Fingers crossed

May 31, 2007 at 5:38 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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I just sent a letter of application to a Viennese Museum – it’s a museum that I am very excited about, and it’s not 100% certain whether they have a vacant position or not. A friend recommended me, although he thinks I am OVERQUALIFIED (how I hate that word….) and would be bored to death… if there is a position, it is going to be in their archives, and of course I could see their exhibitions for free…. right now it sounds exactly what I fond… away from the teaching front… intelligent people to surround me… keep your fingers crossed for me!

Worse than Mulholland Dr.

May 28, 2007 at 1:16 pm | Posted in Nature | Leave a comment
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Another movie my brother just sent me – edited, this time, and very reminiscent of a certain David Lynch movie. Cool!

Back on the blog, internet weary

May 27, 2007 at 12:26 pm | Posted in Blogging | Leave a comment
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Coming back from a brief blogging break, and having been unable to use internet from home for the past two weeks, I realize that I have become internet weary. I think I am going to cancel the contract with my internet provider tomorrow – until I move away in about two to three (yay!) months, I won’t desperately need it at home. I can always go into my office to use it, like I am doing now.

My mom came to visit and it was a really nice break from work – we spent three hours on ships on Lake Constance, travelled through three countries (Austria, Germany, Switzerland), went on a fabulous hike in lovely weather. We hardly got on each other’s nerves which is quite an achievement, considering we spent three consecutive days with each other. I suppose it’s like that with every body and their mothers – there is nobody who has known you longer than they do, but there is also nobody who can irritate you more than they can, with just one little word, or just with the way they say things;-) You think you have grown up and emancipated yourself from your upbringing, but that’s not quite true. Because if you were, then those little words and the way they are said wouldn’t upset you so much, would they? So some words did upset me, but at least I was able to see why they did, and nothing led to a particular disagreement. Occasionally, we were even able to see the comical aspect of seeing ourselves so subjected to the past patterns of interaction, so congratulations to us both:-)

While my mum was here with me in Austria, a wild thunderstorm raged where she, her boyfriend and my brother live. My brother sent me these movies – the noise matters in the first, and the images in the other.

Thunderbolt & Rainbow

May 26, 2007 at 1:07 pm | Posted in Film, Nature, Rainbow | Leave a comment
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My brother filmed this:

Blogging on halt

May 25, 2007 at 4:57 pm | Posted in Blogging | Leave a comment

My mum is coming to visit and I still cannot access the internet from home, so no posts in the next couple of days…

Family-friendly

May 24, 2007 at 4:05 pm | Posted in Gender | Leave a comment
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Just a quick one: I went on an excursion to vaude, manufacturer of mountain sports equipment and clothing who won I don’t know how many prizes for family friendly work conditions. Roughly a dozen of people were on the excursion, and it left us drooling about what they offer.

Anybody can work part-time, even in the management, with a ratio of up to 70% of part-time employees in some departments. Work-hours are flexible, they have both teleworkers and job sharers, and they also have a day care centre for kids from half a year to ten years, costing no more than 180€ (half a day) to 208 € (a full day) a month, including food. And the food’s organic, btw.

Employees may use the company’s vehicles, having to pay no more than the gas they use themselves. They can take out all the equipment on loan AND the company regulalry organizes courses and events in skiing, climbing, hiking, surviving in the wilderness which start Friday noon (meaning employees get half a day off if they take part in a course).

The company is located in a village that is part of Tettnang, a municipality in the Allgäu, and a year ago, the public swimming-pool was almost closed town. A local initiative approached the company for help – they trained some of their staff as life guards and are now running the pool for half the amount of the original costs and it is even open longer than before. The have also introduced courses in work organization, helping employees to work more effectively in order to reduce extra hours, have special reward and incentive systems (financial reward for employees who make recommendations that affect the whole company; small financial rewards for small recommendations within the departments which go into the department’s kitty).

Improvement? The majority of their employees are female, and almost all of them return to work from maternity leave – some of them return to work in their home offices only a month after having given birth. They can decide whether they want to work 5 hours on two days or two hours on five days a week. Over the past five years the birth rates among employees have almost quadrupled, from 5 to 18 children born a year, in a company with 300 employees. Needless to mention they also have special pension funds to support their employees.

