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12 | December
31 | We're getting ready for our New Year's celebration, with excellent food, excellent wines and other plans for the evening.
As I reflect on another year of keeping this microblog running, I think I was quite good at keeping a consistent schedule.
As I have written many times before, I have needed more and more frequent phases of digital detoxing, simply because every idiot is able to post his verbal diarrhea online today. I used to be a champion of the "open web", but today I am not anymore, simply because it is impossible to tame those elements trying to ruin everything.
No matter what, I hope you will have the best 2022 possible in these pandemic times, and I hope that all good things will come your way.
See you tomorrow, in 2022!
30 | "Köttbullar!" Several months of nagging and I finally got them (again). My wife makes the best "Köttbullar" on the planet. Happy!
29 | We finally managed to watch the entire new James Bond film, "No Time to Die", which I have had floating around here for all too long. We both didn't think it was especially good. Rami Malek made it worthwhile though.
28 | We stayed at a wonderful hotel these past two days, "Rheinhotel Dreesen". Books have been written about it, TV series have been produced about it, Hitler used to favour it, ... and for Christmas, they really went out of their way in these pandemic times to make the comparatively few guests feel as welcome as possible. A fabulous breakfeast (!!!) and a wonderful atmosphere. We'll be back.
27 | It was my dad's 89th birthday today. I still vividly recall a conversation from around 1977/78 when my dad told me, after a "serious" and extended cocktail party (plus the obligatory bunch of enticing drinks), that he expected to be around 70 or 75, maximum. He told me that his lifestyle had been seriously unhealthy. Today he gets (standard) letters by mayors, politicians and others congratulating him on having made it further than just about everyone else. As my dad still says today: "Life is strange."
26 | After a quiet morning, we travelled to my parents today ... in the crappiest weather imaginable. Thick fog, constant - at times torrential - rain and lots depressing grey. Still, if you are a good couple, which we are, you can have a great time anyway.
25 | A quiet day, enjoying great food and great music.
24 | Merry Christmas to all of you! This was a tough year for everyone and I hope you managed to get through it unscathed. Stay healthy and, most of all, stay in good spirits. There's not much else any of us can really do.
23 | The absolute best thing I bought this year (and I bought lots of good stuff) was a "Kapok" mattress". I love sleeping on the floor, listening to music while lounging around on the floor in front of my stereo, etc. The mattress I bought is simply the best thing since sliced bread. I spent one summer on one of these ages ago and because the floor in my penthouse partment is often too cold, I remembered that summer, hit Google and ... poof! Ever since it arrived, I have spent more time horizontally on the floor than vertically anywhere else at my place. And ... I'm heading there now.
22 | The first time in months that I got unanimous and identical reactions from my students was today. I told them that since I started my job, this half year has been the most strenuous I have ever experienced. When I told them that these past months have probably been (much) worse for them, they all nodded. So, I told them to do what I will do, go to bed on the 23rd and not get up until the 2nd of January. Joking aside, my 13th-grade students, who have their final exams starting on January 5th, really got the shitty end of the stick this year: they simply didn't have any time to prepare because of the myriad of tests thrown at them these past months, the Corona pandemic effects and the general stress everyone has been under for the entire first half of their last school year. And now they are facing ultra-short holidays to cram stuff into their heads and spend a bit of much-needed quality time with their family and friends (if future restrictions will allow for that at all). I really don't know what I would have done, had I been in their shoes.
21 | Currently, I'm in automatic mode, meaning that I get up early, go to school, come home ... only to sit down to do another 10 hours of correcting. Talking to the many colleagues at my school (I have more than 100), everyone is experiencing the same thing (plus a feeling of absolute fatigue ... and frustration).
20 | Nobody feels like it anymore, neither students nor teachers. But, our government (in all its accumulated wisdom) has decided to keep schools open until the 22nd. The result? A total waste of time for everyone involved ... again. Same procedure as every year.
19 | Another Sunday of work, from seven in the morning until late at night. Christmas spirit? Far off.
18 | While Omicron is racing through the area I live in, the local and the federal governments are doing f@ck all to counter it, as usual. Apparently, Omicron seems to be manageable if you have had at least two vaccinations, but around here - after lengthy and heated political debates if our vaccination center should be opened again - booster jabs have been delayed. The inaptitude is absolutely stunning. Nobody learned anything these past two years. Well, not really: the "common" people learned (a lot), but politicians have been and are generally too darn dumb to get anything done within a period below a decade or so.
17 | The US judicial system and its underlying (state) laws is (are) broken. Want another example? Well, here you go: "Trucker’s 110-year sentence in fatal 28-car pileup spotlights Colorado sentencing laws, prosecutors’ charging decisions". This is absolutely sickening. This is not what the rule of law should be, but any reform is blocked at the gate, time and again.
16 | Work has been absolutely deadly these past 10 days and will continue to be so until the 23rd of December. No a single free second. To be quite honest, this Corona year sucked much worse than the last one. And it ain't lettin' up.
15 | Inken Stabell. It's not only musicians I follow on a daily basis. To give you an example, Inken Stabell's etchings are absolutely wonderful. I haven't bought any yet, but I am about to. She is slaving away constantly to get things right and the results are stunning, every single time.
 Inken Stabell - "Winterreise"
 Inken Stabell - "Seascape Etchings"
 Inken Stabell - "Single Artworks"
14 | Sammy Hagar. Don't shoot me, but besides Chickenfoot and his Van Halen albums, I have none of his solo albums. I just like the guy. It's his personality and the people he surrounds himself with. P.S.: The first video is the best "Highway Star" (Deep Purple) cover I know. Also watch out for Michael Anthony's incredible vocal work in the beginning (and throughout)!
 Chickenfoot - "Highway Star (live)"
 The Circle - "Whole Lotta Rosie"
 The Wabos- "Mas Tequila"
 Chickenfoot - "Soap On A Rope"
 Sammy Hagar - "Cooking"
13 | Lanie Gardner. And, yes, her cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" is the best cover I have ever listened to. So, just one link today: Lanie Gardner - "Dreams"
12 | Jeff Hamilton. I loved Ed Thigpen. Jeff Hamilton is the only drummer with equal ability and sensitivity. That makes him #1 in my book. P.S. The last video features my favorite jazz drum solo ... unfortunately it is out of sync. If you know the tune though, it is a blast. Just close your eyes.
 Jeff Hamilton - "Blues for Stephanie"
 Jeff Hamilton Trio - "Live at Jazz Port Townsend"
 Diana Krall- "Cheek to Cheek"
 Alexander, Clayton & Hamilton - "Studio Session"
 Jeff Hamilton - "Sing Sing Sing"
11 | Benny Greb. I'll save space. I would like to be reincarnated as Benny Greb. He's been closest to my heart for seemingly ages now. P.S.: Watch the solo (starting at 4:30) in the first video and his smile at the end when he realizes that the bits he spontaneously came up with ... worked (of course). Incredible technical ability and musicality.
 Benny Greb - "VFJams Live!"
 Benny Greb - "Plays Buddy Rich (In a Mellow Tone)"
 Benny Greb - "Plays Buddy Rich (Time Check)"
 Moving Parts - "Soul Food"
 Sonor - "Benny Greb Signature Snare"
10 | Ash Soan. Once you have a large collection of music, Ash Soan is a name that pops up all over the place. I consider him to be one of the most "in-the-pocket" drummers I know. And although most people probably have at least one of the seemingly trillions of recordings at home he is on, nobody apparently knows his name. Only Jeff Porcaro of Toto could have been his match today ...
 Ash Soan - "Zildjian Live!"
 Ash Soan - "Slave to the Rhythm"
 Seal - "Redzone Killer"
 Ash Soan - "The Punch"
 Ash Soan - "In The Studio With Ash Soan (1)"
09 | Todd Sucherman. He is a jack of all trades, a great teacher, apparently a wonderful personality and a fabulous drummer with impeccable technique. If you ask me who my favorite rock drummer is, well, ... have a look. P.S.: The first video I have watched at least a thousand times.
 Todd Sucherman - "Drum Solo"
 Styx - "Renegade"
 Drumeo - "A Day In The Life Of Todd Sucherman"
 Todd Sucherman & Steve Smith - "Machine Gun"
 Legacy Pilots - "A Compendium of Life"
08 | Greyson Nekrutman. In my small world, Greyson Nekrutman is the rising star/drummer to watch, bar none. Of course he's being compared to Buddy Rich ... but there is so much more to him. Just wow.
 Benny Goodman - "Sing Sing Sing"
 Greyson Nekrutman - "Solo"
 Greyson Nekrutman - "Brush Solo"
 Bob Marley - "War"
 Jimi Hendrix - "Manic Depression"
07 | Joscho Stephan. I've known Joscho Stephan for ages. In the field of "Jazz Manouche" he's been my favorite for ages although there are tons of talents around. An extremely pleasant guy, with serious chops and always fun to listen to (and watch).
 Joscho Stephan & Tommy Emmanuel - "Caravan"
 Joscho Stephan & Tommy Emmanuel - "If I Had You"
 Joscho Stephan & Matthias Strucken - "Indiana"
 Joscho Stephan & Adam Rafferty - "Isn't She Lovely"
 Joscho Stephan Quintet - "Artillerie Lourde"
06 | Seiji Igusa. It was one Instagram video that alerted me to him. There are so many incredibly talented guitarists around today, but somehow his entire (quiet but upbeat) demeanor attracted me to his videos. Plus is great short loops. Have a look.
 Seiji Igusa - "Acoustic Strings"
 Seiji Igusa - "Autumn Leaves"
 Seiji Igusa - "When the Drummer is late for a gig"
 Seiji Igusa - "Mellow Sunset"
 Shiina Ringo - "Marunochi Sadistic"
05 | Stephanie Jones. I stumbled across one of her concerts on YouTube one day and ever since then I have been following her across various channels. I love classical guitarists and she simply is an incredibly promising talent whose (many) videos, also venturing into other territories, continue to impress me. Incredible technique (... fretboard and other sliding sounds, for example, ... nope)!
 Tom Jobim - "Felicidade"
 Altamira Home Concert - "Altamira Vienna (Stauffer)"
 The Police - "Every Breath You Take (In 7/8)"
 João Pernambuco - "Sons de Carrilhões"
 Fanny Hensel - "Mélodie Op. 5, No.4
04 | Pia Salvia. I love the harp. Yes, it was Andreas Vollenweider who hooked me on it (because he gave it that rhythmic, melodic and funky twist), but since then, I have branched out. Pia Salvia is an absolutely astonishing talent who simply deserves more followers, attentive listeners and, yes, music fans who appreciate someone with - first and foremost - musical sensitivity, technical ability and personal qualities that outshine the many others out there.
 Buena Vista Social Club - "Chan Chan"
 Eden Ahbez - "Nature Boy".
 Bill Withers - "Ain't No Sunshine"
 Todd Rundgren - "Can We Still Be Friends"
 Pia Salvia - "Dark Longing"
 Pia Salvia - "Révérence"
03 | Jesús Molina Acosta. I have always loved the piano and this comparatively young talent, hailing from Colombia, has been my absolute favorite for many years now. Why? His incredibly positive attitude, his incomparably broad technical ability as well as musical sensibility, his stamina and his openness have continued to inspire me and countless other people. And he can sing as well ...
