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02 | February
28 | Problems the US has in regard to reopening schools aren't really that much different (if at all) from the many problems we have over here.
27 | No matter if it was a single perpetrator (highly unlikely) or if the Nazis instigated the Reichstag fire in Berlin (February 27, 1933) to then blame it on communist agitators (very probable), the fire was pivotal in the establishment of Nazi Germany because it gave the Nazis the opportunity to suspend personal liberty with increased power.
26 | Twitter was set on fire over here when a public-radio host called a K-pop band (BTS) from Korea (South) a bunch of "pissers" who had the chuzpe to cover a Coldplay song. He also compared them to Covid-19 and hoped they would end up in North Korea on their next holidays. Something like that (I don't listen to this kind of crap). I'm sorry, but I had to laugh out loud ... although, yes, his choice of words and expressions wasn't exactly politically correct. The guy is apparently passionate about Coldplay (I certainly am not and would probably have attached the urine-moniker to them) and if you listen to the tone of the host's introduction to the track, you can easily tell he was going overboard on purpose, intonation and all. I'm not going to get into the "what used to be OK is an abolute no-go today" discussion, which is completely inadequate, but the whole thing reminded me of a brilliant review (less "racist", if you like) of Freddie Mercury's and Montserrat Caballe's album "Barcelona)" from way back when, which the reviewer simply summarized with one onomatopoeic expression "Iiiihhhhh!" (which equates to a drawn-out "gross!" in English). You could also have read a lot into that one if you had wanted to.
25 | The Gulf Stream system is the weakest it's been in 1,000 years. The temperatures we've had here this week seem to be pretty convincing proof. Late February turned into early summer.
24 | "Seven guys with machine guns and you're gonna stab them? You really are f-cked in the head. I almost didn't shoot'em just so I could see you try and pull that off."
(Banshee, Season 2, Episode 10: "Bullets and Tears")
23 | NASA posted this spectacular video of Perseverance's landing on Mars.
22 | Well, that was it for Daft Punk. Pity.
20 | These past very few days, the number of coronavirus cases has "suddenly" started to increase rapidly in my district. Anyone who has been following developments closely shouldn't be surprised. Experts warned about the mutations, nobody listened. Because we are going to have elections here and in the neighbouring state in less than 4 weeks, (most, but not all) politicians are in campaign mode and couldn't care less about anything that doesn't guarantee votes. Many people don't care or are forced to not care. Vaccination plans are a shambles. In the end, as usual, absolutely nobody feels any sense of responsibility or can be held accountable for anything they said or did. It's every man for himself (or, to be somewhat politically correct), every woman for herself. Absolutely brilliant strategy. Willful ignorance abounds across the board.
19 | To organize our online life at school, we use "Moodle", an open-source learning platform. As good as that solution is in many respects, it's frustrating to see that GUI design and layout implementation across devices always seem to be the least important aspect(s). Someone like me, who has always spent lots of time on making things at least a bit visually and aesthetically pleasing, the substantial differences across devices are more than frustrating.
18 | I landed on Mars (again) yesterday. As attentive followers of this website know, I've always made sure to have my name sent to Mars when that possibility was made available (check "July" on my "2020 in photos" page, for example). This time I arrived with about 11 million other people in tow. In the past, the rovers weren't that crowded.
17 | Apparently, beads made in Venice, Italy were discovered at an archaeological site in Alaska. Carbon dating revealed that in all probability they ended up there between 1440 and 1480, a decade or more before Columbus "discovered" the Americas in October of 1492. Fascinating reading: "Blue beads in the tundra".
16 | "Radio Garden" is a website I've massively enjoyed exploring. Do have a look if you haven't been a regular there already. BTW: Their (Android) app has far too many ads. Not recommended.
15 | "The Animation That Changed Cinema" (via Kottke.org). "This is a treat: a 30-minute video that celebrates the animations & animators that changed cinema, e.g. Yuri Norstein, Miyazaki, Fantasia, The Iron Giant, Persepolis, etc. — a full list of the filmography is available in the description. Absolutely stunning visuals on some of these."
