In China and various other countries adhering to the same lunar calendar, this day marks the beginning of the Year of the Horse, specifically of the wood horse, one of the five classical elements of the Wŭ Xíng (alchemic) tradition in combination with one of the twelve earthly branches, the animals of the Chinese zodiac, and each iteration occurs every sixty years—plus either a yin or yang year, depending on the reckoning, whether odd or even. An ancient folk story holds that years and their traits were established when the Jade Emperor called a meeting of the principals of the animal kingdom together and said that the procession of the years, the march of time would be named in honour of the delegates arrival and there are various fables that describe that race. Wood is associated with strength but also flexibility, gregariousness and expansion, and the Horse signals extrovertedness and charisma but perhaps also impatience, superficiality and economic troubles.
Friday, 31 January 2014
Thursday, 30 January 2014
As the hyphenated prefixes i- and e- are mostly claimed by private, the US government has grown fond of the old fall-back my for a lot of its self-service applications, mostly cordoned to the vast community of conscientious bureaucrats.
Now the American administration, just as the Affordable Care Act is finding its sea-legs, is introducing the so-called MyRA—for an individual's own individual retirement account (IRA). In other words, the US president wants to afford people the opportunity to supplement their statutory pensions with low- to no-risk investment vehicles for workers who don't have that benefit from their employers, whom are in the majority. I am constantly astounded how the opposition hounds and hobbles best intentions and usually pervert them into something other—like ObamaCare that can sadly now never live up to its expectations, saddled with various riders. I do, however, see rather soberly the outcome of such a surprising and gregarious act. As the very public and autonomic gesture of quantitative easing (read printing money) is rather unpalatable for the trading-houses that would manage these contributions of new and universal investors, it's surely a welcome cover for, I could see this diverting becoming, a mean to absorb US debt outside of such an unsustainable model, and enables business as usual. I do hope hope that the nay-sayers are wrong with this assessment.
Wednesday, 29 January 2014
This day marks the fiftieth anniversary of the release of Stanley Kubrick's master-work Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned how to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, which the New Yorker celebrates with due fanfare for its prescience and enduring relevance.
Partially over revelations of American industrial spying practises and with a modicum of acknowledgment for the outrage over the preference for business rights at the expense of safety, health, livelihoods and the environment, as the Corporate Europe Observatory reports, the European Commission in Brussels have halted talks for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) treaty to submit the agreement to what's being called a “public consultation.”
Such actions, I think, have been on the horizon, waiting in the wings, for some time and authorities with the US Department of Justice (DOJ), championed by investigators—rather character witnesses for the prosecution—with the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) arrested Bitcoin money-changers on charges of money-laundering and drug-trafficking charges.
Monday, 27 January 2014
Sunday, 26 January 2014
As a very fine interstitial-piece during a Sunday afternoon's theme on myth and legend, a network broadcast a documentary from 2007 on the post-modern fable of the Star Wars saga.
Never having taken a cruise or booked a full-pension vacation package, I suppose I had a bit of a naïve view of what kind of impact that a resort really has on an local economy, especially in an industry-model where luxury or authentic experiences are displaced by the accustomed bargain and an unwrested competition to preserve that environment. One such example of devastating consequences, driven by catering to a clientele lured by the dialectic of a package deal, lies in the so called Turkish Rivera, where giant hotels with a lot of logistic help, enabled to a large extent by a international hub managed by the same group that run the Frankfurt airport and facilitate the shuttling of millions of German tourists to the region for cheap holidays.
While German websites in China are going blank over a controversial unmasking concerning Chinese tax-havens and there is some hand-wringing over the decision whether to dub as worthy a connoisseur a share of cultural heritage, Germany is aggressively recruiting nursing assistants to try in a small way to compensate for the shortage of care-givers have imported from China and the first five of an expected 150 nurses have arrived in Frankfurt.
Wednesday, 22 January 2014
Though most product-launches in the hygiene industry are just affirmations of ones inner-verminophobia, however now working in a clinical environment whose undefended boundaries are packed with the everyday filth and detritus and contiguous with work-stations, packed lunches, personal affects, etc.
Tuesday, 21 January 2014
As a fairly regular occurrence—one can almost expect at least one data breach per week, customers have become rather inured to the compromise of their vital demographics in the States—not that this attitude has made the majority more cautious or defensive by any measure, but this sort of development, unprecedented but probably, unfortunately a record soon to be toppled, in Germany inspires users and government agencies alike to circle their wagons.
