Monday, July 27, 2015

Topics of the Weekend

There were two political topics laid out by the German national news folks (state-run TV) for the weekend.  US drone wars and the refugee crisis going full-blast within German states.

ZDF (channel two) will run "Good Kill" tonight at 1015PM.  It's a fictional piece that was done in the US and supposed to have gone to the theaters.  Lack of interest seems to have destined it to be sent straight out to TV usage, so the ZDF folks picked it and will run with it.  It's the story of a burned out drone pilot in Vegas, and they wave the anti-drone sentiment into the film.  After this concludes.....there's a hour-long documentary piece to wave some factual information around the fictional movie script.

The intellectual slam against the drone events is limited to a couple of things.  This is a evolutional thing where people used to be standing on the ground and gathering facts at the actual location, and it cannot be possible for the same things to occur if some guy is sitting in a building in Vegas.  They'd like for that pilot to be sitting either over the site on standing near the intended target so he can see everything.....even if it's a hundred times more dangerous and he might be killed or taken prisoner by the Islamic crowd.

Another intellectual slam is that it's just not right to go after these targets without real justification.  You kinda sit and ask what justification would be sufficient to meet their criteria, but that conversation is recommended for another day because the intellectual hasn't really thought much about that topic.

ZDF has a bit of a problem with the movie and the time slot.  You see....because of the violence within the movie (to make their point)....there's a German law that says it can't be shown prior to 10PM.  The news ends at 1015PM, so that's the slot that's open. This is on a Monday night.....so most folks are already heading to bed at that point.  Recording it?  Well....amusingly enough, I'd say at best around the nation......ten percent of the eighty million Germans might have this ability and less than a quarter actively record such shows for later viewing.  Then, added to the top of this.....for two German states....vacation just started last Friday for school kids and most families are in some travel mode.

My humble belief is that it'll be less than 100,000 people who end up watching the show.....mostly because of a menu of other choices of "entertainment".

So, onto the second topic of the weekend.....the refugee crisis.  It's finally gotten to the point where the states admit they can't handle the inflow of people.  They want the Bundeswehr (German Army) to step in and run the whole business.

Naturally, this would mean a dozen-odd steps would have to occur.  The Bundeswehr DOES NOT have the funding either.....so in a comical sense, the Bundestag would have to sit down and admit this all has a funding impact and actually pay the money for the refugee crisis and immigration issues.

This has an imagery problem because you really don't want the public or the international intellectuals to see a bunch of refugees in Germany being handled by guys in military uniforms.  It'll take less than six months for some folks to recommend that soldiers dress in civilian clothing or arrange for some uniform that doesn't look military.

As for the numbers of immigrants?  This is getting to a point of being a political topic and over half the nation is not happy about the circus-like atmosphere they see brewing here.  It hurts the Greens, the CDU, and the SPD.  The 2017 national election is not that far away and folks will start to consider the impact of public sentiment going negative.

What's the limit of the German state?  They indicate that we are at the 500,00 point for 2015 now......and it might go well past one-million refugees by the end of the year.  What they also say is that the majority....are from nations with no war, and they will be shipped back to their country of origin after a brief review of the paperwork.  Naturally, I expect the same folks to get upset and try to return to Germany a second time.  Naturally, all this paperwork and review take time.  Time means money and living accommodations, which some German has to pay for....via taxation.

If it sounds like a soap opera situation....well....it is.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Bikes

As a kid, I owned two bikes.  One was around $50 and the second one (an English bike) was close to $80.  Later, in 1978.....I bought a new bike via the BX for around $109.

I stood in front of a Mainz bike shop on Friday.....admiring their five-star bike in the window.  This was a battery-powered deal and had all the bells and whistles....at a cost of 4,599 Euro.  Yeah, a heck of a price.

From what I could figure....it was German-made and had a lot of modern technology built into it. It's the kind of bike that you'd have to go and buy special insurance for, because of the theft potential.  I won't even take a guess on the insurance cost per year, but it's safe to say it won't be cheap.

