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Preview: Quarter Life Crisis

Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

Published: 2015-06-25T23:55:11+01:00


UnicodeChecker 1.17


(image) With Unicode 8 having been released earlier this month, UnicodeChecker received an update as well to provide you with the latest Unicode standard out of the box.

Go and grab your copy while it’s still hot to enjoy those precious few of the new codepoints that there are actually glpyhs for in OS X 10.10 (Skin colour modifiers U+1F3FB…U+1F3FF, unfortunately no unicorn face U+1F984 yet).


Apart from that this update brings just a few small UI improvements.

While testing this release, the question came up which old artifacts of UnicodeChecker still exist. Going through old backup DVDs – which luckily were still readable – we could find a copy of UnicodeChecker 1.0 … a 34KB StuffIt archive containing an application I can only run on MacOS X.6 in VMWare these days. There’s even a heavily pinstriped screenshot from November 2001, presumably on Mac OS X.1 to go with it:


UnicodeChecker 1.16


(image) Thanks to Steffen’s efforts – there’s finally an update to the codepoint geek’s favourite UnicodeChecker again!

The update includes support for Unicode 7 as well as a powerful advanced search window:


Little improvements I particularly like are those to the Utility window’s Split Up tool. It will now display each codepoint’s offset in the string and display each selected codepoint to the main window.

To keep up with Apple’s pace in backwards incompatibility and style, support for OS X versions older than X.7 has been dropped and the icon has been flattened. In addition to that, Growl support has been removed in favour of OS X’s Notification Center.


Earth Addresser 3


(image) I has been four years since the last update to Earth Addresser, our application that gives you a nice visualisation of your contacts’ addresses in Google Earth. That’s a long time in the computer world.

Which is to say that the application had stopped working completely, mainly because Google maps stopped supporting external applications (for free). While this issue could be neatly – and surprisingly easily – fixed by using Apple’s CoreLocation framework which has been available on the Mac since OS X.8, actually doing so ended up being a lot of work.

A lot of work because four years since the latest version and essentially seven years since the creation of the code base are pretty much an eternity in Apple’s development world. While the Cocoa basics still work just fine, many things have been added to the system, while others have been deprecated. Hence a lot of work was necessary to make the application reasonably up-to-date and take advantage of current technologies.

Add to that the fact that this application started off as a hack based on a single class named ‘Magic’ which cried to be split up at least a little for sake of maintainability and that it really should use the Sparkle framework for automated updating, there was even more work to do.

That said, the work is done. While still a silly app, Earth Addresser is now a silly app which is slightly more up to date and not completely driven by Magic. It stopped working on Mac OS X.4-7. It gained first class updating (including Sparkle seems to have become a lot easier since the last time I tried it a few years ago), a preferences window to make a few possibly language or region specific choices user-configurable and a home on github.


Web Form FAILs


While the web did improve considerably in the past decade I keep being impressed by developers’ insistence on creating broken forms.

Broken as in: refusing or breaking reasonable looking input for no apparent reason. Non-ASCII characters are always good things to try if you want to see high-tech FAIL.

For example when buying Arcade Fire’s Reflektor album online with Topspin media, their site (a sweet home to broken web design), kept marking the city name “Göttingen” as an error by marking it red and refusing to submit the form. Of course it did not tell me what exactly it considered wrong with that correct input, but luckily I know the “ö” to be good at finding programmer failure.


Note that in that form I did not even try to use my first name as I usually do but I left it at “Sven” only. Which of course is not what is in my passport or on my credit card, so I am a bit weary to use the “wrong” name there. To their credit: the credit card company has not complained so far about such minor differences in name. But I am a bit uneasy using the “wrong” name on airline tickets given the horrendous amount of mindless rule-following and stupidity in the airline and associated “security” businesses (yet I keep being forced to enter the “wrong” name due to the brokenness of many aviation industry systems, as first seen with Lufthansa a decade ago).

When filling another form recently – one that I suspect to be completely unrelated to ancient legacy systems as they may exist in airlines – I was reminded that even that bug remains alive and kicking. And the website recommended I should please check your first name. Err thanks:


I will be the first person to agree that input validation is important and I do appreciate efforts to validate input. With that in mind, I completely fail to understand why developers do not try to make their systems and databases as open minded as possible for the values they accept. In the case of names and place names that would reduce both users’ frustration and the effort needed to validate inputs, because that global range customers simply do have names and addresses that do not fit a 1960s American mindset.

