Wednesday, 30 June 2010

mucke

As H and I prepare for our next flying carpet adventure to the Baltic coast, I have been thinking a bit about the lowly mosquito, girded to be made a little mad.  Apparently, and I think later in the vacation season, the shores turn into a stew of exhausted ladybugs, but I don't know what the tiny wildlife has in store besides this spectacle.  Mosquitos have a brief and dreary existence, mostly in the form of nymphs in stagnant water.  In there adult stage, and here's a fun fact: only the females bite but only the males buzz, so I guess one need not worry about swatting when there is the microscopic bleating of an insect, only when there's not.  Further, the female mosquito only sucks blood not for herself but to nourish her eggs.  As adults, mosquitos do not even have proper digestive systems, only having emerged from the swamps to reproduce.  Considering malaria and all the other ills visited on humans by flying pests, it seems like a lot of unnecessary sound and fury.  And though the peddlers of insecticides would argue, I'm sure, it seems that the geraniums on our balcony make a pretty effective chemical barrier against unwanted carousing.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

(UNCLASSIFIED)

With news of a successful bust of a Russian espionage ring by the FBI, using technology of all things but probably not James Bond Q gadgetry, still reverberating, I recall a very matter-of-fact expose on the corporate spy situation in Germany.  Though the actual particpants seem right now to be fairly pedestrian, the whole idea of pervasive spying, escalation of operatives sounds very romantic, to have a secret existence just beneath the surface, Mati Hari and swinging sixties and Spy versus Spy.  I wonder about the neighbors in the Little Odessa compound across the street and what trade secrets they could be trafficking out of Bad Karma.  The US bust probably was wanting for better timing since Obama had just shared his Bush-Putin moment with Dmitry Medvedev in a DC burger joint, and apparently the Russian spies employed such dastardly techniques as invisible ink and the US post office.  Sometimes, though this is an awful thing to let one's mind wander about during a classic movie, I imagine how short, brutish and uninteresting vintage mysteries would be cellular phones or *69.  Mystery solved, oh that was exhausting, what's next?  Maybe the Russians kept ahead of US intelligence for all these years because no one who stoop so low to cobble shredded documents back together or deem anything not electronic worthy of serious investigation.  I remember writing secret messages with lemon juice and then magically revealing it by holding the paper over a toaster.  Maybe spying will return to martinis and Aston-Martins after all.

Monday, 28 June 2010

renfield or minotard

I wonder if the Centaur will be the new Vampire.  Or Satyrs.  Or Wood Sprites?  It is very telling, I am sure but not of what, these great waves of facination with ghouls and the Undead.  In the past, it seemed as if these crazes had their crests, came and went--vampires were enduring and were never quite replaced by werewolves in the eighties, despite best efforts by Michael Jackson and Michael J Fox--though I can recall being Teen Wolf one Halloween.  But now, the occurance of vampires is rare or localized, even if the fear or the superstition never was--its as if we've turned into a worldwide population of medieval Slav peasants and malingerers.  Now zombies and their ilk are whole demographics, an underclass, prone to to stereotypes and this strange, new-fangled type of eugenics and confusing theology.  Years ago, I had a colleague who was a tightly bound bundle of peculiarities--she was harmless though, except for her rather bullish demeanor, which was not doting like Hera's, but more like the Minotaur and some obtuse and stubborn things that she did usually invited those secret comments.  I felt bad but I called her a Minotard once and that unfortuneately stuck with the poor girl.  I wonder how she is doing these days and whether she's a vicarious mythological beast or a creature of the night.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

prismatic

There is a singular shrub in own garden, really the focal point of the tiny patch of yard that we share, whose leaves are a very dark green, almost black upon maturity.  I wonder what alternative routes to photosynthesis that the non-green leaved plants took.  By being another color do they absorb more or different parts of the spectrum, even into non-visible light?  I will need to read up on this.  And if not cultivated, would whole fantastic, other worldly crayon box regions of forest pop up.  Except in the darkest jungle, I imagine that the sun shines pretty uniformly everywhere, and even cactuses are camouflaged the same as oaks.  The strange thing about color, especially when one thinks of it terms of powering plant metabolism, is that that green leaf is really every color in the world but green, and human eyes only detect it as so because the particular shade of green is reflected back. 

