Experiments

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Almost 60 years ago, post-war Europe started an experiment to see whether peaceful existence would be possible in the long term. I personally consider the result of this experiment, today’s European Union1, a tremendous success. Visa- and even passport free travel within most of the member states, cheaper vacations and reduced cost of doing business because there’s no need to pay FX fees, reduced and soon completely abolished roaming fees, passenger rights. Also, peace – for the longest consecutive period in centuries.

Today, the people of the UK decided to start another experiment to see whether they’ll be better off on their own, without the perceived dictatorship of Brussel’s bureaucrats2.

An important difference between those experiments is that the former is based on cooperation and consensus, while the latter is focused on exclusion and new borders – not only between countries. Consensus doesn’t mean everybody will be happy all the time – but it means that we’ll make an effort to consider different opinions and requirements. The campaign that led up to today’s referendum left Britain utterly divided – unfortunately it’s much easier to divide people than it is to unite them. Especially, if you do not feel bound by the truth3 and prefer to use racist and xenophobic stereotypes instead. Now Scotland will want a new referendum on its own independence and who knows what’ll happen to Northern Ireland. Worst of all, there’s a huge generational divide between old people who mainly voted to leave but won’t face the consequences for as long as the younger generation, the majority of which voted to remain.

So what about the EU? It’s still an experiment without any recent precedence, so – naturally – not everything is going perfect. I am still hoping that it will remain strong and united. Until yesterday, we tried to make concessions to the UK in order to keep them in. Starting today we’ll have to negotiate strongly for the remaining 27 members. Making the exit too easy, will result in further exits and eventually the decay of the EU. The UK had its say4, now it’s time for the remainder of the EU to have its own. The fact that Cameron wants to delay the formal notice until October shows that the UK is still trying to play games. Out is out, now face the music.

  1. officially, the UK is and will remain a member for quite some time. Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon has not been invoked yet
  2. Even without EU regulations, there will be national regulations, it’s just that the Brits too often didn’t get their way in a pluralistic discussion of 28 stakeholders
  3. Two of the main leave arguments were that a) Europe is too expensive (just have a look at today’s development at the markets and see where your money went) and b) there’s excessive immigration (a field in which the UK always made their own rules)
  4. Though it seems some didn’t have a clue what they were voting on

30 before 30 ✔︎

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About a year ago, a friend of mine told me about a challenge to travel 30 countries before turning 30 years old. The latter happens 30 days from today so I’m quite happy to announce that I’ve made my goal a few weeks back. So, where have I been?

  1. Austria
  2. Belgium
  3. Czech Republic
  4. Denmark
  5. Egypt
  6. France
  7. Germany1
  8. Greece
  9. Hungary
  10. That other state in the Middle East
  11. Italy
  12. Jordan
  13. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia2
  14. Latvia
  15. Lebanon
  16. Morocco
  17. Malaysia
  18. The Netherlands
  19. Norway
  20. Oman
  21. Persia3
  22. Russia
  23. Slovakia
  24. Spain
  25. Sri Lanka
  26. Sweden
  27. Switzerland
  28. UAE
  29. UK
  30. USA

To complete the alphabet, I’m missing:

  • Q: Qatar4
  • T: most likely Turkey5, maybe Thailand
  • V: I’ve been to Vatican City, which doesn’t count for the same reasons as Turkey. So it’ll be either Vietnam or Venezuela
  • W: Turns out, there’s no sovereign state starting with W, so I’ll have to wait until either Wales or Wallis and Futuna declare independence6.
  • X: …
  • Y: Yemen7
  • Z: Wikipedia claims it’s easier to get to Zambia than to Zimbabwe, so I guess that settles the question.
  1. Yes, I was born here, but it still counts. I’ve seen more places in Germany than anywhere else. And since I was born in the GDR, it should actually count twice :)
  2. Ok, maybe I cheated with the name because I needed a country with K
  3. I needed a P as well
  4. Should’ve thought of that before, I guess
  5. Already spent a few hours in Istanbul, but because I didn’t stay overnight, it doesn’t count
  6. So there is a potential upside to this whole Brexit referendum
  7. I’ll put that one on hold for some time

Congratulations, SpaceX

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SpaceX just completed their ORBCOMM-2 mission, deploying 11 satellites in low-earth orbit and managing to land the first stage for later reuse. The second part – even though it was just a „secondary test objective“ – is an amazing achievement, because it will greatly reduce the cost of sending things and people into space and will ultimate pave the way for even greater adventures. I wonder how much wear and tear results from such a trip and how often they can send a first stage up.

To see some genuinely excited people, watch the recording of their webcast!


How should VW make up for the environmental damage caused by its cheating?

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Option 1 – Fines: Penalties and sanctions may hurt the company and they have the potential to avoid more cheating in the future, but they won’t be able to compensate for the damage already done. Even their suitability to discourage future misbehavior can be doubted. Not only because they put pressure on the company to somehow still deliver the results its shareholders expect, but also because fining an employer often means relieving employees from individual accountability and liability. 1

Option 2 – Recalling and fixing every affected car: Like penalties, this option inflicts financial damage on VW while doing little to make up for the damage already done. Each recalled car would marginally reduce the total future negative environmental impact but would at the same time externalize the cost of VW’s malpractice to the owners of the troubled cars. That’s also the reason why it’s really unlike to get a significant number of cars outfitted with any fix.

