Monday, 30 May 2011

civil service or let’s go dancing at the VFW

Memorial Day is a difficult concept to translate to German. There is no precise equivalent but traditions span the divide each with cultural nuances that make the comparison moot, also notwithstanding the existence of Americans’ repackaging of Armistice Day. With reunification, East Germany was bequeathed many West German religious holidays that seem equally inscrutable yet servicable.  It is also approximately my father’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Dad!), who, before the States migrated most holidays to the nearest Monday, grew up with somber birthdays spent at the cemetery.

I can articulate the significance but it is often a challenge to explain the mitigating trappings that most observances have taken on: the beginning, officially, of summer—another day off or the christening of one’s grill and all outdoor equipage. No one remembers it was begun by liberated slaves for openness and reconciliation in the aftermath of the US civil war. Before dismissing us for the long weekend (and early specifically not to interrupt chance for vacation), work hosted a simple yet poignant ceremony, which was not bombasted with the usual patriotism, politics and nationalism. Because the service was attended by the Burgermeister and representatives of the Bundeswehr, the occasion demanded one show not just restraint and respect but also to be simply reverent and circumspect. Instead of being cynical, I thought not only about the people I work with but about both of my grandfathers, who had long, circuitous military careers that brought my family together.  These sorts of realizations and connections make the day off more enjoyed.

eschatology or a peck of pickled peppers

Being somewhat inured to out breaks of food poisoning, being much more common occurrences in the States, the wrath and general indignation to this episode that’s apparently originated with a harvest of Spanish cucumbers is laudable. Such risk coming from the normally innocuous is rightly intolerable. I have a lot of sympathy for the people that have gotten sick, as well as for the farmers and truck-farming industry that has garnered a bad reputation. It is difficult to attribute this out break to simply a quality control issue—although the draconian austerity measures being imposed on the Spanish people may lead to more cutting corners in the future and possibly more farmers entering the marketplace without proper training and experience with organic agriculture, the preferred cultivation method for German consumers—there is moreover the dangers of a monoculture emerging here, I believe. Culling one uniform type of cucumber, instead of a variety, makes the whole crop more susceptible to pests of opportunity—maybe this one robust strain of E. coli (DE) too. Monocultures, uniformity, in the form of designer seeds, I think, has also fuelled the frequency of out breaks in the US, but such cultivars arise even without genetic meddling.  Tastes adapt and call for this standard, and it doesn’t stay a Spanish problem. The flora and fauna in human digestive systems make up a delicate and complicated ecology too, and the bacteria attacks this wildlife preserve rather than going after the host, the game warden, directly. Variety allows for immunity and the strength to overcome the daily onslaught and poaching of our bodies.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

offworld

World economies do not need to be a closed-system, profiting rudely on the gullibilities and vanities of others, selling faded dreams, outstanding debt and financial hocus-pocus. Such things are not upwardly infinite. As an instrument to raise people’s standards of living sustainably, promote peace and cooperation, and to keep the engines of progress and development running smoothly, economies and investment opportunities can expand indefinitely and beyond this mundane sphere.

As the brilliant and always insightful Neatorama directs our attention to stellar prospecting and the new wealth possible with mining asteroids (a tiny metallic asteroid with an estimated worth of $20 trillion) alone, the new frontier is just begging for carpet-baggers. It is hard to believe that some clever (just playing by the numbers and the cold, unfeeling math of return on investments) are not already sending out corporate probe droids. Not that the skies should be brought down on us—unlimited resources added to the closed-system that is ecology would be equally devastating. Just has one cannot simply send all the excess carbon-dioxide to Rigel 7 and expect that to fix global warming without consequence, one cannot provide emission-free automobiles to the world’s population without paving over every last space of land or without being buried in our own trash. Still, the business of space exploration and exploitation could be managed well at its inception, putting factories and refineries off-world and maintaining a balance of trade in egress and import. Energy to power all these endeavours would be crucial, and considering all the capital already spent on the debate over the future of household atomics in Europe, Germany should be building a space elevator (Weltraumlift) and a stratospheric lightening rod, a wind sock to harness power from cosmic rays. That aurora alone would go a long way in meeting the world’s growing energy demands.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

magic beans

French leadership had been criticized during the past week for courting important Internet entrepreneurs in a summit, ostensibly, to draft the rules for the Internet. One could only speculate what happens behind the scenes, but maybe this injunction, ingratiation was a sly move on the part of the French government, especially ahead of the G8 summit beginning soon.