Who buys a bike like this?  It's out of range for roughly fifty-percent of German society.  Most folks don't have four and a-half thousand Euro to throw at a bike in this range.  The cheaper Chinese made bikes?  You can go buy at a fair price.....roughly 250 to 400 Euro a decent bike which would probably last three to five years.  In the case of this bike in the picture.....if you replaced the battery every three or four years.....it'd probably still be around in twenty years....unless it got stolen.

Bike usage in Germany?  Well....it goes up and down.  In a lot of rural areas, you won't find that many folks who use a bike at least once a week.  In my old village near Kaiserslaturn....I'd take a guess that barely two percent of the locals rode at least once a week.  In the urbanized areas like Wiesbaden or Mainz.....it might be closer to five to eight percent.

Oddly, if you go walking through both Wiesbaden and Mainz....you tend to say that Mainz is more bike-friendly than Wiesbaden....with dedicated biking areas noted in the middle of Mainz.  Mainz though....is a university town and I think that plays into the situation.  Over the past year, I've noted comments by the Wiesbaden political folks that they want suggestions on how to make Wiesbaden more bike-friendly.  They might be willing to throw more money at projects, but it's hard to say how you'd create the atmosphere here.

All of this brings back to the topic of how prices on bikes have changed over three or four decades.  You can't be marvel at how engineering has take the simple bike and made it ten times better, but also tossed the old pricing scheme for a loop.  What happens in another thirty-odd years?  It'll be curious to see.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Chinese Lantern Case

Six years ago here in Hessen.....we had this couple in Dieburg get married.  In a traditional marriage situation.....there are various customs and curiosities.  Some are modern and some are a thousand years old.  It would be correct to say that people are continually looking for a new idea or gimmick to make their ceremony very unusual.

Well, in the case of this couple.....the wife's mom and the soon-to-be husband had decided on this Chinese idea......sky lanterns.  If you've never seen a Chinese sky lantern.....it's a small item which has a hot-air balloon idea situation.....a candle inside which is lit and the lantern rises up into the air and floats off.  At night....it's a nifty idea.  The candle will illuminate the lantern and you can see from 3,000 feet away as it drifts off.

Now, a guy from Alabama would naturally watch this type of situation and ask this fundamental question.....when the candle starts to lose intensity....there's no more hot air flow.....so it drifts down, and you kinda wonder....where does it land....safely?

In this episode in Dieburg....one lantern came down on neighbor property....setting two buildings on fire.  These are farm buildings.....at least by the description in the local news.  Total loss? 300,000 Euro.  Yeah, it was a hefty loss for the owners.

For six years, it's been going through the court system.  Finally.....yesterday, the judge issued a ruling.  The wife's mom and the husband are held responsible and they will have to pay 'something'.  It's not clear on the amount.   I'm guessing that the court will spend another month and try to figure out the amount of money involved and it might be all of the 300,000 Euro or maybe some hefty portion.  Getting the payment down to zero?  I don't see that happening.

Did the authorities warn the folks ahead of time?  Well.....yes and no.  Mom and the husband-to-be both went to the local county office and asked it was illegal, and got the answer of no.  But the clerk noted.....this was highly dangerous and suggested they not do it.

Within weeks of this episode......Hessen state legislation moved onto banning the lantern deal.

What happens next?  I'm guessing a long waiting period and a lot of stress put upon the wife, husband and family.  Most folks don't have 300,000 Euro sitting around and it might create a fair amount of stress on relationships.  Maybe local folks will come out and donate some money to the fund, but I doubt if it'd go past twenty thousand Euro.  Someone will have to pay back a fairly heft amount of money.  All for the thrill of a Chinese lantern.

A Dog Story

This is one of those oddball German travel stories that you pick up in the summer.  I think if journalists would collect them each year.....you could write a 300-page book over such weird episodes.