 Dizzy Gillespie - "Night In Tunesia"
 Oscar Acevedo - "Cumbialada"
 Jesús Molina - "Choro Meu"
 Jesús Molina - "Nada"
 Jesús Molina Trio - "Live in Madrid Spain, 2019"
 Jesús Molina - "NAMM 2018 Highlights"
02 | Kinga Glyk. I cannot really remember when I came across her, but it wasn't around the time she became a YouTube sensation with a bass cover of Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven" (a song which was great then but I cannot listen to anymore). She is a brilliant young bassist hailing from Poland, with a father (drummer) who established himself on the Polish scene and who supported her both live and in the studio. She has a musical sensibility which - in my eyes - goes way beyond what other musicians I love developed much later in life. In short, she has a "feel" that just gets me to prick up my ears every single time. What she has posted around the net shows a broad spectrum and even if you might not like this or that, listen to how much musical sensibility and technique she has to (seemingly) effortlessly throw each track out of the basspark.
 Donny Hathaway - This Christmas"
 Wham - "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go"
 Chick Corea - "Armando's Rhumba"
 Earth, Wind & Fire - "September"
 Bruno Mars - "Finesse"
 Charlie Puth - "LA Girls"
01 | As mentioned yesterday, I'm staying away from the Internet as much as possible. I have neither any need for it at the moment nor am I inclined to waste the little precious time I have left. Still, I do use it regularly to check up on people I follow and I thought throughout December, next to a couple of personal posts, I would feature significant people I have been following for ages, mostly promising (young) new musicians/artists or established ones whose work I think has been stunning ever since I first heard of them, listened to them or encountered their work. Starting tomorrow, I'll give you a brief glimpse of what I actually do still spend time one when I fire up YouTube, Instagram or various other websites that cater to my "needs".
11 | November
30 | As I wrote below, I decided to distance myself from the Internet for about a month. Honestly, those four weeks away were envigorating. I don't know about you, but what we once envisioned the Internet, the "Web" or even "Web 2.0" to be, never really came to pass. Things were OK for a few minutes of Internet time, but after those minutes, there were extremely few wesites left that cater(ed) to my needs and tastes whereas most were so radically commercialized that they have become a total turn-off. I used to have an extensive RSS feed which shrank to ten, then to two and, at the end, to zero websites. Everyone started plastering ads on their publications, garnished the whole thing with affiliate links and started writing indifferent and non-committal copy to attract the average user ... only. Where are the opinionated people that don't subscribe to one camp/bubble only? Where are the dissenting opionions that are not edged in stone and are up for debate? Where are the people that are open to serious discourse? Gone, or very few and far between. I don't know where I'll go from here, but one thing is certain: the Internet is a thing of the past for me and real life will (once again) take prominence. Let's see what the result (here) will be.
01-29 | [much needed digital detoxing ... see below]
10 | October
29-30 | [digital detoxing]
28 | I have decided to take a(nother) break from the Internet until the end of November. Why? It's infuriating. Lately, not only in Germany, the dimwitted have taken over and almost every place I used to visit is inundated with fake news and facts, idiocy, unscientific gobbledegook and general ignorance. As I have often stated before, a "free" Internet was my thing. The problem is that it ain't free anymore. Everything has been commercialized and every nook and cranny has been taken up by those who are desperately trying to make a buck, usually off the stupidity of others. News are locked down (because, apparently, news sites expect users to subscribe to 15 channels simultaneously and pay hundreds of dollars for that privilege ... each month), facts are twisted in endless and exhausting altercations, search results in even the best search engines are skewed, etc. Plus, I have a real life which is so incredibly much better. Actually, I'm having the time of my life and simply do not want it to be ruined by coming into contact with the cesspit that the Internet has become. I'll be back.
27 | And now for something completely different: I am, perhaps, the biggest fan of a double-LP that was released in 1977, ELO's "Out of the Blue". Yes, that makes me a boomer, and I don't really know (I do, but it's difficult to put into words) what it really was about that recording that got me hooked for life the way I was, but I finally found the one edition that sounds EXACTLY the way I remember this double-LP sounding when I bought it on the day of release. That happened yesterday ... and I'm on my umpteenth-time though the music. P.S.: That double album is about as great as they come, but contrary to many other fans who, for example, concentrate on world-wide hits like "Mr. Blue Sky", I think the sequence of the three final tracks on side 4, "The Whale" (instrumental), "Birmingham Blues", and "Wild West Hero", is still my favorite sequence on just about any LP/CD I have. I've listened to those three tracks a million times ... and I'm not about to stop. And now, once again, they sound as glorious as they did when I first listened to them.
26 | Today, I had the chance, at length, to talk to a student of mine, a girl, who took advantage of the extra help our government offered during these past fall holidays. Her summary (and mine): it sucked. Instead of relying on us teachers, the people who know best what's gone missing these past two years and what needs to be done, and instead of giving us the resources to allocate as we see fit, the government decided to institutionalize centralized courses across a whole range of grades and experience levels without any significant effect. It is absolutely frustrating to see. She was eager to catch up and what was offered contradicted her wish at every turn. Had I been given a couple of free lessons plus a minor part of the available resources, I (or any of my colleagues) could have gotten it done, not in no time, but infinitely more successfully. This system is just broken and the students, the most important links in the chain, do not really seem to matter that much anymore, despite what our government has tried to push onto the unsuspecting public. They insinuate that they are doing things (correctly) but, in the end, they are throwing money out the window right and left. We need a change ... but it simply won't even be considered.
25 | School started again today and the past few days I managed to relax more than I'm usually allowed to. I was with my wife (in her - still - current residence an hour away from here), enjoying the time with her, attended a concert she gave with her wonderful choir, enjoyed a great evening with some of her friends and altogether revelled in our "we-time". Needless to say, that was immediately ruined as soon as I returned to work because there are just too many things that don't work properly anymore and don't have much to do with the actual job, teaching. I won't get into it, but the pandemic management is worse than ever and, on top of that, technocracy is gaining more and more of a foothold in our system. Things have to look good on paper, not in real life and everyday lessons. Not good, but typical for many "reformed" educational systems that have turned many things on their head.
16-24 | Last Monday, we started our fall holidays here and I've decided to - once again - do some serious digital detoxing. That means that I will really turn everything off that has anything to do with online access. All of it. One thing that has affected every teacher's life since the Covid-19 pandemic hit us last year is that we are expected to be available 24/7. To be quite honest, and I've let everyone know, that's something I'm not (= never) going to sign my name to, especially since I can teach without any pressure. I'm not waiting for any promotion, I'm not dependent on any superiors and, to be honest again, that's not my job as I see it. So, see you in a week or so.
15 | Yes, I managed to catch a cold. I have no idea how, but it suddenly showed up yesterday. In today's environment that means that I cannot show my face (or nose) anywhere for a couple of days.
14 | I really am wondering if a remake of "West Side Story", which will apparently drop soon (after at least one year of delays), is really necessary. Most articles I have read lean toward the "social justice warriors" perspective, and those who were interviewed and presented a positive take on the new version were somehow involved in it. I'm sure it's going to be good, but for the past ten years I have desperately hoped that directors will actually present new and original movies, not rehashes of things from the distant past. Most of what I watched this past decade did not even come close.
13 | A few days ago, I installed a (German) calorie counter on all of my Android devices. Nearly two years of the Covid pandemic lead to some weight gain (as did my continuing hormone problems and my age). What did I learn? What I thought to be deadly ain't really that bad and what I believed to be relatively healthy seems to be ... the opposite. I think I have to, once again, rethink my game. Maybe more tequila? Mas tequila!
12 | I gave my better half two Canon EOS-M lenses for her birthday, the EF-M 28mm F3.5 (Macro IS STM) and the EF-M 55-200mm F4.5-6.3 (Zoom IS STM). She gave the macro lense a spin the other day, without diving into any manuals whatsoever (she despises manuals), and the results were uniformly great. Canon does make some great lenses for normal people.
11 | In regard to yesterday's post ... I managed to streamline all three Android devices in an hour or two. Weather, mail, to-do lists and a million other things, all synchronized across the board. I could have done that before, but with the new Niagara launcher installed, it took like 90% less time than it would have taken me otherwise. If you are looking for an Android launcher that removes all the distractions and has a very nifty and solid backbone, give that one a try. Lovin' it so far.
10 | I just spent an hour (only) installing a new launcher - Niagara Launcher - on all my Android devices (Samsung S10 5G, Tab 6 lite and Tab 7+). It's supposedly a minimal launcher (in a good way), but it is actually a damn detailed and versatile one (in a better way), which its developer, Peter Huber, has done (and continues to do) an excellent job on. Highly recommended. This one works wonders and increased my productivity by 200% ... and decreased my procrastination by the same amount.
09 | What I have noticed time and again - and I think I have mentioned this before several times on here - is that finding high-quality items via any search engine today has become a pain in the neck. No matter how many cookies and tracking bots you turn off, settings you change, private sessions you start and whatnot, the top of the heap is always the cheapest crap available. I think this might be the time in Internet history to develop a search engine that only (!) displays the highest quality items for anything you are searching for at any given moment. I'm seriously tired of spending hours trying to find any quality items online. Hell, I'd even pay for being able to save time on these kinds of searches.
08 | I remember the story and the new Netflix series manages to somewhat adequately sum it up: "'The Billion Dollar Code': The battle over Google Earth." After 30 years on the internet for me, these kinds of stories have been legion.
04-07 | I ruined my back completely once again and spent the last 4 days stuffing pain killers into my face. Neither internet activities nor anything else. But I managed to read "So Much Things to Say: The Oral History of Bob Marley" by Roger Steffens. An excellent book!
03 | Again (I chose the wrong job) a full work day on a Sunday. "I'm too old for this sh-t!" is what Danny Glover used to utter in his role as Danny Murtaugh (Lethal Weapon). Yep.
02 | It's amazing how little time we spent out and about in the nearest town (Karlsruhe) these past two years. Today was one of those days we actually had to do some shopping there and we both didn't feel comfortable with the mass of people waltzing through town on a bright and sunny day. Corona has had an impact on us, that's for sure.
01 | Just as an aside. No matter what I switched to, all the deodorants, after shaves and eau de toilettes I chose (because the others I had previously used were discontinued) ... were discontinued soon thereafter. It's been a run-around for years now. Apparently, also my nose is getting old.
09 | September
30 | The election on September 26 brought the result I expected. Now it's probably going to take until November or December until we get a new government. None of the possible coalitions are up my alley and I just hope the one that makes it into power is one that doesn't cost me another couple of thousand a year. And, yes, I do care about (sensible) climate politics ... although I am a boomer.
29 | This year's elections were the most difficult ones I ever voted in. All three candidates - Conservatives, Social-Democratic and Greens - were horrible choices and one had to choose the least evil of the three.
28 | I love science fiction films and TV series. The other day I wrote here how much I was looking forward to "Foundation" on the Apple+ TV service. I watched the first two episodes and they are ... spectacular(ly good), especially visually.
The problem today is that Internet critics judge everything on the first five minutes or the first one or two episodes of a series. Those reviews will end up on the top of the heap, no matter how asinine they are, especially when they read "political correctness" and whatever into a production (which has become the norm with just about any series reviewed anywhere).
I think one IMDB critic (meaning someone insignificant who thinks like I do) put it best (and what he/she said is applicable to so much more available on TV today):
"I am so tired of Science Fiction fans being their own worst enemy.
