Monday, January 28, 2013

Dirndl-Gate

Rainer Brüderle pointing at Katja Suding
not wearing a Dirndl (Photo dpa)
Remember my blog about the color code for political parties in Germany? The yellow Free Democrats (Liberals) or rather their top candidate for the next federal election in fall Rainer Brüdele are presently enduring a negative press campaign and a shitstorm on Twitter. All this ado is about a sexist remark Rainer had made in a hotel bar one year ago to STERN-journalist Laura Himmelreich. Pointing at her décolleté he said: Sie könnten ein Dirndl auch ausfüllen (You too could fill in a dirndl [dress]).

Publishing the episode one year later, is this just crude electoral manipulation? It could be deadly for the Liberals scraping the five-percent hurdle, i.e., the number of votes necessary to sit in the next Bundestag (Germany's parliament or congress). Or is the publication nothing else than reporting about everyday sexism?

In vain Hamburg's leading Free Democrat Katja Suding tried to play down Rainer's faux pas: Überall, wo Menschen aufeinandertreffen, wird nun einmal auch geflirtet (Wherever people meet there will be philandering). The press however knows: Sex sells. Sexism sells even better in particular in connection with dirty old men.

Do we not have other worries in Germany? As my Norwegian boss always said: I shake my head.

Rainer Brüderle (67) and Laura Himmelreich (29) (Photo dpa)
Yesterday, on January 30, Rainer Brüderle invited to his routine meet-the-press breakfast. Here Laura and Rainer saw each other for the first time after one year of abstinence. Contrary to the few attendees normally listening to Rainer's boring political statements this time the interest was huge and many journalists fought for Schrippen and coffee.

Everybody was waiting for a statement about the dirndl-gate but Rainer instead talked about German debts and his party's coalition with Merkel's Christian Democrats. At the end he stated: Sexism is a current debate that has a political relevance. That there are debates in a democracy is an objective legitimate phenomenon. To me this sounds like phrase-mongering or pompous logorrhea.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Drawn by the Hair*

German girls are allowed to fight since 2001
 (Photo dpa)
We just learned in the press that women will be integrated into the US Armed Forces with all rights and duties. When thinking about American soldiers up to now three notions come to my mind: Marines, leatherneck, and crew cut. So I was wondering how the American girls will hide their superb head of hair below a mundane steel helmet.

Hair even was an issue with the boys in 1970 in the newly formed German army. The long-haired citizens in uniform considered the old practice of putting the steel helmet on with a barber cutting off the protruding hair as incompatible with their habeas corpus. Our then Defense Minister Helmut Schmidt issued the now famous hair net decree (Haarnetz-Erlass) in February 1971 demanding that hair and beard be neat and that the former had to be controlled should its length hamper the tasks of the soldier by wearing a hair net. At that time our Federal Army (Bundeswehr) acquired 740,000 hair nets. Soon the length of the hair of the drafted men was no longer an issue so I wonder what the Bundeswehr did with all those unused hair nets.

How will the US Armed Forces deal with the hair of their female soldiers? On the photo admire a ponytail hairstyle looking out from under a NATO steel helmet. How does the American Army helmet compare?

*Drawn by the hair is the translation of the German idiom an den Haaren herbeigezogen meaning far-fetched, but using this correct English title for the blog lockt keinen Hund hinter dem warmen Ofen hervor (does not attract a dog reposing behind a warm stove).

Friday, January 25, 2013

Weckle or Schrippe?

Initially I did not want to bore you with another querelle d'Allemand but when even the New York Times reported about a sarcastic remark of one of our deputy speakers of parliament (Bundestagsvizepräsident) Wolfgang Thierse the German press and I became exited.

Wolfgang Thierse (right) with Freiburg's MP Gernot Erler
on a visit in front of the Neues Rathaus in August 2002
Up to now I had admired Wolfgang who in 1989 living in East Berlin had been one of the architects of the Wende in the GDR leading to Germany's reunification. He still dwells on Käthe-Kollwitz-Platz at Prenzlauer Berg nowadays belonging to the Berlin quarters that are in. That led to a gentrification since about 90% of the people moved there after the Wende and dislodged the original population. Pointing his finger in particular at newcomers from Swabia Wolfgang said: In Berlin he wants to buy Schrippen and no Weckle.

