I love reading. I have enough time on public transport and for me it is a way to disconnect from work. Although I am pretty techie and online in many aspects, I still like turning actual pages, so a kindle is not an option for me. 

But most books I only read once, and am not necessarily interested in keeping them. I tried selling them on flee markets and on ebay and ricardo. However, this doesn't really work that well, as for the buyer it becomes expensive because of the shipping (there is no cheap way to send books in CH). And at the flee markets it is probably not the right audience for selling books. Throwing them away is definitely not my idea either, even if they pile up in the house in every corner. 

After a little research I discovered www.bookcrossing.com. It's a webpage, where you register your books and "release" them. This means, you leave them in your hotel room for the next guest, or at the airport, at a coffee table, bus station etc...into the wild as they call it. The finder is prompted to register as collector and then release it again after he has read it. With a tracking number you can follow your books around the world. 

In Basel and Baselland there is about 500 registered book crossers, so maybe, if I start releasing them, I can make somebody happy with my book and it finds new readers. 

Want a book? I registered the following ones today:

  • The Hanging Girl – Jussi Adler Olsen
  • Sarah's Key – Tatiana de Rosnay
  • Inferno – John Brown
  • The Edge of the Water – Elizabeth George
  • The Edge of Nowhere – Elizabeth George
  • The Secret between us – Louise Douglas
  • 22 Britannia Road – Amanda Hodginson
  • The Opium War – Julia Lovell
  • The Success Principles – Jack Canfield
  • The Girl on the train – Paula Hawkins
  • He's just not that into you
  • Der Feind im Schatten – Henning Mankell
  • Malavita – Tonino Benacquvista
  • Auf Ehre und Gewissen – Elizabeth George
  • Markttreiben – Nicola Förg

If you are interested in any of those, let me know the next days...before I release them into the wild :-)

So here's the story for those who asked....

 

About two years ago I had heard of a friend who was just undergoing skin cancer treatment about the organisation "Locks of Love". This public non-profit organization provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.

While my friend was lucky enough to have battled cancer and is fortunately at no financial disadvantage I decided to nevertheless eventually donate my hair. I was looking for a similar organization in Switzerland or Germany however apparently there is no official organisation or institution that would have a similar program in place.

So here we are, shipping 10 inches of all natural not colored hair off to Florida, where hopefully a child will get a new look and have some joy with a hairpiece.

The moment Denis, my hairdresser at Friendship in Basel, cut off the braid it did feel very weird. But quite egoistically I am enjoying my new look, not only with a three week trekking coming up where short hair is a lot easier to handle.

It takes a while to grow it that long, and you have to add another inch or so to leave the hairdresser some workspace too, but I might just as well do it again :-)

(Deutsche Version)

Beginning of March I was in Palma de Mallorca for a long weekend and had booked an Air Berlin flight back to Basel. As we had not had the best experience with food on board the last time I opted for the online booking of the so much advertised gourmet meal of their partner Sansibar Sylt. I chose a vegetarian curry, as Dominik and I are right now doing a period of no-meat nutrition. The order was confirmed by mail and the 9 EUR charged to my credit card, all set. 

Once on board the stewardess came to confirm the order once again and I was looking forward to a decent dinner. When it was delivered though, things started to go wrong. 

The stewardess, Ms Schmierer apologized and said the wrong meal was delivered to the aircraft, it was a meat curry. I poltitely declined and said it's ok I take the usual free cheese sandwich (which to be honest was awful). She promised to file a report and administration would reimburse the 9 EUR in the next couple of days. In the very improbable case that I should not see the reimbursement on my next credit card statement I should contact customer service at the contact details she handed me on a business card. 

The week after the flight I received the invitation to an online customer satisfaction questionnaire, which took roughly ten minutes to fill in. I participated, in the comment box mentioning the incident again and asking for reimbursement. 

I would have been really surprised if things actually would have gone smoothly, but as it was to expect 20 days later there was still no reimbursement, nor any contact after the questionnaire. I wrote an email to the address stated on the card: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., just to receive an automatic reply in German, stating that Air Berlin would not receive any complaints via email anymore, stating a link to an online form

I sighed. Ok, well, let's do that then. I meticulously inserted all flight data, including my original complaint email text:

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren

Ich hatte für diesen Flug online im Voraus ein vegetarisches Curry (9EUR) bestellt, das mir auch berechnet wurde. Leider war dann im Flugzeug ein Fleischcurry geliefert worden, kein vegetarisches. Die Purserin, Frau Schmierer, hat mir versichert, dass ich die 9 EUR umgehend rückerstattet bekomme, da ich die Mahlzeit entsprechend nicht verzehrt habe. Nun sind bereits mehr als zwei Wochen vergangen, ich habe keine Nachricht oder Rückerstattung bekommen.

