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09 | September
18 | Fall is in the air. After a seven-month run of mostly spectacular weather, which is supposed to continue for a couple of days more, temperatures in the mornings are signalling change. Let's hope we will finally get some solid rain, which we haven't had around here in all that time. A careless smoker could probably single-handedly and instantaneously turn the forest just around the corner from where I live into a flaming inferno.
17 | Suntup Editions just announced the release of "The Auctioneer" by Joan Samson, an author that wrote one single novel in 1975 and then succumbed to brain cancer five weeks after its somewhat delayed release in 1976. I read that one ages ago and really liked it. Rare ... and recommended!
16 | Here's a Harry Truman quote we stumbled upon in one of our lessons today: "You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog!” That goes for most other capitals as well, I guess.
15 | Throughout a test, one of my students wrote "singing a law" instead of "signing a law". While correcting, I tried to imagine what that might look and/or sound like. I almost gave points for originality.
14 | In recent weeks,"cancel culture" has reached German Twitter and is apparently not about to go away. Most people, especially left of the center - have gone utterly and completely bonkers. Participants in this online sport are definitely not my people and I often wonder what makes them tick. It can't be empathy ... and it certainly can't be compassion.
13 | Still one of my favorite quotes: "Rice is great when you’re hungry and you want 2000 of something.” (Mitch Hedberg)
12 | Mirroring my spring cleaning efforts earlier this year, I have been crawling around my place since 7 o'clock this morning trying to get "fall cleaning" off my to-do list ... while the weather is still spectacular, (with temperatures approaching 28 degrees Celsius). P.S.: I (still) have too many nooks and crannies.
11 | My school has become one of - if not the - largest high school in the entire state. "Cool", you might say, "that gives us state-wide headlines", but in reality, it has resulted in huge higher- and lower-level courses whose sheer size counters each and every learning goal ever conceived. That doesn't surprise me though ... with the out-of-touch cheapskates that populate our government's educational department today.
10 | Scary stuff.
09 | Sometimes, people develop a real passion for cooking. When you watch them, they have developed skills that most people don't have, they have a feel which (sometimes exotic) ingredients work together, they get frustrated and overly self-critical, impatient one day and ecstatic the next ... and are the better for it. I'm one of the lucky guys who happens to have a partner like that.
08 | I wanted to work on one of my balconies today, set up my Dell XPS 17 and fired it up. First a Dell update rolled in (1.2 GB), then a Windows update popped up to deal with the stuff Dell had thrown onto my machine (1.5 GB). Then Dell threw a popup at me that it needed to update stuff because Windows had updated stuff and once that was completed, Windows burped and ... I gave up, got myself a piece of paper and a pen and started working.
07 | The Blacklist's episode "Hannah Hayes (No. 125)" (Season 7) has won my award for the dumbest episode I have ever had the misfortune of watching on Netflix. Let's hope "woke" writers don't derail the series completely. What a bunch of mindless and downright mental gobbledegook.
06 | "Mulan" sucks, not because it is Chinese propaganda or because it was watered down, but because it is a lifeless film with a horrendous script that just does not make any sense, does not create any tension and drags out a simple story that, at its heart, could have worked. Family values are important (even that seems to be controversial today), but the way they filmed this mess, that message is almost entirely lost, because there is absolutely no focus.
05 | If you make "Schnitzel" the traditional (and proper) way, it's a "Schnitzel". Prepared any other way, it tastes like an old shoe (which the majority of half-assed and cheap-sh*t restaurants in Germany love to throw at unsuspecting customers).
04 | I'm covering the 2020 US presidential election with one of my lower-level English courses this year. For the very first time in my life, staying objective has become almost impossible.
03 | I stepped away from a self-hosted WordPress installation years ago, but I still keep up with developments. It's frightening to see how many (excellent) theme developers have had to scramble for new avenues of income now that the "Gutenberg" editor has moved to the forefront. Reading along all over the place shows me, if you add the coreonavirus to the mix, that some people have lost their livelihood within a few months.
02 | I don't know when it started, but also in Germany the press has joined the dark side by assuming that asinine tweets by comparatively few people are representative of the population's consensus. And that misperception won't go away anytime soon, especially with the many individuals who have the chuzpe to call themselves "journalists" nowadays.
08 | August
08 July - 31 August | Digital Detoxing
I got so absolutely tired of the Internet, news, home schooling, computers, digital devices and 99.9% of everything else that I decided to throw the switch and turn absolutely everything off ... unless I needed it for work, which started again middle of August.
No covidiots, no fake news, no blathering, none of the daily eruptions of utter un-educated stupidity that seem to be the norm today.
What did I do in the meantime, you ask?
01 | I enjoyed the time with my better half. We took shorter and more extensive trips, we went out and ate well as much as the present situation allowed, lived a good life and enjoyed the time we have together.
02 | I visited my parents in Bonn, stayed at a fabulous small hotel there and spent another 5 days near their home in a wonderfully old-fashioned (in the most positive sense of the word) hotel right along the Rhine, in a small village in which Willy Brandt lived out the last 15 years of his life. And we had 36+ degrees, to boot.
03 | I started work amidst government regulations which were and are totally bonkers.
04 | I celebrated my birthday (I stopped counting 30 something years ago) and discovered an excellent restaurant (plus hotel) just around the corner of which I had previously been completely unaware. They even made it into last year's Michelin Guide.
05 | For the first time in 1 1/2 years, I had more than 5 guests at my new place (...at once). They drank all my rum.
06 | I battled Microsoft because their 2004 Windows 10 update sucks and killed my new Samsung 49'' monitor.
07 | I had to replace parts of my trusted Kyocera (2135dn) B&W laser printer which blew up exactly in the one single moment I needed it most.
In short, I didn't miss the Internet a single bit and my life was better without it.
Alas, my job forced me back into it ... so here we are again
07 | July
26 | Starting next week, my better half - who resides in an adjacent federal state which, according to screwed-up federal traditions, is not in holiday-synch with my own home state - will be off for 6 weeks. Good times ahead, I hope.
25 | After the Coronavirus crisis (and, as I suspect, before a second wave hits us around the end of August), my summer holidays are half-way through. Somehow, I think, I have wasted those three weeks without doing anything substantial. That's not true, but that’s what it feels like.
24 | After one week of running my new Dell XPS through its paces, I had some seriously stiff drinks today and actually used it for some heavy-load work (I continued retagging my extensive digital horror fiction collection using the spectacular The Internet Speculative Fiction Database, Goodreads, Amazon, Google image search and about 30 open Photoshop windows to retouch badly-scanned cover images.
My XPS didn't even wheeze.
23 | [Dell Week - Done!] To be quite honest, I was seriously worried about buying Dell's new XPS 17. Advance reviews had been good, but once consumers had actually received their various models and taken them through the motions, comments had turned sour.
(01) Because I am seriously visually impaired (Uveitis), I needed a 17'' laptop with an excellent and bright screen that could provide around 500 nits for it to be used outdoors without too much hassle. My Dell XPS 17 is perfect in that regard (I currently have the UI scaled to 150%, although 120% in slightly darker environments work as well).
(02) I needed a laptop that I can throw about 10 to 20 open apps (Office, Adobe, Affinity apps, databases, etc.) and about 20 to 30 (or more) open browser tabs (Opera, Firefox, MS Edge) at without the fans doing the dance of death. The XPS 17 with the configuration I chose had absolutely no problems handling that kind of workload.
(03) I needed a portable laptop that, with all the AC adapters, dongles and whatnot, was somewhat easy to carry around. The XPS 17 is heavier than I had thought (although I had read the specs), but it is manageable. It is really not too heavy.
So, despite the trackpad issues (I have several Bluetooth mice to alleviate that problem), I decided to keep it.
And I let Dell know yesterday.
(01) Unfortunately, I declined the hotline's offer to accept a discount if I decide to keep the machine. I don't think they will offer that to me again, but I tried in a recent mail, which probably won't be answered until this upcoming Monday. Let's see.
(02) I'm a visual guy, so I turned this into my start-screen and desktop wallpaper.
