GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The Swiss Statistical Office in Bern should be applauded for making stats a little more fun with their one a week dose, and they even offer this in English, so you can turn it into a foreign language lesson. There’s a little problem on the right edge, but you’ll probably work out the missing bits.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Melissa Fleming, head of communications at the UNHCR, the refugee organization, has been given some just praise for her active approach to using social media, by Devex, an international development news site. The Geneva-based group is one of the easiest for journalists to work with because of the ease with which they can find photos and videos, thanks to Fleming’s support for using flickr and YouTube. She also tweets and is working with local UNHCR offices to encourage greater use of social media.
Devex focuses, in its interview, on how Fleming and her team use social media. For other organizations grappling with the issues, this is a great starting point. Having 100,000 “likes” on Facebook is no small feat and says much about the organization’s effective approach to social media.
ZURICH, SWITZERLAND – Brian Ferris recently joined Google in Zurich but before he did he left a legacy that remains popular with public transport users in Seattle. Ferris, as a PhD student at the University of Washington, designed a handy little set of smart phone apps called One Bus Away, which allows people to see when buses are expected to arrive at their stops.
The Seattle Times reports that bus riders continue to use it, to the tune of 50,000 a week, and the university and public transit authorities are now working out a plan to keep it alive and up to date.
GeekWire reports that Ferris was hoping to develop more realtime transit services for Google once in Zurich; the company has rolled out testing for some similar programmes in a handful of cities in Europe and the US.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – How many people get cold feet before they marry? According to an insurance broker interviewed by Bloomberg‘s Carolyn Bandel in Zurich, “the percentage of claims for change of heart is ‘very high.’”
Bandel has written an intriguing article about the relatively new niche insurance business, insurance for couples about to marry, which has grown up because people are spending more on their weddings than they used to. The average cost of a wedding in Switzerland has doubled in 10 years, to about CHF30,000, according to a Zurich Insurance company official interviewed by Bandel. If you think you might get off more cheaply in the US, given the low dollar, that’s one option, given that the average cost rose in 2010 to just over $24,000.
So what kind of coverage do brides- and grooms-to-be get? Power outages, caterers being shut down by health inspectors, illness and flooding are specifically mentioned in the general conditions at Zurich, which has been offering wedding insurance since January 2011.
A quick look at Zurich’s offer (you can buy the insurance online for CHF69) shows that it even includes the possibility of fire. I recall a niece’s lively wedding where the barbecue set the rest of the wedding area on fire; maybe there is something to this. You’re covered in case of rock slides and avalanches, but not for earthquakes and volcanoes.
Zurich’s policy covers only post-ceremony events and the limit is CH20,000, so there’s no coverage for bachelor parties the night before – and no coverage for cold feet, which is sometimes on offer by US insurers according to Bloomberg.
So how many brides or grooms don’t show up? A US writer says she believes the figure commonly mentioned of half of one percent is low, possibly 10,000 a year. Could they have saved money by getting “change of mind” insurance? No, but their parents might have: you can only take out the insurance if you are not one of the people getting married, so with parents of the bride footing bills that run into thousands of dollars, Dad might be able to get a little peace of mind ahead of the big day.
Jonathan Manthorpe at the Vancouver Sun has written a well-researched, long story about public discontent in China with the abuse of wealth and power, focusing on a road rage accident that involved a general’s son.
Hat’s off to his incisive yet critical article on of the Chinese public’s attitudes towards officialdom, a rarity in western media: http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Opinion+Chinese+recoil+antics+arrogant+spoiled+princelings/5422350/story.html
De Cafe Racer from The Netherlands has taken the tandem bike to new heights, or at least lengths and widths, making group-powered bicycles that are used mainly for events.
Now they’re putting kids to work pedalling bikes not just for fun, but to fuel their own “green” school buses. Springwise writes that the buses hold 10 children plus an adult who has the option to add electric power, presumably to avoid slowing down as the children near school and lose power.
A bike-pooling bus clearly makes more sense health-wise than car-pooling.
De Caferacer, in Dutch
(With thanks to Bernino Lind, who pointed me to this)
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Las Vegas is one crazy town any time, but possibly even more so when the world’s hackers hit the Strip. Mehdi Atmani, longtime journalist at Le Temps, is taking a week to cover two world hackers’ conventions, Defcon and Black Hat for a blog (in French). His first night in Vegas starts out well, but by morning his e-mail has been broken into and by the next day he’s being taken for a ride, the financial kind, by a 12-year-old.
You have to be a brave journalist to cover this story, I’m thinking, or ready to take on a new identity when you return home.
LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND – How could we not say “hat’s off” to Alstonville, Australia hat manufacturer Jack Cunningham, who is still beaming, according to his local paper, the Northern Star, after 400 Australian gymnasts wore his Cutuna Hat Company original designs for the opening ceremony of the Gymnaestrada world event in Lausanne. The crowd of 20,000 gymnasts who participated, plus the thousands of spectators, must be a hatmaker’s dream for showing off his wares.
Cunningham says 90 percent of the company’s business now comes from the Internet, so he was surprised and very pleased to be contacted directly for the order. The Australian team was looking for wide-brimmed hats, which turned out to be useful during the rainy ceremony. “It was a pretty standard design and the hardest thing we had to do was add a chin strap,” he told the local paper.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The new website for Genève Aéroport is a visual treat, compared to the old one, but more importantly, it is being developed as a travel portal. The airport has hooked up with various companies so that you can use the site to order flights with ebooker, hotels, cars, parking and more. It’s a significant improvement over the old site.
Too bad for me that I live in Vaud, because residents of several other cantons and of neighbouring France can take advantage of a number of discounts, such as reduced rail travel, through the site.
Tip for French and Italian (Val d’Aosta) residents: you can get “up to CHF40″ discount on the CHF40 Swiss annual road tax you need if you’re driving on the autoroute, by using a coupon from the new site, although how much off you get in real terms isn’t immediately clear, and the coupon is linked to a booked flight.
I don’t usually use this space to point to another of our blogs, but our guest blogger Devashish Paul’s tale of woe from the Ironman Switzerland triathlon event earlier in July deserves a read.
Hats off! to anyone who can crash, end up in hospital with a series of injuries and still write “To those reading, please do consider Ironman Switzerland. The organization is awesome, the course is brilliant and picturesque, there are marshals everywhere, clean racing by other racers (from my vantage point), fabulous medical facilities, and Zurich is very easy to get to/from anywhere in the world with an excellent airport and fabulous public transport when you get there.”