So, there's this German couple.....guy, a gal, and they had this dog....Flecki.

Now, they'd decided this summer to go off to Croatia.  They'd had a great trip, and some point....they went to an animal shelter and adopted Flecki.  So he's not that familiar with them, but they'd been with the dog for a number of days, and things were looking good for a great new home for Flecki in Germany.

So, they started this trip back home.  They'd crossed the border.....gotten onto A8 and gotten somewhere near Stuttgart.  There.....they pulled off for a rest break and were letting Flecki run free in the parking lot grassy area.....next to some woods.  The Stuttgart-21 project is underway, and there's some dynamite being used to dislodge some boulders.  You can kinda guess.....an explosion occurred while Flecki was running free.  He got disturbed......took off for the woods and never came back.

The couple?  Well....they were kinda attached to Flecki.  They stood there and waited.  As of yesterday (Friday).....they'd been there since Monday afternoon.....waiting in this parking lot and hoping he'll come back.  I assume this weekend.....they will give up.

They slept in the car and made the best out of the situation.  I'm guessing that Flecki is a bit tired and hungry by this point.  He'll eventually show up somewhere.

Years ago, I went to a going-away dinner for a guy in the office.....who had an Army MP friend attend.  The MP sat next to me and we conversed about Army life.  One of his jobs related to the Army dog business.  He had a dog assigned to him and had the dog with him for about two months.  Things were fine, as he thought.  Good dog.....seemed friendly.....never any issues.

One day, Sarge says to this guy.....take the dog to the Army vet office on post and get the quarterly check-up.  So he goes over and the vet with his assistant....take the dog and do the complete check-out. The MP walks across the street and gets a coffee.  When the vet finished his job....he told the assistant to take the dog out back and let him run a little....without the leash.  So the helper does this.  Not more than ten seconds after they get out there in this yard, without a fence......this dog takes off....turbo speed.....going for the woods.

Yep, this dog makes there and just keeps on running.  The dog never looked back.

 The MP shows up and the helper explains this.....very unnatural of the dog.  I'm guessing the anal temperature thing on the dog had him a bit hyped up and angry.

The MP spent that entire afternoon in the woods looking for the dog.  Sarge got called and got kinda peeved.....these dogs are costly.  It's a full report if they don't find him.  The next day.....Sarge has several folks with the MP.....looking for this dog in the woods.  They never do find him.

Dogs are a curious animal.  They love humans and get fairly attached.  They also are quick to note issues and react in different ways.  Maybe this couple will find Flecki.....but I kinda think that he's moved on and probably a fair distance from the parking lot area now.

Friday, July 24, 2015

"Ich bin ein Canadian"

Around twenty years ago, I had an American associate who traveled around Germany and Europe itself, and in the conversation one day....he admitted that when introduced himself.....he referred to himself in German circles as 'Canadian' (he was from Ohio, which is about as American as you can get).

The reason?  He went into a ten-minute discussion on this negativity that you'd get with certain Germans.  There are various slants via journalists and news media types in Germany, and he'd get what he perceived as stupid comments and people trying to push him into defending some US comment/position/situation.  He reached some point and just said 'enough', and from that day forward when he traveled (even with his wife)....he was Canadian.

What he said was....that people felt that was very unique and they didn't run into too many Canadians.  Oddly, no one ever challenged him on anything after he started this stupid practice.

I said to the guy (this being twenty years ago)....I didn't perceive this type of German attitude and felt it was a comical way of handling the situation.  We discussed this for a while but it was obvious.....he felt it worked and was a legit lie to use in everyday travel situations.

Over the past twenty years.....I've sat and watched thousands of news pieces on German TV and gotten a fair dose of German perceptions of this US situation or this negative US event.  Half the time....if you use the New York Times reading of some event......it'll be the same story used in the German press.  While I give the NY Times some credit...they usually are the ones with half the story and a minimum number of facts (unlike the Wall Street Journal or the London Times).

