Thursday, 30 May 2013
PfRC will be on hiatus shortly for an over-due vacation through Switzerland on to the borderlands of Italy and Lake Como, plus where ever the road takes us. Please stay tuned for on-going adventures.
An international team of alchemists have proven their metal and have explained in a repeatable and applicable way how liquid cement (Beton) can be magicked into a liquid glass-like conductive material.
Though I had given up hope, more or less dismissing stories of friends of friends' computers spontaneously reviving themselves after an accidental spill as the stuff of urban legend, I tried again earlier today, absently and without expectation. But lo and behold, after the sixth day, which seemed to be a common experience and I had tried repeatedly in the interim, it came on.
Wednesday, 29 May 2013
More statutory notifications of intent to furlough (beurlaubt) US federal works are being distributed within hard and fast guidelines, though some agencies have chosen to be proactive instead of reactive in meeting this mandate.
Monday, 27 May 2013
Over the past several weeks, there have been a series of ninnying events though while far from spoiling our time together away from work, that grey immanence not having undue influence after hours, have presented challenges or bluffs that we not the choicest. First, I thought I had lost all my keys entirely—though I later found after a lot of bother that I had in fact had them with me the entire time, packed away in advance. Now, I've ruined a perfectly good computer (read: on its last legs, although functional and ironically lamented nearly on a delay basis that it was due for an upgrade) by sloshing a glass of wine over it and most of the entire dining table.
Saturday, 25 May 2013
Mental Floss guest blogger Erik Sass is continuing his excellent and engrossing day-by-day accounts of events one hundred years ago, leading up to the outbreak of the Great War. Sass’ 70th installment recounts the shocking and consequential spy scandal that shook confidence in Austro-Hungary’s intelligence service and may have compromised the Empire’s defensive strategies and offensive contingencies to the Russians and their allies—potentially provocative triggers to know how one’s enemy might react to a given set of circumstances.
The espionage affair centred around Colonel Alfred Redl, chief of the military spy programme, and though one may never know his exact motives or to what extent fretful extortion and blackmail was pressured upon him, and his private life, which would have destroyed his career on its own if he were outed. Industrious and innovative, Redl quickly ingratiated himself up in the ranks of the army, through a series of post usually reserved for aristocrats and titled-elite and plied tools of quite progressive techniques in intelligence-gathering, like wire-tapping, covert photography and hand-writing analysis. Whether simply motivated to kept rather open-secrets subdued or sell real secrets to promote an increasingly extravagant and bold lifestyle, we may never know for certain—and probably nothing at all about this intrigue were it not for the confessions of the woman engaged as Redl’s beard, his alibi, who expressed concerns about his involvement with the Russia military. In apparently a carrot-and-stick approach, Redl was encouraged to sell Austrian and German plans to the Russians, in exchange for large sums money, delivered anonymously by post. Hoisted by his own petard while stationed in Prague, it was one of Redl’s early suggestions of data-mining and triangulation that lead to suspicions of his loyalty and his eventual capture. A search of his apartment and interviews with liaisons uncovered (implicating many others in the army) the lifestyle that he struggled to keep hidden.
Thursday, 23 May 2013
This rainy and gloomy afternoon, another one in a series that’s really inverted the calendar all over again, turned into a perfect opportunity to spend some time in the local museum, quite a celebrated institution, and sheltering from the nasty weather in the endless maze of galleries, I really enjoyed myself.
The Wiesbaden collection consists to a large extent of the encyclopedic anthologies of the family of Johann Isaak von Gerning donated to the state, but due to the constraints of time and space, rotates its exhibitions with a hauntingly perfect thematic unity. A little leitmotif, follow the bouncing ball, subtlety tied everything together as I advanced from hall to hall.
One great interest of von Gerning was rejoicing in his native Rhine and the museum composed a very nice display of landscapes, and it was interesting to see a romanticized and sometimes fantastically impossible portrayal of some of the places we’ve seen in the area and places yet to visit—but that’s what art is and for an accurate image, one should settle with a photograph. Numerous guest painters who had also visited the Rhine’s castles and mountains also shared their impressions.
The landscapes were punctuated with examples of baroque-era taxidermy and entomological collections, which were repeated later in the complimentary exhibits that featured the aesthetics of Nature in several acts, the whole spectrum of colour, range of motion and variations on any given theme. The permanent stores on show were also interspersed with some pretty unique installations of post-modern art that amazingly contributed to the natural progression.
