DSC_0304My German bank sent me a letter. Actually, according to their franking label, they sent a Standardbriefgut, which I can only approximate as standard letter stuff. I call it a letter.

In their letter, they inform me that they haven’t been able to process a direct debit charge to my account recently, and refer to the reason details in the following paragraph. Reason, I read there: none given.

Thank you!

Thank you soooo much!

I would have to give them a call to inquire, if it wasn’t for the fact that the direct debit holder had already sent a letter a whole week earlier, charging me with the outstanding payment plus a late payment fee. The request had been declined due to insufficient funds, fair enough.

Imbeciles are everywhere.

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The Thick and The Thin Of It

DSC_0634I am not a strong and dedicated follower of fashion, so I usually wear one of two old T-shirts when exercising in the gym. I admit both are a little worn out and faded by now, but are still whole and perfectly serviceable, the fabric still strong and thick enough to soak up my sweat. I received one as a gift in 1998 (back in the good old days when we still got little morale-boosting thank-you presents from the company every once in a while). I already owned the other one before we moved to England, so it dates back to 1996 or earlier.

When I buy T-shirts these days, I usually buy quality from Land’s End, Columbia, The North Face or other brands of high repute. Or at least I think I am buying quality, and judging by the price paid, you’d certainly expect top-notch stuff. I may very well obtain the best quality T-shirt available these days, but I can’t imagine any of the shirts bought in the last ten years to last 15 years and more.

Ah, the good old days.


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D.I.Y. Checkout

DSCF8793I was invited to dinner at a friend’s house, so I stop at a supermarket on my way and get a bottle of white wine and some flowers. As it was Friday later afternoon, I am not alone in the store, and all checkouts have lengthy queues of customers with their weekly shopping.

Aarg, methinks, should I wait 20 minutes just to pay for these two items, and be late for dinner on top of it?

Reluctantly, I marched along the aisles until I come to the self check-out counters.

Scan your first item, the machine tells me. Bunch of roses, OK.

The next item is of course the wine, which sends the machine into red alert, asking to seek an assistant. Said assistant doesn’t get my humour when I ask her to confirm that my age exceeds 18 (or 21, or whatever else is required to buy a bottle of regular white wine in California). A couple of paranoid questions for date of birth and picture ID later, I am finally permitted to make my purchase and give them my money.

I have always disliked these machines, and it’s not getting better. They want my money, so they should better make an effort to take it. I’ll be at the Hi how are ‘ya and Do you need help with the packing and Would you need an extra bag for this checkout again next time.


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I’m a Free Man

tracesI’m a free man!

As some of you know, I quit my studies of mathematics with the Open University. It was just too much. Work is pretty stressful and time-demanding these days, and has to be my priority. Spending every spare minute morning, evening and weekend studying rather than relaxing and re-charging my batteries turned out to be unhealthy on all accounts, so I pulled the emergency breaks and quit. T’is a shame, but since I study for my own pleasure, and find studying right now not a pleasure, I think I can justify the decision.

It certainly feels like I pulled the stopper out from somewhere else. Since quitting the course, I built a crafts table and my head is full with creative ideas in all forms: sculpture projects, painting and drawing projects, computer art projects, even fun programming projects. I even got some of my filing done, how’s that?

Seems like it was time to quit. All I need now is lots of more time to pursue all those interests. Too bad I can’t pull the emergency breaks and quit paid work, too.


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Milky Ways

When the Milk Goes Off The milk man and I work in opposite ways. The latest craze is that we wants me to get onto the Internet. No more rolled-up notes with changed orders in the bottle outside the door, just a simple click on a convenient web site. No more cheques, just online credit card payments.

You know me. There is hardly anything that I never bought or booked over the Internet, so why should I be so reluctant to follow the milk man’s latest plan?

First, there is the small difficulty of living in no milk man’s land: the guy to whose territory we belong doesn’t want to service us, because we are on the edge of his territory and he’d have to make a long way round the block to avoid going against the one way system (He could walk five steps but I guess he can’t be bothered, so he doesn’t deserve our business). The other guy services us because he comes down the one-way system anyway, even if we are outside his area. Reluctantly, and after lengthy negotiations between the two milk men.

The web site does, of course, not know of these arrangements. I’d rather not disturb a perfectly working system.

Second, and foremost, is that I really enjoy having the milk delivered in the old ways. I enjoy it as one of the few remaining low-tech delights of daily life. I enjoy the milk float coming down the road, the re-usable glass milk bottle on the door step, the aluminium cap, even the hand-written notices of changes to the order.

Maybe the milk man even thinks me technophobic. Yes, I’d be delighted by that.


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My Very Own Charlie Booker Moments

Bienlein Charlie Booker runs a satirical TV program, where he does what we’d all like to do: sit on his sofa (more recently at a Newsroom desk), shouting sharp-tongued, true but often not entirely political correct commentary of all things life – at least as far as those were covered by last week’s media.

I have my very own Charlie Booker moments all the time, every day.

Just envision that American well-to-do late in her 70s, silver hair with perm, and two white poodles with differently coloured ribbon on a leash, crossing the street in front of my car. Someone should have run over these poodles (but I didn’t dare to do it).

Or, envision this hand-holding young couple entering the restaurant. She’s pretty, pretty petite, and very well groomed and dressed. He’s overweight, oversized, in a worn-out track-suit. He looks as if his best part was his 130″ plasma TV with quadruple surround. Have you no self-respect, I want –but don’t dare- to ask.