14 | The educational department of my home state just loves waiting until the very last second to make any binding decisions. They usually reach those responsible 4 minutes before they are supposed to go into effect. Their last press release (relevant for schools) was published on the 11th of February. Absolute slowpokes and not very responsible.
13 | Whenever I clean - during and after - or every time I have some peace and quiet in the sun outside, I have a couple of CDs that I have in my ear constantly, via my smartphone and in-ear phones or via my positively muscular active speakers in the dining/living room. Besides some "boomer" stuff, one singer turns up again and again: Paula Morelenbaum, "[...] a Brazilian singer, born in Rio de Janeiro. She and her husband Jaques Morelenbaum were in the band that toured with Antonio Carlos Jobim from 1984 to 1994. In addition to Jobim's group, Paula Morelenbaum has [...] also been in the trio Morelenbaum2/Sakamoto, also with her husband, and with Japanese composer/keyboardist Ryuichi Sakamoto". I have tons of her albums, but the ones I was listening to (again) today were "Telecoteco" and "Berimbaum", two favorites of mine. If you love Bossa Nova, check her and her albums out.
12 | Last week, a whole load of Sarah sand was blown into Europe from down south. Because it was raining, I have it all over one balcony, the balcony furniture, the windows ... everywhere (check the link ... yeah, I thought that was/is funny. I was born that way. Sorry.). :-)
11 | Yesterday I highlighted UnrealEngine's new MetaHuman creator. Just to add an anecdote: Daniel Vogel, COO @ Epic Games, a company that also develops Unreal Engine, was once a student at our school (and of mine). I always use his biography - and that of others - to get my students to simply "aim higher". We have a huge number of incredibly talented students at our school and sometimes they need convincing in regard to going "all in" when it comes to choosing an international perspective and career for themselves. Without Daniel and the others, that aspect of my job, which I take very seriously, would have been much, much more difficult.
10 | The UnrealEngine MetaHuman creator is really something else. Scary, at times, but technically brilliant. As they state for that video: "Creating convincing digital humans has traditionally been hard, slow, and expensive. With MetaHuman Creator, the time to create a unique digital human of the highest quality, complete with hair and clothing, is slashed. Here, we provide a first look at the new tool". Have a look and, if you are at all interested, at other recent videos highlighting this new tool. We've come (very) far. Spectacular stuff.
09 | In light of yesterday's anecdote: That same winter, 1978/79, I was in Farum, north of Copenhagen, with a bunch of friends. It was snowing heavily, it was freezing cold ... and we decided to head to some obscure party in Nivå (a totally remote place, which we did reach eventually ... only to immediately leave again because that party crowd simply wasn't ours). We froze our asses off, marched for hours ... and a friend, whose hormones were apparently at a high then, only noticed after an hour in arctic temperatures that he had forgotten his warmer jacket. So we kept warm with assorted beverages. One of the best nights I ever spent in Copenhagen (which also gave birth to our adapted version of the infamous "Three German Soldiers" song, which I simply will not and cannot recite here. The 21st century simply doesn't allow this kind of stuff anymore).
08 | As Germany is positively groaning - for absolutely no reason - about a slightly stiffer winter up north than usual, I can't help remember the winter of 1978/79 in Denmark when everyone and everything was snowed in. On New Year's Eve, in the middle of all that chaos, we actually tried to get to one party in Dragør (along the coast) and, when someone offered an alternative, ended up somewhere totally else (in the opposite direction) because trains weren't running, Copenhagen had come to a standstill and the snow was piled up 2 storeys high on the side of most roads. Nobody in his right mind was outside, besides us, of course. Still, we had a grand (and freezing cold) night, walked for hours and were snowed in eventually at our destination. The next morning there wasn't any food in the house and a single orange went to the highest bidder for a premium price. Fun times ... and definitely not the end of the world.
