almost a diary

Only 20%…

Hmm… maybe this Inner Geek Test is more culture-bound than I thought, or maybe – I am really only 20.31558% – Geek (despite the fact that I have indeed read an Amiga OS manual cover to cover when I was twelve).

The odd thing is, I suspect that had I taken some “Inner Coolness Test”, I had also scored in this percentage range (despite the fact that I once rapped in German in front of a club in New York City and later convinced some Carioca friends I could dance Samba when I in fact I don’t know a single step).


Digital Pricing.

I really wonder what the Economist and some other notable print media outlets have in mind when they set their pricing strategy for online pay-as-you-go access?

If you have a look at this Economist login page, a single article sells for $2,95. At the next better news stand I can get the entire print issue for € 4,70. Then I have access to all the information and not just this single article. I understand that I won’t get it until tomorrow morning and that I won’t be able to digitally manipulate the content (which I am not allowed to republish anyway) and there is a slighly smaller risk of digital piracy as scanning and OCR would be needed to get the article back on a screen.

But even assuming that the Economist would follow an absurdly counterproductive strategy of “risk” pricing – punishing people for buying instead of stealing (like the record companies do with enourmous success), this is an insanely high relative price. I understand that selling individual articles is problematic and bundling them is a large part of what makes the industry economically viable. So people who only want a piece at a time are not exactly ideal customers. But ideal or not – who can be choosy about money these days and – they could be customers!

But if someone doesn’t want to buy a subscription to either an online publication or a printed one, an overpriced single item is not going to make them want to. And neither are they likely to spend half the price of 120 pages on one and a half of them.

This is a wondrous world indeed.


Ich bin ein Berliner

Happy belated new year, my gentle readers.

Ah, don’t we all know that German is a difficult langue to master. Of course, for some, those born German, it’s a little bit easier than for all others. But, incidentally, not everybody can be as lucky. And in turn, it is hardly surprising that a significant number of non-native speakers who tempted their fate by attempting to learn their language of choice, remarked, as did Mark Twain, that German should be classified among the dead languages, because only the dead have enough time to learn it.

Strangely though, Mr. Clemens was clever enough to find out about the most bizarre idiosyncrasies after spending onlya couple of weeks in Heidelberg, if I am informed correctly.

But it is not only the German language as such that spells trouble for English speakers. Sometimes, mere city names can become the essence of a joke that will go around for decades.

You will probably guess what I am referring to. It is, of course, President Kennedy’s famous Cold War address in Berlin in which he, actually in correct German, stated – “I am a Berliner”. A sentence that can mean both “I am a citizen of Berlin” and “I am a jelly doughnut” (actually, I think the jelly is optional in a ‘Berliner’).

It’s not that anyone in Berlin would not have understood what Kennedy was referring to. But I guess – after having been told about the awful German language – some people in the American delegation were quite happy that the wall had been erected in Berlin, not in Vienna – for those in doubt, the German name for Vienna is Wien, the inhabitants of Wien are usually referred to as “Wiener”…

Why that, why tonight? For no obvious reasons. But a few days ago, Brad Delong quoted the speech. And he started a lenghty discussion about German grammar and jelly doughnuts. You can find the entry here.


Afghani Draft Constitution.

Check out the Afghani Draft Constitution to read a paper that is hopelessly trying to balance the demands of an essentially tribally organised country with those of a concerned international community. Words do matter, and so do constitutions. But there’s no way 46 pages of good intentions can speed a development that will take decades at best. Believe me, none of the warlords is having trouble sleeping after reading it…