52 States in 8 Months

Mich ärgert der aktuelle Umgang mit Steuergeldern!

Posted in Europe by Ulf on May 31, 2009

Ich finde es wirklich schrecklich wie zur Zeit mit Steuergeldern umgegangen wird. Also, ich sollte vielleicht sagen, mit zukünftigen Steuergeldern: Mit dem Geld, was wir in den nächsten Jahrzehnten für den Schuldenabbau einsetzen müssen.

Herr Guttenberg wird gerade von links (d.h. von Teilen der CDU und allem was daneben noch so alles auf der Straße steht) dafür kritisiert, dass er Opel in eine Insolvenz gehen lassen will. Wo ist das Problem? Ich habe mir heute zufällig mal die Liste der größten Insolvenzfälle in den USA durchgelesen, auf der GM wohl morgen auf Platz 4 steht. Da tauchen Namen wie Delta Air Lines oder Texaco auf und noch viele Unternehmen, die mir nicht sofort etwas sagen. Das Resultat ist aber meist das gleiche: Eine Insolvenz führt zur Restrukturierung des Unternehmens, und nach ein paar Jahren konnte ein schlankerer Konzern plötzlich gewinnbringend weiterwirtschaften. Aus meiner Sicht besteht also bei Opel wirklich keine Eile, und vor allem kein Bedarf an Staatskapital.
Über die deutschen Angst vor Arbeitsplatzabbau wird in den USA nicht mal geschmunzelt. Das ist wirklich lächerlich. Entweder man macht einen guten Job, dann findet man auch wieder einen Arbeitsplatz. Wenn man keinen entsprechenden Arbeitsplatz findet (d.h. verglichen mit den anderen Bewerbern auf dem Arbeitsmarkt nicht qualifiziert genug ist), dann sucht man sich einen Job auf dem eigenen Qualifikationsniveau. Leider sieht der deutsche Gewerkschafter das anders.

Abscheulich finde ich den Unsinn, den Karstadt und die SPD (und auch der CDU-Koch) sich gerade ausdenken. Diese Warenhäuser sind doch seit langem in der Krise — kein Wunder, wenn Otto Normalverbraucher heute seine Sachen im Internet bestellt. Und wie eine Galeria Kaufhof neben einem Karstadt und einem Hertie profitabel sein soll, das ist mir ein Rätsel. Eine Fusion erscheint da sinnvoll, ein staatliches Geldzuschießen um die einzelnen Unternehmen am Leben zu erhalten wohl kaum. Ach, und wenn die Fusion nicht klappt? Kein Problem. Bei einer Insolvenz von Kaufhof kann die Konkurrenz immer noch die rentablen Geschäftsteile übernehmen.

Ich befürchte leider, dass dies gerade der teuerste Wahlkampf der Bundesgeschichte wird — und dass diesmal die Ausgaben nicht aus den Parteikassen stammen, sondern aus dem Bundeshaushalt. Vielleicht wird es Zeit für ein Gesetz, das die Bundesregierung zwingt, bereits ein Jahr vor einer Bundestagswahl den Haushalt festzulegen. Verschiebungen zwischen Resorts sollten zulässig bleiben, aber ein Nachtragshaushalt im Wahljahr sollte illegal sein.

Auch wenn Herr Guttenberg mir sympatisch geworden ist (er ist leider nicht Standhaft genug um mit Friedrich Merz gleichzuziehen) schließe ich Stimmen für die CDU weiterhin aus. Die Grünen sind mir seit ihrem Parteitag auch wieder zu weit links (können sie sich nicht mal nur eine Umweltschutzpartei sein??), insofern sieht es bei mir z.Zt. wohl nach einer reinen FDP-Wahl aus.

