Saturday, October 07, 2006


After what seemed like an insurmountable series of obstacles and an excessive amount of time, I'm finally going to get my home internet connection on Wednesday! Yaaay!

I'm overly excited about this. With it comes a phone line with which I can make free calls to any European land line, so if you want to talk to me, just ask me to ring you!

This week was Tag der Deutschen Einheit - German Unity Day. It celebrates the reunification of East and West Germany, and is a national holiday in Germany. As with most national holidays, everywhere was closed and the weather was crap. Ah well. It was nice to have a lie in and a free day.

On Sunday I walked about 23-24 km to my local picturesque town, Monschau, starting out at Raeren where I ended up last week. Theoretically I was still following the route of the old railway, but in practice I was only following it in spirit. The line does some silly things at that stage to avoid steep terrain and to serve larger settlements, so I cut quite a few corners.

Monschau really is picturesque in the best German tradition. It's situated at the confluence of two rivers, in a very deep wooded valley, and the old town quarter is incredibly well preserved. Inevitably it's a tourist honeypot, something I've learned to live with. Governing one side of the valley is a ruined tower, and on the other is an impressively intact castle. Within the castle is a youth hostel, which I think is incredibly cool. I went up to both the castle and the tower, and otherwise wandered around soaking up atmosphere and eating ice cream. (Chocolate ice cream while wearing a white sweatshirt. Error.)

For the last two days at work I've been one of only two people in the office, which has been interesting as I've had to deal with all the English queries that the more senior people usually deal with. I spent most of that time proofreading a 222-page document written in English by a Dutchman. It was not only full of the classic German/Dutch-into-English mistakes including e.g. the use of e.g. where it shouldn't be (e.g. the preceding); the subject material was also utter tripe. It contained the word "synergy", which is always a warning sign, and proceeded to talk about leadership "functions" and teamwork strategies.

It made me feel like I had to qualify what I said in an earlier post. I do love systems, but only when they're real systems, representing something that can and should be systematised. I loathe artificial systems constructed purely with words that attempt to formalise something that is for the most part self-evident. This is invariably the case with anything to do with management, marketing, and consultancy of any kind. It makes me furious that people are earning a fortune through sitting at PCs thinking up this crap, using new words to describe age-old ideas and concepts that are blindingly obvious and then selling their fabrications as new "theories" of people management.

I won't say there is no skill in this kind of formalisation. There is, but it's a pale, bloodless, pointless skill. The fact is that people do not need elaborate guidelines on how to deal with other people - or even simple theories. People need ideas, and they need practical help. And no, the sort of buzzword-ridden jargon-loaded "models" I've been discussing are not "ideas" and do not present "ideas". The seeming interchangeability of ideas and idle modellings and systematisations is a serious problem with the modern age. I suspect it is mainly down to people having easier lives. After all, it's impossible to imagine someone popping up during the time of the Black Death and saying "It's okay, people; all you need to do is follow my handy five-step avoidance model". In those days people just got on with it, because they had to.

Much as I hate to say it, it's probably a postmodern phenomenon. I hate to say it because "postmodern" is one of those words/concepts that tends to be used for all sorts of things by the sort of pretentious, parsimonious arseholes who pump out exactly the kind of crap I'm talking about. But one of its assertions, that medium equals message, highlights the problem nicely. Medium should not equal message. There are ideas, and then there are "models", and the existence of a model formalising an idea does not validate the model, just as it does not validate the idea.

Ritter Sport Ratings

Coconut: 2/10
With its incredibly thick layer of coconut, this quadrant is a must-have for any lover of the white stuff. I, however, am the opposite. I dislike coconut and only ate this one to complete the series, knowing that I'd have to do it some time and hoping that it wouldn't actually contain much coconut. Sadly I was wrong. Eew. It's mushy and crunchy and wet and dry at the same time, and it tastes like washing powder. Eew.

Yoghurt: 4/10
Given my unique relationship with yoghurt, you might have expected a higher rating for this one. The problem is that this just doesn't taste or feel like yoghurt. It tastes like some random filling that's been put into a Ritter Sport. While it may work as a background to some other flavours, on its own it is just a bit weird.

Jamaica Rum: 5/10
See last week's comments about liqueur chocolate. This one packed the most punch of the three liqueur flavours so far, and so in my view was the least enjoyable. It's still good fun and tasty, though, and feels a bit naughty to boot.

Marzipan: 7/10
I'm not a major marzipan fan, to tell the truth, but Ritter have done themselves proud with this one. The dark chocolate - an excellent choice - hugs the marzipan beautifully, supporting it and becoming one with it in your mouth. The proportions are absolutely spot on: neither the chocolate (a powerful flavour) nor the marzipan (which can be stodgy and texturally overwhelming) is allowed to dominate. The two are fightin' on yer tongue, but they're also making' love. An unexpected winner.

Tune in next week for a Hazelnut special edition of the Ritter ratings!


Little Fi said...

It's always edifying to find someone else eloquently ranting one's own point of view across. I regret the waste of your translation time, and fully agree with every word against hollow language shells that people spend so much time creating. You should have heard one of the presentations on our training seinar. Took them a good 10 minutes of talk about 'projects' and 'innovation systems' etc to say 'we think of ways to teach people languages'. Grr.

P.S. I am ashamed to say it, but I have now been in Oesterreich 2 weeks and still no Rittersport has been gegessen. The lure of Mannerschnitten is too strong.

George Walkden said...

*shock* Dear me... you should really stop schnitting those Männer and start sporting Ritter. Exactly whose side are you on? In addition, you should start blogging! ;)

Hope you're having a good time. My cunning plan continues to evolve (albeit slowly), so you should be hearing from me soon. :)