Saturday, 26 June 2010

three-part harmony

The bees have slowly been making a come-back.  In the meantime, I was getting worried about their bee radar and their bee fandango.  What if they were all lost somewhere: they were going to London to see the Queen but all ended up in Toronto for the G7+ Summit.  Perhaps they were disoriented by the drone of the vuvuzela.  Speaking of which--the G20, that is, Congress' timing for palavering over the Dodd/Frank bill is absolutely stellar--so the US can encourage the world to back financial regulations that even the drafters are not fully aware of and completely unsure of how they will work.  A lot I understand was lost to compromise, but still the intent is their to curtail risky investments by institutions, stop bailouts, less autonomy for the Federal Reserve and regular audits.  I don't pretend to grasp any of it myself but still felt pretty uneasy when banks were jubulient over its accord and they latitude was not under the government's thumb as much as they feared.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

bric-a-brac-a firecracker

With all the talk of American soccer-moms, I wonder why the US does not hang on every play of the FIFA match.  What would it take to catch on there?  Why would the States outgrow this game, which is pretty watchable, and not all others, whose strategies and excitement are lamed by commercial breaks and reassessment of the rules? 

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

firewall

With news that China is unseating the US, who has reigned since 1890, as the largest producer of manufactured goods, the internet protocol czars of America are trying to make up for lost territory through licensing agreements and service contracts with aspirations of becoming the world cyber-police. Some really unbelievable things are happening as privacy and neutrality are being chipped away, repackaged and sold back at a premium. Like speculation with gold and currency markets, piracy-assessors apparently have calculated out the retail value lost to an uninspired modern single circulated for free on the internet represents a loss of revenue of some $2000 for the record label, which, imagine, could make a well-stocked and unsanctioned library worth well over $700,000,000,000--in one documented case, making that hard drive the single most valuable object in the world.  Some say the music and entertainment industry is on the verge of collapse, but I think it deserves to implode if there's little art or experimentation and mere reliance on re-runs.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

but you can't have Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, baked beans, Spam, Spam, Spam and Spam without Spam

Apparently as anger is directed more and more towards big oil, there's a growing movement to boycott its stations.  Government oil, however, overseas goes by a different name and under a different umbrella organization, so there's not much chance of me crossing that picket-line.  I call it government oil, like government cheese, because its heavily subsidized, and as a relic of the Cold War, VAT and environmental taxes are stripped off the top, to almost the point of being free though surely someone pays.  This martial art--that is, redirecting rage, is another way of exculpating man's own addiction to petroleum, no matter its source.  A boycott completely overlooks the fact that everything from linens, fibers, paints, bottles, jars, cans, cars, labels, computers, jewerly, appliances, solvent, laminate, and more are eiher fully made of oil, covered with a significant sheen of it and and fashioned and transported hither and yon with it.  Maybe the plumbing can be made safer and cleaner, but everything is soaking in it already.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

honeycomb hide-out

This summer's a bit dreary by fits and starts, and one thing that I have noticed, but just barely, is the inconspicuous absence of bees despite everything being in full-bloom.  Usually, the flowers are heavy with buzzing but I don't think that I have seen a single honey bee yet.  There's been no headlines of scraping the bottom of the honey pot or bee-keepers getting desparate and wrangling moths but this certainly seems like a dire thing if cell-phone masts, sun-spot activity, WiFi, bluetooth, or subtle changes in the weather have affected the bees' navigation system and there's no mechanism for fertilizing plants and nothing to spur on general hardiness or evolution through cross-pollination.  Maybe they'll descend in great swarms to make up for lost time.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

and keep the beaches shipwreck free

The Clash of the Titans remake came to our little second-run theater and though I was very excited to see this new version, I walked away a little disappointed.  The special effects were impressive and the monsters scarier but the Ray Harryshausen style of the original Medusa and Kraken were endearing, and so was Bubo--and rather than paying homage to the little clockwork owl from Hephaestus' forge and was like R2D2, they made fun of him, ever so briefly.  The acting in the original was much better, and Laurence Olivier is more believeable as Zeus.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

gravity's rainbow

Apparently many of us were all had about the US forces' discovery of some Big Rock Candy Mountain of untapped wealth in Afghanistan.  It has been common knowledge since at least 1995 and the minerals have been buried in the earth for some millions of years before that.  Sometimes, I guess, news like this is recycled, like resuscitating some failing tourism campaign in fancy packaging.  Blood diamonds, get them while they're still cruel.  It is telling how the media touted this story as if it somehow justified the on-going war, but in reality it was another distraction that re-shuffled some imaginary wealth for a few hours.

