Tuesday, 31 December 2013

happy new year

Dear Readers,
Best wishes for an auspicious and healthy new year. Thanks for visiting and party on.

Monday, 30 December 2013


Europe will begin commemorations of the centennial of the Great War next summer, marking the outbreak of fighting that began in late July a hundred years ago and the short-live*d armistice that followed over four long and horrific years later on 11 November 1918. The chosen means of remembrance, however, are not without controversy, both within and without—with many groups opposed to scheduled events for various reasons from dishonour through tourism exploitations, a celebration of nationalism and worse yet a kind of forgetting that makes war more palatable. Wounds that can never heal are being re-opened among combatants become allies as well.
The UK plans more than two thousand venues over the next four years, and while surely a noble and enlightening thing, also risks glorifying war and re-enforcing a lesson that humans have yet to learn. In contrast, aggressor states plan parallel but more subdued events, though the perception now is that Germany then does not own World War I like they do World War II with all the connotations. Perhaps the reason behind this notion and other modes of commemorations is due to the fact that there are no more soldiers and by-standers alive today that experienced the trenches and the dread new machines of war first hand. What do you think? Do some means of keeping make for something demeaning and ignoring that the default-setting for Europe (and abroad) for all of history was that of battles and skirmishes? Be sure to follow developments and pivotal events on MentalFloss' ongoing series on World War I.


Last week on the radio I listened to a report that was really more of a sad fable, entitled “The Last Cow” about a village in the Swabian region and the decision of the last rancher there to ironically buy the farm and retire with no heirs to take over the family business, purportedly run since Roman times. The German title for the report (Der Letztes Küh) sounded like “the last coup” but the German word for coup d'etat or blow is the funner word Putsch.

It was a tragic narrative, since such a choice looks like it cannot be undone and abandoning agriculture is not something that one can recapture later on, and recounting personal memories of the slow disassembly and compartmentalisation of the community over the lifetimes of the people being interviewed. Though the end result is obvious—houses becoming things unto themselves and independent of any neighbourly infrastructure or else given up for convenience and opportunity, it is unclear what the anchorage is for these small villages. Beyond one farmer's nostalgia, which nonetheless establishes very true facts about the condition of such withering communities, there was formerly a brewery that incentivized young people to remain as well as all the supporting infrastructure, schools and churches. While it is a patent fact for the moment that Germany's agricultural bounty can still provide a lot—weekly markets and even supermarkets able to satisfy most needs produced locally, and a surplus, Bavaria, for instance, has still seen its agricultural experts halved within the past decade. It's hard to say what lesson that this sort of fable, repeated too often, is giving.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

fish rissoles

Though we could have accomplished this delicious kitchen experiment without the aid of our new many-headed hydra of a food processor (ein Kuchenmaschine), I don't know that we would have attempted it otherwise—plus it was a good initial test workout for a lot of the machine's capabilities.

To make four good sized fish patties, one will need:

  • 200 g of Salmon fillet (fresh or frozen)
  • 200 g of Sea Bass (fresh or frozen)
  • 4 – 6 small Spring Onions
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pinch, to taste, of Chili Powder
  • 6 tablespoons of of fine breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 1 bunch of fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons of margarine to fry the patties
  • Some flour to coat the patties

In preparation, depending whether one uses fresh or frozen fish—as they tend to chop-up better in the food processor when slightly frosty, either freeze fresh fish for about an hour or allow frozen fish to thaw out for a couple hours. Dice the fish into smallish cubes, slice roughly the parsley and combine with the seasonings, breadcrumbs and the egg into the food processor and mix thoroughly. 
Get a frying pan ready with the margarine in the meantime and warm to medium heat. Form the mixture into four patties and roll in flour. Fry the patties in the pan for about two to three minutes on each side. The outside will be a little crisp and the patties will have the look and consistency of crab-cakes.

The sauce is optional but makes a good compliment. Immediately after the fish patties are finished, pour the cup of milk and cup of sour cream into the hot pan and add finely chopped dill. Stir with a spatula for about a minute and serve with the serve with the fish.

Enjoy with a side dish of potato dumplings or potato salad and a fine adult beverage.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

sugar and spice

It seems that the European Union sometimes goes after the low-hanging fruit and tries to regulate to death the weak and the vulnerable—for example the recent assault against traditional Danish baked goods and strictures on how much cinnamon is safe for consumption, especially when strewn atop the vehicle of the sweet roll.

