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12 | December
10 | Life never works the way you want it to work. The road is open, but all this boomer shite gets in the way.
09 | Preparatory physical for major eye surgery next Tuesday. Wish me luck.
08 | Although it might be inappropriate, I'm spending this second Sunday of Advent with 72 best-of tracks by Judas Priest, a nice Christmas tree and a bunch of Christmas decorations that I condensed my former huge collection down to. I'm enjoying myself. Life is good.
07 | Today - in a supermarket! - I came across a product by a company that had an orange symbol superimposed on the bar code of their product. Researching this issue, I came across an insane amount of esoteric gobble-de-gook which, you can't make this stuff up, states that bar codes have a negative effect on people's health. Poor education, which is beginning to spread as rapidly as the Black Death did in medieval times, coupled with mind-boggling stupidity are going to turn us all into primordial slime soon. Link (German): "Dangerous Barcodes".
06 | I've been a drummer for 40+ years. I have always been the biggest fan of Ed Thigpen, one of the best (jazz) drummers I have ever seen, learned from and experienced. There is only one single person on this entire planet that qualifies as Ed Thigpen's legitimate heir, Jeff Hamilton. Don't believe me? Check out the first couple of minutes of "Monty Alexander Trio - Live in Concert 2011" ... and all the rest as well. Stellar!
05 | After 26 years of work as a high school teacher, I simply have to agree with a very eloquent student who - (again) today - convincingly argued that the way we test a student's ability is antiquated and more or less useless. I'd love to adapt to what young people today see as more adequate ways of assessing achievement, but the crusty and antiquated regulations I have to adhere to simply do not allow me to move a single inch. Frustrating.
04 | The political ground has been shifting beneath our feet here in Germany and it is a development that will lead us into an abyss, rather sooner than later. Change and evolution are good, but, in this particular case, it has exclusively led to hatred from every side raining down on every perceived opponent. The latter has become a daily occurrence, especially in regard to each side thinking that "their hate" is actually better and more valid than "the other side's hate". To me, it is just, well, "hate". Moderate voices are very, very few and very far between. Maybe I was a bit too naive, but I (somewhat) underestimated the absolutely incredible speed and force of this development. Unfortunately, there's no end in sight.
03 | More and more (especially upwardly mobile and well-off) people love to gleefully fire up their wood burners/log burners, which have been totally "en vogue" for years now. They fire them up as soon as they get home. Those people simply do not realize that they are throwing us back into the Stone Age in regard to air pollution. Like many other things, it is the result of the dreadful state of education around here. People think they're being sustainable ... because they are being told they are. Far from. Very far.
01 | Yes, I'm a sucker for advent calendars and if I get one from the most important person in my life, I'm a happy camper. Cookies, notes, cards. The works.
11 | November
30 | Maybe it is old age, but these last months I have turned off my PC for the weekend and enjoyed life to the fullest. I probably wouldn't even notice the start of a nuclear war if it happened on a weekend.
29 | Black Friday is bad for the planet and should be banned, say French MPs. I don't think I have ever even looked at a single offer on any Black Friday since it arrived here in 2006 ("imported" by Apple Germany, as far as I recall). And I won't. I'm more of a "Buy Nothing Day (BND)" type of guy.
28 | And, referring back to yesterday's post, problems I have had for decades virtually evaporated overnight.
27 | Today, after a quarter of a century, I found out that a doctor treated me with medicine I'm totally and absolutely allergic against. He did so again and again, and again, and again, ... stealing approximately 6 years of my life. As he said (not quoted verbatim), "[...] shit happens".
26 | "Frantic Four Day" here today.
25 | As a recipient of the 2019 ADL International Leadership Award, Sacha Baron Cohen gave an excellent - and eloquent - speech that has been making the rounds. It really is worth watching: "Sacha Baron Cohen's Keynote Address at ADLS". Although I heartily agree with most of the points he makes, he does fall into the trap of only shining a light on part of the problem. As the New York Times correctly states, the empirical support is limited. Let me quote a key passage: "But we should be more doubtful of Cohen’s larger narrative, which is commonplace among progressives — a narrative that invokes the 'sewer' of social media to explain everything from climate-change skepticism to anti-immigration sentiment, portrays Russian trolls and YouTube stars as the crucial actors of the populist era, and proposes the regulation of online speech as the main restorative that the liberal order needs. Instead, the evidence in the papers cited above hints at a different scenario — in which because educated liberalism is increasingly so very online itself, ensconced in its own self-reinforcing information bubble, liberals end up analyzing populism exclusively through their digital experience even when that analysis is obviously insufficient." There is certainly truth to that and I'm still waiting for a broader analysis that puts what Cohen correctly stated into a larger analysis why western liberal democracies are beginning to fail.
24 | Happy.
23 | A great day with a fantastic dinner at one of the best restaurants in Karlsruhe, "EigenArt". I had the four-course menu with wines to go along with each course. Excellent combinations. With four courses though, I would have liked slightly smaller portions here or there. Highly recommended.
22 | Extensive house cleaning and getting ready for Christmas, which is - surprisingly - just around the corner.
21 | Today, I spent the entire afternoon listening to Level 42's music, back to front. They are one of the very few bands that have been around my life ever since the very early 80s (a decade that I absolutely hated, musically). I saw them live a few times and every single time the band hit it out of the ballpark. Yes, they were an 80s band, but, in my small musical universe, they remain a cornerstone because they managed to combine several important aspects: musicianship, talent and a knack for writing catchy tunes. Plus great live performances.
20 | a) I love music. b) I have a number of young students who have to rely on hearing aids. So, I've been doing some research to have it ready when needed: The "Hearing Aids for Music (HAFM) project" currently has a very interesting report (April 2019) online that I started with. Recommended!
19 | It's one of those phases again ... endless corrections. But, mostly, they are fun to do because I like reading what my students wrote. I'm often delighted to see how smart many of them are.