Brötchen (©Wikipedia)
A roll or a bun is known in High German as Brötchen meaning small bread like in French petit pain. This word is supposed to be understood in all parts of the country. Nevertheless Elisabeth still likes to tell the story when we lived as a young couple in Munich and she went to a local bakery to buy a few Brötchen. The lady behind the counter taught her: Brötchen hoamer net, wir hoam nur Semmeln (We have no Brötchen, we only have Semmeln). You may have guessed by now, Brötchen are called Schrippen in Berlin, Weckle in Baden-Württemberg, and Semmeln in Bavaria.

However there are more regional names. You buy Rundstücke in Hamburg, Wecke in Hessia, Brüdche in Cologne, and Brötli in Switzerland. In addition there are lots of variations carrying special names of which I like in particular:

Röggelchen made partly from rye flower. Served in Cologne
with a chunk of middle-old Dutch cheese as Halve Hahn.

Doppel-Bürli with its dark crust baked in Switzerland
and best with butter and a slice of Gruyere cheese (©Wikipedia).

Schusterjunge (cobbler's apprentice) in Berlin. A roll made from rye.
Simply delicious when spread with crackling fat (©Wikipedia).
But enough of rolls and buns as the story that by now should have been over starts to show signs of a civil war for the slogan from November 1989 - perverted already in November 2009 against West German domination of the East - suddenly rears its head again on a poster:

We are one people, you are another (©dpa)
The highlight of the Schrippe-Weckle quarrel so far was that the head of Käthe Kollwitz's sculpture was decorated with Spätzle i. e. the pasta from Swabia. The police downplayed the affair saying it was no criminal property damage because the next rain will easily wash off the pasta.

Käthe Kollwitz sculpture on Käthe-Kollwitz-Platz (©dpa)
For this carnival season the Swabians bestowed the golden fool's bell upon Wolfgang Thierse who considered this as Prussian-Swabian reconciliation being the first non-Swabian to be honored commenting: Differences make Germany richer.

Wolfgang Thierse with the golden fool's Bell (©Der Spiegel)
For February 1st separatists have announced the creation of a Swabian enclave on Prenzlauer Berg called Schwabylon from which they will ban Thierse into exile.

A Swabian enclave on Prenzlauer Berg
Nota bene: We here, the people of Baden, are not concerned for the home made pasta in Freiburg are called Knöpfle.

Monday, January 21, 2013

All Contend for Gold,

and all depend on gold (Nach Golde drängt, am Golde hängt doch alles. Goethe's Faust I, verses 2802-4).


A couple of weeks ago the German Federal Court of Auditors (Bundesrechnungshof) complained about the sloppiness with which the German Federal Bank checks its gold reserves it has bunkered in London, Paris, and (not Rome) New York. And continuing with the Voice*: It would be much nicer if they came home to Frankfort where the Bundesbank actually only keeps 82857 bullion or 31 percent of Germany's reserve. The reason that most of Germany's gold is not in Frankfurt has to do with the Cold War. At the end of the last war Germany had no gold at all but the Bundesbank started to change some of their US dollars, British pounds, and French francs into gold but keeping it in those countries out of fear of a Russian invasion. The foreign storage was also one out of convenience for in times of exchange rate fluctuations of those currencies mentioned above German gold in London, Paris, and New York could be used as a fast buffer for stabilizing the exchange rate of the Deutsche Mark. Since 2001 France and Germany share the euro so the 29775 ingots kept in the Banque de France will be brought home completely. With the British pound still being a global player the amount of gold in the Bank of England remains there. This is in fact nothing compared to the 122597 bullion Germany presently keeps in the vaults of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York 24 m below street level in Lower Manhattan. That 21795 ingots of this gold will be repatriated has spread rumors that Germany does not trust the Fed anymore and even worse as a conspiracy theory stated: What Do German Central Bankers Know That We Don't?
*Remember Frank Sinatra who liked to go traveling to London, Paris and Rome but found it so much nicer to come home?

Well, was it not Republican Ron Paul mistrusting the Fed in the first place asking that holes be drilled in the Fed's ingots to check if they are solid gold? In Germany Rolf Baron von Hohenau articulated the German angst saying: We need to know if it's really gold or is it something covered with gold. Let's face it, it is not easy to fake bullion. The density of pure gold (19.32 g/cm3) is high so diluting it with copper (density 8.96 g/cm3) will not do the trick. You could however use gold-coated tungsten (density 19.25 g/cm3) and possibly get away with it. The problem is that tungsten is a precious metal for industry and rather expensive (45 U$/kg). So why not take depleted uranium (density 18,95 g/cm3) that is in abundance, slightly cheaper (42 U$/kg) and sell the gold-plated ingots as gold. So we transform all the DU that is floating around that nobody wants but everybody wants to get rid of. If you have ever tried to drill a hole in DU you will know that in this case Ron Paul's suggestion will work. However there are more refined methods to check gold ingots.