If what's touted is to be believed, the virtual currency, commodity Bitcoin has the potential to usurp and destabilize traditional fiat markets. I don't understand quite how it works or how it is different from any other Ersatz currency, credit, or collective delusion that gives Nomos value. A lot of abstract probabilities generate more worth for what can be exchanged for real goods and services, and why shouldn't a mint in the virtual æther do the same? This is a new development and I don't think many of the technologically savvy, no matter how jaded or influenced by the kings in their counting houses, can quite yet grasp it either. I will study this. There is scarcity and skill in trading, and there is also oversight and Bitcoins are not the rupies of Hyrule.  Maybe France's interest, hosting both meetings, helps ensure that the old regime remain in power and foregoes this potential competitor.

Letzte Woche, wurde Frankreich als Gastgeber dafür kritisiert, einen Internetgipfel zu haben, um anscheinend die "Regeln" für das Internet zu machen. Keiner weiß, was hinter den Kulissen geschieht, aber diese Anbiederung war vielleicht hinsichtlich des G8 Gipfels sehr listig. Die virtuelle Währung, Bitcoin, angeblich hat das Potential um traditionellen Austausch zu destabilisieren. Ich verstehe nicht, wie es arbeitet, oder andere wie jede allgemeine Wahnvorstellung des Geldes. Wahrscheinlichkeiten erzeugen echt Wert. Warum sollte eine virtuelle Minze nicht dasselbe tun? Das ist eine neue Entwicklung, und ich denke nicht, dass die Technocrati es völlig auch verstehen. Ich will lernen. Bitcoins sind nicht Spiel-Geld von der Legend of Zelda, weil es Kontrolle und eine begrenzten Angebot gibt. Vielleicht als Gastgeber für beide Gipfeln, kann Frankreich Regeln behandeln die Konkurrenz aufzuhören.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

hitchhikers' guide to germany

Bad Karma, our fair city, is reportedly to be one of Germany's model communities for development and promotion of electric mobility. One has not yet seen much evidence of this, however, except for the odd three-wheeled capsules jetting silently about town. Not to disparage good intentions or anyone's handiwork, but even if those electric, single-passenger cars look endearing like go-karts that someone's dad helped them build, there is still I imagine a lot of resources and energy (more than the savings) put into making them. One just has another fleet of mostly idle and surplus vehicles in the end, I realized, after listening to one installment of a series on personal mobility that Bayern Rundfunk and ARD (Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland or Das Erste) are producing: of some 83 million private automobiles in Germany, most are used less than an hour per day. This fact inspired some internet entrepreneurs to launch a platform to promote pooling cars locally instead of more consumption. The site is like a bulletin board that only facilitates connecting people, ad hoc, and the insurance liability. Neighbours can then find each other, negotiate terms and schedules on their own. Using wisely what we already have, even if it is not the best and most efficient, goes hand in hand, I think, with rolling out the new and improved.

Bad Karma, unserer schönen Stadt, wird eine von Deutschlands Mustergemeinschaften zur Beförderung und Entwicklung der Mobilitat sein. Es deutet allerdings wenig darauf hin, außer die dreirädrigen Kapseln die um die Straßen laufen. Ich will nicht jemandes Absichten oder Entwicklungen verunglimpfen, aber doch obwohl die Autos sehen wie Kartsport von jemandes Heimwerkstatt, sind sie noch energieintensiv. Infolgedessen hat man bloß müßigere Autos. Ich dachte an diese Tatsachen nach dem Hören einer Episode des BR-5 und ARD Co-Produktion einer Serie auf der Mobilitat: die Mehrheit von Autos wird nur eine Stunde pro Tag getrieben. Diese Tatsache regte einige Internetunternehmer an, eine Plattform zu starten, lokal Car-Sharing statt mehr Verbrauchs zu fördern. Die Website verbindet Leute und hilft mit der Versicherungsverbindlichkeit. Nachbarn finden einander und machen ihre eigenen Verträge. Eine sinnvolle Nutzung der vorhandenen Ressourcen geht Hand in Hand mit der dynamischen technologischen Entwicklung.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

