Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Age Discrimination

Sybille Berg, a former German, now Swiss author, lives in Zürich as a writer. She is one of the most frequently performed playwrights in the German-speaking world. Since 2011 Sybille has regularly written articles for DER SPIEGEL.

@smartboy10/Getty Images
Her recent essay deals with age discrimination, i.e., about a gray mass that almost fills younger people with disgust. Is it so because no one still in Lohn und Brot (in wage and bread) likes to think of a time when he/she will belong to the same category of people and face the unreasonableness of his/her mortality?

Sybille claims that only those who can perform, multiply, and be active have value in our society and that old age is a blind spot in the increasingly sharper debate on equity and participation.

When people are old, they walk more slowly, hear worse, and are often entirely pushed out of social life. They hinder the fast pace, are Nazis, can't install an app, and have ruined the planet.

Wait a moment, Sybille, you lump together all those being of "old age?"

Indeed, Red Baron walks more slowly, but I am not a Nazi. I work with computers and sometimes have problems installing programs like everybody else. And yes, I ruined and am still ruining the planet simply due to my sheer presence.

You must invest actively in social life not to be pushed out of it. Look at those many aged benefactors who help care for the more elderly, are  Tagesmütter/väter (childminders) or work at Tafelläden (food banks). Without all the mostly benevolent helpers, our society would collapse.

One of Goethe's Maxims states, "Whoever strives, we can redeem." Red Baron remains active socially in particular since he lives as a widower.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Faith and Science

The official announcement read:

Faith and Science: A Journey Into God's Mystical Love

Reading and Talk with Robert J. Hesse, Ph.D., Galveston-Houston, Texas.

Faith and science - an interaction that can seem paradoxical and polarizing from a secular perspective. Robert Hesse is an ordained permanent Catholic deacon who serves in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and is the president of the nationwide Contemplative Network. He offers an informed and personal approach in his nonfiction book, Faith and Science: A Journey into God's Mystical Love. Hesse himself earned a doctorate in physical chemistry and worked as a management consultant before embarking on his spiritual quest and has been working with interfaith people ever since. In cooperation with Verlag Herder GmbH, Hesse will present his nonfiction book in conversation with publisher Manuel Herder on Friday, August 12 at 11 a.m. at Verlag Herder GmbH, Bibliothek, Hermann-Herder-Strasse 4.

The event will be in English.

Religion and Science is one of Red Baron's reoccurring topics (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2022). Will Deacon Robert shed new light on the subject?

The place, the library of the Herder Publisher, packed with religious books, was chosen with care.

Here are some snippets of Robert Hesse's talk that gave me some aha experience. I added some keywords as my reminder.

Robert started by saying that men/women call exceptions from science a miracle, and continued, yes, the world itself is a miracle; God manifests himself in his creation (Keyword: Creationists?).

In Genesis 1:26, God said, Let us make man in our image, but Robert stressed that this is not reciprocal: We develop an image of God, but there is no image. (Keywords: Feuerbach's human projection, Islam's banning of Allah's image, Jewish prohibition of pronouncing Jawe's name).

Man is trapped in the universe. We live on the border between earthly and eternal life, where there is no time and space. (Keyword: Before the Big Bang, there was no time and space).

God is universal consciousness. He talks within our unconsciousness that filters through to our consciousness. (Keyword: Descartes, Cogito ergo sum). Mysticism gives a little taste of Him (Keywords: Plato's allegory of the cave, Saint Paul's letter to the Corinthians, 13-12, Hildegard von Bingen).

Can free will exist in a quantum world? Indeed, a quotation from Einstein deepens his conviction that God doesn't throw dice: "Every scientist becomes convinced that nature's laws manifest the existence of a spirit vastly superior to that of men. Behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible, and inexplicable. Veneration for this force is my religion. To that extent, I am, in point of fact, religious."

Einstein's faith rooted in Spinoza's ideas excludes a personal God. So I asked Robert in the following discussion to speak about the discrepancy between Einstein's and the Christian God we even shall call Father.

Robert did not enter into the debate but said this was rather personal and recommended I should read his book.