A German official testing gold ingots with ultrasound
At the end of the transaction just 50% of Germany's gold reserve will be stored in Frankfort sitting there idolized by many, neither growing nor diminishing except for about 5 tons annually that our Finance Minister buys to mint coins for collectors. In transforming gold into coins Mr. Schäuble is double-gaining for not only the seignorage* but the profit of the Bundesbank will flow back into the federal budget too.
*the difference between the price of the metal and the nominal value of the coin. One can overdo it in minting a few grams of platinum into a coin giving it a nominal value of one trillion US dollar.

In the meantime the public full of German angst is demanding: Bring all our ingots home!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

50 Years Already

50 years ago in Reims









French and Germans are supposed to be the best of friends. In fact, this year we shall celebrate the 50th anniversary of the re-conciliating Elysée-Treaty signed by President Charles De Gaulle and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer.

As a visible sign the two postal services issued a stamp showing the same motif. Nevertheless you may notice two differences. The French stamp is slightly bigger and amounts to 80 cents, the foreign postage for a letter that in Germany is 5 cents cheaper. The blue color of the French flag is lighter than the one on the German stamp. This reminds me of a flag dispute actually going on in Germany: Which blue color is correct and why did the two postal services not talk to each other in beforehand about such an "important" detail?

So let us rather look into the question how Germans appreciate the French and vice versa: A survey by the German Embassy in Paris revealed that although the animosity generated during two world wars had gone, the stereotypes of the hard-working German and life-loving French had survived well into the 21st century.

Choucroute royale au vin blanc. The dish can still be improved in
changing the wine to champagne.
When asked for the first thing they thought of when considering Germany, 29 percent of the French people quizzed said Chancellor Angela "Merkel", followed by 23 percent who said "Beer". Following them were "Car" and "Strict" with 18 percent each. Then came the classics "Sausage" and "Sauerkraut" which each attracted 12 percent of first associations. Here I should add that the best Sauerkraut ever you will find in the French Alsace where it is called choucroute royale.

The Germans had a far more romantic image of France, with 56 percent associating it primarily with the word "Paris" (that should be the same or even higher with the Americans), 37 percent coming up with "Eiffel Tower", 32 percent going for "Wine" and a further 27 percent plumping for "Baguette".

What the survey revealed and what rather counts is that 85 percent of the French and 87 percent of the Germans like each other.

Friday, January 11, 2013

St. Martin on the Gate

Another querelle d'Allemand is cooking up this time in Freiburg. A controversy about a picture at St. Martin's gate (Martinstor) looms on the horizon.

Again a small historic review is necessary to appreciate what is at stake. The Porta Sancti Martini is Freiburg's oldest and most picturesque gate. It was first mentioned in 1238 in a document although the gate is much older. The following postcard shows the gate in 1905 where on the inner side in 1851 Wilhelm Dürr the older painted the famous scene with the Roman soldier Martin cutting his cloak and handing one half to a naked beggar.


The following photo I shot in 2004. Two changes are clearly visible: the Restaurant zum Martinsthor became a McDonald's fast food and Dürr's painting on the gate disappeared. It had become necessary to take it off in 1968 when pieces of the degraded picture started to fall unto pedestrians. The face was plastered white and had been without decoration since then.


From last Friday's Badische Zeitung we citizens learned that a new painting shall decorate the Martinstor that actually is a rather old one:

Photo BZ
Simon Göser painted a St. Martin's scene around 1790 that is presently stored at Freiburg's central art depot. I do not like Martin's rose-colored cloak and would prefer a more modern approach to the central message: For I was naked, and ye clothed me (Matthew 25,36). It will be interesting to see how modern painters will attack the old story fulfilling at the same time the condition of Freiburg's head of Cityscape: Any child looking at the picture will recognize: This is St. Martin and the beggar.

Are we already fixed when Freiburg's finance minister - although he will not contribute one cent to an operation that should be privately sponsored - stated: Either Göser's picture or a white surface. On the internet the BZ already published a photo where Göser's picture is virtually mounted at the gate:

Photo BZ

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Another German Flag Dispute

No, I am not referring to the flag dispute in the Weimar Republic where right wingers regarded Black-White-Red as the legitimate flag of the Reich and insulted the coulors of the Republic as Black-Red-Mustard referring to the dark yellow instead of a golden shade.