22 | [Dell Week - Day 07] When all my tests had gone A-OK, I decided to throw the latest Windows (2004) update at my XPS, proceeded to delete all the superfluous bloatware that Dell pre-installs on their laptops and repartitioned the 1TB drive.
Again, no problems, nada, zip, zilch.
Finally, I decided to do what I intend to do with my new XPS: use it extensively on my balcony/balconies, exposing it to glaring sun and, currently, around 40° Celsius ... to boot.
Once I put it in the shade, it shut up almost completely. No fans, just idling along.
And, most importantly, as a visually-impaired person, the screen was wonderfully sharp, easy to read and consistent throughout (at 120% and 150% scaling).
21 | [Dell Week - Day 06] The second thing I did - for an entire day - was to throw everything at this new Dell XPS which relates to my work case scenario. I often have tons of tabs open while, for example, working on my positively huge digital collection of horror and science fiction books. That sounds like nothing, but I might often have 50 or 60 browser tabs open, some of which connect to extremely slow and erratic web servers, 10 to 20 Photoshop windows, Word, Notepad++, Calibre64, etc.
In all those tests ... nada, zip, zilch. Not a single glitch and not even the sound of lightly-running fans. The XPS took everything in stride. The only time the fans spun up was when Windows 10 did its asinine thing of constantly running superfluous processes which, in my opinion, are a pain in the ass.
20 | [Dell Week Day 05] The first thing I did was run through various extensive test procedures suggested on Reddit. I ran several CPU and graphics card benchmarks parallel (for over an hour) and the dreaded battery drain did not happen. As it turns out, higher-spec XPS 17s have a serious battery drain issue, which is somewhat baffling but, as Dell's marketing department states, is "by design". When under heavy load, the battery is drained although the laptop's AC-adapter is plugged in ... until the battery reaches a level at which things turn bonkers (for example during gaming or video rendering). Apparently, the 130 AC adapter power supply just doesn't cut it and supplies less than expected. So, when things hit a usage high, the battery is slowly but surely drained as well.
Thankfully, not on mine ... without the 4K screen and with a less demanding graphics card.
19 | [Dell Week - Day 04] After I had requested a return, I knew that I had a couple of days to do whatever I liked with the Dell XPS 17, so I did. As you will see above this post, I really took it through hell to make sure that returning the laptop would be a good idea. Because I do not have enough time for extensive testing every single day, I did a little here and there.
18 | [Dell Week - Day 03] When I received my new Dell XPS 17, I immediately noticed that the bottom half of the positively huge trackpad was off. It registered double-clicks in certain situations, wasn't precise enough and altogether erratic. Without much thought, I called Dell and told the (very nice) lady on the phone that I wanted to return it. For $2600, a laptop should be perfect. This one wasn't.
But my decision was a premature one.
17 | [Dell Week - Day 02] Even before I bought my new 2020 Dell XPS 17 (UHD screen, 16GB, 1TB hard drive, Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics card), which probably was the most expensive machine I ever bought, I was aware of (also quality control) issues with Dell's new XPS range (I am a member of the Dell subreddit and there, people have been very vocal about some substantial and serious issues). If you buy the specced out XPS 17 model with a 16:10 4K touchscreen and 2080 Nvidia graphics card, you will invariably run into problems. That's why, for my use case scenario, I went for the "middle-of-the-road" model.
16 | [Dell Week - Day 01] Buying a Dell laptop, especially as an early adopter, is never a good idea. Mine arrived today (earlier than UPS had indicated] and because I had read about a ton of problems their new 2020 XPS range (13'', 15'' and 17'') has, I thought I'd give my readers a "Dell Week". Whenever I receive new hardware, I test it extensively, so if you are interested, here we go ... (see above).
15 | In the past I have written several (or many) times about how public discourse has changed, how toxic things have become and how miserable and basically rotten the state of online news and discourse have become.
Today I just want to give you two examples, both of which you just have to research a bit for yourself to reach your own conclusions, as I don't intend to write about what I took away from them (which should be clear to those who know me).
But both of these news items and the stories behind them epitomize what's wrong in the 21st century and why we are currently experiencing - in my mind - a watershed moment in cultural history. We have started barreling down a dangerous path and there doesn't seem to be anyone around who is even willing to step on the brakes.
 - Alexandra Duncan withdraws her 2021 YA book "Ember Days".
 - Bari Weiss resigns from the New York Times.
George Orwell could have had a field day with all of this.
P.S.: After writing the above, I came across this just now, which adds a bit more context, albeit not the whole picture that I was alluding to.
14 | Still waiting for the Dell shipment. They have another 23 minutes.
13 | For quite a while, I was severely angry at Dell for not providing accurate information in regard to their shipping process (or for hiding and camouflaging it so well that nobody can find it or will read it while ordering). They say that shipment will happen within 3 to 6 business days and don't state anywhere reliably that said shipment will be by mule from central China. Today, after a week of absolutely zilch shipping updates via UPS, I was informed that my new XPS 17 is supposed to arrive tomorrow. Let's see how that goes (I have become incredibly cynical in regard to anything anyone loves to call "service" nowadays, simply because that doesn't exist anymore).
12 | I'm all for securing bank accounts, but in Germany and the EU, regulations have made it so incredibly difficult to regain access to your account(s) once you were locked out by accident that it isn't funny anymore. Add to that the fact that banks have reduced the number of employees to one or two, absolutely crappy home-cooked apps that simply don't work and telephone service queues that extend from here to the outer reaches of the known universe and I, for one, am all for tarring and feathering anyone and anything that has to do with banking.
11 | My better half is back for a sunny weekend, picnics, great food and altogether great times. And ... it's sunny ... again!
10 | Getting back into my old hobby of book collecting is a bit painful. I do miss it. But, because I kept all of my hardcovers (a couple of hundred) and collectible paperbacks, trade paperbacks and limited editions, I noticed that I had a few holes in that part of my collection that survived. Along comes "blobby20", who is selling off his stellar collection on eBay. I managed to secure a couple of "want, need will-have" first editions at very reasonable prices. And blobby20 is a cool guy, to boot!
08 | As I mentioned two days ago, I have been trying to beat my digital book collection into submission. One of the worst aspects of the shitload of work involved is trying to get hold of decent book cover scans. It is amazing how incredibly shoddy most scans are. Most people don't seem to care (at all), but I certainly do! So, I have been hitting auction sites, online booksellers and whatnot across the entire globe, trying to get hold of half-decent (especially first-edition) cover scans that I can then touch up via Photoshop, etc..
BTW: L.W. Currey Inc. is one of the very best stops for getting way above average scans of (pricey) first editions.
07 | I love bossa nova, a "[...] lyrical fusion of samba and jazz". I have tons (!) of recordings, both old and new, and they are perfectly suited for the summer weather we have had around here for ... months (minus a few days here or there).
06 | First real day off in ages. When I moved the first time two years ago (and once more since), I had to get rid of my extensive book collection (sans the hardcovers and some high spots) and before the books disappeared, I made sure that I had digital copies of (almost) everything I had. Today I have started sorting that collection, cleaning it up and tagging it properly (in Calibre, my E-book management program of choice). I think I might need another couple of months.
05 | Wrapping up this school year with a whole load of paperwork. Dreary.
04 | My better half is here for the weekend, and we went out for a picnic down by the Rhine river. Cozy, calm, sunny. Plus a good drink. :-)
03 | Officially, this was the last day of our school year here, a school year that was the weirdest one I have encountered since I started work as a teacher. Let's hope school will resume somewhat regularly after the summer.
02 | Amazon logistics are f*cked. You order three things - all of which are available and in stock - and they turn the shipment into, you guessed it, three different ones. The amount of waste produced by them is mind-baffling. Just multiply this by approximately one trillion shipments. Worldwide. Per day. Everywhere.
01 | After I moved into my new place, one corner of my living room was starting to get increasingly messy because I dumped all kinds of things there, glasses, smokes, pens, remote controls, bills, notes, etc. So, I started looking for a solution to get a grip on things and came up with this one: "Brief- und Dokumentenablage Nussbaumholz". It's a German page, but the prominently displayed photo(s) should suffice. Excellent (Spanish) craftsmanship by Romero Llopis!