Despite customs and recipes that have gone on for centuries, authorities are focusing their attention on the naturally-occurring toxin called coumarin, present in trace amounts in cinnamon but also responsible for the smell of freshly-mowed grass and botanists believe it is a deterrent against grazers. Some concessions are allowed for holiday treats and other products like May wine that is distilled with woodruff (Waldmeister, another poison-laden culprit that's usually replaced with artificial colours and flavours) and there's some evidence from practioners of homeopathy for coumarin's benefits, but EU officials are concerned that the spice could contribute to liver dysfunction, if bakers were left to the own devices.

psalm qualms

The Swiss Society for the Public Good is sponsoring a contest with an honourarium to replace the old national anthem with a new work more reflective of the modern, independent confederation and Swiss character. Traditionalists are understandably upset since the reform is perceived as change for change's sake and the old anthem (German: Hymne) is a beautifully composed piece but more fitting for a psalm, as it was originally meant to be, and not something stirring or uniting like Rule Britannia or La Marseillaise, which no one would think of changing one jot or tittle even though lyrics nowadays are a little over the top.

Far from some tuneless drone or directionless march that other countries employ, the psalm was written in the mid 19th century and adopted to replace words set to the tune of God Save the Queen, popular all across Europe and erstwhile at the time. Proponents of change, on the other hand, vehemently claim that no one really knows the words to the song and described as a cross between a sermon and a weather forecast, only codified as an anthem officially in 1981, no one has a real cultural investment in the piece. The contest's sponsors will not pick a winner unilaterally, however, but bring the matter to a national referendum in the summer.

Friday, 27 December 2013

terra incognito

Gizmodo (via the Presurfer) features a gallery of historic maps of the Americas made before the idea (knowledge of geography being what it is, rightly or wrongly) of the shapes of the continents and coast had fully cemented in the heads of European explorers.
It took centuries, for example, to disabuse cartographers from the conception that California was not some disembodied island already, and some are effacingly honest, like the chart called, “Map of New-England, Being the First That Ever Was Here Cut, and Done by the Best Pattern That Could Be Had, Which Being in Some Places Defective, It Made the Other Less Exact: Yet Doth It Sufficiently Shew the Scituation of the Country, and Conveniently” and shewing a part of Pennsylvania and a part of Long Iſland.

the rowdy girls

After granting clemency to one certain former oligarch imprisoned in a Siberian gulag, an amnesty law led to the pardoning of thousands of inmates in Russia, including a girl-band and environmental activists. Their crimes?

To be specific, according to German news sources, Rowdytum—rowdiness, and was on the law books until just recently. I suppose that the message is still status-non-gratis, since I guess those freed prisoners would not challenge the authorities after serving their commuted sentences and going through that experience, and I am not sure if the term хулиганство has other connotations, but the German mixed-designation does sound much better than its literal alternatives, like disturbing the peace, yobbishness or chavtastic. Though far from ideal, I'd suggest judicious use of criticism as many governments fancy their worst example peerless and tolerable at the same time without savouring the irony. I admit, however, I had never heard the word used until this latest iteration of jubilee. I knew the usage, though, as the German version of Die Simpsons refers to the characters Nelson Muntz, Jimbo Jones, Kearney Zzyzwick and Dolph Starbeam collectively as die Rowdys.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

black-tie, white-hat or smoking

I got (and hopefully gave too) quite a brilliant stash of fancy and unique gifts this year and one of the many creative ones I got was this vest from my parents. It's tailored like a formal garment but has the addition of a hoodie to make it truly functional. Though leagues better, it reminds me of those tee-shirts from an earlier age printed like a neck-tie and a dress shirt, and would indeed make a waist-coat to complete a tuxedo ensemble. It German, such a specific suit and dress-code is referred to as a Smoking, rather than a tux (named after the exclusive Hudson, New York neighbourhood Tuxedo Park) after the English-term smoking-jacket—which is a bit misleading since I think of a smoking-jacket as lounge-wear, a bathrobe or something that Hugh Hefner has made his signature outfit.
 Just before the holidays, H and I went to party that was headlined with a local cover-band who called themselves No Smoking—not Rauchen verboten! but rather we realised later that [wir tragen] kein Smokings, which was a little confused in itself as the band was dressed with mismatched black jackets and white shirts, and I think even one member wore one of those tee-shirts with a bow-tie and vest.

