Google Calendar has a new feature that many international Mozillians may like: It can now display more than one time zone at a time. In my case, lining up the Central European and Pacific time zones next to each other comes in quite handy:

Google Calendar: Time Zones

Of course, when entering a new event, it does not seem to allow selecting the time zone this refers to quite yet, let's hope that'll be fixed in a future iteration.

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Sean took this snapshot yesterday:

Swine Flu

He says: "Okay, this swine flu nonsense has officially gone too far."

Oh, how right. I couldn't help but laugh at this picture. Ethically speaking, it would probably suit Californian farmers better to be concerned about their employees dying rather than their pigs. Just saying.

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Twitter mini sticker
Creative Commons License photo credit: digitalbear
In the light of Sunday's free SMS frenzy at German phone company T-Mobile, I tried to set up Twitter so it sends messages to my cell phone -- considering receiving SMS is free in Germany in general, that looked like a good idea. Here is what Twitter told me after I sent the confirmation code by SMS:

Twitter: No SMS

Of course, they couldn't have figured out that they don't like my cell phone number before I had to send a for-pay message to their German message service.

The same thing happened to me with Twitter in the US already as well. I am a "pre-paid" customer there, and I was similarly told that I am unable to use Twitter on the phone in the US.

I seriously wonder what I've done wrong to be excluded from Twitter's phone service in two countries. What's going on?

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Wired magazine
Creative Commons License photo credit: cubicgarden
In an interesting NY Times article (via Kottke) one can read how US magazines like The Economist are raising prices, counter-intuitively leading to higher sales and much higher revenue:

The Economist is leading the charge on expensive subscriptions, and its success is one reason publishers are rethinking their approaches. It is a news magazine with an extraordinarily high cover price -- raised to $6.99 late last year -- and subscription price, about $100 a year on average.

Wait a minute, 100 dollars for a yearly magazine subscription are expensive? Clearly, the US has different standards as far as that is concerned.

In comparison, German magazine subscriptions are almost ridiculously expensive. The weekly, renowned news magazine Der Spiegel weighs in at a whopping 182 Euros (that is, over 240 dollars) for a yearly subscription, followed by its biggest, more conservative "rival" Focus with 153,40 EUR (just over 200 Dollars). Similarly well-known magazine "Stern" is slightly cheaper at 145,60 EUR (193 USD), a year's worth of the (monthly) German Cosmopolitan is comparatively cheap at 29 Euros (about 38 USD), compared to 15 dollars in the US. Playboy, in turn, costs 58,80 EUR (78 USD) a year in Germany, while in the US it's available for just 12 dollars.

For each of the examples, comparative magazines are multiple times as expensive in Germany than in the US. Sadly, that results in the fact, that not too many people I know subscribe to magazines: You have to be a particular fan of a specific topic and a determined reader to spend several hundred dollars a year on a magazine subscription. Instead, if I lived in the US, I would surely subscribe to a handful of magazines to read whenever I feel like it, and not feel bad if I don't read every page every week.

It's clearly a question of value: I don't think that a magazine for under a dollar per issue is priced right. However, when I sometimes buy a German magazine for close to 5 Euros and I notice that -- just like US magazines -- easily half the pages contain ads, I wonder why the European ones have to be so much more expensive. Likewise, when I read that I can get an "amazing" 20 Eurocents or so off when I subscribe for a year, it's not much of an incentive for me to actually do so. Even if I regularly read this magazine, I'd be saving that money when I refrain from buying the one or two times that I don't have time or do not feel like reading.

In short, I feel like the solution should be somewhere in the middle: At a price that appropriately values the amount of work put into creating a magazine, while keeping magazines what they should be: a commodity, not a luxury.

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US president Obama came to Europe this week for a number of "summits". The German part of the NATO 60-year anniversary was held in Baden-Baden in South West Germany.

Incidentally, my father works right across the street from where Obama's helicopter ("Marine One") landed, so he took a few photos of the helicopter arriving. Enjoy.

Update: Here is the gallery with the rest of the pictures, along with some pictures of an "Obama/NATO cake", one of the many products made in Baden-Baden for the occasion.

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Fellow German blogger ix got married in Las Vegas recently (congratulations) and faced the problem to have the marriage accepted by his local civil registry office in Hamburg---because only then they would be able to get all the rights and duties that marriage entails in Germany.

The Tower of Babel

So far, so good: Along with a certified copy of the marriage certificate, he also needed to bring an "Apostille"---a standardized transcription of a legal document (in this case: the marriage certificate) to be accepted by another country (in this case: Germany). Of course, one cannot expect the government officials to be able to read the English language, not even when a marriage certificate consists of a quite simple set of information that does not differ significantly between the two countries. So he had to obtain an official translation of both documents from a certified translator, before they finally accepted his marriage as valid.

That the German government is very strict about "our official language is German" is no news to me: Once before I had to provide US documents to an agency and in spite of the relevant passages being very tiny, they demanded to have the whole document translated. Eventually, I managed to have them accept my (and therefore an uncertified) translation, which probably saved me what would have felt like a million dollars in translator fees.

Though all in all, it seems to be a quite tedious process, I now hope to know quite well what needs to be done to have a US marriage accepted in Germany. My fiancée and I will face the same process soon and this way we know what to expect. I'll make sure to blog about it again when it's time.

(pictured: "The Tower of Babel" by Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1563))

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The web comic Geek and Poke has hilariously determined how AIG accumulated a whopping 62 billion dollars in losses:

Geek and Poke: AIG Losses

Of course, there's also a lot of other things that could have been done with the money---like paying off the national debts of China, Australia, Mexico and Ukraine... and 9 other things on a list CNN recently published.

A friend of mine who worked at AIG before said "of course I changed jobs as quickly as possible! Only a fool would still insure with AIG..." ouch.

(comic CC by-nd licensed by Oliver Widder -- hat tip to Oliver for an excellent web comic!)

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I can't believe Arnold Schwarzenegger closed his opening address for the Cebit 2009 expo in Hannover, Germany with both of his catch phrases: "Hasta la vista, baby" and "I'll be back".

In related news, I noticed the now-politician still walks like the "Terminator". Here I was thinking it was all an act, but apparently it just comes naturally to him.

That's all, folks---now get to the chopper!

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I just did a "teenager audio test" and I was actually able to hear the sound (though it almost curled my toe nails because it's so unbearable):

Train Horn

It's amusing how the website reads:

[This is] a tone that is generally only heard by people under the age of 25. It has been used as a deterrent device to keep teenagers from loitering in malls and shops, and sounds similar to a buzzing mosquito.

(emphasis mine). That reminded me of my first---and probably only---visit to an Abercrombie and Fitch store in a Florida mall that I left as fast as I went in, driven out by the ridiculously obnoxious "store smell" they were spraying there (though there seem to be people who like it). Seriously, if I wanted to smell cheap cologne, I'd talk to some poor, drunk souls at the friendly neighborhood dive. But in general, I appreciate stores that don't need to drug me to make me buy their products...

Link [via]

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The Oscars are over again and a movie named "slumdog millionaire" won a whopping 8 of them. Now, I've never heard of this movie before. Seems to me like it was buried in the ridiculous amount of advertisement for "mall cop" -- a painfully cheesy flick that I did not want to see in the first place and whose overdone ads everywhere made me want to watch it even less.

Also, "Slumdog Millionaire" is going to premiere in Germany mid-March only, well after its release date in the US, and obviously after the Oscars as well. I thought the times when movies are released in Germany later than the US were finally over? Guess not.

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