Monday, 20 January 2014
It's a little bit strange that Germany, modern and advanced with the meta-diplomacy of lobbyists and care-taking, does little to recognize violations of sovereignty on its own soil, real or suspected.
West (where NATO allies seem content to allow the Americans to keep watch), military operations in the lands of East Germany are strictly limited to German activities, without special and rare credentialing. The treaty's drafters argue that there was also the sub-text that the influence of NATO would advance no further east, nor the Warsaw Pact further west, as well—though that condition is placed in a dubious position with the expansion of the alliance to many former Soviet bloc nations (after the union's dissolution, having over-extended its resources in Afghanistan as part of the reason) and hosting multinational training exercises on the Baltic and the build-up of Leipzig airport to handle air-force traffic.
Sunday, 19 January 2014
Virtually unsourced as if it's just an accepted precept—some revisionist bit of Orwellian historyclaiming things have always been this way and not otherwise, the New York Times reported that the National Intelligence Agency has devised a way to access closed computer networks essentially via induction.
Saturday, 18 January 2014
Earlier this week, an independent body of linguists announced the ignoble winner for Un-word of the year for 2013 (Das Unwort des Jahres), ever focussing on the popular euphemisms that the public, politicians and press have adopted that tend to downplay the seriousness behind really heady issues. The jury choose the term Sozialtourismus, referring to the fear of immigrants from eastern European countries newly admitted into the European Union descending on wealthier countries only to receive welfare and not to find jobs.
Though the German government and the people of the world had already lower their expectations regarding real reform to the practises of the fledgling police state that America has become—and from those partners duly or unwittingly deputized, the awkward spectacle of defending the indefeasible and saying essentially nothing by anyone in a position of authority was a more than a little revolting.
After a long slumber, the space probe Rosetta is expected to awaken from hibernation of two years next week, signalling the European Space Agency (ESA) with the message “Hello Darmstadt!” and then slowly schlep into the orbital path of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The architects of the mission hope then the probe, first launched a decade ago to coordinate the encounters, will be able to hitch a ride like the Little Prince in the wake of the shooting-star and shadow the comet for some 18 months, studying its composition and decoding the behaviours of these primordial travellers, before ultimately attempting to land on its surface.
Wednesday, 15 January 2014
Spiegel's international desk has an interesting and humourous postcard on the character, economic collapse taken in stride and subsequent recovery of Iceland. The nation's attitude and come-back certainly makes amends for the past gambling that lead to the crisis—responding in a model-fashion, allowing its banks to fail and political reforms, plus a return to core-competencies and capitalising on native ingenuity that is worthy of precedence. There are also a lot of bonus items contained in this missive: Icelanders are spoilt with geo-thermal energy (also a promising natural resource for future export) to the extent that they can heat their sidewalks with subterranean pipes to prevent them from freezing and water from the tap needs to be cooled below scalding before it can be used and the saying Petta reddast—the mantra that everything will work out.
Tuesday, 14 January 2014
A former professional soccer play (Footballer) a few weeks ago decided to come-out as a homosexual, with the support of coaches, and this personal decision to cast aside shame and stereotype in the athletic world has become a very public matter. Several states in Germany have proposed educational reforms to introduce curricula that normalises non-traditional orientations and family compositions—and while it goes without saying that whatever lesson-plan adopted would address healthy commitments among consensual partners and there's no element of indoctrination in tolerance, acceptance, the chasm of debate shows it is not such an easy decision.
Monday, 13 January 2014
Mental Floss has gathered an interesting though archaic collection of specific terms for family members. Though not in common-parlance, I really appreciate the fact that ones father's sister is properly known as ones fadu and relations should be honoured with more than generic titles, I think.
Most of the catch-all English words—which do certainly enjoy a greater degree of specificity in other languages and cultures, are derived from French and German words. Some of the peculiarities are interesting to note, as well—like the Germanic Eltern for the English parents (from the Latin parens) is always dual and can never signal a single parent, except when constructed as alleinstehende Mutter, or sister-germane, from the Latin germanus for real and sincere and having nothing to be with the exonym for the country.
Some enterprising minds have opened up a new cafe in London, the Presurfer reports, where time is money and patrons pay only based on the time that they are there, clocking in and out with the mug given them at the door. Coffee and light-fare and use of the internet and kitchen are free. Ziferblat (in Russian) and Zifferblatt (in German) is the word for the face of a clock and a similar concept was already debuted here in Wiesbaden in the early summer by another Russian entrepreneur with the same amenities. I think it's a pretty keen idea and I wish both cafes success but I do wonder where people put more a premium on loitering—or are both locales inviting the same, like-minded clientele.
