Sunday, June 25, 2017


The official title is given below but everybody calls the event Partnership Market.

This international meeting takes place every second year with Freiburg's twelve sister cities presenting their countries, cities, and cultures. The event officially started on June 23 at 10 a.m. but the booths arranged in a circle on Rathausplatz had to be equipped in time for the official opening.

When Red Baron arrived at the site five minutes before eight on Friday morning the streets were still empty but when he turned around the corner he saw our friends from Madison already in full swing. Jim, Eric, Jen, and Charles smiled at the latecomer.

They proudly presented Madison's flag and guarded it fondly
knowing that it may become a collector's item.

They had brought a technically sophisticated poster
celebrating Madison's 30-year partnership with Freiburg.

While Dick and I wore the official poloshirt of 2013 ...

... Carolyn and I sport the cap of 2017 in Madison-blue
that the Madisonians generously offered to me. Thank you.

For the occasion the Braukollektiv had brewed a special wheat ale ...

... Fox & Friends. Thank you Braukollektiv.

Here master brewer James Tutor and Madisonian Jim Lattis
proudly present the bottles as they arrive.

While waiting for the official opening I met a distinguished guest,
Resident Director of the Academic Year in Freiburg (AYF) Professor Sarah Fagan
framed by Frauke and George.

I also met Theresa from the Madison College Big Band (MCBB) in conversation with Dick,
while smiling Gudrun is approaching.

The Madison College Big Band on Partnerstädte-Tour:
Rüsselsheim, Kassel, Emmendingen und Freiburg.

Conductor Jamie Kember struck up the Madison College Big Band opening the festivities
 with lead singer Lo Marie presenting Irving Berlin's Blue Skies we had
plenty of during the two days. Mandall Mathis is at the tenor sax.

Mayor Otto Neideck on stage introducing the Italian and American consuls
Giacinta Oddi and Carrie Lee as well as Suwon's
Lord Mayor YeomTae-Young.  They gave their messages of greetings.

Following the opening ceremony Mayor Neideck is in conversation
with US Consul Carrie Lee and Uta Schröder from the Carl-Schuz-Haus (CSH)
while the chief of protocol Günther Burger is watching.

Fred Juergens, Mandell Mathis, and Flaviano Estrella, Jr., relaxing 
following their performance with the MCBB.

James Tutor, his wife Katja, and a baby (not theirs).

Four ladies: US Consul Carrie Lee, CHS's Uta Schröder, and
Director Friederike Schulte with her baby Marieke.

FMG's Frauke and Toni smiling.

Associate Director Ulli Struve of the AYF and his smiling students offering
cheesehead photos, American popcorn, and Friendship Ale Fox & Friends
to people visiting our booth.

Mayor Ulrich von Kirchbach at our booth enjoying Fox & Friends
while posing with the other Ulrich.

More Käsköpp, Toni and George, were seen in the local press.

Bernard Schätzle, winemaker, state deputy, and "father of Joß Fritz
with Ulrich von Kirchbach enjoying our beer for a change.

Nikolaus von Gayling, member of Freiburg's city council and
descendant of Franz von Sickingen, with cheesehead and Fox & Friends.

Square dance with the Dreisam Swingers.

The Black Forest Badgers on stage.

The MCBB opened their Saturday performance with a short version of
George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue and continued its program
with lead singer Lo Marie setting the pace.

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of all helpers in particular our friends from the
Sister City Committee our participation in Freiburg's 9th Partnership Market
turned out to be a great success. Vielen Dank.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

I'm Going to Bring the Jobs Back

There are many mysteries about the present US administration but one that intrigues me in particular came when POTUS claimed "I'm going to bring the jobs back". Which jobs, I asked US Consul General James W. Boje Hermann considering that unemployment in the States is below 5 %, i.e., there is full employment.

Friederike Schulte, Director of Freiburg's Carl-Schurz-Haus,
introducing US Consul General James W. Boje Hermann.
On Thursday night Consul Hermann spoke about and discussed The State of Transatlantic Business Relations Today in Freiburg. With respect to jobs I told him that on the box of my latest iPad I read Assembled in China. In the following discussion the consul agreed that bringing 20,000 miners back into their jobs will not change the statistics. In addition it is a fact that industry does not want any coal.

POTUS too must have realized that he cannot revive outdated jobs and so on June 15 he signed the executive order, as the Daily Mail reported, Apprenticeship and Workforce of Tomorrow  that aims to create a new channel of approval for apprenticeships. He is calling on Congress to commit $100 million in new money to the initiative, and expand the allowable uses of student financial aid so students can use the support for "earn while you learn" programs.

