Saturday, 31 July 2010

skullduggery

Failure to adapt to changing economic conditions, both on the part of predators and prey, give license for a lot of failed schemes to stick around like blots of quicksand: pawn shops, bail-brokers, pay-day loan offices and other lending sharks intent on unending swim.  This too has made those forces determined to glean whatever profits they can from one's privacy even more firmly entrenched and desparate to try the most distasteful and tactiest of tacits.  I imagine that tombstones (pepperoni and cheese) of the future will be equipped with USB ports where visitors can plug in and download the archives of departed loved ones' tweets and other exhaustively monitored cyber spasms.  Reminscing, of course, will be peppered with targeted advertizing.  The interwebs will be a very poor executor and not many secrets will be secreted away.

Friday, 30 July 2010

minority report or farce protection

As Wired Magazine reports, Google and the CIA are exploring a partnership with a cyber-security firm, which I am sure was already double-dipping and in the rolls of the Washington Post's revealing exposé on US intelligence's poorly-constructed parade float of an operation, that promises to deliver reconnaissance on future crimes. By trawling blogs, tweets and other social networking sites, the firm hopes to project and predict potential threats before they happen through examining the broader network of connection and links. I was under the impression that intelligence analysts fight crimes by looking at these same context clues and making projections. With all the other surplus and redundancy, it is a challenge to imagine that these techniques could produce anything original and would only reduplicate different drafts of the same information already in circulation. I am not sure what Google's interest in this enterprise is. Besides the role of technical advisor, as the company reinvented Project Keyhole as Googlemaps and makes it freely available though with possible, I can only think that such prognostication could maybe catch future file-sharers and copy-fighters. For the intelligensia, possibly the biggest benefit could be in plugging leaks and nabbing the snitches.

Oedipus Rex or was not was--everybody do the dinosaur!

The Sphinx challenged Oedipus on the road to Thebes with a riddle: what creature walks on four legs, then two, then three? Paleontologists have found themselves confronted puzzle, as New Scientist reports, and this is really mind-blowing and disabusing. Certain specimens that researchers have always held to be examples of different species may actually be the same animal at different stages of growth and development. If people did not have the experience of frogs and butterflies contemporarily, who would have thought to connect them to fossil evidence of tadpoles or caterpillars?

Thursday, 29 July 2010

it's time to play the pyramid


I've think that a word cloud has been a good and accessible way to present a concept scatter-shot.  Maybe one's CV or résumé in the future could be in word cloud form, plastered here and there like the translucent advertizing film that they preserve mass-transit busses in.  I stumbled across a snazzy, aesthetic word cloud generator called Wordle quite by accident.  I pasted the text from the last two months of blog entries in it and it spun out this picture.  It's funny to see one's words parsed this way and what tags are tops.

flavor-fla

At the beginning of the month, voters in Bavaria moved to reject (I believe) the state's remaining vestiges of smokers' protections.  The act, Raucherschutz, was criticized in part because the measure had a misleading name--were voters endorsing protection for smokers' and smokers' rights or protection from smokers and the rights of nonsmokers.  The confusion in wording smacked of the criticism levied against the 2008 US state of California's ballot Proposition 8.  Proposition 8 sought to formally define the institution of marriage to exclude same-sex partnerships, so an affirmative vote for Proposition 8 was delivering a resounding no to marriage equality.  In both cases, lobbyists took advantage of this fact.  The Raucherschutz also passed, some believe because enough people misunderstood the message.  Mostly the new law dealt with schemes that bypassed fairly comprehensive EU smoking bans, like hookah bars or beer tents or beer tents inside of nominally non-smoking establishments.  The debate is still on, and a second vote may be pending, whether "members' only" clubs and renting a restaurant for completely private function are exempt.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

