With your support, EFF can continue to defend this right, conducting impact litigation to establish strict standards to unmask an anonymous critic in more jurisdictions.

You Have the Right to Keep Sources Confidential. In Apple v. Does, EFF is fighting to establish the reporter’s privilege for online journalists before the California courts. With your support, EFF can defend news bloggers from subpoenas seeking the identity of confidential sources in more jurisdictions.

You Have the Right to Make Fair Use of Intellectual Property. In OPG v. Diebold, Diebold, Inc., a manufacturer of electronic voting machines, had sent out copyright cease-and-desist letters to ISPs after internal documents indicating flaws in their systems were published on the Internet. EFF established the publication was a fair use. With your support, EFF can help fight to protect bloggers from frivolous or abusive threats and lawsuits.

You have the Right to Allow Readers’ Comments Without Fear. In Barrett v. Rosenthal, EFF is working to establish that Section 230, a strong federal immunity for online publishers, applies to bloggers. With your support, EFF can continue to protect bloggers from liability for comments left by third parties.

You Have the Right to Protect Your Server from Government Seizure. In In re Subpoena to Rackspace. EFF successfully fought to unveil a secret government subpoena that had resulted in more than 20 Independent Media Center (Indymedia) news websites and other Internet services being taken offline. With your support, EFF can hold the government accountable for investigations that cut off protected speech.

You Have the Right to Freely Blog about Elections. EFF has advocated for the sensible application of Federal Election Commission rules to blogs that comment on political campaigns. With your support, EFF can continue to protect political blogs from onerous campaign regulations.

You Have the Right to Blog about Your Workplace. EFF has educated bloggers on their rights to blog about their workplace and developed technologies to help anonymous whistle bloggers. With your support, EFF can help shape the law to protect workplace bloggers from unfair retaliation.

You Have the Right to Access as Media. EFF has educated bloggers on their right to access public information, attend public events with the same rights as mainstream media, and how to blog from public events. With your support, EFF can fight for bloggers’ right to access as media.

Know Your Rights and Prepare to Defend Them. EFF has created the Legal Guide for Bloggers to give you a basic roadmap to the legal issues you may confront as a blogger and a guide on How to Blog Safely. With your support, EFF can expand and update these guides.

Support EFF by Becoming a Member Today!

Tsingtao : Bando Collection Online

This is worth an hour of your life, check it out: The DIJ (Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien) published a remarkable archive about the fate of Germany’s first and last colony in China, Tsingtao. You’ll find pictures, maps, theater- and sportprograms, postcards and whatnot there. From the newsletter:

After the fall of the German colony of Tsingtao (China) approximately 5000 Germans were placed under arrest as Japanese prisoners-of-war. From 1914 to 1920 these POWs were interned in several camps in Japan. Because of the stimulating cultural exchange between the POWs and the neighbouring Japanese population, especially in the case of the Bando POW camp, this period of time represents an important step in German-Japanese relations. The DIJ Library is in the possession of a large number of original materials related to or printed in the Bando POW camp: journals, books, maps, postcards, theater/concert programs, photographs etc. This is the so-called Bando Collection. As part of the initiative “Germany in Japan 2005/2006” the Bando Collection is hereby presented to the public for the first time.

On http://bando.dijtokyo.org you will find:

…a virtual tour of the Bando POW camp with its barracks, restaurants and the shopping quarter “Tapautau”.
…information about the theatre activities: “a stage without actresses”.
…how music and gymnastics became a bridge to the Japanese population.
…who won the “camp prize” during the “Exhibition of Graphic Art and Handicraft” in March 1918.
…a catalog to browse or search the whole Bando collection.

Paradox?

Why do so many people smoke on a fair about medicine and health? Germany desperatly needs air for breathing, enter Irish smoking laws!

Any person found guilty of breaching the ban on smoking in the workplace may be subject to a fine of 3,000 euro. The owner, manager or person in charge of the workplace is legally responsible for ensuring that the ban on smoking in the workplace is complied with.

Even Irish smokers like them, that must count for something? Here’s BBC’s global overview on smoking. A complete ban on tobacco like in Bhutan would be even better, but in no way enforceable and surely wouldn’t be backed by the majority of the population in Germany. One can still dream, though.