I will inform you about the latest flag dispute being one of those typical querelles d'Allemand. It was started by a publisher in Karlsruhe stating that Germany's correct colours are defined in our Basic Law (GrundgesetzArticle 22 as Black-Red-Gold. However, these are not the RAL colours Jet black-Traffic red-Mellon yellow (RAL 9005, 3020, and 1028) the Federal Government fixed as corporate design in 1999. Hence, the publisher sent a letter to our Federal President complaining and demanding that our constitution be followed.

Let us go back in history. The German colours according to most historians date from the liberation wars against Napoleon's occupation where in their beginning the Freichor Lützower Jäger did not wear uniform uniforms. The easiest way to achieve uniformity was to dye all cloths black. But soldiers like decorations so they added to their black outfit red colored sleeves and collars. The buttons of their uniforms were made from brass looking golden. When starting their studies after the Napoleonic Wars the guys being poor continued wearing their uniforms. Quite naturally the colours of their original fraternities (Urburschenschaften) became Black-Red-Gold.

People on their way to the Hambach castle in 1832 on a German stamp.
Behind the German colours flies the Polish flag.
At that time many Germans supported the Polish fight against their Russian occupants.
This is why following the Restoration Johann Philipp Abresch for the first time carried a flag with the coulors Black-Red-Gold - highly symbolically woven by virgins - in front of those people demonstrating for freedom from princely bondage at the Hambach castle in 1832. The original flag now is on display at the Hambacher Schloss as a national shrine. In that flag the presently disputed band is interweaved with golden threads whereas the red field carries the embroidered inscription Deutschlands Wiedergeburt (Germany's Rebirth). Few of the participants were still alive when 39 years later the 2nd Reich was born. Bismarck's Reich showed the colours Black-White-Red corresponding to a rather undemocratic rule.

The famous French historian Jules Michelet explained the origin of the German colours differently when he wrote on the occasion of the commemorative ceremony for the victims of the 1848 revolution in Paris's Madeleine Cathedral: Au bas, une chose retenait mes regards, tous les drapeaux des nations ... Jamais je n'avais vu le grand drapeau du Saint-Empire, de ma chère Allemagne noir, rouge et l'or, le sait drapeau de Luther, Kant, Fichte, Schelling et Beethoven. Je fus attendri et ravi ...

Well, except for Fichte: Luther could not have cared less about the colours of the old Reich and whether Kant, Schelling, and Beethoven even were aware of them is doubtful.

Invitation and instruction for patriotic Freiburgers
to make their flags
This latest flag dispute would not have found my full attention except for the fact that a personal flag dispute started a few weeks ago when a reader of my web pages about Freiburg's history criticized that I had written Abresch's flag has codified the German colours. Such a statement I did not make explicitly but you may like to read it between my lines. Well, the guy is right with respect to the order of the colours: When in 1848 the revolutionaries hoisted the colors of freedom they often choose an order different from the one on Abresch's flag.

The flag carried by the freedom fighters at Freiburg's Predigertor (Gate of the Dominicans) on 24 April, 1848, had neither been made Black-Red-Gold as mentioned in the text of an instruction issued in Freiburg one month earlier nor in the inverse sequence Gold-Red-Black as recommended according to the sketch given in the instruction. The flag displayed shows Red-Gold-Black.

Fighting at the Predigertor in April 1848
And look at the flag carried by Hecker's men during their battle against government forces at Kandern on April 20, 1848, showing Black-Gold-Red.

Death of General Gagern (in the back) at the Kandern skirmish
The 48ers were fighting for a right cause but frequently under a false flag.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

iPad3 and iPad mini

In two previous blogs I dealt with the iPad. Now after more than two years of experience I am still convinced that this tablet fulfills all my mobile computing needs in particular when bluetoothed to the Logitech keyboard. The keyboard when not in use serves as a perfect cover for the iPad3 screen. Reading e-books in bed on the iPad3 however becomes "heavy" with time. So why not get an iPad mini?

I received my pre-ordered iPad mini on December 7 and started loving it right away. During its initial setup I simply copied the content of my iPad3 to the iPad mini but immediately became more selective with respect to applications. I keep on the mini only those programs I am likely to use. It is convenient to have two machines that are programmed alike but fulfill different purposes. The iPad3 is the tablet I now use at home as my "notebook" whereas the iPad mini is the ideal travel companion and e-book reader. Hence, should I ever change my iPad3 to a newer edition I shall choose a WiFi only model.

