Life Takes a Bite Out of Your Blogmeister (Pinned Post, Newer Content Follows Below)

15 11 2017

Your Blogmeister’s Secret Hideout

Originally posted November 15, 2017, and frequently updated since then

This is a “sticky” post.

Since I’ve written many posts since my return to functional coherence in mid-November, any posts about my condition I wrote here upon my return, and also subsequent ones, are buried in the avalanche. So, I’m going to use the opportunity of this sticky post to link to them directly.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Travelogue Preview

17 07 2018

I forgot to mention in my previous post:

THAT.

WAS.

FREAKING.

AWESOME.

WOO HOO~!!!!

Even if it did push me (and my traveling companion) to what are these days my (and his) physical and mental limits.  I’m still in a wheelchair for the most part, and he’s north of 70 years old.  Even if we did operate many of these days on slightly less than optimal sleep and higher than normal adrenaline.  Luckily, in the case of both of us, our health cooperated, nobody got anything close to slowdown sick.

It will take me quite some time to write the full travelogue.  I’ve got a lot of handwritten notes, a heavily marked up road atlas, many computer notepad text file notes, and an indeterminate tally of mental notes to process.  This was a 42-day long epic journey, a whirlwind, a junket, traversing around 2800 miles, over the major parts of two countries and perfunctorily to another four, involving stopping to see at least one attraction in 68 different cities or towns, including multiple days in each of eight different major metropolitan regions, plus three days in a historically important non-metropolitan region, and just passing through many more towns, all with the assistance of 26 different tour guides.  We notched thirteen of the sixteen German “Federal states” (Bundesländer), missing only Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Thüringen and Saarland.

I satisfactorily solved what was until this trip an open question about my German ancestral line, which I reasonably expected to do on this trip, (Sneak peek:  Ich bin ein Rheinländer), and I also pretty much solved a long time family mystery originating on my maternal grandfather’s side, relating to my Czech line, which I was not expecting to do on this trip, and never thought would get solved in this world.  The net result is that I have narrowed down my German line to a rather specific geography, and my Czech line to a specific town.  There was the historical significance of almost all of the places I visited — They have deeply rooted histories going back many centuries, making even the oldest American places seem like infants by comparison. A big majority of the German cities we stopped in were/are powerhouses in physics, chemistry, and/or engineering, past and/or present.  So many are that way that it’s easier to count and remember the cities that aren’t.  All the architectural eye candy, so much that my brain would blue screen if you asked me to pick favorites.  Four, count ’em, FOUR, different automobile industry towns, including the city where the modern automobile was born.  June 17, the Sunday I as a Lutheran got to go to church in Luther’s own during what is still the 500th year of the 95 Theses, was the most special fulfilling single day of my life.  World Cup season in a soccer crazy country with a national team that was thought to be a championship contender and was actually the defending champions?  I’ve already told you how electric that was, in spite of this year’s German team being a bust and flaming out.  The sightseeing?  Who doesn’t like sightseeing?  Mozart, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Brahms, etc. — ‘Nuff said.  I even got over my modesty well enough to enjoy a spa day in a spa town.

Then.  There.  Were.  The.  Alps.  O.  M.  G.

The Black Forest was a very worthy follow-up act to The Alps.

Of course, there were downsides.  I alluded to those in my final post in this space while on the trip, from Darmstadt.

I’ve got more than 2200 photos, more than a hundred videos, and twenty audio files, and while all of the audio files and a big majority of the photos/videos have either myself or my travel companion in them, which means I won’t make them public, I’ve got a nice selection of photos/videos that don’t, so I’ve got some room to be choosy.  I should warn you that the pictures and videos don’t do justice to any of their subjects.

All I’m saying is just be patient for that travelogue, peanut gallery.

But I will give you this brief opening taste:

Click to enlarge any of these images.

Lufthansa was our international carrier.  In case you don’t know, the curvey path on this map is indicative of the fact that the straight direct route on the sphere of a world globe, when plotted on a flat Mercator map, will often look counter-intuitively bent.  Layover in ORD, because STL, no longer being a hub for any carrier, and serving a no longer important metropolitan area, does not have any regular direct flights to FRA, and hardly any regular direct international flights to/from anywhere.  Frankfurt instead of Berlin, because Frankfurt is the major airline hub for Germany, for various historical and currently relevant reasons, which I’ll get to in the travelogue.

