Understanding Varoufakis

Yanis Varoufakis, the ‘minister with a blog’ is “minister no more”. This is regrettable, because contrary to what conservative politicians in Europe (including social democrats) want to make believe, he is a consequential economic thinker and proponent of a more humane approach to solve the ongoing European crisis. Pace Schäuble and company, Yanis Varoufakis is not at all an unreliable negotiator, since he had outlined his proposals long before he took office, and sticked to it.

Here is a short outline of his very plausible proposals in two parts from an interview with nachdenkseiten.de:

  1. a more general introduction,
  2. more specific part about Greece’s duty to negotiate with Berlin.

Several things are noteworthy: This interview dates back to a time when Yanis Varoufakis hoped not to become minister. It also becomes evident that the “modest proposal” had existed independently of Syriza’s electoral success in 2015. The proposal could have been brought into discussion earlier by another European government. It also shows that this proposal lays out a masterplan that the Greek government is following, independently of Yanis Varoufakis being its member.

I find the idea of “Europeanizing” failed banks particularly convincing, instead of lending money to the states that pass it on to banks to pay their debts to other banks, thereby increasing the state’s deficit. This “Europeanization” would have been an excellent solution for Bankia in Spain and possibly in Cyprus and Greece as well. Financial restructuring with direct investments by the European Investment Bank is another very plausible idea which would have stimulated the economy in the member states threatened by economic collapse.

For those of you who do not want to read long texts, here is a video where Yanis Varoufakis answers questions about his analysis of European economy and the modest proposal. It is by the way the famous stick-the-finger video and a very digestible presentation of his thoughts. Independently of the European crisis, I liked his Confessions of an erratic Marxist very much for the insights into economics as a scientific discipline.

My 2010 Favorites

  • best movie I saw in 2010: Inception, mostly thanks to Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack,
  • best TV series: Boston Legal: this is not a new series, but I came to know and appreciate it only in 2010,
  • most interesting fiction book I read in 2010: Watchmen,
  • best non-fiction book I read in 2010: Schwarzbuch Deutsche Bahn,
  • best podcast in 2010 (I only discovered it on the last day of the year): Raumzeit,
  • most interesting language I studied in 2010: toki pona,
  • best music I re-discovered in 2010: songs by the Basque singer and song writer Mikel Laboa;
  • best gadget: in June 2010, I bought an iPad,
  • so here’s the best App I found so far: iAnnotate,
  • and here’s the best iPhone App I found in 2010: CamScanner.
  • .

My favorites 2009

  • best movie I saw in 2009: Primer, a must-see low-budget cult movie on time traveling,
  • best TV series: Seinfeld: this is not a new series, but I got the complete collection only this year (thanks to hukl), and enjoyed it so much!
  • best book I read in 2009: A Most Wanted Man by John le Carré, a most plausible story about post-cold-war espionage in Germany,
  • best podcast, as in 2008 & 2007: Der Tag, on Hessischer Rundfunk; this year’s best episode: Yo-ho und ne Buddel voll Bits (Yo-ho and a bottle of bits),
  • best Compact Disk I bought in 2009: I can hardly believe I didn’t buy any; obviously, the age of the CD is over,
  • best music I discovered in 2009: Dave Van Ronk’s songs;
  • in June 2009, I finally bought an iPhone, so here’s the best App I found so far: iThoughts, a very practical mindmapping tool, which made me rediscover mindmapping.

Star Trek

Today I finally had the opportunity to watch the new Star Trek movie, unfortunately in German. I liked it very much. I’ve never been a Trekkie, although Star Trek: The Original Series marked my childhood to a significant extent (in the beginning in black and white at my grandparents’ home). The real fans were perhaps unhappy about the changed timeline. On the other hand, changing the timeline (and thus the plot) is a good idea, especially to improve the suspense of the story, which takes place about the time between the last season of the television series and the first of the original series (set in the 2200s).

The film has to solve a difficult problem: it has to “marry” the poor optics of the original series with what is possible and expected from nowadays’ visual effects. In its plot, it introduces the main characters of the original series in their younger days (though in a changed timeline). Contrary to the original cowboy-like characters, they have a more down-to-earth love and sex life. Fortunately, this aspect is not too obnoxious. The actors are cute and play very professionally (again contrary to the original series). I liked Anton Yelchin best, who played the young Pavel Chekov.

All in all, this is a film that I can recommend to all who know the (original) series; for newcomers to Star Trek, the film is understandable, but a lot of fun is lost.

Curing a cold

The new year started badly. On January, 2nd I fell ill and suffered from a very bad cold (with fever, a bad cough and a headache). The only thing I could do was staying in bed. It was difficult for me even to read or listen to a podcast, I just couldn’t concentrate on anything. I slept very badly, so I was constantly in a state between being awake and sleeping. The physician advised me to stay in bed, and that really helped. After a week I got better again. It seems that there are only two remedies for such virus infections: sleeping and drinking tea (that must be the reason for the German saying: “Abwarten und Tee trinken!” ‘Wait and drink tea!’). Of course, I added lots of vitamins and zinc to my diet. For want of appetite, I didn’t eat very much and lost 2.5 kg (which is certainly a positive side effect).

Fortunately, for my entertainment, I had rediscovered Get Smart, a television series of my childhood (in German called Mini-Max). Since one episode is about 20 minutes long, it was just the right length for my lacking concentration. I can highly recommend the series, because of the interesting spy gadgets. The shoe phone is just great, as is the miniature record player, and all the other stuff. The New York accent of the main character and the German accent of scientists and evil spies are also very funny. So, if you happen to fall ill and want some light entertainment, try Maxwell Smart!