pumpspeicherkraftwerke and urban-cozy

Apparently there is an offensive on, as Spiegel International (in English) reports, of radical knitters bent on outfitting their environs with yarn. Though now is not quite the season to dress a utility pole with a comfy and hand-made sweater, this creative expression of graffiti artists is pretty enchanting.
Additionally there was news of plans to capture the kinetic energy of fair-weather sources, solar and wind, and store it as potential energy. This project (auch auf englisch) is being studied in the abandoned mines of the Harz region, where we recently saw some of the expansive feats of engineering designed to harness nature. This idea, which has been applied elsewhere, allows excess power generated by the sun or turbines to be stored by transferring it to a pump system that fills a reservoir at a higher elevation, then acting on the same principle as a turbine spun by the onslaught of water at a dam.
Anscheinend gibt es eine Kampagne der radikalen Strickerin-Begabung beim Ausstatten ihrer Umgebung mit dem Garn, als Spiegel Internationale Berichte (auf englisch). Jetzt ist nicht das Wetter, um eine Straßenlampe in einen Wolle-Pullover anzukleiden, aber diese Graffitikunst ist sehr bestechend.
Zusätzlich es gab Nachrichten über Pläne, die kinetische Energie von Schönwetterquellen, Sonnen- und Wind zu gewinnen, und es als potenzielle Energie zu erhalten. Diese Projekt (auch berichtete auf englisch), wird in den aufgegebenen Bergwerke des Harz studiert, wo wir kürzlich besuchten. Die Idee, im betrieb anderweitig, erlaubt Überschussmacht erzeugt durch die Sonne oder Windturbinen, versorgt zu werden, es einem Pumpe-System übertragend, das ein Reservoir an einer höheren Erhebung füllt, dann demselben Grundsatz wie eine Turbine gesponnen durch den Fluss von Wasser an einem Damm oder Stausee folgend.

Monday, 23 May 2011

apocalypse no!

So this past Saturday came and went without anyone apparently being raptured, at least among those most rapture-ready. The devout deserve better, provided that their dire predictions are not disingenuous, though warning and vigilance are generally unwelcome, than facetious theme-parties--though funny and viral. It is the height of presumption to make such predictions, and there are warnings against such false-prophets but that does not stop grumblings for whatever reason (especially from America), but what if those chosen were beamed into Heaven? There is not a feeling more disconcerting than questioning reality for a dream or wondering how far stubborn normality would coast along on its own impetus. Would those left behind even notice? 100, 000 select (as it is written) becomes a evanescent figure--though people are not numbers--in a world with billions, like a rounding error, and estranging technology.

So kam Samstag und ging ohne ein Entrückung, mindestens für diejenigen die am bereitesten waren. Die Gläubigen verdienen Besseres als verhöhnend, was sie bisher hatten, Wenn ihre Sorge ehrlich ist. Warnungen sind allgemeinen unwillkommen. Es ist sehr unverschämt, solche Vorhersagen zu machen, und trotz biblischer Vorsichtsmaßnahmen, diese Kassandra-Rufer verharren (besonders aus America). Und wenn es jedoch geschah? Es ist sehr beunruhigend, Wirklichkeit für einen Traum zu bezweifeln oder sich fragend, wie weit störrische Normalität vorwärts auf seinem eigenen Impuls im Leerlauf fahren würde. Würde diejenigen, die sogar zurückgelassen sind, bemerken? Leute sind nicht nur Zahlen, aber 100.000 gewählte Menschen sind eine sehr kleine Zahl in einer Welt von Milliarden und entfremdender Technologie.

Friday, 20 May 2011

senatus

An interesting German jobs market report came out of Leipzig, which mirrors one aspect of the anemic employment recovery in the US.
The analysis of career prospects for younger people entering the workforce shows that wages and chances of meaningful advancement are relatively low compared to historical levels. Even though the fluctuating US unemployment numbers sometimes suggest improvement, deeper scrutiny, however, reveals that there is disproportionate joblessness for younger people and those jobs that are returning are not nearly of the caliber of those that were lost and are not coming back. Despite Germany's Wirtschaftswunder, poor prospects and disenfranchisement for the young led all countries towards gerontocracy, rule by the council of elders that can turn into feelings of oppression. Wise, experienced counsel ensures good governance and continuity but also tends to want to maintain its own standard of living, and there are simply not enough resources, conventionally, on the poor old planet to keep billions, young and old, professional engaged. Incumbents of course should not be edged out and I think that would be a nightmare form of labour revolt, persecuting the past generation for the sake of up-and-comers--and a strange reversal of the retirement-contribution paradox. People everywhere need to become innovative in creating markets sustainably, and not jobs tethered to old profligate ways. Business is about scarcity but need for service and fulfillment is virtually inexhaustible.