Made with Google Maps Pedometer, which also easily allowed me to know how far in miles we traversed over this loop.  Clockwise starting from Frankfurt.  This is pretty close to the exact path we took.  Any slight differences?  Well, this is close enough for Bundestag work.  Making this map was a fussy enough job and took me a few tries.  If anything, the main differences between this map and the reality of our path is that this map gives the impression we used the Autobahns for intercity travel almost solely.  In reality, for several significant stretches, our tour guide took back roads and side roads instead of the Autobahn.  We took the paths less traveled by, and that made all the difference.  Also, our path around the Luther Region, and around the Black Forest foothills (Pforzheim to Offenburg) was more haphazard and itinerant than the map suggests;  in the case of the Black Forest, we actually took circuitous roads through it so we could experience some of the Black Forest’s unique wonder.

Close-up on our July 2 path, that day was the climax day of the whole voyage, and the absolute longest in both time and distance we traveled in any one day, and the most stunningly beautiful single day of the entire voyage, (remember, Alps OMG).  I got our Salzburg to Garmish-Partenkirchen to Fussen path much more precisely indicated in this map compared to the larger voyage map.

A more precise zoom-in view of our Black Forest circuitousness, on June 6, 7 and the first part of 8.  Again, this is pretty close to accurate.

JUNE

3/4: Frankfurt
5/6: Rhine-Rhur Region; Venlo, Netherlands
7: Munster; Osnabruck; Oldenburg
8: Bremen
9/10: Hamburg
11: Hannover
12: Braunschweig; Wolfsburg; Helmstedt (former BRD-DDR border checkpoint); Magdeburg; Brandenburg
13/14: Berlin (incl. Potsdam)
15: Frankfurt (Oder); Slubice, Poland; Rzepin, Poland
16: Berlin
17/18/19: Luther Region
20: Dresden
21: Usti; Prague
22: Prague
23: Ceske Budejovice; Cesky Krumlov
24: Prague
25: Pilsen
26: Nuremberg
27: Ingolstadt
28/29: Munich
30: Rosenheim

JULY

1: Salzburg, Austria
2: Garmisch-Partenkirchen; Fussen
3: Kempten; Memmingen; Ulm (passing through Vils, Austria)
4/5: Stuttgart
6: Pforzheim; Ettlingen; Rastatt
7: Baden-Baden
8: Offenburg; Kehl; Strasbourg, France
9: Strasbourg, France
10: Lauterbourg, France; Karlsruhe
11/12: Rhine-Neckar Region; Limbach
13: Darmstadt
14: Frankfurt

If you want to ask me about one or more of these places, or any other reasonable sort of question about the trip, use the comment section, and I’ll give you a brief sort of summary answer.  Though I plan on keeping most of my cards under the deck until the full travelogue.

You may also remember from one of the very few posts I wrote here during the trip, that I made an unlisted and unanticipated but very personally relevant stop in the Czech Republic.  That city remains unlisted here in both the text itinerary and on the map, and will be unmentioned in the travelogue, and as usual, I’ll tell you the wherefores and whys only if I know you and trust you.

***

If just the preview of the travelogue is this long, and the sample sized tidbits I gave you on the trip, as long as they were, is any indication, then you can see how the full official travelogue is going to be more like a dissertation.  I’m probably going to have to slice it up in chapters, write and post one or a few at a time.

***

I need a vacation from this vacation.





Fulfillment and Transcendence

17 07 2018

Your Blogmeister’s Secret Hideout

A month and a half ago, “fulfillment” was merely a word in the dictionary to me.

Now, it is a soul-deep experience.

This epic voyage didn’t just meet my reasonable expectations, and it didn’t just equal my wildest dreams, and it was more than just the defining experience of a lifetime, more than a pilgrimage, and it was even beyond soul stirring.

It was transcendent.

And for the first time in my life, I have truly come home.  Sure, I’ve returned home countless times, but now I’ve come home.  I also now realize that I have a future because I have a past.

Not too many of you know what I mean by any of that, which is why I think this mashup of fulfillment and transcendence is something that only a small percentage of people ever experience.