POTUS smiles having signed the executive order
Apprenticeship and Workforce of Tomorrow
In fact, workers in the States with their high salaries will never compete with those people in both Chinas making baseball caps.

 If "old" jobs cannot be brought back the US must instead create other, new and "better" ones. Those new jobs are becoming available in more complex technologies where learning by doing is no longer sufficient.

Ivanka and Angela at a round table in Washington (©AP)
Here Ivanka Tump has influenced her father positively. She was sitting with our chancellor during Angela Merkel's spring visit to the States discussing the German system of dual education. This system is nearly as old as Red Baron who recalls that following high school during a practical year in a shipbuilding firm in Bremen he went to Berufsschule (vocational school) once a week to learn the "theoretical" background of his practical work. To make a long story short: later as a physicist I knew how to drill a hole into aluminum (not easy!) and could operate a turning lathe.

On the one hand POTUS has on the quiet adopted one of Obama's favorite projects while on the other hand he is trying hard to replace Obamacare. Here another look at Germany would have shown him that replacing an existing health system with a better and cheaper one is impossible.

In the history of the Federal Republic we have had at least five major reforms of our public health system aimed at making it less costly and more efficient. We always failed for in the end any reform resulted in more bureaucracy and higher costs.

The entropy law of health systems goes like this: As hard as you may try, any existing or modified health system will become less efficient and more expensive with time.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Portrait Mode

In 2000 Red Baron acquired his first digital camera just in time to take many photos of his first grandson. Since then digital photography has progressed by leaps and bounds. I have owned some excellent pocket cameras. As time went by smartphone cameras became better and better with the result that in recent years I have taken all my photos with my iPhones giving my digital camera to Elisabeth.

Well, I admit there is no optical zoom on a smartphone but I still remember the time of analogue photography when I was happy with one focal lens only. The missing zoom has been partly mitigated by the dual camera of the iPhone 7 plus. With the longer focal length I now capture slides with high resolution during lectures even when I am not sitting in the front row. But there is more to it. Using both lenses simultaneously allows you to take photos in portrait mode where the face of a person is in focus while the background comes out blurred.

Red Baron does not take many portraits, for most people are camera-shy. I found another use of Apple's portrait mode in photographing flowers. In the following you may enjoy a collection or rather a whole bunch of flowers I took in my neighborhood over the last months with growing enthusiasm.


The most gratifying objects are roses

Wind roses

The yellow rose of Wiehre



Orange-fulvous daylily



Back to the rose. This one I took at the end of April.

PS: I am not an expert in flowers; so please correct the names.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Midges Making Climate

Mücken machen Klima was the title of an article in the Badische Zeitung about the Büschelmücke. When I looked up the equivalent in the English Wikipedia I read: The Chaoboridae, commonly known as phantom midges or glassworms, are a family of fairly common midges with a cosmopolitan distribution.

Why would a midge influence climate, even if there are billions of them? What I did not read in Wikipedia were recent results of a research by teams of the Universities of Geneva, Swansea and Potsdam. The scientists confirmed that during two years the larvae of Chaoboridae live in muddy pools and ponds preferring eutrophic waters where they will reach densities of up to 130,000 larvae per square meter. They feed on waterflies, springtails, and other mini beasties but only during night hours. During the day the larvae hide from their predators by diving up to 70 meters deep into the muddy bottom of the water.

Chaoborida larva or glassworm (©Wikipedia)
Long before submarines were developed Chaoboridae larvae used the technique of submersion. The research showed that while waiting on the bottom for the sunset the "glassworms" start to fill their ballast tanks with methane until they will drift to the surface. Here they stabilize in their hunting position. At dawn the larvae release all methane until they sink to the bottom again. It is all a question of energy as the scientists calculated. Even if the larvae catch four waterflies in 24 hours they would need 80 % of the gained energy to dive by mechanical means. The submersion technique is an evolutionary success for Chaoboridae but seems to be a catastrophe for the climate.

Büschelmücke (Chaoborida). Note the Büschel (tufts) (©Wikipedia)
The scientists attribute nearly 8 % of the total global methane emission to the midges in particular as they release additional methane when stirring up the mud in the process of grounding. With the melting of permafrost in Arctic regions captured methane is not only released "naturally" but the formation of water puddles will enlarge the Lebensraum (habitat) of the Büschelmücke, i.e., there is more muddy water to place their eggs. So Chaoboridae will actively amplify the "natural" release of methane due to rising temperatures in the Arctic. As for animals only cows contribute more methane on a global scale (27 %) than the midges.

