Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Creative Writing

& Science Fiction was the title of a workshop at the Carl-Schurz-Haus. Although Red Baron is not an aficionado of science fiction, he nevertheless takes any opportunity to improve his writing skills and registered for the event.

The workshop was hosted by charming Holly-Jane Rahlens, a born New Yorker, now living in Berlin. She has been working in radio, television, and film and is also writing fiction for readers of all ages. She is an author of several books.

Holly-Jane Rahlens lecturing at the Carl-Schurz-Haus
In fact, the Creative Writing Workshop was intended for teachers. The host told her audience that science fiction is actually a perfect medium for developing your students’ writing potential: World-building, critical to the effectiveness of stories about imagined tomorrows, is an essential tool in mastering creative writing as a practical art form.

Well roar’d Lioness, although I would regard word-building as a tricky venture for writers whose mother tongue is not English.

My first question was whether the script of the movie “The Day After Tomorrow” could be real or whether it was pure science fiction. Holly-Janes reply was that a good story must come from the heart and entertain. That is the most important.

I insisted asking, “Is the knowledge of science necessary or rather detrimental when writing science fiction?” Although supported by a lady, a biochemist in the audience, the question remained unanswered. I understood that in fiction a different physics is possible ... on another planet.

Holly-Janes spoke about her new book "Infinitissimo - The Man Who Fell Through Time" playing in the alternative world of a GGG (General Global Government) in 2264. While writing she intuitively builds her new world just following a road map but stopping at various landmarks, she said.

Time was too short of challenging the participants of the workshop with a lengthy exercise, so in the end, we were invited to write a Haiku about some fictitious future. Here comes my imperfect contribution:

All CO2 is in the air,
A cheese cover on Mother Earth.
Mother, help your children!

Instead of the required 5, 7, 5 syllable sequence I verbosely used 6, 8, 6. Not too bad for my first Haiku.

Thank you, Holly-Jane for a pleasant afternoon with so many valuable stimuli.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Article 13

of the amended European Union Copyright Directive requires the impossible namely that commercial sites and apps where users can post material must make “best efforts” to preemptively buy licenses for anything copyrighted that users may possibly upload.

It is expected instead that these sites will do everything in their power to prevent anything from ever going online that may be an unauthorized copy of a work that a rightsholder has registered with the platform by using upload filters. Because of liability for infringements and to stay on the safe side, it is expected that platforms will over-comply with these rules, thus limiting the freedom of speech, i.e., expression.

The amended Copyright Directive will be voted at the European Parliament on Tuesday next week. Therefore massive protests rallies took place in particular against article 13 in all major German cities today. Here in Freiburg, the participants of a protest march assembled at the Square of the Old Synagogue with Red Baron being possibly the oldest attendee. But having lived through the beginning of the Internet at CERN 25 years ago, I felt obliged to protest as an old man.

A soft start of the rally: Understand the Internet before. You destroy it.
Axel Voss, the German CDU deputy of the European Parliament,
who started the Internet war?
Voss again mocked by a pun Vollvossten, i.e., rather Vollpfosten meaning a dipstick.
Charming: The Internet stays as it is.
AGAINST the reform of the copyright and its unfeasibility
FOR copyright, the right of citation, fair remuneration of authors.
The speeches
An impressive crowd of young people
P.S.: The European Parliament passed the controversial amendment of the Copyright Directive on March 26.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

A Streetcar Named Rotteck

In Freiburg they call it Rottecklinie (the Rotteck line). Last Saturday the blue line number 5 changed its route deviating at Heinrich-von-Stephan-Straße from its old routing on to a new track, crossing the river Dreisam on the rebuilt Kronenbrücke (crown bridge), running along Rotteckring (sic!) to end at Europaplatz (Europe Square). The significant consequence is that the crossing point at Bertoldsbrunnen is discharged and the stop Stadttheater (Municipal Theater) now is the central transfer point where all streetcar lines meet.

With the new line arrangement, Red Baron has an extra benefit for the green line number 2 - I catch at Lorettostraße - now runs via Hauptbahnhof (the central train station) to the university hospital center near Robert-Koch-Straße, a direct connection that may come in handy.

New routing of Freiburg's streetcars (and busses) in the inner city (©VAG)
Celebrating the new streetcar line public transport was free in Freiburg last Saturday. Enthusiasm had no limits when a vintage streetcar affectionately called Hobel (carpenter's plane) opened a streetcar parade at 12:15 pm.

Due to family problems, Red Baron could not participate in the inauguration fest, but for my American friends, I took the new route the following day profiting from the calmness in Germany's cities on Sundays.

