Observations about the universe, life, Lausanne and me

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I got my new toy two days ago: Amazons Kindle, a Christmas present from my parents. Do I like it? Let me put it like this: If you are going to read books electronically, do it on an e-ink device. The difference to an LCD screen is amazing - it really looks like (albeit glossy) paper. You quickly get used to the page-refresh, which rapidly blanks the page before displaying a new one - this eliminates 'ghosting', where you can see some remnants of the old page because the electrophoresis in the pixels wasn't complete. The refresh only takes a fraction of a second, anyway.

Don't get me wrong, I love reading real books, but my book-shelf real estate is limited, and has run out some time ago. Plus, there is something neat in having a couple of hundred books stored on a device that weighs only a couple of hundred grams.

Close-up of Kindle display

I do hope e-ink continues to make advances, especially in terms of the refresh-rate, for I would love to see it used as a display for tablet PCs, phones and the like. Yay progress!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bern and its mutant bears

An old bear-emblem, pre-ninja era
Bern, the capital of Switzerland is known for its bears. Has been known for its bears for centuries, in fact. It was founded in 1191 by Berthold V, Duke von Zähringen. 1193 it suffered a meteorite impact. Said meteorite had an unusually high concentration of Cobalt-60, and as a consequence the local bears mutated, becoming hyper-intelligent tool-users. They proliferated in the fertile lands around Bern, and several skirmishes (also known as Bärenchriege) were fought over the next years. Eventually Bern fell in 1218, with the Berthold V. suffering a gruesome death at the claws of the enraged bears, being torn apart atop the Zytglogge, the famous clock-tower of Bern. Berthold V. having no heirs to continue the war, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II had no choice but to leave the bears in control, declaring Bern a free imperial city.

The Zytglogge, where Berthold V. met his end

The bears joined the Swiss Confederacy in 1353, and stayed in power in Bern until being occupied by French troops in 1798, during the French Revolutionary wars. The bears vanished from public live. How and when they managed to contact the Tokugawa shogunate is hotly disputed by scholars, but it is clear that when they reappeared in 1848, they had been trained extensively as ninjas. The bears, now hyper-intelligent mutant ninja bears showed no inclination of retaking the reins of power, even though they certainly would have been capable of it. Instead, the seemed content to hang out in the Bärengraben, vanishing from it from time to time to conduct secret missions and assassinations, an activity they have continued to this day.

View of the Münster and Bern, from the Bärengraben

I personally nearly met my end on the hands of a slightly myopic ninja bear, who afterwards apologized profusely for mistaking me for his target, before leaping onto the rooftops and vanishing.

It was shear chance that the bear noticed I was not his target, a split-second before tearing out my throat.

Apart from these rare, unfortunate incidents, Bern is a very safe city for tourists, and the "Bärenlugen", trying to spot one of the illusive ninja bears in one of their many disguises, or on one of their clandestine missions, is a popular national past-time. Everything and everyone can be a bear, in Bern.

Depicted: A bear in disguise, emerging from his cave in spring.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A new dawn

Or at least one of the first I saw in 2011 in Lausanne.

Aiming for bi-weekly posts this year. Don't hold your breath.