06 | June
30 | Well, here goes another load of cash. I ordered a Dell XPS 17 (see below) with 16 GB of memory, an Intel i7 processor and a 1 TB SSD drive. Let's see how that goes.
29 | I have always loved these megapixel-zoom-in online versions of famous art pieces.
28 | Another great weekend with my better half came to a close a few minutes ago. One day soon, the time won't be limited anymore.
27 | I started looking into the Dell XPS series of new / brand-new notebooks/laptops. I'm interested in the XPS 15 and, especially, the XPS 17, both of which apparently had quirks from the get go. Great machines that have had trackpads that don't work, WiFi connections that are abruptly terminated every once in a while and other small issues. Still, the reviews are stellar most of the time. Dell states they have gotten a grip on the issues but forum posts suggest they haven't. Still, I'm about 10 minutes away from ordering one (I can always send it back). I need a new portable workhorse.
26 | The world is going to hell in a handbasket (Part II). In the past months, the various "truther" battalions and legions of uneducated know-absolutely-nothing idiots have tried to gain air supremacy around here. What baffles me to no end is how utterly ridiculous and insanely stupid their hypotheses and convictions are (and how much space the German press has allowed them). This has nothing to do with "freedom of speech", which they love to chant about endlessly. It has to do with zero education, a general mistrust in everyone and everything and an attitude that is just absolutely tiring. It just proves my theory that also the bad sh*t the US come up with ends up here with a delay of a few years. Invariably.
25 | The world is going to hell in a handbasket (Part I). Robbie Williams, you know, the guy from "Take That" ("Take Fat", as some people have been known to call that mainly superfluous boy band) turns out to be another one of those "Pizzagate" conspiracy asshats. It didn't surprise me in the least. By the way: Urban Dictionary defines an asshat as a "[...] complete and utter moron. A dumbass or idiot. An individual with a very low IQ. A person(s) with nothing to offer in a legitimate conversation."
24 | This boxed set I have been listening to endlessly since it arrived here a few weeks ago. Somehow I developed a total knack for this kind of Latin jazz and music when I spent lots of time in South America ages ago. Before that, it only marginally rocked my boat.
23 | The weather is spectacular at the moment. The best thing I have done these past 26 years was to move to a top-floor penthouse apartment with two balconies (including a great view into the countryside). I have spent more time on those balconies since March of last year than anywhere else.
22 | I don't know about your region, but here Covid-19 doesn't seem to play much of a role anymore for most people. As soon as restrictions were (somewhat) lifted, people went about their business again as usual, with few limitations (that are regularly ignored, especially by younger generations). I can understand that, but several new hotspots these past two weeks have shown that this kind of behavior is dangerous ... and careless.
21 | One of yesterday's catches was a sparkling wine produced by our favorite vineyard, "Weingut Thomas Hörner". We managed to get two crates of 2016 "Doppelbock Sekt" they had left over, which is the best one I have tried at a somewhat reasonable price these past many years.
20 | One of our annual wine trips ended up being very successful ... and expensive.
19 | I read a notoriously-famous book the other day, "Let’s Go Play At The Adams'" by Mendal W. Johnson, whose claim to fame is this one single novel from 1974. It was surprisingly well-written, although the story is nightmarish. Still, I often wonder about the twisted personality and childhood nightmares it takes to write this kind of book. P.S.: Suntup Press always cryptically announce their upcoming releases (check September) and I'm quite sure this one is going to be one of them.
18 | The latest Windows 10 update was the worst one I have ever seen. Because I can delay updates with my Windows 10 Pro edition, I haven't been hit with countless bugs, but let's hope they fix those once the update is forced on to my PC in early July.
17 | I have had to pay fewer taxes on a substantial inheritance than I had previously calculated. That's due to the fact that tax authorities have not been able to manage a simple task since January of this year. Before losing out on my payment, they sent a preliminary tax statement that will be amended later this year ... or decade. That's German efficiency for you.
16 | Although I prefer Affinity (Serif) apps by far, I still use an older Adobe Creative Suite whenever I need to get things done quickly, simply because I haven't gotten the hang of Affinity's Publisher (their fabulous DTP solution) yet. An old batch conversion script for Adobe's Indesign has saved my ass several times these past weeks ...
15 | The two Suntup Press prints I ordered five or six days ago (see previous posts) arrived here faster than almost anything else I ordered these past two months. And ... they are splendid! Now I just need to get them framed.
14 | One of my former students, for whom I wrote detailed recommendation letters, was accepted by both universities he aimed for, Georgetown (US) and Cambridge (UK). He decided to opt for Cambridge, simply because Georgetown proved to be too expensive. But ... what a choice to have!
13 | If you want to purchase Mosaic Records' boxed sets in Europe without them languishing endlessly in musty old local customs offices, you need to order them from a Spanish importer, "jazzmessengers.com". That they don't get the latest releases - and those in limited numbers, which quickly sell out - isn't their fault. Mosaic Records haven't been at the top of their game for years now.
12 | I think our local government handled the COVID-19 pandemic (which, luckily, hasn't been more than a flash in the pan in my region these past three months statistically) in a way that made it very difficult for both students and teachers. But, then again, I can understand why that happened.
11 | So, NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from its events. Many of the comments below that tweet are some of the funniest I have read in a long time.
10 | I came across this article about feral chickens in New Zealand ("... like something out of a Stephen King movie”) when Stephen King tweeted: "The chickens came out of the shadows...WITH A THIRST FOR VENGEANCE."
09 | A while back I mentioned that I was interested in the "It" and "Different Seasons" prints (large) that Suntup Press have put out. Today, I bought them. Let's see how that goes. Those two books by Stephen King were a huge influence on me and my reading a couple of decades ago.
08 | If you have been following along this and the various websites (I used to) keep, you know that I love to put together best-of collections that I place on the various out-of-commission Samsung phones around here, hooked up to my stereo and various active speakers setups. Today I completed a "Phil Collins" one. Phil Collins, as he wrote himself in an autobiography a few years ago, started to be everyone's most hated musician after a decade or two of chart dominance, but today, from a comfortable distance, he wrote some spectacularly good tunes. Good stuff.
07 | I bought a load of top wines off an online dealer I have had seriously good experience with these past many years. And, to prove the point, the first package arrived a little less than two days after my order.
06 | That whole Google conglomerate is a serious PITA.
05 | Most films (and I have watched thousands in my lifetime up until today) have started to bore me to death, especially because they are often formulaic to the extreme. "The Vast of Night", although certainly not perfect, was a welcome addition to a small number of films that have that certain special something: atmosphere, local color, a relatively tight script, a sense of wonder and accomplishment despite a very limited budget. For a first-time effort by director Andrew Patterson, really quite fascinating. Let's hope bigger budgets and Hollywood don't "kill" him before he really gets started.
04 | These "JBL CLUB ONE" headphones are actually damn good. I bought myself a pair. Good sound, true adaptive noise cancelling, hires certified, quality parts. Satisfied.
03 | No, I did not participate in "Blackout Tuesday". In many cases it was hypocritical at worst and selfish at best. As if posting a black photo absolved people of caring, doing and changing.
02 | I'm not even going to comment on the news. Too frustrating ... and getting worse by the day. I'm going to listen to some great music instead.
01 | What's with those pictorial handbooks that seem to be proliferating at an alarming rate? Don't people read anymore? Some cryptic graphics you need a Rosetta stone for to decipher. Have a look at the "button command" section in the "quick start guide" for the JBL Club One headphones. Yes, it's comprehensible, but a sentence or two would not have hurt. The world is being dumbed down completely.
05 | May
31 | In the past, I knew tons of people whose dream it was to travel to the US at least once. Today, hardly any, if at all. A depressing development.
30 | Note to self: Replace your sofa, which is slowly but surely beginning to dissolve after 20+ years of use, with this one.
29 | These speakers need more power than most fuse boxes in Europe can handle. But they are spectacular.