I mounted the streetcar number 5 direction Europaplatz at Heinrich-von-Stephan-Straße or rather stepped into the streetcar for on most lines entry and platform are now at the same level. However, low-floor is a disadvantage of the streetcar type below made by Siemens. The interior noise level is uncomfortably high for the insulation between the motors, and the floor is thin.

On foot, I crossed the new bridge over the Dreisam with the river presently living up to its name "the rapid flowing." The newly arranged riverside path on the right is a fast bicycle lane while the one on the left is reserved for pedestrians. In the back, you may distinguish the riverside restaurant. Further to the right (and left) runs the four-lane federal highway 31 through Freiburg waiting for a tunnel to be built by 2030 (?). The round traffic sign on the right stands for the new anti-air pollution speed limit of 30 km per hour (18.6 miles per hour).*
*Click the photos to enlarge

Here we are looking back to the bridge carrying just one Sunday car and two cyclists. The blue mark on the street on the left reads Fahrradstraße meaning that from here on, cyclists have the priority.

Here we are looking from the stop Erbprinzenstraße (Heir to the Throne Street) in the direction of the university. You will note that line 5 passes through the campus with the diamond of the new university library on the left and the main building made from red sandstone on the right. Daffodils are growing on the flank of the mensa* hill being a remnant of the Vauban fortifications.
*University cafeteria

On the other side of the Stadttheater stop the redesigned Colombi Park - with the Schlössle (small castle) of the same name housing Freiburg's Museum of Archeology in the back - now looks more spacious than before. Note the many bicycles on Rotteckring on a Sunday afternoon.

On my way home, I had the comfort of one of the newly acquired URBOS streetcars made by the Spanish firm CAF. They are not only looking elegant but above all, they are silent.

I stepped off at Heinrich-von-Stephan-Straße and walked home. When I passed Kaisers Gute Backstube (Kaiser's good baking room), I felt like having deserved a reward. I settled for a pot of coffee, a piece of Raspberry Baiser, and a most delicious apple-walnut* pie.
*Worth a detour

Note the menu card is in English only.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

United on Fridays

Last Friday, March 15, pupils and students all over the world again cut classes to protest against the apparent inactivity of governments in saving our climate and planet. Their motto:

In Freiburg, the demonstration took place at Stühlinger Kirchplatz.

The Sacred-Heart-Church in the back (©BZ)
In spite of the bad weather ... (©BZ)
... smiling students. Banners were mostly in English (©BZ)
Freiburg's students were united with their fellow students in Madison.

Wisconsin students marching to the Capitol in Madison on March 15 (On Facebook)
Long live the partnership between Madison and Freiburg!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Let’s Work Together

is the English title of an essay on climate change in Freiburg's Saturday newspaper. Your reaction will possibly be one of annoying, ”Another one of those articles describing doomsday; we feel those manmade changes daily, have read about it, and seen it in the movies ad nauseam.”

However, this time it is different for the subtitle of the essay translated from German reads like the glad tidings of the gospel, ”Why the climate disaster will not come. A plea for a new eco-realism.” And Professor Daniel Dettling of the Zukunftsinstitut in Frankfurt somehow continues with Apostle Matthew 8:26, "And he said to them, Why are you full of fear, O you of little faith?"

The German word of the year 2018 with the never-ending European summer was ”Heißzeit (Hot times)” reminding us that in spite of and beyond populism, xenophobia, shitstorms against everything and everyone, as well as data theft there is still something that unites us all: We live together on a heating-up planet. Climate change exceeds our imagination and at the same time touches on archaic patterns of perception of guilt, atonement, and punishment leading to a spiral of fear and hysteria that either discharges into cynicism or into a seemingly artificial rescuer pose.

It is easy for demagogues to deny climate change as man-made while a vast majority finds optimism difficult for it is all too late anyway. German angst tends to exaggerate the issue, so it is no coincidence that a German, Roland Emmerich, brought climate change to the Hollywood screen as an apocalypse when he shot "The Day After Tomorrow" and "2012".

But there is hope as climate change is synchronized with people's minds: the vast majority wants more climate protection. Dettling continues: But still, there is one unifying element missing: optimism for action coupled to the desire for a better quality of life and not to the penalty of renunciation. So the energy question should not be seen as a battle for scarcer resources but rather as a project for technical progress by unleashing the forces of nature.

With a share of renewable energies in the electricity mix reaching a record of 40%, Germany met a milestone last year. Due to governmental funding, millions of houses in Germany are small power plants today. Sure, for many a solar panel on the roof just means a lower electricity bill, but more important is that living in such a house creates an entirely different relationship with the environment. The aim is to distribute, store, and network these renewable energies correctly and isn't "networking" mainstream these days?

