Saturday, October 29, 2016

Think Global, Drink Local

... was the motto of this year's What's Brewing, a yearly craft beer workshop, at the Carl-Schurz-Haus. In its third edition, the CSH beer workshop directed by Frank Geeraers (Flanders/Freiburg) and changing partners is surely attaining cult status. This year Joe Stange (Missouri/Berlin), a proven beer expert, was the second master of ceremonies who likes to drink local but always thinks global. The requests to attend the event were so numerous that the workshop had to be repeated the following evening.

The exchange of brewers between the two continents is flourishing. In the beginning, Americans came to Europe learning and trying hard to overcome the beer without flavor from their large breweries. The resulting craft beer boom in the States then swept back to Europe with brewers "pilgrimaging" to the States learning in turn how to brew beers different from the European Einheitsplörre (uniform dishwater) within the limitation of the German Reinheitsgebot. In the meantime, craft beer has reached a 20% market share in the US.

Let us start. The first beer the workshop participants tasted was Mahrs Bräu Kellerbier hefetrüb ungespundet (cellar beer yeast clouded unbunged), i.e., the CO2-pressure is kept low during the brewing process. Founded in 1670, the Mahr brewery at Bamberg was initially spelled Mahr's Bräu according to the correct German orthography still valid in the 19th century.

Old historical label
New orthographic label

Although they could have kept the historical apostrophe (cool), they did not want to be called Deppen (goofs) and are slowly changing their name to the now orthographically correct Mahrs Bräu. That, however, should be no problem for the visitor drinking Mahr's beer local at Bamberg; just simply ask for a "U," and the waitress will bring the right stuff. The "U" is a yeast-turbid specialty beer with a full-bodied, smooth malt character. Pleasantly tart and lightly carbonated.

It was a good start, and we were looking forward to Citrilla Maisels and Friends, an IPA wheat beer (!), or Bavaria meets California. In fact, Citrilla has flavors of fruity hop (Citra and Amarillo) and yeast combined with pineapple, lime, citrus fruit, and ripe banana. Citrella is likewise refreshing and a full-bodied beer.

Number three served was Berliner Berg, a lager beer in the German tradition brewed in Neukölln borough of Berlin, looking, smelling, and tasting like a lager. Brewed by an "American in Berlin" using a new German aromatic hop, you could call the beer global.

There was a short drinking pause and suspense when suddenly the door opened, and Frank and Joe entered the room with trays full of plastic cups filled with dark beer. In fact, we were served two different beers that we had to keep separated, placing them to our left and to our right. Were we supposed to drink beidhändig (two-handed)? Not at all; we simply were asked to compare two dark beers.

Not to be confused
Red Baron likes Schwarzbier, and we learned that there is more to it than just the Thuringian Köstritzer* served all over Germany. On our LHS, we tasted Bräunlinger Black Lion; on our RHS, we drank the New Belgium 1554 Enlightened Black Lager. Founded like Freiburg by the Zähringen dynasty, Bräunlingen is located 60 km east of Freiburg in the Black Forest. For me, the Black Lion was a local beer while the Enlightened Black Lager from Fort Collins, Colorado, had traveled nearly halfway across the globe.
*Not to be confused with the Saxon dark beer brewed in Krostitz Red Baron drank in Leipzig

Both beers were aromatic, the Black Lion quite subtle, not sweet, and in keeping with my taste. The Enlightened Black Lager was slightly sweet and had, in my opinion, too much flavor.

When I traveled in the States in the 80s and 90s imbibing soft drinks and lite beer I always wondered why the Americans did not jump on a glass that is sparkling, slightly sour but adjustable by adding fruity syrup, low on alcohol, and which above all goes down well, i.e., a drink in the style of Berliner Weiße? Red Baron loves to drink Weiße mit Schuss (woodruff syrup) when in Berlin, i.e., local, but is Berliner Kindl Weiße all there is to it? Did the white beers my father, born in Berlin, once drank taste different from today's Weiße?

Doesn't it look beautiful?
My two questions were partially answered when Joe presented a graphic drawn on a coaster showing that the onset of the output of Berliner Weisse-type beer in the States started as late as 2007. Since then, the numbers of breweries and white beer lovers have increased exponentially.