alpengeist or keys to the kingdom

The town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen at the foot of the Zugspitze has been nominated once again to host the Winter Olympic Games. It did so once before in 1936. The planning and prom committees are of course excited and perhaps a little over enthusiastic, as the schematics were set forth, however, without first consulting local landowners, who are not eager to sacrifice their heritage for an Olympic media center. A lot of installations are already there in Garmisch, like the stadium, so I wonder what all needs to be built.
Now there is talk of re-appropriating some of the property the US military forces leases from the government of Bavaria as a ski resort for soldiers, like the golf course, for new Olympic facilities. Though positioned with pristine views of the mountains that rise up like surface of the moon, I have stayed at the "Edelweiss" and I don't think anyone should bemoan the loss of this government-run resort that is overpriced and preys on the uninitiated travellers' idea of fancy and does not nearly compare to the hospitality that locals offer.
In unrelated news, like the plot of some role-playing adventure quest, inventor of the Interwebs Al Gore, has vetted seven people across the Earth with electronic keys to restart the World Wide Web, I guess at a safe-point in case of catastrophic failure. It sounds as if these proponents were chosen for their propensity and life-force when it comes to the Legend of Zelda--pieces of the Triforce were scattered across the Land of Hyrule.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

jailbreak

A US federal judge and the Librarian of Congress, in two separate rulings, have in the former decided that it is permissible to disable, fold, spindle, or mutilate DRM (digital rights [restrictions] management) protocols to enhance functionality, so long as it's not with the intent of infringing copyrights, and in the latter that one can tinker with one's own smart phone in order to liberate the hardware and open it up to the service provider of one's choice.  This is fraptuous news, and I am sure after the browser choice injunction, the EU will welcome these precedents.  German-American legal relations on these sort of matters can be strange.  I have learned about an early, founding case, along with becoming more educated on Richard Wagner's opus of works.  There's a flood of publicity concerning the Festspiel in Bayreuth, who annually host productions of Wagner's works.  It's nearly impossible to secure tickets, and there's a ten year waiting list--if I tried for good seats, it would probably mean that I would have to choose between Wagner or Oberammungau, whose next Passion Play is the next decade.
 I did not realize that Wagner's operas debuted there under Wagner's direction and have a founding connection with that particular, storied opera house.  The early legal wranglings between America and Germany, with a collolary to copyrights, telephone and utility and bookface monopolies, regarded performances of Parsifal.  Staging rights belonged exclusively to Bayreuth and the opera was never shown outside of Germany, until US courts ruled that Germany had no jurisdiction over a group of Wagner enthusiasts in New York City and could not stop the show from being put on.  Wagner had hoped to secure a perpetual allowance for his wife and surviving family by granting Bayreuth exclusive rights, but this was in jeopardy by relinquishing control.  Quite a few singers from Germany repaired to the States for the first performance outside of Bavaria.  Wagner's widow, however, got her reckoning by making sure that none of these players ever worked in the German theater again.

Monday, 26 July 2010

quagmire

To confound any legal attempts to block publication, Wikileaks triangulated its trove of a press-release with Der Spiegel and the New York Times, which has framed the break in the dyke quite nicely.   Some criticize the media for trumping up the nature of the documents, saying that there are no real surprises, no shock-and-awe, which I think is a strange critique, coming from the venerable third estate: it is journalism's job to limn a situation, an environment and interpret and reveal through its objective lens.  Comparison to the Pentagon Papers are apt, but these are unprocessed bits of evidence, and it is the newspapers which tie together a proper daisy-chain accounting.  Nonetheless, if there had been a transparent horde of documentation from the beginning, the US and NATO would not have engaged in the war in the manner in which it did.  It is disheartening to have confirmation on the cheapness of Afghan lives, duplicity of the US Pakistani partners and the general glossing-over of way the war is being prosecuted.  Rather than playing the enemy of mine enemies against one another, like the Americans did to the Soviets in the region, it seems the coalition forces are enacting their own counter-finance.  Perhaps the biggest outrage and surprise ought to be the US focus on plugging the leak and visiting vengence on the free press, rather than addressing the problems exposed.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

unterwegs

My navigation device is still one of my favorite innovations, but I find fewer and fewer reasons to use it on a daily basis (i.e., when one knows where one is going).  At first, I had a co-pilot all the time for its MP3 player when I did not have a radio--also to monitor the speed traps and project my estimated time of arrival, which was always reassuring to know I would not be terribly late to work.  I had a thought that I submitted to the TomTom brain-trust for their consideration.  Perhaps it's an irresponsible and dangerous proposal, but given all the amazing user-created content, maps and points-of-interest, I have to wonder that they are not conducive to new ideas.  Could TomTom be trained, and in turn, train its driver, to beat all the traffic lights, timing the intervals and having one slow down en route to miss them?  I would like not to catch all the red signals in Bad Karma in the afternoons, and sometimes, it seems that I do.  If the navigator had told me to relent in speed just a little bit on the approach, could I avoid leaving the engine running at the intersection?  It seems like a good idea, but maybe it is also tempting fate just a little bit.  After all, how many bad things were we oblivious to because we missed them, waiting at the corner?

