Saturday, 28 November 2009

Science and scientists

About 40 years ago the physicist Vera Rubin made a strange discovery: considering the weight (mass) of all stars belonging to the Andromeda Galaxy it turned too fast. In order to be clear, have a look at this merry-go-round. It turns at the right speed. But if it would turn ten times faster, the little chairs with the kids would first be horizontal and some seconds or minutes later the chains would break. Same for the outer stars of Andromeda. At the measured merry go round speed the galaxy should disintegrate!


The center of all those galaxies behaves in accordance with the laws of gravitation, see Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. The problem is thus only with the outer portion who does not fit in.

To make it simple (that's my specialty) there are two solutions: Einstein's law of gravitation has to be modified - because only partially correct - or some extra weight has to be added to those galaxies so as to make them behave as they should.

Thus the theory of the black matter has been invented. And as time goes by, the theory of the black matter turns into a fact. Right now, the black invisible stuff is staple food for 99,9 percent of all astronomers. And it should be said that the black matter has one big advantage: no need to tamper with Albert Einstein's findings. And that's important because he is something like a God of Science.

Cast doubt on Holy Albert's theory? Forget it. Let's better gorge those galaxies with some extra weight - in fact about 95 percent, to be added to the 5 percent of conventional matter we know - and the scientists can avoid to rock the boat, to create fuss, avoid the shit to hit the fan, to be considered a lame brain half-wit.




That is the spiral galaxy M81. I suppose this one, too, turns too fast but what a beauty. And here, last not least, is our advent wreath, made by my wife to hang above the chimney till year's end. A home-made galaxy.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Blogging and living

Already one month since my last post. But there is trouble in the air. It started in early September. At around 5.30 pm the internet disconnects and revival is around 8.30 am next day. Naturally, I complained at the Call Center but these peple don't seem bother, I could have "pissé dans un violon", could have pissed into a violin. They don't care as long as I keep paying my dues.

I might change the internet provider though this means my email address changes, too. The very near future will tell.

Instead of blogging I was working hard to construct a new gate and finally installed the thing. The installation alone took me one day from morning to evening. I am dedicated and enthusiastic but only moderately gifted.



This gate installed and being quite high, it might discourage people to jump over it within the framework of their municipal duties. This happened from time to time with the old gate; like the water metering man. The guy who looks at the water gauge in the garden and writes down how much we consumed during the year and how much we have to pay............

And that's not all. Our garden is gently inclined everywhere. In fact the place constitutes the ultimate proof that planet Earth is not flat but round. Come here and have a look and be convinced. Thus I decided to create at least one flat spot for a pleasant summer breakfast or dinner under three spreading birch trees.

Thus I started a week ago to flatten a circle of about 4 m (15 feet) diameter. Big job, it needed about 3 or 4 cubic meter (about 106 to 143 cubic feet according to Wiki and Google). Then, on top of this, I took grass from other parts of the garden to plant it on this food intake and friendship gathering spot . Thus it will be operational when heavy sunshine is back again, somewhere next year.



There is another project in the making. Have a look at this work bench. I bought the drawings in the USA (the economy is humming again thanks to guys like me) and now I am busy trying to understand the stuff and computing those inches into centimeters and millimeters. The wood is already ordered as well as a planing-surfacing machine and some special router dips. Last not least I bought an INCRA T-rule, from the USA as well (the $ is down, the € is up, thank you). All this will keep me busy during winter when the sun is shining exclusively on the upper side of the clouds.






All this to explain why I was not very assiduous on the blogging front. One post every fortnight, that should be cruise speed. Subject no object. The next post might be about science, astronomy and intellectual honesty. Could be some of my esteemed reader would prefer this to router dips and planing machines. Though, let me insist, there is not very much that gives so much pleasure as the achievement of beautiful precise woodworking. Nobody should miss this.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

In the midst of life - Slide-show-girl

It all started on a bench in a public park. I was in my mid-thirties and it was Summer.

Sitting on that bench, I was busy sorting out and inspecting color slides in order to put them in specific order for projection. A park bench is certainly not the best place to do this but I needed open air.

While doing this and fuzzing around with the slides a girl came and sat down near me and started to read a book. From time to time she stopped and looked into the distance and we came to talk. We talked a lot, probably more than an hour and before leaving I had an invitation for the next day to come to her place and show her my slides.

This I did - I mean the coming - but, as far I can remember, I never really showed her those slides. But I stayed there for the night and next morning at breakfast she told me her story.

Ten years ago she was going to be married. Everything was arranged, papers, the ceremonies at the town hall and in the church, dinner, everything. Three days before the fixed date her fiancé met her somewhere in town and told her that everything is off. No reason given, no explanation, just the statement, "I'll not see you again in this life" he told her.

Naturally, she tried this and that but to no avail. She never managed to find out what has happened and she had to face it alone.

This kind of broke her. For ten years her life was limited to her studio apartment, going out only for work and for buying food and other necessities. "What did you do all this time", I asked her. "Nothing, just sitting there or playing the piano for hours".

"Play something for me" I said, "Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, whatever you like. "No, she said, and then she added "I play only Dvorak". I asked why but there was no clear answer, as far as I remember.

During the week that followed we saw each other nearly every day. "You are the very first person that came here after my failed marriage", she told me. But she must have been ready for something else some time before. She had published an advertisement in a newspaper asking for someone ready to go with her to the USA for a months' holiday, on shared expenses. And she got a positive answer because there was a Dutchman ready to go with her. Departure next week.

"Don't worry, she told me, I'll be back in no time".


The first half of that month I was away, too, crossing Iceland with a bunch of backpackers. Coming home, I started waiting. At the appropriate time, probably a little too early, I made my first phone call. Nothing, not yet back. Some days later, I called again and was amazed to hear "no connection under this number". This same evening I went to her place: her name on the apartment was gone. Then I managed to talk to an old lady living next door. "Oh, she moved out some days ago."

She had vanished without leaving a trace. I was not broken but certainly shattered. I talked it over with some friends and she became "the slide-show-girl" whenever the subject was raised.