Monday, 14 June 2010

plunder

It was announced that agents of the US-led occupation stumbled upon untold riches in Afghanistan in form of  previously unknown veins of copper, lithium and gold.  I am wondering how premature the release of this news was, since the Russians are far better pre-postioned to jump this claim, and what will it do for the only stable commodity on the world-markets, gold?  I am happy for the Afghanis if they can rebuild their country and undo the waves of damage wrought by the English, the Soviets, the Taliban and the Americans but I don't think such prospects will be surrendered so calmly.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

mosaic mosaic

A woman at work was going back to the States permanently the other day, and before leaving she had asked several times to look through our photographs from Turkey.  On her last day, I finally brought my laptop to work and we looked through some of them, but it made me realize that I didn't have a good way to share pictures, short of an afternoon slide-show on the Wii, which is a lot of fun.  I don't do bookface and I don't use one of these photo-sharing sites.  But thinking back to another farewell, I remembered that a computer-technician had made a mosaic portrait for the woman who was leaving made up of all her former coworkers.  H and I take so many pictures and there has not really been a forum or occasion for all of them.  I found this pretty neat application that will remake an image into a mosaic of selected pictures.  This tile mosaic from Hagia Sophia contains 10 000 little images from our Istanbul vacation.  I'll have to fiddle with the settings and the target composition to sort out a better, wider collection and so its not a lot of microscopic pictures of ceilings and concrete but this was fun to do.

Friday, 11 June 2010

swift justice

Recently, the German high court in Erfurt ruled that the summary dismissal of a cashier with some thirty years tenure at the super-market for pilfering a few bottle deposit coupons worth a euro and change was grossly disproportionate to the crime.  The proceedings lasted for some time before a verdict was reached, but right away I noticed that the check-out girls in Bad Karma, our fair city, and elsewhere now have been tutored to put the deposit coupon (Pfandbon) aside, wedge it in the cash-register like it was a fifty euro bill, until they're done ringing up (this was done more casually everywhere just last week), that was intended for payment so there's no argument on the matter of change back.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

slant operation

As collective outrage rallies for more than cosmetic changes to allowances for off-shore drilling, reinstating the ban, leving windfall taxes, and British Petroleum is gleeful claiming that by early next week, virtually all oil will be virtually contained, but if one was not watching carefully, it may be missed since after the news item tumbled into achival obscurity, it seems that the company bought off internet seach engines in order to re-direct people from the negative press.  I suppose that's a very bad thing, trying to muzzle the interwebs, but I guess it's not the worse thing they have done: the worse thing would be the oil spill.  There is still a big impact zone that will not recover for years, and the oil clean up operation negates all other good intentions of sound environmental policy and stewardship

shortfall

The Local has a fairly good breakdown of the austerity measures that the German government enacting in order to allign its budget within EU standards.  Meanwhile, economists within the Treasury are projecting that US debt to earnings are continuing rise and spiral out of control.  These are very different metrics and with different intentions, but it seems that German cut will do more than stave off the enevitable insolvency, compared to the grim prognostication of the Americans.

Monday, 7 June 2010

peppermint disco

Today was Tom Jones' birthday.  The normally sedate and conservation German news radio station that I listen to during my commute to work announced this and really made my morning super-charged.  Last week I mentioned the virtue in being disabused from misheard lyrics but could not summon up any other examples, but now I recall that I always thought the song Sex Bomb was actually Sex Bot, as in robot or Adrienne Barbeau-bot with baby you can turn me on and other references to satillites and infrared vision.

status nascendi

New Scientist and several other sources are excitedly citing findings on a chemical, topographical study on Saturn VI (the moon of Titan) from Strasbourg's Space University (that's a pretty snazzy alma mater) as possibly indication of alien life.  Akin to noting that concentrations of oxygen were inexplicably less at the surface of the Earth, research has revealed that there may be a respiratory exchange of hydrogen for methane on Titan, for which life forms could account, from unexpectedly low concentrations below at certain altitude.  I imagine that such aliens would be like nothing decades of sci-fi fandom have primed us for, no humanoids that are political animals in any familiar way or disembodied intelligences, but delicate membranes carried aloft on the wind like jellyfish in the sky.  After all, humans are still only just recognizing that whales are not just prey or dolphins not just gay sharks, not to mention the wealth of living things that lie just below our line of sight.  Nonetheless, it is certainly news to get goosebumps over.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

ancient chinese secret, huh?