Shall the community sponsor further research on Chaoboridae? Here on the Upper Rhine Freiburg's authorities are instead quarrelling about the financing of a campaign against the tiger mosquito. It came in lorries from the south of Europe and hibernated in our region. So globalization paired with climate change is stimulating the Asian mosquito to move farther north spreading angst about new diseases.

Tiger mosquito (©dpa)
In Freiburg's north an allotment garden is infested with tiger mosquitos: There are lots of nests and many of the larvae are hatched, an expert said, their next leg would be Freiburg's central cemetery with all its watering pots, a situation that would make the spread of the tiger mosquito run out of control.

Why do the Freiburg authorities hesitate to spend 50,000 euros? Well, fighting the tiger mosquito with a chemical mace would result in collateral damage to other insects, but who likes to see the birds starve? In fact, a recent census in Freiburg has shown that the population of birds within the city boundaries has dramatically decreased over the last years, a trend due to a more and more restricted habitat for birds in combination with less food.

Another circulus vitiosus.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Doomsday Vault

A few weeks ago Red Baron read an article about the Doomsday Vault on Spitsbergen. Spitsbergen is a group of Norwegian islands 1300 km north of the Arctic cycle, a permafrost region.

The Doomsday Vault (©Mari Tefre/Crop Trust)
The Doomsday Vault, scientifically known as the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, started as a Nordic Gene Bank storing the germplasm of about 5000 Nordic plants via frozen seeds in an abandoned coal mine at Svalbar in 1984.

In 2008 the foundation stone was laid for the present futuristic building. By February 2017 nearly one million samples from all over the world were stored protecting around 4000 of the world's most important crop species from any possible threats to our managed ecosystems, from asteroid strike to war. The vault is buried about 122 metres into the side of a mountain with thick, solid concrete walls and a long entrance corridor sloping down ... The vault is expected to stay at around -5 degrees Celsius for the next two centuries, though with generators running it's kept at a numbing -18 degrees Celsius ensuring a dry environment that would continue to keep them safe if the power ever fizzled out.

This May the vault unexpectedly experienced some flooding in spite of the climate change being fake news made up by the Chinese. Such flooding due to warm temperatures and strong rainfalls instead of snowfalls has never been experienced heretofore. Hege Njaa Aschim from the Norwegian government said, the permafrost melts, and some water comes in, and when it comes in, it freezes. It doesn't typically go very far. Well, the ice had to be hacked out.

This surprise is the reason why an international team of scientists is actually scrutinizing the climate change on Spitsbergen. It is disturbing that current computer models did not predict the sharp increase in temperature and rainfall in the region. These changes dramatically alter the living conditions in the city of Longyearbyen located at 78 degrees latitude where the scientists have their headquarters.

To explain this phenomenon of polar amplification Der Spiegel produced a schematic diagram in a recent article: With the temperature rise at the surface of our planet, sun-reflecting snow and ice surfaces slowly but steadily disappear. This causes the oceans and in particular the polar sea, no longer ice-covered, to become warmer. More water evaporates giving rise to the formation of more clouds that in turn produce heavy rain. Rain instead of snow accelerates the melting of Spitsbergen's glaciers exposing more naked earth to the sun further accelerating the warm up of the ground.

The circulus vitiosus of polar amplification (©Der Spiegel)
Melting of permafrost not only means the release of captured methane, a greenhouse gas worse than carbon dioxide, but opens up the possibility of breaking the ground for digging graves, a benefit the citizens of Longyearbyen would prefer to do without.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Was ist deutsch?

German, what does it mean? This is the title of a book by Dieter Borchmeyer, professor emeritus of German literature at the University of Heidelberg. The topic always has interested me, particularly since my Norwegian boss once remarked: You are not a typical German. Read the full story about good old Johann.

His remark could also mean that I am not the most knowledgeable person to answer the question: Was ist deutsch? This however Borchmeyer tries by writing more than 1000 pages, an oeuvre too thick for me. There are at least half a dozen books waiting to be read not on my desk but in the memory of my mobile devices. My remaining life is just too short and admittedly I spend too much time with internet activities. Writing these blogs is fun, maintaining a couple of websites is mostly boring routine but both take lots of my time.