Not forgetting the straw in his drawing (©Joe Stange)
Is there a Weiße beyond the mass-produced stuff you are generally served in Berlin? We tasted Schneeeule Marlene (Snowy Owl Marlene Dietrich), obviously without Schuss. According to the experts, the yeast is the important ingredient. For Snowy Owl, it was recultured using traces of yeast that were discovered in 40-year-old Berliner Weiße bottles from the former GDR. Following the two dark beers, Schneeeule Marlene turned out to be a refreshing surprise.

The workshop continued on a sour note with Otra Vez. On the brewer's website, you find the following text: On our search for the perfect warm-weather beer, we wanted something light bodied and thirst-quenching, yet filled with complex and interesting flavors. We stumbled across the fruit of the prickly pear cactus, native to California. This tangy fruit is a great complement to the tart and refreshing traditional gose style beer. Otra Vez combines prickly pear cactus with a hint of grapefruit for a refreshing beer that will have you calling for round after round. Otra Vez!

In my opinion, Otra Vez had too much taste. What is a great flavor for some people is sometimes obtrusive for me. It seems that quite some craft brewers put their pride into beers with rich content because the market asks for this. Red Baron likes soft notes both with drinks and food. I still remember the first workshop when Frank warned that taste buds, once saturated by strongly hopped beers, become unable to sense subtle notes in milder beers served later. The same is correct for cheese tasting: Eat your Roquefort last!

The Alaskan Smoked Porter 2013 served next was over-flavored too. Somehow the Berliner Weiße history was repeated when the brewers stated that German-style Rauchbier, i.e., a smoke-flavored beer was virtually unknown in the U.S. until Alaskan Smoked Porter was developed in 1988. The porter is produced in limited “vintages” each year around November 1 and unlike most beers, may be aged in the bottle, much like fine wine. The beer we drank was brewed in 2013, and as stated on the label is best before the end of 2026 and counting.

Finally, there was even more taste. The imperial stout Evil Twin Christmas Eve at a New York City Hotel Room brewed by Evil Twin Brewing, Brooklyn, NY, has an intense black color topped by a very fine beige head. The nose is complex with molasses and licorice aroma, but also notes of espresso in a perfect balance. On the mouth, you can taste roasted malt and licorice flavors. In the finish, you will find fine notes of chocolate! Sorry, but when even the nose is "complex," you are no longer drinking beer but a liqueur that happens to have 10% alcohol. Covered up by all those intense flavors, I did not even taste the alcohol. I could not drink more than half a liter of Evil Twin Christmas Eve at a New York City Hotel Room without asking for a "normal" beer for diluting.

The workshop's bottle parade
This flavor bomb from New York ended the official part of the workshop. Still, Frank being homesick (?) opened a final bottle brewed in his home country called Deux Amis (Two Friends), a product of cultural exchange between Belgium’s Brasserie Dupont and America’s Lost Abbey Brewery. Deux Amis is brewed in Belgium using techniques perfected over almost a hundred years, Deux Amis receives its decidedly state-side flavor from the addition of American Amarillo and Simcoe hops. The result of this kinship is a dry, refreshing Old World Saison* full of peppery spice that finishes with New World flavors of floral orange and earthy pine.
*Copied as such. French for season

This propitiatory drink summarized the think global motto of the workshop well. Bringing the traditional style of beer from the old world together with refreshing new ideas from the other side of the Atlantic results in most astonishing brews as some of those served at the workshop illustrated perfectly.

Thank you, Frank and Joe, for this entertaining and informative evening.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

No Bridge over Troubled Water?

The renaming of street names with a loaded past is not the only topic that presently occupies Freiburg's citizens. As you probably already know, Freiburg was once divided into two parts separated by a traffic axis, the Karl-von-Rotteck-Ring. Following the Ring's closure to car traffic in 2014, a pedestrian zone is under construction, "unifying" the two parts. The only traffic between the university and the theater will be a new streetcar line. A real campus will be created between the new university library and the traditional quadrangles with lecture halls.

On the artist's view, you see the Square of the Old Synagogue, a wide surface covered with granite plates that have already caused a discussion about their heat retention on hot summer days. People have also criticized the absence of vegetation. Well, a few trees will be planted.