If I came across a negative German comment or attitude.....I generally didn't say much and just let it slide.  It's their perception, and it's best to just let them be happy in their thoughts (faults would be a good replacement word).

In the past two months, I came across another American who noted that he always claimed he was from Saint Kitts (the island in the Caribbean).  His family came from there originally and he had a slight accent.  But privately.....around a week later, he admitted to me personally that he'd grown up in New York City and was an American.  He used the Saint Kitts angle here in Germany because he'd come to notice too many slanted attitudes about Americans.  This is a guy who'd lived in Wiesbaden for roughly fifteen years.

I thought about his comment and just accepted it.  He was happy being a Saint Kitts guy and Germans felt that was 'special'......so he never had anyone toss any criticism into the conversation.

Over the past month.....I've come to note a couple of comments directed around me at occasion.....they weren't sharp or really negative comments.....just the type to 'prick' you in some situation and just be a bit obvious that the German wanted to let you know something.

I finally had some event on Wednesday morning occur, and it left a bad taste in my mouth.....the kinda thing that you sit there....pause over....feel a bit negative.....and kinda wonder why they had to make some stupid comment like that.

So, today.....I've decided that these former associates were right.  It's best not to be an American in Germany.  I admit.....it's stupid, and I'll probably regret this decision.....but starting next week....I'm posing as a Canadian while living in Germany.  Ja, ich bin ein Canadian.

I expect the stupid questions.  I've picked some rural farming area in Alberta as my fake homeland....where wheat grows almost to your armpits.  I've established twelve lines of info.....growing up in the heartland of Canada....surviving in my youth with snow storms....drinking Canadian beer, etc.  I left at eighteen and traveled around America and Europe, and here I am today....retired in Germany.

Oh, I do agree....this shouldn't be necessary and Germans are warm and friendly people.  That statement probably works with ninety-odd percent of Germans.  Sadly, on some morning or afternoon.....after some pointed news episode from last night on state-run TV.....you have some someone with an odd agenda and wanting to point something out, and their clever but ignorant and artless statement would draw a sharp response.  But why would you want to mess with some German who has shown some lack of intelligence?   So, being a Canadian makes it simple.

You ever noticed....on German news.....Canada barely gets mentioned more than six times a year?  If they hold elections....there might be a two-minute report the night before the elections.  If there was some blizzard....it'll get mentioned.  If some tanker runs aground on the Pacific side.....it'll get mentioned.  If some train wreck occurs....it'll get mentioned.  But that's it.  If you asked ten-thousand Germans who the Prime Minister of Canada is....one might say Stephen Harper, but the rest have no idea.  If you asked a dozen Germans what they know about Canada....it usually leads to a 3x5 inch card,with hockey and beer being mentioned somewhere on the card.

Germans don't get disturbed by Canada.  I could probably quiz over 50,000 Germans and I doubt if any of them have a complaint about Canada. For the US.....there's probably over 300,000 complaints....with George Bush listed for 10,000 of the complaints (he's been gone for six years now and they still get hyped up and negative about Bush).

So, I'll toss around a maple-leaf flag occasionally, put a fake cover over my US passport, talk up Stephen Harper, and note that Alberta is a fine place to grow up.  I know....it's fake.  But it comes off making Germans happy, and I guess it's a good fraudulent way to keep Germans happy.  My only worry is that the 150,000-odd thousand Americans who live in Germany will get the same idea, and eventually.....the Germans will realize there's way too many Canadians in Germany and the ARD news folks will suddenly jump into this mess to investigate where the heck they came from.  Who knows.....they might even make a sixty-minute documentary over the fake Canadians, and try to warn Germans on how to recognize a true Canadian and a fake Canadian.