Or, envision this oblivious American highway commuter, iPod in one ear, cell phone in the other, and a mind that focuses on constant speed at 65 miles per hour, and doesn’t know the word consideration. No, I want to shout at him, you’re not getting into my lane if you just pull over without looking, slowing down or accelerating. Of course, I end up being the one to give way.

Or, envision the religiously enthused gentleman at the corner, shouting messages of doom at the top of his voice. I know you, I’d wanted to say, you’re the jerk at the corner who shouts nonsense.

Election night in the UK adds more abuse targets to the list.
Like, those people who have nothing better to do than go to the polling station within the last opening hour, and then complain that they can’t vote before closing time because so many other people had the same stupid idea.
Or, the media at large, who absolutely must declare the outcome of the election in the minute the polling stations close. What’s wrong with waiting another 12 hours, and then talking about the real result rather than speculating?

The list is endless, and I can be quite offensive inside my little head. In life, I hope to come across as a friendly but harmless fool.


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Slightly Unsuitable

nudism Lily Allen, the caller sais, is slightly unsuitable for his young daughters. The caller rung the Radcliffe and Maconie Show on BBC Radio 2 (18-Feb-2010), so he was of course agreed and his call turned into another couple of minutes of inane babble.

These guys play all the right music, but really shouldn’t be allowed to speak.

Anyway. Slightly unsuitable. Right. A little bit pregnant.

A little bit stupid. Yes, that’d work.

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Easy, Tiger!

Dresses in the wind Easy, Tiger, easy. There was no need for this pathetic tear-jerking grovel of a public apology.

I wished you had just advised the media about the fact that your private life is, well, private. You could have also added a comment about the hypocritical nature of all those reporters and commentators.

They all had sex. Most liked it. Many had sex in ways, or with partners such that they’d rather not talk about. Certainly not in public, and not behind closed doors in many cases.

The public uproar of high morals is hypocritical at best. I find it disgusting.


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Retirement Plans

tomar I have two retirement plans: first, become a student of mathematics, and second, recover our old photos.

Turns out neither can wait, as retirement seems further away as I would want it to be. I started playing with maths in the evening back last November.

Now I bought a scanner capable of scanning 36mm colour slides and negatives, and started work on our old photos. While scanning those is a job for someone who doesn’t have anything better to do, I take my time and run them one after the other. I hope to get through before they crumble to dust or discolour entirely, and maybe even before I reach my retirement.

So far, I managed to get Portugal 1989, Denmark 1990, Acores 1991 and Acores 1992 done (click each for the album if you’re curious). Some photos are missing and the order is all over the place, but it’s still good for a trip down memory lane.

Actually, I have more plans for my retirement, but the others can wait.  Like, for example, playing LEGO (Click to see an incredible LEGO feat).


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Sex Won’t Fix It (Probably)

Sex ist keine Loesung I hadn’t known that single-bed hotel rooms still existed. This one was fully equipped with one flimsy duvet, accompanied by a thin pillow and all-day, all-night entertainment from the near-by air-conditioning unit.

The room further featured theft-safe courtesy soap (but no other of the usual amenities, such as body lotion or cotton buds). An alarm clock (or, really, any clock), was unavailable and the bed-side reading spot-light would only light the centre of the room.

The door card only worked after three or four attempts, and staff was not very forthcoming or even prepared to inform and seek understanding about the nearby building site, or the problem with the door locks (which wasn’t limited to myself or my door).

Coffee is rationed, and the toilets in the breakfast room, restaurant and bar remain firmly locked until lunch time. Wireless Internet access is available throughout the building, at the ludicrous rate of €10 per hour.

Mövenpick Bielefeld. I am not impressed.

I paid only €78 per night on a corporate deal (breakfast excluded), so that’s the upside of it.

While I would generally hesitate to agree with the Kulturamt’s claim (“Sex is no solution,” see picture), in this particular case, I will. It is not that I tried, though. In the middle of one dark, cold, snowy and thoroughly miserable evening, I was approached by a street hooker who probably was frozen to the bone as much as I was. Not tempting, and I doubt that it would have solved the problem with the hotel anyway.


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Yes, Professor!

firstDayAtSchool I am a student again!

After uni, which I finished many moons ago, I studied various subjects with varied success: life, women, painting, cooking and myself come to mind. I have now registered for studying mathematics.

Sounds impressive, huh?

Sounds impressive, but is not. I have just registered for the most basic course in mathematics at the Open University. The course should be easy enough, but since I need to remind myself on some fundamentals, and always wanted to do “maths proper” and from ground up, this is the start that I chose.

It will also allow me to see if and how this fits in with the rest of my life. If it works, I’ll move to the next level. For now, I am sitting back and looking forward to the many student discounts…


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Wuchtig, aber Markig

cyclistsDismount A 45 minute cycle trip after work, followed by an express-picnic in the park, followed by a bit of culture. Oh, and another 45′ cycle ride back home.

I have to admit that I didn’t like the music much, but the assembly of percussion instruments used in Mahler‘s 6th Symphony alone was worth the trip. Ingo Insterburg would have been jealous of their collection of cow bells and bang-on wooden boxes. (Wuchtig, aber markig (forceful but pithy) is Mahler’s description of the first movement.)

Always nice to see the Albert Hall sold out. Mahler always attracts lots of people, or maybe it was the much-hailed Scottish bassoonist Karen Geoghegan, who played Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto in B flat major (KV 191) to much applause.

Not my favourite Proms concert, but a nice way to spend an evening nevertheless.


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