[...] The Foundation books hold a special place in my life much like they have for millions of people. I remember them being my gateway into enjoying reading for the first time in my life. This is the reason I am so disappointed in the so-called fans of the book rating this TV show so low. It has only been two episodes and a one star review means you want it to fail. You want producers and investors to see the negative reactions to one of the most expensive science fiction pieces of art, and reconsider any future investment. The book already exists and will never get a 1:1 translation to film. We need to set realistic expectations of what is possible during our lifetime in film. My experience watching the show was amazement at all the details. Having a science background it is difficult for me to watch hand waving explanations that are unbelievable. [...] I am not upset by character changes. I'd like to think Asimov would've been delighted his story will now appeal to a larger audience. The dialog is solid enough and does not talk down to the audience. For those who've read the books, I recommend this show as a supplement, not a replacement. I also recommend it to whoever has not read the books as an amazing story that should be followed by reading the books."
27 | The elections here and Germany, the most "exciting" ones in ages, had a "German" result. Everyone was expecting a substantial change and what we got is many voters veereing a mere 1 centimeter to the right or two centimeters to the left. Finding a workable government is going to take months (as things stand, a minimum of three parties will have to find some sort of common ground) and keep "mommy" (Merkel) in office until we put up Christmas trees.
26 | I missed out on a great concert today, booked several months in advance. The workload just didn't allow me to attend. I should have become a carpenter.
25 | A good day spent with my better half. Unfortunately, the powers that be have still not allowed us to work closer to each other, so we have to travel back and forth and make do with what we have.
24 | "Fall cleaning": I managed to a) reach and b) clean corners that had neither seen a vacuum cleaner nor any sort of cleaning cloth since I moved in here. On the positive side, I did not discover any unknown lifeforms that managed to develop in those spots for the past two years. And, I can breathe again.
23 | Talking about failed states in one of my 13th grade courses today, we repeatedly veered off path and across history. Talking about Somalia and Afghanistan, suddenly a student (who had been quietly listening for 70 minutes) came with an astute observation when we talked about the necessary acceptance of values "imposed" on a society not (historically) familar with them. He mentioned the Weimar Republic, a time in German history in which not only our constitution hadn't been secured against anti-democratic maneuvers (yet), but also larger parts of German society simply weren't ready to (fully) accept liberal ideas that had taken hundreds of years to ferment across Europe. I was impressed. Connecting the dots correctly isn't always easy.
22 | I live only a very few kilometers from the rather swampy areas along the Rhine river. Those areas have always been perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes. In the past decades, we have had institutionalized pest control taking care of the problem (mostly successfully). Unfortunately, even the experts couldn't get a grip on the problem this year as various flood surges forced them to terminate their round-the-clock fight against this infestation. The result? You simply cannot enter those areas at all and around my place, you shouldn't show your pale face outside after 8 o'clock in the evening. If you do, you'll be eaten alive within seconds.
21 | Whereas this summer was a typical German one, a lot worse than the summers of previous years, my cynical prediction from weeks ago actually came true: since school started again, we have consistently had pretty damn fine weather.
20 | Oh, by the way. I forgot. The positive rapid antigen test last week was - of course - a dud. My PCR test came back negative ... four days after the event. What a total waste of time.
19 | Windows 11 didn't convince me at all, but it also doesn't have to. Secure boot is a requirement to be able to install it on (relatively recent) PC builds, but on my machine that has never been switched on. In order to do so, I would have to reformat my system drive. Thanks, but no thanks. Windows 11 will not enter this household until late 2025 (if I'm still around).
18 | So far, so good. The Dyson V15 seems to be exactly what I had envisioned. After a first test run, it is very powerful and versatile. Let's hope it lasts.
17 | I was surprised how fast Dyson shipped the new vacuum cleaner I ordered. Yesterday, I had to delay delivery until Saturday. Whenever I'm not home, deliveries are dropped off on the dark side of the moon and it's a pain in the neck to pick them up (without a car).
16 | I finally broke down and ordered this one. I just couldn't find anything on the market which could compete. Let's hope I won't be disappointed.
15 | This school year I have three long days again. Other people would call them "short" (I'm done at four in the afternoon), but once I get home, the work really starts. As Danny Glover once so aptly put it, "I'm getting too old for this sh*t!".
14 | 99% of the movies I watched these past months were utter and absolute crap. It is amazing to see what studios think they can get away with nowadays (and at the moment). Horribly lazy scripts and equally lame execution wherever you look(ed). I'm quite sure that many of the films that have had their premiere dates moved into the near and far future because of the pandemic aren't going to be any better. The only thing I'm looking forward to at the moment is actually a TV series, Foundation , which is supposed to take off on Apple+ TV on September 24, 2021. Let's hope they didn't screw that one up and that interest is solid enough to keep it running (if good).
13 | As someone who has been fully vaccinated since June, I suddenly had a clearly positive rapid antigen test in front of me this morning (I still test myself twice a week because I work in an environment with lots of non-vaccinated people). The rest of the day was spent organizing a PCR-test amongst the catastrophic crisis management we have had here since ... forever. I'm assuming it's a false positive, but it took me close to five hours to get things sorted. Now I have to wait until late Thursday for the result.
12 | I have two crows living in a tree not far from my top-floor apartment. They always cruise the expansive lawn, constantly looking for food (which there seems to be plenty of). When I moved in, they always scrambled as soon as I appeared on the balcony. Lately, they couldn't care less ... until I spread my arms (wings). Amazing what passes as entertainment nowadays. ;-)
11 | This and the next weekend I'm going to be busy getting my apartment shipshape for fall. My schedule at school leaves me very little extra time to do household chores, so I need to get active whenever I'm allowed a few spare hours. While I'm writing this, I'm reminded of those two sayings, "living to work" and "working to live". Upon reflection, I'm not sure which of the two dominated larger parts of my life since 1992.
01-10 | These past 10 days I worked, interrupted only here and there by (not enough) sleep. Starting another school year amidst the constant rise of corona cases (again) proved to be more than challenging, especially because I wanted to approach things differently this year. So far, the time invested paid off and we'll be returning to a daily posting schedule on this website here from tomorrow onward. Maybe I'll even get around to listening to some good music today, something I haven't had a chance to enjoy for too long now. I might have an hour off sometime today.
08 | August
28-31 | While assembling some heavy furniture, I blew out my back (completely ... I'm getting old) again and managed to spend these past days without screaming and flailing, but it was painful (and continues to be so). The problem is that apparently my subconscious does not want to acknowledge my age. I lift(ed) 40 kilos just because I can (could), and my back told me that I'm way past my prime. Plus, I didn't watch out. I'm stupid.
27 | I'm blessed because people (although I have no wishes, often forget about it and am altogether someone who ignores it) planned a spectacular birthday for me. This one (I stopped counting) was another one of those. No big parties, no extravagant outings, but a gr4eat quiet day with wonderful presents, nice conversations, absolutely great food & wine plus a few real surprises. A wonderful day, to boot!
21-26 | I know I'm being curt, but I spent the entire time preparing for the upcoming school year, getting stuff out of the way that I hadn't gotten to before and enjoying a a few moments with excellent food, great wine ... and time off (also from online life).
16-20 | The weather started to fizzle out the second we returned home. As I mentioned before, we were incredibly lucky in regard to the almost spectacular weather we experienced during our two-week trip. Last year was breathtaking, this year nature had the ability to rejuvenate with the seemingly endless weeks of rain and cloudy weather we had to endure all summer. Still, the past few days were more than adequate, allowing for extended periods of sunshine and the odd shower here and there. We spent two days washing two huge suitcases full of clothes, cleaned my place and cooked some excellent dinners. When we returned, I still had two weeks to get my apartment and anything work-related in order and, to be quite honest, I haven't been that successful. Too much has piled up in the past few years which I had neglected to file away, scan, digitize, sort out, etc. But, I'm trying my best. Next Thursday, things need to be DONE! Let's see if I can manage to do that. Next Friday is my birthday and I hope to be free of chores by then. We've already reserved a table at the best restaurant in my area for that occassion ...
08-15 | As a kid, I had already spent several weeks of holidays in the region around "Feldberg", which, at nearly 1500 meters, is the highest mountain in Baden-Württemberg and the highest in Germany outside of the Alps. Best of all, it is situated right in the middle of Germany's spectacular Black Forest. The fond memories I had of those stays way back when were reinforced by our stay there this year, decades later. The highlights are far too many to mention here, but ...
a | The hotel, "Berghaus Freiburg" and the apartment we had booked there were spectacularly good. They had just opened their doors at the beginning of the pandemic last year and were apparently still trying to get their feet off the ground, but our stay there was fabulous (quiet, family atmosphere, great cooking, good wines, ... space). They had given us the room with the best view (of Freiburg, 1000+ meters below us) and the hotel was the perfect starting point for excursions into every direction.
b | We took long walks all around the stunningly picturesque landscape every single day, sometimes 900+ meters down, other times 400+ meters up. The weather was great throughout. One of Germany's most famous lookouts, "Schauinsland" was a mere 500 meters from the hotel.
c | Although the hotel had an excellent small restaurant (only open at the weekends during our stay), the best food was served by "Waldhotel am Notschreipass" a mere 10 kilomters away. We have rarely been as satisfied as we were there. Both food and service were exemplary, although online reviews do not reflect this excellence adequately.
In my "Year in Photos: 2021" I will go into the many walks we enjoyed and places we visited, but suffice it to say that we had a fabulous time! It was difficult for both of us to leave after a mere week.
03-07 | After our last night in Bonn, we travelled to "Brauneberg" (German website) on the Moselle river, smack-dab in the middle of one of Germany's finest wine regions. In fact, we rented a wonderful apartment in a winery hotel there, "Weinhotel Gehlen-Cornelius," and started our stay there with a fine bottle of white wine and a first walk through the endless vineyards which stretch to the horizon in every direction. Although we were worried (the weather forecast had been really bad for the two weeks of our vacation) we apparently brought the sun everywhere we went. We were incredibly lucky and took 8 to 10 kilometer walks every day. Amongst the many highlights were the hotel itself with excellent wine (my favorite was their Syrah, which I'm going to order another 6 bottles of soon), the family atmosphere and the excellent service, our two trips to Bernkastel-Kues (the first one by car and a second spontaneous one on foot), a city with a lovely old city center (actually a medival marketplace with gabled timber-frame houses from the 17th century) and lots of great shops and restaurants, a few hours on the terrace of Wine Estate Dr. H. Thanisch/Erben Thanisch there to enjoy the food and excellent wines plus the spectacular view of the river and the Landshut castle ruin. We also dined at an Italian restaurant there which offered excellent (real) Italian dishes, Ristorante Pizzeria Da Salvatore. Besides that, we took approximately 1000 photos of the scenery along the river, the vineyards, butterflies (which have become rare here), and just about everything else that didn't manage to run away fast enough.
01-02 | Once again, we stayed at Boutiquehotel Dreesen, our favorite hotel close to my parents' place. It was only for two nights, but perfect as always.
07 | July
31 | All packed and ready to leave early tomorrow. The first stop will be Bonn, our former capital and still my parents' place of residence.
30 | The next two days are going to be busy ones, getting ready for a two-week vacation, which we are going to spend in two distinctly different parts of Germany. More about that trip in a summary post spanning the first two weeks in August.