It was all pretty amazing and I am still drooling… I was close to asking them for a job although I really want to move back into the city:-)

Job Search = Alienation

May 22, 2007 at 4:54 pm | Posted in Culture, Entertainment, Film, Job, job search | Leave a comment
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So I am currently in the process of reading many many job ads, applying for some, dismissing the most and generally in the process of developing a grudge against capitalism. I don’t think I’d be happy in any of the jobs that I have had a look at so far if it were full time and I getting a acute sense of what ALIENATION really means. Who, seriously, can develop a passion for direct marketing? I am deliberatly choosing this topic because I used to work in direct marketing and customer relationship management – and one part of me thinks that I could do it again and probably even enjoy it. But the other part thinks that I could only do that if I SOLD MY SOUL another time. It’s so annoying: to think that you would have to buy into capitalism first before being able to work in the majority of office jobs that are available. Who could ever be passionate about selling things? Who could be passionate about working in advertising – of course it is VERY easy to be VERY passionate about advertising, at the very moment that you realize the POWER that advertising (and as such: YOU) has over people. But it’s alienating, alienating, alienating.

Český sen (Czech dream) is a fantastic movie from the alienation department: It’s the final year project of two Czech film students. Together with an advertising agency they developed a campaing to market a new supermarket – that actually doesn’t exist. They interview families,pretending to be looking for the Český sen family, and it’s painful to see people confess in front of the camera what shopping means to them. The bit below shows the final 10 minutes: The public is invited to a grand opening, only to find that the supermarket itself is well a kilometre away from the parking lot where they have convened. So they’re already grumpy when approaching the supermarket – only to find out, once arrived, that it’s nothing but a facade. Fantastic!

Here are some of the trailers for the fake supermarket that were broadcast on Czech TV:

The oldest meme on the web: The Hitler Cat

May 21, 2007 at 4:52 pm | Posted in Blogging, Internet, Lolcats, Marketing, Meme, Viral | 4 Comments
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Just because Jetsam brought up the subject of cats that look like Hitler: Here it is once more (for the first time on this blog) – the essence of a Kitler, a cat that looks like Hitler:

Kitler Hitler Cat

More Kitlers on www.catsthatlooklikehitler.com – although the site’s rather an example of why web 2.0 can only go wrong if it’s done with a web 1.0 mindset: The supposed top ten kitlers hardly look like Hitler at all, but they owners probably were the most relentless ones when it came to hitting the ‘vote’ button.

And this my own post contains a deliberate lie: The Kitler is definitely not the oldest meme or virus on the web. The oldest in the cat department is the Bonsai kitten (btw, what’s the thing with cats and the web anyway?***), and the oldest meme on the web that I know is the good old “End of the Internet”. Does anybody know anything older than that?

***) Check this out! The tags most closely related to ‘meme’ on wordpress are:
* Blogging
* Humor
* Life
* Cats
* Entertainment
* LOLCats
* Personal
* Thoughts
* humour
* Blog

WTF?

Lolcats and their Flawed Language

May 20, 2007 at 7:11 pm | Posted in Blogging, Culture, English, Language, Learning English, Lolcats | 3 Comments
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As a an addition to Lenina’s recent txt spk post, it might be worthwhile to have a (brief) look at the I Can Has Cheezburger blog which has been consistently among the top ten blogs in the past weeks. It works as follows: The owner(s) post a picture of a pet, mainly a cat, and add a bubble to it to indicate the ‘thoughts’ of the pet. The thoughts are offered in flawed English, the flaws supposedly representing the inferiorness of the animal to the human. The humans who visit this site, however, seek to come up with even more faulty language, and they assess each other’s comments too. The trashiest or most infantile comments (or those of members who have earned a standing in the group) get the highest ranking of 5 out of 5 cheeseburgers. Lolcats, according to the group’s language, are photographic representations of cats that make you laugh out loud.

Starten a gang

And while I am struggling to suppress an allergic reaction when reading the comments, the ‘lolcats tagged for you convenience’ do make me chuckle:-)

Weather is hot today in the West of Austria

May 19, 2007 at 7:11 pm | Posted in Blogging | Leave a comment
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…and I don’t have anything interesting to blog about. The purpose of this post is just to fill a gap in my calendar. Tomorrow might be the same. Somebody should do some research on the dependence of blog activity on good or bad weather!

Which kind of a blogger am I?