Indeed, I first bought his book and will study it with an emphasis on my keywords. Stay tuned for a future blog.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022


Styrofoam model of the Hosanna in the bell exhibition at the Meckel Halle
The Hosanna bell in Freiburg's Minster church is the oldest Angelus bell in Germany.

The inscription on the hem starts with O King of Glory, come with peace

and continues When I piously sound, hasten to the people's aid, Mary.
In the year of our Lord 1258, on July 18, an unknown bell founder from the Basel area cast the bell during the time of the Zähringer Duke Konrad I. The Hosanna weighs 3.29 tons, its diameter is 1.61 meters, and its tone is E-flat.

It rings every Thursday evening to commemorate Christ's agony on the Mount of Olives. This goes back to a foundation letter of Johann Heinrich Föst from 1635. Following an endowment by Baroness Maria Magdalena von Flachsland, widow of Field Marshal Franz von Mercy, in 1665, it also sounds every Friday at 11 a.m. to commemorate the suffering and death at the Battle of Freiburg in 1644. Finally, it rings on the evening of November 27 in memory of Freiburg blackest day, the bombing in 1944.

Fritz Geiges’ artist’s view
Since 1301 at the latest, the Hosanna, as well as a sermon and a prayer bell, have hung in the "nüwen turne" (new tower). Der schönste Turm auf Erden (the most beautiful steeple on earth) was built around the belfry made from fir wood, which forms a kind of tower within the tower. The belfry's oldest beams of fir wood date from 1290/91. It is a masterpiece of medieval carpentry and has been preserved until today.

Commemorating the Hosanna in an exhibition
and announcing a free bell concert on Münsterplatz
Especially in case of danger, the Hosanna was rung. So in the Thirty Years' War, when the Swedes conquered Freiburg in 1632. The enemy wanted to collect the bell and levied a high ransom of 500 riksdaler - the equivalent of two houses. To raise the money, valuable chalices from the Minster treasury were melted down. This proves the importance Hosanna had for the people of Freiburg.

A few decades later, during the French occupation, even the city treasury had to be emptied to save the bell.

In 1821, the Archbishopric of Freiburg was founded, and the Minster rose from a parish church to a cathedral. A new festive bell was ordered from the Rosenlächer bell foundry in Constance in 1843. The Hosanna was allowed to stay, although its E-flat no longer fitted into the new harmony. Freiburg's voice could only appear as a soloist.

The two world wars brought Hosanna and its younger sisters into the greatest danger.

Donation of bells (Glockenspende) in 1917
on a transport cart on the porch of the Minster church (©Stadtarchiv)
In 1917 the delivery of non-ferrous metal for war purposes was imminent. It became emptier in the tower. But Hosanna was allowed to stay.

Bell cemetery in Hamburg harbor 1944 (©Bundesarchiv)
During the Second World War, things got tight again, but the Hosanna was once again exempt from delivery. It also survived the air raid on Freiburg on November 27, 1944.

In 1959, Archbishop Hermann Schäufele, then new in office, and his dyed-in-the-wool conservative vicar general Ernst Föhr ordered that new bells be cast for the cathedral because the ringing was felt to be too small for a cathedral tower.

Cathedral priest Otto Michael Schmitt and the foundation board of the cathedral parish almost had a stroke. A "new ostentatious ringing," as Der Spiegel wrote at the time, was inappropriate to them.

Schmitt didn't take up a collection for new bells; luckily, the Heidelberg bell founder Friedrich Wilhelm Schilling refused to melt down the Hosanna. He instead wanted to return the order for the new bells.

So the Hosanna was safe but remained a soloist because it clashed in tune with the other bells. This was later changed when 15 new bells were cast for the west tower. Those responsible in the diocese moved away from chordal towards more melodic sounds. Still, the Hosanna, now the third largest bell, continued to be rung only individually because of space limitations within the belfry.

A look into the new, extended belfry (©Axel Kilian).
Note the new clappers made from stainless steel
 that were installed in December 2016.
For Hosanna's 750th birthday in 2008, the bell tower was extended by one floor, which gave her more space. Since then, it can be rung together with the other bells.

This led to the idea of a bell festival for Freiburg's 900th anniversary in 2020. Corona blew it all. On September 16 of this year, the bell concert will finally take place on Minster square.

