Monday, 31 May 2010

a nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse

Yesterday, my parents gave us a volume of Aubrey Beardsley's collected illustrations, which when I was younger and ostensibly more prudish was rather an embarrassing thing to have around the house.  I knew the artist's short career found him as a contemporary of Oscar Wilde and James Whistler of Whistler's Mother and that he did erotic drawings, however, I did not know the context, especially in his later revivals.  In his song, You're in my Heart (You're in my Soul), Rod Stewart makes a sweet reference to the artist and his rediscovered popularity of the late sixties.  I, however, always thought the lyrics were critical of her fashion sense for paisley prints.  It always nice to be disabused of misheard words to songs, epecially when I realize that I have been humming nonsense for all these years.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

squawk box

We don't spend much time watching television, but every once and a while, we're engrossed by a documentary or history program that really piques my interest.  I intend to research the matter later on, like a daisy-chain of Wikipedia articles, topics and stubs, though I usually don't remember until much later or have managed to forget any helpful cues.  Although I am thinking that a writing instrument and something to write on would work just as well (as is usually the case when sloath and laziness and inertia are the mothers of invention), I think it would be nifty if remote controls came equipped with a button, "Remind," that would just dispatch an email with the bare details of the show one is watching, to remember what it was and to remember that one wanted to look into maybe the director's other works, the cast, the location, the symbolism or just more on the subject.

backwards compatible

Our new horseless carriage is really a great hobby.  Today H undertook the challenge of installing a snazzy new car stereo, complete with windscreen antenna, IPod dock, CD and SD card slot.  The original radio was not included, which was probably a good thing since we'd have settled for that one, but negotiating the hydra tangle of coloured cables and wires, H made it work.  The job looked intimidating and I imagine that only members of the bomb-squad (or the mod-squad) would have the patience or endurance to even try replacing a radio without professional help.  A few weeks ago, I changed the battery (which was not meant to be replaced outside of the factory) and felt SWAT-like pressure in doing so.  I am just enamoured with this old car, its unelaborated dash board with three essential dials, and accessible, no-nonsense innards.  I am sure\that we can keep it running and fancy for a very long time.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

farce protection or needle-in-a-hay-stack

Oh--God bless America, for finding yet another way to keep us safe using the novelty of the inter-webs.  How on earth does this work to foil the hackers, spammers, scammers and skimmers?  It's like proving that one is not in fact a robot by being able to input a computer-generated verification-code: PX34.  I like how that what passes for the Turing test and thereby affords one all the rights and dignities of being human.  I read today that there were over twenty thousand incidents of ATM fraud in Germany over the past year--where some one has attached a fake console to the card-reader of a machine that gathers one's bank information.  I think that that is rather the technology and risk that the US is exporting.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

eclectic kool-aid acid test or unsolicited financial advice for the United and European Union of the Germans

I think it is interesting how the world's stock markets are given loaded animal symbolism but the verbs and adjectives that usually describe their movements, even on more upbeat days, reduce them to small and timid dogs shivering in the shadows. All this attribution feeds, also, the idea that the markets are something independent and other, like the roulette wheel estranged from the casino. As much as I would like to steer underwriters away from the DAX, Hang-Seng, FTSE and support real commodities whose value is measured more than just by change, like the evanescence rectangles of Newton's Calculus, it is a good thing for Merkel to lead the charge against blatant short-selling but one should not throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.
The European economy is fundamentally strong, reinforced by prognosticators who wish to diminish the importance of the Eurozone in the overall hopes for economic recovery or sustainability, but states should not behave jump to curtail the social cushions that make European society what it is. Germany, for instance, could, rather than threatening to raise the retirement age or do away with Kindergeld, pattern a successful campaign from the French, where all workers had a two- or three-year holiday for certain holidays, giving up Whit-Monday as non-paid work day to replenish the coffers of public-funds. Putting people on a voluntary furlough can save a lot of money. Tuition for higher education could be increased, but just by a notch, and experimentally, to see what kind of profits are reaped. There German system of wire-transfers is very sophisticated and makes a lot of sense, but if there were just a slight increase to the tempo of remittances--perhaps disbursing dividends more than once a year, would be a boost to a marketplace that seems to float a lot of payments on trust and energia. The EU may not have had the requisite agility to deflect this first glancing blow, but EU members do not face the peril of internal solvencies. There's no quantitative easing, by definition, for countries using the euro, which is a dangerous and deceptive temptation where inflation and deflation are controlled by printing more money. Making the environment impoverished, warring Koreas, peak oil, or Big Brother are much bigger threats to livelihood, and the dollar and the pound should not be pull along the euro in the wake of tinkering with the monetary supplies.