Ein Leipziger deutscher Job-Marktbericht ist interresant, und dieser Bericht ist einem Aspekt des schwachen amerikanischen Wirtschaftsaufschwungs ähnlich. Berufsaussichten für jüngere Leute, die in die Belegschaft eingehen, haben niedrigere Löhne und weniger Chancen der bedeutungsvollen Förderung. Gegen oberflächliche Indikatoren der Verbesserung gibt es noch hohe Arbeitslosigkeit für junge Leute, und die Qualität von Jobs sind nicht dasselbe wie zuvor. Trotz Deutschlands Wirtschaftswunder führten schlechte Aussichten und Entmündigung für den Jungen Leuten alle Länder zu Gerontokratie. Weisheit und Erfahrung machen gute Regierung und Kontinuität aber es bewahrt auch selbst. Es gibt nicht genug Mittel (im klassischen Sinn) auf diesem Planeten, um Jobs allen zu geben. Die ältere Generation sollte nicht entlassen werden, um der jüngeren Generation zu helfen. Das würde ein Albtraum sein, und es macht Finanzierungsruhestand paradox. Kreativität muss Jobs unabhängig von alten Denkarten, beschränkten Mitteln und Marktluftblasen. Geschäft ist Knappheit, aber das Bedürfnis nach dem Dienst und Erfüllung wird nie erschöpft. Geschäft ist Knappheit, aber das Bedürfnis nach dem Dienst und Erfüllung wird nie erschöpft.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

like the tick, tick, tock of the stately clock as it stands against the wall

The anthropomorphic principle and its ascribing subsidiaries make up a rather strange, panglossian reflection to entertain. It is not only a form of personification, understanding the forces of nature as all-too human gods, which is neither wrong nor right nor poetic nor literal because one is engaging in a very Cartesian philosophical exercise in doing so (though I always thought it was a haughty-humble tautology to convivially rebuild the world in one's imagination and deem it perfect because one could not imagine it any other way), it also is projected, scalar, in both directions from the perspective of a nutshell or flies to wanton boys to the laws governing universe and the universe itself.

The Goldie Locks zone ideal for habitation is one expression of it, which itself questions why the natural laws of the universe be so perfectly and apparently improbably in tune to the development of human beings, or the question why has not intelligent life elsewhere made itself known. A few reasons are given: the infinite distance between intelligences, that advancing life cannot meet the technological challenges that are proving be potential downfalls for us--environmental degradation, nuclear war, electro-smog, etc, or fear or the Prime Directive. I am sure a combination of these factors are behind this lack of contact or ignorance thereof--or something completely different. Verging towards the other existential end, I think that nothing and everything has captured this way of thinking than the mechanical clock. One does not find these sorts of relics with no explanation but they are perfectly reflective of our paradox--that if the forces of the universe were different, a machine that grounds an abstract idea, like human sense for time, that works off of gravity and tension, would be meaningless or at least intriguing in its do-nothing complexity.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

portmanteau

Also in the interest of improving my nascent German language skills, PfRC is endeavouring to be more bi-lingual. It is rather challenging, in an up-building and formative way, and hard to capture the nuance or entendre. I think it will get better though. Sometimes, though it is getting less and less common and more serendipitous to find, one can still find examples of highly literal or computer-aided translations, in other words, a translation without a second-opinion, in Germany. Visiting a beautiful baroque garden south of the Harz recently, we found a sign that unfortunately referred to a petting-zoo as an animal stroking enclosure. I suppose the humourous is always better than gibberish.

Diese Anstrengung ist auch im Interesse, meine werdenden Sachkenntnisse der Deutschen Sprache zu verbessern: PfRC wird begangen, um mehr zweisprachig zu sein.
Das ist auf eine bauende und formende Weise eher schwierig. Es ist hart, die Nuance oder entendre zu gewinnen. Ich denke, dass es besser werden wird dennoch. Manchmal, obwohl das immer weniger allgemein und mehr serendipitous wird zu finden, kann man noch Beispiele von hoch wörtlichen oder computerunterstützten Sprachübersetzungen, mit anderen Worten, eine Übersetzung ohne die zweite Meinung, in Deutschland finden. Bei einen schönen barocken Garten im Süden vom Harz kürzlich besuchend, fanden wir ein Zeichen, das leider einen Petting-Zoo als ein Tier Stroking Enclosure. Komisch ist immer lieber als Kauderwelsch, ich denke.

normally innocuous entities

It seems, again, that I have poor memory, recall for pain--rather nagging discomfort: my head over the past week was just swimming with this awful sinus pressure, and even though seasonal allergies, locally, were talked up along with the weather, I failed to connect that to my maladies. Talk of things "going-around" is usually difficult to pin-down but there were none of the usual April showers and the air and the soil is drier and there has been nothing to knock the pollen out of the skies. Allergies and sensitivies are inconstant memorials themselves, wavering, going deep under cover only to reappear by some complicated mechanism, a coalition of irritants untraceable, later.