18 | What a nice weekend that was. Hardly any time wasted online. But, of course, I did spend some time reading around via my mobile devices. On Twitter, many of my regulars from both sides of the political spectrum decided to slug it out 24/7 and I have pretty much decided to abandon that social network as well. Why? There is neither any viable discussion nor sensible debate happening anymore and the people on there, no matter how important they themselves think they are, simply do not matter in the grand scheme of things outside their heavily fortified and violently defended bubbles. It's really disgusting to see how quickly political discourse died over here as well. Dark times ahead.
17 | Again, no internet connection. It won't be fixed until Monday. That's Germany for you.
16 | Again, no internet connection. It won't be fixed until Monday. That's Germany for you.
15 | For the past 26 years, I have followed my former teacher's (Mr. V.) advice: "ALWAYS give a certain percentage of your income to those who need it more!" I have done that every month and every year since then, without fail, even if I didn't have enough to go around. Today, because I needed to train my slowly-healing foot (see somewhere below), I walked many kilometers and came across a homeless man who apparently had fallen short on his luck recently. He was freezing his ass off, had apparently slept on a park bench at around zero degrees Celsius and looked totally distraught. After a short conversation, I simply gave him - in his life - a substantial amount of money to get some food, maybe a warm shower and some sort of shelter (my intention, but not my words, simply because I didn't care what he spent it on) for a few days. To be quite honest, the most embarrassing thing was that he started crying and hugged me like there was no tomorrow. Apparently, there are not nearly enough people in my country who do this kind of thing, in a country with an endless number of people who have money coming out of their ears. A really sad state of affairs.
14 | [measly Internet connection] That's third-world Germany for you, again. Apparently, the fiber connection was accidentally obliterated by some workers down the road.
13 | [no Internet connection] That's third-world Germany for you.
12 | You know you're aging once you start doing weird things others have adopted ages ago. Like in other countries, I guess, Christmas seems to appear earlier and earlier every year. Here in Germany, they started selling Christmas cookies in September already (when we still had summer temperatures). Well, the other day, I set up a Christmas tree. Why? I bought an artificial one at a substantially reduced price and wanted to see if it's a keeper. It is. But now I'm too lazy to remove it. Might as well buy some of those cookies tonight as well then.
11 | written on the 12th | No internet connection, an old problem here in Germany. I have a fast connection, but German Telekom screwed something up again. But, until today, Germany still hasn't reached the 21st century in regard to internet infrastructure.
10 | I've been a member of Instagram for quite some time now. It's the only social network I'm still an active member of. Recently, Instagram has decided that the display of likes per post should, perhaps, be removed. I'm conflicted about the idea, especially because that aspect has been- and to me, there's no doubt about that - central to the network, but in light of the many deaths incurred by more and more daring "selfies", I think it is probably a good idea. It also might curb the flood of staged "influencer" posts that are so far from any known reality that they seem ludicrous most of the time.
09 | Physically, I have around eleven thousand CDs, digitally even more. Amongst all of that music, which spans the most diverse genres and my entire living room, Peter Frampton has always been a favorite of mine. Why? Without knowing too much about him, I always thought that he was a person I'd love to meet. A cool guy. A man with (not only musical) integrity, a man that rebounded again and again, an absolutely fabulous guitarist (with a - to die for - wonderful tone and sensibility), a musician with taste and ability. One of the most depressing moments in my life was when I realized that I would probably never manage to meet the man who brought so much joy into my life.
08 | Yesterday, finally, our cabinet ministers here decided to completely bury plastic bags, which are still sold in shops around the country. In 2016, we adopted a voluntary system, allowing shops to charge for plastic bags (which used to be free and were given away in the billions ... per year). Since then, 70 bags per person/2015 have been reduced to 20 bags per person/2018. But our government is still allowing exceptions for fresh fruit and vegetables (because they are afraid of an automatic increase in plastic packaging for said goods as a consequence) and cannot decide what to do with paper and supposedly bio-degradable bags, both of which, if you have a closer look at available studies, are not exactly environmentally friendly either. For serious changes to take effect, we always need a minimum of 10 years around here, although, as the voluntary system has shown, consumers adapt quickly if they have to.
07 | Ever since I was a teenager, I have been a follower and admirer of Carl Sagan (1934-1996), "an American astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, science popularizer, and science communicator in astronomy and other natural sciences". In 2015, Swedish digital artist Eric Wernquist released a wonderful short film (03:50) entitled "Wanderers", which I have probably watched a 1000 times since then. Wernquist borrowed the voice of Carl Sagan to narrate his film. The audio he used are excerpts from Sagan's own reading of his fabulous 1994 book, "Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space", in which Sagan mixes philosophy about the human place in the universe, a description of the current knowledge about the Solar System and in which he also details a human vision for the future. It's an absolute feel-good film for space buffs and people who have managed to keep a sense of wonder in their lives. Like we all should have. Like Carl Sagan had.
06 | And some good news: "According to a new study, published October 16, 2019 in the peer-reviewed journal Royal Society - Open Science, the western South Atlantic humpback population has grown to 25,000. Researchers believe this new estimate is close to pre-whaling numbers."
05 | An Australian study with a wonderful title, "Prominent exostosis projecting from the occipital squama more substantial and prevalent in young adult than older age groups", is making the rounds today. Although it is nothing more than a somewhat unscientific from-the-hip hypothesis, it made me laugh. It also wouldn't surprise me if it were true. The study essentially states that we are growing horns from looking down at our smartphones.
04 | Where I live, if you need to get something done with a notary, for example securing a notarized signature, it quickly becomes difficult because the only one available has a decidedly weird sense of business ethics and opening hours. It's never a good idea to have a monopoly right in your neighborhood!