More than a year passed and one day, in an inner city street, I hear "Bonjour, Georges" : my slide-show-girl! She told me Part 2 of the story. During those holidays in the United State States they decided to live together and back in town she married right away. When I met her she was certainly six months pregnant.

Happy end.







Thursday, 1 October 2009

Democracy - an export product?

Being a regular reader of Newsweek, I remember quite well those days and weeks right after the invasion of Iraq. Democracy will finally brought to the Middle East, I was reading. There was one argument brought up again and again. "We brought democracy to Germany after the war and it worked so well. Why shouldn't it be the same in Iraq".

Holy innocence. These journalists, professional line scribblers, just don't know what they are talking about. Could be, too, that they were simply repeating what they gathered "from well informed sources".

Six years later nothing has come out of those noble efforts but democracy is still very much on the official agenda.

Bringing democracy to a country like Afghanistan or Iraq is like trying to teach step dance to a paralytic in a one-week-crash-course. I don't wish to say this is bound to fail. No! It is downright crazy.

Democracy is a frail plant, it needs constant care from everybody and its main ingredient is the rule of law. And the rule of law is only possible if the vast majority of the people concerned is honest and law abiding and not only when a police officer is breathing down their neck.

When the US forces took Baghdad in 2003, for several weeks or months there was no authority in the town. Saddam's forces of evil were disbanded and the Americans did not care and did not bother. They only guarded the Oil Ministry (and the oil fields in the country side, sure). And what happened? Hell broke loose, thousands of citizen started to loot and steal wherever possible. Any object not solidly embedded in concrete, museums, shops, administrations were looted and gutted. With people like this democracy is impossible. They need a benevolent dictatorship and naturally, that's what they get and deserve.

Next stop Afghanistan. There is the saying that the quality and the seriousness of a democracy is not shown during voting but during counting.

Afghanistan is not really a country or a nation. It is a big tribal area called Afghanistan and its people are dedicated poppy growers. The smallest entity is the family and at its head is the husband. Women and children are kind of property and if they know their place and behave accordingly everything goes well like in all families. If the family gets desperately poor - as is happening now - the master sells a girl.

Next comes the tribal chief. This guy is something like God's representative on earth, he alone gives security and rule of law, the tribal law meaning Muslim Sharia, the religious law. You don't vote against the Chief. If the Chief decides for superior reasons that he opts for socialism, conservatism, liberalism or any other -ism for money or power, the tribe votes along those lines. And in case the Chief has a new inspiration and switches - for superior reasons - from one ism to another ism, or from friend to foe, the tribal members change, too. That is their duty and their honor.

So, in a nutshell, let's keep democracy at home. Let's improve it here because we are far from perfect, everybody knows that. We should always be ready to give advice and a lend a helping hand like training specialists, opening our universities, activities like that. But, please, no more voting in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia or elsewhere, sponsored by Western nations and paid by its tax payers.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Getting older - knowing less

Some days ago, the ARTE channel featured Wim Wender's movie "Paris,Texas". Wow, I said to myself, another one I better avoid.

Many years ago I saw "Wings of Desire" directed by WW and starring Peter Falk, you know this Colombo character. Well, I didn't like this movie. It is about my home town, Berlin, I was born there, lived there for many years, love the city, have been there in her darkest hours.

Young Wim made a modern art movie, lots of talking but saying not much relevant. Kind of abstract painting where you are invited to swoon without knowing why. So Wim landed on my black list "You got me once but it won't happen again".

Coming back to present-day telly, I thus by-passed "Paris-Texas ", told my wife "that's a bore" and chose "Bones", this good looking young doctor dissecting cheerfully dead bodies having been murdered. One session of "Bones" lasts about one hour, so when that came to an end I tried to find something else before going to bed (hitting the sack in good American).


While searching the channels, I passed Wim Wender's movie "Paris, Texas", had a moment's look and got stuck. Got stuck badly. It is a kind of road movie, and the roads in the USA are long, so it was near midnight when we reached "The End". In a nutshell, this is a masterpiece, exactly the kind of stuff I like.

In this special case I clearly jumped to conclusion. Nobody was hurt, one might say but that is not totally true. While looking at the movie I asked myself "how many occasions did I loose by prejudice, judging without knowing?" Getting older means I have to fight this tendency to narrow my views and to being less and less open to all those countless new possibilities.

There is a job waiting for me. But first, tomorrow morning, I am going for some days to the Pyla Dune at the Atlantic coast for some joyful flying. If weather permitting.



Have a look at this video, if you feel like it. Well made, showing some average pilots like me. I don't like the music, though. Would have preferred some less "teenager dum dum stuff" as Glenmed once said on YT to give his preferences.

Friday, 21 August 2009

TIBET - are these people really so poor and downtrodden?


We are living in surroundings where half-truths, omissions, or slight distortions of events have a fair chance to become the real thing. They might become fully confirmed facts and are thus supposed to make us salivate like well trained dogs seeing a bone............

Some months ago I saw a report on the telly regarding the fast disappearing Indian tiger. The animal was killed by poachers right in the Indian National Parks where it was supposed to live unmolested. But it remained unclear why and what happened to the furs.

Then the author of the report realized that the skins were smuggled to Tibet where they adorn wealthy Tibetans. And then I had the pleasure to look at those people wearing Indian Tiger skins. See for yourself, look at those photos in Belinda Wright's "The End of the Tiger trail"

Now that killed me. For years and years, whenever Tibet was mentioned, I saw those desperately poor, downtrodden people, living miserably at the feet of the cruel Chinese. Those photos just don't square with the general idea about that country. Each one of those skins fetch several thousand Euro (and a little more in US Dollars). Unlike those poor Tibetans I am unable to shell out that money for a weekend outfit and I don't know anybody around here who could and would do this and spend this amount.

A tent made up of 108 tiger skins


The poor downtrodden Tibetans: can't help thinking this to be another case were we are being force-fed another piece of crap and bullshit.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

BEAUTIFUL HOUSES IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Beauty is unfortunately an exception. Most houses here - like nearly everywhere else - are simply ordinary and some are downright ugly. Nevertheless, I made those photos just by cycling around, meaning there are plenty of good looking ones. And there are not necessarily hundreds of years old either.

