Joining the EU: The Ultimate Helvetic Swansong

Posted by on Nov 25, 2014 in 8152blog.ch, Switzerland | No Comments
Joining the EU: The Ultimate Helvetic Swansong

If there was anything that would drag Switzerland to the surrender position — it would not be the guns of an alien army, but rather surrendering everything to Brussels. The Swiss are more than prepared for the former, but most of us in the country would consider the latter more than just merely “cruel and unusual punishment”.

This does not mean Switzerland is un-European. It does not mean Switzerland isn’t happy with people who don’t think Swiss, look Swiss, or hold a different passport. But Bern and Co do have other priorities. OK, even if you think Bern might eventually want to EU-ise us, reality is, most of us (certainly here in German-speaking Switzerland) aren’t too happy to be dragged into the loose union run by the institutes at Berlaymont.

Think Different, Think Switzerland

Posted by on Nov 24, 2014 in 8152blog.ch, Switzerland, Technology | No Comments
Think Different, Think Switzerland

I admit I sunk my teeth into the Mac very early on — in 1991, in Switzerland. In 1990, I was given a test drive on an old Apple (pre-Mac!) machine, where I completed this oddly-named course called Type to Learn. I was the first-ever student in the whole class to finish it in that year, which kind of made my Chinese parents happy (since the Chinese, Asians etc were supposed to be best in class, yotta yotta yotta…).

I remembered from very early on that this in essence gave me a “licence” to test-drive the Mac much earlier. I’m talking about the pre-Mac OS era: back in the day this was System 6.0.7. If you could imagine a compact, all-in-one Mac in greyish-platinum, capable of running only one app at a time in black and white, this was it.

The Swiss had some kind of nationwide obsession with the Mac, it seemed, even though Apple Switzerland (as in the office) wasn’t reality until 1995. It wasn’t like that made any difference, though: before the Wallisellen office was set up, the nation was already engulfed in Mac mania. I was invited in 1995 to an office which was completely run by Macs.

Growing Pains? (Or: Why “Ecopop” Will Tank)

Posted by on Nov 22, 2014 in 8152blog.ch, Switzerland | No Comments
Growing Pains? (Or: Why “Ecopop” Will Tank)

The vote on 30 November 2014 on whether or not “Ecopop”, an initiative which seeks to impose very rigid immigration caps per year, as well as give federal money for foreign birth control measures (link in German), is like one of those surreal plots to just simply put a cork in what some in Switzerland fear as “mass immigration”.

To me, Switzerland has always been a country which has continued to grow, although if it wants to “chase China” in terms of growth, it is sorely behind. Train stations have continued to witness key expansion projects, and I cannot blame anyone or anything other than “natural development” as the reason.

Most of the growth was basically in parts of the country which was already relatively well urbanised. I have driven through a part of Zürich which goes through older parts of town, more hilly terrain, and parts of the countryside. I think I have seen about 5%, no more than 10%, in terms of newer buildings. Yes, Zürich has continued to grow, but what do you expect from a part of the country that brands itself “downtown Switzerland”?

Grüezi mitenand from 8152blog.ch!

Posted by on Nov 21, 2014 in 8152blog.ch, Switzerland | No Comments
Grüezi mitenand from 8152blog.ch!

Grüezi mitenand, alli Billette vorwiise biitte!

For too long in Switzerland, I was used to this on the trains. A regular refrain from the conductor, it simply meant nothing more than they were checking up on tickets and passes — to make sure no-one gets a free ride, exactly as the law would require.

My trek and story with Switzerland has been unlike any other story you might have bumped into. For the first twelve years after landing in Zürich, I was an Ausländer, a foreigner, a Chinese citizen. I had to get a visa to get in — granted, as dad had a job in a Swiss company, and mom joined him in the country. Then I had a B Permit, a residence permit which had to be renewed every year, as we settled in Opfikon, just by Zürich Airport.

Sometime in the 1990s, for reasons I would much more relate to being a happy student in Swiss-German class in school, this became a Swiss Green Card, or a C Permit. The deal: you’re allowed to stay in the country forever — as long as you don’t desert it for over two years in a row. Twelve years in Switzerland meant that I was eligible for a Swiss passport.

iOuch

Would you work in a place with the slogan Achieve goals or the Sun will no longer rise? (It’s both a scary and a pathetic slogan — Wikipedians would also tag it factually inaccurate. I myself have missed tonnes of goals and I’ve never made the Sun not come out!)