03 | One of the most annoying things about Amazon (Germany and, I guess, around the globe) are the unbelievable numbers of forgeries sold there. I still have an old Samsung S5 mobile phone (which I use as a music player exclusively) and the replaceable batteries sold via Amazon are all, without fail, forgeries sold as "originals", cheap crap or just plain dangerous. For years, nobody has cared one single bit, especially not Samsung Germany. And Amazon just loves to either feature or simply promote exactly those items.
02 | Once again, I was able to spend a wonderful day with a great and important person. Because I always post links to the restaurants I visited, the evening at the restaurant "Mediterrane" (they have two; we spent the evening at the one in downtown Karlsruhe) was just wonderful. I/we hadn't been there for a long time and, once again, the meals, the wine and the service were excellent throughout our 3-hour stay. Should you ever be in the area, do check them out. Highly recommended!
01 | One basic problem here in Germany with the endless discussions about PhDs and plagiarism is that 99% of the people who, of course, have an opinion, don't even have the foggiest notion of what a PhD actually is. Although the Internet is a cesspool of "opinions", it becomes really embarrassing when online newspapers' journalists out themselves as utter and complete boors because they aren't any different from the rest of the alarmingly uneducated populace.
10 | October
31 | I couldn't agree more: "Mark Zuckerberg Needs to Shut Up. Since 2017, nearly every time the Facebook CEO has tried to sound thoughtful, he’s sounded unprepared, shallow, and full of hubris. Time to zip it." I especially liked the following passage from this opinion piece: "The hubris that Facebook is something more, that the company is here to make the world better, to 'give people voice, and bring people together,' is the core flaw in Zuckerberg's view of himself and his company. He does everything wrong because he actually believes he's doing everything right."
30 | For once, I didn't even notice the privacy scandal Google almost slithered into but kept under wraps in 2018. When they quickly shut down Google+, I fell for their spin, which in effect stated that it just wasn't the success they had hoped it could or would be. In reality, Google didn't disclose a leak for many months to avoid a public relations headache and potential regulatory enforcement (like Facebook's Cambridge Analytica problem) and then, to make matters worse, a software update bug in a Google+ API exposed another 52.5 million accounts a mere four weeks after they had admitted to the initial problem. No wonder they hurried up and shut everything down 4 months earlier than planned. Sundar Pichai (Google CEO) really didn't want to end up in front of Congress like Zuckerberg.
29 | Once in a while, I dig into "Psychology Today". This time, I came across a rather interesting brief article by Aaron Ben-Zeév, one of the world's leading experts in the study of emotions, someone who certainly loves a philosophical approach to his field of study and some of whose books I have read in the past and enjoyed, entitled "Is Being a Good-Enough Partner Suffcient?" In it, I found the following brief two summaries, both spot-on:
"[...] Herbert Simon (1979) combined the words 'satisfy' and “suffice” and came up with 'satisfice,' a term used to express an adequate solution rather than one that maximizes utility. A 'satisficing' solution can be the best choice when we take into account the cost of looking for alternatives. [...] Barry Schwartz (2004) distinguishes between people who tend to maximize and those whose tendency is to 'satisfice.' Schwartz argues that maximizers are hell-bent on making only the best choices; satisficers, for their part, seek to make satisfying choices. Applying Schwartz’s view to the romantic realm, we can say that romantic maximizers are determined to find the 'best' romantic partner; romantic satisficers focus on finding the most suitable, or a good-enough, partner".
What's missing in the article, although it is hinted at, is that maximizers usually end up empty-handed along the way ... although they do get pretty darn close once in a while (but eventually give up completely). Just a thought.
28 | I there actually a secret agreement between companies selling backpacks that each and every model should fit people with anywhere between 80 and 650 to 1000 kilograms of body weight? The one I bought has straps - and I did extend them to their maximum - that could fit me 4, 5 or 6 times. WTF? If you want to be politically correct, gender neutral, body conscious and whatnot, absolutely fine with me (as always), but in this case ... thanks but ... no thanks!
27 | Here's a very interesting quote from an article written by someone testing a version of Android that ditches Google: "[...] So it's very difficult to have a truly un-Googled phone without thinking about it all the time. [...] The entire idea of truly unGoogling yourself strikes me as another incidence of our current societal fallacy that we need to solve broader societal problems through individual action. Taking Google Play services off your phone is not really going to prevent your personal data from being used by a giant advertising AI to manipulate your behavior. Only strong data protection laws, backed up with enforcement, would do that. [...]"
26 | All the best-laid plans sometimes quickly disappear down a rabbit hole. Today was such a day. But the result was a day spent with a good friend, enjoying the last rays of sun that fought their way through a dense early-morning fog. On days like this one, I know why I love living in this area.
25 | The best part of life is spending quality time with a person you like very much and feel comfortable around, in a place that is small, cozy and has a great selection of food and wine. Tonight, all of that came together and the place, if you want to have a look, was Karlsruhe's "Oberländer Weinstube".
24 | Today, my 13th-grade lower level English course had their last important written exam with me. For that exam, and for the first time ever, I gave them a text that, on the surface, seemed harmless enough but, in fact, is one written by an extreme nationalist who is rhetorically fit enough to package his (in my mind dangerous and destructive) ideas into a text that seems perfectly innocent. By challenging my course to understand and comment on this writer's ideas, I also wanted to find out, for myself, where my students are at, intellectually. And, at first glance, I think I got an answer. The first two I read through noticed immediately, that it was packaged well but seemed to be inherently destructive. I'm really (!) looking forward to reading the other answers!
23 | [written on the 24th] Work has been increasing again after I have walked around with a more or less broken foot for nearly 6 months. I'm really enjoying work and, as a psychologist's preferred field study case, I've never been able to effectively reduce my workload in nearly 30 years. Even if my bosses reduce my workload and let me have more time I could use for other activities, I see a chance to invest it into my job.