Monday, 24 May 2010

brave new world (with so many goodly creatures)

It looks like claims regarding the creation of a fully synthetic single-celled organism were a bit exaggerated--such lines of genetic information had been transfigured in this way before. That watermarks (think Getty Images) of this life-form's creators were inserted in the DNA, whereas other DNA considered to be there just along for the ride was culled out by the laboratory. I would have thought that that was Google's latest non-malevolent project--tags and trending for heredity. It's not nice to pwn Mother Nature. I wonder if mankind is coming to a sort of technological rift, that's made a common fate for advancing societies, when man will choose to pursue better living through such Frankenstein methods, tinkering with nature, rather than pursuing research in the other scientific disciplines, like physics. Though I am happy for it, it is a wonder to me that physics in the form of CERN or other big projects garners any support or interest. Physics, at least thus far, does not seem to have much of a profit-motive. Now the space shuttle has been replaced by a robotic spy space plane, and there is bio-engineered food crops, botox injections, microbes to sop up oil spills, and stem cells that can be coaxed and differentiated into bone marrow, cartilage or a fully formed family-friendly franchise restaurant. What opportunities does progress lose out on by investing in ones sort of alchemy rather than the other?

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz

Learning German for me still is presenting a few barriers--there is a lot of sophistication and nuance and double meanings all spun out of a language that employees, for the majority of words at least, only a combination of about twelve prefixes and suffixes: um, an, so, zu, aus, auf, ein, ung, ei, ug.  Though quite the opposite is true, I always thought that German sounded impercise when it came to technical and scientific words or as if one had forgotten the right word: instead of hydrogen, one says, um, you know--das Wasserstoff.  Stoff, I particularly like--as in Kunststoff, art stuff, which is something artifical, a plastic table as opposed to a table made of Massivholz.  A colleague gave me a wonderful little book that is filled with these examples.  I'm a bit proud of myself when I know what an amalgam, a junior jumble really means, aside from the literal dissection--English has a lot of examples too, and it never occurred to me before that Beispiellos could be a near-game-ticket as well as something incomparable.

Friday, 21 May 2010

save ferris!

There's a whole medley of headlines.  I suppose it is like part of the wages of taking vacation is finding things in disarray at the office and also, not watching the news, leaves one without the daily, hourly contact-high.  North and South Korea seem to be up-pinning the spectre of war and warlike tensions; star-gazers have found what may account for normal matter's predomenance and stability in the universe; Bangkok is still smouldering; oil is lapping on-shore in the US Gulf coast; priceless paintings were heisted from a Parisian museum; a laborartory in the UK has created the first artificial cell, clept Synthia--I think it is quite responsible journalism on the part of the Daily Mail that it rushes to address ethical issues and alerts the public to immediate and paralell cinematic perils.  These reporters remind me, admirably, of that intelligence agency that Robert Redford worked for in 3 Days of the Condor--augering the future and possible counter-espionage tactics from the plots of pulp fiction.  There is enough else going on without mentioning the European financial crisis.  Other augerers might disagree, but I think that the euro will make a quick recovery and these next few days will be a definitive portent that the EU and the euro are more than just the passing fancy and plaything of aristocracy and toy-kingdoms.  The euro does not succede only on the failure of the US market, but I think it is especially good-timing that this drama and trial happen on the lead up to long, holiday weekend and that European markets will be mostly closed on Monday while the rest of the world panics.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

alsatian

Just returned from a prolonged test drive of our new camper, H and I are very relaxed.  That really is the way to travel and my head is just swirling with impressions.  A curious storch visited us one late afternoon at our campsite but definitely did not come bearing a baby, and though we never saw anyone parading about for the tourists in traditional garments, the black bonnet that the women supposedly wear reminds me of this inflatable friendly spider headdress that I had for a Halloween costume, circa 1979.
The little villages were amazingly picturesque--one in fact won award a few years back for being the "cutest" town in France.  This cuteness did not fade, however, and probably gets better with age and spurs on the competition.  The last town we stayed in, Neuf-Brisach, right on the German border was really embelmatic of the whole region--one that switched nationalities and allegiances five times during the last 150 years.  It is a former garrison town, balustraded by imposing ramparts, and really impressive looking from a strategic perspective.  Though very much in contrast, it reminded me of the last place we visited during our last visit to France--to the site where the armistices were signed in the Forest of Compiègne.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

männertag


Fathers are important but as a holiday, it seems concessionary, like an after thought.  In Germany, they have adopted the Anglo-American Mothers' Day, and observe Fathers' Day on Ascension Day.  I wonder how Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary felt on Fathers' Day.  It is referred to, however, as Männertag, man's day, and usually spent drinking and doing outdoorsy things.  H and I spent the day today fixing up our new camper in preparation for a tour through the Alsace.  We received this nice sunflower--I especially like how it flourishes in the sun or during a partial solar eclipse, is is OK to water it or to spinkle it with a vial of carbolic acid, and touching is permitted but never, ever feed it.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