28 | The government wants to open all the schools again after the summer holidays and not once did anyone mention who is supposed to pay for it all (with all the new and strict regulations in place). Typical.
27 | Germany is drowning in petty, hysterical and largely uninformed discussions in regard to the pros and cons of the corona lockdown. I stopped reading them weeks ago.
26 | I'm currently looking into a contraption like this one because I simply have too much sun on one of my balconies, a balcony which has a half-round roof 5 meters above it.
25 | This wonderful text here outlines exactly why I stopped making / designing / keeping websites myself.
23 | Try zooming into this one ...
21 | For all you conspiracy theory guys and gals out there ... 5G Bio Shield has you covered.
20 | Check out Suntup's wonderful Stephen King "The Covers collection". I'm thinking of getting myself the "It" and "Different Seasons" prints, two books that had major importance for me way back when.
19 | I'm a gadget freak, but online reviews often put a lid on that part of my character that regularly raises its ugly (and costly) head. The "Remarkable 2" seems to be just the thing for me, but present users' comments scare me away: (1) People love their "Remarkable", but (2) when the battery starts to go or something goes belly-up, getting it fixed seems to be near impossible if you, like me, hail from thousands of miles away. So, great ... but not for me. I already have several drawers full of digital gadgets which, if I threw them out, would pollute the environment even further.
18 | The most annoying thing about teaching from home is the absolute chaos surrounding online privacy (both in regard to our local government's guidelines and their understanding of privacy laws as well as the constant demand for teachers to waste endless hours on trying to conform to these nebulous guidelines by just doing the reading and interpretation work themselves). In short, I have the feeling that nobody in power really understood the laws we need to adhere to and couldn't be bothered to pay someone to make them transparent for the average teacher/citizen. Frustrating.
17 | Ever the tinkerer, I added a Cambridge Audio X201 Minx subwoofer to my desktop speaker setup (Ruark Audio MR1 MKII). The speakers are already excellent, but the subwoofer does add another level of excellence to the system. Although I wanted to extend my old Nubert A-100 active speakers' (which need to be fixed) life cycle on my desk, they have been permanently displaced. That tends to happen around here if you cause problems.
16 | Cut & paste your surroundings to Photoshop. Fascinating.
15 | When I inquired today, I had the feeling that absolutely nobody in our school system had any idea of what they really wanted schools to do in these last "corona" weeks of the school year. It is quickly becoming apparent that not education matters, but (only) grades do. We have been asked to grade students on (a minimum of ... and no more is possible) two exercises for a final grade for the school year. Asinine ... and the best example for Utilitarianism rampant here.
14 | A "do-it-yourselfer" has been keeping the neighborhood on its toes these past three days. It seems to be someone who decided that his walls, floors, bathroom and kitchen aren't to his (it must be a "he") liking anymore. So, endlessly, he has been swinging his stone drill from 8 o'clock in the morning until 9 o'clock in the evening. People are beginning to arm themselves here.
13 | I accidentally ordered two cooking spoons from China. When I threw those into my shopping basket on Amazon, I only looked at "sent by Amazon", which in this case means that Amazon offered its shipping services to a Chinese trader. For me, it means that those two spoons will end up in the local customs' office (far removed from any viable civilization) and to get them out, I either have to pay around $40 for them to handle import duties, or I have to walk several miles into a free-trade harbor far from here to pick them up myself. Duh, I should have known better.
12 | I keep track of my spending via an Android app that I have used ever since I got my first smartphone. Via said app, I have noticed how my spending for everyday items has exploded these many past months. I don't care what people say about inflation rates ... my app tells me that life has gotten a lot more expensive.
11 | ZeroZeroZero is an excellent (!) TV series. Actually, it is the first series I have really enjoyed in a long while. Many of the other ones I watched via various streaming accounts have been mediocre at best. Somehow, I think, the "Golden Age of Television Series" seems to have come to an end. Too much slush.
10 | I really wanted to streamline my workflow by trying to focus on Microsoft programs, which - contrary to my past opinion - have gotten really damn good, but the Android version of Microsoft's Edge browser is keeping me from doing so. It doesn't allow the installation of add-ons and with that faux-pas, I would have to live with many ads wherever I go. Absolutely. No. Way!
09 | As I continue to experience hardware problems, this diary here has been put on the back burner for a while. Having to teach from my home office, all other activities are kept to a minimum in order to keep my work flow going.
08 | I live in a wonderful apartment with two balconies overlooking a cozy middle-class neighborhood and lots of nature (including a bunch of birds whom I have gotten to know personally). Many of my students, forced to stay at home by the coronavirus, are not so lucky. When I asked many of them to write a text outlining their present situation, I felt humbled.
07 | In Germany, the coronavirus lockdown grumblers seem to have gained air superiority (and so did those politicians, who are trying to gain political prominence in these times). Lots of places have opened up again, including my school. Unfortunately, I belong to a "high-risk group" and have to continue working from home. For a teacher, that is most frustrating. On top of that, whatever our local government has cooked up to make schools "work" again seems more half-baked than not. I simply cannot shake the feeling that those in charge are neither listening to those "in the arena" nor have seen a school from the inside since they were promoted to government desk jobs. If it weren't for creative, inventive and - usually - underpaid teachers and staff, nothing would work properly.
06 | After having replaced some hardware in my PC rig, things seem to run stable again. I still have no clue about the initial problem, although I had always thought I was capable enough to fix stuff. This one has/had me stumped and I really hope it won't start up again.
05 | While being forced to be offline again, I spent a bit of time setting up my new monitor (calibration, settings) and giving it a serious facelift. For the latter, I usually use RainMeter. Having a resolution of 5120px by 1440px allows for a great wallpaper, but I'm not a fan of their static nature, so I decided to bring the monitor alive with "Amatical", a theme which allows a minimal but useful setup for such an expansive resolution. After I tweaked it a bit - and after I included bits and pieces from other themes - I have a minimal desktop, whose center-piece is a huge and constantly updated weather icon, including date & time, a "quote of the minute" just below it pulled from a huge "favorite quotes" text file I keep, a wonderfully animated frequency spectrum whenever music is playing, plus info segments detailing network (upload & download speeds / transferred MB), CPU and hard drive usage. It's like a huge (black) animated wallpaper with a colorful center. I'm a geek.
04 | Baffling. I continue to experience problems with my Internet connection which, I guess, will not be easily fixed these next couple of days. After weeks of these problems, I have no idea what else to do. While the system works stably for a time, the connection will suddenly drop out (going from 100% to 0% in less than a minute) and only a complete reboot of both system and router will solve the problem for the next couple of minutes/hours.
03 | After the many weeks we were able to spend together, my better half has to leave today. Because she doesn't belong to the high-risk group (thank God), which I do, she has to start school again next week ... in the neighboring state about an hour away (by car).
Let's see how coronavirus times will treat us these next weeks.
02 | Because I got a new phone, now I have another excellent new (= old) portable music player, my Samsung Galaxy S7.
Today, I spent quite a while killing every single app on that phone. I also had to spend a serious amount of time turning everything off on the S7 to make sure it is as slimmed down as humanly possible.
Besides the fact that now - without the pre-installed bloatware, crap and useless stuff - I have a battery that tells me that it will last 49 hours (!) longer, I also have 98% of space to fill up with lossless flac files.
My old Samsung Galaxy S5 is filled to the brim with mp3 files (320kbps) and now I have the best of both worlds: an S5 to run endlessly when I have guests and an S7 to run HQ-files only via my Marantz stereo.
01 | Recently, I haven't been very good in regard to updating this website of mine. Besides the Internet problems I have experienced for quite a while, getting new and more or less complicated devices in through the door almost every single day of the week slows productivity down quite a bit.
Today I finished setting up my Samsung Galaxy S10 5G.
Whenever I get a new smartphone, I never use the standard UI. I create my own.
In case you are interested, I always install NovaLauncher and Nate Wren's absolutely excellent "Lines - Icon Pack", plus a suitable (dark) gradient wallpaper. Then I create four home screens, "home" (center), "music" (left), calendar (two left swipes), "private" (right) and "work" (two right swipes).