22 | What I learned today is that if you put too many teachers into one single room with closed doors, you get ulcers. Several.
21 | For total nerds like me, the following article and video (which is a bit long ... you know yourself how to fast-forward through these kinds of things) were an absolute total blast: "A Christian rock band hid a C64 program on a vinyl album in 1984." My first computer was a Commodore 64, with tape drive, and that machine was a total blast, at a time when you could actually still type in (!) complex programs and get endless hours of joy from the work you put into them.
20 | Although I found out at the end of the week that my foot (see my entry for the 14th of this month) has only partially healed and I'm still facing months of treatment, this weekend was great. I managed to reestablish contact with someone I really like and have always sincerely admired, I think I might have managed to perhaps help someone else move another step forward and, to top it all off, I managed to get some spectacular new music in through the door (as if I didn't have enough already). Life's good and this is a great day. Now to some bloody good music, four of the greatest soul albums ever recorded.
19 | A few years ago, for fun, I asked students, in our last lesson together before they went out into the world, to - whichever way they liked - anonymously write about or illustrate what they had learned about me in the many years we spent together (after I had spent many of those grading their work and forming an opinion about them). Today, when I was cleaning up, I found those 24 comments. Each one was great. The following one I'd love to "see" as an epitaph on my gravestone, exactly the way it was written:
"He doesn't have a TV, a driver's license or too many modern gadgets. He loves music, music, music, books, the Internet, travelling, strange languages, people and his students. He doesn't like idiots and people who blather (that is a word I learned from him) and dumb comments. He hates Wikipedia. He respects opinions if they make sense and if they are backed up by facts and thinking. He smokes and he likes cocktails (not good for you!). He owns white shirts (1 blue one), gray sweaters and lightblue pairs of Joker jeans. At least each one 20x. Like James Bond. He's the James Bond of teachers. But he doesn't have a gun. I like him."
18 | I always thought Roman Opałka (1931-2011) was a fascinating artist. He spent half his life painting from 1 to infinity. He started in 1961, with the number 1 on a large black canvas, and painted approximately 400 numbers per day. Along the way, he decided to make each canvas one degree whiter than the previous one and at the end, after 222 canvasses and reaching 5,607,249, he had spent three years painting white numbers on white canvasses.
17 | I like well-illustrated and annotated books in which experts keep things sweet and simple, but don't dumb them down too much. "The Classical Music Book" from DK's "Big Ideas" series is such a book. I'm really enjoying it at the moment.
16 | And I always thought that whole Internet thing was evil incarnate, but ... "Vatican launches $110 'click to pray' eRosary".
15 | Today I received Decca's 55-CD box set dedicated to one of their most faithful artists, Riccardo Chailly. Chailly has not only recorded a fabulolus Mahler cycle, but also a Bruckner one, both of which are central to this set. I'm really looking forward to exploring the many gems included here.
14 | Off to get an MRT done. When I broke my foot in March of this year, I hoped that 3 months would be enough to get "up and running" again, but that wasn't the case. Today we want to find out if anything improved at all. I have my doubts.
13 | On this last spectacular summer day, I was fortunate to have lunch (in good company) in one of Karlsruhe's best restaurants, "Anders auf dem Turmberg." Have a look. On nice days, you have a spectacular view. Highly recommended
12 | I have listend to a million classical piano pieces in my lifetime. That was and is due to my mother, who infused my early childhood with these pieces, all of which have stuck with me. As I got older, I had the chance to listen to - and acquire - a truckload full of different interpretations, something I didn't have to do when I was young: I had my mother. But, and this comes after 40+ years of doing so, András Schiff has turned out to be the one living pianist who plays almost all of these pieces the way I enjoy them. An absolute fabulous pianist. I have put a live concert with him on my bucket list.
11 | Of course they did: "How Your Photos and Photos of Your Kids Are Powering Surveillance Technology" (NYT).
10 | Yesterday, we were devestated here by an antisemetic mass shooting attempt that also shook me deeply. Antisemitic crimes or any other hate crimes whatsoever have always been absolutely beyond me and I simply do not understand the mindset that furthers them. I am happy that I was brought up the way I was, but - and that's where my pessimism kicks in - it was a culmination of a development that has been consistently ignored by mainstream media, politicians, and, yes, the general populace, no matter what people say. And not only in my country, certainly not. On top of that, to my eyes and ears, it also again showed the general degradation of (online) discourse that was, in total, so absolutely embarrassing that I feel my decision to partake as little as possible is, again, absolutely justified.
09 | I am a) not the person to buy a new smartphone every year and b) have always used Samsung devices. That's why it baffles me that Google doesn't mandate regular security updates for a significant time period. Today, Samsung tends to drop its flagships after a mere three years and most devices only get quarterly security updates, if at all. And, as usual, nobody really cares. There seems to be enough cash around in every household to dish out anywhere between $800 and $1000+ nearly every year for new models.
08 | Fascinating stuff: "An Animated 3D Video Tour of Paris Through History from 52 BCE to 1889" (Kottke.org).
07 | What happens if you let yourself be locked into an ecosystem: Adobe has decided to pull all user access in Venezuela due to US sanctions. To most users there this happened out of the blue, but if you know Adobe, you might think the sudden announcement happened two seconds after they found out that they can keep all the cash without having to reimburse anyone for anything. Not a single cent. You just have to love Adobe.
06 | I read around a lot and come across the oddest things. "Le Creuset" has released its Star Wars themed cookware collection and, to be quite honest, if I did cook as well as other people I know, I would buy myself the "Han Solo™ Carbonite Signature Roaster" for the lofty sum of $450 from this limited set, just because.
