Neatnik, Swiss-style

A while back I wrote a post on stereotypes. Okay, it was a long while back, when Harold Camping was predicting that the world was about to end. In that post I recapped some pretty standard Swiss stereotypes:

The Swiss go on eating Rostis and chocolate and dipping day-old bread into oozing pots of cheese fondue, occasionally heading down into their fallout shelters for another bottle of Chasselas or Pinot noir, which they deftly open with their ever-handy Swiss army knives, accordions playing cheerily in the background.  When they’re not conducting secret bank deals involving covert Carribean cash transfers, that is. Or cleaning their ovens with toothbrushes. Or hiking up an Alp behind a herd of fat cows whose bells ding and dong sweetly into the picture-postcard valley far below.

Today, I came across something that made me laugh. It’s a story of a Swiss person who has taken the Swiss neatnik stereotype to such an incredible extreme that he completely defies another Swiss stereotype: the one that says the Swiss have no sense of humor. It seemed like an appropriate thing to share on April 1st. It’s no joke, though. Continue reading

Instances of poetry

Hello everyone. I’m still here. It’s spring, and I’ve decided to come out of hibernation. Just the other day the temperature went up over 10C and I swear I felt a kind of sap surging in my veins. I’m alive! It’s warm! I feel the sun on my face!

I have decided, however, to adopt a new blogging style. Short. Sweet. To the point. No more ramblings from one topic to another. That’s a real challenge for me, because I find so many things interesting, and I want to share them all with everyone. I guess that means I’ll need to post more things, then, if I limit myself to one topic per post.

Today it’s poetry. I happened to visit Brainpickings, Maria Popov’s brilliant blog, and read a fascinating article about a woman named Nina Katchadourian, who photographs the spines of books arranged to make sentences and poems. It reminded me of Jane, a woman I met a couple of weeks ago when I was visiting my mom.

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A waltz through Vienna

You’re probably wondering what’s wrong with me. It’s already almost May and I haven’t written a single word about weeds yet this spring. Don’t worry, I’m still obsessed. The post is brewing.

I’ve been otherwise occupied, on many fronts.

Brendan and Luc are now able to forage in the fridge sufficiently well for me to leave town for a few days without worrying that they will starve to death. So last week I accompanied Marc to Vienna (he had a meeting). One of my good friends from our Baltimore days was planning to be there, too, and it was a perfect opportunity to see her.

I have a confession to make. My friend Brigitte is very knowledgeable about art, design, history and pretty much anything cultural. And because I knew this, I didn’t even bother looking at a guidebook or the Internet before I left. I knew she would have everything figured out for an awesome Vienna culture-fest.  And she did!

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Open up

A couple of years ago, a co-founder of an EPFL start-up came to me for help. Their html5 video player had just gotten fantastic reviews on gizmodo, and they wanted to make sure the English on their website was good. I suggested a few corrections, he asked me how much they owed me, and I said it was on the house. I thought their product was great, their enthusiasm was palpable, and I knew they probably didn’t have much money. He was very appreciative.

A few weeks ago, I translated an EPFL press release about another start-up. I visited the company’s website to check some details, and noticed that it had some serious problems. I wrote the two young co-founders an e-mail, telling them that I would be willing to help them polish the English on their website. I didn’t mention money explicitly, but I hinted that I was prepared to spend a couple of hours working for free, like I had with Jilion.

No response. Not even a No, thank you.
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Art is what you can get away with. — Andy Warhol

Sometimes, instead of imitating life, art imitates art. This is more commonly known as forgery. If you can get away with it, I suppose you’re an artist of sorts.

Here’s a real-life story of some forgers that didn’t. Continue reading