Friday, 23 July 2010

språchraum or lollipop guild

At the end of the summer, friends of my parents are visiting and are hoping, among other things, to visit Oktoberfest.  Normally, I would probably discourage entering into that mob, and possibly going to one of the counterfests or side-shows--especially as my parents are in the storied jewel of a town, Bamberg, with its own local celebrations and home-brewed delights.  I crowded in one of the beer tents once, and felt that that was enough for that particular experience.  This year, however, on the two-hundred year anniversary of the party's founding, first held so the whole town of München could toast the wedding of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese, aside from the total smoking ban and the high prices, Oktoberfest will be returning to its origins with fancy costumes, a fest king and queen, and great fun Renaissance Festival stuff.  Huzzah!  O'zapft is!   I think my parents' guests will have a lot of fun there. 
I was doing a little bit of research to see what other ideas jump out for entertainment in the area, and I see that after tapping the first keg, the parade through the market is led by the Münchner Kindl, whose name and appearance is apparently the source of Frank L. Baum's Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz.

gordian knot

The European Union banking sector is expected to report today on the findings of its self-assessment--the stress test.  Studying 91 major banking institutions that represent some 65% of all EU transactions seems pretty comprehensive, but I wonder what junk-journalism and bad review practices were learned from the Americans and their financial report card.  This too could prove too secretive and selective to be of any real value in terms of guidance or for pointing out potentially explosive deficiencies.  Low marks could trigger a crisis in the sector and non-findings would probably garner due suspicious in this exercise.  I hope, though, it becomes a good heuristic tool: the bankers framed their analysis in some moderately dire economic and growth conditions: EU in recession and veering into worse territory.  Maybe the threshold was set too low or the research was not of expected rigor, but seeing what impact the banks can withstand, I think, is an important first step.  The EU is not simply one big undifferentiated mass of debt and subsidies and there may be some saving vindication in store yet.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

vorsicht torte or bulli for you

I like the warning "vorsicht Torte!"--caution cake, since it sounds especially alertist in German, like danger, falling rocks.  Some of H's co-workers made him this darling cake in the likeness of our little VW bus for his birthday.  It was a nice way of commemorating the trips H has already taken and send well-wishes for future voyages.  Happy birthday--bully to you!

time-lock

The other day, H and I watched a bitter-sweet documentary "The Vault and the Electronic Frontier" about the singular Berlin discothek whose celebration paralleled the razing of the Wall and German reunification. It was particularly interesting how the MoTown influence in techno was fostered in Germany and then re-exported to the States. The reporting and interviews covered the final months of Tresor through its financial problems and eventual wrecking, which was pretty sad and indignant to see, in 2005 at the hands of a dastardly developer. I remember years ago when I visited Berlin for the Love Parade seeing the low-clearance and sleek letters of Tresor's entryway and regretted not having seen it back then--though, apparently, it was reincarnated in 2007 in an East Berlin electric company. In a related torch-song, the Wall Street Journal had a quirky, brief on the discography of one of Disco's unremembered heroes, Walter Gibbons. I really want to check our this jungle-music album, pioneered at a time before Disco had really gelled as a genre and co-opted by bigger labels.  Though these styles have been formalized into very different, divergent things, techno and Disco, I really appreciate them both--anything with a beat that you can dance to, like the characters from Peanuts breaking into their peculiar routines on the floor when the music plays.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

gaudeamus igitur

Look to this day, graduate... I understand that this year's graduating class is pursuing having itself cryogenically frozen until the job market improves.  I feel hopeful about continuing my education--though I have no designs as to what ends.  Perhaps the next spunky flock of MBAs can save the economy from certain doom--or get their come-uppance as they snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  We shall see.  I was satisfied with the educational challenge and the material covered, despite a bit of kow-towing to questions of ethicsand corporate responsibility that was approached in superficial kind of way, general lack of engagement and cohension--that I suppose is part and parcel of an online degree, and talk of robust, unsinkable markets that seemed painfully naive and dated.  I really enjoyed the course work, and delving more than a headline's smattering into market analysis, trade and regulatory environments and economic theory.  Good old diploma mill university--a part of the whole experience, however, makes me think of those old Sally Stuthers commercials for career-development in hotel/restaurant management.  Do you want to make more money?  Or just advance in your present job?  Do you like to paint, or just sketch or doodle?  Can you draw Petey the Pirate--or how about Tommy the Turtle?  But maybe such hiberation is not completely out of order.

