Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Apple announcements!

Well, I enjoyed watching Steve Jobs (CEO) of Apple presenting the new 5th generation iPod video, 2nd generation iPod Nano, and 2nd generation iPod Shuffle (indeed I am streaming it, as I write this).

Ultimately, all the upgrades (brighter screens, games, smaller models, longer battery life, etc.) are not really that revolutionary and it does not preempt me to upgrade from my current (4th generation) iPod video and iPod shuffle. Noneteless, quite impressive the changes that Apple has made.

I am much more impressed with iTunes v7.0! (and its free) - the software which is a pseudo - Internet browser / music organiser / Apple shop interface is significantly improved. The demarcation of podcasts, video, music, etc. is common-sense, the iPod configuration options are sweet (e.g. downloading only the most recent TV shows), and the profile based identity is another very useful mod (at last synchronisation between work and home!).

And as for iTV - I already have that functionality in my Macbook Pro - but nice features for those that still use PCs ;)

Again, I am a complete Apple convert now (having my Macbook Pro - best computer ever with iPhoto, iTunes, Quiksilver, etc.), apart from Google they are the most customer-savy, moderately innovative company in the world.


And a postscript - I actually read about the features of the new Apple generation iPods on Bloglines before the live video presentation! - bring on the power of blogs.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Yes another ride ...

Anyway, I digress; with holidays in mind, I thought I better take the opportunity and head out for my favourite 35km ride in the hinterland of the Zurichsee; surpisingly it was a v.easy ride today.

Riding / cycling is becoming such a part of my life now - I really start get an itch to go for a ride if I haven't been for 2 weeks or so. What exercise is part of your life?

It will be interesting if I am in Zurich in the Winter - as I have heard it is possible to ride on perfectly cleaned up roads amongst fields of snow - that would be an amazing experience!

'Holiday spirit'

Well I am now four days away from a 2 week holiday; yes a time to stop exercising (apart from the walking around cities, museums, etc.) and just live the traveller's life - seeing great sights, eating lots of food, idyling the day away! I know I am not alone in saying this, but holidays are truly precious - from 2002-2005, I did not embark on one holiday - a combination of work committments, a recurring knee injury, a philosophy of not travelling by oneself, and a lack of adventure. In 2006, I will now have spent 10 weeks holidaying after this one coming up.

I know which one I prefer!

I have met some truly interesting people, seen some fantastic sights, had some significant 'insight' time, and had a lot of fun. I wonder even when one has children - will it be possible always to holiday away from familiar shores? I sure hope so.

I am truly looking forward to this 2 weeks coming up - as I am trying to go 'Race Around the World' style; that is, apart from the weekend upcoming in Prague, Czech Republic (where I am booked into a hotel) nothing else is!! So come Monday next week, where do I go - Germany, Bratislava, Hungary, Vienna? this will either be an amazing adventure of spontaneity or a calamitous mis-calculation, or maybe like any adventure it will have a bit of both. I will be catching up with Georgia / Spence for the weekend and then travelling with Kate for the remainder - whoa! a crazy, unlikely story ... maybe - what happens next - who knows.

Anyway, I once again, will switch over to my Google Travel blog, so if you are interested in following what I get up to - you will have to subscribe here! Also, for any others contemplating travel - I have found Gridskipper to be an excellent resource (thanks Sarah).

I am also interested in the talk of one of my friends - Pete. He is postulating a TDF 2007 trip; the chance to ride some of the terrain of TDF is an exciting prospect! At least I would have had some hill training :) So there goes 2 weeks of holidays next year, and I still have to go to NY, USA to catch up with some mates; see the industrial revolution unfolding in Shanghai, China; walk to base camp, of Mt.Everest, Nepal ... and so it goes ;)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Switzerland is its own country II - the good

There is a lot of conjecture on the English forum (in Switzerland) of which I am a participating member as to what are the virtues, or not of Switzerland - so I thought I would create my own top 5 / and (later) the bottom 5 reasons for living in Swizterland.

Switzerland and Zurich flags
, originally uploaded by markyjones.

