Wednesday, 28 April 2010

salut de Istanbul

H and I are having a fantastic time in the city. Here is a picture post card view of the Hagia Sofia from the terrace of our hotel.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

by any other name

We are excitedly packing and rearranging the indoor topiary and landscaping to make it easier for our neighbor to manage watering this jungle of plantlife.  We'll be in Istanbul, Byzantium, Constantiople, and PfRC will be taking a short sabbatical.  I have read that the Turkish people have a slang designation for Germany--exonyms are a challenge, Deutschland--Frengistan or Frankistan.  I feel I have barely cracked the guidebook but we have already an overwhelming amount to explore. 

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

when I know more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery

Though I do not presume to know more about the effects of invisible volcanic ash on jet engines than assembled experts, pilots and government by committee, there seems to be more and more of these events of extreme caution that cry wolf or rather swine flu that's left us with an embarassment of spoiled vaccine doses or nacked body-scanners or firewalls.  Twinkle-twinkle, little bat--how I wonder where you're at... I hate to sound angry and second-guess good intentions--I feel like a tea party-goer.  It is not as if the internet, however, was invented for seediness or miscreants, nor the miracle of flight for underpants bombers, nor Mortimer J. Marker or spray-paint for huffing.  More protections are afforded for the abusers and we are kept too safe for misguided reasons.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

led zepplin or come josephine in my flying machine

Maybe it is time that someone offered a ritual sacrifice to Eyjafjallajökull (or Kajagoogoo, it's easier to pronounce) and appease the pyroplastic blast.  Tens of thousands are still grounded at the far corners of the Earth, mail is delayed, and soon markets and economies reliant on imports will start experiencing shortages, and over-production in export markets will spoil in warehouses.  Aside from human traffic, it is astounding how a small disruption can reveberate.  With a second series of eruptions promised, I think it would be pretty keen to see the return to those days of people whizzing about in bi-planes, airships and punting in hot-air balloons.

Monday, 19 April 2010

wahltag

I switched on my Windows laptop at home--we use a Mac and my work computer masquarades as a States-side PC, and this strange pop-up greeted me at start-up.  I thought at first it was some invasive spam but when I tried to ignore it, it persisted with credentials from the EU.  I suppose that this is a result from the EU litigation against MicroSoft for failing to give users a choice when it comes to using the browser, and by extension the, the operating system of their choice.  Having no freedom of choice for your computer is disheartening and no company should have a monopoly, but it is even more disconcerting to have the selection-round thrust up on one by a litigious bureaucracy and a bit scary that such democracy can be spread, virally through the Inter-webs.

baudolino

On Sunday, H and I took a trip north to the foothills of the Harz in Thuringia to see the Kyffhaeuser national monument, a really impressive and imposing affair, the little surrounding villages and a recreation of a middle ages settlement of Emperor Otto II, and the immense cave that is Emperor Barbarossa's hiding place where he waits to return--athough I called him Barbossa (the captain from Pirates of the Carribbean which would surely incur some teutonic wrath).   
Baudolinois a 2000 novel by the masterful Umberto Eco that retells the story of Barbarossa's adventures to Constantinople and Terra Incognito as narrated by an accomplished liar--seeing the sites and our tour guide on our spelunking trip made me think of the tall tales.  Please stay tuned to our little travel Blog for more of the story.

nothing but bluebirds all day long

The day Saturday seemed amazingly reflective and still, notwithstanding a wedding ceremony and reception at noon, and the murmurings of travel chaos and the local chaos of a fire at the clinic that culminated in the safe and orderly evacuation of a couple hundred patients.  It was gloriously and fully spring time, and the day began with disco shower: the LEDs are powered by the water-pressure and the color indicates the water temperature.
After the service, I sauntered around our fair city and found some hidden gardens that I did not realize were there before, and remarked on the cloudless sky--which was also conspicuously absent any aircraft. 
Not on a major jetway and with only a hobby airport, contrails are not constantly streaking and criss-crossing the sky, but the skies above usually have some traffic.  I imagined that it would be very strange for H returning from a seminar and passing Frankfurt airport with all activity on hold.  A German airline, realizing longer delays would become untenable, have dispatched a few test-flights between Munich and Frankfurt, and pointed to the lack of catastrophic engine failure as a sign that the invisible volcanic ash is a myth.  I only am hoping that the dust settles before next week and mounting delays do not disrupt our travel plans.

