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A Breakthroughvian Abroad: TAO Days 2013

Breakthrough Technologies Managing Partner Doug Wilson has traveled to Bern, Switzerland to attend TAO Days 2013 – an international conference where researchers, TAO staff, and organizations deploying the TAO open source assessment platform for their enterprises can gather, hear about recent and upcoming developments in testing and learn about the future of the product.  Doug journals here about his experiences.

Part 1: Arriving in Switzerland

The first thing you need to know about Switzerland is that the trains run on time.  And I mean if the train is scheduled for 9:42 departure, at about – no make that precisely9:41:57 – that train is slowly accelerating out of the station, with the last car clearing the station berth at 9:42:00.

When you are used to, say, a more relaxed form of mass transit, this can be a little unsettling;  particularly when you find yourself sprinting through an unfamiliar train station and hurling yourself and your luggage onto a train that has become non stationary and that you have not confidently identified as the train that you should be riding.

But having settled into my passenger seat I enjoyed the ride into Bern – although it was about 10 minutes before I had conclusively determined that we were indeed headed to Bern.  The train was very nice and a modern commuter affair, more Metra than El.

Bern is an amazing city, one of several designated by UNESCO as a world heritage site. This means it is a city that has resisted the pressures of modernism and centuries of architectural innovation to retain the style and character of its original town design.  Well, more or less.  The gothic spires have been replaced with slightly more contemporary iron works, if iron works crafted in the 14th century can be thought of as “contemporary.” 

Most facades are clean and represent a pallet that was informed by the olive-colored sandstone that was quarried from a nearby mountain range.  Of course, I immediately thought of Minecraft, imagining the mine cart traveling between quarry and city, carrying the precious blocks with which we would construct our beautiful city.  That game is a sickness and a gift.

Bern is the seat of the government of Switzerland.  The national parliament house is across a small plaza from a coffee house where, we were told on our walking tour, the real decisions are made.  I looked at the Eggers Bier Garden on the second floor and wondered how much governing actually occurs upstairs.

Bern was named after a bear.  As the legend goes, in the 12th century as Bern began to accumulate the wealth and attention a burgeoning city tended to amass, the families who owned much of the land decided it needed a proper name.  They set off on a hunt, determined to name the city after the first animal they killed.

Quickly they realized that their first decision as a governing body had some flaws in that the first animal slain was a rabbit.  The idea of naming a city after an animal that possesses no natural defenses would probably send the wrong message to both citizens and predators alike.

So the decision was amended and instead invoked when the hunting party slew a bear, an animal deemed of appropriate stature and elevation on the food chain to suffice as a symbol for their town.

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