The really ugly ones, those created by architects, poorly brained and raised in steel, glass, concrete worship do not abound over here: maybe the region is too rural , too austere.



This one here above is modern, as far as I can judge built ten or fifteen years ago in the style of the region.




This one has the bad luck to stand on a very busy road. That must be the reason why it is so frequently for sale or for rent.



Here we are in a tiny hamlet, about two kilometers from the village. It is a farmers' house.




Another farmers' house with his barn in the foreground. Do you see those columns, looking like chimneys? They belong to a hundreds of years old ruin, its stones served to restore the village church.




In bygone times the living quarters and the stable were frequently under the same roof. The round door on the ground and the stairs on its left testify for that.



This house surely belongs to some wealthy Parisians. The gate and the high well groomed hedge all say the same: do not enter, don't even look at us! The hedge must be cut with the help of a ruler.



In the foreground the round, wooden door: "I am a converted stable". In fact they sell antiquities over there, the stabble of old might be the store room for all that expensive trash they hope to sell to the grockels (UK English for tourists).





Another old style barn in another hamlet.






This house is one of my favorites. It's a converted barn, standing at the outskirts of the village. The people who made this did a great job here.



Couldn't refrain from showing this. It's the sore spot of our village. I wonder what will happen now. Keep tuned.




Another specialty of the region is the material they put on the roof. Sure, mostly you will see conventional tiles, used everywhere. But many houses still feature "lauzes" as shown on the two following photos. These "lauzes" are stones, thick and very heavy. A normal wooden roof structure would not be able to support them. Sturdy beams, generally made of chestnut trees are a must and you need a thick wallet, too, to pay for it. But living under it, no storm will be able to bother you and your family. The cosy comforts of stone age.

Rejoice, this is the last picture:Last not least, this is the town hall, though it should be said a village is not a town and a house is not a hall. In this house, the mayor has an office and he is present three times per week.

If you enlarge the photo, you'll see something strange: the wall is partly made of bricks, partly of stones. Till now, I have been unable to find out the history of this house and what happened there in the past.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Encounters during holidays

Frequently, when on holidays, you don't meet anyone, just grockeling around, sometimes talking to waiters, hotel personnel etc.

But I happen to be a camper whenever possible and the activity of paragliding makes it easier, too, to engage a conversation with strangers.



After grockeling around for a weekend in Pau (on video till 1.30) and deprived of sleep in the local camp side by a bunch of night-boozers and dedicated beer-singers we moved to Accous for more peaceful surroundings, the splendor of the mountains and for flying.

First encounter:Jean-Luc in his camping car. He was squatting near the glider landing patch, looking longingly at the sky. "Not today, he said to me, ceiling far too low". In the evening, after dinner, we had our first pow wow, no camp fire but a glass of Porto.

He had become a paraglider addict. Nothing else counted any more. He bought this camping car, kind of live-in truck and took a three-months-leave to travel from one flying site to another. He regretted his girl friend, met two months before, but that's life, he explained to us. Before hitting the Pyrenees, he had been to Greece, Spain, Morocco, Portugal. His son from an earlier marriage, living nearby, came to visit him for the week-end. "Papa has gone crazy", he told me. "What about visiting the Lescun mountain circus" (see also video, from 5.07 to 5.50), I suggested one day. "There is certainly no flying today". "No, no, thank you, he said, "the weather might turn at noon and then I am ready".

Second encounter: Pierre, the hard of hearing. He had booked a 5-day-session at the local flying school for about 450 € (about 500 US$) and camped right next to us. They start the real flying right on the second day but he didn't dare. On the third day he had a tandem flight but still was unable to do it alone. Did the instructor talk too fast? I don't know, I wasn't there.

I told him that to be afraid is normal. "Each time I decide to leave for a flight somewhere, I have to go to the toilet, every time. And this though I have now about 500 flights under the belt". He was afraid and I understand him. Each pupil carries a walkie talkie attached to his harness but Pierre did not fully understand the messages and probably only half of what the instructors told him. Who would dare to launch himself under these conditions?

Third encounter: Mister X, the smoker-boozer: He arrived during the bad weather period and was obliged to set up his tent when it was raining cats and dogs. We felt sorry for him. Next day he told us inside everything was dry. The first day he just sat inside his open tent on a low chair smoking cigars as thick as my middle finger and coughing from time to time. Late afternoon I met him again in the nearby little supermarket where he bought a bottle of rosé wine. When I came back to our tent he was already sitting on his chair, smoking, coughing, his bottle next to him.

Second day: no movement to report. Whenever we came back he was sitting there, steadfast.

Third day: no movement to report. Just smoking, coughing but the wine looked like red one.

Forth day: no movement to report. Just smoking, coughing but the bottle seemed to contain something else.

Fifth day: same as before. I was a bit uneasy having never met someone like that. We exchanged polite greetings plus some small talk remarks about the weather. In the late afternoon I took the shuttle that ferries the pilots to the paraglider launching pad (at 1.47 till 1.52 in my video). And who was standing there, red in the face and smoking a cigar: Mister X! I proposed him to take the shuttle down but he declined. Walking up there takes you about 3 hours and a little less to get you down.

But he had not finished to astonish us: one day in the late afternoon we suddenly heard a very loud, lousy gangsta rap coming from a house near the camp site. There was a bunch of teenagers sitting on the terrace and having a good time. After an hour or so it stopped. Next day, same time, same "melody". But as I walked past the car of Mister X I suddenly realized that he and not those youngsters had the rap stuff coming out of his car radio!

Fourth encounter: superman. We met him first while walking from the campsite to the village. A bus stopped at the main road, he got out carrying his huge paraglider on his back, a backpack in front and trailing a luggage caddy. Next day I met him in the shuttle going to the launching pad. There was no wind, so we all had to run as fast as possible to take off. He was the only one who managed to stay in the air. It was amazing. This guy was the best pilot I have ever met. One of the next days we were sitting at the launching pad, waiting for some wind coming out of the right direction. When you sit on the ground, your trouser pants come up a bit. This guy had only one leg and was wearing a prosthesis!