Sunday, 12 January 2014
Actress and activist Joanne Lumley, Bond Girl and Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous, has commissioned architect and civil engineer Thomas Heatherwick to build a pedestrian bridge spanning the Thames.
Saturday, 11 January 2014
I think it is a little sad to take down Christmas decorations prior to Three Kings' Day, the twelfth day of Christmas—especially considering the preparation and the investment of time to trim ones home and then to have to acknowledge that it's all over and back to normal schedules and especially too when the weather has yet to deliver anything seasonal.
It is, however, a little bit unseemly to have public decorations too far after that date. This year, we waited a little too long to take down the Christmas tree. It looked ok and not overly dry, provided that one did not disturb the boughs. After removing the lights and the ornaments there was a thick halo of needles on the floor, raining down every time you touched the branches like one of those sand-paintings. Even more exploded off once the tree was tossed over the balcony, so it could be drug—with due ceremony, mind you, ritualised like every aspect of the holidays (in Sweden, the ceremony is named Julgransplundring—publicised in part by a Swedish furniture giant—when the family plunders the tree for edible ornaments and launches the tree out the window but takes place on the Feast Day of St. Knut, which roughly corresponded with Epiphany under the Julian calendar), to the composting lot, the Christmas tree grave yard.
Do you remember these?
Maybe one day such medical, ideological, litigious and consumptive assaults will appear was antiquated as these outrageous vintage ads—really an assault against humanity, especially the feminine variety, brilliantly curated in Collectors' Weekly gallery on selling shame from the 1950s and beyond and the exhibitions of the outstanding artist and collector behind the blog Do I offend? but it's hard to imagine what more well need to outgrow to top these.
On the way home, noticing the dramatic contrasts of skies and the still green pastures and lapping brook of the village of Döllbach on the border of Hessen and Bavaria at the foothills of the Rhön, I stopped at the seventeenth century church dedicated to Saint Odile (auch Ottilia oder Odilie). Just opposite there was a spring, the source of the nearly over-flowing stream, also named after the saint traditionally from Alsace (Elsass), and having learnt a bit about her legend and hagiography, wondered if it was not so named with respect to some healing properties of the waters.
The story goes that Odile was born blind to an aristocratic family and her father, rejecting a disabled child, sent her to be raised by peasants. Baptised at the age of twelve (around the year 670), she miraculously had her vision restored, and after her canonisation was popularly venerated in France, Germany and Switzerland as the patroness of eye-sight—especially at the time before the invention of corrective lenses. Now sighted, Odile's brother brought her back to the family estate—which made Odile's father so angry he killed the brother, accidentally, and still rejected his daughter, the duke fearing that the church and monasteries were a threat to his power and embarrassed to disclose to his subjects that he had banished his daughter, whom the faith had made whole.
She restored her brother to life and the two fled across the Rhine to Basel and her father gave up pursuit. Father and daughter were ultimately reconciled years later, after the duke's health started suffering, and he constructed a convent, Hohenburg Abbey, in the Bas Rhin for her to oversee. The duke, Eticho of Alsace who was the founding-father of the Hapsburg family line, is too venerated as a saint for this death-bed conversion, a popular example, especially for the nobility, perhaps with the message that secular powers and piety could be harmonised.
Friday, 10 January 2014
Thursday, 9 January 2014
Via the intrepid and inquiring Nag on the Lake, a single one of Intel's latest batch of innovations introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has captivated the public above others. This so called smart-bowl is basically a vide-poche, a place to deposit the contents of one's pockets at the end of the day, which generates an electric field to transfer energy from the bowl to a cellular phone or some other battery-operated gadget within via induction and without wires. Though inductive charging is not the most efficient method and only works at a very close range, the idea is pretty clever and maybe will led to improvements in the technology, particularly for something like electric cars that could charge passively without plugs and cables.
Wednesday, 8 January 2014
Despite the headlines, Germany, like America has far from a monolithic climate, but nonetheless the weather reports on opposite sides of the Atlantic could not be further apart. While in Germany, we have been spoilt by a series of glorious, balmy days that seems more like an extremely early Spring than a lingering Autumn, in contrast parts of the US have been dealing with unprecedented lows. Birds are confused and flowers are blooming.
Tuesday, 7 January 2014
A skeuomorph (from the Greek for vessel or tool and shape) is a derivative embellishment that cues an operator to a function by invoking some older physical, mechanical element. The icons of graphic interfaces are vast arrays of skeuomorphs—like the symbol of a paper envelope for e-mail, a pad-lock, a waste-bin. None of these representations exist within the computer—like the orientation of PLAY pointing to the right and REWIND to the left, there being no direction but rather an allusion to mechanism of older video and cassette players, but skeoumorphism is not limited to the quiver of familiar icons.