Google Maps Shadows


I’m probably the last person to run into it, but I still think it shows quite a dedication to irrelevant details by Google Maps to add shadows to their graphics for buildings they have 3D shapes on depending on the time of the day.

Default view for SUB Göttingen:


The same in the early afternoon:


… and in the late afternoon:


Of course this is more spectacular for higher buildings. E.g. the TV tower at Berlin Alexanderplatz in the early afternoon:


… and in the late afternoon:


I would have guessed that serving different images depending on the time of day forces the creation of so many additional tiles that it would not be economic. Perhaps I was wrong about the number of additional tiles needed as the shadows only appear at high zoom levels for buildings that have 3D data available. Or Google are just showing off their advertising cash…

U.S.A. down


An interesting side effect of the current U.S.A. shutdown is that they actually make the effort to not just stop paying their staff but that they shut down their computer services as well.

Pretty much all of us have seen the shutdown notice you see these days when visiting, say,


Let’s just hope they consider running stuff like GPS or not crashing the ISS as equally »essential« as spying on everybody over in the U.S. It may also be a good opportunity to take a look at the style of U.S. government sites which seem to have a visual language of their own.

The Library of Congress was offline as well (but seem to have a running website again now):


… a detail which seems to have plenty of fun consequences as they host numerous library standards and the XML Schemas of the formats belonging to them on their site. Really makes you think to which extent you can – or should – rely on online resources and how much effort it is to proof your software tools against failures like this one. Just imagine having software which relies on those schemas for some kind of validation and not being able to load them…

A curious further observation was the following: even somewhat obscure services like the NAL’s Z39.50 server stopped working (dutifully observed by nagios):


To me this suggests that either they just disconnected the complete networks of the respective government agencies or they made a real effort to shut down each and every one of them. It will be interesting to find out which of both … and in the latter case why they make this effort which could well be more expensive then just keeping everything turned on.

see conference 2012


.centred {text-align:center;} img {border: 0px none;float: right;padding:0.2em 0em 0.2em 0.5em;} {height: 150px; width: 150px;} .centred img, img.centred {float:none;text-align:center;} blockquote {margin:0.7em 0em 0.5em 0.2em;padding:0em 0.7em 0em 1.3em;border-left: thin solid #ccc;} q>em, blockquote>em { font-style: normal; } .aside:before {content:"Aside:";color:#333;} .update:before {content:"Update:";color:#333;} .aside, .aside p, .update, .update p {padding-left:3em;color:#666;} After enjoying last year’s see conference on data visualisation, I decided to attend once again this year, also taking the time to visit the post-conference workshops. Once more, both the event’s organisation and atmosphere were excellent. Many thanks to the organising ad agency for that! This year’s conference topic being sustainability meant that the focus went beyond everyday design opportunities but also considered the global impact of the work. The opening talk was given by Thomas Henningsen of Greenpeace. He presented a film showing images created by Greenpeace of the decades, noting that the visuals play a huge role in raising awareness. Not only by illustrating the issues at hand but also by highlighting the power difference of the huge corporate tanker fighting off people in tiny boats. Arguable Greenpeace have mastered this channel of communication over the decades (although Henningsen showed a few photos where they failed communicating on symbolic or even technical levels as well). The focus in this style of communication is on photographic imagery. Even if the information to be communicated is based on data, it is often visualised in photos, for example by showing a typically sized fish caught 50 years ago, next to the typical size you catch today. The final part of the talk was dedicated to rainforest and how Greenpeace try to use before (seemingly infinite rainforest) vs. after (seemingly infinite soy bean plantations) imagery to illustrate the natural resources destroyed there. The following speaker was Norbert Bolz, a communication theorist from Berlin. Giving the only talk without any visual aides he focused on how the use of images changed communication in the last two decades, apparently known as the Iconic Turn. Media such as newspapers have embraced images in that time, for their ability to provide concise messages and firing straight into people’s brains. This is problematic for reasons such as a shift in the topics chosen by media (if you can’t take a photo of it, it won’t make it to the title page) as well as the fact that you can hardly argue with – or negate – an image. Then Bolz touched the topic of information, noting that information itself is not interesing and typically only information you have a personal interest in has a chance of making its way through. Usually more information will not help you reach a reasonable decision, it will rather increase confusion. A fact that marketers love and most product searches on the internet support, I guess. The big problem there seems to come from our limited ability to absorb information. And our questionable skills at determining which parts of the information we receive are worth considering: there is a strong bias towards information looking new and interesting rather than to it providing new facts; and there is also the problem with the most important pieces of information in some context not necessarily being those containing the biggest amount of data. Bolz returned to the topic of design by presenting it as the ‘rhetorics of the technical world’, which gives (interaction) designers great power and responsibility. In the lunch break (really nice cake at the stall there!) I took a look at some of the student projects shown in the basement. Once more fun and interesting stuff there. It ranged from a EEG ‘headset’ that uses your brainwaves to draw[...]