29 | [Books - 04] "The Internet Speculative Fiction Database" has been the most essential website in regard to sorting and tagging my extensive Horror, Dark Fantasy and Science Fiction book collection. They have most available original publications and reissues on record (along with the respective covers and variants, table of contents and extensive crosslinks to short fiction published in collections and anthologies, etc., etc., etc.). Should it disappear, I would have to travel to a place where they have cliffs so I can jump off one of them. Just to crosscheck, I often hit Goodreads to have a look at publication dates, covers, blurbs and reviews (all of which go into my book database, which is maintained by Calibre, a mostly proprietary but excellent eBook management database program, which also allows you to sync your collection to various devices). Whenever I recommend books to other people, or when I complete entries for the many books in my own database, I also consult "Fiction DB". On that site, you can find many (but not all) awards authors have received for their work (here's the entry for Stephen King).
28 | [Books - 03] "Worlds Without End" was one of the best discoveries of the past years. I was really surprised about not having come across it before. They have a database which lists all of the Hugo, Nebula, BSFA, Mythopoeic, Locus SF, Derleth, Campbell, WFA, Locus F, Prometheus, Locus First Novel, Aurora, PKD, Clarke, Stoker, Otherwise, Aurealis SF, Aurealis Fantasy, Aurealis Horror, Locus YA, Andre Norton, Shirley Jackson, Gemmell Legend, Gemmell Morningstar, Red Tentacle, Golden Tentacle, Robert Holdstock, and Locus Horror awards of the past years. What a find! This website saved me years of research.
27 | [Books - 02] In regard to yesterday's post, I've been enjoying Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary (Random House N.Y., 2021, ISBN 978-0-5931-3520-4) while doing a whole bunch of chores around the house and reconfiguring my ePub collection. Great novel! Lots of fun.
26 | [Books - 01] I've made a conscious effort to get back into reading regularly, tagging my extensive ePub collection so it becomes (much) more manageable and just enjoying the haptic quality of good old-fashioned hardcovers and paperbacks again that I kept after I culled my previously huge collection by about 80% years ago. The next couple of posts will be about that effort.
25 | Despite the absolutely catastrophic flooding some areas north of here have experienced a short while ago, the summer in my area a little more south has been a typical German one so far. Nevertheless, a scientific paper I read a few days ago told us that exactly my area will feel the effects of said climate change by turning into the hottest and driest area of the country in a few decades. I should be dead by then, but it is about damn time someone tries to secure livable conditions for future generations.
24 | I've only got one week left to complete a pile of work, most of which dates back a decade or so. Let's see if I can get it done. Power Puff.
23 | On Twitter, I've been following "Internet of Shit" for ages now, and the many stories they link to often make me wonder if we will ever reach the next millennium. Like this story here. It makes your mind melt.
22 | It is absolutely amazing how inconsistent the implementation of rendering EPUBs and the interpretation of metatag information are across various e-book readers. The new one I bought does much (!) better, but one would have thought that after e-book readers were introduced in the end 80s of the last century, they would be able to complete their comparatively simplistic job perfectly by 2021. Nope. Apparently we are still a couple of decades away from that historic moment.
21 | I got myself one of these: Inkpad X. So far, so great.
20 | For the first time in my life, I have no idea who to vote for in the upcoming federal elections (September). The candidates are equally bad and one can't even vote for the lesser evil. One has tweaked her CV to no end, the other two have an endless list of scandals and incomprehensibly stupid (and illegal) behaviour on theirs. This country is in a dire political state.
19 | And now for one week of sorting material away, throwing a lot of it out, scanning and filing away digital copies and, all in all, trying to get my place shipshape again.
18 | This is so typical: "Amazon just got Fakespot booted off Apple’s iOS App Store ..."
16 | The one thing I noticed today (the last day of this school year) was how damn tired most people seemed to be. A true first in 28 years here. In the last conversation I had before I also crawled home, we were just wondering if next year was going to be as horrible as this one.
15 | Slouching towards Bethlehem. One day to go.
14 | You know the end of the school year is approaching when lessons simply melt away because classes are on excursions, books have to be returned, etc. This was one of the shortest days of the entire school year for me.
13 | Chris McKay's "The Tomorrow War" was as bad as I had expected it to be. The kind of crap directors and studios are trying to get away with lately is astonishing. P.S.: Nothing else to do but watch bad films as it has been pouring down constantly since yesterday.
12 | I headed into town once more today to pick up another number of glasses on sale. Getting a 50% (and more) reduction on Zwiesel Glas' "Enoteca", especially the more exotic ones that are usually not even available at most shops, was just too good an opportunity to pass up.
11 | A quiet Sunday with nice weather ... probably the last nice weather for a while as all available weather services have announced massive rainfall for next week.
10 | After approximately one whole year, we spent the first afternoon in town today. The best part was that we found "our" wine (and other) glasses (that haven't been cheap since forever) at half price, so this first excursion ended up being really expensive.
09 | Just for fun and just to check: Hi Paula! If you did land here, you reached the correct website. Enjoy your year in the US. It's going to be a blast!
08 | That Germany is lagging behind in anything that has to do with digitalization is common knowledge. Even Burkina Faso has a better internet infrastructure than we do here. I just wrote a review for the so-called "Luca" app on GooglePlay because it, well, sucks. It's an app that is supposed to be helpful, for example, when going to restaurants and bars in these pandemic times because it automatically checks you in with your credentials (incl. proof of vaccination) so you don't have to constantly and repeatedly fill out crappy forms wherever you are. The problem is that once the app is installed on one device, the info and scans aren't synchronized with a second device you may have. The people who programmed this shite apparently only have a smartphone. And they programmed the app for millions. Germany in a nutshell.
07 | Extra | Danish Dynamite! | I remember the 1992 European UEFA championship and I hope, against all reason (because England has had the better team in this 2021 championship) that Denmark will carry the day (evening). I've got a bottle ready for the win! Update: Uhm, OK. England cheated ... of course. ;-)
07 | We've only got a little more than one week to go before school's out for the summer. For everyone involved, it's been a horrible year, especially because our federal system failed miserably in regard to managing the coronavirus pandemic at our schools. Still, although there are many who could not cope as well or encountered severe problems, I am surprised about the number of students who excelled in my subjects despite the chaos we've had for 15 months and more now. Yes, some may be priviledged because they have a solid work environment at home and enough help resources to draw upon, but my feeling is that many just had to grow up that much quicker in these times and managed well by themselves, without outside help. Despite all the problems that remain, this pandemic has brought a whole number of very strong characters to light, people who are determined to succeed despite the obstacles thrown in their path. Very impressive!
06 | The one basic problem with Windows 10 is that you simply cannot leave a laptop or notebook standing around for longer than a few days. If you do, as soon as you start it up, a whole series of smaller and sometimes larger updates rolls in. That's not a major problem, but it's a recurring horror scenario whenever you have to be productive right away. On top of that, if you own a Dell XPS like I do (or just about any other model), Windows updates are nearly always followed by Dell updates to patch things up. It's an update dance that never seems to end. Today, shortly before a conference, I got around 15 updates - which required three (longer) reboots - with three minutes to go before my online conference started. Who the hell thought this crap up? Yes, you can delay this dance, but still ...
05 | I'm a sucker for exellent piano trio jazz recordings, especially those that channel Oscar Peterson, Antônio Carlos Jobim and many others. The other day I stumbled over the Alvin Queen Trio's "Night Train to Copenhagen" (2021), which was a blast in this regard, and am now actively trying to get a copy of their earlier "O.P. - A Tribute To Oscar Peterson" released in 2018 and Alvin Queen's "I Ain't Looking At You" (2006). Samples of those two albums sounded fabulous and are just up my (club venue) alley. P.S.: As far as I recall, Alvin Queen, a renowned jazz drummer who played and/or recorded with, for example, Michael Brecker, Kenny Drew, Bennie Wallace and George Coleman, was a member of the last quartet Oscar Peterson gave his European concerts with before he passed away.
04 | As I found out today, replacing Adobe Acrobat Reader DC with its asinine subscription model is not as easy as I had thought. Still, after an hour or two, I achieved what I had set out to do. Good riddance (once again).
03 | Wine Tour: This year, we added two vineyards to our summer wine tour, Bernhard Koch (website: German) and Klein (website: German). Both happen to be from "our" epicenter of excellent wines, Hainfeld/Pfalz) (Wikipedia: German). Apparently, you can't go wrong with any vineyard in the area. We went home with enough wine to last us until late in the year.
02 | "When I was a little boy, I told my dad, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a musician.’ My dad said: ‘You can’t do both, Son." (Chet Atkins)
01 | "Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most." (Ozzy Osbourne)
06 | June
31 | "We now understand, for example, why everyone makes fun of English food. The English boil everything. They boil it like they're trying to extract information from it." (John Skipp & Craig Spector)
30 | "We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology." (Carl Sagan)
29 | "Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants." (Karl Lagerfeld)
28 | "Being a star has made it possible for me to get insulted in places where the average Negro could never hope to go and get insulted." (Sammy Davis Jr.)
27 | We are in the final throws of the school year here, one that was suitably horrible for everyone involved because of the pandemic, and I need to do a whole lot of work until the end of the week. So, the next few days, I'll publish some of my favorite quotes, just for the hell of it ... and to have them handy if I need them. Here's the first one: "War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.” (Ambrose Bierce)
26 | Prime Day: Aftermath 04 - "Death and Taxes". Referring to my previous posts, the German federal and local governments have money for everything, but not for schools. The coronavirus pandemic has made that abundantly clear. In the end, teachers are often, literally, left to their own devices. Luckily, most of us can write these kinds of purchases off the taxes and have them added to our tax returns the following year. That's what I intend to do and that's why I spent a hefty amount of cash on a device that is meant solely for my day job. I intend to write off every device, every cable and any accessory I was practically forced to buy because we are left to fight for ourselves.
25 | Prime Day: Aftermath 03 - I've spent two days with the Samsung S7 Plus tablet now and it is just what I had envisioned. The size (12.4'') is great, the battery (once tamed) will carry me through an extended school day, the S-Pen works well, the handwriting apps are nifty, and Samsung Dex is, if I may say so, the sh-t. It's better than I had believed possible. Technology has come a long way. The Samsung external SSD drive works flawlessly across all my devices (plug'n'play), the USB-C to 3.5 audio adapters do their thing much better than anticipated (the crux of using adapters is that they need to convert the sound using an in-built chip) and, last but not least, that German carrying case that many people raved about is actually as excellent as those reviewers hinted at. If nothing breaks these next few months, something that is perhaps more likely in our throw-away age, I made all the right choices. P.S.: One more post coming tomorrow (hint: two things will never go away, death and taxes).