second christmas, christmas seconds

For Boxing Day or Zweite Weihnachtsferien, as it is known in the German Sprachraum, I just wanted to share some outdoors scenes of Christmas markets and decor from over the years that I came across. Most of the photographs are from Germany but the gallery begins with a few from festive Prague.  We hope everyone had a merry little Christmas time.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

repatriation or silver and gold

 Germany Central Bank has announced that it is their intention to return some thirty-seven tonnes—the metric ton, which is always an important distinction, like among pounds (#, £), poids and Pfunde (℔), of gold bars stored in facilities in New York and Paris. When approached, authorities at the Bundesbank would not go so far to express any misgivings in the faith—in terms of security or integrity, for the host countries storing the diversified treasury, and possibly the conditions that prompted holding specie elsewhere simply do not exist any longer.  No word on how this mission is to be executed either and whether there will be specially-appointed gold-bearers.
Still it seems hard to accept otherwise—that there is not some element of distrust or, on the other hand, wanting to divest oneself of liability on the part of the holding-groups, in action, until one considers that this move, massive as it is, and representing over one billion euro of bullion is still only about one-tenth of one percent of Germany's foreign gold reserves, squirreled away in hundreds of other vaults—presenting an actuarial and logistics nightmare, with projections to store half of the horde in-country within the next six years.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

In Western traditions under the Gregorian (Common) calendar, holidays begin a stroke past midnight on the calendar (from the Latin kalendæ, the name of the first day of every month—like ides for middle of the month) day—with the exception of Christmas and Saint Nicklaus Day, in German and Scandinavian Lutheran traditions, which is when a Santa Claus-like figure brings gifts and is a de-conflation of some of the mixed influences that mark Yuletide customs today.
The keeping of Christmas Eve is in deference to the time-keeping of Judaism and Orthodox Christianity, that reckoned days transitioned at sundown, which in turn goes back to the first lines of the Book of Genesis, which ordered the First Day as evening followed by morning.

2013 annual

As the year draws to a close with the convenient bookends of a calendar, it is remarkable to look back and see some of the nascent events—themselves a part of an unbroken chain of consequences and choices, scatter broadly over time and culture. Once plotted and understood in terms of custody and causation, I wonder if anything will go without attribution—though that's, I think, beyond the jurisdiction and competency of PfRC, in the future. I also wonder post-axiomatic logic is such a good thing in itself, since those influences are subject to interpretation and partisanship, which is somewhat easier and self-affirming that research and reasoning. Let's see what surprises remain and what's incubating.

january or alright, mister demille, i'm ready for my re-take: The year began with double-bluffs of the so-called fiscal cliff, culminating in a season of paralysis and donning and doffing blame and responsibilities that led to the furloughing of federal workers and a complete government shutdown for the United States. Looming civil conflicts in Syria are re-polarising politics and set the stage for a redux of colonialism, which really coloured the rest of the year.
february or sede vacante: The newly installed young leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea continues to provoke the international community through ever more aggressive nuclear testing—although Kim Jong-Un, though the help of special emissaries, has back-down somewhat, only to have those aspirations compensated with increased isolation and executing relatives and ex-partners. A meteor exploded over a Russian city and video footage was caught by dozen of dashboard-mounted cameras. Prosthetic limbs are created with three-dimensional printing techniques. German Pope Benedict XVI resigned his post, becoming the first pontiff to do so voluntarily in over eight hundred years.
march or habemus papem: Francis I is elected as Pope, becoming the first Jesuit pope and the first from the New World, and throughout the remainder of the year, calls for reforms in the Church and surprises the whole world with his humility and acts of loving-kindness. The financial ministries of the EU agree on a pact to stave off bankruptcy in Cyprus and Luxembourg, but crises are not avoided altogether.
april or iron lady: A slow-cooker converted into an explosive is detonated during the Boston Marathon. A commercial building in Bangladesh collapses, killing hundreds and injuring thousands. Former divisive but influential UK Prime Minister Margret Thatcher passes away.
may or songs that made the hit parade: Human stem-cells are created by cloning. We had to say goodbye to the stage and screen actress, Jean Stapleton. Consumers and national fronts reject corn and other staples exported from the US due to concerns over the safety of genetically modified food-stuffs and the risk of contamination to the food-chain and larger ecology.  A lot of other supranational and corporately unilateral treaties find themselves in jeopardy later on.
june or i-spy: Former NSA contractor flees to Hong Kong, releasing a cache of files on surveillance practises of the US and partner spy agencies. The uproar wells through out the year as the scope unfolds.
july or countermand: Dissatisfied with the countries leadership since the discharge of Mubarak and a crack-down precipitated against more conservative elements, a counter-revolution brings violence to Egypt and results in the closure of foreign missions and a general retreat by Western powers. Prince George is born in London, one day heir to the British crown. After more than a decade of conflict, the United States is forced to rethink the timeline for withdrawal in Afghanistan.
august or from russia, with love: We had to say goodbye to journalist and anchorman, Sir David Frost. America's Central Intelligence Agency admitted it's role in orchestrated the 1953 coup d'état in Iran. The partner of the chief journalist and confidante of Edward Snowden is detained in transit for what information he might have been privy to. Now holed up in Russia, concepts like airspace and sovereignty and statelessness are matters of discussion—besides from boundaries and trust trounced upon.
september or fabu: Many athletes and activists are calling for boycotting the Winter Games in Sochi due to the host nation's stance on gay rights. No amends were forthcoming although the hosts rescinded early warning that the safety of gay olympians could not be protected. Possibly the exposure and pressure lead to a tumult of unexpected state-pardons later in the year. 2013 was a banner-year for gay-rights internationally, however, with the US Supreme Court refusing to uphold the Defence of Marriage Act and recognition creeping into legislatures around the world.
october or hatee, hatee, hatee-ho: The quirky hit by a Norwegian musical duo quickly went viral. We had to say goodbye to novelist Tom Clancy and to stellar musician Lou Reed. Those responsible for the disruptive suspension of government services in the US escaped revolt and being held to account by technical glitches on the universal health-care sign-up web-site that was the source of all this testing of the wills in the first place.
november or zeitgeist: A powerful typhoon lands on Vietnam and the Philippines, causing grave damage and killing thousands. We also had to say goodbye to author Doris Lessing. A haul of missing art treasures first identified by German customs officials in Münich, not see since before WWII, again came into media attention.
december or madiba: South African president and reformer Nelson Mandela passes away at the age of 95. We also had to say goodbye to actor Peter O'Toole. China lands the first probe on the Moon since 1976.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