Ski 2012


.centred {text-align:center;} img {border: 0px none;float: right;padding:0.2em 0em 0.2em 0.5em;} {height: 150px; width: 150px;} .centred img, img.centred {float:none;text-align:center;} blockquote {margin:0.7em 0em 0.5em 0.2em;padding:0em 0.7em 0em 1.3em;border-left: thin solid #ccc;} q>em, blockquote>em { font-style: normal; } .aside:before {content:"Aside:";color:#333;} .update:before {content:"Update:";color:#333;} .aside, .aside p, .update, .update p {padding-left:3em;color:#666;} After last year’s great ski trip to Italy, this year’s destination was Montriond in the Portes du Soleil ski resort in the French/Swiss Alps. As ski resorts go when you’re not living in the mountains, getting there was a bit of a nuisance: eight hours on trains plus a 90 minute bus ride and gave ample opportunity to watch countries and landscapes go by. On the way I got the impression that Switzerland is overrated: trains may be on time, but they are not particularly fast; the mountains are pretty but the villages you pass through look as uninspired as their German counterparts; somehow it looked better on TV. The appartement we rented was very spacious, its ten beds easily accommodating our group of eight, there being two lounges for relaxing, a nice kitchen-slash-eating area and a lift opening right into the appartement (really as good as it looks on TV). In some parts of the flat one could even find an open WiFi connection. That said, some aspects of the flat seemed a bit odd. The primary one being the countless light switches on the walls for controlling many lights, none of which really lit the areas we used for reading or chopping as well as we wanted them to. Given our talent in picking the worst possible week for skiing, this year’s excursion matched the week of the U.K. half-term holidays. Meaning that the whole ski resort was filled with English people. In fact – despite being France – the whole area seemed very welcoming to English speakers. Many of their (bad) websites are available in English and you can easily get by speaking English as well. While heavily penetrated by ski pistes, the mountains and landscapes remain beautiful, and the Portes du Soleil ski area includes more than two hundred lifts and pistes, giving all of us the slopes adequate for our respective skillsets. Generally the lifts seemed older and slower than the ones we had in Dolomiti Superski last year which gave a couple of lengthy cold journeys. Still, there were no long queues at most times. My impression was that the other people I saw on the pistes skied better than those I saw in Italy, even the snowboarders did a reasonably good job instead of just sitting on the slopes smoking. The markings of the pistes, despite being presumably standardised seemed to match that impression in that the difficulty of some of the easy blue pistes seemed similar to some red pistes in Italy. The ski course I took at ESF Morzine was not as helpful as the previous ones I took. Somehow their courses take place at times which make it hard to actually be there if you have to catch a shuttle bus to/from your flat before or afterwards. And their administrative staff was not particularly helpful advising or accommodating my needs, either. So I ended up with an afternoon course which felt too easy and had a forced rush for the shuttle bus afterwards. And as my friends preferred skiing in the neighbouring Avoriaz part of the ski region which required a lengthy transfer to get to the ski course, it was a bit of a hassle and I missed some sessions because I did not always make it in time. Finally there is the aspect of location. With the ski area being located in both France and Switzerland, there are a number of locations where you cross borders. Just that you will hardly notice you did so. It’s all quite transparent and simple – presumably because Switzerl[...]

Oh my god we’re back again


Four weeks of holidays are over. We had a great trip and saw countless sights, occasionally in questionable weather. The number of countries I’ve been to has increased by two and the number of U.S. states I’ve been to rose by 10-12, depending on whether just driving through counts. People were nice and pretty much all our plans worked out. Amazing.

The executive summary would be as follows:

Iceland Canada U.S.A.
Flag (image) (image) (image)
Currency 157 ISK = 1 € 1,38 CAD = 1 € 1,36 USD = 1 €
Toilet sign Snyrtingar Washroom Restroom
Water smell sulphur chlorine chlorine

I started to develop a faible for brutalist architecture and now I’m tempted to retro-blog the experience, if only to make sure I remember it better.