Wednesday, 22 May 2013
There’s an instrument of disabuse for everyday assumptions and likelihoods that I had not heard of before called Bayesian Probability, after its proponent 18th century English poly-math and minister, Thomas Bayes. Intent on rescuing providence, rationally, from chance, Bayes championed a sort of inverted inspection of odds, imploring people to look to prior arrangements and question how the deck may be stacked and weighted in favour of certain outcomes. Although modern interpretations of Bayes’ thinking maybe over-reach his original context, the notion that probability—writ large and scientish, is based in part on belief is not something merely synonymous with gullibility and naivety and magical-thinking.
Tuesday, 21 May 2013
Monday, 20 May 2013
Though there’s a lot going on besides and notwithstanding my laissez-faire approach to crafting plans—although there’s barely a shade’s difference between preparation and spontaneity since both approaches aim for the same happy outcome, I always feel guilty about been thrown into a much-deserved vacation-mode—especially one long deferred.
Sunday, 19 May 2013
Once again driving to my workweek apartment, and hardly needing to use my car during the week and so intent on combining errands and excursions but I hope not unreasonably so, I tried to explore a bit of the environs along the way and especially the lesser known attractions that we might not have the chance to see together. Not far removed from my destination, I came upon the town of Hofheim am Taunus, a bedroom community bridging the metropolises of Frankfurt and Wiesbaden and the immediate neighbour of Eppstein, but since it was late in the day and the weather threatened storms, I saved touring the ensemble of the Altstadt for another time and sought out the remote Bahá’ï House of Worship (Haus der Andacht, after its Arabic name for the dawning-place of the remembrance of God).
Saturday, 18 May 2013
In Germany, there are over six-hundred distinct varieties of bread and some additional twelve-hundred permutations of baking besides. Not including beer-brews, which Germany might be more renowned for and enjoy actually a legal status that classifies and protects them as a liquid bread, these hundreds of different recipes and preparations are governed, unsurprisingly and meticulously, by a system of standards that codify traditional variations on a theme.
Friday, 17 May 2013
I heard that the European Union parliament issued a rather embarrassing, and I think, patronising decision that effective at the beginning of next year will make those condiment trays, vials, carafes of salad oil and vinegar and similar containers go the way of ashtrays on restaurant tables.
Thursday, 16 May 2013
The American political landscape is really being whipped up into a frothy mess and through the spray and roil, it’s becoming impossible to distinguish among what’s generally and authentically chilling, what’s motivated but isolated, and what’s coloured by two-speed spin. Not that the volume and authorship of past transgressions excuse or assign non-cultural blame to any of current and lingering scandals, but the tempo of the demands are absolutely wilting: the US tax authority targeting conservative groups—be they called patriots or traitors, aggressive wire-tapping of journalists in apparent retribution—be they called patriots or traitors, the laming or disburdening of the functionaries of government—be they worker-bees or drones. This tug-of-war is being waged over the delicate and deliberative field of social reforms, statecraft and choices confounded by economic straits and must surely have a shrill and dulling effect. I think it shows how polarised America is becoming and reaching across the aisle is a quickly receding possibility.
Wednesday, 15 May 2013
German courts have made a ruling against a major driver of the internet, essentially establishing that anticipating a seeker’s search query is badgering and putting potentially libelous words into one’s mouth. Now, individuals can petition, administratively embargo the internet and have false or unflattering suggested results disassociated and stricken. What do you think? Is auto-complete a useful and non-sensational tool—like spell-check, our friend, unbiased and regulated by the hive of users or is it prejudicial and a potential source for infamy? This decision will certainly carry precedence and cause repercussions. Will the over-class and industry later gain license to prune and preen their public perceptions as rumours and unfounded or will reputations of by-standers be protected?
Tuesday, 14 May 2013
Indubitably superior to any cookbook or restaurant guide, the cataloguers at Mental Floss present a superb and saintly calendar of various patrons of food and drink. Though often times the association is lost, it’s really interesting to learn about the better angles of our cuisine and maybe to whom to turn for intercession for both cooking and greater crises.
In response to horrible traffic snarls that converged on the town of Swindon between Bristol and Reading, civil engineers installed this intimidating-looking but ingeniously effective array of roundabouts in the early 1970s.
Monday, 13 May 2013
Sunday, 12 May 2013
It turns out this town, displaying quietly all past influences as an agricultural area with ample spacing of field and farm among the skyscrapers, as a military garrison town for different powers (Camp Phönix is a commercial park, which hosted no decent flea-market as advertised, converted from a former US Army base that existed in the area until 1992), and most recently as a business annex of sorts for multi-national concerns, who’ve taken up residence here in order to be close to Frankfurt but avoiding the city’s corporate and property tax rates.
I’m as likely to find anything by chance but I did stop here to seek out the Sculpture Axis, an exhibition of public modern art, which I was looking to find in some sculpture garden but the display continues in sort of a scavenger-hunt, I saw later, along certain lines of latitude and longitude and I suppose that I’d need to do some geo-caching to find Travel-a-Head, giant chair and the rest of the collection—or maybe just keep on in a straight line but the weather was being a bit dramatic.
