Porte de Brandburg

Berlin est probablement la ville Européenne qui a le plus changé de mon vivant, mais je n’y avais jamais été. Après y avoir passé un long week-end, je garde le souvenir d’une grande ville verte, aérée, moderne et agréable à vivre. J’ai mis quelques photos sur facebook.

Berlin is certainly the European city that changed the most in my lifetime, yet I had never been there. Having spent a long week-end there, I have the image of a city that is green, wide, modern and nice to live in. I have put some pictures on Facebook.

  • Berlin – la ville (the city)
  • Berlin – au fil de l’eau (along the water-ways)
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    Spore Creature – Melzebuth

    I’m not really a computer game freak, spending way enough time in front of a computer, but there was one game I had been waiting for some time now: Spore. I heard about this game from more than an year ago, when we were discussing procedural generation of content for games, I have been following the game’s progress since. I watched my brother playing it this week-end and decided the game was indeed fun and bought it on the following Monday.

    While I like RTS games, I’m more a builder than a fighter, and the whole concept of designing your own creature but also objects and cities is very appealing to me. The interface to change your creatures is very flexible, and you can design some quite weird critters, like the fellow on this page. The game style is also very flexible, you can play a pacific herbivore, an agressive carnivore, and anything in between. The inter­esting thing is that the way you design the creature affects the whole game-play. In the same way, the other creatures you interact with sometimes are other player’s creation. I had to set some graphical options to low to get a reasonable frame-rate, but the game runs nicely.

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    Transports publics 2020…

    Transports publics Genevois à l'Horizon 2020Alors que Lausanne inaugure son nouveau métro, j’ai trouvé sur le web des cartes décrivant l’infrastructure de transport de Genève et Zürich en 2025. Ce qui est intéressant, c’est que les deux villes ont en un sens des projets similaires: une traversée ferroviaire de la ville et une extension du réseau de tramway.

    En ce qui concerne les lignes de chemin de fer, la différence est que dans le cas de Zürich, il s’agit d’un renforcement de connections existant déjà (Zürich HB – Oerlikon), alors que dans le cas de Genève, il s’agit de construire une ligne manquante (Genève Cornavin – Annemasse). L’autre différence, est la distance du centre: à Zürich, les nouvelles lignes de tram se situent toutes dans la zone urbaine, alors qu’à Genève, elle vont bien plus loin, jusqu’aux limites du canton, remplaçant de fait le réseau de train régionaux absents.

    De manière générale, les deux villes se développent différemment: Zürich se développe au centre alors que Genève se développe sur sa couronne. Alors qu’à Zürich un grand centre commercial a été construit proche du centre (Sihlcity), à Genève, ils se construisent surtout sur en périphérie (Vésenaz, Thônex-Vallard, etc.). Peut-être que Genève est en train de devenir une ville en forme de doughnut, avec les activités situées dans l’anneau entre la commune de Genève et la frontière.

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    倭 – Drummers of JapanYamato – Drummers of JapanYamato – Tambours du Japon


    The Yamato concert was really impressive. Compared to the drums of traditional festivals, it was more refined, still it had strong energy. It was admirable and fun, I would like to go again.

    Le concert de Yamato a été réellement impressionnant. Comparé au tambours des festivals traditionnels, la musique était plus raffinée, tout en gardant l’énergie. C’était splendide et amusant, j’aimerais y retourner.

    Das Yamato Concert war wirklich eindrucksvoll. Im Vergleich zu den Trommeln des Traditionelles Festivals, war die Musik mehr raffiniert, aber die Energie bleibt stark. Es war merkwürdig und lustig, ich möchte wieder zuhören.