i'm okeh—thanks, and you?

Although brief and near instantaneous correspondence is nothing new and certainly is not solely a legacy of today's generations, this multiple-choice example from the so-called series of correspondence cards from the Dizzy line of the Curt Teich Publishing House from 1921 are a pretty interesting phenomenon, especially in their original form.

Teich, who immigrated from Thüringen to Chicago at the turn of the century to found his company, was one of the architects of the post card industry, aligned with the growing mobility of the masses and the chance to take holiday in ports-of-call further a-field, and introduced picture postcards emblazoned with bold lettering, announcing “Greetings from ________.” Though it was not a fill-in-the-blank job, unlike with these correspondence cards that let one check off any vacation contingency. I suppose back then, however, there was always an invitation to friends and neighbour to come over for a slide-show presentation detailing one's adventures in full to follow-up on this short-shrift. What other forms of communication might be formula-writing—or at least begging a calculated response?


Gizmodo's Sploid shares this handy field-guide to identifying drones (UAVs—unmanned aerial vehicles) overhead by their silhouettes from below.

It sort of reminds me how they say sharks target surfers because paddling, they look like seals to the hunter, rather than just a human meal of opportunity. One can find further details at the link, but I am sure it's not comprehensive and not like a bird-watchers' guide by virtue that these breeds are highly-invasive and don't stick to their native range and are prone to evolve pretty quickly. One can print the chart oneself or order it printed on mirrored foil, I suppose, to wrap around oneself as a cloaking-device when out and about, under the friendly-skies.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

ped x-ing or hand-jive

The X in X-mas comes from an initialism of the Greek name for Christ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ, a shorthand employed by Biblical scholars and others to abbreviate things to do with Jesus or the Cross (writ both large and small—Celtic monks in Germany monasteries incidentally invented a lower-case script with punctuation for the Greeks to make reading easier) and these signs and signals are reflected in the iconography of Jesus and the saints in hand-gestures that amount to a sort of finger-spelling. These poses, each understood to audiences in a specific way, were in turn a traditional and long-established system of rhetorical gestures used by speech-makers in Antiquity to cue their listeners to something important or to mark a transition.

A parallel supplemental language is to be found in the mudrās of the Buddhist tradition, which while having symbolic significance in their portray are moreover a kind of digital yoga, each pose and arrangement having a specific mental and physical influence on the practitioner—not to say that these similar gestures, used as rites and sacraments, ingrained in Western depictions of religious figures do not necessarily have a more profound meaning and stimulus about them, as well, nor that Eastern orators and choreographers do not have a vocabulary for grandiloquence in speeches neither.

c'est ne trappe! or blue harvest

The Star Wars franchise is making an official foray into social media, as Laughing Squid reports, and in embracing and celebrating fan-art of all sorts, including memes and remixes.
For Star Wars' debut on Tumblr, here is R2-D2 projecting a holographic photo-stream (as opposed to Princess Leia's distress message) for Luke Skywalker, C-3PO and Obi Wan Kenobi back at the moisture ranch on Tatooine, and although the premiere is part of a promotional campaign for a new television spin-off and the cinematic continuation of the saga's middle chapters, this expanded universe is sure to be a lot of fun and have a lot of classic homages.

gazette or worth-1000

Here is a thoughtful essay from veteran blogger Jason Kotte that expands on the lingering and drawn-out obituary and eulogizing of blogging as a form of communication that have been steadily eroding the format for sometime.