Another day, Luis the superman was sitting next to me in the shuttle. "Let's relax a bit" he said, took his wooden leg off and swallowed some pills. Pain killers I imagine.

Then came a five day stretch with very bad weather. Not the slightest chance to fly and thus we moved around to visit places. Luis told me his intention to leave for the Atlantic coast, flying at the Pyla dune. But when the weather cleared up, he was there, waiting for the shuttle. He did not leave at all but had remained inside his bed and breakfast house, all holed up, becoming invisible to the outside world. He had no car and could thus go nowhere.

Where did he loose his leg? He was vague about this "it was an accident" but living in Tel Aviv/Israel I can imagine what kind of accident that was.

PS: The last post had 185 visitors. Not bad for a shithole!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Shit hole rejuvenated

Sorry for this vulgar title but let's face it, sex and sh...., these are potent centers of human interest. Thus I thought to give it a try and let's count the number of readers between now and one month from here. Right now, on the counter, the score is 2045!

The wording taken apart, here is a serious subject.

Living outside of a tiny village, this house is not linked to a sewage treatment installation where the toilet and washing water disappear through a pipe to an unknown destination. No, we have to do the job locally and the system is called "septic tank".

Quite ingenious: the waste liquid goes into a huge underground tank where the stuff ferments and the solids separate a bit from the water. Even the toilet paper is totally digested. That not so clean but reasonably clean water runs then through a quite large underground gravel bed and what comes out - but never to the surface - is clean water.

And every eight to ten years I have to order a tank truck to suck the stuff up, pay 200 € (about 250 US $), fill it with clean water and the cycle starts again.

Now it is well known that not all houses over here and elsewhere in rural France are thus equipped. Many farmers have simply a covered-up shit hole like their forefathers and are happy with this. But not the administration. So they voted a new law obliging every rural household to equip themselves with an up to date septic tank.

In order to win over the reluctant bone heads, the local administration organized meetings. Rough going. There was this old peasant yelling "I won't install your shit tank, only over my dead body". And adding, for good measure: "what we have is perfect and satisfied my family for 50 years. It works perfectly! Perfectly I tell you!!"





The last words were probably a mistake. There were catcalls. "Hey, Marcel, don't you remember the postman, some years ago? He fell into your shit hole with a letter for you and he couldn't even come out by himself. There was laughter, everybody roared. Even old Marcel joined in, at least he was in the center of interest. He'll do the job like everybody else and shell out the money.

So much for the basics.

The next step was to send an inspector to every house in the realm. The guy comes, you show him what you have, he makes an analysis of your system and gives you four year for upgrading. Here at home, I just had to upgrade by installing a ventilation and this I did.







On the last photo, you see the red-brown pipe chimney right above the gutter. That's me, I did it. And believe me, IT DOES NOT STINK. Halleluja!!

Monday, 8 June 2009

The European Union

Some years ago, there were referendums in every country belonging to the European Union to adopt a common constitution.

This project went down the drain because the French and Dutch voters posted a majority of NO.

Some months later my brother in law told me he had voted against it. "Why did you do this", I asked him. "Well", he said, "I voted against it because I did not know what they were up to".



This guy is a very decent chap, good family man, very friendly. Nevertheless, he rejected a project only because he was too lazy to find out what was going on.

It's a fact: far too many people do not seem to know what a united Europe has done to them. At every election for the European Parliament voters' participation goes down. Now it was 42 % in Germany, 33 % in France and 25% in Poland. Just to give an example.

Before the creation of the EU, there were not even a dozen years without a war, in any century. That fact alone should make all of us sturdy supporters of the idea.

But no!

On this planet, nothing is permanent. And it could well be that in fifty years from now, the EU is only a souvenir. Thanks to its lukewarm citizen who let it happen.

It might be useful to quote here Albert Einstein: Only human stupidity gives us an idea what infinity really means.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

FLOWERS AND MUSIC

This is truly "le joli mois de Mai", everything is so colorful, especially here in the countryside.

This post has two aims. First, I would like to pay a little homage to two bloggers, Berenice and Betmo, who published beautiful pictures of flowers and nature in general. So this video is dedicated to both of them.




Like everybody, or nearly, I like very different kinds of music. But very much on top is the wonderful warm and clear voice of Lucia Popp. She was above all an accomplished and beautiful opera singer. But I have also recordings of children's songs and operetta arias. Here is her photo



The song on the video is "Du mein Schönbrunn". A very melodious, beautiful but nostalgic aria about Empress Maria-Theresia's love for the castle and garden of Schönbrunn. Here are two photos of the place.






Don't miss to pay a visit to Castle Schönbrunn when in Vienna/Austria. That's Old Europe.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

People and faces

A fortnight ago my wife told me we need a break. So we took off for a long weekend in Périgord, just 2 1/2 hours' drive from here.

Instead of making photos as I did during all my life, I am trying to get the same thing done per video. Life is movement - at least for most of us - and thus a photo is something artificial, same as those black and white pictures made 25 years ago.

It must be said however, making a good video is darn difficult. So, please, look at this with leniency.

The part of the young woman sitting in the grass smoking and reading near her little dog is endearing though. And near the end, there is that Arab woman who looks quite forlorn, somehow lost in a strange country. The little beautiful girl munching a sandwich. At the end yours truly.





My camera has an optical zoom of 12 and a digital zoom of 48. That is a lot and I can look at people without being seen. I don't bother them and they don't bother me. I am not a peeping Tom, kind of voyeur. It's just I like to see people go through their everyday life. So there is nothing special here, just life. Your life, my life.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Is there a God ? - What governs our lives?

My parents must have been of the cautious kind. Because, contrary to custom, I was not baptized when I landed over here. Thus I remained in neutral gear till about fourteen. As I am born in Berlin, it was natural to become a Protestant, as was everybody else around me.