Sunday, August 7, 2022


The German word for urea is Harnstoff, a metabolic product released with the urine (Harn) when you pee. It makes an excellent fertilizer for urea has the highest nitrogen content with 46% of all conventional nitrogen fertilizers. Ammonium nitrate, also often used, has a nitrogen content of only 35%.

Gülleausbringung (spreading liquid manure) ©Westdeutsche Zeitung
Not only in Germany, farmers spread the metabolic product of their livestock as Gülle (liquid manure) on their fields. The motorist's comment passing, "It smells of agriculture."

Farmers indeed tend to put too much nitrogen fertilizer on their fields following the principle viel hilft viel (much helps much). It has come so far that the EU ostracizes Germany, i.e., its farmers, for polluting the groundwater.

An article in Scientific American titled, "Eating Too Much Protein Makes Pee a Problem Pollutant in the U.S." found my attention. The author Sasha Warren subtitled, "Protein-packed diets add excess nitrogen to the environment through urine, rivaling pollution from agricultural fertilizers."

Red Baron has been on medical observation for years. On my doctor's recommendation, I now undergo a medical checkup twice a year, including a full haemogram. The results show that my sugar levels approach a diabetic situation drawing comments from my doctor. These made me stop my consumption of sweets, including sugared drinks.

Another observation is that since 2015 the urea concentration in my blood has started to rise. The value should range between 10 to 45 mg/dl, but during recent years settled around 60. These results pass without my doctor's comment.

Red Baron cut down on carbohydrates and eats meat only when having lunch or dinner with friends. 

Found on Facebook
I don't buy any wurst anymore, remembering Bismarck's dictum. Am I consuming too much protein?

Indeed the missing meat is more than compensated by my consumption of yogurt and cheese. Lately, I discovered tasty fat-reduced chips made from lentils, i.e., vegetable protein.

Protein is muscle food, and although I try hard to keep my muscular mass constant at Kieser Training, all muscles are shrinking with age. So they can no longer handle my ample protein supply that flushes down the toilet in the form of urea instead.

Mind you. Red Baron will not change his eating habits. He rather likes to overprovision his shrinking muscles than have them undersupplied.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Why Keep a Landline?

was the title of a blog by Jerry Coyne, the retired biology professor, gourmet, and duck aficionado from Chicago. I had to look up the word and learned that landline is what we call in German Festnetz (fixed network).

With all those cellphones around, Jerry asks the pertinent question of whether he still needs a landline and moans, "I pay about $45/month to keep the damn landline (I also have AT&T wireless), but while I use the wireless, I never use the landline. Give me one reason why I should keep it!"

Red Baron pays 60 euros/month, including a fast Internet connection (up to 100 MHz/sec) and one Website domain. The monthly sum also includes a telephone flat rate in the EU, Switzerland, and the US. These flat rates are the main reason why I keep my landline.

For a long the two-wire analog telephone connection is history. My landline comprises four mobile stations distributed in my apartment that work with VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). Still, when somebody rarely calls me on my Festnetz, I am usually too late to pick up one of the receivers before the last ring. Luckily these units let you call back instantaneously. Consequently, I no longer proffer my Festnetznummer and replaced it with my mobile number, for I always carry my iPhone. When it vibrates* in an awful situation, I answer the call with my Apple watch, telling the person that I will call back later.
*It never rings

In his blog, Jerry lists eight arguments in favor of the landline and rejects them all. However, reason number 6 is strange as it reads: "You need your (fixed network) phone to work when you lose power."

When I lose power in my apartment, my Internet is dead, and so is my landline*. On the other hand, my mobile phone is working and lets me call the power company.
*It happened once

In 2020 a survey in Germany revealed that 73% of the respondents between 18 and 69 used a landline. Strangely enough, the same poll in 2021 showed that the number had increased to 81%. According to an expert, cell phone reception is inadequate at home for many people, "Mobile coverage continues to leave much to be desired, especially indoors."

Not for Red Baron, who is spoiled by an excellent 5G coverage. Still, I shall keep my Festnetz.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Picasso and El Greco

Attracting visitors. The poster on Freiburg's advertising boards.
When the Basel Kunstmuseum advertised its exhibition, Picasso El Greco, Red Baron was excited.

