René Seifert

Entrepreneur, Global Citizen, Flat World, Internet, Web 2.0, Innovation, Start-Up

Archive for January, 2007

Finally Winter in Europe

It was hard to believe that anything like winter would come. But now it’s here and in full swing. From last Thursday to Sunday I went to Achensee in Austria, where initially the grass was green until in the snowstorm on Saturday went through and brought a beautiful winter landscape to life:
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The stay in Austria began for business where I attended the workshop of a client and also posted a blog entry (in German) of the corporate website. Somehow like a sissy, I fell a bit ill with the typical cold, but it’s already going much better. I trust that from Saturday on in India where the hot season is about to begin, the warm will be a nice contrast.

Digital Lifestyle Day to start tomorrow in Munich

Just realized what sucks: Apple’s iTunes-Store is undoubtedly the best invention since sliced bread, but there seems to be a systematic defect. Buying songs for EUR 0.99 delivers an impeccable quality, but buying music-videos for EUR 2.49 often comes along with totally crappy sound quality. So in a playlist with naturally a majority of pure audio songs at a reasonable volume level, the occurrence of the music from a video will be hardly audible. Reversely, when pumping up the volume to the max, the occurence of the next pure audio song will almost blow your entire hearing. I really don’t understand how that can be, especially as around 25 % of the music videos get it right …

But, no bad feelings these days, as I am really looking forward to the DLD (“Digital Lifestyle Day“) in Munich, organized by the publishing company Burda. I went to the event last year already and the DLD is without doubt the most important conference in Germany around internet & web 2.0 topics. The program with the line-up of speakers & guests is absolutely phenomenal, so will be the networking opportunity. Will keep you posted here.

Hurricane “Kyrill”: Memories of “Andrew”

The hurricane rushed through, killed 110 and left and aftermath of destruction across Europe. While rescue teams and firemen are still about the clear up the debris, this natural disaster reminds me of my first holiday in the U.S.

It was in August 1992 with my first girlfriend that we just had happily landed in Miami strolling around two days when we realized that there was only one topic on local TV. A hurricane that was about to strike the coast in 24 to 48 hours, a hurricane whose name was “Andrew”.

Initially, we did not pay too much attention and thought: “Wow, cool, so we’ll have a real hurricane to see during our holidays.” However, when basically all shops started to construct wooden shutters in front of their windows and the authorities advised – if possible – to evacuate northwards, we became aware that this would not be a joke.

Hence, we took the advise and followed the assigned evacuation routes to the north, in the midst of a caravan of plate rolling to a safe place. Around 300 km away we tried to find a motel or hotel. No chance – all full. The following experience will always be a cornerstone in my understanding why the U.S. has made it from zero to superpower in 250 years. Its civic sense is unparalleled. We were hosted in a sport-gym of a little and in the next morning got a fantastic breakfast from the church-community: ham & eggs with coffee with the undertones of great genuine solidarity.

Coming back to Miami a week later, I was faced with the biggest destruction I have ever seen in my life. A place called Homestead south-west of Miami had been hit hardest, a place with mainly light wooden houses which were not able to resist the brute force of the tropical storm. The scene in front of us looked like war with all the damage and military and national guard taking over control. According to Wikipedia, Hurricane Andrew is the second worst hurricane which has ever hit the United States.

Windy Adventure Flight: Cape Town-Lambert’s Bay and back

If you happen to come to Cape Town and want to have a great ride in a plane, I have a good and proven tip for you. As the helicopter rides are only for snobs and sissies, and in addition very expensive, true flying happens only in a plane. Contact the Cape Town Flying Club and ask specifically for the flight instructor Peter Erasmus. He is a great guy, a fantastic instructor and an experienced pilot who will make sure you get an unforgettable experience.

It was last Sunday that we took off from Runway 19 on Cape Town International Airport and headed to the north in our a Cessna 72 RG, call-sign ZS-KSS. Peter had recommended to fly rather north as the weather towards the east was supposed to be cloudy. At the same time he warned that we should be prepared for turbulent weather. Cool explanation: “You can’t do anything about turbulence; you have to ride them out!” Thus, we chose to fly along the coastline above the water where we were not fully exposed to the warm air rising from the ground creating these shaky conditions.

Here we are flying north leaving Cape Town behind us:

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Peter also warned that for arrival we would face strong winds during landing. This was a polite description of what I with my 90 flight hours had never experienced before. As the landing strip consisted of a 700 m long dust-strip, we first circled 1,500 feet above the airfield to identify the direction the wind came from. We managed to spot a wind-sock which gave us the indication we should use runway 26 and land into westerly direction.

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Peter was obviously pilot in command, but so far I had been the flying pilot. I initiated the procedure for landing, due to the wind we kept the contact surface to a minimum with flaps only to 20° and I aligned the plane into the final approach for landing. What happened next was like a rollercoaster landing with not just a strong cross-wind, but rather hefty gusts which were throwing the plane completely out of direction. I somehow managed to bring it back into a controlled path for descent when the next gust hit with full force. If I had been alone, I would have done a go-around, and maybe attempted one more time. But luckily, I had an experienced flight instructor sitting right to my side. Around 150 from the ground, I backed off and said: “your controls”. Peter took over, not that the wind would have treated the plane better for that reason, but Peter knew how to handle it. With some more shaking and a little bounce-back from the runway he heroically landed the plane safely. That was without question my most exciting lesson so far.