Option 3 – Burden VW with an environmental liability. And offer a way to pay actually pay it off: Weiterlesen »

  1. Whether or not individuals should be liable for actions taken in their roles as employees shall not be discussed in this article. Currently very few employees face criminal or civil charges due to non-compliance in their job, especially in high-profile cases.

A Conversation on Entrepreneurship

The Other Hundred & A Conversation on Entrepreneurship

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The East Wing Gallery was hosting an exhibition of works from the series „The Other Hundred – Entrepreneurs.“ The collection, initiated by the Global Institute for Tomorrow (GIFT), aims to provide a counterpoint to the various top 100 lists of famous and infamous people that are published by different magazines, most notably Forbes. Instead of focusing on high profile entrepreneurs that often are – or at least seem – to be detached from the realities the majority of mankind is facing, GIFT wants to look at the many forms of activities and ideas that people all over the world bring to life in order to make a living or the world a better place. While still not representative, the photos – and the stories behind them – provide a much better view on what entrepreneurship means. In connection with the exhibition, the East Wing Gallery was also organizing two „conversations on entrepreneurship.“ The first one took place Oct 3, 2015 and the second one week later. This post is a collection of thoughts from the first talk, not a complete summary. If you’re interested in the full event, you can find a (mediocre) audio recording here.

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On ISIS

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ISIS cannot kill all of us – keeping up with traffic related deaths would pose a serious logistical challenge for them. ISIS doesn’t even want to kill all of us. ISIS wants to make our lives miserable – we should not allow them to.

ISIS wants us to stop having fun – we cannot stop going to concerts or football games.

ISIS wants to make it impossible for millions of people to flee from their „caliphate“ by spreading doubt in supportive nations – we must not be quiet when politicians question the right for asylum or insinuate that refugees pose a serious thread to security.

ISIS wants us to horse trade actual freedom for a pretense of security – we cannot allow our parliaments and elected leaders to limit judicial oversight or to lock down open borders.

ISIS wants us to believe the same Orient vs Occident narrative that right-wing populists and extremists in Europe are trying to draw – we cannot forget that ISIS killed 43 people in Beirut just one day before the attacks in Paris and hundreds more before that in other places around the region.

ISIS has very limited power over our lives. Politicians, the media and ourselves have power. Whether we use this power to advance ISIS‘ cause is our own decision. Looking at mainstream media, Beirut is all but forgotten. On Friday we will find out how long Schengen will hold up

[Update: DE – NL football game cancelled]


War crimes and suicide attacks

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On Oct 3, 2015 US forces upon request of their Afghan allies bombed a MSF hospital in Kunduz, killing 22 patients and staff.

Imagine that same hospital had been struck by a suicide attack instead. A member of the Taliban drives up in a car full of explosives and detonates them. Bombs explode. People die. The only hospital of its kind in the region is partially destroyed. The world would be outraged and rightfully so.Now look at what happened – according to official statements anyway: One or more members of the Taliban were in that hospital, without explosives though. They didn’t have to bring any, because they were delivered by the US air force. Bombs explode. People die. The only hospital of its kind in the region is partially destroyed. Suddenly this is – somehow – considered to be a good thing.

As this article in The Intercept points out, the official story keeps changing. I guess because everyone involved knows how much of a screw-up this is, but nobody wants to lose face.

Still, some Afghan officials continued to suggest that the attack was justified. “I know that there were civilian casualties in the hospital, but a lot of senior Taliban were also killed,” said Abdul Wadud Paiman, a member of Parliament from Kunduz.

As per MSF, 7 adult patients were killed – even if all of them were Taliban, this is not „a lot.“ And while „senior“ implies „high-ranking“ it could just as well mean „old“ – or nothing at all. If there had been any high ranking Taliban killed in the strike, we would know names by now – security forces like bragging about their achievements too much.

If there’s anything good about this at all, it’s the fact that it was a hospital run by MSF, a well organized, connected and respected group with no intentions to shut up. With a bit of luck this story is going to blow up. Just like the hospital did.


Zur Schule in Cottbus, Studium in Magdeburg …

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… und dann doch nicht Fahrraddieb geworden. Da muss man sich glatt wundern, wenn man diesen Artikel in der Süddeutschen liest:

So wurden 2014 in Münster gut 1500 Fahrräder je 100 000 Einwohner gestohlen. Das reicht zwar immer noch für den Titel „Diebstahlhochburg“ – aber eben nicht für die Spitze der Kriminalitätsstatistik. Dort befinden sich Cottbus (2030 Fahrräder) und Magdeburg (1638).

Falls es bei Lexmark irgendwann nicht mehr klappt, kann ich ja immer noch umsatteln (siehe auch).


How to say goodbye to Google*

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After many years of dependence reliance on Google, I have decided that it’s time to say goodbye – or at least bring some distance between me and the US based company. The reasons behind this change will have to be discussed in a separate post. Today I will just review which parts of the Google universe are easier to escape from and which harder. This post can be considered a follow up to my original move from a personal Gmail account to Google Apps for Business about three years ago. A few things have changed since then, several services are no longer important to me and will not be migrated. At the same time, the scope of work has been expanded due to the fact that I want to leave most of Google behind me instead of just moving from the consumer section to the business department. So let’s have a look at Google’s various offerings and the alternatives I have chosen.

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