All the Rage

Seems like Blogging is going through the roof image-wise. Now even Spiegel Online uses Technorati links to link to discussions in weblogs related to their articles. Take a look at this one, it’s at the bottom of the page, not a very prominent place, but it’s there. Trying to find the reason what’s behind this novelty, I found this IHT article by Thomas Crampton (via Joi Ito) as a possible explanation. Focus and Spiegel compete directly with each other, one eager to have a lead over the other. Spiegel announced the cooperation with Technorati on November 3rd, but I’m waiting for a real German Spiegel blog, beside Teheran Bytes by Nahid Siamdoust and the English Buzz Blog, which doesn’t look much different from the usual articles on the rest of the site.

Interview with Filmmaker Lars von Trier

Chit-Chat with a Killer

I actually planned to write about something else, but this is one of those days where something special cought my eye. The online version of the German news magazine Der Spiegel published an article about an event taking place tomorrow 14 p.m. (GMT +1) in its chatroom. Former mafia member Giorgio Basile, professional killer of the Ndrangheta clan and later on member of the Carelli clan in Italy, a dropout who was born in Germany and is now protected by the Italian department of justice is going to gladly answer your questions. Morally a highly difficult offer, but surely at least as interesting. I’d join the chat, but I’ll be working all day. If you happen to participate, please send me the transcript.

Chat with a former mafia member: confessions of “Angel face”

Germans in Japan

Currently my favorite wiki is DinJ: Deutsche in Japan. It’s fairly new, about a month and small with its 37 pages, but promising. The DinJ mailinglist where the idea originated has been founded in 1999 and has been a constant source of useful information. The software the page is running with is tikiwiki. I’ve tried it last year, if you’re looking for a stable CMS/Groupware with extensive wiki capabilities, look no further.

DinJ : Leben in Japan

One Month

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Blogging resumes today, there’s a lot to write about. Our son is alive’n’kickin’, enjoying food and shelter and “being here” in general. In the beginning, he had troubles with jaundice which is why we ended up three times in hospital, but he’s o.k. now. All in all, I think we’ve been lucky so far, since he’s usually calm and his rhythm is fairly stable keeping us busy every three to four hours (for an hour and a half). We bought cloth diapers because disposables are prohibitedly expensive – we use them overnight though, Jun seems to be sleeping better that way and the combination is easy on our strained financial situation.

The birth and the first few days we didn’t really have the time to think about everything. Your life changes, a lot. Since we have many friends who are older than we are and have kids, we heard stories from them, what changes, sometimes we got a little glimps during visits and the such – but to be honest, nobody and nothing prepares you for such drastic changes in thinking, prioritization, life-style – even goals that were important before are moot now. To give one example, for years I’m looking forward to get a job in the foreign ministry or do a comparable job, at the United Nations, a political foundation and the like. Moving from one country every four years seemed like an advantage and even desirable, despite having had the chance to talk to officials in the foreign ministry in Croatia and South Korea, who warned me that their colleagues have difficulties to reconcile their job with family life. Now, I’m not so sure whether it is not better to have just a safe job – let’s say, working for the state, the city of Düsseldorf or maybe the feds in any position. Since every job holds more or less fascinating aspects, I’m sure that the position itself and location is secondary (as long as it is not ever changing) – I’m convinced I can have a great time with any job since all jobs and internships I did so far were in their way interesting. So, that leaves me with a new priority list, and it is still changing. I’m curious what’s going to happen tomorrow with that list…

We decided to raise Jun trilingually. I’m using my first mother tounge, Croatian, Heejoo will use Korean. One year before kindergarden, we’ll start with German. That’s how I learned it, too, and although I almost couldn’t speak when I first went to kindergarden, it wasn’t an issue three months later. Note to myself: I need a Croatian dictionary. 🙂

I know from my time in Zagreb two years ago that there are already Croatian-Korean couples with kids, so we’re definitely not the first to try this out, but since we talk in German with each other this is almost an experiment. I’d like to talk to a professional about children’s language development, perhaps one of my professors at the university can give me a hint where to start looking.

Question of the day: What makes babies laugh in their sleep?