On the right-hand side in the back, you notice a water surface (©Stadt Freiburg)
A shallow water basin will mark the layout of the "old" synagogue that the Nazis burned down during the Reichskristallnacht on November 10, 1938. Later they removed all stones.

The planned water basin will have the layout of the old synagogue (©Stadt Freiburg)
Until recently, a commemorative plaque reminded passersby of the barbaric act. Freiburg's Jewish Community greatly appreciates the planned integration of the bronze plaque into the new commemorative water basin.

On an old postcard
Looking at an old photo, you notice that the synagogue was built on a small hill in 1870. The planning staff of the new pedestrian zone was confident that the Nazis had not only removed the rubble of the synagogue but the basement of the building and the surrounding soil too. They confirmed their assumption by probing the site with ultrasound. When the construction crew eventually dug some holes to house the pumping station for the water basin, they only found relics of Freiburg's medieval fortifications. It came as a great surprise when they suddenly unearthed some stones belonging to the old synagogue.

©BZ/Ingo Schneider
All construction activity in the area stopped. The Jewish Community signaled that under no circumstances should the stones be touched. In fact, it would have been easy to cover those stones with soil, as it is planned with the medieval remains, but a little wall turned out to be 40 centimeters too high, protruding into the planned water basin.

The archeological team wrote a report to the Municipal Council and the Jewish Community proposing to leave the greater part of the stones in the ground. Only a few stones in the way will be removed and handed over to the Jewish Community if they agree.

While visiting the scene Irena Katz, chairwoman of Freiburg's Jewish Community, set her handbag on the relics of the old synagogue but took it away immediately after realizing what she had done. She shook her head skeptically and said, "A poll among members of the Jewish Community has shown that more than 90% of the members are against removing stones."

Klaus Neidhart shows Irina Katz the stones to be taken away (©BZ)
In the meantime, more than 90% of the city council members support Mayor Dieter Salomon, who strongly endorses the position of the archeological team.

Will the two parties reach an agreement? Freiburg's city council will decide on October 29, and they admit there is no plan B.

P.S. Abgesang (swan song): Eventually, there was no bridge. In vain, a vigil of about 30 people demanded that the old synagogue be rebuilt to serve as a documentation center or at least the unearthed remains be conserved and made visible.  Although the Jewish Community had initially endorsed the water basin concept and despite a constructive debate, Irena Katz called the city council's decision to stick to the original plans "rigid." Her hope now is that work at the site will not start before November 9th, the 78th anniversary of the Reichspogromnacht (Kristallnacht).

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Podcast

While in Berlin I saw a colleague from Wikipedia met at the Wikimania World Conference in London in 2014 where Sebastian took a photo of me. Now he wanted to make a podcast with me.

Our scheduled meeting was difficult for we blew the first date. I had announced my coming to Berlin early and asked Sebastian whether we could meet at the Mommseneck at Potsdamer Platz for lunch.

Why that place? Whenever I travel I like to eat the local specialities which means in the case of Berlin a hearty cuisine. The dish of my desire was pea soup like mother used to make. In the past the famous place for pea soup was Aschinger, which does not exist anymore. So I looked on the Internet for Berlin and pea soup and found Mommseneck at Potsdamer Platz. In addition to traditional cooking the place offers a good variety of beers.

Sebastian answered my e-mail: That is excellent. What time are we going to meet?

Me: At Mommseneck on September 19 at noon. Is that ok for you?

Sebastian: That is what we are going to do.

Mommseneck at Potsdamer Platz. House of 100 beers.

Theodor Mommsen, a German historian, shown inside on an original Litfaßsäule
I arrived early. It was a beautiful day and I decided to sit outside. In studying Mommseneck's choice of beers I read that they offer Berliner Weiße mit Schuss not only with those classical syrups of raspberry or woodruff but with cherry syrup too. I am always up for an experiment, but the combination of wheat beer and cherry tastes odd.

As time went by and with Sebastian not showing up I still felt thirsty and ordered the classical Berlin white beer with woodruff syrup. Boy, look at the photo!

The real Berliner Weiße mit Schuss brilliant in the sun was served in a beaker
While I was contemplating the drink my green view was suddenly disturbed by an incoming e-mail.

Sebastian: I can't find you. How do I recognize you. I am sitting at Mommseneck on Mommsenstraße. Luckily he had added the number of his cellphone to his mail.