Picasso and El Greco, those dissenters (Abweichler), are always on my mind. A well-organized comparison will shed new light on Picasso's work, for he said, "What I really like in El Greco's work are the portraits, all those gentlemen with pointed beards.

To make the trip to Basel attractive, the museum chose attractive females (What else?) on their poster. It shows Madame Canals from Picasso's Rose Period juxtaposed with Lady in a Fur Wrap. However, this painting originated in El Greco's workshop. Whether the master lent his hand to the painting is unknown. I doubt it, for the style is too precise and somewhat conventional. According to Wikipedia, the painting is now attributed to Alonso Sánchez Coello.

When I proposed that the Museumsgesellschaft visits the gallery, the response to the call was exceptional.

©Hal Jos
While our group was traveling to Basel in a chartered bus, one of our members, a professor of biology and artist, Hal Jos, gave a witty and expert introduction.

At the entrance to the exhibition, one paper filled with sketches drew all my attention:

These are sketches Picasso made at the Prado he visited with his painter colleague, and friend Francisco Bernareggi called Pancho, "We sent out our copies to our professor in Barcelona, Picasso's father. All was well so long as we worked on Velasquez, Goya, and the Venetians - but the day we decided to do a copy of El Greco and sent it to him, his reaction was, 'You're taking the wrong path.' That was in 1897 when El Greco was considered a menace."

The exhibition tried to follow Picasso's development by confronting his pictures with El Greco's paintings.

Self-Portrait (Blue Period), Paris 1901
Portrait of an old man, 1595
Boy leading a horse (Rose Period), 1905
Saint Martin and the beggar, 1597
Man, woman, and child, Paris 1906
The Holy family with Saint Anna and the infant Saint John, 1600
Bust of a woman (Cubism), 1907
The Virgin Mary, 1590
Head of a woman, Paris 1908
El Greco's workshop: Mater dolorosa, 1587
Seated nude, 1909
The penitent Magdalene, 1580
Portrait of D. H. Kahnweiler II, Juni 1957
Saint Joseph, 1577
Jaume Sebartes with ruff and bonnet, Royan 1939
An elderly gentleman, 1587
Looking at El Greco's Saint Martin and the beggar, I recalled the quarrel in Freiburg about a painting on Saint Martin's gate. Could we not simply incorporate El Greco's masterpiece?

The coronation of the virgin 1592
And there is more. Contemplating El Greco's Coronation of the virgin, I recalled the frivolous altarpiece in the Freiburg Minster, painted by Hans Baldung Grien, another Abweichler.

Krönung Mariens (©Wikipedia/PogoEngel)

Friday, July 22, 2022

Freiburg’s Weekly Report Turns 70

The Freiburger Wochenbericht is an institution. Since I ditched the paper copy of the Badische Zeitung for the online version (too much paper to throw away daily), Red Baron looks forward to the paper copy of the FWB each Wednesday. It is delivered free of charge to my letterbox, accompanied by lots of advertising prints. Well, somebody has to pay for the free weekly.

This week the Wochenbericht celebrated its 70th birthday and issued a supplement of 52 pages of history and congratulations by officials and advertising firms. The wishes went to managing director Martin Zenke, editor-in-chief Sven Meyer, and their team.

Oberlinden is one of Freiburg's most shot motifs.
In the jubilee supplement is another spectacular view of Oberlinden.
(©Alexandre Goebel/Freiburger Wochenbericht)
In an interview, the two men revealed that they produce the Wochenbericht with their Herzblut (passion), which explains the success of the weekly even or particularly in Corona lockdowns when income became low as customers reduced their advertising.

At the start, on March 21,1952, the Wochenbericht had an edition of 34,000. Seventy Years later, 108,000 copies are printed every week.

Presently a tropical heat wave is hitting Europe with no end in sight.

 Who will still deny climate change when comparing "global anomalies "in June 1976 and 2022?

Where to cool in Freiburg? As I illustrated already in 2019: Freiburg's "beach" is the new fish ladder at the Dreisam river. Would you think fish will jump in such an environment?