And there is new political energy too with the Greens having the wind in their sails. Seeing their future jeopardized young people shouting „Fridays for Future“ all over the world unite for massive protests against apparently climate-lazy governments.

In urban areas, traffic is responsible for 70% of the CO2 emissions. Lately, a discussion broke lose about the NOx output from diesel engines. Newer worries are about concentrations of fine dust, i.e., particulate matter in urban agglomerations. Although the City of London has practically banned individual traffic, its mayor still describes the situation in drastic terms, "The air in London is a killer.” Poor air quality presents the most significant environmental and health risk for the population.

CO2 emissions: China has a long way to go
CO2 production goes hand in hand with air pollution, and here the people in China suffer massively and painfully. The People's Republic is still burning almost half of all coal worldwide, but by 2050 the country wants to be the leader in green electricity. Chinese leaders have understood that the energy revolution will protect its population, so their evolution of renewable energy is fast. It even goes so far that the government is paying a premium of 12.000 U$ for the acquisition of an electric car.

The preferred public transport is on rail using electricity from renewable energy sources. Also, electric trains contribute, but small amounts of fine dust. It is sad but true that in the transport sector Germany will largely miss its own mark of a 30% reduction of CO2 until 2020. What are the solutions? To turn people away from using their private cars, free public transport is frequently proposed as the method of choice.

Since the end of 2017, the use of buses has been free of charge at the university city of Tübingen on Saturdays. This pilot project increased the number of passengers by 20%, but there are two problems linked to free public transport: financing and an overload on the existing transport systems. Any subsidizing of public transport will require new revenues (taxes?) and the current local and long-distance rail systems in Germany are already running at their capacity limit now so new lines must be constructed.

Although the Earth has exceeded 7.5 billion people, all can be feed today. Fact is that worldwide, more people suffer from over-nourishment than from malnutrition. The most significant climate sinners are sugar, meat, and cheap fat.  In the affluent societies, too many calories are produced, of which too many are simply spoiled and wasted. So we don't need to intensify agriculture further but rather require intelligent solutions that will serve people, the soil, and the climate. The trend for organic food is picking up momentum, and even in the States meat consumption is on the decline. Red Baron belongs to a group of people called "flexitarian," i.e., once in a while a piece of meat or even better fish but otherwise milk products to satisfy the body's need for protein.

In the end, countries that we today condemn - in soothing our conscience about our own "climate" behavior - as climate sinners will decisively advance the great turning point. China and India are on the way to becoming green superpowers. And although POTUS's withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement efforts to save our blue planet are not only continuing but are intensified in the States on the state and local level.

Professor Detling ends his article on a positive note, "We are witnessing a process in which personal behavior, technology, and politics are gradually synchronized towards a positive outcome. So let us venture a forecast: the 'carbon peak,' the peak of global CO2 emissions, will already be reached in ten years. By 2050, the word "climate catastrophe" will have disappeared from public vocabulary. It will be warmer on the planet, but not necessarily permanently catastrophic ... the post-fossil remediation of our planet needs a social majority with a positive attitude to the future bringing together the things that really belong together. Ecology and economy. Technology and nature. Progress and beauty. That's possible. Wanna bet?"

Friday, March 8, 2019


"Grant Women the Right to Vote." Women's Day, March 8, 1914

The text in small print below the poster translates as follows: Women fulfilling their full duties as workers, mothers, and community citizens, paying state as well as community taxes, have so far been denied full citizenship rights due to prejudice and by a reactionary attitude. Fighting for this natural human right must be the unwavering will of every woman and every female worker. There must be no reposing, no resting. Therefore, come all you women and girls.

When regarding the above poster, it looks as if the International Women's Day, now celebrated annually on March 8, is a German invention.

We are mistaken for the first Women’s day was organized in New York by the Socialist Party of America on February 28, 1909, demanding above all female suffrage. To hammer in its demand the 1910 International Socialist Woman's Conference held in Copenhagen suggested that a Women's Day is held annually.

Wikipedia knows: Women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917, and March 8 became a national holiday. The day was then predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted in 1975 by the United Nations.

In Germany, the Weimar Constitution gave women the right to vote in 1919. On March 8, 2019, the centenary of the IWD is commemorated all over Germany.

Following the proclamation of the German Republic on November 9, 1918, Freiburg’s women became active, claiming their rights to vote.