Well, there are two Mommsenecks in Berlin. I had not repeated Potsdamer Platz in my second e-mail and he had not read my first e-mail carefully enough. The waitress told me that this mix-up happens quite frequently. Nevertheless Sebastian and I agreed to meet the next day same hour at the Zur letzten Instanz. Is this name a symbol?

Eventually my pea soup arrived and turned out to be the third disappointment of the day. There were peas alright and al dente as they should be but the taste of the soup was rather exotic with a touch of curry and green pepper. Regrettably the dish did not live up to my memories of Aschinger.

Later somewhat frustrated I explored the surroundings of the pedestrian area around Potsdamer Platz. A place called Lutter & Wegner caught my attention.

Lutter & Wegner at Potsdamer Platz in the former Huth Building
A place of that name had been famous for its illustrious guests both in the 19th century (among other celebrities poet E. T. A. Hoffmann, actor Ludwig Devrient, author Heinrich Heine, composer Carl Maria von Weber, philosopher Friedrich Hegel and Reichskanzler Otto von Bismarck) and the Golden Twenties (nota bene Marlene Dietrich and Josephine Baker). For me the place became known by a song from Eduard Künnecke's operetta Die lockende Flamme (The Tempting Flame): Im Keller bei Lutter und Wegner ... (In Lutter and Wegner's wine cellar). At the time of the good old "steam radio" in the 1950s Red Baron had to listen to the aria frequently.

The original traditional restaurant Lutter & Wegner located at Gendarmenmarkt was completely destroyed during the last war. In 1947 black market activities took place in the basement.

Lutter & Wegner at Gendarmenmarkt in 1947 ©Bundesarchiv
Following the Wende Lutter & Wegner opened again at Gendarmenmarkt but at a different site. The other Lutter & Wegner location at Potsdamer Platz is famous too but primarily for its original name: Weinhaus Huth.

Wine House Huth was constructed in 1912 and to accommodate the load of the stored bottles based on a solid steel structure. Therefore it was the only building that survived the complete destruction of the area during the war and stood isolated in the landscape at the time of division into East and West Berlin. I had intended to show you a picture of the solitaire building but all copies that I found are heavily copyright protected. Following the Wende the Huth Building was renovated and integrated into the pedestrian zone of Potsdamer Platz.

Nearby at Leipziger Platz I visited the Mall of Berlin. This is indeed a vast shopping center but simply too big in my opinion.

Look into the Mall of Berlin

Constitution meets commerce.
You walk on articles of our Grundgesetz (Basic Law)

Just opposite the Mall the building of the Bundesrat, Germany's senate

The following day I made it just in time to the Zur letzten Instanz. Sebastian was already seated and I took my usual bench. My problem is that Napoleon was short; therefore the seating surface of the historic bench is too narrow. With respect to lunch I followed the same procedure as last year ordering Kohlroulade with a dark beer Märkischer Landmann.

At Die letzte Instanz with ©Sebastian Wallroth 
While we were eating Sebastian recorded his podcast. Here is the link for those of my readers who understand mumbled German mixed with background noises. By the way the word "penis" was not uttered by me but is, according to Sebastian, the word used most in the German Wikipedia either to vandalize articles or to fill holes in texts.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Personal Note

My readers may be wondering why didn't we read about two subjects that are exciting Freiburg's citizens so much these days. Even in today's Sunday paper the renaming of streets and the future of the archaeological finds at the site of Freiburg's old synagogue are addressed in two articles side by side. Well, about the first topic I have already blogged describing the facts but indeed the blog needs more Butter bei die Fische (poking in the eye).*
*The translation I found for the grammatically wrong but colloquial German expression is Put up or shut up which in my opinion does not well describe the meaning in German. Let's say I would have accepted more poking in the nose too.
My friend Jim proposed "Getting down to brass tacks." This I would rather interpret as: Nägel mit Köpfen machen literally translated as Going to make nails with heads, i.e. starting serious business. Butter bei die Fische has the meaning "Giving more substance to the matter, discussion, and blogs etc."

©Der Sonntag
Hold it! Writing a blog is a multiple-stage process:

1. Finding a subject: There are too many at the moment
2. Writing the text is fun and not always the hardest part
3. Selecting the pictures and formatting them takes time
4. Copying text and pictures into the blog template is easy
5. Getting everything into the right format takes even more time
6. Hitting the red Publish button

Here is my list of partially drafted blogs you may expect to read in the near future.