System apps are hidden using NovaLauncher, icons need to be replaced for those apps Nate Wren didn't provide any for (very few and usually exotic German ones), and new functions on the phone need to be set.
I'm anal that way.
04 | April
30 | Suddenly having 49'' of screen space is something you have to get used to. I love (!) my new Samsung C49RG94SSU, whose curved design I still have to get used to for a few days. If you are interested in buying this kind of monster, here are a couple of quick soft- and hardware tips you should absolutely look into:
Microsoft PowerToys: ... help you to divide up screen space into manageable "fancy zones".
DisplayFusion: I'm also going to check out DisplayFusion, which has a ton of options to get a grip on complicated multi-monitor setups or for simply trying to manage tons of screen real estate.
Stardock "Groupy": ... helps you to manage open applications in a tabbed and organized fashion, much like tabs in any modern browser.
TaskbarX: This one lets you center Windows taskbar icons with a variety of animations and options. Great little app!
Ergotron HX: Last, but not least, this sturdy monitor arm might be of help if your desk isn't as big as mine (and I'm still considering it for aesthetic reasons).
29 | I spent some hours setting up my new Samsung S10 5G today. Everything went smoothly, but that WhatsApp crap Facebook got its hands on (and subsequently ruined) a while back is proving to be a nasty b*tch. On my old phone it says that it's backing up everything to my standard GMail account successfully while, in reality, it is using another account entirely from which settings cannot be transferred to my new phone. Then I got locked out for 7 hours ... and then I decided to strangle that Zuckerberg asshat the next time I see him.
28 | Today I received both ordered items (see below). Despite the coronavirus pandemic, both packages arrived within 24 to 48 hours. Take that, Amazon! And ... doing extensive research before you buy anything online is a must today.
27 | I had to reorder the Samsung monitor (see below) and it is supposed to ship within minutes after ordering. Online comments suggest that this will actually work. And, in other news, Amazon support actually called me today (an absolute first in, what, 22 years) and apologized for the debacle with the Samsung monitor.
26 | I finally ordered the Samsung Galaxy S10 5g today ... after many hours of checking eBay sellers who are reliable. I actually found one seller that offered it almost €150 cheaper than what I had considered previously (and which, of course, was sold out the minute I found the offer because it was on sale and everyone jumped on it). This one is a UK model that should work fine here as well. In addition, it is below half the price in comparison to what it cost when it was released.
25 | Because my Samsung S7 is going down the drain as well (built-in batteries just suck), I decided to invest into a Samsung Galaxy S10 5g. It only took me several weeks of reading to opt for this model, mostly because I don't need more than 256 GB of space and because it has a headphone jack (the only new fancy model that has one). Now I just need to figure out who to buy it from. Prices are all over the place for this model.
24 | Amazon is giving me the "Amazon Dance". That's the one which means that they take your money and when you ask what's happening, they send you boilerplate gobbledygook which has absolutely nothing to do with your inquiry. Nothing whatsoever.
23 | Nothing but (insignificant) problems. I ordered the huge monitor and Amazon screwed it up, I think. Tracking suggests that they forgot to deliver the monitor to the shipping company. Let's see how that goes.
22 | In other news, IKEA has finally "leaked" its coveted recipe for "kötbullar", those Scandinavian meatballs everyone seems to love IKEA for most of all. In fact, I have read several articles these past years which made fun of the many Germans who actually travel to IKEA solely to eat there. Strange world, indeed.
02-21 | In these "Corona" times, fixing a broken PC proved to be more than cumbersome, especially because - understandably - technicians were hard to come by. As it turned out, a recent Windows update killed my online connection and the problem was worsened by a strained bandwidth which resulted from everyone around me suddenly being at home and online 24/7 (I have lots of neighbors). Almost three weeks later, I'm online again with a faster connection, a new router and a fixed Windows 10.
In other news (while waiting for things to be fixed or tweaking my setup endlessly), I decided to update my whole system, especially in regard to a more productivity-enhancing monitor.
I opted for this 49” Samsung behemoth with a 5120x1440 dual QHD resolution and, after a week or two, I think I might add this Ergotron "HX Desk Mount Monitor Arm" in white to replace the positively huge stand the Samsung monitor is provided with.
In the end, I might also upgrade my present series 10 Nvidia graphics card.
Besides that, I spent lots of quality time with my better half, ate great food, kept my social distancing habits at a maximum and listened to tons (!) of great music.
I hope you are all well. If the monitor replacement (arriving tomorrow) does not blow things up (again), I will be online regularly from now on. So keep checking back here.
broken Internet connection
faulty Windows 10 update
not the best of times!
01 | Today, as much as my Internet connection allowed, I have spent hours reading up on recent developments re the coronavirus spread. I check Venezuela regularly (with their health system, the virus will immediately turn into a killer one once it starts spreading), the US (because I have many friends there), Scandinavia (because my brother has lived there for nearly four decades), France (because it's just around the corner), my parents' current place of residence (with their health issues, they don't really stand a chance once it hits them), my own place (not that many cases at the moment), etc. No matter where you look, several things quickly become apparent: Because there isn't enough testing, numbers just don't add up, nobody really seems to know how dangerous the virus really is (missing or inconclusive numbers, again), exit strategies are becoming more and more prominent as economic consequences are beginning to seriously loom on the horizon and the feeling I get is that, understandably, most governments are improvising. Let's see how that works.
03 | March
31 | My Internet connection is still shot. I've spent days trying to solve the problem and have narrowed it down to a Windows update problem of some weeks ago, but despite my extensive knowledge of broken things in various Windows versions, so far I am absolutely stumped. Not good in times of online teaching. I cannot log in anywhere without a hundred tries, all of which often end up in an infinity loop.
30 | [speaker wowes 04] I was amazed how fast these were delivered. Ordered yesterday, delivered today and set up 10 minutes later. Great speakers that aren't even close to the deep base foundation my Nubert speakers provided, but I knew that beforehand. Excellent speakers which will tie me over.
29 | [speaker wowes 03] Instead of trying to get the repair of my defective speakers done now, I decided to replace them temporarily by a set of Ruark MR I MKII speakers which, once the Nubert speakers are fixed, will be moved to the kitchen. The Ruark speakers I have had on my "want - need - will have" list for ages now, ever since the MK I model hit the market and got excellent reviews.
28 | [speaker wowes 02] Google research showed that being an early adopter is never a good idea. I haven't had any problems until today, but, as it turns out, the first series of the Nubert active speakers (see yesterdays post) tend to produce an error ("tmode") after a while that cannot be fixed by resetting them. They need to be sent in for repair.
27 | [speaker wowes 01] Now that getting things fixed hasn't gotten any easier in times of the coronavirus, one of my trusted and loved Nubert nuPro A-100 active desktop speakers blew out. Typical.
26 | I went shopping last night and our local supermarket is pretty well stocked with everything. So far, so good. Let's see how that develops once the virus has had a chance to spread even more.
25 | Although it looked like the coronavirus problems were slowing down a bit, that does not really seem to be the case. Almost 5000 new cases overnight plus numerous possibly infected (but untested) people everywhere do not bode well for the next couple of days. Still, people are largely behaving sensibly around here.
24 | Home office work is virtually impossible at the moment. It is now becoming clear that my provider was hoping that with average use, the infrastructure would hold. Now that traffic has increased manifold, I have a fast connection with incredible ping latency in certain situations. That means I cannot use anything really. Especially logging into services is nearly impossible because I constantly get timeout errors. But, things should be back to normal by the end of the week.
23 | Day 3 of a partial lockdown. We're still allowed to take a walk, which we did in cold temperatures (but bright sunshine) today, and there was a lot of work to do for school. Many of the (cloud) services I use every day continue to experience continuous hiccups, which made work a serious drag (and I eventually gave up), but the situation, so they promised, should improve these next days. At the moment, I think, everyone is streaming Netflix (Disney+ from tomorrow onwards) and no matter what people say, it is clogging up the bandwidth available to people in certain areas ... like mine.