Zudem habe ich auch bei Ihrer 10-minütigen Online-Kundenzufriedenheitsbefragung teilgenommen und den Vorfall auch dort erwähnt - ohne weiter Kenntnisnahme. Dies wird mich sicherlich nicht dazu ermutigen, nochmals Zeit in Umfrage zu investieren, wenn Kommentare die über das normale Ankreuzen hinaus gehen einfach ignoriert werden.

Ich erwarte umgehend Ihre Nachricht was die Rückerstattung angeht.

Mit freundlichen Grüssen

Melanie Frey

(for the non-German speakers: basically the summary of the incident)

To this I received an automatically generated email with a file number to keep until the case is resolved. Two days later another email in the inbox, with the following text:

Dear Mrs Frey,

Thank you for your correspondence dated 18/03/2014.

From your lines I gather that we upset you by not delivering the expected or accustomed service and that we disappointed you. I empathize and wish to sincerely apologize on behalf of airberlin. We of course know that you were looking forward to your flights and your journey and expected a smooth procedure from booking to in-flight service. Believe me that any unforeseen change or incident is very troublesome for us as well. It is our foremost aim to offer our passengers safe, courteous and competent transportation to their destination.

Dear Mrs Frey, at this time we would like to thank you for taking the time to share your comments with us. Your feedback is of great significance to further optimize our internal procedures and processes.

I sincerely hope that you will accept our apologies and will continue to place your confidence in us in the future. We will make every effort to be a courteous and reliable travel partner on all stages of your journey. We would be delighted to welcome you on board an airberlin group service in the near future. Kind regards

Mr Hebold Customer Relations

Air Berlin PLC & CO. Luftverkehrs KG

Saatwinkler Damm 42-43 13627

Berlin Contact: https://www.airberlin.com/complaint

I have to admit it is nice text blocks, probably copy-pasted from their drafts and sent by a part-time worker, maybe a student, who might be in Berlin, or Ireland, or India. Maybe Mr Hebold does not speak German, as he is not mentioning at all the reimbursement or referencing in any way to my original mail? Also, why would the respond in english, if my original email was in german and my language preference on my air berlin profile is german?

If I had expected my email reply would go through I had erred. So I again took the time-consuming way of going through the online complaint form to send my answer:

Guten Abend Herr Hebold

zusätzlich zu Ihrer Empathie und Ihrer Zusicherung dass es nicht mehr vorkommt möchte ich vor allem mein Geld zurück - dies ist in Ihrer Email nicht erwähnt (und ich spreche dies nun bereits zum 3. mal an!). Ich erwarte umgehend Information wann die Rückerstattung erfolgt.

Mit freundlichen Grüssen

Melanie Frey 

 

Today, two days later, nothing new except another automatically generated email of confirmation of receipt.

My summary so far:

Pre-flight communication: Good, they even sold me something.

In-flight communication: Good. Stewardess nice and apologetic. 

Post-flight communication: Complete failure

Next steps:

I will send an invoice to Air Berlin, about 9 EUR reimbursement and 60 CHF Administration Charges. 

To be continued...

 

A couple of days ago Facebook announced the buy of WhatsApp. The funny thing is that the founders of WhatsApp had been turned down by Facebook years earlier when applying for a job. What I consider not that funny is that - as already in various media described - Facebook is now an even larger giant collector of data. 

 

It is no secret that WhatsApp is not encrypted and not considered safe. And that Facebook will continue finding ways how to use our data in ways we initially hadn't volunteered it for is widely known as well. 

I was using both, Facebook and WhatsApp. But two days ago I deleted WhatsApp and purchased Threema, an apparently much securer messaging app, Swiss made moreover. And yes, I paid for it. 

Why? I was asked. If I had given my data to Facebook already anyway, why would I switch? Easy enough:

I respect the privacy of my friends and all contacts in my address book. Not everybody in my address book is on Facebook. They chose not to be. So I just think it's disrespective if I sync my contacts with WhatsApp and thus they land somewhere in Facebook's giant server landscape. 

And those who will argue that it is too late anyway and that Facebook has that data already from somewhere else - well, that might be true. But at least I am not just accepting yet another smart move of the big player, with the excuse that they know everything anyway and we are transparent in all ways. And for those who claim they have nothing to hide, I don't either. 