More about the remains of the old synagogue and their future
Reactions to the renaming of Freiburg streets
A report about the recent beer seminar at the Carl-Schurz-Haus
Meet the Chinese ambassador
Parts two and three of my latest Berlin trilogy
Explanation and interpretation of the word karcher and the expression postfaktisch (post-factual).

So please be patient and stay tuned to Red Baron.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

On a Sunny Saturday Afternoon

Red Baron lives in a place called Wiehre. The Wiehre was first mentioned in a document dating 1008 in which King Heinrich II gave the hunting grounds in the area to his loyal vassal Archbishop Aldabero II of Basel as a fief. Initially located on the banks of the Dreisam River, the Wieher - the word meaning Wehr (dam, weir) - is older than Freiburg, which was founded in 1220.

Today the Wiehre, Freiburg's largest district, is located solely on the left-hand side of the river. The city administration distinguishes four parts: the Oberwiehre, i.e., upstream of the Dreisam, the Mittelwiehre, the Unterwiehre and further downstream in the south-west the Heldenviertel (heroes' district) where the streets are named after "heroes" of the First World War, e.g., Manfred von Richthofen aka the flying Red Baron.

Last Saturday the blogging Red Baron participated in a guided tour of the Mittelwiehre where my apartment is located. Although I know my neighborhood pretty well one is never too old to learn something new.

I had tried to reserve a ticket but the people at the Volkshochschule (adult education center) informed me that the tour was fully booked. Nevertheless I went to the meeting point and got in an argument with guide Carola: I cannot take more than twenty people. To make a long story short: In the end five registered persons did not show up, which made everybody happy.

We started at the corner of Günterstal-/Urachstraße where before the First World War there was a hotel named Hohenzollern, its name paying tribute to the ruling imperial house. Now the building houses lawyers' offices and doctors' clinics.

Note the original streetcars (©Carola Schark)

Here is what is left of Hotel Hohenzollern

Built 1898 by C.Hoßmann - F. Weber, restored 1997

Nearby on Urachstraße the Freiburg transport company (VAG) built its main streetcar depot in 1901. It was used until 1994 when the VAG moved to modern premises in Freiburg's industrial zone in the west. Now the local fire brigade occupies half of the vast halls while in the other half the Freunde der Freiburger Straßenbahn (Friends of Freiburg Streetcars) restore historical rolling stock.

Streetcar parade in front of the depot
in the years before the First World War (©Carola Schark)
On October 14, 1901, two electrical streetcar lines started operating in Freiburg: Rennweg-Lorettostraße and Rennweg-Günterstal both passing the intersection Günterstal-/Urachstraße. We were just one day late for the 115th anniversary of the city's electrical streetcar system.

Here is streetcar 38, one of those in the parade above. In service until 1971, it is now in poor condition but will be restored.

Streetcar number 2 was in service until 1954 and has already been rebuilt. Its electrical equipment by Siemens dates to 1901 and is still operational. The short wagons with their serial numbers 1 to 71 made screeching noises when going around tight curves and therefore Freiburgers affectionately called them Hobl (literally, Alemannic for wood plane).

The conservator proudly presents his baby

Carola waving her folder is calling the group to order
We passed the former Anglican church built in 1894 that is now used by the Seventh-Day Adventists for whom Saturday and not Sunday is the day of rest ...

The Saturday afternoon service had just finished

Red Baron had to bow his head
... and the Christuskirche from 1890, the first Lutheran church in the Wiehre, now under reconstruction for the celebration of 500 years of Reformation next year.

Modelling the outside
The oldest school building in historicized style initially exclusively for girls is located at the corner Turnsee-/Talstraße:

Municipal primary school
Von der Stadt Freiburg als Mädchenschule erbaut 1899-1902

(Built by the City of Freiburg as a school for girls 1899-1902).
On our way to the rebuilt St. Marienhaus, now a retirement home, we passed Freiburg's Jugendzentrum (youth center) newly built in the 1950s. We just arrived when the Saturday offener Familienbereich (open family sector) from 1400 to 1600 hours had finished. Kids and even babies animated the entrance area.