May 17, 2007 at 11:36 am | Posted in Blogging, English, German, Life | 10 Comments
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There seems to be a general consent that there are two kinds of bloggers, even if the lines and criteria of distinction are often dissimilar.

Greg Knauss, emulating Jason Kottke, thinks that the two kinds of bloggers are the referential and the experiential one:

The referential blogger uses the link as his fundamental unit of currency, building posts around ideas and experiences spawned elsewhere: Look at this. Referential bloggers are reporters, delivering pointers to and snippets of information, insight or entertainment happening out there, on the Intraweb. They can, and do, add their own information, insight and entertainment to the links they unearth — extrapolations, juxtapositions, even lengthy and personal anecdotes — but the outward direction of their focus remains their distinguishing feature.

The experiential blogger is inwardly directed, drawing entries from personal experience and opinion: How about this. They are storytellers (and/or bores), drawing whatever they have to offer from their own perspective. They can, and do, add links to supporting or explanatory information, even unique and undercited external sources. But their motivation, their impetus, comes from a desire to supply narrative, not reference it.

Aaron Brazell proposes that

There are two kinds of bloggers: those who blog for themselves, and those who write for others. The first kind of blogger writes as an outlet for themselves; the second type tries to meet the readers’ needs. The problem comes when the first type tries to be the second type and fails.

A chap who calls himself Sirbastian Manning takes a technological approach:

There are two types of bloggers.
1. People who use premade software. These guys usually have loads to write about.
2. People who make their own software to blog with. These guys usually have nothing to write about (some do though).
I fit into the last group of people but now I’m using wordpress so I should start writing more.
Maybe tomorrow.

And cartoonist Jeff Danziger knows the ultimate truth about the two types of bloggers🙂

Jeff Danziger

So which kind of a blogger are you? Which kind of a blogger am I? For the time being, I would simply describe myself as a blogger who has at one point made a resolution to write on post per today. That’s a statistical approach, but the rest follows from this. A certain quantity counts. And at the moment, I am also a blogger who considers reconsidering this resolution, as I feel I don’t really have the time for it – neither for writing about the things that do REALLY matter to me,

(e.g. about the annoying campaign of a club called Familiennetzwerk, i.e. family network, who are rallying to spread the word that day care children are severly traumatized and that there is no other way to protect a child’s sanity than by mothers’ giving up their jobs; recently on a television program, one of their spokes persons claimed that every third child in Sweden – a country where day care centres are not considered prisons, but a place of early social integration – was neurotic, basing her ‘research’ on just one Swedish publication by a woman who could, upon request, not produce any evidence for her findings; but the Familiennetzwerk doesn’t care, everybody can sing in their choir, for as long as they sing their tune… *grrrrrrrrr*)

nor for reading all the blogs out there that interest me. And if you have got just 11 blogs on your daily reading list, like I do, and you have another, presumably ‘real’ life to tend to, the demands of both tend to collide.

I am also considering writing in German – when I started, writing in English also meant to not align myself geography, which also lead me to the misspelling of the name of the province I live in, i.e. Vorradelberg. And know that I know that I am going to move away (relatively) soon, I might want to. Align myself. Geographically and linguistically. But then Cabbage, Lallopallo, Whetted and Nova wouldn’t be able to ‘read me’. Hmm.

Michel Gondry and his Rubik’s Cube

May 16, 2007 at 4:18 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Just two Youtube videos today: Frenchman Michel Gondry, director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep, really is a jack of all trades: He can solve a Rubik’s cube with both his feet and his nose:

How did he do it? It’s too simple too explain it to you. Just watch carefully – one of the oldest tricks in the film business. The nose thing is a bit more difficult to emulate:

Boosting Your Blog Traffic, pt. 3: A Little Help From Stumbleupon

May 15, 2007 at 6:21 pm | Posted in Blogging, Web 2.0 | Leave a comment
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Not that the world’s been waiting for it, but at last, here is a brief review of my experience with Stumble upon. When my boyfriend introduced me to Stumbleupon about a year ago and after I had played with it for while, it made me realize (maybe wrongly) that the web for the first time could really be something like the new television – a medium that simultaneously instills a lean-forward AND a lean-backword attitude in the viewer.