Thus I asked to get "communion" like all the others and then it came out I had never been baptized. So I was baptized on Saturday and got communion on Easter Sunday, between 13 and 14 years of age.

Then something strange happened. Right as I was sitting there in church during the communion service and I fell out with religion. "What am I doing here?" I asked myself. "There is nothing, fair chance it is all a kind of hogwash".

Since then, I was always interested in the subject though I never talked about it. First time someone mentioned the riddle of human destiny to me was by reading Somerset Maugham's novel "Of Human Bondage".

Regarding religion, no need to defend the idea of evolution. These firmly established facts are now under attack from the creationists, most of them but not all coming from the United States. Can't help thinking that creationism is linked to a hidden political agenda and has nothing to do with the search for truth. So, let's forget about this. I'll file "creationism" next to the "Flat Earth Society".

Everything around us - ourselves included - evolve in accordance with this iron law of evolution. But it should be said not the fittest and the strongest survive - as Darwin thought - but those that are best adopted to circumstances. You take shameful advantage of the situation and you have a fair chance to thrive. SO LET'S BE FLEXIBLE.

Unfortunately - as I see it - that's not the only law. There is another one and it is called chance. You do all the right stuff, you are strongest and best adopted and then bam! The roof is falling on your head.

These random happenings occur all the time. You can be born rich, intelligent and in good health and you can be born poor, not very bright and with a defect in your genes. And so it goes on till we are dead. We all know this in our hearts but I suppose we don't like to admit it as a fact of life.

Thus our longing for a good, benevolent God who who gives us a helping hand, from time to time and set matters straight for us.

As Plato the Greek philosopher said 2500 years ago: "Be kind, for everybody you meet is fighting a hard battle".

We desperately ask for a happy end, Hollywood style. Thus the idea of a paradise, a perpetual happy end to look forward to after all that shit during life. By the way, it is typical for our Western outlook that paradise is very much on the agenda among the faithful but nobody talks about hell and purgatory any more...................





Laudate Dominum omnes gentes;
Laudate eum, omnes populi.
Quoniam confirmata est
Super nos misericordia ejus,
Et veritas Domini manet in aeternum.
Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper.
Et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.



Does that mean everybody should try to become a cat and all the others are mice, just good to be devoured if they can't help it? Some people seem to think this and try to live it out. But this Law of Chance I mentioned here above is truly democratic and preys upon everybody, high and low. Look at Bernie Maddoff, the mad dog of shares and charities.............

To finish this long story, here are a few lines of the poem "On the devine" from
Johann Wolfgang Goethe

Let man be noble,
Generous and good
For that alone
Distinguishes him
From all the living
beings we know
.................
.................
Let the noble man
Be generous and good,
Tirelessly achieving
What is just and useful

(here, the entire poem in English and in German)

Last not least: without religion, we all would have missed Händel's Messiah and Mozart's "Laudate Dominum", those Gothic cathedrals standing nearly everywhere in Europe as well as some truly outstanding humans, the first one coming to my mind is Jesus himself. That should not be forgotten.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

First nightingale this year

Yesterday we had a hot Summer day over here. And today, Saturday, 25th April, back to early March with lots of rain, pouring down continuously.

Outside, in the garden, I hear the booming voice of Mr. Nightingale. The rain does not stop him. As every year, I try to locate the elusive bird. In vain. I have never succeeded to see him. Not once in all those ten years we are living in this green paradise.





Then it occurred to me that I could at least make a recording of his song. Thus the video does not amount to very much but you can hear him, loud and clear. Let's hope he'll get his wife not too early because I imagine that will stop him singing.

Monday, 13 April 2009

TV crime series - Comparison USA and Great Britain


Like many of my contemporaries, I watch the crime series of the moment. Here in France, you can choose between several different ones, each day of the year.

There are those made in France. But considering the number of channels available, there are series made in USA, made in Great Britain, made in Germany plus a tiny little sprinkling of the others from Sweden, Italy, Belgium.

Considering that this is a blog in English language (at least I try to do my best), let's talk about those made in the United States and those coming from our northern neighbors, the Brits.

What do they have in common, these series made in USA and Great Britain? Absolutely nothing because here all those actors talk in French exclusively!

The idea is generally accepted that the Americans and the Brits have a lot of common outlooks, kind of shared values (though the notion of "values" has fallen in disrespect, lately). Thus it occurred to me to compare these series with regard to the differences.

Because there are differences, big ones.

Here are the two series from England:

1. Inspector Barnaby

2. Inspector Lewis


And here are just three from the United States:

1. Bones

2. CSI Miami

3. Navy NCIS

In a nutshell, I would say the English ones are homely and the Americans are gorgeous.

In NCIS each photo made of a corpse produces a sound, something like slapping a wet towel on a drum. Slap, slap, slap. And invariably, they are gripping those huge McDo plastic cups filled with coffee or CocaCola. Could be those paper plastic cups are not from McDo but from Starbucks, I don't know but they are huge, king size big. And they continue to bring one to each other as a sign of sympathy or friendship.

Our two English cops drink, too. But they are inside or outside a pub, having a beer and when they meet a suspect, they are frequently offered a cup of tea and some biscuits.

Chief Inspector Barnaby and Lewis never carry any weapon and their criminal investigation is carried out without any violence. However, in the Barnaby series, dead bodies are aplenty. It's never one stiff but mostly three, four or occasionally even five. And these English village people hate each others guts red hot. But violence, no sir.

Nothing to do with the Americans. They live with their pistol. In NCIS, that Mossad girl seems even to sleep with her gun under the pillow and they keep it under the bed or at the night table when making love.

But the biggest difference is their looks. Dr. Brennan (Bones) is a real beauty. And that goes for all the others, too. With the exception of Bruce, the athletic FBI cop and the sexy artist Angela, all others are high-end scientists but their looks somehow do not correspond to their activity. Too much beauty, splendid make up, even when they are a bit smeared or dirty, they are beautifully dirty.