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    Extract from Population structure within Europe - Genes mirror geography within Europe - Nature advance online publication 31 August 2008 – doi:10.1038/nature07331


    Extract from Population structure within Europe - Genes mirror geography within Europe - Nature advance online publication 31 August 2008 – doi:10.1038/nature07331

    Le blog bio-tremplin a une synthèse intéressante de l’article « Genes mirror geography within Europe ». Cet article introduit la notion de géno­graphie, c’est à dire l’analyse des différentes géné­tiques entres personnes d’origines géo­graphiques différentes. En analysant la position de certains marqueur dans le code génétique de personnes vivant dans la même région que leur grand parents, l’équipe de Novembre et al. sont parvenus à reconstruire une carte de l’Europe. On parvient même à distinguer les trois groupes linguistiques de Suisse. Ce serait intéressant de projeter ces données non pas sur une carte géographique standard, mais une projection basée sur les temps de trajets – il y a une grosse chaîne de montagne qui sépare le Tessin du reste de la Suisse.

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    Fire training at Higashi Honganji

    The Firegirls of Higashi Honganji

    Fire training at Higashi Honganji

    Kyōto is the historical city to visit in Japan. It was the capital of Japan before it was transfered to Edo (Tōkyō) and was spared during World War II, so it still contains many old temples and palaces. I have now visited that city thrice, and twice I have witnessed a strange ritual on the side of Higashi Honganji, the huge temple just North of the main railway station.
    Each time, I was there in the late afternoon, just before five, at the time where you feet ache after visiting so many places. On the side of the left building (the one which is not being restored under the large hall), there was some fire-fighting training. It was not real training. Instead some young women and a few young men made some pretense at setting up a water hose and using it under the apparently indifferent eye of some real (and old) firemen. While the drill is done very seriously, it could hardly be called realistic, as I doubt any of the slender girls could handle a hose with real pressure in it, in fact I’m not sure I would like any of them close to a fire. But I must admit seing them doing this ritual is soothing in a strange way…

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    Three Years Trois Ans 三年


    During this year’s trip, I went again to the Kaminari gate in Asakusa. Three years before, I had a picture taken. Yuki as grown since.

    Pendant le voyage de cette année, je suis à nouveau allé à la porte Kaminari à Asakusa. Il y a trois ans j’y avais fait une photo. Yuki a grandi depuis.

    Kaminari-mon - Asakusa 2008
    Kaminari-mon - Asakusa 2005

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    Stroke counting

    The number of strokes in a kanji is an important thing. When looking one up in the dictionary, you use the stroke count first of the radical, then the total to look it up in the index. Counting the number of strokes is far from easy for me, and sometimes, you fall on cases where the number of strokes seems to change. While looking up the name of some food in my electronic dictionary during my trip, I stumbled on the kanji . My electronic dictionary claims this kanji has 12 strokes, so does the web site mahō, but the unihan database used by UnicodeChecker claims it has 13 strokes and so do the web-site mandarin tools and the character selector of Mac OS X. As this kanji is not a common, I could not find it in my Henshall. But what if I just count the number of strokes? Well it seems it depends on the font:

    Ren character (x7149) Hiragino Kaku Baton Pro vs. Hiragino Kaku Baton ProN

    The character on the left hand is drawn using Hiragino Kaku Baton Pro and has 12 strokes while the one on the right hand is drawn using Hiragino Kaku Baton ProN and has 13 strokes. So the difference lies in the Pro vs ProN distinction. What does this N mean, I have no idea. Depending on the platform and the browser, the character in the upper right of this post will display with 12 or 13 strokes… So what do you see?

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    Airline entertainment system

    McDonnell Douglas MD-11 HB-IWF at Zurich-Kloten Airport - LSZH  © 1992 Christian Waser Creative Commons (CC) Attribution-ShareAlike license

    Boredom is certainly a problem while doing long haul flights, say between Japan and Switzerland. Flying with Swiss, the food is nothing to brag about and the service was mediocre – more or less once you are used to the level of service in Japan. Thankfully, most flight nowadays have inflight entertainment systems. You seat is equipped with a screen and a remote control and the system let you watch movies, play simple games and get some inflight information.