This is still the year of the Tiger, and I wonder if some of what's happening around the world would have been predicted according to the trends expected in the lunar year.  Hindsight is delightfully useful in these sorts of things.  Soothsayers forewarned that it would be turbent for global economies and the Tiger is the steward of things chthonic, elemental and buried.  The same soothsayers urged investment in gold and other metals, which was not really going out on a limb with that one.
I wonder, however, given that there's all this news that lingers--and it seems no one has the tolerance or the attention span for protracted, drawn-out hearings or middling suspense any more, if Tiger can be blamed for that too.  The network news cycle does not even have the stamina for economic collapse day in and day out and soon turns its gaze on other things--but it seems like the disruptions of air traffic from the volcano in Iceland, a series of earthquakes, and now the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are not flagging. 
Of course, few stories end really once their notoriety runs out, and most people tend to forget about the recovery process, missed opportunities for revenue-generating, or environmental impact right away, despite hearteninged attempts to the contrary.  I wonder what else the year of the Tiger has in store, Golems that awake and slither from the underground.  Maybe the big lesson of the times, is not to be complacent about one's surroundings

Thursday, 3 June 2010

bookface

Still winded from its mad-dash to embrace the so-called "Web 2.0," the US military is starting to aggressively push its networking and collaborative working capabilities in the workplace.  Although this change of attitude may seem like a big departure from the internet-breaking, ham-fisted security software and accountability systems or breaking of thumb(-drives) that the government usually adopts right away, this--I think--only represents more business as usual.

Reality Sandwich is running a great article about how the interwebs, especially with the support, tacit or otherwise, of the defense-industrial complex, is the new battle field for the struggle of hearts and minds.  The army, for instance, is promoting professional profiles, linked to private profiles, in order to work efficiently on team projects, as a successor strategy to SharePoint.  Having a more dynamic, less threatening interface will encourage soldiers and civilian workers to use it, and deliver tabs on all in a tidy package.  Radicals and hate-groups are tolerated there based on the same principle.  I made a profile months ago but finding it too awkward to pare down, abandoned it, and now I feel especially unwilling to return since droves in Germany have left the site over privacy concerns.
We call it "bookface" at work because it sounds like clever code, especially when it was Verboten in the office, but now that it is here, fully entrenched, no one seems that interested or willing and trusting enough to commit any work to it.  I am sure it could be used to rate your efficiency, compliance, time dottering about on government time, and I especially would not entrust any thing sensitive or classified to the timeless annals of bookface.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

how do you keep a wave upon the sand? oh, how do you solve a problem like Maria?

As efforts to staunch the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico have been met with a series of failures, and oily water is lapping at Florida and Alabama beaches and making a toxic brew of the marsh lands, I think more and more conspiracy theories are likely to be concocted: US President Obama allowing this disaster to percolate according to the wishes of an extreme environmental protection cabal and their agenda to place RDIF (radar data interchange format, sounds scarier than the abbreviation) tags on American trash bins to make certain that the Jones are sorting and recycling and not producing more than their allotment of waste, control movement, enforce rationing and basically curtail all Autobot freedom.  I think such repair to conspiracy, like any other case, suggests that the public is beginning to realize what a horrible, long-term catastrophe and embarrassment that this will turn into: consider what will happen as the hurricane season picks up pace and slathers neighborhoods with oil.  Aside from making the Everglades and the swamps sick unto death, it will destroy what little tourist, industrial and homesteader virtue the region has left.  Such a black typhoon will knock the wind out of any economic recovery, cutting a broad swath through the real estate market.  Residents will panic as property becomes unsellable and those that choose to stay behind will be left squatters in an abandoned oil slick.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

quilting bee

Pursuing my determined if not belated and unending quest to better my German language skills, I have come across a good internet resource called Linguee that uses the hive-mind of the web and far outstrips most other translator services.  Using the principle that rarely a totally unique query is put forward, it finds translations on a word or a phrase based on tranlated and bilingual texts it scans from a patchwork of all sources, travel sites, Wikipedia in other languages, governmental and scientific journals.  It deconstructs verb forms and tenses and even uses the word or phrase in several example sentences and puts legalese and technical jargon in context and is a good back-translator to check if one's own interpretation makes grammatical sense.