My iPod’s photo app claims we were here:


Day 1-3: Reykjavík


.centred {text-align:center;} img {border: 0px none;float: right;padding:0.2em 0em 0.2em 0.5em;} {height: 150px; width: 150px;} .centred img, img.centred {float:none;text-align:center;} blockquote {margin:0.7em 0em 0.5em 0.2em;padding:0em 0.7em 0em 1.3em;border-left: thin solid #ccc;} q>em, blockquote>em { font-style: normal; } .aside:before {content:"Aside:";color:#333;} .update:before {content:"Update:";color:#333;} .aside, .aside p, .update, .update p {padding-left:3em;color:#666;} I sympathise with Scandinavian countries and Iceland has always fascinated me. It is said have beautiful landscapes, friendly people (including a bunch of our favourite bands) and a great atmosphere. The country is both nearby and far away: a European country, yet close to the Arctic circle, part of the Schengen area, yet half-way to North America. Despite not being a big outdoor lover, I’ve always wanted to visit. I had the opportunity to do that now. Not quite the big tour all the way around the island, but just a two-day stopover in Reykjavík for the time being, thanks to Icelandair offering such flights from Europe to North America with the option to enjoy a few days in their country. To us, the days in Reykjavík seemed worth the effort of doing the stopover. We stayed at 4th floor hotel near Hlemmur bus station (it looked bigger in the film) which has small rooms but was affordable and fine. This very short stop in Iceland left a good impression. Everybody was friendly, helpful and totally used to the nuisance that are tourists. Somehow they manage to strike the right balance between being helpful and being blatantly commercial: You can buy pretty much any touristy attraction or convenience you may be interested in, but it doesn’t seem like anything is forced on you. Downtown Reykjavík is conveniently small and easy to explore by foot. After just a day you start coming to streets, thinking “we’ve been here before”. So we looked at the city, the harbour, their new Harpa concert house, went up the concrete Hallgrímskirkja to enjoy the view on the city, peeked at the city hall, parliament, national library and took a short walk up a hill to Perlan a bunch of hot water tanks with a glass dome containing a cafeteria and restaurant on top. Hot water is Iceland’s big source of energy. And there’s enough of it to heat pretty much everything to comfortable temperatures without a second thought. This leads to poorly insulated houses and quite a few buildings seeming to master everything without having chimneys. It also seems to result in a slightly sulphuric smell in the hot water, which takes some getting used to. Before leaving, we indulged in a few hours of soaking in the Blue Lagoon spa which is fed by the wastewater of a power station. Luckily the power station is a geothermal one as well, so we’re just talking about a lot of hot water here – without a noticeable sulphuric smell even. After that attraction we were dropped off at Keflavík airport again – offering a trip from your hotel to the airport with a spa-stop on the way just seems like a brilliant idea – and were comfortably tired for the flight to Toronto. [...]



It’s not just the weekend and autumn starting now but also big holidays which will take us to Canada and New England for the coming month. While our tour from Toronto via Montréal, Boston and New York to Washington looks tiny on a map of the continent, there’s so much to see, meet and enjoy that a month will be over like that.


But before all that begins there are two days of stopover time in Reykjavík. Looking forward to that. Off to the train to the plane now …