With the background of the bloody French Revolution and the following Napoleonic occupation of German territories it was Goethe in combination with Schiller (who else?) who wrote in a xenia the most salient reflection about our topic: Deutschland? Aber wo liegt es? Ich weiß das Land nicht zu finden, wo das gelehrte beginnt, hört das politische auf. Zur Nation euch zu bilden, ihr hoffet es, Deutsche, vergebens; Bildet, ihr könnt es, dafür freier zu Menschen euch aus (Germany? Where is it? I am unable to find the land, where the academic one commences the political ends. In vain you hope to form a nation; rather try freely to educate yourself, you can do it, becoming humans).

It was not until 1871 that Germany, the late nation, became the 2nd Reich under Prussian rule excluding the German-speaking parts of Austria and Switzerland. Whereas the many German states had out of necessity been liberal-minded towards their neighbors the new Reich became a know-it-all country as written already in 1861 by Emanuel Geibel: Und es mag am deutschen Wesen, Einmal noch die Welt genesen (It may be that some time the world will be cured of its ills by the German spirit).

It was Friedrich Nietzsche repelled by Germany's growing international isolation who wrote: Gut deutsch sein heißt sich entdeutschen (Being good-German means to de-German).

Later the German people boasting of hard work, discipline, and order became addicted to the Nazis. In 1942 following an address of the Reichspropagandaminister Joseph Goebbels to the Akademie der Wissenschaften Gottfried Benn observed: Not one of the assembled dignitaries moved, not the great conductors, nor the members of the peace class of the order Pour-le-Mérite, the international academics, the honorable business men, they all applauded. The Untertanengeist (subservient spirit) had eventually won not to mention Martin Heideggers's philosophical aberrations.

In spite of writing more than 1000 pages Dieter Borchmeyer did not answer the salient question Was ist deutsch fully. He is too much of a literary scholar.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Open Dialogue?

One of Freiburg's twelve sister cities is Isfahan in Iran. This is remarkable for Freiburg is the only city in Germany that has a partnership with a city in Iran. Already in the past at the time of the Khomeini regime Freiburg came into political focus. Freiburg city officials in vain assured their colleagues in Berlin that it was a partnership between people and not governments. Fact is that citizen trips to Isfahan are still the top hit but this activity by no means is reciprocal.

Six mullahs and their hosts at the episcopal ordinariate (©BZ/Thomas Kunz)
So it came as some sort of a surprise when the other day a delegation of Shiite clergyman visited Freiburg. They met with city and Catholic church officials including our archbishop but they were also seen in Freiburg's streets window shopping.

Studying the city map (©BZ/Thomas Kunz)
During their stay we frequently read about a dialogue between religions in the local press. Our cultural mayor Ulrich von Kirchbach said that Freiburg was the first city to start such a religious dialogue. Such talks are urgently needed for we know too little about each other. That sounds like the mantra of our federal government: As long as there are talks there will be no war, e.g., in Ukraine?

Let us discuss the historical visit of those six mullahs in its historical context. The author of a recent article about Syria called the local military conflict a new Thirty Years' War. Indeed it has been even more than 30 years since the Iran–Iraq War started on September 22, 1980, a war between two Muslim countries. Since that date there has not been one single day without violence in the Middle East.

Presently the Shiites and Sunnis, the two main Muslim creeds, are fighting each other in a proxy war. Since the Saudis (and the US) assume that Iran's ayatollahs support the Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen they started bombing the country within a coalition of Sunni countries. Yemen is one of the poorest regions of the world and as usual the civilian population is suffering most in the military conflict. It seems that with all their efforts the Saudis were running out of military equipment, a stock that POTUS lately replenished making a 100 billion deal that will create jobs in America's arms industry.

Let us come back to the two Thirty Years' Wars. From 1618 to 1648 the German territory saw the invasion of Swedish, French, Spanish, Italian and other foreign troops while suffering a population loss of more than 40% and in some regions a complete loss of infrastructure.

Nowadays Syria is the battleground of national and multinational alliances. Pictures on television show the complete destruction of once flourishing cities while the loss of human lives among civilians suffering bomb and gas attacks is simply unbearable. As in the case of the first Thirty Years' War the war on Syrian territory has long since degenerated into a fight of everyone against everyone.

In this context what kind of dialogue can we expect when talking to Iranian mullahs in particular when in the run-up to their visit we learned of the arrest of thirty gay men in Iran? The Shiite clergymen said they were ignorant of the facts but promised to look into the matter when back home.