May any and every one of you who has the requisite intellectual and emotional capability and maturity come to experience fulfillment and transcendence as soul-deep emotions and experiences rather than mere dictionary words.

May you come to realize that you have a future precisely because you have a past, and that you will have no future if you have no past.

May you come to realize that life and purpose are one and the same, that having one is having both, and lacking one is lacking both.

And may you all truly come home.

That’s my permanent grown up Christmas wish for the world.





Sleep Debt.

16 07 2018

Guest post by Puggg

I just got off the phone with the lady of the house at the hideout a few minutes ago, and she tells me they’re both still sleeping, that both have only been awake along enough to do necessary things and maybe the odd non necessary thing, then back to sleep.  And we’re coming up on 48 hours since I pulled up on their driveway with them and their stuff in tow, 6 o’clock on Saturday evening about, and as soon as they got in the door they went as fast as either one of them could to something to sleep on and fell right off.  But the lady of the house told me that since then they’ve both moved to proper beds.  As drained out as both of them looked when I first laid eyes on them at the airport on Saturday late in the afternoon, this doesn’t surprise me.

This thing they call sleep debt, and having to pay it off, it’s for real.





Safe and Sound.

14 07 2018

Guest post by Puggg

Just a short while ago, about two hours before I am typing this, I deposited our Blogmeister and his traveling companion, back at the hideout.  That means the return flights like the going-there flights went as smooth as an uncoerced voluntary confession that holds up in court. If you puppies are anxiously awaiting the travel report, I’m just telling you don’t hold your breath, because they both went straight to sleep as soon as they got in the door and found something comfortable to sleep on. And I think both will be doing that for very many hours in a row. For good reason, too, because I could see in both their faces when I fetched them from the airport that this trip took a lot out of them. Compared to what they looked like when I saw them both off back on June 2, they both looked totally drained out.

Back on June 2, I just went along to see them off, someone else from the hideout drove them to the airport, and I just happened to make it there before they did. This afternoon, I actually fetched them from the airport, because the person who drove them there, Blogmeister’s traveling companion’s wife, had a family emergency relating to her own sister, and she wound up remembering me, getting my phone number from her husband who in turn got it from Blogmeister, and she called me yesterday, asking me if I would do her this favor, which I gladly did. The only hangup is that while my truck is big enough for all their luggage and our Blogmeister’s wheelchair and some souvenir they picked up in Austria called an Imperial Bosendorfer piano, in the truck’s bed, properly covered up of course, with all these storms late this afternoon on the way from the airport to the hideout, it isn’t big enough in the passenger cab for three people. So I had to drive myself to the hideout, and then get the keys to and drive the traveling companion’s much larger truck, a crew cab, and use it to fetch.

I’m really so glad that this trip of theirs went off without any problems, especially from those truck drivers of peace types.  They’re safe and sound, emphasis on the sound with all the thunder this afternoon.

I told Blogmeister on the drive back from the airport that I would write this very post to let everyone know he’s home, and he asked me to embed a You Tube video of a particular song in it. He said that even though we don’t really like the artist, and I certainly dislike him even more than most of you reading these words, because I’ve heard things through the years, being in the line of work that I am, the song conveys the feeling.

 

 





Open Thread and Special Delivery.

14 07 2018

Guest post by Puggg

This afternoon, I have to go to the airport, because I’ve got a special delivery, a real special package, coming in.  Yes, I’ll be the one picking them up, because Blogmeister’s traveling companion’s wife, who would otherwise be doing it, has a family issue, and she got him to give her my phone number, and of course I was happy to oblige.  So, off to the airport I go late this afternoon.  But until then, I will leave you puppies with some bones to chew on in an open thread.

The public buses and Metro Link are seeing declining passenger counts.  Yes, the violent crime on the Metro Link might be part of it, but maybe it is just a matter of the economy getting better and people who before had no choice are able to afford cars.

Since he’s already in for life for a prior murder, I don’t know how much punishment he thinks he’s getting by getting an “extra” 12 years.  I would fear having to be a guard around an inmate doing a life sentence in a state that does not have the death sentence possible.