05 | Yesterday, I couldn't write because, for the second time in a few days, I had to rewire my stereo system after some changes. I HATE cables. We're talking real and consistent, unwavering hate. For decades now, I've had to rewire my stereo (and PC) setups every single time I moved or changed minor details, which was, perhaps, one time too many. We have flown to the moon, sent "Rovers" to Mars and "Voyagers" off into interstellar space, but not a single damn soul has been able to eliminate unwieldy, stiff, irritating and totally obnoxious cables. Most people I know who belong to the cleanly lot have spent entire lifetimes trying to beat spaghetti-like cable salad into submission. Of course, you can build a house around your setup, but in most cases that's not an option. That's why a whole cottage industry has sprung up around the problem, with cable boxes, cable straps, cable binders, cable bridges, cable ... you get the picture. I'm on suicide watch for the next few days.
04 | In the news: "Apple bans Hong Kong protest location app", apparently in an attempt "to suck up to China", Samsung, much like German car manufacturers, cheated in benchmarks for its older S4 smartphone model, which means it now owes $10 to 10 million people, and Zuckerberg's Facebook, the old money whore, quietly updated its ad policy to let politicians post misleading ads. Maybe it is time to start regulating big business.
03 | "German Unity Day", which is today, always reminds me of the day the wall came down (November 9, 1989). The following day, I had my final oral exams at the University of Saarbrücken, in the political science department - and that after I had stayed up very late the night before to watch things unfold. I was nervous because the professors were notoriously strict, but when I entered the room, they were celebrating and offered me a glass of champagne. The rest was a total breeze and I walked out with the best possible grade, also because one of my special topics had been inter-German relations, and we just reminisced instead of them throwing questions at me. What an experience all of that was.
02 | I know many people also consider it to be something for the eye, but I decided to say goodbye to "cable voodoo" with my new stereo setup. Out with the stiff cables and in with much cheaper ones that are flexible and don't need an extra half meter behind the stereo. I've participated in lots of blindfold tests over the years and not once could anyone demonstrate that cables which cost more than 10 Euro per meter had any significant advantage, besides maybe having been assembled a bit better.
01 | After hunting around for about 8 months, I was able to secure a vintage, mid-century sideboard for my stereo that I still needed. Luckily, I have a fantastic used furniture shop not far from here, run by some really capable people who travel all over the place to find items, professionally restore them and then offer them at relatively competitive prices. The items aren't exactly cheap, but they are excellent pieces of furniture crafted by people who still cared about longevity. The people at "Velvet Point" are also really nice people. Have look at their website: Velvet Point: Vintage & New Interior Design.
09 | September
30 | We had a medium "storm" here last night, one that didn't even merit the term. Then, as usual, two things happened. (01) "Deutsche Bahn" (that's what we call our railway system here) ran into a million problems - as usual - and produced nothing but trouble for thousands of travelers, much like whenever the first innocent snowflakes appear and winter, apparently for the first time in a million years, hits their unprepared shores. (02) The second event was the inevitable Twitter parade that always follows, led by those brain-dead people who lament the time when "storms were storms", rare as they supposedly were before climate change - and nothing but climate change - produced wind.
29 | I watched "In the Shadow of the Moon" on Netflix yesterday and actually quite enjoyed it. It is a flawed film and people like me - who enjoy these kinds of films - had figured it out the latest after about thirty minutes. What made me laugh though was that when I quickly went online to check how other people had reviewed the film, if they had seen the same flaws I had, it didn't take more than two minutes to come across a ton of bad reviews (frequently from the political right) denouncing the film for its perceived liberal agenda. "Ideas don't kill people, people kill people". You know, that kind of stuff. I guess dystopian (science) fiction is not really for most people anymore nowadays. My, how society has changed.
28 | I have been a teacher for 28 years. It saddens me to no end that the children and teenagers I have taught and am teaching, young people who have valid opinions, are eloquent and have fears about the future, are virtually ignored (or even put down). In an aging western society, they are in the absolute minority and, as they have let me know consistently, are given the feeling that all of the important issues are decided by their parents or grandparents, an elderly group that has developed fears about its own future and existence, unfounded or not. In my eyes, it's one of the most fundamental mistakes people in my age group are apt to make ... ignoring the next generation almost completely. This has absolutely nothing to do with the so-called "millennials" (a derisive term invented by their parents). It has to do with an egoistic stratum of society that simply will not allow anyone else to participate in any political discourse. A sad state of affairs.
27 | Watching - or in this case listening to - artists and bands trying to circumvent real or perceived censorship has always been lots of fun for me. Aerosmith made it to undisputed first place in 1975 when they recorded "Big Ten Inch Record" (actually an old R&B song written by Fred Weismantel). The trick this song uses is to place the offending line at the end of a verse and innocently completing it with the beginning of the first word of the chorus, changing its meaning to something else. What you then get is "When I get out my big ten inch ... Record", "Now whip out your big ten inch ... Record" and so on. Oh, and there's a highlight for which Steven Tyler has often tried to set the record straight: "The big rumor is that I say, 'Suck on my big ten inch' on the record. I don't. I'm saying 'cept' - as in except - not 'suck'. But no one in the whole world believes me." Yes, Steven, but that's not what people wanted to hear. Just have a listen. It's the fifth track on Aerosmith's breakthrough album, Toys in the Attic, released by Columbia in March of 1975.
26 | If you are dependent on public transportation, as I am, here you will constantly be confronted by an esoteric assortment of Germans ... complaining. Today, the temperatures were apparently too damn low for this time of year (last week they were apparently far too high for September), public transportation just doesn't work (the tram we were on was on time), politics are simply unbearable ("but I couldn't decide who to vote for, so I didn't"), most Germans cannot cook anymore (I guess the complainer's limp, quasi-dead cheeseburger was her feeble attempt at passive resistance), newspapers lie constantly (trumpeted by the person who had just informed the entire carriage that Germany is simply being flooded by foreigners), people don't know how to dress properly anymore (said the Birkenstock guy) ... it just didn't end. Hell, I felt right at home.