24 | Prime Day: Aftermath 02 - For months, I've wanted to get myself a Remarkable 2, especially for my day job. I finally reconsidered when I noticed a) that their support just sucks and b) that they failed miserably when trying to properly implement the PayPal option for applied discounts. They lost me as a customer in that final moment, after 3 attempts. How stupid can you possibly get? So, on "Prime Day", I went with my second choice, a Samsung Tab S7 Plus with S-Pen, a normal Samsung book cover as well as a Samsung book cover keyboard (if you haven't listened to any German-English for a while, this video is the one to watch ... and the guy does some excellent and down-to-earth reviews!), plus another "Microsoft Modern Mobile Mouse", an external Samsung 1TB SSD USB-C drive (they've come down in price considerably since that video was recorded ... and Prime Day saved me another 30%), plus two USB-C to 3.5 headphone adapters, a Samsung EVO Select 512 GB microSD for the Tab 7+ and a (German) hand-made "Adore June 12.4'' carrying case for the Tab 7+. Yep. More tomorrow. :-)
23 | Prime Day: Aftermath 01 - I bought not just one, but two pairs of the Sennheiser HD 599 Special Edition headphones. Why? With an impedance of 50 Ohm, they work on my smartphones, my Yamaha keyboard, my Samsung tablets, My Dell notebook, my PC and anywhere else without draining deadly amounts of power (also if I use both with a split cable on any device). In this price range (more than 50% off the regular list price!) and at close to 60 years of age, their "sounding" is just right for my ears and I've had the previous Sennheiser 598 Special Edition model for years. The new model has been criticised here and there when compared to its predecessor, but I can't tell much of a difference (they already arrived) and they are just perfect for their intended use. Keepers. :-)
22 | Prime Day: 02 - In the past couple of hours, I spent tons of money. Instead of putting together a mile-long post, I'll spread it out across the next three or four days, perhaps already with some first impressions. Wait for it. :-)
21 | Prime Day: 01 - This was perhaps the first "Prime Day" that I took advantage of since I subscribed ages ago. Why? Often, Amazon uses it much like a desperate clearance sale for cheap crap that they want to get off their books, with a couple of incentives strewn about to reel people in. This year, because I was alerted early, I found a load of items that I had added to my "want, need & will-have" lists these past couple of months. All of those items popped up with substantial price reductions a day before the mayhem was supposed to start. Said mail also allowed Prime members to secure deals early. So, I'm joining the dark side for the next two days, making sure I am not being taken advantage of. I'm still contemplating as I write this, but check tomorrow to see what actually ended up in my shopping cart. Lots, probably. :-)
20 | "Kachelmann Wetter" (weather.us in the States) is the most accurate weather service I have ever had the good fortune of using. The owner is considered to be a controversial person by many (not by me) here in Germany, but his weather service is without fault. I have no idea how accurate his predictions are for the US, but here in Germany, I can set my clock by his weather maps, forecasts, etc. Right now, we are about 1 hour away from a major thunderstorm in my region.
19 | I have alerted my students for ages to a destructive development (for them) that most have decided to ignore. This week then, I stumbled across more recent statistics showing the German electorate divided into age groups: 18-20 (3.4%), 21-29 (11%), 30-39 (14.3%), 40-49 (13.5%), 50-59 (19.6%), 60-69 (16.9%), 70+ (21.3%). That's 42% perhaps willing to effect some or more radical change in regard to, for example, pension and climate policy and, already today, close to 60% who don't give a sh-t because they are close to getting paid out or have relaxed into a situation in which changing as little as possible is the way to go. If I were my students, I would probably consider emigrating ... right about now.
18 | Before Mirosoft ever managed to make Windows 10 stable one single damn time, development versions of Windows "11" were leaked on Chinese servers. Microsoft promises an "exceptional experience" but all I have seen so far is that they tweaked the interface yet again. Speed improved, tons of (legacy) problems are likely to remain.
17 | You know you live in a peaceful environment if you have the relaxed atmosphere and the inclination to watch pigeons intensively trying to procreate.
16 | The first real heatwave has started to take a hold here. Until Sunday, we are expecting 35 and more degrees Centigrade every single day. I love my penthouse apartment, but in phases like these, it can, uhm, less inviting.
15 | I have no idea what made Royal Copenhagen stop their production of Blåkant ("Blue Line"), designed by Grethe Meyer, a timeless and beautiful dinner service (also produced by "Alumina" for many years) in 2010. Since that year, I have had lots of fun hunting down single pieces on eBay and various other global sites at prices below what scalpers are likely to ask.
14 | The best thing about any new Styx album is their drummer, Todd Sucherman. In rock music, he is my favorite, to boot. He is both an exceptionally musical as well as, technically, an incredibly advanced drummer. Plus, he seems to be a great guy all around. Win-win for everyone.
13 | Sunday is just another work day, once again.
12 | On this day in 1941, American jazz pianist, electric keyboardist and composer Chick Corea was born. As you all probably know, he died this year at age 79. Why do I mention this? In Germany, many of the foremost newspapers published obituaries that were positively embarrassing. Corea had been a member of the Church of Scientolgy and that had apparently made him an outcast for just about all of those print media which are populated with endless batallions of self-righteous journalists today. A large part of my musical world would not have existed today had it not been for Chick Corea. He was one of the most brilliant and exceptional musicians of the 20th and 21st centuries.
11 | Yesterday, out of the blue, I found a lovely mail in my inbox, sent to me by a student I taught for a few years over two decades ago. I remember having been instrumental in him having to leave our school but I also remember that I spent quite some time for several weeks helping him get a fresh start, using some of the connections I had established outside of school. In the mail, which (in printed form) is four A4 pages long (single-spaced), he summarized his life since then and he thanked me for both giving him bad marks in two subjects which ended his time with us and getting him started in car manufacturing. He has had an absolutely stellar career since then and is, as far as I can tell, the happiest person on this planet. The point here is not a self-congratulatory but actually quite a depressing one: the longer I worked in my job, the rarer it became that I had that kind of time to help students out. I still try my best, but the state government has inundated us with superfluous work that just doesn't leave us enough breathing space for that kind of (essential) work. Still, this kind of mail makes everything worthwhile.
10 | On this day in 1975, The Eagles released their fourth studio album One of These Nights. It wasn't until 2 years later that the album became a defining moment in my musical development when I left Germany and moved to Denmark. New friends, many of them Americans, introduced me to music I just consciously hadn't listened to before. Lots of new exciting roads opened up that I am still exploring today.
09 | I watched "Time" the other day, a three-part series broadcast by the BBC and written by Jimmy McGovern. The protagonist, Mark Cobden (Sean Bean) "[...] has to adapt [to prison life] and toughen up if he wants to survive. One of several points McGovern seems to be making is that the system is stacked against even the most well-intentioned and well-behaved prisoners." Excellent work by Bean and Stephen Graham, a perennial favorite of mine. Highly recommended!
08 | I don't really have migraines much, but today I have one that I simply cannot seem to shake.
07 | Work.
06 | You can look at today's state election results in Saxony-Anhalt two different ways: You can say that close to 80% of the state's population voted for democratically sound parties or you can be outraged and flabbergasted because more than 20% of that state's population voted for the far-right "Alternative for Germany", well knowing what kind of slush that party stands for. Guess which viewpoint I prefer.
05 | The new WD Elements 12TB drive arrived and wasn't bought from Amazon, meaning it was well-packaged and works. Amazon usually just throws them into an oversized box with a piece of brown paper and starts praying.
04 | Work.
03 | Notion.so ("All-in-one workspace") is actually a great and pretty cool tool once you dig into it. Check it out.
02 | I scoured the Net for another (affordable) external hard drive and found one (12TB) which hasn't been gobbled up by the crypto-miners yet. I simply need another backup of the 1200+ films that I don't want to lose and transferring them between older USB (2.0) drives at 39MB/s is a pain in the butt.
01 | Just in time, the weather is going to be spectacular for two or three days. 27 degrees (Celcius) and more. Time for some good cocktails.
05 | May
31 | Second trip to the vaccination center here. Very efficient. Didn't take more than 20 minutes all told. I'm done. Let's see when the whole thing needs to be repeated. Can't be long.
30 | German highways are totally blocked by at least two lanes of trucks racing each other, every day, every hour and every minute of the day, simply because successive governments have failed to legislate anything in that respect for decades. On Sundays, those trucks have to stay off the roads. Pure bliss. Home in under 50 minutes.
29 | For the first time in months, I did absolutely nothing today. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Very nice.
28 | Fixing things around the apartment. So far, so good. I feel like a proper handyman at the moment ... a rare occurence for someone who has three left hands.
27 | Off to Ditzingen for four days. Let's hope the weather holds up. P.S.: Wonderful burger for dinner. I'm still a sucker for those.
26 | Never more relevant, also in my country: "There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge'." (Isaac Asimov)
25 | A statement I found on Twitter that pretty much summarizes my problems with processed food: "It's so processed that you can feel your DNA changing with every bite."
24 | For backup reasons, I bought an 18TB Western Digital Elements hard drive a few weeks ago. Since then, the drive's price has nearly doubled. Wondering what was up, I decided to google around for an answer. Here it is: "If this new cryptocurrency takes off, it could lead to a shortage of HDDs and SSDs." Well, it took off and prices for anything 16TB and up are exploding. Brave new world.
23 | Jason Kottke nails my problem and links to a video which is supposed to help. Nope.
22 | As always on the first full day of two weeks off, I'm totally knackered. It's been an exhausting time at school these past many weeks.
21 | It's not one for me, but maybe for someone else out there: "Fawlty Towers: For The Record is a new 6LP coloured vinyl box set that features all 12 TV episodes of the classic British comedy series. This limited edition set comes with an art print of harassed hotelier Basil Fawlty SIGNED by co-creator John Cleese. This new set is made up from the four original BBC vinyl albums – Fawlty Towers, Second Sitting, At Your Service and A La Carte – and two newly created collections, Plat du Jour and Enjoy Your Stay. Together they form a box of all 12 episodes which have a special linking narration – supplied by hapless waiter Manuel (Andrew Sachs) – which is unique to the vinyl versions and hasn’t been available since their original pressings."
21 | "My neighbor knocked on my door at 3:00 AM. Can you believe that, 3 AM!? Lucky for him, I was still up playing my congas."
20 | I just blasted about two hours of 1980s Danish music across the neighborhood, trying to gain air supremacy. I actually just met someone outside who liked it and asked what it was.
19 | OK, I admit it: While backing up my various hard drives (see below), I watched central/pivotal episodes of "Narcos" and "Narcos - Mexico" for at least the fifth time. There is something about that series I simply cannot shake. And it's not only the Spanish (which I don't need subtitles for anymore).
18 | BTW (in regard to yesterday's post): That the government expects us to produce a certain number of grades for each class in the extremely limited timeframe we actually have now that the pandemic allows us to have a few real-life lessons, is absolutely ludicrous. I won't go into any details, but if you work for the secretary of education in my home state, you have absolutely no idea what life has been like for students and teachers these past many months. That was/is to be expected, of course, but it is also a depressing summary of the non-work our educational department has unleashed on the many of us who don't think education is merely a technocratic exercise.
17 | This is the week of tests, corrections and a sh-tload of work before two weeks of holidaqys start this coming Friday.
16 | The restructuring of my external hard drives is still running in the background and takes ages to complete. But now that I'm transferring the contents of 16 smaller hard drives (1, 2 and 3 TB) to pairs of big ones (10TB and 18TB), I'm beginning to notice a definite trend. In music, films and TV series, there are always core items that have stood the test of time and always have to be backed up securely first, simply because I have listened to those albums and watched those films and TV series many times over. I think I'm going to put together some separate pages for this website here, listing those items that have been favorites for ages. The music-related page is about 75% done (but needs time because new items are added all the time, together with autobiographical notes), the others I haven't even started on yet.
15 | Wife. Cookies (mass-produced for my sweet tooth) + great cocktails + meatballs with potato mash and an excellent Italian red wine. Life is good.