©Freiburger Wochenbericht
Fittingly the Wochenbericht reported that from now on, all genders may enjoy topless bathing in Freiburg's municipal swimming pools. Mind you: The fish ladder is not a public bath.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

More Names to Cancel

In the years 1955 to 1957 Red Baron studied at the Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen. Whenever the Württemberg hymn was sung, the name of its founder, Count Eberhard V (1445-1496), was on everyone's lips. His subjects simply loved their bearded prince:
     Württemberger Hymne

Preisend mit viel schönen Reden
Ihrer Länder Wert und Zahl,
Saßen viele deutsche Fürsten
Einst zu Worms im Kaisersaal.

"Herrlich", sprach der Fürst von Sachsen,
"Ist mein Land und seine Macht;
Silber hegen seine Berge
Wohl in manchem tiefen Schacht."

"Seht mein Land in üpp'ger Fülle,"
Sprach der Kurfürst von dem Rhein,
"Gold'ne Saaten in den Tälern,
Auf den Bergen edlen Wein!"

"Große Städte, reiche Klöster",
Ludwig, Herr zu Bayern sprach.
"Schaffen, dass mein Land dem Euren
Wohl nicht steht in Schätzen nach."

Eberhard, der mit dem Barte,
Württembergs geliebter Herr,
Sprach: "Mein Land hat kleine Städte,
Trägt nicht Berge silberschwer.

Doch ein Kleinod hält's verborgen,
Dass in Wäldern, noch so groß,
Ich mein Haupt kann kühnlich legen
Jedem Untertan in Schoß."

Und es rief der Herr von Sachsen,
Der von Bayern, der vom Rhein:
"Graf im Bart, Ihr seid der Reichste!
Euer Land trägt Edelstein."

      Württemberg's Hymn

Praising with a lot of fine speeches
Their own countries and number
There sat many German princes
Once at Worms in the Imperial Hall.

"Marvel," said the Prince of Saxony,
"Is my country and its power
Silver deep down in its mountains
Well, in some deep mining shaft."

"Look my dominion's splendrous fullness,"
Said the Elector of Rhine,
"Golden crops in every valley
On the mountains finest wine."

"Big cities, rich monasteries,"
Ludwig, Lord of Bavaria, spoke,
"Make my country not inferior
To yours regarding its treasures."

Eberhard, the bearded one
Württemberg's beloved count
Spoke, "My country has small towns
Carries no silver-pregnant mountains

But one gem therein is hidden
That in forests, no matter how big
I can boldly lay my head
Into each of my subjects' laps."

And then called the Lords of Saxony
Of Bavaria and of Rhine
"Bearded count! You are the richest!
Your country is a gem!"

Recently, Eberhard was marked as an anti-Semite, and here we go again. Will Tübingen's University say goodbye to its name?

Studierendenrat (student"council) Tübingen demands the renaming
of the university and critical reflection on its current name
 (©Studierendenrat Tübingen)
As a young man Count Eberhard was "voluptuous and addicted to pleasure," judging from those many illegitimate offspring reported.

A pilgrimage to the Holy Land transformed the Swabian knight. He returned with a beard and as a prudent man with the firm intention of being a faithful follower of his emperor and a good father to his country. While on his pilgrimage in 1468, he made the vow not to cut his beard henceforth. That owed him the epithet "im Bart."

In 1477 motivated by his mother Mechthild of the Palatinate, Eberhard had the Sindelfingen monastery moved to Tübingen and founded the university.

In the same year, Eberhard arranged for the expulsion or imprisonment of the Jews living in Württemberg. The University founding charter of October 9, 1477, states, "Wir wöllent ouch und gebieten ernstlichen denen von Tüwingen, das sie kein juden, ouch sust keinen offen wucherer by in, in der stat ... laussen wohnhafft belieben (We also wish and seriously command those of Tübingen that they don’t allow any Jews and other open usurers to remain in town)." Eberhard's anti-Jewish policy was certainly economically driven, for his subjects complained about excessive interest rates, and he himself also benefited from a debt cut following the expulsion of the Jews.

But Eberhard's hostility towards Jews clearly stood out compared to other princes of his time.

In May 2021, the university senate appointed a commission of six historians that produced a balanced report. The experts attest to Eberhard the "typical anti-Semitic attitude of the time," without the count himself having been actively involved in or responsible for the persecution or murder of Jews.