  1. 'Little Big Cities'; a term used to describe Zurich (and I presume it can be applied to Geneva, Basel) is very apt. Nowhere in the world (I believe) can you live in an international city of less that 500K people. What are the advantages of this? well one has access to all the major shop retailers of the world (e.g. Sony, Apple, Gucci, Channel, Benetton, etc.); international rock performances (in October - Jet, Snow Patrol) that play at much smaller venues; sporting showcases such as international athletic events / soccer matches (European Championship 2008) and cultural options such as opera, Kunsthaus, etc.. And despite all this, in most Swiss cities, it is a mere 5 minutes cycling to the outskirts of the city, it is not over-populated, and it is very well maitained (e.g. good infrastructure, cleanliness, etc.).
  2. Nature; Switzerland is beautiful - a combination of mountains, lakes, and a predominantly rural - based heritage / demographic. It may have amazing areas which are internationally well known such as Zermatt, Davos, etc. - but truly Switzerland is staggering wherever you are. Favourite scenerey - cows (bells on) scattered across green slanted fields of one of the many mountains (and they are everywhere).
  3. Euro-Cultural Diversity; Switzerland is not mutlicultural (e.g. like Australia), however, to me it appears strongly eurocultural - that is, it is full of people from all different European cultures. The Swiss genome is difficult to define - Swiss people are not overly tall or small, blonde or brunette. I don't what the reasons are for this - but then again - you have just have to count the number of European countries Switzerland borders! I find Swiss people vary from canton-to-canton and strongly across language borders (e.g. Swiss French are significantly different to the Swiss German). In a country which has four official languages (German, French, Italian, and Romanisch) it is a truly Euro ethnic country which ironically is not in the European Union!
  4. Politics; while I am not fully conversant with Switzerland's political system - it has to be admired (in a stubborn sort of way) that in a world moving towards globalism that Switzerland is still neutral! Combine that with a referendum-based political system where Swiss people go to polls every month and you have a very cohesive, slightly insular, and very democratical country.
  5. Tax / Quality of Living; most of the cities in Switzerland are rated as very expensive cities, however, the caveat to this is that the purchasing power of Swiss individuals is high - why? well incomes are high and tax is low! This combined with Swiss cities rating consistently very highly on 'quality of living' scales permeates to a very high standard of living in Switzerland.
And now on to the bad ...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Switzerland is its own country I

Well, I am off on holiday for 2 weeks from next week on. But before, I go on holidays - I am have a half day off next week for the public holiday of Knabenschiessen. V.medieval!

And this is the beauty of Switzerland - despite being: in the heart of Europe, internationally based with cities like Zurich, Geneva, and even Basel, a financial hub with companies like UBS, Credit Suisse - it nonetheless is a v.rural and traditional country proud of its history and origins.

And as you would surmise, I think I may go for a ride :)

Friday, September 01, 2006

Because the world is getting smaller ...

Ok, I have now been overseas for three months, and I feel that I am still in close contact with all my friends, family in Australia (as well as being v.busy making new friends in Zurich, Switzerland). Why is this? well, it is amazing how easy it is to communicate with anyone (who wants to be communicated with!). I find out what my friends, family are doing pretty much at the same time as I did back in Melbourne, Australia (Mum has just bought another BMW!!??). And I think we will all become a lot more accessible as time goes on (e.g. 24/7 email, video conferencing, blogs from mobiles, personal GPRS Google Maps synchronisation). But in the present, these are all the forms of communication tools, I have used, and am currently using, no relying on:

  1. Chat; unfortunately, my friends, family have been divided by those who have Google chat (e.g. Kate, Simon, Sarah etc.) and those who do not (Georgia, Pete, Tim, Karl, etc.); I intermittently catch friends online - with the always on Google chat - especially on Sunday afternoon (when it is Sunday night) Australian time. It is quick, efficient, and robust - I wish all my friends could use gmail (after all it is the best web email tool!) - and thank goodness most of my friends have listened to my advice and swapped over.
  2. Email; effective, especially with the difference in timezones and the mandatory group OS email - slowly being surpassed by other forms of communication.
  3. Telephony; ridiculously cheap (but still not free, unlike the other communication methods above); and in Zurich, Switzerland phone booths are in abundance still. Indeed, a v.futuristic glass telephone dome is 20m outside my apartment - ideal for the weekly Saturday morning phonecall home to Mum!
  4. Blogs / Forums; through my own blog and others who have started to write to the Internet about what they are doing (well done Bec, Simon!) - this is an invaluable insight into what people are thinking. Alongside this are forums where like-minded people communicate online on various (same-interest) topics; the English Forum (just click the Forums link) in Switzerland has been an invaluable resource since coming over here - and a good outlet for a night or two out ;)
  5. Mail; still required and v.ingratiating when one receives mail overseas! (so thanks Soz for sending over the bond form) and I have even sent the odd postcard - old school!
  6. Photos; establish contacts with FlickR (with your friends) and suddenly - wherever in the world your friends may be as soon as they take a photo and put it to the Internet you see it! The slide night is officially dead!
  7. Internet Telephony; yes I have skyped - twice; both times somewhat disappointing as there is lag, the audio quality is somewhat poor, and it is dependent on each of the persons broadband connection (e.g. too many variables); something to try again in 6 months.
  8. Video Conferencing; ok - haven't tried this as I need someone else to own an Apple and have MAC OS X iChat! when I fire it up on my side the Internet camera embedded in my laptop seems to produce high quality video images - now when is anyone buying an Apple?
Looking forward to communicating soon ;)