Haldern 2011


.centred {text-align:center;} img {border: 0px none;float: right;padding:0.2em 0em 0.2em 0.5em;} {height: 150px; width: 150px;} .centred img, img.centred {float:none;text-align:center;} blockquote {margin:0.7em 0em 0.5em 0.2em;padding:0em 0.7em 0em 1.3em;border-left: thin solid #ccc;} q>em, blockquote>em { font-style: normal; } .aside:before {content:"Aside:";color:#333;} .update:before {content:"Update:";color:#333;} .aside, .aside p, .update, .update p {padding-left:3em;color:#666;} It being August again, it meant yet another trip to the Haldern Pop festival for me and my friends. I think this time our group consisted of more people than ever thanks to extra enthusiasm from Steffen’s friends. This summer being the none-summer that it is, we were a bit weary about the prospect of having to camp for a few days. It had been cold and raining for weeks. So we went well-equipped, not just with raincoats and wellies but finally also with last-minute pavillion to keep us dry. That came extremely handy in the times when it did rain. But to be honest, the rain was nowhere as bad as we had feared. Musically Haldern held quite a few well-known attractive bands for us this year and possibly the largest variety of completely unknown or just vaguely known bands we had so far. Thursday Thursday night in Haldern being what it is, meant the usual less-than-convenient facts: loads of enthusiastic people already being present and the only music being in the beautiful but small Spiegelzelt – apparently re-named to Spiegeltent this year. So we had to start with a fair amount of queueing to begin with. To make things extra-unpleasant for the first-time Halderners it was raining at the time, but eventually we did manage to get into the tent, seeing the great gig of The Avett Brothers on the screen outside while waiting and making it inside in time for Anna Calvi who played a lovely gig. Of course we couldn’t leave after just one gig, particularly after waiting in the rain for an hour. So we stayed on despite not knowing the upcoming band, called the Brandt Brauer Frick ensemble. It took ages for the stage to be set up for them. Probably because of all the ‘classical’ instruments – including a cello, a grand piano and a harp – which had to be set up for ten musicians. And then the music sounded like techno (not that I knew what real techno sounds like…). A surprise and a very pleasant one. A very cool gig and band discovery to start things off with! And that was Thursday night already. More a chill-in phase than a huge amount of music. But with all the traveling and setting up we did before, it was time to enjoy some drinks in our pavillion. Friday After a really rainy morning, we went to pick up more people from the station, enjoyed some drinks in town and finally went to the main festival grounds. After being to the huge Hurricane festival two months ago, Haldern’s Reitplatz felt so sanely small and pleasant in comparison. The first band we saw, Golden Kanine stressed the ever-increasing popularity of string and brass instruments in popular music. They were a pleasant enough start, though the trousers of the saxophonist kept freaking me out. Next on were The Antlers, who also played a nice and somewhat unexciting gig. They also brought the first red keyboard on stage for this year. Somehow keyboards started being red rather than black two or three years ago. Heading for the Spiegelzelt once more – somewhat easier now that the main stage was open and attracted the majority of the crowd – we saw the second half of the gig by Wild Beasts which was another pleasant surprise. But things became even better afterwards. I had heard Socalled’s music before. Pretending [...]

Les Trucs Live


I’ve loved Les Trucs ever since accidentally seeing them (twice!) two years ago. Now they were playing in Kassel which was a great excuse to visit a friend there – and to introduce him to the beauty of ‘Nintendocore’.

The support band were Göttingen’s The Blue Screen of Death who played a short set some kind of enjoyable ‘electro-punk’ which I approved of when seeing them in 2008.


Afterwards Les Trucs set up their countless little gadgets in the middle of the room and drowned us in noisy beepy goodness, all while jumping around, creating their own sweet mini-lightshows using the lamps they brought along. As great as I remembered them, with a few new songs mixed in and playing a gig that was a bit on the short side.


Dan and Rachel Live


After being reminded that (luckily!) the genre formerly known as antifolk isn’t quite dead yet – when Brook Pridemore came to play in Göttingen a few weeks ago, another musical gem from a similar genre played here as well: Dan and Rachel. With their acoustic guitar, keyboard, singing and storytelling between the songs which touch everything from drinking on broken Canading trains, to the financial crisis to bananageddon, they left the audience smiling all over.


see conference 2011


.centred {text-align:center;} img {border: 0px none;float: right;padding:0.2em 0em 0.2em 0.5em;} {height: 150px; width: 150px;} .centred img, img.centred {float:none;text-align:center;} blockquote {margin:0.7em 0em 0.5em 0.2em;padding:0em 0.7em 0em 1.3em;border-left: thin solid #ccc;} q>em, blockquote>em { font-style: normal; } .aside:before {content:"Aside:";color:#333;} .update:before {content:"Update:";color:#333;} .aside, .aside p, .update, .update p {padding-left:3em;color:#666;} I keep being fascinated by data visualisation. And from time to time I get to work on small projects visualising certain sets of data. That has raised my awareness of the topic in various ways. One of them is the not-so-great but probably also not-so-surprising observation that most data are visualised poorly. Poorly in the sense that they fall far short of what could have been done; poorly in that they use (or ‘leverage’ as the people who do that would say) visualisation techniques to show completely obvious facts; or poorly in that people are just jumping the (small) bandwagon of data visualisation hipness that’s been travelling the world for the past few years. Of course lack of time and resources also play roles here. But they get right down to the heart of the problem: Visualising data is a hard task. And its difficulty lies at so many different levels that it’s simply quite unlikely for a person to have all the necessary skills and the necessary information at his or her hands. The first issue seems to be data gathering. A lot of interesting information is hard to get hold of – both because of incompetence and because of institutions not being keen on that information being accessible. And for a bunch of technical reasons which in particular mean that data from different sources cannot be simply thrown together but will need some type of conversion or interpretation beforehand, in other words: a lot of work. The next bunch of problems is related to data analysis which needs to be done to simplify the noisy pure data and distill information from them. Doing that requires at least technical skills. When you’re dealing with many records, those may need to be quite advanced. And in case your analysis is to be more sophisticated than counting, knowing some statistics could be helpful as well. Finally, you want to visualise the information you just discovered, possibly even communicating the reason for your conclusion or some kind of narrative along with that. Doing that will require graphical skills and a reasonable sense of æsthetics. It’s rare that a single person unites all those skills and it also seems quite rare for persons with those different skills to team up. Furthermore, while there are great tools for both data analysis and graphical visualisation, there seem to be no good interfaces between those tools that allow a fluid and efficient workflow. Anyway, I had read about see conference in Wiesbaden a while ago and decided to go and listen to the wide variety of talks on different aspects of visualisation promised there. With seven talks in the course of the day, and a focus on sustainability, there was plenty to note and think about. All that among hundreds of interested people in the pleasant atmosphere of Wiesbaden’s Lutherkirche. The day started off with the ‘keynote’ by sociologist Harald Welzer. He likes talking and spoke about the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth, how they have largely been ignored for decades, and how the unsustainability of our lifestyle is cemented by that fact. The current situation in Fukushima was used as a current example. One whose direct effec[...]