I should note.....the German word for inconspicuous.....is unauffallig.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Crime on the Increase

I noticed this morning on 'Focus' that the German cops up in the North Rhine region (Cologne) are admitting robbery and burglary numbers are way out of sight.  What they are saying for that region is that foreign crime groups are showing up in massive numbers.....breaking in....and quickly fencing the goods.  As quickly as they acquire anything.....they dump it to the next guy.

The one number I noticed in the report.....twenty to fifty percent growth in some areas, over the past year.

Sadly, it's a trend that's going on across Germany....even here in Wiesbaden.

I noted in the local news yesterday that cops got called on the shopping zone on Tuesday.....some young guy had robbed a jewelry shop and ran a fair distance before the owner caught up with him.  He took a turn or two while being chased, and when the owner finally got him.....the cops were there in five to ten minutes.  Oddly.....he didn't have any of the stolen jewelry on him and had probably dumped it with his 'partner' along this run.   Cops interviewed the kid later and then released him.  Nothing on him....other than writing a report and maybe forcing the episode off onto a couple of detectives to watch the kid and figure out his friends......there's nothing to occur out of this.

They've fine-tuned their methods and come to Germany to hit the big time.  One German journalist wrote the comment that these guys are now chess players.....they have a strategy.....they sit and watch your moves....and they simply wait for you to make a mistake.  Like some cat sitting in a backyard and watching for birds.

Cops changing tactics?  The unions are calling for more cops, and the public readily agrees on that....but numbers won't fix this alone.  I think they will end up with neighborhood watch groups (something rare in Germany), and technology will be part of the future for this issue.  Filming them won't do much good.....they get arrested, released, and then move onto the next town.  The cops are facing a difficult creature in this type of problem.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Documentary on Germans and Immigration

Last night, ARD (Channel One, state-run German TV) ran a documentary piece....."Welcome to Germany".

It was a fairly long piece which did a recent and even-handed report on the players in a immigration situation in northern Germany.....from two towns.  There were the pro-immigration folks, the immigrants themselves, and the anti-immigrant folks.

What I'll say is that it really took you through the problems and issues.  Sadly, they ran this at 11PM and I doubt if more than 300,000 Germans watched the show.Course, maybe it was probably not the kind of story that you'd want half the country watching.  It's not a topic that you ought to engage with most Germans.

I noticed over on ARD's news page today.....through some institute.....they noted that only half of the eastern population of Germany will agree on a pro-immigration situation.  In the western part of Germany....it's roughly sixty-percent.

I would recommend the documentary and you go over to ARD.de and find it on their library.

Hospitalized Because of Global Warming?

I'm waiting for the regional news folks here in Hessen to build up another climate change or global warming story from this episode this morning in Lollar.

School year is coming to a close and most schools are working up various non-education activities.  So in Lollar.....they were hold a Federal Youth Games day (a sports day for the kids)......grades seven to ten.  Over the past day or two....temperatures have crept back up to around 30 C (86 F).  Most folks in the US would say that 86 F is not that hot but you need to pay attention to your hydration situation.

Well.....roughly ten young gals collapsed this morning because of the heat.  Rushed off to the regional hospital.  The symptoms reported by the news media all include the normal heat-related injury situations......collapse, nausea, and malaise.

Based on comments.....it appears that the school did have a water stand and were offering up water to folks who needed it.  What I've generally noticed in Germany is that there isn't a great perception over heat stroke or heat exhaustion.....where you notice it in yourself or perceive it as a problem for a co-worker or friend.  

Comments indicate that after two or three people had issues.....teachers tried to take control of the situation and it was probably already too late.....with more young gals collapsing within a short period of time.

All of this because of climate change or global warming?  If  I were a German journalist.....I'd try to figure out a gimmick and just note how this is just another example.  Sadly....it's plain old heat exhaustion....where you fail to note the temperature and you fail to exercise common sense.  If you'd gotten people onto a hydration scheme at 8AM and made them sip some water and shut down harsh athletic activities when it got real hot.....you would have overcome climate change/global warming.

Sorry if I seem harsh, but people need to review reality and common sense.