Es scheint, dass ich ein schlechtes Gedächtnis des Schmerzes oder der Unbequemlichkeit habe. Während der letzten Woche schwamm mein Kopf mit dem Kurve-Druck, und trotz des Gespräches über Allergien und das Wetter machte ich eine Verbindung nicht. Diese Sorte des Gespräches ist vage, aber es gab keinen Regen im April und es ist trocken ohne etwas um den Blütenstaub zu entfernen. Allergien sind unbeständige Gedenkstätte. Manchmal verschwinden sie völlig, unerwartet durch unauffindbare Mittel zurückzukehren

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

the tender trap or american woman, stay away from me

Not to come across as an advocate for the sainthood of any of the financial overlords, nor to trivialize assault, violence or any one feeling violated, but this recent juxtaposition of possible smear and defamation with American puritanical sensibilities strikes me very much as a fabrication. Intimacy and affairs have always been weaponized into public scandal, and this is maybe an emerging trend for political ballast, smacking of the not so long ago treatment of the public face of the Wikileaks' release or even the sad and petty portrayal of bin Laden's home life. Human nature can be an awful thing and past deportment and hubris do not suggest otherwise, but the account equally folds with a few rationalizations, though this is the divisive country that squandered years on the indiscretions of a president, moralizing leadership away. Likewise, the US, as a dues-paying member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), could be poised to take advantage of this disgrace to argue that caretaker position ought to be returned to clean American hands. This would be especially opportune as the yet more abstract upper-limit to America's debt burden has been reached and breached and close-control has become necessary to guide resolution.

Nichts als Verfecter für des Heiligtums eines der Finanzoberherrn rüber zu kommen, noch Vergewaltigung mit keinem Wort schmälern, aber dieses letzten Nebeneinander vom Diffamierung und puritanischen Lebensstil kommt mir vor wie Lügenmärchen. Affäre sind immer als Waffe benutz, und dies ist wahrscheinlich eine künftig und politisch Trend, das dem des Wikileaks und die Darstellung der bin Laden recht ähnlich ist. Schrecklichkeit liegt in der menschlichen Natur, und ihre Vergangenheit deuten nicht anders, aber das richtige Story ist vergleichweise misstrauisch, so auch bei der Nation lange endeten unentschieden nur wegen Skandal. Gleichermaßen, der US als beitragszahlenden Mitglied der IWF (der internationale Währungsfonds), so könnte man argumentieren, dass die Leitung sollte zur americanische saubere Hände zurückgegeben warden. Es ist ein günstigen Zeitpunkt, an die Macht kommen, wegen hohes Defizit des Staatshaushalts und eine hohe Verschuldung.

Monday, 16 May 2011

a backhanded compliment or role-reversal

The ever-engaging Boing Boing points readers to and hosts a brillant discussion on a recent market analysis from the Boston Consulting Group, which forecasts that a collusion of factors including the increased valuation of the Chinese yuan, the weak dollar and US corporate tax incentives will, in as little as five years, yield a revival of the moribund American industrial and manufacturing sector, reversing the trend of off-shoring of jobs.
The article is not cheery, just rather matter-of-fact, so it is difficult to read the tone, but I would venture that the ultimate message is not one of congrat-ulations. There are other factors to consider: the American South is desperately poor and already short-shrifts its workers with less than living wages. Monied influences have relaxed environmental protections. China, India and Mexico are enjoying higher standards of living and have become consumers as well as producers. Labour protections and unions in the States have been rendered toothless. The wild card of fuel and transportation costs also probably plays a big role in this study. Means of production and infrastructure, however, are already there in the Rustbelts of the US though mothballed. This might turn out to be a strange inversion that does not sit easily with me, although such a prediction might spur some positive investment in production and jobs. I do not want to see a renaissance that results in the same exploitation--or greater, and ecological ruin. Americans surely have expertise if its business leaders do not let that vision and commitment become clouded by greed and a rush to the bottom. Germany is not perfect but has managed to remain an economic powerhouse through manufacturing and afford a social state with high wages and good environmental stewardship. I think part of that success, at least, can be attributed to that sense of expertise and precision, and not soley the financial cues to repatriate ones factories.