14 | Half a kilo of minced meat should not/never be cheaper than two red peppers. But it is. It's about time society gets a grip on itself.
13 | We took a long walk through the nature around Wörth (along a sidearm of the Rhine river) and we quickly ended up in the absolute boonies, taking little-trodden and barely discernible paths through what looked like a deep jungle, climbing over massive logs and trying to avoid extended and slippery (completely muddy) puddles. Tons of fun.
12 | Four days off. Extended weekend. I'm not going to do sh-t for the next 96 hours ... besides togetherness, cocktails and good music.
11 | I have watched quite a few 80s and 90s movies lately, revisiting a time in which I used to frequent just about any movie theater near me, often several times a week. You know what? Most films I rewatched are crap, your average action and slasher fare; popcorn movies at best. Yes, they were fun at the time but most of those films certainly didn't age well. Some are hilarious today ... and not in a good way.
10 | Since the most recent lockdown, I have been sitting and standing in front of students who are basically exhausted, physically and mentally. That they now have to be at school every second day in so-called A and B groups doesn't help in the least. Instead of complaining, I often sit here wondering what I would have done and how I would have behaved in a phase like this one which - altogether - has been going on for nearly 1 1/2 years now. All I know is that I would have been "worse" (" [...] some of these are limited [...]"). So, I try to be understanding ... although that is difficult at times.
09 | Dom Famularo: "Like Miles said: 'There are no mistakes, only unexpected opportunities.'
Steve Lukather: "I saw an interview with Herbie Hancock. He said he made a mistake, a chord mistake on a gig, and Miles heard it and he played the right note to make Herbie sound good. I thought that was a beautiful Herbie story." (source)
08 | The Covid-19 numbers here are beginning to a look a lot better. Let's hope some misguided politicians do not find ways to screw that up again.
07 | I've been watching Greyson Nekrutman for ages now. Already today, at a relatively young age, he is an insanely good drummer, especially because he does things his way, with tons of enthusiasm and energy. If you happen to be interested in jazz and big band drumming, he's the up and coming guy.
06 | I'm a bit slow at the moment when it comes around to updating my "micro diary". There is just too much time eaten up by the workload, most of which consists of fulfilling useless and at times asinine and constantly changing requirements our state government has strapped to our civil servant backs in these pandemic times. Insantity and stupidity abound, as usual.
05 | Via a newsletter, I was reminded of Walter Kempowski today, a German (at times controversial) author, whom I was able to talk to several times when he visited Copenhagen, Denmark in the 1970s and whom I still adore today. He was the only German author I read when I was abroad and when I was not at all interested in German culture or the German language. "Tadellöser & Wolff" (which was also a successful two-part TV film decades ago) has been one of my absolutely favorite books for more than four decades now. And, btw., thanks to my dad for bringing Kempowski and his "German Chronicle" (a series of books, in which "Tadellöser & Wolff is certainly the best) to my attention ages ago!
04 | Corona antigen tests (the quick versions via swabs) have become commonplace at our school. Everyone knows how to do them, most people take part and the whole procedure has become as common as taking out your textbooks at the beginning of a lesson. But, at times, we get a number of false positives which are irritating, simply because people with a positive result have to leave the group although often a subsequent PCR test, which then becomes mandatory, reveals that the initial result was a false positive. Still, we managed to "catch" a few infected people long before the damage could be done. And, if you reassure people instead of stigmatizing them, which we try our best to do, the whole procedure is beneficial for everyone.
03 | I didn't even know that my Windows 10 video player keeps count, but I just noticed by accident that I rewatched "Everest" (2015) for the 30th time since it's first screening at my place. In full (and, of course, in UHD nowadays). I love that film and although I know I won't be able to do it, I would still love to take the rather difficult and steep hike to the basecamp at the foot of Mount Everest one day.
02 | If two civil servants get married in Germany, their future depends entirely on their employer(s) (= the various state governments involved) if they work in two different states. Although we had hoped for a solution, we were blocked from moving together for an entire year. I'm happy that at least the people in charge do not have to deal with these problems. Good for them.
01 | Interesting to see how Basecamp, a company whose products I used for years, blew up within a few days. Casey Newton summed it up pretty well. Two days later, this happened: "About one-third of Basecamp employees accepted buyouts today after a contentious all-hands meeting. I’m told more are coming."
04 | April
30 | I didn't watch the Oscars this year and, apparently, I didn't miss anything as most reviews called it a trainwreck of a show. I was suprised by a lot of the criticism levelled at this year's winners though, stating that the results showed far too much political correctness and an altogether "woke" selection approach. I thought (for once) the opposite was true. From all of last year's films, I had many of the winners at the top of my list as well. Yes, "Nomadland" wasn't a Marvel CGI-fest, but it was an excellent film with an (again) excellent Frances McDormand. And if the prizes are really handed out according to achievement, Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom simply wasn't as accomplished as Anthony Hopkins in The Father. That one has absolutely nothing to do with Boseman being "snubbed". The latter statement is the politically tarnished one, not the Academy's decision and, because you nowadays have to add that to statements such as the ones I just made, I really like Boseman in just about anything he participated in. Yes, the Academy has been colorblind for decades and one of the biggest problems is that they have often awarded prizes to people for some crappy effort that should have gotten it a lot earlier for the excellent ones (Martin Scorcese got it for The Departed, which was one of his weakest efforts, for example). But to follow public sentiment now isn't exactly a secure path into the future (if the Oscars happen to have one).
29 | The other day I hinted at increasing problems and limitations the housing market is experiencing here in Germany, especially in pandemic times. Whereas, for example, the German Green Party favors state-regulated building concepts and rent prices (which might well come into effect if current predictions for election results this coming September are close to accurate), construction companies are beginning to react to exploding prices and limited available space by picking up trends that have been around in other countries for many years. "Smart House" (website in German only), for example, have come up with a brilliant modular concept that allows you to assemble a house, piece by piece if needed. Yes, it's true that in urban areas private homes are inefficient in regard to the space available, but I do believe that once you take away people's right to own their own property - wherever and whenever - you will, in the long run, open a can of worms that might very well be akin to blowing the lid off Pandora's box.
28 | I have always been a fan of well-designed and well-made products and have followed design trends for decades. One trend that is currently (still) at the front and center of product design is one that for some reason, although I'm a gadget freak of sorts, just doesn't do it for me. More and more people are looking for products imbued with artificial intelligence, voice assistance, augmented reality, wireless tech and smart interactivity. There are some great produtcs out there, but I simply cannot imagine making my life increasingly dependent on technology of any sort. Quite the contrary is actually the case. The older I get, the more I'd love to get rid of technology and be free of it altogether.
27 | In a video on youtube (I'm glad I have no problems with Danish because the subtitles are horrible), Niels Henning Ørsted Pedersen (1946-2005), world-renowned bassist whom I managed to see live at least 30 or 40 times, talks about the strict discipline Oscar Peterson demanded from musicians he had hired to accompany him. Perhaps the most memorable line is that people who paid to see you live have absolutely no idea what you went through the days before, to get to the venue or to be there to entertain them. They paid for the experience and not to hear you whine about how bad your life is or was. In essence, they expect you to play and give it your best shot.
26 | Huzzah! First jab today (Pfizer-BioNTech)! Things suddenly moved very quickly. After vaccinations were opened up for teachers last Friday, I registered immediately and got an appointment (less than 24 hours later) via mail. At the vaccination center, I ran into tons of people I know around here (former colleagues, former students, neighbours, etc.) and the 45 minutes needed (German bureaucracy is what it is) passed quickly. The next jab is going to be end of May.
25 | If you are at all interested, the Ten Years After / 1967-1974 box set will be repressed this June. And, by the way, if you happen to be a collector like me, Super Deluxe Edition has been a prime resource for many years now.
24 | I finally got around to cleaning some windows that were covered in Sahara dust from two months ago. It's nice to be able to look outside again.
23 | Keeping my home in ship shape.
22 | I noticed again today that I don't really like closed back (midrange-priced) headphones. I recently bought a pair of second-hand Sennheiser HD 598 CS cans for my new keyboard (sound fine there and keep things quiet for other people in the vicinity), but compared to my pair of Sennheiser HD 598 SE (open back), the sound is tinny (especially when listening to slightly compressed music) with a limited soundstage. I've had the same problem with every single closed back pair of headphones I have ever tried. Maybe it's my ears ... or my age? No matter what, I paid one third of the former list price and the CS model is fine for the intended usage scenario.
21 | These past few days, I tried to watch "Das Boot", a German television series produced for Sky One. After a few parts, it turned out to be the crappiest thing I have ever had the misfortune of watching. Some good actors and actresses (esp. Vicky Krieps, who does an excellent job), but the writing was extremely lazy, pandering to current trends and throwing historical accuracy out of the window. It had absolutely nothing to do with the original bestseller, the prize-winning original film or anything that remotely resembles a sensible treatment of said material. What a total waste of money, again.
20 | The housing (and rental market) has virtually collapsed here these past 12+ months. If there is a house for rent, which rarely ever happens, it disappears within minutes from online listings and decent apartments have fared even worse: they're gone in seconds. It seems that many people, especially families with an average income or below, are absolutely desperate and ready to snatch up anything that crosses their path. Absolutely depressing ... but not surprising in regard to the shambles our current government is going to leave in its wake this coming September when its going to be voted out of office.
19 | "First Flight: Success!"
18 | I'm spending most of the day as my very own "backup-DJ". I can let things run on the side, but mistakes aren't allowed. All in all ... strenuous, but worthwhile.
17 | The winners of the 2021 World Press Photo contest have been announced. Have a look at both winners and nominees ... fascinating photos.
16 | I just sat here for an hour, reminiscing. I have been a life-long fan of Lemmy, Motörhead and that sheer, audacious energy since I saw them live at a small concert venue ages ago. In pandemic times, there is nothing better than a healthy dose of Motörhead to lift up your spirits ... quickly.
15 | I remember when I bought my first hard disk at the dawn of the computer age. Today, one wouldn't be able to fit a standard Word document on most of those early backup solutions. I bought an external 18TB USB drive the other day and I'm not sure it will allow me to mirror the millions of files I have safely stored away in a cupboard on countless other drives. And that's just the music I ripped to my drives these past many years.
14 | Meeting my students again was a relief and continues to be so, but it is clearly visible that the various lockdown phases have taken a mostly severe toll. The effects of having been more or less isolated for a longer period of time are clearly visible and were voiced by some in a surprisingly frank manner.
13 | We used to make fun of other countries when the pandemic started, but right now Germany seems to be at the tail-end of the worst pandemic management ... ever. Yesterday, we opened our school at an incidence of around 147, one day later we are at 196,9 in our district (when we reach 200, schools are supposed to close again). In a first person shooter, the people in charge of this insanity would have had tons of mines thrown at them ages ago. In real life though, they keep on campaigning until they are voted down in elections this coming September. It is simply mind-bogglingly stupid.
12 | I've been following Paul Stamatiou for seemingly ages. We never met and were part of the 9rules group (deader than dead) for only a relatively short while together, but somehow I always thought I knew him a little bit. Great news today! I love seeing how great things have been coming together for him these past many years. Congratulations!
11 | I'm beginning to notice how this pandemic with its inconsistent lockdowns, endless hours of home office work and often irrational stay-at-home regulations is beginning to drain my energy. I was dead tired all day long, again.