Friday, 16 April 2010

fire and ice

Prior to the sensational photographs and breaking developments that are disrupting air-travel worldwide from the volcanic eruption in Iceland, the people of the small country were already in the mood for exodus and evacuation but for far different reasons: families no longer felt that the nation's economy was viable or could afford them a decent standard of living after the IceSave scandal and currency devaluation that is collateral damage of the Global Economic Downturn.  Billions divided out by small population puts a undue burden on each citizens, that many are betting that Iceland will never be able to recover from.  Hundreds are making arrangements to emigrate to more prosperous Nordic neighbors before they become tethered to unsellable homesteads.  The former government's poor stewardship of the treasury led to a big shake-up, which included the popular election of the first lesbian prime minister and massive reforms.  Decisions, however, like to repay the UK for its speculation in Icelandic markets, have been costly.  As an expatriate, I can understand compulsion and Wanderlust, but I hope they don't abandon their homeland over entries on a ledger.  I am sure the volcanic ash spewing into the skies does not make the situation look any less grim, nor the blame and headlines tossed about that's currying more negative attention.  However, I found this really boss van art/movie poster/torch-song version of the Icelandic saga while working on this post.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

mining and data-dressing

There are two suspectly parallel news items--one that attempts to paint as a human-interest story the Library of Congress' plan to archive Twitter for posterity--I could only imagine how confusing and without context a stream of bursts and tweets would be to future generations, and a second article that warns of data-mining and how that valuable information defines any individual more circumspectly than any other trail of leavings.  I think it is naive to think that one is ever private or anonymous on the internet--though I disagree that one is unreasonable in hoping that were the case.  One is protected and made faceless by the herd and the sheer amount of traffic out there.  Maybe one realized that one had precious little privacy, but one also thought that the services, the wires would not so willingly offer it up to the spy agencies, foreign and domestic.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

i'm a boy that's all the candy

The Onion posted a wonderful satyrical piece on the US flag, parodying the manufacturer recall of hundreds of thousands of a Japanese branded automobile due to gross safety concerns, citing design-flaws that have perpetrated the deaths of untold millions.  Perhaps the United and Popular Republic of America needs a simpler layout. Yankee Doodle came to London, just to ride the ponies.

ampelmännchen

During a not-unheard-of seizure of common-sense, Germany's traffic ministry yesterday rescinded a proposal that called for municipalities to replace out-dated traffic signage with new, modern versions, identical in regulation but with some subtle differences in ideograms.  For instance, a crosswalk should no longer bear the likeness of a man scurrying across the street, hand on hat to keep it in place, but rather the more modern, gender neutral stick figure.  Directional arrows indicating no parking should be displayed on the top and not the bottom of the circular sign, as they were prior to 1992. 
On coming cars, apparently, should not have smiley faces.  By not enforcing the change, German municipalities have saved hundreds of millions of euro, and kept the Ampelmaennchen safe for years to come.

open-apple F

In the midst of all the hype and anticipation surrounding the release (and gray-market re-selling apparently inspired by buyers' remorse) of the iPad, a Germany company is coming out with a rival tablet personal computer.  The so gennant "WePad" comes with more memory, a more flexible operating system, more ports and a camera, including G-3 capabilities.  Both are new, sleek models and I am sure that this will be the new trend and fashion accessory and look of computers for the future--but what I really want (besides the flying cars that I was promised by such luminaries as Faith Popcorn) is something as versatile and technologically mysterious as a tricorder, not to mention rugged enough to repell those first awful smudges and scratches.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

defaced and shilling

Now that the privacy debate on social media has really heated up and Germany and Switzerland are woefully upset with the conduct of Facebook for not allowing users--or even photographic by-standers to purge their posting histories or depart the Web 2.0 altogether, the government and the military have embraced the technology.  I am sure that the Internet Masters of the Universe can keep a better clearing-house of people's foot-steps and faux pas better than any spy agency.  Maybe that's why these changes to the privacy policy are being pushed forward without consultation.  Or maybe the government is a little behind the curve on integrating new technology.  Facebook profiles for Army organizations are dormant and ham-fisted and on par with the body-scanners.
I've courted a few, hopefully not too intrusive, sponsors in the sidebar.  I don't want these postings to be all decked out with advertisements like a NASCAR rally.  I have noticed that my most frequent supporter is the Obama administration's web presence.  That's another way, apparently, the government has channeled the power of the Internet.  I suppose for anyone, however, these offerings would be mirrors of one's own perusals.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