But I want to be the one who decides what I publish.

Further reads:

http://www.huffingtonpost.de/2014/02/20/whatsapp-loeschen-gruende_n_4822317.html

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/digital/seit-facebook-deal-whatsapp-konkurrent-threema-verdoppelt-nutzerzahl-1.1894768 

 Why would I blog about books? I am not a librarian nor a studied literate and certainly don't aim to be a book critic. But going twice a week to Zurich I am reading quite a bit on the train, and always have enjoyed reading in general.

Once being in university reading turns to scientific books and research, once starting and pursuing a career time is even less and remaining on top of your job must reads is challenge enough. Not that I am not working or pursuing a career anymore, but with no internet on the train, I am enjoying those 8 hours a week i can dedicate to fiction and non-fiction. And although I love my ipad, I am not a fan of ebooks, but rather carry that extra pound of paper around (only exception e-publication of NatGeo...as I don't get them that easily here and if only at a fortune).

Reading is a virtue they say, so I thought I'd just share some thoughts on the books on my nightstand and in my handbag, good or bad, which is anyway always a very personal opinion. Don't take it personal, but I rather lend books to anybody but my closest family... I "lost" countless books over the years and in different countries, written in different languages, to the big black hole of giving them to somebody to read. Still missing for example "Paula" from isabel allende, and "The Kiterunner".. I think i am just attached to the books, especially the ones I bought around the world, and I am proud of our bookshelf in the living room (photo will follow, but important to know, we are no TV people, and don't have a furniture piece with a centered shrine-like place for a 48" screen....)

Well, and whenever we integrate a comment field on the post, would love to hear from you with your opinions in case you read the same book already! So here comes the first one:  

The scandal book of the year: 50 Shades of Grey

I first heard about this mysterious book through facebook, as a friend posted she wasn't sure if she should cover the cover of the book with a piece of paper while reading it on the plane in order to avoid weird looks. This comment intrigued me and I looked it up. BDSM, hard, no love, and addictive. Well, it was far from being released in Europe, I prefer english books anyway, so I ordered it from the US, last November. Read all three of them within a week or so, each chapter ends in a way that you cannot put the book down but have to read on, that technique EL James masters quite well.

However, halfway through the second one, I started skipping the sex scenes, they were more or less the same every time and it started being boring. It all seemed to me to be a cheap "groschenroman", lots of feelings and emotions mixed with sex, not the first time in literature to happen, just a lot of times those novels are sold at three euro a piece at the kiosk (again, not judging...just my personal impression).

In the second book, a certain similarity to another triology struck me, and you might be able to come to the same conclusions with a bit of creativity: the New Moon series. Edward, main character, the vampire: he has had several relationships, even if it was with other vampires only. He could physically hurt his beloved, although he wouldn't do it on purpose, actually fears to hurt her. He has fun and supporting siblings. He came to his parents when his mom, a doctor, treated him, and since then they have been loving parents to him. He loves fast cars. Rich as hell. Bella, the female main character, human: she is a single child, lives with her dad, the mom lives in the south of the US, the dad enjoys fishing. She is young and innocent and Edward is her first love. Pregnant towards the end of the triology. Jacob, supporting role male, the werewolve: a childhood friend, in love with bella, his dad is a friend of her dad, he doesn't get her and after some initial rivalry with edward gives up. Location: Seattle. All live happily ever after, some can't die anyways. Maybe I am the only one with this impression, but exchange Edward for Christian, Bella for Anastasia, Jacob for José and you got the plot.

Really do not get the hype and psychological need of interpretation. I do not think that

  • it is a feminist book, expressing the need or wish of modern women to control through submission, and to be loved that way 
  • it is a macho book, and degrading women (those who like bdsm do that voluntarily one would like to assume) 
  • any psychologist should interpret anything into a pure and simple love story of he-loves-her-and-she-loves-him-back-and-together-they-win-against-evil...

That's what it is to me, a simple typical love story with a happy ending, just that it has that twist of of a normally taboo topic, but as we all know, sex sells. And it sells even more in times of social networking.

Imagine the "Marquis De Sade", much more violent and controverse, in times of twitter , pinterst and facebook... So Grey is neither a new angle, nor extremely scandalous....  but enjoy your reading if you haven't yet done so!

This is Alois, the newest member in our family:

vw t3 syncro 1

It's a 1986 Volkswagen Bus T3 Syncro featuring the 1.9l WBX 78ps engine. Inside there's a bed and the roof can be elevated.