There's quite a range of abstractions that fall into this category—I think, to include gestures and gesticulations like widely recognized pantomime for call me or for what time is it, though the instruments likely to be used are quite other in form, not to mention things like vestigial cross-beams or pockets or Ersatz books in the office or buttons and the rendering of busyness over the hull of a star-ship that's more decorative than functional—like the Borg Cube or the trench of the Death Star. There's also the subtler touches, like having a digital camera click its shutter for a satisfying and familiar sound. There has even been proposed legislation that a such devices retain this feature so people know if they are being photographed at close range—and I suppose, so the photographer is making a more conscience decision to take a picture too. Slight and flimsy gadgets are also routinely weighted down with some added metal purely to give the object a feeling of heft and thus better quality.
Monday, 6 January 2014
The UK Guardian features a rather sobering assessment for what this new year might hold, a refrain of hostilities a hundred years ago hence, which would mean that the season of commemorations assay something surpassingly ironic in their keeping, rather than the chance for honest reflection on the frailty of the human condition and wisdom, as it should be—if the warnings of this Cambridge history professor prove prescient by any degree.
Sunday, 5 January 2014
On the way to Köln for New Year's celebrations, we noticed a Turistic-Tafel, one of those brown and white illustrated signs that offer what historic or cultural attractions one can find at the next exit, and since it was just at the start of our journey and it was another fair and sunny afternoon, I decided to investigate.
The town hosted a palatial Renaissance residence for the counts of Nassau, which is now used as a boarding school—including for one in the line, Adolf, King of Germany, who was once on the short-list to become the Holy and Roman Emperor of the Germans but was unceremoniously displaced by the Hapsburg family. Looking at this finely preserved city-centre, one wonders how history would be changed by the detail of that time-line.
This view is from the steps of Hexenturm, whose turret appears behind the ensemble of the old Rathaus below, which means witches' tower, though no witches ever endured an unfortunate incarceration there, the town did have quite a few victims of a series of witch-hunts in the seventeenth century and a plaque at the base of the tower is dedicated to their memories.
Behind the collection of signature Fachwerk (half-timbered) buildings, one can make out the steeple of the now consecrated Unionskirche, originally a Gothic edifice built on the ruins of an earlier Romanesque—the town lying directly on the Limes with quite a bit of revival and other remnants of the far-reaches of the Roman Empire in Germany. The building does seem a bit plain from the outside, but the interior is very ornate, replete with a ceiling of panels from the Gospels. It was a very nice place for a windshield-tour but certainly worthy of more and I am excited to go back someday soon.
Saturday, 4 January 2014
Newsweek has a clever and alluring review of the new work by Timothy Morton, entitled Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World, which sounds like a very interesting, if not important and disabusing read. Invoking the apocalypse itself, by hook or crook, is a tautologism, because it is very human-centred and is a good invitation to consider the author's school of metaphysics, called object oriented ontology—which is a way of thinking about the universe that unseats the reigning ideas of an anthropomorphic universe and that things, even the named-nightmares that can be expressed in awful statistics, like traffic-deaths and the loss of rain-forests, have real consequences and existence independent of human perception and opinion.
East Side Gallery remnants of the Berlin Wall, but it is worthy of note that all these particular monuments were located in America or China. Is there something slated for demolition in your community that you believe is worth preserving? What can you do to fight for it?
In the European Union, there is a hat-full of regulations regarding the legal status of electronic-cigarettes, regarding sales, taxation, possession and whether such devices and activity is to be classed with restrictions on tobacco-products or bans on smoking. The activity itself has been dubbed by word-smiths in the United States as vaping—from the vaporising chamber that the cig-a-like devices use to heat up a liquid mixture to deliver the nicotine and produce a little puff of odourless smoke for effect.
There is, I understand, a new e-cigarette lounge at Heathrow Airport, and though I have seen such devices for sale in Germany, I have not yet seen them yet being embraced by bars and clubs, which have seen a down-turn in patronage, supposed, over smoking restrictions. What do you think? Vaping surely is it a wholesome or value-added habit but certainly seems better and safer than other natural methods for satisfying a craving, be it physiological or psychological. I wonder if there will be two-tiered culture of addiction in the future, with vapeurs and synthahol-drinkers unable to abide the company of their traditionalist counterparts.