In CSI Miami it's even worse. The boss, Horatio, very impressive character, is strangely ugly, he could be an albino. But all the others have those aggressive good looks. There is this doctor whose job is to cut up dead bodies. But she looks like a bar hostess, trying to make you drink costly Champagne and there is a male scientist who could be a South-American pimp or a Bolivian drug dealer.

I would not like to meet this good looking chap at dusk in an empty street!

Those two inspectors from Britannia are middle aged, wear rumpled clothes. They are neither good looking nor ugly. And their associates, Sargent Troy, Sargent Hopkins or Hathaway are cast in the same mould. Mr. Barnaby's wife looks a bit worn out, though cheerful and their daughter seemed ugly to me in the beginning. Now, after three years, I am accustomed to her. She looks good in her own way. Sargent Hathaway is a former student of theology and quotes Shelley, Shakespeare and Latin authors at unsuspected moments. I like that.

There is a meaning behind those differences.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Adventure in Afghanistan - slumdog travels east


Afghanistan has never been a land for tourists. Thus Oxford-Johnny and myself only got a kind of transit visa with a 14-day-limit.

We arrived and left Herat, near the Iranian border and continued to push forward to Kandahar, right in the middle of this strange country. We were in a hurry because 14 days is not much when hitchhiking, meaning www waiting, waiting, waiting. Here the story begins.

At that time, Kandahar was somehow an American zone of influence. Thus the city had a slight Western tinge to it, shops , restaurants with chairs and selling beer, things like that. Thus, instead of camping somewhere, we went to a cheap hotel and stayed there.

Next day we set out in the morning to hit the road. You don't start to hitchhike in the middle of a town and it took us quite a long time with our heavy backpack to reach the outskirts of Kandahar and the road leading to Kabul.

Road is just of way of talking. It was a large dirt path with wide and deep potholes everywhere. So we were squatting by the roadside, waiting for a car. Since Turkey, we never met many cars or lorries but those we saw invariably stopped.

Noon was coming and going, the heat was getting severe but no car, no lorry, no truck, nothing. At about three in the afternoon I got upset and desperate. "Johnny", I said to my pal, "we have to do something, otherwise we'll stay here for all eternity".

In a Third World Country, the only authority worthwhile is the police. So we trudged back to town and went straight to the Kandahar Police Headquarters. Johnny did most of the talking "take us to your leader", he told the cop in rags sporting a gleaming rifle in front of the entry door.

Inside, we explained our problem. "You see, Sir, we just can't find the British and German embassy! We must go there to ask for money. And we know there is one here in Kabul but nobody could show us the way". Naturally, the police officer told us "this is Kandahar, not Kabul" and then "In Kandahar, no embassy".

We explained in length that we thought we were already in Kabul and that we must go there in order to fetch our money. "What can you do for us? Please help us".

And he did. First, he walked us to the hotel where we stayed the previous night and ordered the manager to put up with us till next morning. The hotel manager was disgusted. He had to serve us food for free by order of police. First thing he did was to empty the room completely to show us who is the master of the premises.

We were used to rough it. Having a good meal under our belts we spread our sleeping bags and slept soundly till next morning waiting for our free breakfast. At around noon, the police officer came back and took us to the the bus station for a free trip to Kabul.

We thanked him effusively, he did a great job on us two leeches. At the bus station, we were to ride to Kabul in two buses. I suppose he did not want to put too much strain on the drivers who were probably the owners and who were under order to ferry us to Kabul for free.

The bus started around 5 pm because of the intense heat during day time. Sitting on the roof of the bus, the wind dried up my face in no time. I really felt my skin turning into parchment. Next to me were sitting some Afghanis about my age. "Want some snap". I said no because the stuff smelled foul and was green. Till now, I don't know what "snap" is. It had a smell like synthetic shit, really, no kidding. Was it dope?

Eventually, the bus stopped somewhere near a shag-like restaurant. For me there was another problem. I was hungry like everybody else. But my free ride hinged on the fact that I had no money.

The idea to have very little money, something like the minimum does not sound convincing in a desperately poor country like this one. Furthermore, lots of the passengers were carrying some kind of weapon with them. So I stayed mum near the bus waiting for things to happen (or not).

Then some nice and friendly people people invited me into the restaurant. Sure, I was thankful but very much annoyed and uneasy, too. Annoyed with myself and I wowed to avoid such ambiguous situations in the future.

The bus ride was an adventure in itself. The cooling system of the motor had sprung a leak and fresh water had to be added all the time. Thus the motor slave* sat or better straddled the motor servicing it during the ride with a iron watering can, spilling more than half of the precious stuff.

We drove through the night, desert country. Never seen a sky like that, clean deep blue, the Milky Way clearly visible!

We arrived in Kabul around noon. A bit shaky, I felt every bone inside and was hungry, too . Early in the morning we had a second stop for ritual prayer washing and breakfast. But I refused to be invited again pretending to have stomach trouble.


*Motor slave: I met them again and again in Iran and Afghanistan when I managed to pick up a truck. Normally, these young men of about my age were always clad in greasy rags and made the trip sitting somewhere behind and when off duty outside on the running board. They had to do all the dirty work and when we were eating with the driver he was never invited to join us.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Every year again - preparing of firewood

Some of my blogger friends suggested to go on with some more chapters about my travels in far away lands. Well, I'll do this, but not right now.

Life being as it is, each winter I have to buy and prepare firewood. And this job keeps me busy outside, not much time left for computering or blogging.

Here is the description how I proceed. Enters Mr. Bornet who supplies the tree trunks in lengths of 2 meters,(about 7 feet or 3 yards - and here the 100 Dollar question: is there any chance the US-Americans decide to switch over to meters and liters, to square meters and cubic meters like nearly everyone else on our planet Earth? Even the English did so, though reluctantly, I admit.

We need about 16 m3 (cubic meter) of firewood per year and sorry, I am unable to compute this into cubic feet. This batch is for the Winter 2010/11, so as to enable the logs to dry peacefully.

To see the video, don't click on the photo, click on the writing under the pic.