sound and vision

Over the weekend, H and I attended a little get-together to watch the Eurovision grand finale from Düsseldorf. Some moments from the dazzling production and some of the entries that made the cut can make one laugh, cringe or groan but it's always fun, especially with friends, since it opens up an acceptable forum for all the stereotypes and politically incorrect characterizations of national identities. Of course, one painful and proud number does not represent the sum of another country, even though it may lend some interesting insight into the ways and limits of reinterpretation of mostly American-style pop music. ABBA was made famous through a Eurovision win, as did Lulu and Céline Dion. Apparent political influences and old grudges that normally go unsaid really seem to emerge, however, during the long, long voting process. Though the winning country from the previous year gets to host the event, audience voters cannot choose their home country, and it seems that maybe old aspersions come in to play, as the electorate, like something out of the Holy and Roman Empire of the Germans, has expanded to encompass a broader region, including the "new Europe," Russia and the former Soviet satellites, the micronations, Turkey, plus Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco.
Amongst this harmless fun, I think, suspicions lurk including conspiracy and questions about EU membership and national identity. The annual song contest, however, I believe in the end, tutors more in geography rather than geo-political intrigues and does more for awareness and togetherness than salt old wounds. See you next year from Baku!

Friday, 13 May 2011

would you like to fly in my beautiful balloon

A few days ago, we were treated with a hot-air balloon launch from the grassy clearing by the stream (Wiese--it seems there is no precise equivalent in English--lawn, yard, pasture, knoll). We went down and investigated the whole production, which took quite some time: the lighter-than-air craft did not pop out of the cargo van fully-formed. It was neat to watch the crew unfurl the envelope and prepare it for flight but I realized that it was very labour intensive and not something to be done on the cheap or sadly not spontaneously. When the balloon finally took off and the van went to chase the passengers where the wind carried it aloft, I kept thinking about that poor aeronaut's wife and how the skin would never be folded back or crumpled quite right again for storage, but it does seem to be a labour of love and a lot fun.

suspension of disbelief or not the droids you're looking for

The White House press apparatchiks have collectively agreed to stop staging photographs, after a routine set-up to capture and archive the announcement of the operation to intercept bin Laden has apparently fueled doubt and rumours that that undertaking was itself faked. Everyone, I think, realizes that such images, intended to be iconic and for posterity, are posed and composed, and the media as well as officials participated in this harmless polishing. It is dangerous, however, should the press alters the substance of the news on behalf of the government, with smear campaigns and the usual bread and circuses. I think there is no mean intent behind this very clever Darth Vader parody, which makes the stakes and reaction skewed through inversion, but maybe co-opting that image in this way also encouraged the press corps to change their theatre.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

marquis façade

In the immediate aftermath of the operation to kill bin Laden, a German cable news broadcaster apparently scrambled to get information on SEAL Team VI, who executed the ambush, as a very astute Observer noticed while the anchor went on, obliviously nonplussed. Maybe it was a bit of a journalistic challenge to find any solid facts about this team, like searching for the fighting "Men of the 303." Life imitates art and vice-versa, however, and I suppose that the unit badge for the Cardasian resistance forces, the Maquis of the Star Trek universe, is a near-match (or possible inspiration) for the real unit patch, minus the extraneous phaser, bat'leth weapons, and Klingon skull.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

air strip one or all your bandwidth are belong to us

The American isotope of naivety or irony apparently has a very short half-life, at least in their government's estimation. Even before the passing, prying worry about one's mobile accoutrements tracking one's movements has had a chance to be forgotten or displaced with some more sinister distraction, heightened vigilance in the wake of the assassination of Osama bin Laden and the rift the operation caused has presented the US National Emergency Management Agency a perfect opportunity to revamp its emergency broadcast system in the form of text (SMS) alerts that take precedence over other cellular phone traffic and even work when the phone is out of the service area or switched off.
Under the umbrella of Washington, DC and New York City first and then nation-wide, this new service (which requires a special chip that all new cellular phones will be required to carry) will be able to deliver all sorts of advisories and warnings to the public.  The potential for persuasive messages and disinformation, in addition to tracing everyone's every move, has not been overlooked either.  Cellular technology and service plans are particularly expensive in the States--patrons responsible for both incoming and outgoing charges, so I imagine that one could follow the money behind this initiative too.  Mobile technology has always been able to track people and monitor their predilections, just as the internets, credit cards, library cards, and union cards have enabled in the past, though we make it easier and easier for that information to fall into the wrong hands--having Big Brother in one's pocket reminds me of those view-screens (two-way televisions) in 1984 that could not be turned off and our protagonists thought they were safe from spying eyes when the two found those eyes were out of sight.

painting the roses red

Facing ever hotter summers, white-washing (not green-washing) one's roofs is one many little steps that one can take to offset heat locally and perhaps decrease demands on cooling systems. It does seem to be a rather zero-sum undertaking--like a few of the environmental promotions that businesses have side-stepped since the paints are probably rather energy intensive themselves, like growing corn as biofuels. Maybe, however, there are lower impact ways to accomplish the same project, if one can get away with such things: don't upcycle someone's prized-collection, but one can gather junk compact discs and carpet roofs or make mosaics that way from charity shops and the stacks of redundant and obsolete media from work. One sees these four-hundred year old farm houses in Germany outfitted with solar arrays like steam-punk space probes. I imagine the glare from a shiny installation, as long as it does not offend one's neighbours or resident birds, would also blind the spy-satellites.