07 | Here's another incredibly cool gadget, the Zen Nixie Clock, which will set you back another $2000 (without taxes). But you could also go for the "Puri Nixie Clock" for around $1500 (without taxes).
06 | If you have around $3000 to spare and are willing to wait half a year for delivery, the "Vestaboard" is an incredibly cool gadget. Check out this video. I would buy one if I had the money to spare.
05 | As a teacher, I cannot wait for schools to reopen, but now that all three mutated versions of coronavirus have crash-landed all over the place here, prospects look bleak.
03 | I love well-written texts. "Why I had to leave The Guardian" is such a text, even though you might not agree with some or all of the contents
01 | We spent the entire day in video conferences ... learning more about video conferences. Everything is increasingly beginning to resemble an infinity mirror.
01 | January
31 | Where are people like Marjorie Taylor Greene actually hatched? Is there a farm somewhere? What are they fed? Why do they have guns? Do they actually know what a gun is? Can they spell? Are there life rafts for people like her if a ship goes down? Really? Can anyone translate her insane ramblings? Why does she exist?
30 | My life is about to change significantly. Hang around and read more about it in the next weeks and months.
29 | As I suspected, #wallstreetbets (see yesterday's post) went viral within a couple of seconds. Whatever you think about a very large number of people trying to get their "revenge", "manipulate" trading, or just being along for the ride, it showed how the financial and silicon valley systems react: trading was halted arbitrarily (for the littlle guy), Google deleted more than 100.000 negative reviews for apps involved and, altogether, the Wall Street crowd reacted as expected ... they hated that news sources revealed how they had a hand in trying to stay on the inside track.
28 | With lots of popcorn at the ready and for a couple of hours, I've been closely following the whole #wallstreetbets epic short squeeze development/debacle (depending on which end of the stick you got). I usually try to stay objective, but in this case I just can't. It is painful and depressing to see how the unbelievably flawed financial system is trying its best to get government protection for those who have profitted from the misery of others for ages and against those who are fighting back, albeit aggressively. I hope the latter win out.
26 | "As far as impressing your potential new boss goes, discovering a planet on day three of your internship at NASA is up there."
25 | QAnon’s adherents in the US believe(d) that a "cabal" would eventually be exposed and arrested in an event known as "The Storm," orchestrated by President Trump. Now they are confused because absolutely nothing happened. But, according to many (who have quickly adapted their totally inane theory to changed circumstances), things are indeed happening ... we just can't see them (unbeatable logic, that). The following is what a Twitter user had to say about all this endless gobbledegook:
"It's just a never-ending search for evidence to support an expanding set of conspiracy theories. It's not going to stop until they realize they have spent the best part of their lives chasing non-existent pots of gold at the end of vanishing rainbows."
23 | Now that I've had it for a while, the most annoying thing about Samsung's Tab S6 lite is its constant power drain while it is just lying around somewhere. Unless you limit / turn off all the functionality (and what's the point of such a device then?), it won't last long. That's been a problem with all of my Samsung devices and now that I've tried the odd Chinese device here and there, which are tons better in that regard, Samsung will be off my list for now. BTW: Their new phone line has been heavily criticised for feature overkill and, again, battery drain.
22 | I have a lot of Max Richter's (meditative piano) music at home. Check out his NPR "Tiny Desk" home concert.
21 | When I studied at the University of Saabrücken (for all too long), the best thing were the many spectacular concerts they put on regularly. I just went through some old folders and found tickets for Depeche Mode (1982), Level42 (1982 and 1983), Pat Metheny Group (1983), Shakatak (1985), Billy Bragg (1986), plus German favorites BAP (1982 and 1983), Rio Reiser (1986) as well as Grobschnitt (1986 and 1987).
20 | Given the disproportionate influence Twitter has on print and online media, the average person unaware of this impact is probably constantly wondering where all this bullshit emanates from.