Most of us know about the crass violations of workers’ rights and dignity at Foxconn, where Apple’s iDevices are churned out in record time. But to me, it was just a violation that “had to be swallowed” or even, worse, “accepted as fact”. The full scale of how scary things were weren’t made clear to me until I attended a talk by Dr Jenny Chan of the University of Oxford. She also focused on corporate misbehaviour in the talk, in addition to giving us all an idea of how scary things were on the assembly line.

The Internet and China: Less is More?

If you thought China was fully in control and regulating things these days (apparently they completely canned Line), this might only be the tip of the iceberg for you. Presently, the firewall operates on a blacklist (liste noire) principle, in essence containing a list of sites you’re not allowed to go to, and then not restricting access to the rest. (The same goes for keywords, especially those in search machines.) Incredibly, though, as long as you stay away from the two Ps — politics and porn — you should be fine.

Apparently.

Because whilst I was just browsing around on my hard drive as of late, I came across this presentation I did in my first PhD year. It really was a scary moment.

WeChat: Your Own E-Newspaper

In 1995, Joseph Schorr and others authored one of my more favourite tech books — Macworld Mac Secrets, where he introduced a number of Web links — including CRAYON (Create Your Own Newspaper). I’ve never been able to really use that back in the day, but I did know that in 1999, I was happy with My Yahoo!, which, as a Swiss Wetterfrosch, allowed me to put the weather report where it mattered — top left hand of the customised news page. (It also allowed me to set a pale-ish grey as the background colour, which was easier on the eyes.)

We’re now about 20 years away from when I first got introduced to CRAYON. Whilst that never really worked, it is working when it comes to customised news on my smartphone. There are three ways, in fact, I got this working my end:

  • following all the news sources I want on Twitter (easier said than done, really; I had to follow credible / verified accounts over “just about any old account”)
  • downloading news apps to my iPhone (again, I was never a fan of the “unofficial aggregates”, which I found hard to really trust)
  • following accounts on WeChat (here again, I had the tendency to trust verified accounts more)

Who Owns the “Units of the Cause”?

Posted by on May 6, 2014 in Chang'anjie Media Notebook, China, Media | No Comments

If you’ve been around China for any time, you’ll note two things about the media:

  • Outside of the Internet, there is no real private local media to speak of;
  • You’ll also run into what are termed “units of the cause” (事业单位).

The latter threw me off a lot. I know the “cause” here might very well be the cause of socialism, and eventually communism, as Zhongnanhai is adamant it will (eventually) achieve (not too easy to find much Marxism in McDonald’s, though). But what are the “units” (as in companies and other kinds of organisations) of the cause?

China Central Television: Never Easy There…

Posted by on Apr 25, 2014 in Chang'anjie Media Notebook, China, Media | No Comments

Circulated rumours that you have to claim wages by presenting official receipts seem to be the least of China Central TV’s issues, apparently. The bigger issue is how CCTV can — yes, remain itself.

To many an outsider, CCTV is that one monster that seems untouchable. Those not retransmitting its “flagship” 19:00 news programme are far more the exception than the rule. And yet, the TV channel itself is under massive pressure to be:

  • an outlet for official government news / propaganda; and
  • increasingly financially self-sustaining as Beijing feeds it less cash; and
  • as of around 2003, a service public broadcaster.

Talk about tall orders!

Critical Reporting Then and Now

For the Chinese media, critical reporting has always been something very new that just came up in these years. Most notably, they came to the forefront during the era of Hu Jintao as Chinese President — I personally experienced this as the government-run media organisations started emphasising on big political meetings, but also enabling others to “have a say” on the issues of the day.

The question, of course, was how lenient critical reporting was tolerated. For the earliest “free reporting” since 1949, you have to, in fact, understand that Mao, out of all PRC leaders, wanted the press to be more frank. On 02 May 1956, in a meeting of the erstwhile PRC Supreme National Affairs Conference (since disbanded), he clearly stated:

We should take the policies of permitting a hundred schools of art and a hundred schools of academic thinking.

Load More