25 | Affinity products by Serif - Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer and, especially, Affinity Publisher - have saved my life. Everyone who knows me understands that I absolutely hate Adobe with its subscription model that puts customers into a virtual headlock and favors professionals with its prohibitively expensive prices. Affinity gave all of us a way out of that ecosystem and I heartily recommend their products. Siding with them will also help you avoid insanely aggravating and bullying mails from Adobe in the future. Good f*cking riddance!
24 | Recently, a SpaceX and an ESA satellite almost crashed into each other. Because of the mass of earth-orbiting space junk, the likelihood that a crash will happen is now 1 to 10.000, odds I'd love to have in a lottery. Currently, 8100 payloads are floating around our globe and within the next ten years, 20.000 additional satellites are supposed to be transported into orbit. It's not going to take many years until we won't even be able to squeeze a single person through all that rubble.
23 | That Thomas Cook went belly up over here in Europe wasn't all that much of a surprise, although I did wonder why they weren't bailed out, but it is sad to see so many people lose their jobs. Thomas Cook - and its subsidiaries - used to take me to Lanzarote, my favorite island. Let's see how prices will develop these next months because I was planning to go there again next summer.
22 | As I've often mentioned, I live right next to one of Germany's best and most spectacular wine regions. Yesterday, this year's - probably last - wine tour had several pit stops: Weingut Hörner (in Hochstadt), my favorite vineyard of the past many years, and Weingut Borell-Diehl (in Hainfeld) both made me spend far too much money (again) on mostly white and sparkling wines as well as interesting spirits. To top things off, lunch at "Winzergaststätte Grafen von der Leyen" in Burrweiler was excellent and the "Lounge im Weinkontor" (in Edenkoben) provided two hours of enjoying the last warm rays of this year's spectacular summer ... accompanied by two glasses of their fine "Eden Secco". If you have someone along who appreciates this kind of experience as much as I do, life is pretty much perfect.
21 | If there is one thing I hate, it's websites with pop-out videos and intrusive sign-up forms. I'd love to ignore all of them but, recently, everyone and everything seems to be slapping them onto their online presences. Click whores, the lot of them.
20 | North America has lost nearly 3 billion birds representing hundreds of species over the past five decades. And Europe has lost just about half of its bird population since 1980. A frightening development, mostly due to an unsustainable food and farming system.
19 | "The Four Notes of Death," a.k.a. "dies irae".
18 | A bit longer today, and for S.K., just because.
I grew up with a mother who, when I was a child, played piano regularly at home and made me fall in love with many (Beethoven, Chopin, Grieg and, especially, Mussorgsky) of the classical pieces she played.
But, my favorite one, amongst a personal collection that today spans half of my living room, has always been one single composition, Robert Schumann's "Von fremden Menschen und Ländern," a deceptively simple tune that packs an incredible lyrical punch. Little did I know that one day it would actually characterize a part of my life.
Today, I have an endless number of recordings of exactly that one piece, but absolutely nobody - no matter what critics and whoever might say - has ever recorded a better version than Maria-João Pires, whose rendition mirrors - down to the proverbial "t" - what I remember from my childhood. To my ears, it's the only absolutely perfect interpretation that I have ever had the great fortune of listening to.
Unless you count my mother's, of course.
Classical music does not have to be complicated to move your soul.
P.S.: There's no immediate version online, but Amazon has a brief snippet. If you happen to have Spotify, here you go ... exactly the version I adore.
17 | One thing that has been bothering me for many years now has finally reached the headlines. I'm just surprised that many of the issues haven't had a more prominent spot in the media for much longer. People are finally beginning to notice that they are being massively manipulated. Amazon has always manipulated search results, but a new algorithm suddenly makes the headlines? Really? Search results everywhere have been and will be manipulated because that has a noticeable effect on citizens/consumers. And, today, Bill Gates "criticises political calls for breakup of Big Tech". Why am I not surprised?
16 | Ric Ocasek passed away and whenever I hear his name (and whenever I spin "The Cars'" debut album), I'm immediately taken back to my time in Copenhagen, Denmark, when "Good Times Roll" and "My Best Friend's Girl" were hits and when I spent quite some time at Chris D's (and Dina R's) place. Great memories.
15 | [written on the 16th] I cannot remember a summer that lasted that long, from early May until middle of September. So, yesterday, I stayed away from computers and gadgets and spent an entire day moving around and soaking in the Indian summer sun. If this is climate change, let me have more of it. ;-)
14 | Good old Ludwig van would have turned 250 this year, so various labels are releasing Beethoven monster box sets around November. The two main contenders: DG is releasing its 180-hour "Beethoven 2020 - The New Complete Edition" (which is the one I have set my sights on) and Warner Classics is releasing its 80-CD "Beethoven – The Complete Works". Comparing the two, the main difference is that Warner favors entire cycles by the same artist, ensemble or team of performers, whereas DG seems to be shooting for the "best individual recording" route. There's also a substantial price difference with the smaller Warner set coming in as the clear winner.
13 | I spent a terrific evening with two former students and a colleague of mine at a wonderful restaurant in Speyer, one of Germany's oldest cities. Speyer is dominated by the Speyer Cathedral and our restaurant, Avant|Garthe was practically just a stone's throw (or two) away. Excellent food and extensive and very good wine menu, plus great service. Highly recommended.
12 | The other day (German only) I read a spot on and verbally very aggressive and even abusive post that, unfortunately, I can agree with 100%.
For those not in the German know, the author - vehemently - complains about the changes in online discourse, about activists that will jump on anything, everything and anyone (at a moment's notice) to advance their presumed agendas, to just feel alienated or to just complain for complaining's sake. It's a change that has kept me away from online discourse for years now.