Monday, 9 May 2011

flatlander or same-otherwise

Quantum mechanics is a strange, non-intuitive outcome, it seems, for probing too deeply. On the contrary, I do not think things should not become more blurry and ill-defined the sharper the focus is, and perhaps precise knowledge of one aspect should not exclude any knowledge of other qualities. I’d venture maybe that we are conditioned to accept this exclusion principle, perhaps too quickly though a lot of people more creative and smarter than me have worked to describe the machinery of the impossibly tiny—that if we know place, we cannot know time or velocity, the compound of the two with a future tendency. Maybe such elaborate explanations and theories to compensate for our limited vision are not always constructive--when I was a little kid, I wrote once to Carl Sagan suggesting, not very succinctly, that the speed of light may not be a constant and that it might accelerate or slow down over the vast reaches of space.  He answered with a very nice and personal letter that the laws of nature depend on such universal constants--however, now it seems modish to talk of light-speed more fluidly.  Physical dispositions ought to be knowable in so far as classic mechanics describes the universe and matters of everyday experience, and if they do not work satisfactorily, what is that threshold of inaccuracy and could we even define such a margin of error. In the same definitive work on classical mechanics and the clockwork universe, the Principia, Sir Isaac Newton generally followed his QEDs with a statement of “same-otherwise,” an alternate proof for deriving the principles of physics.

I don’t think these different derivations were suggested that there were two equally plausible and reigning laws of nature at work, but I always thought it was a refreshingly un-arrogant coda in science writing. Maybe subatomic particles do pop discretely (digitally instead of analogue) from one state, place to another in a fuzzy cloud of possible configurations—or maybe the causeways and cogs of matter outside of normal experience are rigid, well-defined forms, billiard-balls, plum-pudding or any other tangible analogy, except the orbits and tracks and slots that they race along are engineered not in the spatial dimensions of length, width and breadth but in the six or seven postulated others that ripple over tinier spaces, like the bumps on the skin of an orange. Maybe it is not necessary to pour vast amounts of energy into a particle to coax out something exotic, an unstable component that exists like a ghostly radar blip for a vanishingly small duration. Surely every elusive component exists, though not in isolation, and perhaps invisible to us, denizens of Flatland, cannot detect these elusive particles as they move q-wise instead of sideways (over terrain there are no words for) and can only glimpse the cross-sections (what's on our plane of perception) of the internal workings once sped up greatly.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

blümchen

Every spring, one little, rather horizontal cactus blooms with vibrantly red flowers that cascade over the window ledge. For this monumental effort, there ought to be a very local festival in honor of this accomplishment, like harvest celebrations or Spargelzeit (Asparagus Time) in Germany. The gardens put on dazzling, perennial shows of their own too. I have never seen, however, the big schefflera tree in the corner go to fruit and flower before.
Sometimes they are called umbrella plants but I call it a big old mall tree, for the potted tropical vegetation one finds larger shopping galleries. They have no fragrance and these little grape-like clusters have just now bloomed but I will have to monitor them. It seems strange that such a lush plant has maybe anticlimactic blossoms, while a creeping, fuzzy desert plant would put forth such a performance.

casting czar

Remember that Barry Levinson film Wag the Dog? It was masterfully done and presented some uncomfortable questions about spin and public policy. I think it was not allowed to become such a phenomenon in the States or linger very long in sniping short-hand because of the eruption of events of the conflict in Kosovo and America’s role in it.