This, by the way, is both the terminal and the hangar of “Lambert’s Bay International Airport” ;-)

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Peter modestly mentioned before-take off that he had contacted the fellows from Muisbosskerm and they had said that had prepared some “small snacks”. We got a pick-up with their 190 Mercedes which drove us over a bumpy road to the place which we had at around 6.30 pm entirely for us.

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What we received as “small snacks” was beyond belief. A fully prepared luxury meal from mother sea which was rushing 10 meters away from us towards the beach. As a starter Oysters, freshly opened in front of us:

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That would have been feast enough. But in the eyes of our hosts, it wasn’t. What followed was an entire cooked fish, crayfish, salad and even a freshly baked loaf of bread. It was such good food in such an authentic and honest environment.

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(The champagne, by the way, had unfortunately to be entirely neglected by us pilots.) Although we deeply fell in love with the place, Peter reminded that we should be latest at 8 pm at the airport so that we could get airborne still with sufficient daylight. So it happened and we caught a beautiful sunset from the air, climbing to 4,500 feet heading back south to our home base Cape Town.

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Approaching Cape Town International Airport, Peter was handling the radio and the tower advised us that we could enter into a long final on Runway 19 as there were no other bigger and faster planes expected during the next minutes of our landing. So I had the unprecedented pleasure to land a Cessna on a 3.6 km long runway at with fully party-lights on.

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I had quite cool flying experiences so far, but I have to admit that this one was the coolest of all. I guess the mix of a completely different environment, the landing on such an uncontrolled airstrip, the stunning beauty of the landscape, the unexpected seafood-orgy at Muisbosskerm and Peter’s great leadership made that difference.

A Photo and its Story on Flickr

Just had the opportunity to read the issue of the Time magazine which featured the person of the year being “you”. And I thought I share a little conversation in the hearland of “you” that unexpectedly occured. Among the hundreds of pictures from my South Africa travel which I uploaded yesterday on my Flickr account was this one:

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At the first glance nothing special. Yet, two other members of Flickr, view profile “Adriaan90” and “sinandcity” obviously from South Africa came across it and identified it correctly as being taken in the township “Langa” “Longa” outside of Cape Town. And they started to comment, I started to comment back and alltogether we spun a vivid conversation about the dangers but also the beauty of South Africa. To see the conversion, just click on the picture above or alternatively here. I believe that this is quite a typical example of a borderless conversation in the flat world, that runs along the lines of pure interest and curiosity triggered by the coincidence of a by and large unspectacular photograph.

Feel free to add to the conversation, too.

Got a new favourite Country: South Africa

Just finished to upload the set of pictures to Flickr from my memorable holiday in South Africa. It was mainly two weeks in Cape Town, with some daily excursions. Although the country is much much bigger than the Cape Region, there is no chance for getting bored in that time. There is so much to do and so much to see and so much to eat ;-) A lot of people had “warned” me what a phantastic country it would be and I have to admit that I could start living there tomorrow. Here a selection of some of my favourite pictures:

Here the approach on Cape Town International Airport with a hired Cessna 72 RG (including flight instructor, as my British pilot license is not automatically valid in South Africa). We are in the final approach to the 3.6 km long Runway 19. Note the Jumbo Jet from British Airway at the holding point taking off shortly after us. (Immediately after us another Boing 747 had been landing before, though.)

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Here an overfly of the Cape of Good Hope looking north and having litterally whole Africa in front of us.

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One thing that makes Cape Town so fascinating is certainly the Tabe Mountain with its peak at 1086 meters which cuts through the city from north to south. In which other city of the world can you go for a mountain tour in the morning and lie on the beach for lunch? What makes the mountain also so amazing is its impact on rapid climatic changes, like here to see the clouds. Often they cover exactly the horizontal plane of the mountain, then it is called the “table cloth”.

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A very worthwhile excursion went to the Aquila Game Resort, approximately a 2 hours drive from Cape Town, with the Big 5 animals, here a nice view on the “model of the safaris”, a giraffe:

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And this, dear children readers, is a good example how NOT to do it. That’s me after getting the sunburn of my life as the result of being negligent of sunscreen. Hence, you look like a reptile during its moult. One could also name it simply “idiot” …

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What make South Africa so fascinating? It is the mix of the best what life has to offer: A functioning infrastructure, straightforward and reliable people, in their way however friendly and fun-loving with a very harmonic relationship to nature, a phantastic landscape, plenty of space and last but to least, a very very positive attitude about the future. And all that in spite of the huge problems like crime or the HIV-pandemic. But from the heart and their souls the people seem to believe that leaving the madness of the apartheid-system behind them, they are geared towards a better tomorrow. And that makes it a beautiful environment to live in.

Back from Holiday in Cape Town

South Africa is one of the coolest countries I’ve ever been to, I am still having all the positive aftermath following two weeks of vacation in Cape Town and surroundings. The other kind of aftermath is the unquestionable weight increase. But I am innocent, it was not my fault. The food is so excellent and price-wise so reasonable that you end up eating every day a 3 to 4 course menu including fine wines every evening.

Today immediately back to work. Work sucks ;-) But I got lots of pictures to keep the memory alive and will post them on my Flickr-Account over the weekend. Also will write a bit on the holiday in the next few days.

One of the main conclusions after not checking e-mails for two weeks: Sure, you get flooded, the most is irrelevant anyway, after half a day you worked your way through all the relevant stuff whreas the best is: The world is still turning without having missed a single thing.