10 | A quiet day with somewhat overly exciting dinner preparations (the end result was certainly worth the trouble). Yummie!
09 | Yesterday, shortly before an important video conference, I was again plagued by the endless update chaos Microsoft has recently been causing on Win10. When I started my Dell XPS notebook, Microsoft insisted on updating just about every driver (and threw an update fix at the machine to solve previous system update problems) ... and the microphone stopped working. Seconds later, Dell insisted on updating the drivers Microsoft had installed (and apparently bungled) minutes before. One day later, when I started the machine up for another important video conference, Microsoft insisted on updating those drivers again. I just blocked those updates. It's become absolutely insane. People used to make fun of Win XP, Vista and whatnot, but those systems simply didn't have those problems. At the moment, I need to figure in 30 minutes of an endless update dance just to be able to work. Every single damn time. Nauseating.
08 | Despite present regulations, schools are, of course (because we've got elections this year), opening again on Monday. And, again of course, schools are the last institutions to be informed. For more than a year now, decisions have been passed down to us mere minutes before they were announced to the public. Within a couple of hours, we are supposed to organize what the politicians in charge spontaneously cooked up. We had to have an extended video conference today just to find out how the new plan is supposed to work at an institution with more than 1700 people.
07 | Today's work load reminded me of Murtaugh's (Danny Glover) catchphrase in Lethal Weapon: "I'm too old for this shit!"
06 | Because we live in a totally inefficient and politically diverse federal system, the disadvantages of which became glaringly obvious these past many pandemic months, one of us was inoculated against Covid-19 today (whereas the other, from a different state, probably has to wait another couple of months). Despite various recent discoveries, AstraZeneca was used. The side effects were minimal. Knock on wood.
05 | Covidiocy is rampant in Germany. As a teacher, I often wonder if that is the result of a failing educational system or of an upbringing that went off the rails at some point.
04 | A quick trip to my parents went well today. The roads were wide and open and the weather wasn't half bad either. 5 hours in the car didn't seem all that long either.
03 | A "Rüeblitorte" is in the making. Yummie.
01 | April Fools' jokes were mercifully absent this year. Just in case you are looking for some good pranks for next year, here's a list. I recommend giving #3 ("Plant A Grass Garden In Your Coworker’s Keyboard") a try.
03 | March
31 | "The Year the Earth Changed [...], an upcoming documentary that looks at what happened to the natural world when much of the world’s human population stayed indoors for a few months."
30 | Nothing surprises me anymore today: "Georgia governor signed a voter suppression law under a painting of a slave plantation."
29 | I'm rarely impressed these days, but Veronica Swift is an amazing jazz singer. I haven't heard a voice like that in ... ages.
28 | The world is going to hell in a handbasket, part 526: "Sheet music is colonialist, say Oxford academics." In summary, musical notation has been branded colonialist and some academics want to deconstruct the university's music profile to "decolonize" the curriculum. Additionally, those academics "[...] have also proposed that musical skills, such as learning to play keyboards or conducting orchestras, should no longer be compulsory because the repertoire 'structurally centres white European music'." Years ago, this kind of stuff would have been deemed satire.
26 | Today, our nearly two-week school break for Easter starts ... and I still have tons of work lying around my desk.
25 | After all the chaos our local and federal governments have recently caused in regard to handling the coronavirus pandemic, the number of infected has risen sharply. Apparently, everyone is hoping that the nicer and warmer weather we are experiencing at the moment will make the pandemic magically disappear. Maybe the people in charge should all be sent back to school.
23 | Amongst all the sludge released in recent months, "The Father", with a spectacularly good Anthony Hopkins, is a bright beacon of light.
22 | Peter Frampton is coming out with another instrumental album as he is recording as much as possible before inclusion body myositis (IBM) prevents him from doing so.
21 | Like thousands of others, I was hit by the bungled Microsoft Windows 10 updates which were rolled out, deleted, rolled out again, fixed (with new errors), deleted and rolled out again, etc. After a few days, nobody knew anymore what was installed when and why and which update should be removed. If you need to be and remain productive, Windows 10 should not really be your operating system of choice.
20 | I wonder if Paul McCartney is finally going to release "London Town" in his ongoing "Archive Collection" reissue series this year. Although many fans hate it, I still think it is one of the best pop albums of its time. These past many years, with all the delays and non-information, many fans might have gotten the impression that McCartney himself hates the album just as much, perhaps even more.
19 | No surprise about the last-minute notification. Schools are going to be closed here for another couple of weeks.
18 | "Zack Snyder's Justice League", which had nowhere to go but up when compared to its butchered first release, is certainly more coherent, but also incredibly overindulgent. Add to that an ending with a tease that doesn't have a chance in hell to be satisfied and what you get is a film that hasn't even got a decent soundtrack. Disappointing.
16 | "Did you ever spell a word so bad that your spell check has absolutely no clue what you're trying to spell? What you end up getting is a question mark. You got a million dollars of technology just looking back at you like, 'You got me, buddy. Which is pretty amazing because I have all the words.' (Bill Burr)
15 | Five oral exams today. The government told us to keep proper distances in Covid-19 times. I ignored them in two cases, just so I could understand some candidates who were wearing face masks. Of course, I was reprimanded. As we used to say, I didn't give even the tiniest bit of a flying f*ck. The regulations were sent out by civil servants and politicians who haven't really seen a school from the inside since they themselves were kicked out or managed to get mediocre results in final exams. I'm seriously tired of those individuals who know next to nothing about the people's reality they lord it over 24/7. Screw them. Hard.
14 | Champagne for breakfast ... and back to work. Reality can be harsh at times.
13 | ♥
12 | Preparations.
11 | Of course, the weather this weekend will be horrible. Early spring storm #2 will be racing through here on Saturday, but that was to be expected. Not that we care.
10 | Colleagues are up in arms about unrealistic and destructive regulations for next week's final (oral) exams, and rightly so. Whereas the weekly incidence is much higher than when the Covid-19 pandemic started during last year's finals, the powers that be (the eternally brainless ones), decided that candidates do not have to wear masks even if they live in hotspots. We have elections this coming weekend and I really hope at least some people will show the parties in power the middle finger. I will.
09 | Here's my "hip" statement for March: Piers Morgan, the old coot, is a snowflake.
08 | The yellow press in the UK is having a field day with the Harry/Meghan interview. Oprah Winfrey, who is best described by Bill Burr in this wonderful segment, was able to add another scalp to her belt.
07 | And, speaking of youtube (see yesterday's post), I came late to the video that 12 million others have already watched and liked. Lanie Gardner's version of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" is just beautiful. Great job.
06 | I'm probably the last person who figured out who Harry Styles is, but his version of "Sledgehammer" by Peter Gabriel, performed on the Howard Stern Show, is just absolutely brilliant. And, by the way, Sarah Jones, whom I've been watching for quite some time, is absolutely perfect on drums here! She is just so much better than all of those technically brilliant drummers in our day and age because she gets the song and accompanies the others perfectly. She's a great drummer.
03 | The management of the Covid-19 pandemic by our federal and state governments is turning into a sh*tshow of astonishing proportions.
02 | Video conferences are all great and useful, but only if you have a stable Internet connection. After mine had been rock solid since January, now it is suddenly turning bad again. German Telekom is still running an outdated cable network here that consists largely of hardened primordial slime.
01 | 12 days to go. ;-)
02 | February
28 | Problems the US has in regard to reopening schools aren't really that much different (if at all) from the many problems we have over here.
27 | No matter if it was a single perpetrator (highly unlikely) or if the Nazis instigated the Reichstag fire in Berlin (February 27, 1933) to then blame it on communist agitators (very probable), the fire was pivotal in the establishment of Nazi Germany because it gave the Nazis the opportunity to suspend personal liberty with increased power.
26 | Twitter was set on fire over here when a public-radio host called a K-pop band (BTS) from Korea (South) a bunch of "pissers" who had the chuzpe to cover a Coldplay song. He also compared them to Covid-19 and hoped they would end up in North Korea on their next holidays. Something like that (I don't listen to this kind of crap). I'm sorry, but I had to laugh out loud ... although, yes, his choice of words and expressions wasn't exactly politically correct. The guy is apparently passionate about Coldplay (I certainly am not and would probably have attached the urine-moniker to them) and if you listen to the tone of the host's introduction to the track, you can easily tell he was going overboard on purpose, intonation and all. I'm not going to get into the "what used to be OK is an abolute no-go today" discussion, which is completely inadequate, but the whole thing reminded me of a brilliant review (less "racist", if you like) of Freddie Mercury's and Montserrat Caballe's album "Barcelona)" from way back when, which the reviewer simply summarized with one onomatopoeic expression "Iiiihhhhh!" (which equates to a drawn-out "gross!" in English). You could also have read a lot into that one if you had wanted to.
25 | The Gulf Stream system is the weakest it's been in 1,000 years. The temperatures we've had here this week seem to be pretty convincing proof. Late February turned into early summer.
24 | "Seven guys with machine guns and you're gonna stab them? You really are f-cked in the head. I almost didn't shoot'em just so I could see you try and pull that off."
(Banshee, Season 2, Episode 10: "Bullets and Tears")
23 | NASA posted this spectacular video of Perseverance's landing on Mars.
22 | Well, that was it for Daft Punk. Pity.
20 | These past very few days, the number of coronavirus cases has "suddenly" started to increase rapidly in my district. Anyone who has been following developments closely shouldn't be surprised. Experts warned about the mutations, nobody listened. Because we are going to have elections here and in the neighbouring state in less than 4 weeks, (most, but not all) politicians are in campaign mode and couldn't care less about anything that doesn't guarantee votes. Many people don't care or are forced to not care. Vaccination plans are a shambles. In the end, as usual, absolutely nobody feels any sense of responsibility or can be held accountable for anything they said or did. It's every man for himself (or, to be somewhat politically correct), every woman for herself. Absolutely brilliant strategy. Willful ignorance abounds across the board.
19 | To organize our online life at school, we use "Moodle", an open-source learning platform. As good as that solution is in many respects, it's frustrating to see that GUI design and layout implementation across devices always seem to be the least important aspect(s). Someone like me, who has always spent lots of time on making things at least a bit visually and aesthetically pleasing, the substantial differences across devices are more than frustrating.
18 | I landed on Mars (again) yesterday. As attentive followers of this website know, I've always made sure to have my name sent to Mars when that possibility was made available (check "July" on my "2020 in photos" page, for example). This time I arrived with about 11 million other people in tow. In the past, the rovers weren't that crowded.
17 | Apparently, beads made in Venice, Italy were discovered at an archaeological site in Alaska. Carbon dating revealed that in all probability they ended up there between 1440 and 1480, a decade or more before Columbus "discovered" the Americas in October of 1492. Fascinating reading: "Blue beads in the tundra".
16 | "Radio Garden" is a website I've massively enjoyed exploring. Do have a look if you haven't been a regular there already. BTW: Their (Android) app has far too many ads. Not recommended.
15 | "The Animation That Changed Cinema" (via Kottke.org). "This is a treat: a 30-minute video that celebrates the animations & animators that changed cinema, e.g. Yuri Norstein, Miyazaki, Fantasia, The Iron Giant, Persepolis, etc. — a full list of the filmography is available in the description. Absolutely stunning visuals on some of these."