    This is the theory at least, I both times had lousy earphones and the system crashed at least once during each of my flights. Given the record of Swiss airlines with entertainment systems having to wait for the system to reboot and skipping back to the point of the movie when the crash occurred is certainly a minor issue. But it gives you time to consider the design of the system. In appearance the system is quite simple, each seat has simple media-player that can display basic data types: video, audio, some hyper-linked data pages. Nothing that cannot be done by a simple iPod. The only architectural constraint is that playback can be overridden for cabine announcement, playing the safety film nobody watches. Also the system can control the seat’s light and the call for the flight attention (this will be ignored).

    The naive solution would be to install a media-player with some reasonable amount of flash memory on each seat connect it to a streaming server using plain ethernet cabling and add the missing control features in the player’s firmware. This way, each seat could function independently, and the load could be distributed. Textual content could be authored and distributed using html. This means the system could also have a copy of the airline’s company’s web-site and similar stuff.

    Of course, the system does not seem to be designed in that way. There is clearly a centralized server which has to be quite powerful as it has to decode up to one video stream per passenger. The thing also needs between ten to twenty minutes to boot, which is quite a lot of a glorified terminal server. Each of those video streams is then transported in analogic format to the seats (you can see noise on the screens). The server also has to handle user-input, and in my experience, the response time varies quite a lot. The audio stream is also sent over in analogic format, and output in those stupid airline-only jacks. There are probably historical and political reasons to this design, but it seems to maximize the amount of cabling (and thus weight) the load on the server, and implies a huge point of failure. The main point I see is that the system is proprietary and centralized, which big companies like airlines seem to like.

    Will a decentralized design ever be implemented in airlines. Maybe, but the truth is, by the next generation of such system, the capacities of the devices carried by most passenger will largely surpass whatever the airline companies will be able to provide. In that time-frame, the most rational option will probably to have each seat provide power (by the way of an USB port) and have an on-board Wifi network that will stream whatever content to the passenger’s devices. It will be probably simpler to lend or rent devices to the few passengers that don’t have one…

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    Ryōkan & Minshuku

    Vue intérireure du Chuōkan Shimizuya Ryōkan, à Nagano

    Ce voyage au Japon aura pour moi été l’occasion de profiter pleine­ment des hôtels tradi­tionnels japonais. Si on peut trouver des hôtels à l’occidentale, ou même des auberges de jeunesse, je préfère largement les ryōkan (旅館), et leur alternative bon marché, les min­shuku (民宿). Ce sont souvent des établissement familiaux, dans des bâtiments traditionnels avec un prix raisonnable par nuit (≈ 5000 ¥ par personne par nuit) et le service est en général très bon. Au Shimaya Ryōkan à Yudanaka, le propriétaire nous a amené au bain de singes en voiture, et ensuite à la gare pour prendre le train du départ. À Tsuwano, nous sommes descendus dans un minshuku, le Wakasagi no yado, pour 7000 ¥ nous avions deux repas: un souper qui était un vrai festin, et un petit déjeuner copieux. Là encore, le propriétaire nous a amené à la gare en voiture. La chambre est une pièce avec un sol en tatami. Parfois, la chambre a une petite véranda sur le balcon. Traditionnellement, à l’arrivée, on reçoit une tasse thé et une petite confiserie. À chaque fois, on nous fournissait lingues, yukata (robe de chambre), brosse à dent. Bref tout ce qu’il faut pour voyager léger. Dans les grandes villes, on peut trouver des minshuku très bon marché, j’en ai trouvé à 2000 ¥ à Ōsaka, dans ces cas, le service est minimal. À chaque fois l’étblissement disposait d’une connection internet gratuite, soit une prise dans la chambre, soit un point Wifi à la réception. On peut être traditionnel et néanmoins réaliser qu’on vit au XXIe siècle. Si seulement les établis­sement européens pouvaient offrir ce genre de service…

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