drove my chevy to the levee

Our condolences and sympathies go out to the people of Poland.  It just takes one's breath away and it is impossible to really grasp the political and cultural magnitude of the loss they have sustained from the weekend.  Historically, Poland seems unduly beaten up as it is what with always being the first country invaded because of its lack of natural borders, stereotypes for the diaspora, and the fact that the regimental entourage were on the way to commemorate the anniversary of the Katyn Forest Massacre of Polish officers and academics by the Soviet Stalinist regime. 
I think that the intelligence agents of the world could benefit from a random conspiracy generator--just to pare down on a lot the immediate nonsense.  Like Buddy Holly's and Bea Arthur's Tsunami Factory, PLC, or Jimmi Hendrix' mail-order avian influenza and magic bullet emporium, or the banking consortium of Ponzi-Prime's collapsable building franchise opportunity.  Arthur Allen. Weather-control.  Celebrity baby photos.  Now is no time to play the pyramid.  I immediately repaired to speculation too--conspiracies are a way of retrieving some meaning from accidents and incomprehensible tragedies.  I thought a long the usual lines of the plot devices for conspiracies: Lech Kaczynski had an identical twin brother; his government had conceded to Bush's missile defense shield being based in Poland; the plan to link Germany to Russia via gas pipelines through Poland; possible relation to the Uni-Bomber; stance against corruption or gay-rights; EU accession; the fact that the entire envoy was loaded on one twenty-year-old Russian Tupolev as the Polish Air Force One and Kaczynski had a reputation of bullying his official pilots into sticking with his itinerary; Vladimir Putin's hasty charge to personally lead the accident investigation.  It is very sad and all too fresh or the leadership's line of succession.  I do not want to slander their memories and accomplishments, nor there to be a pall cast on Poland's continuance and future.

Friday, 9 April 2010

strangelove or loose nukes tour

Yesterday, Barack Hussein Obama III and Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev had a summit in Prague to renew their joint pledges for nuclear disarmament and to promote an environment free of household atomics.  Next, Obama turned his attention toward immergent but no longer classed rogue states on the cusps of going nuclear, significantly increasing the stakes with rhetoric of sanctions against Iran and Syria.  Though the physics and technological threshhold underpinning a nuclear reation is accessible to all-comers and no secret, esoteric knowledge or even priracy of anything proprietary, I believe the so-called nuclear club is a good measure of kiss-and-tell talk.
It turned out that Iraqi claims of menacing arsenals of weapons of mass destruction were just that.  Naturally the old guard of that country would want to appear as strong as possible to its aggressors who were escalating the matter in the first place by dictating that membership in the club was exclusive and had a grandfather-clause.  Baghdad's posteuring was a necessary deterant and probably a policy to match the Soviet's and the US' mutually assured destruction, had the US invasion and occupation not forced Iraq to show its hand.  Maybe Iran, Syria and all the rest are exaggerating their endowments too.

unikat

Friday afternoons are usually conducive to a bit of aimless browsing about.  Sometimes it seems that it takes people the whole work week to puzzle out a disaster of significant immediacy to spring from the end of the day on Friday.  Other times, especially during fairer weather, it seems those same dilemma-rousers can't be bothered for their keen sense of time.  While checking what was out-and-about for the weekend, I stumbled across this wonderful gallery of fashion, taken ad hoc on streets in Köln by a photographer very adept at capturing portraits of individual senses of style.  Yesterday, a coworker's husband, at a ceremony at the culmination of a big project, said that perhaps now with this over, we could enjoy a quiet and relaxed Friday.  I replied that we probably wouldn't recognize it if it came along.  Though it is a shame that one needs reminding--others seem to never forget--there is virtue in sometimes slacking off, confident that at least the immediate has been addressed and bedded.  It is a little like these expressive faces and unique costumes that don't seem so remarkable and photo-worthy in one's own eyes but brilliant through the eyes of another.  Sometimes, on a quiet afternoon, with the weather holding up, we are only tethered to our desks, passively on strike, to notice and celebrate such things.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

billions and billions

While I am sure that some one could counter this with a statistical anomaly to explain this spate of occurences, it does seem that there have been quite a few earthquakes lately--or at least what's been deemed worthy for copy-cat reporting: Haiti, Chile, Turkey, Mexico and Indonesia.  I wonder if this uptick has any thing to do, as some would repute, with the CERN LHC coming back on-line and evaporating microscopic black holes destabilizing the earth's crust and mantle and magma being coaxed closer to the surface and causing seismic activity.

Carl Sagan, years ago, speculated that perhaps what accounts for the dearth of intelligent alien life, lack of encounters, is due to advancement to one critical point in technological progress, wherein the species either figures out how to safely harness the new power or ends up destroying itself with it.  Sagan thought that nuclear weapons were the dark test, but maybe it's in cellular phones and electro-smog or in courting the Higgs-Boson particle.

Monday, 5 April 2010

and tang was a spinoff from the space race


Egyptologists at universities in Switzerland and Germany (including my former home at the foot of the campus in the fair city of Würzburg) are finding a novel use for the latest reactionary technology meant to keep us safe: the full body scanner, surplus I suppose that officials are loath to install at European airport, are very adept at penetrating mummy wrappings.
The scanners can take good photographs of the mummified innards without being terribly invasive--at least the ancient Egyptians do not feel their privacy violated when they are being screened for contraband and fairy dust.