Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Irish Smoking Ban reduces air pollution, improves health

The Spiegel links to this interesting article about the positive effects of the Irish smoking ban. Since the ban in 2004, the carcinogens in pub air has drastically reduced, and the health of the 81 bar staff in the study has significantly improved.
The Deutsche Krebsforschungszentrum (DKFZ - German Cancer Research Centre) are pointing to this study as important input into the upcoming decision on Germany's implementation of a smoking ban. The public support for a ban in Germany is growing - now 67% favour Rauchverbot, compared to 53% just a year ago.
The only thing standing in the way seems to be the rather arcane workings of the German federal system (the smoking ban has to be implemented by the Länder rather than Bund, and needs more consensus because of this). For example, Bavaria wants to exclude Oktoberfest tents, and Saarland small pubs.
The Irish study proves that the health benefits are more important than these provincial exceptions, so let's hope we get some clean air in Germany.

Liam plays with Tell

On Saturday evening Liam, Heike and I visited Eike on the occasion of his xxth birthday. Eike's dog Tell looks remarkably like Othello, which is maybe one reason why Liam has always liked him. On the other hand, we have yet to meet a dog that Liam doesn't like...
More photos of this birthday celebration in the Photo Gallery.

Celina and Liam

On Saturday Heike's aunt and cousins visited from Obervolkach, and the Schwab family congregated at her brother Harald's house. I used this opportunity to take a few pictures of Liam and his cousin Celina, they look really cute together.
The full set of pictures can be found in the Photo Gallery.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Weekend in Mayrhofen

I deserted my pregnant wife and infant son for a couple of days, and spent the weekend skiing in Mayrhofen together with my parents (more correctly, skiing with my father, dining with both parents).
The lack of snow this year has been well documented, so I was a bit worried that we'd just be sliding over grass. However when on my arrival in the Zillertal on Saturday morning, it was snowing in the car park. I had intended to go up to the Hintertux glacier on Saturday, but given the weather conditions I stopped at Eggalm, a smallish area which in a normal year is connected to the rest of the Zillertal Arena. This is not a normal year, so the connecting runs were closed, but I wasn't all that bothered as the view was restricted to 20 metres most of the time, so it didn't matter which landscape I couldn't see ;-)
On Saturday evening I met up with my parents, and had a pleasant dinner with them. Heike and I had hoped to travel en famille so that Liam could see his grandparents again, but we couldn't get a room in their hotel. Instead, I got a single room outside of town, which would have been not so good for Liam.
On Sunday the weather was perfect, blue skies and sunshine. My father and I skiied all over the Penken area, and had a great time. I enjoy skiing with my dad, because he's just as impatient as I am, refusing to take rests or anything sensible like that. It meant we were both pretty tired by the end of the day, but as I'm unlikely to get skiing again until next year, it was worth it.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


I'm happy to announce that Google's latest multi-billion dollar acquisition is the right to use our son's name. The new Google Service, GoogLiam, will be a step beyond Web 2.0, direct to Web 3.7, where a multi-tasking, multi-dimensional, multi-paradigm outfrastructure evolves with the aid of polychronistic podblog memetics to build Next Generation stickywikis.

Unfortunately Liam has already spent his billions on Bob the Builder trucks, so further Venture Capital funding is required. I'll be adding the PayPal donation button soon.

PS. If you want your own name googled, go here.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Ultrasound #3

Liam and I accompanied Heike to the third ultrasound of this pregnancy today (this is week 21 of 40 - time flies!). All measurements are spot on, the new baby Cassidy is doing well.
At the first ultrasound, the prediction was a boy, for the second the baby did not turn to a viewable position, and today it looked like a girl. Naturally we're happy with whatever comes out, but I'm curious all the same. I think we'll avoid buying any blue or pink clothing until after the birth - s/he will look great in white for the first few days.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Google Reader