novel approach

Since the failure of capping the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico that's hemmoraging untold millions of barrels of petroleum into the environment due to giant ice crystals at the bottom of the ocean, and who knew there were such obstacles to progress lounging about around old spindle top horizon, there have been a few theories involing sabotage by environmentalists and a total media blackout on the North Korean submarine that blew it up to strike another blow to the American economy.  The public should not be alerted to this act of war until such time that the US can successfully retaliate.  Offers for assistance were fended off by the US government from the likes of Iran, but the Soviets took a creative tact no less than five times when faced with the same unstauchable problem, used as a torniquet a nuclear bomb that sealed the leak for good.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

further or beyond


Happy Mothers' Day to all.  H and I spend the weekend leading up to it on a quest with my parents to retrieve our newly secured Volkswagon camper.  We made a round trip of nearly a thousand kilometers to Lake Constance and back and had a fun adventure, but we considered that most people choose Lake Constance as a vacation destination and spend a little bit more time there.  Owning a camper I think represents a major paradigm shift in the way we vacation, but I am really looking forward to it, especially considering that parts of European airspace are again shut down due to abrasive volcanic ash. 
Flying is faster at the end, but taking into account the time spend on research, price-comparisons, making reservations (for hotels, as well), driving to the airport to arrive there at minimum two hours before a flight, flight-time, security and then coming back again, puttering slow but steady down the road seems like a winning alternative.  Of course, the camper will be christened something--we'll have to break a bottle of champagne over the bough.  My father suggested naming it "Further" or Furthur (sic) after Ken Kessey's school bus.  The placard for the destination, the next stop reads simply further.  My mother suggested that we call it "Beyond."

Thursday, 6 May 2010

shahzad! or Attack on the Rue Plumet

There are reports that the would-be car-bomber of Times Square had been on the US government's radar since 1999, listed as a person-of-interest on a so called travel lookout list--I suppose things were named more innocently before there was an entity known as the Department of Homeland Security with vested powers to disappear people.  If Jean Valjean had been an accused terrorist, I suppose Inspector Javert would have never caught him, even after twenty years on the run as a fugitive from justice.

discobolus

"Boomerang, toomerang, zoomerang!" as Lady Elaine would say.  I think a puppet theater would make much better talking heads than the usual fare.  Greece has been courting a lot of attention lately, as if it's been neglected and ignored and acting-out is settling for some kind of notice.  I think politicians and economists are missing some important fundamentals: Greece is not broke or broken--rather the Greek government is, and though it has done a pretty shabby job as a euro custodian, there is still wealth and value there.  Sovereign default is not anything new--Dubai just did so a few scant months ago and it's forgotten and no one is shedding a tear over them; Argentina and Russia did during the last decade and Asia before that.  Consequences were there but without a currency bolstered by a big bloc.  What I think should be more center-ring is the revolt of the Greek people and Germany's begrudging lend-lease policy.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

disastrophy

While the US markets guffaw and rejoice over marginal gains at the expense of Greek sovereignty and nascent, crippled good news that's masked by more immediate situations and pressing realities--too fragile to stand up outside of the virtual marketplace, a major environmental tradegy is lapping at US shores and threatens to undo and destabilize, not just this shell-game propped up by shared illusions, contagious histeria of wealth and termity.   What is most serious and most repulsive is difficult to say: the environmental impact on the Gulf of Mexico and the death of a delicate ecosystem, the loss of livelihood for locals that will linger like the spectre of Katrina, the continued ill-preparedness of the US government in mitigating catastrophies, the oil companies' exculpability, the mean-spirited blame-game on ostensibly arguments of political ideology that demeans all other consequences.  At least the groomers and hair-dressers, along with locals who face the mothballing of their business in the meantime and for the foreseen future, are running a drive for down (feathers), hair and trimmings since these leavings are pretty good at sopping up oil.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

strange blooms

How does your garden grow?  The geraniums on the balcony and all the greenery survived in our absense, and even the more unusual plants are starting to blossom.  There are two cactuses in the window, one that has these bright red drooping flowers alternating years and this other who sends out bizarre alien feeler antennae.  This other plant lives in a glass Bier Maß and leaves under the soil where daylight can get in. Also every other year, it sprouts weird, little and sticky white flowers.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

even old New York was once New Amsterdam

I am just freshly returned from vacation with the whole weekend to recuperate and relax and let the thoughts and memories settle and sort. 
Seeing Istanbul was probably the most exotic exposure I have had, and while I am glad to come back to our little house in a city founded by Charlemagne himself, it amazes me that one can be in the capital of the Ottoman Empire, the capital of the Roman Empire, the seat of the Eastern Orthodox church at lunch time and then back in Unterfranken by mid-afternoon.