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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Scholarship and goodbye Switzerland

Today I received great news. My scholarship application was granted! The Swiss government, the federal office for vocational education and technology to be exact, will cover 1/3rd of my study fees and living costs. This scholarship was granted to me because of my excellent undergraduate degree and is merit based, thus half the amount will be paid after the start and the other half after the successful completion of the program.

The notification letter came just in time, because today is my last day in Switzerland. Tomorrow morning I will fly to Pittsburgh and thus start a new chapter in my life :)

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Monday, July 28, 2008

666 books on my virtual bookshelve

My LibraryThing account just reached the magical number of 666 books ;).

This contains all the books that I have in my library at home, all the audio books I own, plus all the books I've read since November 2006 but have borrowed or no longer own.

Further interesting data can be retrieved about my books:

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Medieval / Fantasy Photoshooting

A friend, who is going to study photography in Lausanne beginning this autumn, asked me to if I wanted to participate in a medieval photo shooting. I was intrigued and so joined her in Aarburg where we went up to the fortress to take pictures in different settings and clothes.
Here is a small peek behind the scenes ;)


Once I receive the results I'll post a couple of more pictures :)

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Friday, July 25, 2008

2'000 distinct artists scrobbled

Yesterday I reached another milestone with my last.fm account I scrobbled my 2'000st unique artist. With 32'300 songs listened this would result in an average of 16 songs per artist. In reality the distribution is a bit more exponential with about half the artists registering with one scrobble and Subway to Sally, my most listened artist, with 1'366 scrobbles :)

However, listening to my Library, which is now possible for everyone, could result in some surprising genre changes :) (i.e. Heavy Metal to Classic to Alternative Rock)

By the way, if you're wondering how I come to have 1000 artists with only one play in my library: I've been listening a lot to Pandora and Last.Fm's radio stations, which often play songs/artists one never has heard of before ^^.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

7 days till departure

The clock's ticking. By this time next Thursday I'll already be in the air on my way to Pittsburgh :). Fortunately all the urgent todos have been taken care of, and I even received my US Visa on time.

Regarding the US Visa: When I first wanted to apply for my tourist visa I was aghast to discover that there was a 3 month waiting period to get an appointment! So after sitting on my hands for 90 days I could finally visit the US embassy in Bern last Thursday. There I spent another three hours till all the formalities have been taken care of (check out Guido's post if you want to learn more about the things I had to do at the US embassy). To my great relief my passport (together with the Visa and the I20-form) arrived on Monday at the post office.

Now I "only" have to finish packing and hope that I don't forget anything ;)

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Monday, July 21, 2008

In Bruges

Yesterday I saw In Bruges in the cinema. Two hit men are sent to Bruges in Belgium to take cover after a job in London went wrong. Whereas Ken enjoys the sights in this medieval town, Ray is still pained by pangs of remorse and is wondering what he should do in a "shit-hole" like Bruges. But after meeting Chlo√ę, a Belgian drug dealer, his outlook seems to change a bit. If only their boss would finally call to instruct them about their next move...

In Bruges is a fantastic movie which manages to bridge the gap between hilarious dark comedy and drama, without the later sliding into the ridiculous. Colin Farrel and Brendan Gleeson deliver a perfect and extremely believable performance. This is probably the best movie I've seen this year and the ending is simply wonderful (i.e. not your standard happy ending). However, a word of warning for the faint of heart, in the second half of the movie the action does pick up and there are several long pursuits and a good deal of blood.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Abart Summer Party

The last party of the season (and the last party I can visit before going to the US) is the famous Abart Summer Party. Starting at 6pm with outdoor bar, barbecue and pool it is THE party to visit for any Abart aficionado. After 10pm the free party continued indoors with a mix of hits from the various parties the Abart is hosting.

Most important of all it was an opportunity to meet people I haven't met in a while and to say goodbye to them as well.

I left the party at 3.30am to catch the last night train home and can say that I had a terrific time! :)

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Spaktekel Ruined Castle Festival

The Spaktekel Ruined Castle Festival took place on the "Alte Bechburg" in Holderbank (SO) last Saturday. The "Alte Bechburg" is a picturesque location, secluded from any unwanted distraction and was a perfect place for this small but mighty festival. Despite the bad weather forecasts we were lucky and it rained only lightly and it soon stopped again.

MoneyPennySixPenny, an Irish / Scottish Folk band from Winterthur, were the first to storm the natural stage. They played a relaxing and varied set of traditional and modern tunes from Scotland and Ireland.

I observed Pornolé, the next act, from a distance because I forgot my earplugs and their Stoner Rock set was pretty hard and loud.

Then it was finally time for Des Koenigs Halunken. As main act of the evening they obviously attracted a big crowd, which was insofar problematic because the space in front of the stage was a) limited and b) extremely uneven, putting hard-core headbangers to the test and endangering people who were jumping around too ferociously. Despite these difficulties we had a fabulous time! The Halunken played a very entertaining set with a balanced mixture of rock and medieval market tunes. At the end everyone could answer the famous question "Who are the biggest scoundrels in the country?" "Des Koenigs Halunken!".