14 | The educational department of my home state just loves waiting until the very last second to make any binding decisions. They usually reach those responsible 4 minutes before they are supposed to go into effect. Their last press release (relevant for schools) was published on the 11th of February. Absolute slowpokes and not very responsible.
13 | Whenever I clean - during and after - or every time I have some peace and quiet in the sun outside, I have a couple of CDs that I have in my ear constantly, via my smartphone and in-ear phones or via my positively muscular active speakers in the dining/living room. Besides some "boomer" stuff, one singer turns up again and again: Paula Morelenbaum, "[...] a Brazilian singer, born in Rio de Janeiro. She and her husband Jaques Morelenbaum were in the band that toured with Antonio Carlos Jobim from 1984 to 1994. In addition to Jobim's group, Paula Morelenbaum has [...] also been in the trio Morelenbaum2/Sakamoto, also with her husband, and with Japanese composer/keyboardist Ryuichi Sakamoto". I have tons of her albums, but the ones I was listening to (again) today were "Telecoteco" and "Berimbaum", two favorites of mine. If you love Bossa Nova, check her and her albums out.
12 | Last week, a whole load of Sarah sand was blown into Europe from down south. Because it was raining, I have it all over one balcony, the balcony furniture, the windows ... everywhere (check the link ... yeah, I thought that was/is funny. I was born that way. Sorry.). :-)
11 | Yesterday I highlighted UnrealEngine's new MetaHuman creator. Just to add an anecdote: Daniel Vogel, COO @ Epic Games, a company that also develops Unreal Engine, was once a student at our school (and of mine). I always use his biography - and that of others - to get my students to simply "aim higher". We have a huge number of incredibly talented students at our school and sometimes they need convincing in regard to going "all in" when it comes to choosing an international perspective and career for themselves. Without Daniel and the others, that aspect of my job, which I take very seriously, would have been much, much more difficult.
10 | The UnrealEngine MetaHuman creator is really something else. Scary, at times, but technically brilliant. As they state for that video: "Creating convincing digital humans has traditionally been hard, slow, and expensive. With MetaHuman Creator, the time to create a unique digital human of the highest quality, complete with hair and clothing, is slashed. Here, we provide a first look at the new tool". Have a look and, if you are at all interested, at other recent videos highlighting this new tool. We've come (very) far. Spectacular stuff.
09 | In light of yesterday's anecdote: That same winter, 1978/79, I was in Farum, north of Copenhagen, with a bunch of friends. It was snowing heavily, it was freezing cold ... and we decided to head to some obscure party in Nivå (a totally remote place, which we did reach eventually ... only to immediately leave again because that party crowd simply wasn't ours). We froze our asses off, marched for hours ... and a friend, whose hormones were apparently at a high then, only noticed after an hour in arctic temperatures that he had forgotten his warmer jacket. So we kept warm with assorted beverages. One of the best nights I ever spent in Copenhagen (which also gave birth to our adapted version of the infamous "Three German Soldiers" song, which I simply will not and cannot recite here. The 21st century simply doesn't allow this kind of stuff anymore).
08 | As Germany is positively groaning - for absolutely no reason - about a slightly stiffer winter up north than usual, I can't help remember the winter of 1978/79 in Denmark when everyone and everything was snowed in. On New Year's Eve, in the middle of all that chaos, we actually tried to get to one party in Dragør (along the coast) and, when someone offered an alternative, ended up somewhere totally else (in the opposite direction) because trains weren't running, Copenhagen had come to a standstill and the snow was piled up 2 storeys high on the side of most roads. Nobody in his right mind was outside, besides us, of course. Still, we had a grand (and freezing cold) night, walked for hours and were snowed in eventually at our destination. The next morning there wasn't any food in the house and a single orange went to the highest bidder for a premium price. Fun times ... and definitely not the end of the world.
07 | Here's another incredibly cool gadget, the Zen Nixie Clock, which will set you back another $2000 (without taxes). But you could also go for the "Puri Nixie Clock" for around $1500 (without taxes).
06 | If you have around $3000 to spare and are willing to wait half a year for delivery, the "Vestaboard" is an incredibly cool gadget. Check out this video. I would buy one if I had the money to spare.
05 | As a teacher, I cannot wait for schools to reopen, but now that all three mutated versions of coronavirus have crash-landed all over the place here, prospects look bleak.
03 | I love well-written texts. "Why I had to leave The Guardian" is such a text, even though you might not agree with some or all of the contents
01 | We spent the entire day in video conferences ... learning more about video conferences. Everything is increasingly beginning to resemble an infinity mirror.
01 | January
31 | Where are people like Marjorie Taylor Greene actually hatched? Is there a farm somewhere? What are they fed? Why do they have guns? Do they actually know what a gun is? Can they spell? Are there life rafts for people like her if a ship goes down? Really? Can anyone translate her insane ramblings? Why does she exist?
30 | My life is about to change significantly. Hang around and read more about it in the next weeks and months.
29 | As I suspected, #wallstreetbets (see yesterday's post) went viral within a couple of seconds. Whatever you think about a very large number of people trying to get their "revenge", "manipulate" trading, or just being along for the ride, it showed how the financial and silicon valley systems react: trading was halted arbitrarily (for the littlle guy), Google deleted more than 100.000 negative reviews for apps involved and, altogether, the Wall Street crowd reacted as expected ... they hated that news sources revealed how they had a hand in trying to stay on the inside track.
28 | With lots of popcorn at the ready and for a couple of hours, I've been closely following the whole #wallstreetbets epic short squeeze development/debacle (depending on which end of the stick you got). I usually try to stay objective, but in this case I just can't. It is painful and depressing to see how the unbelievably flawed financial system is trying its best to get government protection for those who have profitted from the misery of others for ages and against those who are fighting back, albeit aggressively. I hope the latter win out.
26 | "As far as impressing your potential new boss goes, discovering a planet on day three of your internship at NASA is up there."
25 | QAnon’s adherents in the US believe(d) that a "cabal" would eventually be exposed and arrested in an event known as "The Storm," orchestrated by President Trump. Now they are confused because absolutely nothing happened. But, according to many (who have quickly adapted their totally inane theory to changed circumstances), things are indeed happening ... we just can't see them (unbeatable logic, that). The following is what a Twitter user had to say about all this endless gobbledegook:
"It's just a never-ending search for evidence to support an expanding set of conspiracy theories. It's not going to stop until they realize they have spent the best part of their lives chasing non-existent pots of gold at the end of vanishing rainbows."
23 | Now that I've had it for a while, the most annoying thing about Samsung's Tab S6 lite is its constant power drain while it is just lying around somewhere. Unless you limit / turn off all the functionality (and what's the point of such a device then?), it won't last long. That's been a problem with all of my Samsung devices and now that I've tried the odd Chinese device here and there, which are tons better in that regard, Samsung will be off my list for now. BTW: Their new phone line has been heavily criticised for feature overkill and, again, battery drain.
22 | I have a lot of Max Richter's (meditative piano) music at home. Check out his NPR "Tiny Desk" home concert.
21 | When I studied at the University of Saabrücken (for all too long), the best thing were the many spectacular concerts they put on regularly. I just went through some old folders and found tickets for Depeche Mode (1982), Level42 (1982 and 1983), Pat Metheny Group (1983), Shakatak (1985), Billy Bragg (1986), plus German favorites BAP (1982 and 1983), Rio Reiser (1986) as well as Grobschnitt (1986 and 1987).
20 | Given the disproportionate influence Twitter has on print and online media, the average person unaware of this impact is probably constantly wondering where all this bullshit emanates from.
19 | I just gave the HEVC / H.256 video compression codec a spin and it is absolutely amazing to see how well high-quality films, which used to easily take up 10 to 20 GB, can now be compressed down to considerably less than half ... in better quality and double the resolution. The wonders of modern technology.
18 | Just like everywhere else, the pandemic is being politicized here. Science goes out the window and, in light of elections this upcoming September, political skirmishes have taken over. The best thing to do is just to keep news sites closed.
17 | As I am working on a new page - "2020 | in photos", I can't help notice how incredibly bad Microsoft's photo app is. I have thousands of photos and the app cannot handle them without lagging on a high-spec system, crashing or being a general nuisance. The problem is that every single alternative that is recommended has an UI that looks like it was designed for Windows 95. Fast, yes, but they all look like crap.
16 | I started rewatching "The Queen's Gambit" on Netflix, this time together with my better half. It really is an exceptionally good series, despite small flaws here or there. Again, highly recommended.
15 | It looks like 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record. No suprise there, really.
14 | Although the impeachment of Donald Trump is justified, I think it is a bad idea. It will completely overshadow Biden's first 100 days.
12 | "I don't do satnavs.". Michael Caine, here on Michael Parkinson's show a couple of years ago, simply must be one of the nicest, most pleasant, smartest and down-to-earth people around.
11 | I spent some time trying to get a large number of reliable FFP-2 masks. Especially on Amazon (as usual), that has become almost impossible. Their product list has been flooded with cheap and sometimes even dangerous forgeries. Not surprisingly, many products in this category display (required) certification labels which they do not have and Amazon does f*ck all about it.
10 | Looking at the collection of photos I took last year, 90% are photos of (spectacularly good) food. I'm moving up in the world.
09 | Logitech is a prime example of the large number of globalized manufacturers giving consumers and the environment the finger. They simply don't care. For profit's sake, they not only removed the replaceable battery from many of their top-of the line computer keyboards, they also reduced the charging capacity of the now inbuilt ones. And, because consumers are a passive and also complacent bunch, they are getting away with it. One day soon, we will simply drown in "e-waste".
08 | We haven't seen much snow these past many years around here, but we're getting some of it now. Whenever that happens, it reminds me of my hometown in which the local fire department used to pour a massive amount of water down a long, steep and remote paved road so mostly children, but also some pretty reckless grown-ups, could race down on their sleds. If it hadn't been for the hay bales propped up on the sides, I would have died many times over along it's one kilometer long stretch.
07 | December 6th is traditionally the day people pack away or throw out their Christmas trees and decorations, but I decided to keep my tree around for another couple of weeks. It's been mostly cold, grey, often foggy and generally unpleasant outside and the tree just adds a comfortable glow to the living room.
06 | I'm watching events unfolding in the United States as I write this and they are the logical conclusion to what I wrote two days ago.
05 | In 2020, I ordered more from Amazon than ever before. Yes, it certainly has something to do with the ongoing pandemic, but it also has to do with many of Germany's businesses lagging behind when it comes to any viable online infrastructure. Although I would like to, I cannot support smaller and mid-sized manufacurers who can't even get a half-decent onlince presence going. As if they simply - still - don't care.
04 | I can't find the link anymore, but today I read an interesting take on developments in the western world, which I found quite accurate. We should not really be talking about a shift to the right of the political spectrum, but rather about wide-spread political apathy mixed with democratic fatigue. I believe that mix is even more dangerous than it sounds.
03 | Yes, we do have enough protest against the current lockdown (which really isn't one) and any - probably stricter - future rules, but the media have blown dissenting opinions out of proportion. We are talking a small but (very) vocal minority here.
02 | According to our schedule here, school was supposed to start on Monday, but the pandemic made us keep schools closed until the middle of the month. I'm quite sure we'll need to extend that at least until the end of the month ... if not longer.
01 | Happy New Year, everyone! Let's see if this year will be better than the last one. And, by the way, I archived last year's micro blog.