Tag Archives: Germany

Bilder von Franz

That’s the title of the folder I have on my hard drive. It’s pictures Wilfried got from his brother Franz’ computer after Franz died. Wilfried generously allowed me to copy them and they come up on my screen saver occasionally.

Here’s one that came up today:

For those that don’t know, Franz was the audio recorder part of a two man team that did documentary filming in Germany. Miss you, Franz.

European history

Wilfried’s able leadership of our tour of Germany last month whetted my appetite for more of the story of how things got to be the way they are. In short, the history of Germany.

I found a book at the library called The Concise History of Germany which was ok but filled with a lot of big words. I’ve got nothing against big words except when they are used to obfuscate. When I started swimming in sentences 20 or more words long, I gave up on it.

Again at the library: European History for Dummies. OK, better. Not so many big words plus short sentences. I’ve made it through almost to the end. Honestly, it’s pretty depressing. I get that the history of human affairs is largely about control of one group by another and that that is usually accomplished by violence. The Dummies brand of books is designed to go over a subject in a breezy, often humorous, tone. It’s exactly what I was looking for, actually.

But having such a litany of violent things set in front of you in such a lighthearted way is weird. I’ve had the book at my breakfast table and thus read it in 15 or 20 minute chunks. Sometimes, I stay at the table for a few extra minutes but more often I have to just walk away from it. Will we never learn?

I’m sure there are many books out there about this subject – repeating the cycle of violence, not history per se – so I’m not sitting here thinking I’m going to find some solution. Humans are pissers, whether it’s driving on the highway or running a company. When I start to think about larger organizations of humans, I find myself in dangerous shoals of definitions: what is a country? What is influence? What is power? When a ‘country’ ‘takes over’ a city, what does that really mean? The Dummies book throws those words around a lot but I believe it’s worth asking what their core meaning is.

To me, it comes down to power. How does one person have ‘power’ over another? There is always an exchange, although it is not always balanced. I agree to go to work of a person or organization in exchange for money. I can use that money to get other people to do things for me: supply me with food, clothing and shelter. If my ‘boss’ at work asks me to do something for him/her, I will accede to that request because it is within the realm of what i have agreed to do in exchange for that money.

But what if it isn’t? What if my ‘boss’ asks (or tells) me to do something that will injure another person? Or myself? Presumably, this is something that is not part of what was originally agreed to in the definition of this job. Suddenly, money is not the exchange medium. It becomes more elemental. How does my value of self preservation compare to my ethical value of not wanting to hurt another person? Perhaps I can make myself safer at the expense of another person coming into danger.

I believe it is this transaction writ large which has driven human history. Some humans are able to rationalize this transaction and others can’t. And some humans have a need to dominate while others don’t.

The whole family went to England in 2000 for two weeks. We really had a very nice time. We walked across Abbey Road and among the stones at Stonehenge. We walked along the Thames and on the cliffs of Dover. We went to museums and castles. Perhaps too many castles. Because by the end, I felt about history as I do now: why is it all about killing? Someone wants ‘power’ and is willing to step on other humans to get it.

eclipse

I finally got to the library the other day. I got two books on German history, a book on the airline industry and Seeing In The Dark, by Timothy Ferris.

I thought I had read it before, but I took it home anyway. After I got into a bit, I started remembering the stories of how amateur astronomers have contributed to humankind’s knowledge of the cosmos. The subtitle is How Backyard Stargazers Are Probing Deep Space and Guarding Earth from Interplanetary Peril.

Ferris tells of his visits to a number of pretty much regular folks who like to look through telescopes on their own time. Each one has a special interest that he or she has parlayed into some notoriety amongst the sky-viewing cognoscenti. Interspersed with those stories are concise lessons on our current understanding of various astronomic objects. It’s interesting.

Since the total eclipse of the sun was news here recently, I offer this quote about witnessing a total eclipse:

Suddenly the sky collapsed into darkness and a dozen bright stars appeared. In their midst hung an awful, black ball, rimmed in ruby red and surrounded by the doomsday glow of the gray corona. No photograph can do justice to this appalling sight: The dynamic range from bright to dark is too great, and the colors are literally unearthly.

I had a copy of Ferris’ The Whole Shebang, but I went in to look for it just now and it isn’t there. I guess I’ve loaned it to someone and I’ll probably never get it back. It had a great chapter about the existence of God. I do have another one by Ferris called The Mind’s Sky that I found used. It’s OK, but it didn’t grab me like The Whole Shebang did.

Speaking of the Sun, I was headed to work today about 7:15 am. The Sun rises late over Pacifica so I wasn’t surprised at the gray morning light. I put my headlights on. What did surprise me was the Sun well over the horizon when I came up over the hill in Daly City. It was blood red and baleful through the smoke that has lain over the Bay Area for two days now. As I write this, the Sun has gone down, but it’s doing a nice job of lighting up the few wispy clouds in the western sky.

Not high art, perhaps, but hopefully a harbinger of cooling breezes by tomorrow. There were no clouds of any kind yesterday. It’s been over 100º F in San Francisco the last two days. Out here on the coast where it’s usually much cooler, it was over 90 in my apartment when I got home. With the front door open and the fan blowing at maximum for the last two hours, it’s down to 88. Outside it’s 85. No one in Pacifica has air conditioning.

jet lag

. . . exists. I know, I’m feeling it. My two weeks in Germany were fantastic, but good sleep was rare for me. I think I was just rounding into shape for the Continent when I had to come back. I hope it doesn’t take two weeks to return to form here.