Attila Vural had the honor to play the last concert of the evening. Unfortunately many people had already left and missed the performance of this unbelievable guitar virtuoso. Listening to Attila Vural's music it is hard to believe that all he had at hand was a guitar, the pieces are so complex, varied and captivating. Even seeing isn't the same as believing, I was dazzled by the dexterity and speed he demonstrated playing the guitar. Because of the wet weather he brought only his eight string guitar along, however, to compensate for this he covered several well known songs or better said interpreted them anew. Time flew by and the 90 minutes he played seemed to have flown by. In short a fantastic concert by an exceptional talent.

As a rounding off the Burning Goatees performed a breathtaking fire show.

Despite the mediocre weather this day was a complete success!

Some impressions have found the way into my gallery.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

DeVotchKa @ Abart

I've never heard of DeVotchKa before last week. By chance I visited the Abart Homepage and heard one of their songs. After a bit of further research I decided to give them a go and bought a ticket for their show in the Abart :).

Strozzini were the opening act of the evening. They play easy listening alternative rock which for my taste was too tame and lacked the necessary energy. Still they do have a couple of good songs, and most of the guests seemed to have liked their show.

Then it was time for DeVotchKa and their gypsy folk mariachi love "rock". At first I was amazed by the sheer number of instruments on stage. Even though the band only consists of four members a round dozen instruments could be spotted. DeVotchKa played a very interesting concert where they demonstrated their brilliance with all the different instruments and unconventional mixture of genres. For the most part I liked what I heard, however, over all there were too many slow "love" songs in their set and at times I got a bit impatient, because I knew that they also play faster stirring songs. Yet this was only a minor disappointment and I had a terrific evening and after a show I bought one of their CDs.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Pictures from the historical craftsmen fair in Huttwil

My pictures taken at the historical craftsmen fair in Huttwil last Saturday have found their way into my gallery.

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Medieval Spectaculum in Singen

On Sunday we (Rico, two friends and I) pilgrimaged to Singen (in the South of Germany) to take part in the Mittelalterlich Spectaculum. The Mittelalterlich Spectaculum is a traveling medieval fair featuring a market, jugglers, a show fight troupe, musicians, medieval food stalls and much more.
Similar to last year the weather was very modest with sun and rain going hand in hand. Nevertheless we had a great time looking at the different stalls and meeting many familiar faces from Switzerland.
The highlights of the day were the two long concerts by Die Streuner and Vermaledeyt.
Die Streuner are well known for their medieval drinking and naughty songs and they even brought their own fan club along.
Vermaledeyt on the other hand focus on powerful medieval folk with bag pipes, drums, pipes, cello, hurdy-gurdy and many more instruments. I enjoyed their show a lot and danced the whole time. After two encores they left the stage completely exhausted, by then even I was glad for the break ;).
On our way home the storm caught up with us and at times I could hardly see the road through the windshield. After a while the weather quieted and we got back safe and sound :).
Despite the weather the day was a success, however, with sunshine it would have been another perfect day.

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Des Koenigs Halunken in Huttwil

Last Saturday I visited the historical craftsmen fair in Huttwil. Surrounding the Spycher Handicraft area several dozens artisans showed how their trade was carried out in medieval times. Additional highlights were sword fight demonstrations by Freywild, a storyteller and acoustic sets by Des Koenigs Halunken.
Some beautiful impressions of the market can be found here. I mainly took pictures of Des Koenigs Halunken, which can be found in my gallery.

The evening belonged completely to Des Koenigs Halunken. After their acoustic sets in the afternoon they demonstrated that they were also masters of medieval rock, playing a concert in the Improvisorium in Huttwil. The place was crowded which worsened the stifling air and heat in the small room. But this didn't stop Des Koenigs Halunken and their fans from celebrating an ecstatic party. During one hour and forty-five minutes the Halunken played all songs from their newly released CD "Spieglein, Spieglein" plus another dozen, which will hopefully find their way onto another CD ;), and thus made for a perfect end of a perfect day :).

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

21 vs. Bringing Down the House

Bringing Down the House, the true story of six MIT students who won millions of dollars playing Black Jack in Vegas, has been lying around my room for several months. With the upcoming movie release I decided to give it a go. I was positively surprised by the book, especially by its honesty (regarding the motivations and opinions of the main characters) and its suspense.

The movie on the other hand was pretty good but not as dazzling as the book. To be frank the movie wasn't as much based on the book but rather loosely inspired by it. The main topic, students going to Vegas to play Black Jack was of course present, but almost all the surrounding story was changed. What I liked most were Kevin Spacey's performance, he did a very good job portraying a greedy professor, and the scenes in Vegas. On the other hand the whole moralizing throughout the movie and the robot competition were the weakest parts.

If the movie awoke your interest in Black Jack and if you would like to discover more about their strategy and what really happened in Vegas, then you should definitely read the book.

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