This news isn’t all bad.  I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  I’ve never seen one of these bikes, but I have been told how they work.  You have to get the phone app for the company that runs the bike sharing service, the company will paint its bikes in a unique way with the company’s name.  Then you have to link that app on your phone to a bank account.   Then each time you want to use one of these bikes, you have to scan the square box bar code with your phone to deduct the one time cost of that one ride, something like a buck.  Even if they are using these bike sharing bikes as getaway rides, the reason it’s so convenient for police work is that there’s a digital trail that can easily be tracked back.  If they were using their own bikes to make a getaway, there wouldn’t be this digital trail.  It will make suspect ID way easier.  Who would be so stupid to put themselves on the grid in such a way?

These people don’t look like they know the value of copper, but they do.

Alderman wants more cops in the park, both regular city and park rangers?  I thought they thought the problem was too many cops and too much policing.

It says “shoes” so I didn’t even need to see the photo.

I am guessing that a certain group of people are more responsible than the others for making that Build a Bear costing your age to be chaotic.  And now Chuck E Cheese is promising to make up for it with their own pay your age day, oh yeah, that’s really going to turn out well.

I find this sadly ironic in a way.  That means a lot, because dogs don’t do irony.

Grant him this much.  He may have been dangerous, but the B&Ws in Fulton could guarantee that he wasn’t armed.  And now he’s going back where he belongs.

I would figure by now our Blogmeister and his traveling companion are already up in the air and probably by now they’re over open ocean.  So unless they have any problems between now and them landing in Chicago, or laid over in Chicago, or on the flight from Chicago back to here, and they had zero problems going from here all the way to there, back six weeks ago, then all their flying went silky smooth.  In fact I’ll be getting a call from him when they land in Chicago, here in several hours, if all goes to schedule, and again before they get ready to take off from there, if all goes to schedule, so I know when to time my drive to the airport.  But I couldn’t help but thinking of them when I saw this a few days ago. I don’t think I’d fly on an airline called Wow even if it was free.

Now, take it away, bark to your heart’s content.  As for me, I’ve got things to do, paperwork to fill out and doors to knock on and if I’m lucky some people to arrest and cases to close between now and having to fetch my package this afternoon.





Farewell to Krauts, Exclamation Point

13 07 2018

Darmstadt, Germany

Guten Abend aus Darmstadt, where it is about 5:30 PM CEDT, Friday, July 13, as I’m uploading this.

Darmstadt today was our final full day of this voyage and our final unique stop before flapping our wings out of here tomorrow, from the same place we landed six weeks ago, that being Frankfurt, and the city from which we started this epic voyage.  Not too early in the morning tomorrow, we’ll drive the few miles north to Frankfurt, have one last glance around the city, then head to the airport.  Even though Frankfurt to me is a mile wide and an inch deep, it will be the last I see of Germany maybe ever.

But my final unique stop, that being today’s in Darmstadt, while it may have seemed like it was going to be one of those mediocre “last mile” formalities, before we got here, I was promised a surprise grand finale, an exclamation point to the epic voyage.  Since this has been a trip of a lot of surprises and a whole lot of great things, I knew it had to be something out of this world for my traveling companion to hype it up like that.  (Remember that “out of this world” thing, because you’re about to find out that that was a figure of speech that I should have taken literally.)  I didn’t want to cheat and do internet research to give me a hint;  Surprises are meant to be surprised by. Just so you know, my traveling companion spent most of his real working years in mechanical engineering, and as such, he made quite a few trips to West Germany and then reunified Germany. While we have had many official tour guides over these past six weeks, he himself both knows Germany well enough and knows what interests me and obviously did the overlap in terms of choosing some of our spots. I’ll just say now that he is my uncle’s ex-wife’s brother, technically not an uncle, but he has been a might-as-well-have-been uncle to me my whole life, his wife, who is holding down the home front at the secret rehab hideout where we’ll soon return, has been a quasi-aunt to me. He is I suspect the benefactor of this massive epic voyage, and by benefactor, I mean credit card swiper and check writer. If he didn’t pay for all of it himself, I think I know who chipped in a percentage.

I got my exclamation point today, and how.

Darmstadt is where one finds the mission control operations for the European Space Agency’s unmanned missions, the European Space Operations Center (ESOC).  Meaning Darmstadt/ESOC is to the ESA what Pasadena/JPL is to NASA.  And we got to visit ESOC.  Never been to JPL, to beat all.  I’ll save the weedy details of what I saw and who I met for the official travelogue, but I’ll tease it by stating that, among the many things we took in while there, we met a few people whose English is good enough that are on the Gaia team.  A few months back, one of my favorite astronomy software programs (whose developer currently lives in Germany, see below) was able to start using Gaia’s most recent data release.