22 | The temperatures dropped dramatically overnight, but the sun was shining strongly. Because we are both teachers, the entire day was spent planning, developing and typing up materials for the 120 to 250 students we each have.
21 | This Saturday, our district administration announced severe restrictions for everyone living in my area. Corona cases are not that numerous here yet, but just across the border, in France, the virus has hit hard ... really hard. The bad weather (constant rain) helped to keep people indoors.
20 | Today, we were still able - in somewhat deserted supermarkets - to do some extensive shopping. Fresh food, not processed stuff that people are carrying home in droves. We were also able, while keeping the required distance, to take a walk in spectacularly nice and warm weather.
19 | It really helps to have a partner (not only) in times like these. Mine came here late this afternoon and, if things go well, will be allowed to ride this thing out with me for a quite some time.
18 | It looks like I'm done with the most surreal and bizarre round of final exams I/we ever experienced. I'm glad we pulled it off so all our graduates could close that chapter without having to wait endless weeks or months, but I still feel bad for them because there won't be any ceremonies, official events or parties. Nada. Zip. Niente. Maybe we should throw a party once the coronavirus has run its course? They certainly deserve one!
17 | As a volunteer, I have become a member of the small and spontaneous "emergency task force" at our school and ended up as head of various examination panels because some colleagues were - understandably (!) - missing. In that function - and not for the first time - I developed a lot of respect for all the students who excelled these days despite the adverse conditions they found themselves in. I also had the chance (although I thought that window had closed) to see a favorite student hitting one out of the ball park once again, a person whom I have admired for quite some time now for her own mindset, her unique (and pleasant) character and her abilities (despite her occasional reluctance and apparent distrust in her own capabilities). She will go far if she a) can figure out what to do with herself and b) has the continued stamina to actually pull it off. Every year, I have at least one graduate who has impressed me for quite some time, this year it was her (only). P.S.: I also found out today that my French is actually more than good enough (comprehension, not usage). I guess it helped that for the past 25+ years, I have read French, Spanish, Scandinavian and other newspapers - sometimes for several hours - every single day, without fail.
16 | Today, we had oral exams at our school (see yesterday's post). What a surreal experience that was. Teachers and students wearing masks, health authorities present ... right out of a Hollywood movie. And, yes, apparently we have had one graduating student who tested positive and had contact with a handful of others. Although all schools in my home state are officially closed, we still have two days to go. And, on top of that, we have to come in again on Thursday for a planning session to decide how to "teach" students while they are at home for another four weeks. In fact, civil servants have to do the exact opposite of what their superiors have been telling the general population for days now. Typical.
15 | We're in the middle of final exams (high school diplomas, "Abitur") and we are required to go through with the oral exams these next three days (incl. protective masks, if I understood correctly). German efficiency and all of that ... Death before dishonor ... World War Z!
14 | Well, schools are going to be closed here for the next few weeks and that's a good thing. Still, the government has a totally skewed idea about the digital capabilities of most schools under their supervision. The next few weeks are going to be exciting, to say the least.
13 | Some federal states are beginning to close their schools and put a lid on any larger-scale events. Finally! In my state, I expect schools to remain open until the "Abitur" (we still have the final oral exams to go) is completed (next Wednesday).
12 | Still coughing my lungs out. Jesus. Enough already!
11 | It's funny to read that our government thinks that schools should be left opened because "young children are rarely affected majorly by the coronavirus". When I read that, I wonder if they care at all about the teachers, who, in most cases, are not 12 years old.
10 | I've been listening to a lot of Dave Hole's albums lately. Because I (mis)spent my entire youth in shady and gloomy bars with live music, Dave Hole's in-your-face blues (rock) is just what I need at the moment. Nice!
09 | Well, I'm not back to normal. It's not the coronavirus ... but one that's a lot nastier. My doctor raised the antibiotics dose by a factor of 5. Let's see if that helps.
08 | After 12 days, I'm still coughing like mad but hope to be back to normal tomorrow. That was one hell of a viral infection.
07 | THIS has got to be the dumbest product I have ever seen. It's a "smart, simple, sustainable" water bottle which requires a custom water bottle, an iPhone app, three special canisters, a monthly payment and a four-day lithium ion battery. "Internet of Shit", indeed.
06 | The recent Mobile Fidelity release of Dire Straits' debut album (SACD) is excellent! It is one of my favorite albums and this reissue is the best-sounding one yet. Get it while you still can.
05 | Apparently, we have had the first coronavirus cases in my hometown. According to some people, the world is going to end tomorrow.
04 | While I am coughing away, Germans are going nuts because of the coronavirus. They are even raiding supermarkets in places which are hundreds of miles away from a single-patient outbreak. Nuts.
03 | I was told today that I would have to stay home for another week because the influenza I have is highly contagious. Great. Not.
01 | Still sick as a dog.
02 | February
29 | These past few days, I have slept more than I ever have in the past 5+ decades. On top of that, I cannot leave the house because the Covid-19 hysteria has Germany in its firm grip. I don't want to risk getting shot outside. People have started hoarding. Germans are just totally nuts.
28 | Man, this viral thing is nasty. I've had my share these past decades, but this one is something else. I can't even get a Netflix series in sideways because I never make it past the titles before falling asleep.
27 | Went to see my doctor today. Antibiotics. I've been sleeping for two days straight.
26 | [on holidays] And, no, it's not Covid-19. It feels worse.
25 | [on holidays] Apparently, someone in Nuremberg offloaded a nasty viral infection on me. It's just getting started.
24 | [on holidays] It is surprising how few delicatessen shops they have around Nuremberg for those who want to buy some presents for friends. You can find items here and there (especially countless suppliers of gingerbread), but a shop with a wide selection in the historical old city simply does not exist. Believe me. We walked around for three hours to find one. Google didn't help either.
23 | [on holidays] Despite storm warnings, we visited the Nazi Party Rally Grounds today. For someone interested in history, the exhibition in the documentation center there (which, by the way, is going to be completely renovated and changed soon) didn't really add anything new, but just getting a feel for the place and its egomaniacal concept was worth the price of admission. I'm still conflicted about the moral and historical aspect of preservation (not much left and not exactly kept "well"), but it was more than worth the price of admission for me.
22 | [on holidays] Arrived at the Adina Apartment Hotel in Nuremberg for an extended weekend. Nice, stylish and clean place with very friendly staff. After an extended tour of the historical old city and all the sights there, the evening was spent at a traditional restaurant, "Zum Spiessgesellen" with friendly service, great traditional Franconian dishes (and spirits) plus great cocktails afterwards back at the hotel. A fun day and even "funner" evening.
21 | [on holidays] Dentist. Yep. As is always the case when I have a few days off, something happens. Over one year ago, someone screwed something up. Something I have had to deal with on a regular basis since then. The dentist I visited today tried his very best to remedy the problem and invested tons of energy to help me live through the next three days in Nuremberg, a city I haven't visited since I was too young to remember. We're heading there tomorrow and I'm looking forward to visiting the historical parts of the city plus relaxing in an apartment-like hotel, which had more than enough good reviews. Let's see how things turn out ... although the weathermen have promised us a stormy and rainy Sunday. Cocktails for me then, from 12 noon onward. ;-)
20 | [on holidays] Today was an absolute highlight. Although the edition was limited to 100 copies, I managed to find two items (small and medium) I have had on my radar for months. Once again, I had waited too long and missed out, online. In Stuttgart, I managed to find two of three vases I absolutely wanted to have. I love the "Bauhaus" school of design and "Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Berlin" produced this spectacular limited edition (German site; I now own the small and medium vases that are depicted in the header image of a press release which will probably disappear soon) that I might have killed for. Leave it to my better half to steer me towards the only shop in Germany that still had two of three in storage. Bliss.
19 | [on holidays] Today, I worked through my bookmarks, visiting a ton of shops in Stuttgart which carry items I wanted to have or had on my short list. Interestingly enough, in an online world, 99% of the objects I had on my radar turned out to be (expensive) duds. I met a ton (!) of extremely friendly people though who were friendly and knowledgeable enough to steer me towards alternatives. I simply do not understand how people can rely on online shopping only. Many of the more intricate details, only sales people in the various shops I visited could help me with.