Freiburg's Youth Center
In the years before 1960 the site was occupied by the municipal sawmill. Firewood from municipal forests was cut up and donated to the poor.

Water-driven sawmill (©Carola Schark)
Now the former creek is a miserable rivulet barely visible through the leaves.

A modern entrance to St. Marienhaus
St. Marienhaus on Talstraße used to be a home for Catholic girls who came to Freiburg as housemaids, protecting them from the vices of the "big" city. A vintage enamel sign serves as a reminder.

Catholic Protection of Girls, Freiburg'Br.
Catholic girls and saleswomen find advice, shelter & job placement,
 the former at Marienhaus Talstr. No 31,
the latter at St. Annastift Holzmarktplatz No. 12.
Nowadays the building of the Saint Anna Foundation is a retirement home too.

Another reminder of the old premises is the steeple of the former chapel. It was preserved and serves as decoration of the courtyard of the retirement home.

A cosy courtyard
On our way back through Hildastraße we discovered two somewhat hidden landmarks. More than 70 years after the war the front wall of house number 28 still shows a luminescent arrow pointing to the nearest air-raid shelter in the Hof (courtyard).

Never again
In a corner of the front wall of house number 47 a fastening hook for the catenary of Freiburg's streetcar is preserved. The line running through Hildastraße connecting the Hauptbahnhof (main station) with the old Wiehrebahnhof (Wiehre station) was already stopped in 1916 during the First World War.

A painted-over landmark
Our walk in the Mittelwiehre ended at the Kita, i.e., Kindertagesstätte (day care center) opposite the old Wiehrebahnhof. In the years after the war wooden shanties at the site served various charitable organizations (Swiss Donation, Quaker, CARE) supporting hungry Freiburg citizens. Thank you.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

More Hacking

Dear readers,

In July I reported on the hacking of my blog statistics that came from the east. Now a guy living on the territory of the United States loves to boost the number of my readers. A you may see from the graph there are periodic spikes of 30, i.e., multiples of 10, in the number of visits of my blog.

These fake visits in steps of 10 are clearly visible in the following graph too superimposed by a few real visits.

Yesterday night I suppressed the completely meaningless display of the weekly blog statistics and o wonder, I see no spikes in the upper graph anymore!

What kind of satisfaction do hackers get from spoiling the visitor statistics of my innocent blog? Can't those people use their brains (?) to program something useful? I shall again complain to Google and know already the outcome: no response.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Yesterday evening I received the following e-mail:

Project Update #92: iExpander - an expansion device for your iPhone by Charlie Corry

Status Update posted by Charlie Corry (Creator)

Hi everyone,

I had hoped to be able to give everyone a production schedule by now but are still waiting for the quote from the Engineering & Contract Assembly company to tell us the lead-time and cost to make the minor tweaks to get the product production ready. They have been working in it for 3.5 weeks. We have followed up numerous times and cannot get a commitment from them on a date. As you know, the samples worked but while we were testing them, we did find some things that need to be fixed for the final production run. As soon as we get the dates, I will let you all know.

On other note regarding updates in general: Some of you have stated your desire not to be included on these updates any longer. I would gladly oblige but there is no way for me to take anyone off the email list. The Kickstarter system automatically sends all updates to the email address on file. The only thing I can suggest is setting up your email to automatically send these updates to spam or trash.


This e-mail was the trigger to publish a blog that I had already started drafting two months ago:

The other day Der Spiegel published an article about crowdfunding stressing that some people have lost lots of money when projects did not materialize. Naturally these people are mad or as we say in German they are sauer (sour) so the Spiegel article was titled Sauercrowd. The title alone is worth writing a blog about my experience with kickstarter projects and their crowdfunding.

Red Baron likes crowdfunding and has supported tolle Ideen (great ideas) on several occasions. I invested in many startups admittedly with mixed success. Some of the gadgets I pledged for, paid for, and received I never used, however others turned out to be rather practical so I adopted them, but one of the projects never materialized. Well, shit happens. So here comes what will explain the aforementioned e-mail:

My worst case is (possibly was) the so-called iExpander that was supposed to expand "the iPhone's Memory, Camera and Battery Life. Expandable SD Memory, Great Low Light Images & 2X Battery Life!" for the iPhone 4 and later for the iPhone 5! 