It's really thought-provoking and Kotte is being a gad-fly in demonstrating how journals and journalism are being splintered into different presences and personae spread along a variety of specialised platforms that are very compart- mentalised and don't communicate very well with one another. Taking any usual type of sharage to task, one would probably not describe the activity or announcement as web-logging—or writing. Surely no one old school gets to gauge quality by virtue of formatting and window-dressing alone, since expression is a plastic and ever-evolving thing and means are just media. It seems to me however, there is an important distinction with a blog that lies in the difference between what one might list as a hobby, a project (or a passion or a living), and what one might list as a habit, an interest.

haus am see or sugarcubes

This isolated structure located on the Icelandic island of Elliðaey is actually a lodge established in the 1953 just as the last permanent residents were leaving for the mainland.  
As the sustained isolation made it not an ideal place for ranchers and fisherman, a group of hunters had the lodge built, though called the Bjork Hús it has nothing to do with a grace-and-favour residence being granted to the singer Björk Guðmundsdóttir for being a national treasure or for making Iceland famous, as a place to gather for annual puffin-hunting expeditions—which would not be an activity that I would like to have my name connected with. The pictures of the place are really breath-taking, however.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

narrative-arch or denouement

Fast Company presents an interesting study in the grammar of comic strips and finds that the human mind interprets the funnies, according to their established conventions, as a distinct lingual system.
The brain probably makes its own ways of making sense or following a story or a message presented in any venue or format and comics offer a good test subject as there are measurable elements of predictability from the set-up to the punch-line and when presented with irregular panels the departure was registered as jarring, like a linguistically value but non-nonsensical construction. I suppose there are too many variables within the plastic arts, a meme for example, to understand how it might be comprehended—or got.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

toy breed or companionship task

A Scandinavian laboratory, which has introduced such products as a rocking chair battery charger, a hovering lamp that follows one around and a cloud for indoors, now purports to be working on a device to translate the barks and whimpers of ones pet dog to human language by triangulating the electro-encephalograph readings with a known canine lexicon and special adaptive software (sadly, the link is not working any longer so perhaps the experiment folded, bad, bad host). Though I don't know whether a talking dog (imagine the frank and uncensored admissions and the obligatory conversations and ethical considerations) would necessarily be an improvement on the current relationship that we enjoy with animal friends, I think it is absolutely fantastic that such mad scientists exist and are there and with a sandbox to be kick-started.

dura lex sed lex

No one is particularly heaving a sigh of relief over the off-the-cuff adjudication of one US District Judge's that the mass-surveillance carried out by American intelligence agencies was “significantly likely to be unconstitutional.”

Even without considering the source, who is part of the cadre who orchestrated dreadful scandals like the Iran-Contra Affair (the scheme to supply Iranian kidnappers allied with Lebanon weapons through Israeli channels and use the proceeds to divert arms to the paramilitary group opposed to the democratically-elected government of Nicaragua, all at a premium for the military-industrial complex—the enemy of my enemy is my friend—and to free some hostages by negotiating with terrorists), overturning the mandate that cigarette packages bear graphic warnings since being forced to do so would have infringed on the tobacco-manufacturers' First Amendment rights, and questioning the president's legitimacy at every turn over his citizenship, such opining is inviting blowback. It is a minority—or at least split, opinion among the legal professionals who've commented on the spying scandal—which in any case, only concerns itself with its own jurisdiction, American citizens on American soil and not the rest of the world. De minimis non curat lex. Appealing to a higher court could result in dire consequences in the long-term for the USA.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013


Though I think I always want to root for the underdogs and want to be skeptical of the overlords but I remember never having even the slightest bit of immunity when it came to those long-distance telephone commercials rolled out around the holidays by Ma Bell before the break-up and then by competitors. This new holiday advertisement by Apple is in that vein and tears down all one's defenses and cynicism. Click through to watch Misunderstood and have a hanky ready.

papa noël

Collectors' Weekly presents a brilliant and comprehensive feature on the origins and evolution of Santa Claus, including some ideas for the future, with many varied forms of spokesmanship and endorsements that don't quite fit the image, even for a mascot refined for marketing purposes. Nonetheless, the history is quite sweet and endearing, mingling several traditions, cultures, portrayals and exploitations, which in the end yield an undeniable, inalienable sense of wonder and belief, whose quirks and miracles that deserve discovery for oneself.