18 | [on holidays] The first day was spent getting school work out of the way for that future day the holidays are over and done with.
17 | [on holidays] In Ditzingen once again. Long time ... no see.
16 | [on holidays] I have always appreciated the luxury (as the only German who doesn't have a driver's license) of being picked up and driven to my destination. Today is another one of those days.
16 | [on holidays] Because I'm heading to Stuttgart once again, a city with a ton of excellent and upscale design and furniture shops, I researched and bookmarked places I want to check out while I'm there.
15 | [on holidays] Today I gave my apartment a good dusting in preparation for 9 or 10 days away. It's actually the first time I leave my new place for more than a day or two.
14 | [on holidays] The powers that be decided to restructure this state's school holidays a while back. The result is that I now have 1 1/2 weeks off instead of three or four days for the annual carnival mayhem, which rolls around here like clockwork.
13 | 75 years ago, Dresden was carpet-bombed into oblivion. "But the bombing has become one of the most controversial Allied acts of World War Two", writes BBC Online. "Some have questioned the military value of Dresden. Even British Prime Minister Winston Churchill expressed doubts immediately after the attack. 'It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing of German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretexts, should be reviewed,' he wrote in a memo." More importantly though, in "Dresden revisited: how Germany’s far right is giving new life to the Nazi lies", Oliver Moody (The Times Online) writes about how 75 years after the horrors of the fire bombs that destroyed it, the city finds itself at the centre of a new culture war.
12 | Until today, I refrained from paying for online news because in Germany, viable subscription rates which aren't aligned with outdated print ones simply do not really exist. But after "Spiegel" updated their website and then forced people to accept outrageous tracking if they didn't want to pay up, I subscribed to FAZ, a site which still has what I would call a traditional journalistic approach instead of publishing clickbait and endless streams of opinion pieces.
11 | Although I haven't used WordPress for quite some time now, I still follow its development. The new upcoming release (5.4) seems to have taken quite some steps towards making the block editor - and site-wide editing - a more pleasant experience.
10 | Why doesn't this surprise me? "Apple’s Independent Repair Program Is Invasive to Shops and Their Customers, Contract Shows".
09 | There was a brief moment in time when Def Leppard's "Mirror, Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)" from their second album (1981) was perhaps the most important song I listened to on repeat. I was absolutely delighted to find out that Def Leppard are releasing an interesting boxed set that pulls together their first two albums (they lost me after those), "On Through the Night" and "High 'n' Dry", reworked and remastered, including live recordings, demos and BBC sessions. The package will include 5 CDs and will be out on March 20th. For someone like me, who used to be a slave to the so-called "New Wave of British Heavy Metal", this one is a must-buy, although I always considered Def Leppard to have been one of the bands who signalled the end of said wave.
08 | If you like Saltimbocca, you need to be together with someone who can prepare it properly. I am.
07 | I'm thinking of travelling to Nuremberg for an extended weekend in two weeks from now. I haven't been there since I was something like 8 years old. From the former "Nazi Party Rally Grounds" to "Hangman's Bridge" and the "State Museum for Art and Design", it seems to have enough on offer for 2 full days there. Plus plenty in between.
06 | Yesterday's political earthquake in the state of Thuringia unfortunately proved what I have been saying for years now (although most people didn't want to listen): the far right is gaining ground rapidly and antisemitism is definitely on the rise again in my country and in others, like the UK. It's a really sad and troubling state of affairs.
05 | Yes, I'm a "boomer". I just hope I am not as terribly irritating, crusty and outright stupid as many others I have been unfortunate enough to follow on social networks and other places online. I can't shake the feeling that for those born around the time I was, it seems to be a given that most brain cells decided to leave their origin behind a decade (or so) ago.
04 | "Life sucks ... and then you die!". It's a motto I have used incessantly since I started at our school in 1994, just for fun. I remember getting into trouble when an entire graduating class chose this motto and printed it onto a T-Shirt they decided to wear for a week or two. But, hell, it's true ... and it elicits a few laughs whenever you pop quizzes on 29 students, throw a ton of homework at them or simply tell them to stop complaining. Today a student threw it right back at me when I complained about his aberrant behavior. Unfortunately, I had to laugh out loud.
03 | The first signs of an impending storm are popping up around the various weather channels I frequent. I've always had a weakness for these kinds of things and it is interesting to see how the various models differ. There will be a storm, but these models range from "mild" to "absolutely crazy". One model even predicts - if worse comes to worst - that at least one of our North Sea islands will virtually disappear. This upcoming weekend will be ... interesting.
02 | A student of mine, whose parents immigrated to Germany (from Vietnam) a number of years ago, told me about many Germans' absolute inanity. Now that carnival has rolled around - and will (again) dominate the next three weeks or so - many of his (former?) friends have told him to stay at home and secluded ... because he is "Asian". Apparently, he is deemed a carrier of pestilence (coronavirus). Unfortunately, spontaneous stupidity and (inherent) racism are starting to be socially acceptable again around here. Absolutely sickening. Sometimes I wonder why - as a teacher - I actually bother. My work seems useless.
01 | I really enjoyed David Warren's brief blog post entitled "Empörungsgesellschaft". He quickly works through the bullet points required to get at least a basic grip on what German society / online discourse has slid into.
01 | January
30 | For the first time in 26 years, today I actually got a new schedule for the second half of our school year that is not nearly as horrible as I had expected. So, I decided to celebrate that with one of my best friends, also because tomorrow I have a day off, probably the last one until I go on pension. Life is good, for now.
29 | The other day I found out that my foot still hasn't healed properly. That puts me in a group with our national soccer team's goalkeeper, who has had to battle this irritating problem for years. As it turns out, the bone I broke is actually one of the dumbest ones to break, simply because it takes forever to heal and has a tendency to easily break again. My doctor told me that I'm still facing months - if not years - until things will be back to normal ... or not.
28 | When I got my new turntable, I actually had to buy an LP to test it out because the 100 or 200 LPs I still own are all in storage (until end of January/beginning February). This (triple-) LP has been a real joy ... although it is a little bass-heavy. Recommended.
27 | Teaching a dog to "speak". Very interesting stuff.
26 | For some reason, I noticed today how little I use the Internet, my smartphones, my tablet and, last but not least, my PC. Compared to earlier times, I'm down to maybe 5% of the time I used to invest/waste. As regular readers know, I also haven't had a TV for years now and, to be quite honest, all of these changes are good changes. I don't miss a thing and real life is much cooler.
25 | When I converted my old Samsung S5 smartphone into an audio only device, I killed every (usually pre-installed) app I could, aside from what I needed to play hi-res audio. There used to be an app in the Play Store for that, which has since been - of course - removed by Google. Still, if you manage to get rid of all the crap, the (removable) battery has a life of a full week, often two full weeks ... while powering music playback for many hours ... every single day.
24 | And, referring to my previous posts two and three days ago, I finally set up the new Technics SL-1500C turntable. For once, the instruction manual was actually written by someone who cared (and as an LP freak of 45 years, things were pretty much self-explanatory), so after a short while, it's spinning the first LP.
Pros: Nice looks (perfectly goes along with my matte-black Marantz setup), nearly fool-proof technology, ability to use a built-in phono stage or your own, versatile arm.
Cons: Shock-proof enough for my current place and setup, perhaps not in other environments; the provided pickup needs quite a bit of more weight behind it (might upgrade) than I usually use; interestingly enough, connecting the ground cable to my amp causes high-pitched noise (not connecting it solves the problem ... technology has changed)
P. S.: The dust cover was broken in one corner. My HiFi shop promised immediate replacement ... that's why I have been with them forever.
I'm a happy camper.
23 | Currently, we're finishing up this school year's first half with several conferences and meetings. Luckily enough, people in charge have finally caught on to the fact that unnecessary gobbledygook should be left out. It only took 26 years, but this week's conferences were easy sailing. Detailed when necessary, lightening fast when not. 5 thumbs up to the people in charge.