Leaning back had in the past been particularly difficult with the world wide web. Of course you have youtube, dailymotion and Google video, which is more or less the illustrated audio track of TV crammed into the resolution of a 600 by 800 screen, and with a crappy image quality. And that’s precisely the problem about this approach to web TV.

The approach Stumbleupon takes is different. It is a listing of many different ‘interesting’ (as judged by the users) web sites, but instead of having to go through these listings, you can simply specify what your interests are ONCE, and then (and after installing the Stumbleupon bar of course) you can just lean back and enjoy. Well, almost. You still have to click the ‘Stumble’ button of you want a new suggestion, and sometimes pages don’t load promptly. But it’s still the best lean-back experience I’ve had with the web so far.

The suggestions are user-submitted and, similarly to digg.com, users can decide whether they like a website or not. I use Stumbleupon mainly for a little diversion, and my preferred sites offer optical illusions or games. I hadn’t even thought of using it for News and Politics, although it offers a much wider variety of categories in comparison to digg.com.

When, however, one of my own blog posts attracted the insane traffic of over 1,500 on the day of the French elections (because the title sounded as though it offered the results of the elections – unfortunately it only covered the first round of the voting), a few souls also clicked the ‘End Guantanamo’ banner in my sidebar. One of these kind souls submitted it to Stumbleupon, with more than 180 hits coming in in the first night. Numbers have since then dwindled to about 3 to 5 visitors a day from Stumble upon. I suppose that, when a page gets first submitted, Stumbleupon sends it to the screens of a relatively higher number of users in order to have a base according to which to assess the site.

So this has, of course, not been a major breakthrough in blog advertising, but I am happy if just one or two of these 200something visitors downloaded or forwarded the logo. I know that conversion rates (i.e. the amount of people who visited your site AND took the encouraged action, in our case: downloaded or printed or forwarded the logo) for such scenarios are very low: 1% would be a good result.

And I am actually happier about those 234 recent visitors to the End Guantanamo site than I am about the more than 1000 that were misdirected to the French elections page. I am investing my hopes in those tiny steps that might make a difference…

P.S. The one thing that I am not so fond of regarding Stumbleupon is that you can also (and of course – this is capitalism, attention is being marketed) buy screen space from them. They have a kinder word for it: Create a campaign, and once you start this process it takes a few more screens and steps until you realize that this will cost you $0.05 per visitor. I wonder how this interferes with the quality of their site listings – for the moment they should be fine, but once the subjective content to advertising ratio (as judged by the users) is suffering, they’re in trouble (and rightly so:-).

In other words: I those 234 hits that my blog received via Stumbleupon, had been generated as the result of a ‘campaign’, it would already have cost me $11,70. Interesting, isn’t it? Attention is an expensive commodity. If each hit my blog has received so far had been worth 5 cents, I would already have earned $850.

This post is part of a series: Here is part 1, and here part 2.

Tchibo’s Picasso Stunt

May 14, 2007 at 5:54 pm | Posted in Art | 4 Comments
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I got an interesting comment today on one of my recent Picasso on sale at Tchibo’s posts. Auslaender writes:

Well, I was one from those ordering the lithograph!!
One week after, I got a very confusing e-mail from Tchibo explaining how they got to lithographs, and saying basically that those are not quite Picasso’s work, but made by Marcel Salinas on a behalf of Picasso’s granddaughter Marina, between 1979 and 1982 and MADE AFTER Picasso’s oils. Needless to say, I canceled the order. Of course, it was naive to believe that one can even get Picasso’s lithograph for that kind of money, even though I wouldn’t expect such a confidence trick from big player like Tchibo is. Further below you can find excerpts from Tchibo’s mail (in German).

“Die Galerie Burkhard Eikelmann in Düsseldorf, die Tchibo dieses Angebot vermittelt hatte, hat diese Lithographien entdeckt. Sie wurden in den ehemaligen Druckwerkstätten Picassos in Paris hergestellt, 25 Jahre unberührt in einem Lager eines Großhändlers in New York aufbewahrt, um schließlich ihren Weg zu Tchibo zu finden. Lithograph und Drucker war Marcel Salinas, der exklusiv für Pablo Picasso gearbeitet und diese Lithographien – posthum nach Picassos Tod – vom Stein gedruckt hat.”

