Douwe Osinga's Blog: April 2006

Monday, April 24, 2006

The stolen Böögg and the Nazis

Back in the day when Usenet was the place to go for a good flame war, Mike Godwin came up with what has been called since, well, Godwin's law stating that if a discussion goes on long enough, the likelyhood of somebody bringing up the Nazis approaches one. And in many groups if somebody brought up the Nazis he'd automatically lose the argument. This post is an exception to that rule, I hope.

About a year ago I blogged about the odd tradition in Zurich of the burning of the Böögg. The Böögg is a huge snow man like puppet filled with fireworks that is set to fire each year to celebrate the coming of the summer. This year things were different. The Böögg was stolen by Left Wing Radicals.

It turns out that what I thougth was a odd and charming ritual from days long gone is actually part of a Zurich culture war that dates back a long time. I was surprised to hear that the fact that the Böögg had been stolen didn't pose any immediate problems, because there was a reserve Böögg, stored in a secret place, guarded by the police. Aparently in 1921 or so, the Böögg had been the target by the Communists and they had succeeded in setting it on fire before the official hour. I can imagine how Lenin, who lived in Zurich until 1916 said before he left, guys I'm going to start a revolution and that his communist friends said: well, don't worry, we'll do something quite revolutionary too.

Anyway, I joked around about this to a Swiss friend of mine. But he didn't think it was funny, he said the whole Böögg thing was very conservative and he never went there. Bad taste or something. So I was talking with my wife about this. Would you not go to a palace because it was built on the backs of slaves? In the GDR they had little plaques on museum items saying, the average laborer had the work so many days for something like this. It is one way of doing it.

So what if the Nazi's had built this great palace but with slave labour?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Who is Heinz supporting?

During a ski trip last weekend I came accross a bottle of Heinz ketchup. It had an interesting label:

Excuse the bad quality I had the settings all screwed up. But still. We were wondering, does Heinz have these bottles in every country? Or are they just pro Swiss and against the other teams? If you see a similar bottle supporting a different team, please drop me an email. Maybe we can create an interesting overview page.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

The cost of mobile data

Long time no blogging, I am afraid. I don't know. Anyway, I am still playing around with my cell phone. GMail works pretty well, the stripped down version, but nevertheless. I can check my mail on the tram, I got Google Talk working, I can tunnel into work, it is all great.

Data prices have come down too. Sunrise, a Swiss provider, has a deal on 50 Franks for 2GBytes a month, which is quite nice for GPRS/UMTS. Maybe not quite unlimited, but it is enough if you refrain from downloading movies and be easy on the music. The problem is of course that I don't need data access in Switzerland that much; I have my connection at home and a quite decent connection at work too.

Switzerland is not that big so when you're traveling it doesn't take much in you are in a different country. GPRS still works, but now the roaming charges kick. No more unlimited or cheap Gigabytes. On my account they charge an impressive 40 franks per megabyte when I am in the Netherlands. That is a mark up of more than 1500 times. That can't be right.

You can do better than that of course, an Austrain per-paid card gets you a megabyte in most Western countries for 8 Euro's, which is of course still very expensive. But there must be a market here somewhere. You can't sell the same product in the same market with a difference in price this big.

Rental is of course one option. You arrive on the airport, pick up a SIM card with unlimited data on it, pay 10 dollars a day or so and return it when you're done. But with the advent of cellphones that support both GPRS/UMTS and Wifi, it should alos be feasible to do something more advanced.

Each of such cell phone supports the hardware to be a portable hotspot; they could just let others connect to the wifi part and route the traffic though the cellular data network. If we could put some sort of peer to peer payment system in place where users would pay the local provider a little bit, each of those 50 Frank unlimited plans could help a lot more than one person out.