An add in the Freiburger Zeitung on Christmas Eve 1918
 inviting women of any state or rank to a rally about
 The Revolution and the Right to Vote. Men are admitted.

Snapshot at the 2019 Fasnet (carnival) in Freiburg (©BZ).
After all: Freedom is female alluding to the fact
that the German word Freiheit is of the feminine gender

The state of Berlin - yes, our capital is a federal state - declared March 8, an official holiday and Freiburg will celebrate the 100th IWD with a series of events over ten days.

At the town hall, women in blue? (©BZ/Thomas Kunz)

On March 13, Red Baron will participate in a feminist history workshop hoping that as in 1918 men will be admitted.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Periodic Table

2019 again is a year full of anniversaries. Most have to do with the end of World War I, but another date that should not be forgotten is the 150s anniversary of the Periodic Table (PT). The man who gave it to the word on this very day in 1869 is the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev who once had a dream about the arrangement of the then known elements in a table. Already earlier n 1864 the German chemist Lothar Meyer had published a paper describing 28 elements classified by their valence. Subsequently, in my high school days, I learned about the periodisches System nach Mendelejew-Meyer.

Mendeleev correctly arranged the then known electropositive alkalines (Na, K, Rb, Cs), alkaline earth metals (Mg, Ca, Sr, Ba), and the electronegative halogens (F, Cl, Br, I) in columns. With the later developed theory of atomic shells, we now understand why sodium with a lonely electron in its outer shell reacts so vigorously with chlorine longing for an electron missing in its outer shell forming one of the most stable chemical compounds: NaCl, i.e., salt.

The Periodic Table is the basis of all inorganic chemistry. To memorize the columns of elements with similar chemical properties in the right order, Red Baron formed an artificial jingle word: HeLiBeBCNOF. In the starting column, the noble gases are beginning with Helium (He) and the last column contains the halogens starting with their most aggressive element Fluorine (F).

Here is a children's version of the PT explaining in pictures the use and usefulness of the various elements.

People are crazy about the Periodic Table and (ab)use it for their purposes. On the Internet, I found the following versions over the years.

Apparently made by a proud Englishman.

There are wine ...

... and beer lovers

Learning the PT in the bathroom

Irrational nonsense ...

... and the table of renounce in German.

Here comes another picture gallery

Friday, March 1, 2019


Red Baron follows the blog of Chicago professor emeritus Jerry Coyne, a biologist who publishes posts called Readers’ Wild Life Photos as you would expect.  I rather like to read his post named Hili Dialogue. This daily blog shows a photo of Hili the cat living in Poland near the river Vistula having a short conversation with her master Andrei.

Hili dozing in perfect harmony together with Cyrus, Andrei's dog

As a devoted Darwinist and atheist Jerry has more than 10,000 followers and publishes at least four posts a day. Most enjoyable are his blogs about his travels where he, the gourmet, publishes photos of plates with delicious and sometimes exotic food.

A splendid specimen (©Jerry Coyne)
 Let us come back to Jerry's post Readers’ Wild Life Photos where he recently blogged about Maikäfer although it is not May yet.

They are cute but wolverine (©Facebook)

Cockchafers are bugs that appear in May. They have become a rare species over the years, but in my youth, there were plenty of them. We used to sing the following folksong that possibly goes back to the disastrous Thirty Years' War.

Maikäfer, flieg!
Der Vater ist im Krieg
Die Mutter ist im Pommerland
Und Pommerland ist abgebrannt.
Maikäfer flieg!
Fly away, cockchafer!
Father is at war
Mother lives in Pomerania
And Pomerania is burned down.
Fly away, cockchafer!

We children did not presage how real the words were. Soon afterward Pomerania was burned down by the Red Army.

All children also knew the famous cartoon Max und Moritz by Wilhelm Busch. In their 5th trick, the rascals collect May bugs in a paper bag and let them loose on Uncle Fritz in his sleep.

Schon fasst einer, der voran,
Onkel Fritzens Nase an.

(And the captain boldly goes
Straight at Uncle Fritzy's nose.)

I had not seen any Maikäfer for years, but in 2012 on an excursion organized annually by the Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft (FMG) on May 1,* for the students of the Academic Year in Freiburg (AYF) suddenly there were plenty of cockchafers. Here are two photos.
*Labor Day in Europe
Insects have become rare. When Elisabeth and I moved into our new apartment eleven years ago, she asked me to buy mosquito nets for the bedroom windows. Those nets are still in their original packaging. We had no need for them up to now.

When I - rarely - drive through the countryside in summer, there is no longer the need to clean the windshield. As a severe consequence of the insect die-off, we start to see bird populations decline. So bad!