During our time in Ingolstadt, we visited Airbus’s space and defense operations headquarters.  (Note:  Airbus in general is based in The Netherlands.)  So I’ve seen both ends of this particular business in the context of Germany and Europe in general.  Early in this voyage, I arranged a meeting with the authors of one of my favorite astronomy software programs, as I already knew where he lives specifically; I won’t say which city specifically, because of the flies on the wall, and because I want to protect his privacy.  All I’ll say is that he lives somewhere in the Rhine-Rhur region. About the only thing I missed out on in terms of astronomy is the Prague Astronomical Clock, which is being repaired and renovated and won’t go back on display until about the end of the year.  But I did get to see similar albeit less grandiose clocks in Strasbourg, Munster and near Stuttgart.

So, Darmstadt, this is for you.  You earned it.

ep

***

I’ll add this anecdote:  Yesterday and the day before were our Rhine-Neckar Region days.  If you’re my age or older, then you probably remember all these TV commercials about a certain acronym corporation that proclaimed that they don’t make most of the things you buy, they make most of the things you buy better.  Even then, I as a youngster (a yoot?) had that WTF feeling about those ads.  I thought to myself:  If I don’t ever expect to buy anything directly from you, why are you buying ads destined for my eyeballs and eardrums to begin with?  Anyway, that corporation is the Ludwigshafen-based Badische Anilin und Soda Fabrik, translated:  Baden Aniline and Soda Factory.  Baden being the region/state where it is based, Aniline is a precursor chemical for many things, and “soda” in this context means sodium carbonate, which of course has a lot of uses and precursor uses.  Back to the point:  Badische Anilin und Soda Fabrik, better known by its gangster name: B.A.S.F.  Remember, BASF doesn’t make most of the things you buy, they make most of the things you buy better.  And it finally hit me just two days ago why German-based BASF ran ads on American TV in the several years surrounding 1990:  It wasn’t advertising, or marketing, or sales.  As I suddenly remember, the BASF ads ran largely during political talk shows.  Meaning the real purpose was back handed public relations and political lobbying aimed at the political class in the United States.  My bet is that there were political, environmental, diplomatic, or trade/tariff politics in the United States, relating to BASF’s American ambitions, and BASF’s American-based competitors, such as DuPont, or 3M, or St. Louis-founded Mallinckrodt, that BASF wanted to smooth over.  Also, 1990 was German reunification year, and I bet that played into that somehow.

Anyway, all that leads me to something I’ll do more thinking about once I get home and have some time to unwind:  Seems like most German cities and towns we either visited or passed through, (including today’s grand finale, I should add that it seems like half the elements in the periodic table were discovered in Darmstadt), even little bitty dots on the map, were verily described as past or present powerhouses in either chemistry, physics and/or engineering of some sort, so many are that way that it’s easier to remember the ones that aren’t. (*)  Angela Merkel, for all her political faults, holds a Ph.D. in molecular quantum chemistry.  That begs these questions:  Why is the country I’m about to go home to the global hegemon, and not the country I’m about to leave?  And if things were/are so good here, with all the scientific progress past and present, and the natural and artificial beauty, and delightfully easy-to-take summers on average, (highest temperature we experienced was 84), why did my Germany-line direct ancestors up and leave Germany somewhere between a century and a sesquicentury ago, for a miserable swamp on the other side of the world that’s a sauna-steam-oven for six months every year and a deep freezer for the other six, the spring conflicts between those climate patterns have the ability to wreck everything you’ve ever worked for into smithereens within a few seconds?