We are looking forward to have some nice trips to the Alps (Think "base camp") and perhaps even longer trips throughout Europe. We'll see :-)

Since it's an old car, rust is always present and needs to be treated regularly:

alois rost

This is the front window frame which had a *lot* of rust but a specialist took care of it and managed to replace almost the whole lower frame.

alois calanques 

The moving waters of the mountains .... Glaciers! 

A year ago when I was packing my equipment for the weekend, I packed BCD, regulator, my Suunto, fins, mask, maybe a shorty or a 5mm neo. Now, the equipment is not necessarily less heavy, but for a different kind of water..... glaciers. 

I am excited like a kid to do my first tour on a glacier this upcoming weekend. Don't get me wrong, I have been skiing on glaciers. 

But I have not yet done altitude hiking..... so, as this again is a sport that requires a certain amount of equipment, and training on how to use it, in order to be safe, I am doing a training this weekend with the Basel mountaineering club. 

Saturday morning 5.36 am we start our trip, at about 10am we should be at the foot of the glacier... the rest of the day will be different exercises, including rescue out of a crevice, something I certainly hope I will never have to perform (pretty much similar to rescuing a unconscious diver...). 

Overnight is planned at the Tierbergli SAC Hütte, www.tierbergli.ch. 

Sunday a planned tour up to the Gwächtenhorn, 3420m. Which will for the moment be the highest peak I have climbed myself, at least from a relatively low starting point. 

If you wanna follow the route.... here's the map

I remember in 6th or 7th grade, when we had to do our first short presentation in front of the classmates… my best friend picked “whales” and I picked “Antarctica” … and the war about the regulations of commercial and scientific whaling. A couple of years later we went with school to visit a dolphin show at the zoo of Nuremberg. I didn’t like it, and I never visited a show again. However, not necessarily out of protest, also a bit as there was none where I was living and it just wasn’t an attraction to me.

I have been working in Sales & Marketing in international luxury hotels for the past 10 years and am now on the “other side”, in online marketing.

With this background, and currently researching hotels in Europe, my head is spinning from the number of webpages I am looking at, and I simply can’t understand why there is so many lousy web appearances out there. Not talking about hostals or road side motels….. talking about what is supposed to be luxury. Unfortunately it is apparently not very high on the list of some DOSMs, or even worse, marketing departments of corporations.

So, taking the liberty here of pointing out some do’s and don’t’s

  • Language button clearly visible… I do speak some languages, but not good enough to go through a whole www in Italian
  • No music à slows down loading time…. And is definitely not everybody’s taste. (might be an opera singer at the Scala Milano…. But shouldn’t be the music of a hotel’s website (www.grandhoteletdemilan.it)
  • No flash – apparently some marketing professionals and cyber agencies haven’t heard yet that Steve Jobs didn’t like flash and no apple device is currently running a flash properly à visitor lost
  • Big pictures – these hotels are certainly amazing. I just can’t get them to load here. If the hotel is interested in a direct booking on their web, good luck. Every visitor will abandon and book elsewhere (so commission will have to be paid), if he is booking that hotel at all as driving him to an online travel agency is actually risking to lose the booking completely
  • Small pictures – there’s nothing to hide… so just find a healthy compromise middle of the road
  • The wording….. “best kept secret” sounds nice…. But why the hell would you want to keep it secret? In the end, it’s a business. Or, “the brand new hotel opened in 2003”. Wait, 9 years old is brand new? Or did somebody just forget to check www? Nothing worse than outdated pages.
  • The plug ins…. Facebook, twitter, tmblr, etc etc . make sure, that if you have these badges, there is actually somebody behind it, and managing those. It doesn’t look good at all when I click on the twitter badge, and a twitter profile page pops up with next to nothing on it… no tweets, not following anybody etc … it’s free, but you probably paid somebody to add the badge to the site, so start using it
  • Intriguing the visitor might be nice, but when he wants to get in touch, let him do that. Alpina Gstaad, has a very elegant landing page… but there’s no contact email, phone, anything. Good it opens in December 2012, but maybe with not as many guests as hoped for if they can’t get more info 6 months out. And seriously, it’s hospitality, so open the doors, also the virtual ones! www.thealpinagstaad.ch
  • Meridien… chic and experience is ok, but I wasn’t able to find the rooms section… am I blonde or is it non discriminating just hidden somewhere?
  • Definitely NOGO….blinking, turning and bright colors…. (relaix Strasbourg)
  • No people in pics…. And even less if the pics are as bad as those (www.hotelmajestic.com)

 

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