Superski 2011


.centred {text-align:center;} img {border: 0px none;float: right;padding:0.2em 0em 0.2em 0.5em;} {height: 150px; width: 150px;} .centred img, img.centred {float:none;text-align:center;} blockquote {margin:0.7em 0em 0.5em 0.2em;padding:0em 0.7em 0em 1.3em;border-left: thin solid #ccc;} q>em, blockquote>em { font-style: normal; } .aside:before {content:"Aside:";color:#333;} .update:before {content:"Update:";color:#333;} .aside, .aside p, .update, .update p {padding-left:3em;color:#666;} This year I finally managed to go for a skiing holiday again. After my first grown-up skiing trip five years ago went surprisingly well, another trip with a different group of friends had been planned for a while and happened now. We once more went to the Dolomites in Südtirol, Italy. Not only did I enjoy my previous trip there, they also have the massive Dolomiti Superski ski area which gives you more pistes than you could hope to use. According to my friends those pistes may be a bit too easy on average for long-time skiers, but the variety and the beauty of the region makes up for it. In addition to that, it’s super-easy to get along in the region as pretty much everyone seems to speak Italian, German, which are local languages, as well as English for the tourists. People seem very friendly and many of them strive to take good care of their guests and make your stay enjoyable. Things are expensive – which seems to be ‘necessary’ for ski holidays, but not as pricey as in Austria or Switzerland. Even a lunch in a refugio on the pistes can be reasonably good and with good service and not just a plain rip-off if you are lucky which may be one in three or so. I took a ski course once again, and our maestro, Hans, super-patiently – possibly even a bit too patiently – tried to bring us around the curves and up-to-speed on the pistes, so we could go on some longer trip the last day of the course and I could comfortably do the ‘Sella Ronda’ ride around the Sella group with my friends on the last day of our stay – no panic required. Naturally, now I want more… Going in March seemed a bit risky at first as the weather has been quite warm recently, so we wondered how the snow situation would be. We learned that, yes, it had been warm in Italy as well – and indeed it was lovely and sunny throughout our stay –, but they make an effort to create enough ‘artificial’ snow early in winter to last all the way to the end of April. That, together with all the lifts they have shows how much business/dedication is going on there and makes you wonder how much of the landscape they destroyed by having such extensive skiing facilities (even though friends said the region is beautiful for hiking in summer as well). The whole lift thing is fascinating and I’ll have to read up a bit on how they make the steel ropes, how much power is used and so on. Probably Wikipedia will help; perhaps companies like Leitner and Doppelmayr who seem to build most of the lifts have interesting sites as well, including this script on ropeway technology with more information that you wanted. A small Schlepplift seems to use 60kW of power, a larger and longer chairlift 250kW. A topic that crossed our way a few times was the question of fascism. Incidentally, Kulturzeit ran a report on right wing Italian movements during our stay. Accidentally my friend spotted a presumably ‘fun’ wine bottle with Hitler’s face on in the pizzeria next door – is this just a sign that people are stupid in the way people reading The Sun or Bild are? or is this worse? – And, well, amusingly the Dolomiti [...]