I had too good of a time on this trip to let my mind dwell on depressing questions, explanations and conclusions.  But now that this voyage is all but over, now I’m starting to let myself think about the other side the coin.  And if I let myself be honest with myself, then I’ll admit that the depressing answers to my depressing questions were there all along in my field of vision, hiding in plain sight, for almost every day of these six weeks in most of the places we visited.  Subtle reminders everywhere.  Always something there to remind my naked eyes.  (Gold star to the first one of you who groks that cultural reference.)  I have other reality check sort of observations as well, not the least of which are all the nonchalant insouciant devil-may-care borderline rotten borderline sour-pus countenances I get from a disturbingly high percentage of real German people, who, might I add, are of a disturbingly high median age, and those attitudes are adversely affecting Germany’s scientific and engineering prowess, including its automobile engineering, and are also fueling a disturbingly high level of public corruption.  Such a disciplined scientifically minded well organized group of people should not be having these problems and displaying these foibles, but they are.  Another thing I’ll tee off on:  Germany has no business being this expensive, and I think the reason it is is way more political than economic.

I’ll do more thinking and eventually public elaborating on these matters after I’m home and after I’ve had time to recuperate.

Speaking of home, when next we meet, that’s where I’ll be.

But, as for the rest of this late afternoon and evening, because we have nothing left to see, and we don’t have to get up that early tomorrow morning, I can finally let my hair down and have a good time.  Translated:  Knock back der steins.  The real exclamation point.

***

Our itinerary since my last update:

Ulm -> Stuttgart Region -> Pforzheim -> Ettlingen -> Rastatt -> Baden-Baden -> Offenburg -> Kehl -> Strasbourg, France -> Lauterbourg, France -> Karlsruhe -> Rhine-Neckar Region (incl. Worms) -> Limbach -> Darmstadt -> Frankfurt (tomorrow).  Which means you can combine this with my previous posts where wherein I outlined our path, to where you can plot our entire voyage.

The path between Stuttgart and Offenburg was our Black Forest meandering, with that special modesty-free day in Baden-Baden.

Limbach is just a tiny town up in the Odenwald Mountains about an hour east of Heidelberg.  Wikipedia lists five Limbachs in Germany, and the index in the obese French ghost’s road atlas lists twelve of them.  So why did I want to make this diversion to visit this particular dot-on-the-map Limbach?  The race to the gold star starts…NOW.

I knew we were truly in the home stretch of this voyage when we left the Black Forest for the last time and descended from the Black Forest hills into Offenburg, in doing so, we saw the Rhine River off in the distance.  That was the first time in more than a month we saw it, then, we left it behind to see the last few cities in the Rhine-Rhur Region then make our way north out of Dortmund.  Coming full circle.

***

Even though I wish we could have spent more time in some of the cities and towns we stopped in to take in more of them, as a tour this grand even spread out over six weeks required some give-and-take, some prioritization and some sacrifices, I’m ending this trip with zero real regrets.

***

(*) – It is tempting to think that the reason I came away with that impression is because of the selection bias of my travel companion, as I admitted in this post that he, a retired mechanical engineer, with plenty of business travel experience in Germany, helped determine our itinerary.  And while it may be the case that his influence wound up with us having an itinerary that disproportionately oversampled cities known for hard sciences and engineering, one can still use fuzzy logic to adjust for such oversampling, and still conclude that, on a per capita and per square mile basis, Germany was and is far and away more of a science and engineering powerhouse than any other country on Earth, including the United States.  I’m sure there are quantitative ways to tell, perhaps hard science Nobel Prizes per capita, peer-reviewed academic papers in hard sciences or engineering per capita, hard sciences or engineering patents per capita, to speculate.  Also, it’s not as if every city or town we stopped in was predominately a science or engineering town, and it’s not as if I didn’t pick a lot of our spots.  And it’s not as if my travel companion is a one note samba.  Along with science and engineering, I wanted to take in many points of interest relating to history, music, politics, warfare, religion, sports, and maybe one or two other things, and on top of that I was doing the whole ancestry thing.  And he was interested in some of these  other things, too, some more than others, and one or two things that I don’t much care about.  So this “selection bias” argument is a hund jagt nicht.





That’s Real Nice.

10 07 2018

Guest post by Puggg

I’m sure all of you here in my whereabouts have seen the news by now.  The latest pizza delivery driver done in by the black crime plague.

The Imo’s where he worked is ponying up $10,000 of the reward money.  That’s real nice of them.  What would have been nice of them though is some courteousness and responsibility, in not allowing their locations in dangerous high crime areas to do delivery at all.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration would have already come down hard if this was any other matter than a matter of delivering pizzas and other takeout food to black areas.