Have a look, please. May I present you Mr. Bornet. If ever someone comes here to settle permanently, this is the guy to approach for firewood. Admire how he handles his grapnel. He is really a wizard with this contraption and could draw you a tooth with this in no time. He told me it took him 6 weeks to handle those eight levers correctly. Having done the job, see how he manages to drive backwards. The video ends when he disappears behind the house. But that is only half of the distance. He has to circle round our cherry tree, go down the lane and reach the street by passing the gate, leaving only about 15 to 20 cm (half a foot) on each side.

Three cheers to Mr. Bornet, king of precision backwards driving.


Chapter too

To see the video, don't click on the photo, click on the writing under it!!



Now I have to get busy with my chain saw to cut those trunks into lengths of 50 cm (about 1 1/2 feet). Tiresome job, nevertheless, because some of the trunks are really heavy and I have to move them out of the sawing area first and then to my log splitting machine. The sawing area behind me must be free so that I can jump backwards at a seconds' notice when the log heap suddenly decides to collapse or to crumble, whatever you prefer, anyway, kind of garden avalanche. Bad for health.

Well, right now, all this is just beginning. One of the next posts will show my wonderful log splitter and the self-made-high-rise-log-wall. Great things to come. Stay tuned everybody and try to remain interested in non political slightly boring subjects.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Homage to English language - smile a bit

Some years ago, I went to Northern Wales for a hiking holiday. In one of those boutiques where they sell stuff for tourists, I found this advertisement of old.

Let me tell you I love it. Such funny phonetic English. Whenever some guests come here for a visit and knowing more than the basics, I cannot resist to show this text.

Success and appreciation is by no means guaranteed. Some don't find this readable at all, others don't care and don't see why they should bother reading this when a Martini, Whiskey or Muscat is waiting.

I just hope some of you like and appreciate Roger Giles' message to humanity.

For easier reading, try the second photo.









In fact, I found it in a little town near Carnarvon Castle. For those who are not familiar with British history, it's there that the English created the Prince of Wales. A very clever publicity stunt invented 700 years ago to convince the Welsh to stop fighting and become part of England.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Letter to the editor - refused by Newsweek

Normally, I am not very keen on writing letters to the weekly I read. But in this case, something rankled.

Many economists, I think, can be compared to psychologists or meteorologists. Very learned coves indeed and thus always ready and available for an exhaustive explanation. But when the events prove them wrong - that happens not infrequently - , don't wait for an excuse, you are wasting your time.

Thus I wrote a letter to the editor of Newsweek but they did not publish it. So I thought nothing should be wasted in these hard times. My letter might be worthwhile reading inside this wonderful blog.

All this is about Robert J. Samuelson's article "It's really a global crisis".

So, if someone needs to smile a bit, here is Georgyporgy's idea of how to save the economy pronto.

Quote
It might be a great help if one of these economics pundits would admit the fact that they are clueless, more or less. This recession will subside until people finally operate a change of mind and start spending again. Not before.

All those government induced spending programs won't change this situation. You could built new roads, you could even level the Mojave dcsert and cover it with a slab of concrete three feet thick: that would certainly boost the cement industry but not the manufacturer of toothpaste or the shipyards. Etc, etc, etc.

However, let yourself be inspired by Roosevelt's inauguration speech, back in 1933. He asked for special powers to tackle the problem at hand. "I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis—broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe".

Having achieved this, the incumbent president could vote to have the National Guard be equipped with axes or heavy clubs. Nationwide. Then these so armed recession fighters would enter every home and start destroying the following items in each household: 1 TV set - 1 car - 1 washing machine - 1 cell phone plus about 100 items of more or less value laying around.

Before leaving they should paste a written recommendation saying those goods have to be replaced by items manufactured inside the country. No need to boost those Asiatic economies, right?

These harsh measures would get the country humming in no time and once again the rest of the world would rush to imitate.

Here in France, however, we would start by going on strike, sure.

Unquote

Your comments, please. As to me, I am busy these days with the chain saw and the log splitting machine. Hard work.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

End of youth - adulthood

During my apprenticeship in Aachen with at an import-export company I became friend with Bernie. We met at school and decided to go to India, after certification. Our choice fell on India because you can go there by road and thus we had long meetings to work out the details of our trip.

Then came my military service at the Air Force (18 months) and after discharge and back in Aachen, first thing I did was to call on Bernie. His mother answered the phone: "Well, yes, I remember, this trip to India", she told me. "One has to grow up, hasn't one." What could I replay to that? "Give my greetings to Bernie" I said and hung up.

So I was once more on my own. This time to hitchhike to India. And in Istanbul I met an Englishman, Oxford-Johnny, and we decided to go east together.

Somewhere in Western Iran, a truck driver dropped us in a little town or village. So we squatted by the roadside, waiting for the next transport. The dirt road passed through a valley, its right side scattered with little houses, made of mud and stones. Behind many of these houses lay huge boulders that must have come tumbling down from the mountain. Simply by looking at those houses I smelled the danger. The rocks could move again, others might come down and they would not give any warning.


Photo of an Iranian village. But beware, it is NOT the place I a am talking of though this is the landscape I came through. I pasted it here only for its beauty.


Why did these people live there? They could not go elsewhere, I suppose. On the left side of the road, the ground was flat and there was a very long wall, about 1 1/2 meter (5 feet) high. Behind the wall I saw a big stately house.

Suddenly, a door in the wall opened and out came a guy carrying two platters with food and drink. "My master gives you his best wishes. Eat and be restored", he said, put the platters before us on the ground and left.

Wow! We did as he asked and left the cleaned platters at the door. Should we have gone in to say thank you? I don't know. That was neither the first nor the last time people - complete strangers - were friendly to me. But never like that.

About two months later I finally arrived in India. Oxford-Johnny had left me in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. "I think from here on, we better carry on separately", he told me. I liked his company and don't know why he said that. Years later it occurred to me that he might have realized I knew where he was hiding his travel money. But that's just a guess.