10 | I love to read. I had thousands of books before I decided to downsize; today I still have a couple of hundred left over. I also always enjoyed indulging in post-apocalyptic fiction here and there and it is absolutely crazy how that genre has exploded globally these past few years, especially post-apocalyptic fiction published by "indie" (self-published) authors. I guess Donald Trump, climate change, the rise of right-wing and nationalist movements as well as diffuse fears have elevated the genre to bestseller status. Authors most of you have probably never heard of, like A.G. Riddle, Jack Hunt, Kevin Partner, Bobby Adair, T.L. Payne, T.W. Piperbrook, W. J. Lundy, Matthew Mather and Nicolas Sainsbury Smith, have sold millions of books. The world is apparently going to hell in a hand basket. Good riddance.
09 | Today marks my third full year without a TV. I don't miss a thing.
08 | Vivaldi's (much) better Opera browser is now available for Android in a pretty stable beta version. Check it out!
07 | Now that I'm not on WordPress anymore, the new "Twenty-Twenty" theme that Anders Norén is putting together for the new November release is the first one I really like. Typical! You can already play around with it by downloading it from GitHub, but remember that it's work in progress.
05 | Where I live, we've had the most spectacular "summer" this year (which seems to finally be coming to a close this weekend). Since sometime in May, we've only had very few single days that could be described as "half-decent", the rest were "brilliant": sunshine, warmth and heat, all day long, every day. Wonderful, especially since I moved to a new place with two fabulous balconies just in time. But nature suffered, tremendously. Most of the farmers I know around these parts took a serious hit with large sums of money lost and I haven't really seen a larger patch of green grass for months.
04 | One of the silliest trends on YouTube is the one of people filming themselves or others watching and reacting to other people's videos (I would call that "meta-watching"). While googling around for possible reasons why people would "enjoy" doing or watching that, I came across an interesting article on ArsTechnica: "The science behind the insane popularity of “react” videos on YouTube."
03 | If you move around social networks frequently, so-called influencers are usually a serious pain in the ass.
I do follow one single "influencer" from Germany, McWinkel (Mathias Winks). Why? He's the genuine thing. At a time, at which people were trying to leave a footprint on the Web, he worked his way up the hard way, worked his ass off for years, remained sincere, has a ton of humor and has something to say to his everyday followers, no matter how mundane those things might be. I love watching him trying to etch a new/secondary career out where he lives (southern Spain) and I wish him the best of luck. MC has become my only daily indulgence, ... because.
02 | Start.me is one of the most useful services in my everyday online life. Although bookmark managers are often called antiquated, they are not. With start.me, I have - browser-independently (and across all of my devices) - access to everything I visit on a regular basis and it allows me to keep a well-organized link "vault" because adding new links to existing groups and pages is a breeze. Do check it out if you'd like to stay independent of browser developers who just love to screw things up fundamentally or, because they don't care, often accidentally mess up or even delete your carefully curated bookmark lists. Links: start.me | about | blog | pricing
01 | Ever so often, a must-have archival music release pops up on my radar (and kills my wallet). If you are at all interested in early pre-Capitol recordings of Nat King Cole, Resonance Records is set to release a nearly-200-song anthology of music, which will be the first complete collection of Cole’s pre-Capitol recordings. Word on the street is that it's probably going to be the 7-CD/10-LP collection to get. Arriving on November 1st.
08 | August
31 | I have become a lazy sod. Because all the various sound systems at my place support streaming and/or USB, I have taken to downloading one-, two- or even three-hour mixes from YouTube, which I can then just throw on and not move for said amount of time. One day, I'll end up like those obese humans in WALL-E. Currently, I'm enjoying, for example, the two-hour melodic progressive house mix of "Shingo Nakamura".
30 | I hate designers. One of the worst things about the mobile version of Microsoft Outlook is that it doesn't collapse convoluted folder structures but lists each folder and subfolder separately ... and then has the nerve to add important system folders at the end of said list. Happy scrolling.
29 | A bookshop in Fowey, Cornwall, put up a sign in the shop window which couldn't be more appropriate: "Please note: The post-apocalyptical fiction section has been moved to Current Affairs." (link)
28 | I'm old-school. I like Bill Maher, a sharp-witted man with an agenda I can often agree with, but trampling on an enemy's grave is just extremely awful taste. Talking about David Koch, a man whom I sincerely disliked and whom I tried to ignore as much as possible, Maher said: "He and his brother have done more than anybody to fund climate science deniers for decades, so f@ck him. The Amazon is burning up. I'm glad he's dead and I hope the end was painful." That is the kind of (political) discourse that will take / is already taking us back into the Dark Ages.
27 | On the day I was born, the United States launched the Mariner 2 space probe, which flew past Venus the following December. I've been a space buff ever since.
26 | I've always been more of a Star Trek guy (with the new "Star Trek: Picard" series in the pipeline), but those two new Star Wars trailers for the film and the series look pretty darn cool: "Star Wars 9: The Rise of Skywalker" (official trailer) | "The Mandalorian" (official trailer for the upcoming Disney+ series)
25 | I'm a 100% sure that 99.9% of the people didn't notice, don't care and couldn't be bothered, but Facebook canned the "Epoch Times'" massive attempt to support Trump via 1.5 million dollars worth of Facebook ads. Not surprisingly, "Epoch Times" is, amongst others, a front for the Chinese Fallun Gong "movement" (which moved those ads to other pages, like "Honest Paper", "Patriots of America", "Pure American Journalism" and "Best News" [note the, uhm, interesting names]).
24 | Having been on holidays in Spain many times in my life, I support "The Kellys", who went on strike for a full day yesterday, protesting the exploitative working conditions at hotels in their country.
23 | If you happen to have any of these CDs at home, you might be able to secure some serious cash.