19 | I just gave the HEVC / H.256 video compression codec a spin and it is absolutely amazing to see how well high-quality films, which used to easily take up 10 to 20 GB, can now be compressed down to considerably less than half ... in better quality and double the resolution. The wonders of modern technology.
18 | Just like everywhere else, the pandemic is being politicized here. Science goes out the window and, in light of elections this upcoming September, political skirmishes have taken over. The best thing to do is just to keep news sites closed.
17 | As I am working on a new page - "2020 | in photos", I can't help notice how incredibly bad Microsoft's photo app is. I have thousands of photos and the app cannot handle them without lagging on a high-spec system, crashing or being a general nuisance. The problem is that every single alternative that is recommended has an UI that looks like it was designed for Windows 95. Fast, yes, but they all look like crap.
16 | I started rewatching "The Queen's Gambit" on Netflix, this time together with my better half. It really is an exceptionally good series, despite small flaws here or there. Again, highly recommended.
15 | It looks like 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record. No suprise there, really.
14 | Although the impeachment of Donald Trump is justified, I think it is a bad idea. It will completely overshadow Biden's first 100 days.
12 | "I don't do satnavs.". Michael Caine, here on Michael Parkinson's show a couple of years ago, simply must be one of the nicest, most pleasant, smartest and down-to-earth people around.
11 | I spent some time trying to get a large number of reliable FFP-2 masks. Especially on Amazon (as usual), that has become almost impossible. Their product list has been flooded with cheap and sometimes even dangerous forgeries. Not surprisingly, many products in this category display (required) certification labels which they do not have and Amazon does f*ck all about it.
10 | Looking at the collection of photos I took last year, 90% are photos of (spectacularly good) food. I'm moving up in the world.
09 | Logitech is a prime example of the large number of globalized manufacturers giving consumers and the environment the finger. They simply don't care. For profit's sake, they not only removed the replaceable battery from many of their top-of the line computer keyboards, they also reduced the charging capacity of the now inbuilt ones. And, because consumers are a passive and also complacent bunch, they are getting away with it. One day soon, we will simply drown in "e-waste".
08 | We haven't seen much snow these past many years around here, but we're getting some of it now. Whenever that happens, it reminds me of my hometown in which the local fire department used to pour a massive amount of water down a long, steep and remote paved road so mostly children, but also some pretty reckless grown-ups, could race down on their sleds. If it hadn't been for the hay bales propped up on the sides, I would have died many times over along it's one kilometer long stretch.
07 | December 6th is traditionally the day people pack away or throw out their Christmas trees and decorations, but I decided to keep my tree around for another couple of weeks. It's been mostly cold, grey, often foggy and generally unpleasant outside and the tree just adds a comfortable glow to the living room.
06 | I'm watching events unfolding in the United States as I write this and they are the logical conclusion to what I wrote two days ago.
05 | In 2020, I ordered more from Amazon than ever before. Yes, it certainly has something to do with the ongoing pandemic, but it also has to do with many of Germany's businesses lagging behind when it comes to any viable online infrastructure. Although I would like to, I cannot support smaller and mid-sized manufacurers who can't even get a half-decent onlince presence going. As if they simply - still - don't care.
04 | I can't find the link anymore, but today I read an interesting take on developments in the western world, which I found quite accurate. We should not really be talking about a shift to the right of the political spectrum, but rather about wide-spread political apathy mixed with democratic fatigue. I believe that mix is even more dangerous than it sounds.
03 | Yes, we do have enough protest against the current lockdown (which really isn't one) and any - probably stricter - future rules, but the media have blown dissenting opinions out of proportion. We are talking a small but (very) vocal minority here.
02 | According to our schedule here, school was supposed to start on Monday, but the pandemic made us keep schools closed until the middle of the month. I'm quite sure we'll need to extend that at least until the end of the month ... if not longer.
01 | Happy New Year, everyone! Let's see if this year will be better than the last one. And, by the way, I archived last year's micro blog.