Saturday, 11 May 2013
People at flea-markets are universally keen on selling souvenirs—which is something I could never understand, unless maybe they inherited a collection of memories that they had no relationship with nor access to or bought them themselves at other sales and later decided that their accumulations ought to be culled. The cogent fact is, however, I suppose that people bringing plastic bins of old records, catalogues of old photos, travel mementos for display never have a guarantee that they be made to part with any of it and are probably caught off guard when someone does offer to buy some keepsake or another.
I have found a lot of cool stuff, sentimental to someone or otherwise, and though there are things I would not part with, having become some of the household artefacts, I’d be willing to entertain offers—especially in a situation where an uncaring relative cast off some keepsake and came into my collection. H was not very impressed by I enjoyed these couple of items found at a flea market just across the former border separating East from West Germany—die neue Bundesländer, so called literally because the government of the GDR was not a federal authority and the traditional state structure (restored with the reunion) did not exist, but rather districts (Bezirke) but also used figuratively, I suppose, as parts and places still held with a certain otherness.
I found this pretty neat little brass plate with the enameled flag of the DDR flying in solidarity with the Soviet banner, the USSR, the UdSSR or the CCCP, and this hinged plastic box, which contained a bunch of unsent post-cards from the Soviet Union’s far eastern autonomous republic of Kazakhstan with several undated scenes from Almaty (Алматы or Alma-Ata as the former capital was known back then, a construction of two Turkic terms for apple and father, owning to all the different apple cultivars found in the area and probably the origin of the first orchards). There are a lot of places yet to learn about and to see and to re-visit, and I am grateful that I found a bit of another destination for inspiration.
Friday, 10 May 2013
The last contemporary scandal of German politics to shake tigers into the streets was over plagiarism and ill-gotten academic accolades, be they vanity diplomas even so.
The behaviour was less than inspirational and invited in quite a witch-hunt among the rank and file. Politicians, by nature I think, are not ones to relinquish due-credit in any form and scholastic dishonestly is probably a gateway fib.
Thursday, 9 May 2013
This day, coinciding the late night capitulation of Nazi Germany of 1945 to the Soviet army, after midnight according to Moscow time (executed in Reims, France) but observed on the day prior by Western European countries, is universally recognised as Europe Day for the Schuman Declaration of 1950 that founded what would become the European Union.
Wednesday, 8 May 2013
I took a stroll by the old Schlachthof (abattoir) in the open lands behind the train station, which has been repurposed as a pretty vibrant Culture Centre. I noticed that the trash bins in the surrounding park and outdoor stage were fitted with these thoughtful cup holders—thinking that some Good Samaritan decided that people ought to have a stable place to rest their drinks, the Centre being a busy venue for a lot of performers, while at a concert.
Although the borough of Kastel (née Mainz) is the most contested concession of the Palatinate to the State of Hessen, there are other communities, which I discovered taking a long stroll along the banks of the Rhein and into the industrial areas. Collectively, the annexed townships are referred to as the A.K.K. Konflikt—for Amöneburg, Kastel and Kostheim, and inter-bellum, the buffer between the People’s Republic of Hessen and the Prussian hold-out of Hessen-Nassau. The neighbourhood that I explored, Amöneburg, fronts the river with an array of chemical and cement factories, whose founding has its own history that is parallel but also independent of the zoning and redistricting.
I know that Germany’s waterways are carefully placed powerhouses but there’s always quite an abrupt contrast, just down river from more palatial scenes. There’s a factory in my neighbourhood too—for bottling champagne (Sekt) which is consistently stinkier than these industrial plants.
Of course there’s more to this community than just the factories, which I want to discover, but it does cast an impressive skyline. One cement concern with a large footprint, complete with green spaces and several foundations for the good of the community, made an exact copy of a Mithra stone, a Roman mystery cult with Persian roots from late antiquity found in the area—namely in Neuenheim-Heidelberg.
I wonder if the spread of such iconography was not intentional with this relic. Business is yet vibrant but I still do ask whether there is not some lazy, economic compunction towards making this activity, for the uninitiated, an exercise in out-sourcing.
What do you think?
There is certainly the prevailing not-in-my-backyard mentality, coupled and in contrast with the hopes for local engagement. Are such monuments to production, however carefully negotiated and managed with respect for aesthetics and the environment, something flagging and out-moded? Enterprise, being what it is, is hardly a clean matter but the rust-belts and relics created once production is out-sourced, shifted elsewhere by enterprising minds hoping to realise greater profit and more flexibility, do not bespeak good governance nor agility either.