22 | Bill Burr, my favorite comedian, talking about groups allowed to pre-board at airports nowadays: "I saw this guy get on a plane. He wasn't in uniform, he didn't have kids, he had all his limbs, he wasn't limping, he didn't have a cough ... he just walked on the plane and I said 'Who the f*ck is THAT guy?'". (YouTube: Bill Burr’s Issues With The Airline Boarding Process).
21 | Underwater looks like a mix between "Aliens" and "The Abyss". Might just be my kind of film. Coming to a theater near you on January 10, 2020.
20 | I already flew to Mars with the last mission (I've been a Martian since August 30, 2015, and have collected 614,810,630 frequent flyer miles so far) and decided to fly along with the 2020 mission as well. Here's your chance to do the same: "Send your name to Mars" (until Sept. 30, 2019, 11:59 p.m. ET).
19 | Cool video: "Light Year & Milky Way - NASA Video".
18 | I have - after a recent culling -11TB of (legal) music. Is that too much?
17 | On Instagram, I've met a ton of people who are as crazy as I am, probably have relationship issues, don't know where to put their music ... and are in danger of having to choose. I love them all. :-)
16 | Today, I met a student whom I hadn't seen for at least 10 to 15 years or more. It was like yesterday. Life is like that.
15 | Samsung has decided to get rid of the headphone jack on those Note 10 gadgets. They used to make fun of Apple doing that ... and then deleted all of the references to those videos. For a HiFi- and video freak, a dongle just doesn't cut it. Neither does a notch. There are simply too many hipsters around today who wouldn't even object if you removed the screen from their treasured mobile phones.
14 | One of my favorite YouTube channels is the one that Martin Miller keeps. Martin Miller is an exceptional guitarist and musician who records a seemingly endless stream of excellent videos (in his library-like studio), featuring a whole slew of studio cracks that are way above your average suspects. You really should check them out! And one of Europe's best drummers, Felix Lehrmann, is a fixture in those recordings. It doesn't get much better than this!
13 | Today I managed to accidentally tip over a full glass of red wine which, of course, spilled into the (brand new) backpack that was standing immediately below the scene of the crime. And that was just the beginning of a bad stretch.
12 | Hollywood rarely does it for me these days. Today, 99.9% of the films I watch are "off the grid". But "The Last Black Man in San Francisco" was one of the best films I have watched these past many months (there are more, quite a few, but I'll keep those for future posts).
11 | Ages ago, I decided to leave most social networks behind (I'm still around Instagram). Reason? I got seriously tired of elderly angry white men (and very few women) dominating every single exchange. It is amazing how many of the people I followed - who used to have something to say - turned into misanthropic individuals. Life's too short.
10 | I've been following Kinga Glyk - a 22 year-old, I think, bass player from Poland - for quite a while now. She has that special tone and talent for groove that already raises her above most of the other players I often come across. On YouTube, check out, for example, these three fun cover snippets, "Earth Wind & Fire - September", "Charlie Puth - LA Girls" and "Bruno Mars - Finesse". She's also well-versed in other genres. Have a look at a snippet from the 2017 album production "Difficult Choices" or her trio's cover of "Donna Lee". Definitely someone to watch.
09 | The next extreme heatwave is crawling in again and before it hits us full force, a colleague and I enjoyed a long lunch at our favorite restaurant. There was a guy sitting behind us with a T-shirt that I thought was quite funny: "Pink Freud - The Dark Side of Your Mom" (on the T-shirt, a portrait of Freud basically replaces the Pink Floyd prism on the DotM cover). I really had to laugh and thought it was quite original, but a quick Internet search uncovered approximately three trillion variations (of course). Still, funny. I often wonder though (as an old friend of mine used to say:) "Who the hell comes up with this sh*t?" Is there job description available? :-D
08 | Amazon is cornering the online book market with a 72% (and more) share. As a result, author's earnings are dropping, sometimes dramatically, and Amazon is pretty much free to demand, for example, horrendous "stocking fees" from self-publishing authors and to force global publishers to reduce production costs. Amazon also owns "Goodreads" and "Audible", something I didn't know. Not a good development.
07 | German "Spiegel Online" doesn't want people to withdraw from public debates because it hurts the democratic process. I don't care. I withdrew years ago because the culture of debate has changed so fundamentally that I'd rather stick a fork into my eye.
06 | The "Loudness War" is far from over. Santana's most recent "Africa Speaks" has zero dynamics, Toto's "XIV" had equally horrible mastering, and so did Van Halen's "A Different Kind of Truth". No wonder. All the musicians involved are too old to have even average hearing capabilities.
05 | Ever since Facebook bought Instagram, it has turned into sh*t show of equal proportions. Every fourth post is an ad and more are on the way or already implemented, drafts work or they don't, the algorithm(s) suck. The usual failure that immediately comes to mind when I think "Mark Zuckerberg".
04 | When Ken Burns' "Jazz" arrived on the scene, both TV series and book, jazz fans were up in arms, and rightly so. Some even went so far as to describe how "Ken Burns Murdered Jazz". Years later, "The Greatest Tootle" is still the funniest and pointedly accurate summary of the gobbledegook people like Wynton Marsalis, master of revisionist history, and Stanley Crouch, disliked across most jazz boards, vomited onto screens across the globe.
03 | Dust is this wonderful science fiction short-film channel (also on Youtube) that produces consistently good films and series that with a short running time still manage to top 90% of what Hollywood produces. Have a look at a random selection: Zero | FTL | The Black Hole | The Ocean Maker (animated).
02 | Privacy and data protection are important, but the EU has created the usual data protection monster ("General Data Protection Regulation") that hardly anyone understands, nobody in his right mind would want to research in detail and most courts have not even tested yet. My privacy page is longer than anything I have ever written and, to be quite honest, I know it will not stand up in court because it was meant to harness global players, not your average bloggers with 7 readers.
01| The new deus62.com is live. Should you stumble across this site here, give it a test run and let me know (footer) if things are wonky.