22 | Continuing yesterday's post, the Technics turntable arrived mere hours after I ordered it (from my Hifi shop of choice since the late 1990s). That comes close to the fastest delivery ... ever. I won't have time to set it up until one of these next days, so expect another post on the topic.
21 | After much deliberation, I decided to buy a Technics SL-1500C turntable to finally complete my stereo setup. I had an old ELAC record player which, in all likelihood, was and is equivalent or even better (vintage players usually beat newer ones by a mile), but it started to be a hassle. The counterweight broke and I simply couldn't find a new one short of buying a second turntable as a repository.
20 | I'm not the royalist type at all, but as an English teacher, I have been following the whole Harry and Meghan debacle pretty much from the get-go. I always thought they were being treated more than unfairly by the media and the following opinion piece pretty much sums up the press' intention behind the nastiness prevalent in the yellow press today: "There’s a reason why the royals are demonised. But you won’t read all about it" (by Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian, January 19, 2020). Then again, only an abysmally tiny fraction of the population really cares.
19 | I finally gave up my resistance and ordered "Hittin' the Ramp: The Early Years 1936-1943", a 7-CD set released by Resonance Records (November 2019), which collects every known Nat King Cole track from the days prior to his time at Capitol Records. At just below €100, it is still a pricey affair, but this box set landed across a myriad of "best archival release" posts around the globe, often stealing the top spot. And, by the way, two members of the "Steve Hoffman Music Forums" were involved in the project and on this thread here, you get some cool info directly from the horse's mouth. Beware: With altogether 33 tracks missing, the considerably cheaper download versions of this material available via Amazon, Bandcamp, etc. are not the entire set!
18 | Today, probably for the 25th time, I (re)watched Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List" (1993). I know he will also be remembered for "E.T." and, I hope, "The Color Purple" (another favorite of mine), but this film will stand the test of time and be one day remembered as one of the most important films of the 20th century. Afterwards, I watched "Steven Spielberg On The Legacy Of 'Schindler's List' 25 Years Later" (NBC Nightly News, 2018) and Spielberg had this to say:
Q: "What do you want people to take away from this film who may not - they know about the Holocaust, but may not - have really focused on it?
Spielberg: "Individual hate is a terrible thing. But when collective hate organizes - and gets industrialized - then genocide follows. And that hate is not something that is not to be taken seriously. And we have to take it more seriously today than I think we have had to take it in a generation."
In 2020, unfortunately, that statement is more important than ever.
17 | Today my dad, who is slowly but surely approaching 90, had a scary car accident. Fortunately, no innocent bystanders were hurt, and he himself remained relatively unscathed. Still, and that is something we often talked about, he immediately (and finally) decided never to drive again.
16 | After much deliberation, we have decided to ban smartphones in most situations and for most of the day at our school (for everyone). We didn't do this because of higher-level students (adults, really), but because elementary and middle school students apparently cannot live without them. It never ceases to amaze me that nine-, ten- or eleven-year old students have $1000 iPhones in their possession. I have no problem with parents wanting their children to be available if needed, but to not understand what their children will do with these devices the rest of the time is absolutely beyond me.
15 | These past few hours, I've spent quite a bit of time researching (again) what "elite" universities like Stanford, Georgetown, Oxford, Cambridge, Sorbonne and a number of others require in regard to letters of recommendation. What always surprises me is that they all want the same thing, but they invest an incredible amount of verbiage without getting that across. Their instructions remain factual, hint at a matter-of-fact approach ... but they actually want the kind of passionate letter by someone who is convinced that whoever is recommended will get that rare spot on the roster. In 26 years, I've had too many excellent students to actually follow those universities' mundane instructions. I go full-tilt, with absolute conviction, because my candidates, in singular instances, warrant that path, and - so far - it has always worked. I hope that in this particular case, it will work as intended. The person more than deserves it.
14 | They still make absolutely wonderful porcelain here and there around the globe. Although I have enough to last me a lifetime, for many months now I have had my sights set on a line called "LAB", produced by "Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Berlin". I just love it. I wonder if I can refrain from pulling the trigger on, for example, a breakfast set designed by Thomas Wenzel, their art director, who was portrayed here (German), for example.
13 | I finally decided to get the comparatively cheap (18 Euro for all the studio albums + bonus CD) and bare-bones (simple gatefold covers, no extras) "Every Move You Make: the Studio Recordings" boxed set by "The Police". Good sound, great music. Life for collectors in the 21st century is actually pretty damn good.
11 | I'm looking forward to a nice dinner tonight with the most important person in my life. Plus some quality time (with lots of good music ... and a cocktail or two).
10 | Today I spent some time researching what my home state has been doing to ensure civil servant pensions can actually be paid out in the future. Summary: They used every trick in the book to put money in the bank (via loans!) and withdraw it again whenever they needed it for something else. Of course, the whole thing was sold as advantageous and future-oriented. Let's see when the whole construct blows up in our faces with a loud bang. Probably whenever the people in charge have moved to southern Spain to enjoy their red wine.
09 | In the past 26 years, I have had a mere handful of absolutely exceptional students who have reached goals I myself wouldn't have dreamed of for myself. They are dedicated, incredibly inquisitive, have invested tons of time into furthering their goals and have, altogether, chosen incredibly successful paths. Today, I wrote the most personal recommendation for a student who graduated some years ago, someone who has done more in his short life than most of us might achieve in a lifetime. I really hope that my recommendation can take him to new heights. At Stanford University. If they don't accept him (which they will), they will absolutely lose out.
08 | I have said it before, but in the past few weeks those feelings have reached a zenith. Social networks and forums I am a member of have started souring my life to an extent that I decided to can them all. Every single one of them. So, since late last year and, especially, in the beginning of 2020, I have started withdrawing from all of them. It is the acidity that has put a lid on my involvement. Instagram, which I haven't posted to for several months, is still the most agreeable one, but it got caught in my hate for Twitter, an absolute cesspool of uninformed contrary opinion, music forums, which are split right down the middle, and any other venues whose opinionated (out of misguided principles) members I simply cannot stand anymore. Someone says "yes" and, automatically, others will delightfully pile on with a "no", not because they know what they are talking about but because their knee(s) tell(s) them to do so. Life is simply too short … and … I'm out. If you haven't tried to do the same, do so. Ever since I left Facebook, stopped posting on Twitter and refused to participate in inane discussions on music forums, my life has brightened to no end … and I intend to keep things that way.
07 | Not much work to do today, so I pulled out this old German pop-rap group whose early material is just tons of fun. "Die Fantastischen Vier", a.k.a. "Fanta 4" (from Stuttgart, a city a mere hour from here), started hitting it big in the early 1990s and kept rolling from there. Especially their first few releases I just love listening to, although they have had numerous hits and great tracks since then. Early tracks like "Jetzt passt auf (108 BPM)", especially "Hausmeister Thomas D (LP-Mix)", based on "Brick House" by The Commodores, and "Mikrofonprofessor (140 BPM)" are classics from their debut album that I still love listening to today.
06 | The last day of Christmas holidays is usually filled to the brim with work and, unfortunately, today is no exception.
04 | If you have as many CDs as I have, they need to be reorganized every few months to incorporate new boxed sets and other new arrivals. Today is that day. I expect to be busy the entire day.
03 | After having waited nearly two months, I bought another vintage piece of furniture from the shop which has quickly become a favorite of mine around here, Velvet Point. "Velvet-Point specializes in the business of buying and selling vintage furniture, timeless classics, and home accessories. The range of our furniture spans from Bauhaus classics to Scandinavian rarities including selected contemporary designs. We work internationally, selling to both private and business customers in a variety of business sectors. Among our clientele are theatre and movie productions, hotel and restaurant establishments, interior designers, and antique dealers."
02 | We had to return to Wörth because the powers that be decided that electronic heat cost allocators had to be read by an external company. They had to do that on the one day off everyone is trying to enjoy. That's German planning for you, but I managed to get a day of early spring cleaning done.
01 | Happy New Year, everyone! And ... that was too much (good) food last night.
Archived Micro Blogs | 2019