25th Chaos Communication Congress

maha's Neusprech Talk by nr1@flickr cc-by-sa

This year’s Chaos Communication Congress was an overwhelming experience, mostly because of the great number of participants and the good atmosphere, although everybody had a hard time to find empty seats in the lecture halls. Fortunately, the lectures were streamed. So, I didn’t always fought my way through the crowd, but simply watched the stream instead. This is, of course, not quite the same thing. Here are some impressions of the lectures I attended or watched as a stream:

  • I was late at the opening event and wasn’t particularly captured by the keynote, so I gave up on it after some minutes. I cannot tell exactly why the keynote didn’t touch me; possibly it was John Gilmore’s way of speaking. Moreover, the opening event should be more stimulating.
  • As expected, Hacking the iPhone was the highlight of the first day. The lecture hall was very crowded; fortunately, I came early enough to get into the room and sit on the floor. Unfortunately, one of the speakers was almost incomprehensible, but the talk was certainly very interesting.
  • My personal favorite of the first day was the live feature on Kurt Gödel. Such presentations are always very funny and informative at the same time. I hope there will be more!
  • The talk on swarm robots on the second day was very thought-stimulating. In this project, the robots communicate through infra-red sensors, but it gave me an idea of how they could communicate even without a special communication device. Perhaps, I should start my own project on robot communication….
  • Magnus Manske’s talk on DNA sequencing was interesting to me, because it’s a field I don’t know anything about.
  • Rose White’s talk The Infinite Library was very entertaining, although it didn’t yield much new information. I liked it nonetheless for its entertainment value.
  • I started the third day with my own contribution on Newspeak (recording) which provoked some interesting discussions. I even gave four interviews afterwards: a very short videocast on Netzpolitik (with closed eyes), :-( one for Bayerischer Rundfunk (aired on January 9th, 2009), one for a free radio in Southern Germany and another one for the German Free Radio Network. I’m very happy that so many people found my ideas interesting.

I followed some other lectures, but passed most of the time in the Speakers’ Room, which is a cosy, unfortunately a little too small room where speakers like myself were accepted and could prepare their talks (there is always need for last-minute preparations). I coordinated the Speakers’ Room volunteers, which was an easy task this year, because the group worked together very harmoniously and effectively. Moreover, the Speakers’ Room is always a good place to meet interesting people.

Not surprisingly, with so many people around, it is easy to catch some viruses (computer viruses and others). Unfortunately, I caught a bad cold and had to spend the first days of the new year in bed. :-(

My 2008 favorites

Rufus & Judy

Due to my interest in modern cinema, I came across the singer and song writer Rufus Wainwright and I bought a couple of his discs. I like his Chanson style very much, but what is more important: thanks to his remake concert at Carnegie Hall I discovered Judy Garland’s famous concert recording. I had known Judy Garland before, mainly from The Wizard of Oz (a performance of which I had once seen in Sausalito when I studied in California), but I didn’t know about the concert. So, I’m not so critical about Rufus redoing Judy as other people seem to be (among them my colleague Ben Munson), since Rufus made me discover a very entertaining concert with great songs. Of course, Judy’s performance is not always flawless, but it is very enjoyable and I like her interpretation better than the remake which is still quite good; however, as Rufus himself says during the concert: he is more a song writer than a singer, at least when it comes to jazz music (or rather swing), which is certainly more difficult than pop music.

My favorite song of Judy’s and Rufus’s concert is Puttin’ on the Ritz, a musically very interesting song by Irving Berlin. There is a slight textual change in Rufus’s version which I can’t explain:

  • Judy sings:
    That’s where each and every lulu-belle goes
    Every Sunday evening with her swell beaux
    Rubbin’ elbows
  • Rufus sings:
    That’s where each and every lulu-belle goes
    Every Sunday evening with her swell girls
    Rubbin’ elbows

Why does he change beau to girl? Is this some kind of Gender mainstreaming? It is not really a good idea, because the rhyme gets lost.

Some thoughts on this year’s Olympic Games

Today I read some comments against boycotting this year’s Olympic Games. The president of the Deutscher Olympischer Sportbund and vice-president of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach thinks that the 2008 Summer Olympics will create people-to-people contacts in China and that boycotting the Olympics would be the wrong way. This is nonsense! It is already more than evident (even without the unfortunate events in Tibet) that China has been setting up a surveillance state where the freedom of information does not exist. All media, including the internet, are censored. The language barrier alone will help to avoid direct face-to-face contacts between Chinese people and foreigners, and those Chinese people that will be allowed to contact foreigners directly will be everything but dissidents. All this is done for the profit of international corporations that sponsor the Olympics. This is simply not acceptable any more! China is setting up an almost perfect surveillance and censor state to make the Olympics a success for their sponsors and in 2012 some of the Chinese concepts of “safe Games” will certainly be reimported into the Western world where the surveillance technology has come from. I remember the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, where some substantial rights were temporarily suspended for security reasons.

Beijing graphic with handcuffs as olympic rings

All things considered, I’m fed up! I will definitely boycott the 2008 Olympics: I will not watch any television reports (which is easy for me, since I do not have a television set) and I will not buy products of the sponsors until the end of the year. I hope other people will do the same. You can always drink Club Mate when it comes to caffeinated soft drinks, eat healthier fast food from an oriental or North-African fast-food restaurant and get your sports equipment from a less expensive non-olympic label, and be proud of it. This is the only way to stop the suppression of freedom in China and all places where freedom will be “reduced” in the name of the perverted “olympic idea” of commercial profit.

My 2007 favorites

2007 was a very busy year for me; nevertheless, I managed to read some books, watch movies, listen to music and go to the theater. Here are my last year’s favorites:

And please, let me know what you liked in 2007.