Otherwise Seyed Hussein Momeni impressed Archbishop Stephan Burger by citing the Qur'an at the episcopal ordinariate. It was about Jesus, Surah 27:57: Then We caused Our messengers to follow in their footsteps; and We caused Jesus, son of Mary, to follow, and gave him the Gospel, and placed compassion and mercy in the hearts of those who followed him.

The visiting mullahs were extremely friendly. Holding lighted candles, they even took part in a Catholic procession devoted to St. Mary starting at the Münster church and ending at St. Martin's. They emphasized common prayer as an important shared feature of the two religions.

Archbishop Burger, however, went further: We as theologians have the duty to reject all ideologies of violence and extremism in the name of God. And he added: The Creator abhors violence, the true God calls for unconditional love, for a fraternity among the faithful and the non-believers. The response of Mehdi Georgi, the head of the delegation, was short and clear: Because of our faith we fully reject violence. Did he consider that Iran has been ruled by Shiite ayatollas since 1979, that they constitute the government?

Was this the beginning of a beautiful friendship or at least the beginning of an open dialogue between Shiites and Catholics? Should we simply forget Surah 3:28: Let not believers take disbelievers as allies rather than believers. And whoever [of you] does that has nothing with Allah, except when taking precaution against them in prudence. And Allah warns you of Himself, and to Allah is the [final] destination.

Only God knows or is it rather Inshallah?

Friday, June 2, 2017

Make Our Planet Great Again

Red Baron followed POTUS's announcement on the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement live. With this action the US now forms a tripartite alliance with Syria and Nicaragua; these were the only two countries that did not sign the Paris Agreement.

Green Peace projection on to the American embassy building in Berlin (©Reuters)

The reactions of most world leaders to POTUS's decision were drastic and dramatic. I will only cite the one of French President Emmanuel Macron exceptionally addressing his American colleague in English so POTUS will not be troubled with a fake translation: Make our planet great again. At the same time Macron invited American environmental scientists losing their jobs in the States to work in France.

Paris townhall illuminated in green following POTUS's announcement (©Europe1)
Let me cite some passages of POTUS's speech and make only a few personal comments:

As President, I can put no other consideration before the wellbeing of American citizens. The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers -- who I love -- and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production.

These statements are fair enough if we leave out those agreements where the US bamboozled other countries but POTUS has a point I shall come back to later.

Further, while the current agreement effectively blocks the development of clean coal in America -- which it does, and the mines are starting to open up. We’re having a big opening in two weeks. Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, so many places. A big opening of a brand-new mine. It’s unheard of. For many, many years, that hasn’t happened. They asked me if I’d go. I’m going to try...

In spite of the fact that for me the last sentences of the above paragraph are incomprehensible I must tell you: Mr. President, there is no such thing as clean coal !

The United States, under the Trump administration, will continue to be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth. We'll be the cleanest. We're going to have the cleanest air. We're going to have the cleanest water. We will be environmentally friendly, but we're not going to put our businesses out of work and we're not going to lose our jobs. We're going to grow; we're going to grow rapidly. (Applause.)

Great, fantastic. In fact, there will be no problem if the United States will continue to be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth. That's even better than the Paris Agreement.

POTUS continued:

I will work to ensure that America remains the world’s leader on environmental issues, but under a framework that is fair and where the burdens and responsibilities are equally shared among the many nations all around the world.

And he is coming back to the unfair treatment of the States by other countries:

The same nations asking us to stay in the agreement are the countries that have collectively cost America trillions of dollars through tough trade practices and, in many cases, lax contributions to our critical military alliance. You see what’s happening. It’s pretty obvious to those that want to keep an open mind.

At what point does America get demeaned? At what point do they start laughing at us as a country? We want fair treatment for its citizens, and we want fair treatment for our taxpayers. We don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore. And they won’t be. They won’t be.

It is true that the States have paid billions of dollars to foreign countries. We Germans still remember and are grateful for the help we received after the war. The Marshall Plan restarted our economy. Also the many CARE packages are not forgotten. It was America and its atomic shield that assured the freedom of Western Europe during the Cold War. There were times when I admired the States and I never laughed. I hope it will remain so.

As President, I have one obligation, and that obligation is to the American people. The Paris Accord would undermine our economy, hamstring our workers, weaken our sovereignty, impose unacceptable legal risks, and put us at a permanent disadvantage to the other countries of the world. It is time to exit the Paris Accord -- (applause) -- and time to pursue a new deal that protects the environment, our companies, our citizens, and our country. Thank you.

POTUS ended his speech as usual promising everything at the same time. His new deal should protect the environment, our companies, our citizens, and our country. He forgot to add, our finances.