German commentators, and perhaps too soon but not expected to tow the party line, have raised that spectre concerning Osama bin Laden, and how might the death of a villain be staged who never existed, except as portrayed by a carefully casted troupe of actors. I have not followed these events very closely, admittedly, and a lot of the story-line is certainly inherited, and one cannot take too many liberties with the script, as it were, but there does seem to be an awful lot of theatrics going on. It is difficult to say which camp of critics either make the illusion or suggest the illusion, however. Is there enough subtlety in the way this operation played out to admit subversion? Real events, some could argue, do not tolerate irony and the story-arch as well as something scripted and story-boarded. Conspiracy theories create that kind of anti-cyclonic effects. A lot of disparate notions accompany an ongoing pursuit that become cul-de-sacs, other elements of a wild goose chase, that are later abandoned: bin Laden resided in that town in Pakistan for the past six years (numerous footnotes on the Wikileaks’ cable dump), was retired and raised bunnies for neighbourhood kids—and that mention of marijuana growing as wild weeds on his compound, which is not uncommon in suburban Pakistan, or the burial at sea to avoid idolatry of the graveside, a tenet rejected by conservative sects. What if it is all a carefully crafted tale, dynamic to anticipate and counter with plausible explanations the heckles of the audience?

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

look at books

Because we needed a fitting subject for our chrome and marble bookends to frame and we needed to balance our library with something in addition to the Bible (Der Heilige Schrift, the holy book) that H found from 1911, beautifully bound and with a running family chronicle through the 1990s of births and deaths and marriages, I stumbled across these two volumes, art nouveau, and the compendium of doctoring—Bilz’ (EN/DE) das neue Naturheilverfahren, new natural healing techniques.

I had not know anything about this edition before had but considering those lonely bookends and the conversation that I had with my mother recently about the copy of the Nurnberger Chronicle found in the desert in Utah and how we don’t rummage through book bins too often, I felt I should get these to peruse. Like Dr. Pepper, the practicioner Friedrich Eduard Bilz' tonics went on to become the Sinalco (soft drinks, sine alcohole or without alcohol) brand array of fizzy beverages.  One finds wonderful artistry and deep knowledge in old books and these were no exception: hundreds of coloured plated (I thought the books were separating from their spines in places but I found that these were separate posters, illustrated pullouts, possibly some material—like childbirth, censored perhaps from sensitive eyes, with unbroken seals. Carefully, we peaked inside and there are expansive reference guides in anatomy, where the layers can be peeled back, from skin to bone, like a pop-up book. Books such as these have definitely more worth than just decorative value and it is incredible what knowledge is vested within a single volume, repositories before mass-communication and hyperlinks, and when expertise was turned inward instead of outward. We will certainly be stocking our library with such hidden treasures.

Monday, 2 May 2011

night on bald mountain

Though we will be arriving a few days too late for the annual Hexentanz (Witches’ Dance) on the summit of Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz (EN/DE) Mountain range, H and I are really excited about getting away for a few days to explore that region. Wandering the trails in the primeval woods of one of the first, formally preserved nature-reserves in the world, inspired Goethe, Heine and Thomas Pynchon among others. There are churches and abbeys and villages from the Middle Ages and forsaken mines and waterways like the foundations of the Earth that are far more ancient. This blog will probably take a few days hiatus but you can follow all of our adventures on our little travel blog in the next few days.

who invited debbie downer or not merely dead but really, most sincerely dead

Though opinions usually only take a few seconds to cement, especially when already agreeable to one’s conscience, developments that 9-11 mastermind and reclusive Osama bin Laden has been assassinated by an American military team in a mansion in Pakistan take some time to digest. Though I would not want to veer toward the Teabag movement who’d surely not acknowledge that US president Obama could accomplish anything good until and unless a notarized copy of the death certificate is produced and I also wonder if these cryptic tracking devices uncovered embedded in some popular mobile device’s operating systems also mightn’t have hoisted bin Laden by his own petard (“This application would like to use your current location – Allow / Do not Allow”)—having moved on from dispatches via cassette tapes, timing and distraction are always factors that need to be considered.
Because the military-industrial complex and internal politics generally benefitted from having a boogey- man of semi-legendary stature who also conveniently made it acceptable to equate a religion with terrorism, I am disinclined to believe anything other than the opportunity presented itself and this ongoing hunt was concluded. There are many, however, who ascribe themselves to the opinion that the former president instigated the tragedies of nearly a decade past in order to boost his own flagging office and have a reasonable excuse to prosecute war. Given all the calamities that America faces, not least of which is its declining importance on the world stage, it does not seem outrageous that some side-show might be performed to boost the people’s spirits, especially with perpetual campaigning. In the heat of the moment, possibly the siege could not have had a different outcome, but I don’t understand all this blood-lust and surely in terms of obtaining useful insight and intelligence, it would have been better to have captured him alive. Although Saddam Hussein was taken prisoner, some claim that justice was carried out so swiftly precisely because he’d spill some awkward truths that his executioners rather not hear.