Monday, 19 July 2010

spacely sprockets

Since visiting the first test facilities at Peenemuende, notwithstanding the occasional pleasant afternoon at the local airshow, I have a renewed fascination with rocketry.  The excellent museum there tempered science with war-waging and was thoughtful but not in an overly preachy way.  German engineers at the National Aerospace Center have successfully developed a new sharp rocket that is poised to revolutionize space travel--all for a paltry 12 million euro.  The new, reusable space glider is much more manueverable, and manages to guide itself safely back to Earth.  Its faceted nose-cone makes it especially resilient and resistant to the heat of reentry.
In related news, the Russian space agency, with no shortage of ambitious missions waiting in the wings, will slowly vacate its cosmodrome at Baikonur, since while the whole region benefited from Soviet investment in space infrastructure, the cosmodrome is fully in Kazahk territory which Russia leases at a high price.  A bigger and better space port will be built in the Russian far east at Vostochny near the Chinese border and the city of Harbin.

capitol intelligencer or no such agency

The Washington Post released its compendious study of the parallel topography and the sprawling landscape of Top Secret America.  It's a very clever read.  The two-year project concludes that the forces to combat terrorism have grown so large as to be unwieldy, information is not promulgated nor shared for coordination and triangulation, and petty tyrranies and turf-battles not only are squandering the whole enterprise with redundancy but also inviting warring shadow-factions to rise up. 
No creature is better at job-preservation by sustaining need than government bureaucrats and job-security could turn vicious.  Maybe this is not as sensational or surprising as the revelations of Deepthroat but maybe it can cue public attention and bring about reform to a problem that is endemic to the US government and cull some unneeded duplication and coveted red-tape.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

insektenvernichter

I thought that the name of the friendly guesthouse by our campsite on the Prorer Wiek was a bit ominous and foreboding, Zur Muecke, the Mosquito, and we sustained a few nasty bites and an inconstant nuisance in the evenings but it was not intolerable.  I have a cruel and untested in field conditions bug-zapper that I forgot to bring along, which was probably a good thing.  I also tried to guard myself from the perils of the sun, and considering the defensive freckles that surface on my whiter shade of pale skin, I think I managed pretty well with two weeks of fine weather on the beach with sun protection factor 50.  I emerged a bit tanned and unscathed, except for a patch on my knee that I guess I missed.  I felt like Achilles dipped in the River Styx, with my vunerabilities that I am sure that the mosquitoes took advantage of as well through the cloud of Autan/Off, or more appropriately like when Nibelung Siegfried bathed and that one leaf fell on him.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

baltic avenue or gravity's rainbow

H and I have just returned from a camping--though not actually roughing it, holiday, spanning as H points out the entire length of the former German Democratic Republic, from Thuringia to the lighthouse at Kap Arkona at the northern tip of the Island of Rügen. 
Lazily making the transition from one, beautiful, clean and uncrowded beach to the next, we saw many remarkable things and took in a lot of history, including Werner von Braun's rocket facility at Peenemunde, which saw the first launch into outer space, ancient fishing villages, buildings bleached white and authentic and justified martitime decor, outstanding natural beauty, the chalky cliff face at the Jasmunder Bodden,
to the endless coastlines of Usedom, to our final campsite and headquarters at the Kraft durch Freude (KdF) seafront resort ruin of Prora, built to accomodate some twenty-thousand holiday-makers and some 4.5 kilometers long but never used used for that purpose.
It was absolutely outstanding to be nomadic and take away so many impressions, even more than I can list here, while sustaining the relaxation that should come with the standard--or non-standard two-weeks' vacation, and cannot wait for the next adventure.
 

Thursday, 8 July 2010

im urlaub

H and I are touring the exquisite Baltic coast, and PfRC is on sabbatical too.  Please check out Our Little Travel blog for further adventures.