One day I came to Amritsar, the Golden City, in Northern India. Looking around there I made the acquaintance of a Sikh who invited me into his house to stay with his people, for some time. This I did, ate their food, slept with them on the roof of their house with the other members of the family.


Photo of people in Amritsar. Found it on the Internet. Nothing to do with the people I met there.

When I left, ready to say good bye to those I have met in the house, the Sikh, the old Gentleman, said to me: "you never asked our name, never". I just don't remember what I answered to this. But it still rankles. I was tried and found wanting. Was I a self-centered young brat or was it only my timidity? I don't know.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Words of our last Emperor

In 1898, William II (Wilhelm II) visited officially the Holy Land. At that time the area was called Palestine and it was under Turkish rule. Have a look at him.





On his way he came to Damascus where he delivered a speech and said something that went far beyond the usual politeness of a visitor from a foreign land. "If I were not born as a Christian, I would have been a Muslim"

That is more than a hundred years ago and I am wondering what made him say that. Were those Muslims he saw and talked to the same kind of people we hear of these days? I just can't imagine that. They must have been very different.

Time has changed. Now, a hundred years later, who would like to repeat those words?


This video about the stoning of a girl of 17 has been sent to me by a French blogger-friend.

video

There are people who hurt her and there are others who are busy making a movie with their cellphones. Until someone "finalizes" with a block of concrete, similar to those I am using when building a wall (about 20 kg each).

No need to imagine how is hell in the afterlife. It's nearby, just a few airplane hours from here, equipped with battery powered cell phones.

The murdered girl's name was Doa Khalil Aswad, 17 ans. She was subject to to public murder because she fell in love with a young man of another religion. One more life wasted by or for Sharia.




During the murder procedure, her thighs become visible and you see her slip. Then someone covers that part of her body to protect her dignity. Can you imagine. That's what I call perverse.

There is a petition so as to stop this Sharia business in Kurdistan/Iraq.

Important statement received as comment by an Afghan blogger living in Pakistan:

Hi Georg, I'm with you against madness practiced in the name of any law, whenever, wherever it is practiced. But facts should remain facts. Du'a Khalil Aswad was not stoned under Sharia Law. She wasn't even a Muslim. She was a Yazidi, and she was stoned by the people of her own religion for having a Muslim boyfriend. It was a case of honor killing.

Islam, that like any other religion preaches of love and peace , its image has been enough tarnished by a bunch of savages who think they are being Muslims.

I request you, to kindly set the facts straight about the video in your blog.

I had a look at Wikipedia under Yazidi and they even mentioned this stoning. So I made a mistake. The poor girl was not Muslim and Sharia - this time - is not to be incriminated.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Gaza - Israel - all that

Some days ago a friend sent me an email asking me to sign a petition for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Well, I told him that I will certainly not sign this petition.

The Gaza strip is a kind of concentration camp. When Israel was founded in 1948, the Palestinians living there were driven out and put into storage in Gaza. The place is the most densely populated area in the world. Crammed with refugees for now 60 years precisely. People who are obliged to live there on a subhuman level, survival alone is assured and even that not always, war or no war. No work, no future, no getting out. No hope.

Can't help thinking that what is happening now in Gaza bears strong similarities with the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943. There is however one big difference: in 1943 the inmates were Jews and they were facing death by the German SS and in Gaza the supervision is carried out by the Israelian army. (For more details, see Sunday Herald - 1.13.09 "Gaza ghetto is destroyed and the world stays silent" or Reuters - 1.10.09 "Shadow of Warsaw ghetto over Gaza".

Sure, no government in any state could or would tolerate that its people are being targeted by rockets. However, these rockets have caused much fright and about 15 deaths. In Gaza killing is carried out on a wholesale basis, should now be well over thousand. And I can't help thinking that it would be better - if I were there - to die right on the spot than being treated in a hospital where there is more or less nothing.

For those who are interested, here is a video made by reporters from the British newspaper "The Guardian".

In order to win this "war", the Israeli air force is lavishing white phosphorus (WP) on the inhabitants. Imagine YOU come in contact with this chemical. It burns on your skin unless deprived of atmopheric oxygen and the particles continue to burn right down to the bone until the chemical is used up. For more details, see "globalsecurity.org" - White Phophorus and "haaretz.com" - 1.12.09 "White Phosphorus shells".




It should be said that the state of Israel has always cherished special treatment for the people conquered in 1967. Land confiscation, housing demolitions, driving people into abject poverty and hopelessness. Want more details? See UN report And in order to keep the stolen land and avoid any hostile reaction from the victims, they build a wall. In that they surpassed even the Communists whose Berlin Wall was at least erected on their side.

In a nutshell, they should be stopped. What is being done to the Palestinians is wreaking havoc worldwide. Hypocrisy and denial reigns. All this is not even in the interest of the Israelis themselves. Nobody with at least a little common sens can imagine to prepare a secure and carefree future for the coming generations when showing such total disregard for all neighbors and everybody else.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Customary well wishing

Here in Western Europe, we have this burdensome habit of sending greeting cards to each other. I have this English friend who humbles me each year by being the first to send his card with wishes for merry Christmas and a happy new year.

His card arrives in early December and gives me the signal to get busy.

On the other hand, the French post their cards till mid-January. Sure, it's a bit late for the "merry Christmas" stuff but you can always purchase cards who cater exclusively for the next year.

All this is a kind of chase where the first-comer humbles the late-comer. Because you have to answer those cards and make believe the other one that both cards crisscrossed somehow. Meaning something like "I am not the uncivil one who waited or was about to forget. I am just a tiny bit late. The postal service was probably on strike."

I hate this custom but don't dare to go silent. Because you can't receive all those well wishings without answering accordingly. I must admit: I don't have the guts to do so.

There is a positive side to all this. You can gloat and boast about all those cards received. We are stacking them on the chimney are are proud to have so many. Meaning without saying so: "I got more than you".

Here, look what we harvested this year:











It might be fun to send those stereotyped wishes in July with a remark saying "to be activated in December/January" or something like "covers a 12-year-span - best before 2020. Then you can live in peace till that date or even better: die before.
RIP