As many of you know, I'm a bit of a Google fanboy, using as I do GMail, Google Talk, Google Earth, Google Analytics, Blogger, Picasa, Calendar, and of course Search in all its forms. Thus it may not come as a surprise that I'm very impressed with the Google RSS Reader. Even so, I like it so much that I feel I have to recommend it.
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, and basically enables you to subscribe to news and blogs without visiting each site. This blog for example, can be read entirely by pasting the URL "http://www.macartan.de/rss.xml" into a news reader. The news reader then fetches the updates as soon as I post them, which is much more convenient that manually checking my site each day.
There are many web-based and client RSS readers available these days, see here for a list. Up to a few weeks ago, I used a combination of Thunderbird and Firefox, and was very happy with both.
Then I stumbled upon the Google Reader. Like most Google products, it's browser-based, so there's no need to install anything. All you need is a Google account. Then add a few feeds and away you go. You don't even need to know the feed URL, e.g. for this feed just click "Add subscription", type "macartan.de", and the Reader finds the URL for you.
The beauty of the web-based system is that regardless of what machine you happen to be using, your feeds are always there, and the read items always synced. The integration with Firefox 2.0 is particularly smooth, so that Reader Subscribe and Next buttons can easily be placed on the Task bar. There's even a Firefox add-on which keeps count of your unread items at the bottom of the browser (I'm on 723 unread today, feedreading is difficult at weekends :-).
Apart from reading your news and blogs, Google Reader also gives you the opportunity to share and email what you read. You can even set up a feed of what you're sharing. For example, on macartan.de, there's a box with "Macartan's shared items" - this shows what I've found interesting in my news and blogs recently.
Note this is a beta product, and stability is still an issue. I see an "Oops, an error has occurred" occasionally, but you can usually just hit the Home link and start again.
Try it out yourselves.

Friday, March 02, 2007


I was telling Heike about how funny Conservapedia is at breakfast this morning. She'd not heard about it, so I thought I'd post a quick review...
This site has been generating laughs in the blogosphere during the last couple of weeks. In the words of the authors:
"Conservapedia is a much-needed alternative to Wikipedia, which is increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American. On Wikipedia, many of the dates are provided in the anti-Christian "C.E." instead of "A.D.", which Conservapedia uses. Christianity receives no credit for the great advances and discoveries it inspired, such as those of the Renaissance. Read a list of many Examples of Bias in Wikipedia.
Conservapedia is an online resource and meeting place where we favor Christianity and America. Conservapedia has easy-to-use indexes to facilitate review of topics. You will much prefer using Conservapedia compared to Wikipedia if you want concise answers free of "political correctness"."
I'm not making this up! I recommend the following links if you want some insight into how the other half thinks (or doesn't):
  • Above-mentioned Examples of Bias in Wikipedia - this includes criticism of "foreign spelling", (favour, labour rather than favor, labor); liberal bias ("Wikipedia is six times more liberal than the American public") and bias on evolution ("even though most Americans reject the theory of evolution Wikipedia editors commenting on the topic are nearly 100% pro-evolution").
  • Evolution - apparently it "violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics". These people are so on top of their science.
  • Homosexuality - The article lists 4 Bible entries saying "don't do it" (shame they missed the opportunity to list the Bible entries supporting slavery).
  • Reagan - "Considered by many to be the greatest American President" - who are the "many"? I don't know any of them socially.
  • Bill Clinton - clearly this article was always going to be critical, but this criticism is special - "Clinton also attempted to use the American military to kill Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, an action which was properly seen as a mere attempt to distract the nation from the Monica Lewinsky scandal". Scandalous waste of military resources - chasing the planners of 9/11.
  • World War II - short, sweet, America wins. Has to be read to be believed.
  • Germany - "A country in central Europe that was blamed for both Wolrd Wars and claimed to be the dominate race of mankind." That's the whole entry, spelling mistake and all.
  • Gun Control - " A superior means of defense for the population is the first reason why guns should be carried by citizens". Scary article.
All in all hilarious - the unfortunate thing is these guys don't even realise they're parodying themselves.
I'd like to write a thoughtful critique of how I love America, but fear their government. However I'm starting to think that the America I love(d) is being systematically rebuilt as the America the world fears :-( Anyway, I have not time for thoughtful critiques - snap judgement says Conservapedia is bonkers.