Chairwoman of the commission and regional historian from Tübingen, Sigrid Hirbodian, favors retaining the name as part of Tübingen's university tradition. Eberhard, who gave the name, had his merits, and anti-Judaism must be seen from the perspective of the time when, unlike today, there was no attitude of religious tolerance. Other commission members think that the name should be "canceled."

The Tübingen faculties are divided too. Theologians and natural sciences favor a renaming, medical and legal scholars are against it, and the philosophical faculty is split. To change the name requires a two-thirds majority in the University Senate. The chances of this happening are slim.

And what about Württemberg's hymn? Will it still be allowed to be sung?

Stop the blog: This morning, the motion by students to change the name of the university to "University of Tübingen" did not find a majority in the University Senate. Fifteen members of the Senate voted in favor of the motion, 16 against, and 2 abstained.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Too Many People

We are too many people depleting the resources of Mother Earth and increasing the carbon dioxide concentration in our atmosphere at a rapid rate. The world population has reached 7.9 billion. About one percent, actually 83 million, live in Germany.

Germany's death rate has been higher than its birth rate since the 1970s. The birth rate is 9.397 births per 1,000 people, declining yearly. The death rate is 11.392 deaths per 1,000 people. Additionally, the fertility rate in Germany is 1.59 births per woman. So over the last twenty years, a decrease in the number was predicted. Still, the once chronic birth deficit no longer exists because the positive net migration consists of younger people in their reproductive age.

Still, according to current projections, Germany's population is expected to peak at the end of 2021 at 83.9 million people, and by 2025, it is expected to start decreasing slightly. People in Germany are living longer and having fewer babies. The growth in the past has slowed almost to a halt, with a growth rate of only 0.20%. Germany also has a high median age of 47.4 years. Projections show that 37.6% of the population will be over 60 by 2050. By the end of the century, Germany's population is expected to fall to 74.73 million. Because of this, Great Britain and France will both surpass Germany's population.

As far as the world population is concerned, its increase is clearly driven by the growth in Asia and Africa while Europe is leveling off.

The growth rates in Africa are around 4%, while China long has limited its population growth. Of all nations in Asia, war-battered Syria and hunger-stricken Afghanistan stick out with high growth rates. Poor babies!

High growth rates are usually caused by high fertility rates. In the first half of the 20th century, extended families still common in Europe are now characteristic of Central Africa.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Among Friends

My faithful readers know that Red Baron is a writer on the German Wikipedia. I published my first article - the biography of Karl von Rotteck - on March 6, 2004. The Freiburg group of authors and editors meets monthly for a Stammtisch.

The writers of the Swiss-German Wikipedia generally meet in Zürich but had their 89th meeting scheduled in Basel on July 8, 2022.

This turned out to be a unique opportunity to meet my Swiss colleagues. Profiting from the nine-euro ticket, I took the regional train from Freiburg to Basel Badischer Bahnhof.

The Basel Tinguely Museum
After a 20 minutes walk, I reached the Tinguely Museum, where the Swiss Wikipedians had organized an editing workshop.

The entrance
According to their notes, the persons participating wrote 18 (!!) new articles for Wikipedia. A la bonheur.

Meet the friends (©Lantina/Wikipedia)
When I arrived at the site, they had finished their work and were assembled under a tent outside the Museum, socializing. They warmly received the guest from the large canton in the north with a glass of cool wine.

Passing a Tinguely installation on our way to the bus
Following the aperitif, we took the public transport to the Elisabethenanlage, a small park near the Basel central train station. On the occasion of the Stammtisch, one participant wrote an article on the history of this green paradise. 

Here is a short and incomplete description in English. In 1817 the former vineyard became the cemetery of St. Elisabethen. It was completed around 1850 with a chapel and a mortuary. Already in 1901, the chapel was demolished while the morgue was preserved and remained known as Tootehüsli (little house for the dead).

Zum Kuss
Following a redesign of the Elisabethenanlage in 2008, the Tootehüsli became a café in 2011 and was named Zum Kuss (To the kiss (?)).

The food was Spanish and too much.
Thank you, friends and colleagues, for your hospitality.
 In the background, the peaceful Elisabethenanlage.
One Swiss colleague visited the Freiburg Stammtisch in 2011.
Time runs so fast.