As far as the arrangement of apps on my iPad home screens is concerned they both look the same. However, compared to the display shown in my previous blog there are some changes:


For managing my appointments, tasks and contacts I still adore the eventually matured Pocket Informant. I now use iOS calendars only that perfectly synchronize in iCloud with all my devices (Desktop PC, iPad3, iPad mini and iPhone5). Cloud services make all the difference in modern computing. There are no longer any "lost" appointments nor double entries for tasks.

Contacts in Pocket Informant are also kept in an iOS database except for group e-mails as Apple still does not provide a decent possibility to build groups from single e-mail addresses. There is a third party application available in the Apple store but setting up groups with more than ten people is a lengthy operation and bound to crash preferably when I had just entered 90% of the names. So I still manage my e-mail distribution groups in MS Outlook on my desktop.

The many third party apps for managing tasks in the Apple store without any decent synchronization are not worth the download. Apple offer their frugal Reminder application so until lately I rather used the task database of my favorite Pocket Informant that I keep synchronized between my iOS devices using Toodledo. Luckily things have moved. Two months ago in a mayor update Pocket Informant incorporated iOS Reminder intö their platform. Tasks are now accessible and editable in PI and synchronize in the cloud. The only thing still lacking and I like to see is the fusion of iOS Notes with the notes in Pocket Informant.

Mail is the next icon in the first row of applications with, as mentioned above, the restriction of offering no group mail.

The next icon on the screen marked Launch hides an iPhone only application that runs on the iPad too. When you tap on it a panel opens with nine programmable fields you may assign to apps and actions. Instead of moving to and struggle through menus and other pages to launch less frequently used apps with Launch in my case YouTube, my Wikipedia watch list, Google Maps, Toggle brightness, the Kindle book reader, Quickoffice that can handle MS Office files, Wikipanion (switching easily between the German, English and French versions of Wikipedia), the iBooks reader, and PCalc, a RPN-calculator, are just two clicks away. It seems that Launch is one of those applications Apple dislikes for the authors of the app so far hesitated to launch a dedicated iPad version.

Nothing is to be added about Apple's Safari browser. Facebook still allows me to follow my son's travel.

The first application in the second row remains Flipboard that gorgeous news reader. With Flipboard I follow the most important national and international news. However, for futher reading I replaced the Pulp reader with the somewhat faster Newsflash app. The next icon launches PhatNotes my most cherished carryover from my Windows Mobile days. The database contains all my personal information and passwords. Of all those browsers available in the Apple store I eventually retained Google's Chrome as fast and stable in case Safari is compromised.

I still jot down my ideas with the simple text processor Nebulous (they changed their icon), synchronizing the texts into Dropbox and retrieving them with TextPad on my desktop. The additional row of freely programmable keys in Nebulous stays on the screen when the Logitech keyboard is connected via Bluetooth but I changed the disposition of these keys slightly.

The fourth row starts with my now favorite weather application. Meteogram is a graphical presentation of the development of temperature, rainfall etc. detailed for the next two days and  spanning the coming week. The following icon marked Wetter contains my collection of nearly all of these weather applications I accumulated with time when I used to look up the best weather forecast available. In Utilities I keep stored useful apps some of them I described previously. In the meantime both my iPads are delivered with a camera I never use. Don't people simply look ridiculous taking photos with the iPad? Should one day the need for a camera shot with my iPads arise the Camera+ app features more possibilities than the native one. Notizen is what is called in English Notes.

On the last row the SPORT1 app and the DB Navigator are known to those who have read my earlier iPad blog. New are ReaddleDocs and an alarm clock (Wecker) the latter chosen among a dozen others. ReaddleDocs is special for it allows me to view in a single application all my files stored in my clouds. Yes, in addition to the old and faithful workhorse Dropbox I am hooked up to Google Drive and Microsoft Sky Drive services too. I have not yet made up my mind on the possible use and even usefulness of these various cloud services hoping that ReaddleDocs will eventually help to spark my ideas on this matter.

On the apps bar at the bottom there is one newcomer: Bluetooth on/off again is one of those applications Apple does not like. Without getting astray in the submenus of iPad Settings just hitting the button will toggle Bluetooth on and off connecting or disconnecting my Logitech keyboard instantaneously..