“Die für die über Tchibo vertriebenen Lithographien benutzten Steindruckplatten wurden nach dem Druck von 1000 Exemplaren vernichtet, so dass ein Nachdruck der angebotenen Edition durch die eigens von Salinas hergestellten Druckplatten ausgeschlossen ist. Die Signatur Pablo Picassos wurde ebenfalls mit dem Stein gedruckt.”

Brief summary of the German blurb, provided by Tchibo in an email to Auslaender: A German gallery, Burkhard Eikelmann, acted as an agent to fix the deal with Tchibo. They had found the lithographs in Paris, where they were created in one of Picasso’s former print workshops, crafted by Marcel Salinas, one of the printers and lithographers with whom Picasso had worked. The stone which was used to print the lithographs – complete with the signature – were destroyed after a number of 1000 copies had been reached.

There is nothing to be found on Marcel Salinas in neither the German, French or English Wikipedia, and he’s not listed as one of Eikelmann’s artists (neither is Picasso – thank God!). So, judging by the name, I can only assume that our Marcel Salinas was the same one who created this poster. Up to scratch with Picasso? You decide.

I’m still having problems with my computer, but hopefully my new harddrive will arrive soon. This does, however, tremendously affect the amount of time I get to spent online – no internet at home. Which is why I won’t have the time today to complete the ‘Blog Traffic Series’ – coming up tomorrow. Also, I am beginning to lag behind in my blog reading – opening Google reader is one of my habitual morning rituals which I cannot iterate at the moment:-(

Boosting Your Blog Traffic, pt. 2: A Little Help From France

May 13, 2007 at 3:29 pm | Posted in Blogging, Web 2.0 | Leave a comment
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On the 23rd of April, I published a little post about the results of the first round of the elections in France, titled Elections in France: the results. It was nothing special, and I do admit that my resolution of coming up with one post per day is not showing an utterly favourable effect on the quality of my posts. What the heck.

A week later I began noticing that this post attracted a tad more attention than it had attracted while it was ‘fresh’. The obvious reason: People were expecting the results of the second run-off of the French elections.

On Sunday the seventh of May, the day of the second round of voting, I noticed in the afternoon that the traffic on this particular post was going up to something like 70 (which is a lot for one post on my blog). I was about to leave home to meet a friend, so as a kind gesture I included a link to a page on LeMonde.fr where the results could be expected. Since most visitors were probably British or American – neither nationality known for their proficiency in foreign languages – I don’t think this was of very much use to them.

When I came back some time past 9pm and checked my blog I gasped: 1002 hits on just this post! And it did not even contain the results! I felt a bit sorry for the people who had come to this page in vain, so I quickly began editing and updating it. But the traffic had since long begun to falter, and no more than 78 more hits came in over the following five days.

What does this mean for the blogosphere? It means, the hype about grass-roots journalism not withstanding, that blogs are no good for current news. On the contrary, it shows that current news events, just like allusions to sex and a bit of pornography in your tagging, can be instrumentalized to boost your blog traffic.

I did obviously not instrumentalize the elections in France consciously, but it is easily explained how I could have done that: The majority of visitors came in not via wordpress tags, but via search engines. How? Because the original post was two weeks old and thus old enough to have entered the search engines.

This was the first boost. The second wave of traffic was ushered in by the startpage wordpress.com, where blogs and posts of the day are featured. It needs a bit of a foundation in terms of traffic to get onto this page, but once you’re there, you’ll get even more. Or as the German proverb would have it: ‘Der Teufel scheißt immer auf den dicksten Haufen’ – ‘The devils picks the biggest turd to crap on’.

The post ended up in the top five posts, and the blog in the top 20 blogs of the day, with my ugly mug appearing somewhere on the wordpress front page for a little while (as a thumbnail, but my mug nonetheless).

So: If you want to use a current event to increase your blog traffic, be sure to have a suitably titled post published two weeks ahead of the time of the event, so that search engines can list it, and then hope to enter the wordpress.com top 20.

This involuntary traffic operation had one positive sideeffect though: 217 people in the past seven days were directed to my ‘End Guantanamo’ page. And every visitor on that page COUNTS! This effect can partly be assigned to the End Guantanamo banner you can see on the side-bar, but mainly to the workings of another public opinion tool like digg.com.

Which one? I’ll tell you tomorrow. And this time, it wasn’t me who submitted the page:-)

P.S.: This post is part of a series. Here is the first part.

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