Yesterday, our airplane left Frankfurt at about 5:30 pm local time for a 10 hour non-stop flight to SFO. I was able to get a couple of hours of sleep – maybe three if you count tiny catnaps. I got into my bed at almost exactly 9 pm local time and fell asleep pretty quickly.

That’s the good news. At 12:30, I woke and couldn’t get back to sleep. At 2:30 I got up and had a cup of chamomile tea and some toast. Back in bed, I read for a bit and got to sleep again about 3 :30. I woke again at 5:30 and had the certainty that I was done with sleep for a while. A cup of Darjeeling and some food and I’ve been puttering around since. I emptied out my suitcase and sorted the many papers, post cards, beer coasters, cathedral and museum pamphlets that I brought back. Also hotel and restaurant bills, which I entered into my Quicken records. Then to the grocery store and now doing laundry at 12:30 pm, I’m starting to feel tired.

I agreed to work a rehearsal tonight so I really need to have a nap. Tschüss!

trip planning

I’m starting to get serious about my upcoming trip to Germany. I talked to Mary yesterday and we agreed to talk tonight when we’re both able to concentrate better. (She was driving home and I was at Mom’s.)

Today I picked up a Michelin guide to Germany at the library and brought it home. I didn’t check the due date but it may be that I could just take it with me . . . Don’t lose it! There are lots of interesting things to do there. I was sort of blasé about it before but now that I’ve looked at the book, I’ve got lots of ideas.

Bernkastel and the Mosel River valley are no brainers. I always wanted to go back to Trier which is at the west end of the valley. Leni’s party is near Bonn so Beethoven’s birthplace is right there. The Rhine River valley south from Bonn is beautiful. The cathedral at Cologne is a must. There’s a wonderful Roman-German Museum right nest to the dom. I’d love to be able to go back to Aachen and see the throne of Karl der Grosse again. Wilfried and Elisabeth are near Baden Baden so that is a must.

Mary wants to see Neuschwanstein so that is near Munich where Andreas and Luisa live. I’d love to be able to show Mary the upper Rhine valley from Freiburg to Lake Constance.

Mary wants to go fast on the autobahn but I’m not sure how or where it would work to do this. We’ll consult with Wilfried. He and Elisabeth will be picking us up in Frankfurt and it’s a 2 hour drive to Bonn. Maybe he’ll let Mary drive for a bit! I believe they are joining us for the Sistergold concert which is 3 hours from their home. That will likely be a drive too.

Lots to think about!

goals and quotas

Quotas are, of course, related to things quotidian so I’ve been thinking about the relationship of these two with the idea of goals.

Quotas are even more pejorative than quotidian. Quotas are something assigned to a sales person. It implies things that must be counted which takes us away from the rarefied air of ‘goals’.

Yes, sales people have goals, no doubt, but I’m trying to stay in the realm of goals that can’t be counted, at least not with numbers. Today, for example, I have a goal of getting my laundry done. I am nearly done with my goal of writing in this blog today. I have a longer term goal of preparing for my trip to Germany in 11 days.

None of these can be subject to a quota, but are they quotidian? Laundry is quotidian. A trip to Germany is not. Is the goal of getting my laundry done less of a worthy goal because it is quotidian?

Also, the trip to Germany can be quantified in the sense that the date will come and I will go to Germany and come back and then it will be done. Or accomplished, if you will.

What about my goal of staying healthy? That is open ended and ultimately not achievable. We will all die, some too soon like Zach, and others after a long and fruitful life. So I shorten my time frame on that goal and concentrate on eating right and sleeping properly. Exercise is what I get only at work, sad to say. When work ends, I will be faced with a challenge to exercise my body.

(I still haven’t looked up quotidian. I’m pretty sure I’ve got it right but if I don’t I’m looking awfully silly right now. I suppose another long term goal is to go out on a limb, to take chances, more often. No saws allowed!)

Franz

I looked at my birthday calendar this morning and I noticed that it’s been a year since my cousin Franz died. It was actually the anniversary last week but I didn’t note it then.

I’ve been better (if you want to call it that) about anniversaries lately. I’ve made it through quite a few 14th’s of the month now without getting all knotted up about Zach. The sorrow comes at odd places and times now. Odd in the sense that they are not predictable. Sunday I was in my car on the way down to Santa Clara when I just started weeping. There was no obvious trigger; I was just missing Zach.

Today Jeremy sent me a detailed itinerary of his and Ashley’s move in June. Seeing in glorious detail their plans for finding a place to live and jobs while also being concerned about places my sister Jane’s family can take Rosalie for fun brought on the waterworks again. It’s the kind of gutsy move you don’t see often. I am so full of admiration for them.

My thinking about Franz recently has mostly been about looking forward to visiting Germany this summer. I will be paying my respects to his mother – turning 100 in August! – his brother and sister, and his grave. Two men gone too soon.

miscellany

Buzzing around some previous entries I find some loose ends. One has to do with the work weekend in May. Ally and Noah are coming to join us in North Carolina! That means I won’t be driving to Cincinnati which simplifies things. I’m still waiting to hear from others attending whether it’s better for me to fly to Charlotte or Atlanta.

In other travel news, I am now planning to attend the 100th birthday of my cousin Leni Hangauer in Germany in August. Mary Beth and I will be going together. Besides the party, which includes seeing all the German relatives, the only thing I really want to do is visit the grave of Franz. We are planning on two weeks so there will be more.