Front of the iExpander ©Charlie Corry

Back of the iExpander©
The Kickstarter launch was on September 15, 2012, and the funding ended on October 25 with my US $75 included. I shall skip some steps and only mention the scheduled production start on November 22, and the beginning of shipping of the iExpander to Kickstarter backers on December 6, 2012. A tight schedule indeed that was never honored. Yet even now I am still receiving sporadic e-mails. Here is #89 to all backers dated August 26, 2016:

Hi everyone,

Here is the message we received this morning from the Texas design team:

"We have the 2 boards tested and operational. They are being packed up today for shipment tomorrow! No kidding..."

I hope they work for us when we get them. I will advise when we have tested them. Thanks.


No kidding. From all that I have read over the years it seems that the project people are steadily crawling backwards at a time when I have already acquired the iPhone 7 plus*. Charlie not giving up is fighting a honorable rearguard action.
*The only reason is that the dual camera will allow me to take quality photos in lectures from slide projections.

Being a masochist I am really looking forward to receiving more "progress" reports on the iExpander. But what will I do with a device for my iPhone 5, since long ditched, when the iExpander eventually arrives?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Mystery Solved

At the Museumsgesellschaft yesterday evening Red Baron listened to a talk by Professor Benoît Sittler of the Institut für Naturschutz und Landschaftsökologie in Freiburg: Grönland im Griff des Klimawandels (Greenland in the grip of climatic change). Dr. Sittler, an Alsacien, worked from 1988 until his retirement in 2014 for the Karupelv-Valley Project in North-East Greenland National Park at an outpost on the eastern coast. Sittler studied among other ecological topics the lemming mystery.

There is a strong belief that when a lemming population becomes too big the animals commit collective suicide to normalize their number with respect to the food available in the region. Here is what Dr. Sittler and his collaborators found out:

The population of lemmings is closely related to the population of one of their predators, the ermines. The story goes like this:

Lemmings are terribly reproductive with four gestations during an arctic summer. A big population of lemmings presents welcome food to ermines. However, the population of the latter increases slowly with the increasing food supply for ermines have an unusually long gestation period of nine months. As the ermine population increases and that of the lemmings is eaten their population eventually decreases to a level that there is no longer enough food for all those ermines. Then, when the ermine population decreases due to starvation that of the lemmings starts to rise again*. This interaction formed a periodic cycle of four years until 2000 when a dramatic change in the population of lemmings was observed that is attributed to climatic change.
*A colleague wrote me that such a timely behavior is described by the Lotka–Volterra equations, a system of coupled multi-parameter differential equations with periodic solutions. Thanks, Walter.

Greenland suffers from an accentuated climatic change as the two photos below show. Snow and ice in the mountains decreased dramatically between 1989 and 2007.

Following the year 2000 the Sittler's research team observed another anomaly: an increasing number of polar bears going ashore in their quest for food.

The ice floes from where the polar bears used to hunt seals, their favorite food, practically disappeared at the shore near Sittler's camp starting around 2000. The aggressiveness of those hungry polar bears becomes dangerous so the researchers had to protect their tents with a high-voltage charged fence during the night.

Greenland is losing ice at a rapid rate. Icebergs are calving from the front fold line of glaciers:

Here is a graph about the build-up of Greenland's kilometer-thick ice cap showing how its weight depresses the land level.

With the lemming mystery solved another mystery is shown in the following diagram:

Temperature black, CO2 concentration blue
When analyzing deep borings of Greenland's ice cap glacial and warm periods are observed over the last 400,000 years. The periodic cycle of about 100,000 years is attributed among other things to changes in the position of the Earth in comparison to the Sun, now known as Milankovitch cycles. It was noted that at the same time the CO2 concentration of the air in the ice borings varying from 180 to 280 ppm runs nicely in parallel with the temperature as the diagram shows.

In fact, over the last 10,000 years the mean concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere stayed around 280 ppm but during the last 150 years that value has risen to 350 ppm caused by human activities. This increase above 280 ppm is said to be responsible for the observed global warming.

What can we learn from the above long-term graph? What caused the CO2 concentration to vary with temperature? One mystery solved, a new one to be understood.

N.B. All pictures are © Dr. Benoît Sittler