EDIT: Ganz vergessen, ich wollte auch noch erwähnen, dass ich es Scheiße finde, dass die Bundesregierung den Bauern den Verzicht auf die Dieselbesteuerung versprochen hat. Wenn ein Landwirt nicht wirtschaftlich arbeiten kann, dann ist auch er im falschen Metier. Sinnvoll wäre hingegen eine europaweit einheitliche Besteuerung. Warum ist unser Steuersystem eigentlich noch zu großen Teilen Sache der Nationalstaaten und nicht Gemeinschaftsangelegenheit? Eine Idee für die Bauern: auf Milchkühe verzichten (sind unwirtschaftlich) und das Futter stattdessen zu Ethanol oder Biodiesel machen. Den schluckt auch der eigene Trecker.

Disabled persons in the USA? Don’t worry…

Posted in USA by Ulf on May 31, 2009

One thing I like about the United States is how they deal with handicapped persons. Oh wait, “mobility-challenged persons”, of course. Every bus has a ramp which helps people on wheelchairs getting on and off, and they usually get free rides. This system works in the US, and it’s widely used (I remember having seen the ramp at least three times in about 10 bus rides here in the US).

A few days ago I noticed that my local grocery store offers electric wheelchairs to make their place more accessible, even though I’ve never seen one of these “Smart Shoppers” in action:

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Sometimes I believe that this system is even misused a bit. There are for example wheelchair dealers who say that they will give away their wheelchairs for free in the case Medicaid (or was it Medicare?) denies its funding for the patient who requests one. Haha. Oh, lot’s of funny stories around on this topic.
The American Public Health care system really has the same problems as the German “Gesetzliche Krankenkasse”. Paying for a spa, for example. What a nonsense!

Some new videos on old topics

Posted in Europe by Ulf on May 30, 2009

Let’s start with the shortest one. Scytale’s blog told me about www.dubistterrorist.de, which offers the following video, along with a lot of documentation. It’s a nice summary of what our current SPD and CDU politicians do to us — with very arbitrary arguments.

On Christina’s blog I found this video about Zensursula’s attempts to introduce Internet censorship in Germany. A key message which I didn’t think about so far is that Internet censorship can be compared to hushing things up within the families of abused children — not helping them, not talking freely about it, not preventing child abusing. Internet censorship is like pushing things behind a barrier. It can still be done, it’s just less public. No help for the children. The 10 minute video comes from the NDR.

By the way: The petition has only been signed by little over 100.000 people. If you’re not yet among them, you only have two weeks left to make your choice!

And finally there is a 20-minute video which my sister made me aware of. It’s called “The Story of Stuff“. Although made for the American public, most of what she says directly applies to Europe, too.

A “German” toy … actually Bavarian.

Posted in Europe by Ulf on May 29, 2009

My Korean office mate Ji-Chul once got a present from his father. It is a German toy which sings some song. Ji-Chul showed me the toy to find out what it says. Here it is:

Juhu!
Spozal!
I mog di.
I hab di so gern.
Bussi
Holadaittijo …

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Wow, it took me quite some time to fully understand it. And actually I even had to ask a Bavarian friend of mine, Christine, about the second word. I always understood “Zottzel”, but that word didn’t make much sense for her. And she should know ;-). That’s why we’ve decided that the toy says “Spozal” (Liebling). The toy’s dress is called a “Lederhose”, and the song it sings in the end doesn’t have any text, it’s yodeling. All these words are so very unfamiliar to me …

Christine and I have decided that the Korean must have bought it on an Oktoberfest :D. Sounds like fun!
Thank you, Christine, for helping me with the translations!

Is ecofriendly traveling possible in the US? — Revisited!

Posted in Rapid City and Yellowstone by Ulf on May 28, 2009

A few weeks ago I told you about my my attempt to verify if eco-friendly traveling is possible in the United States. I’ve just returned from this trip, and I can give good news: Everything worked just fine!
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Since I didn’t use a plane I also got many new “green” states. I took a train from Delaware through Maryland to DC, then another one from DC through Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana to Chicago, Illinois, and a third train from Chicago to Osceola, Iowa. From then on I switched to buses. I visited relatives in Des Moines, Albert City and Storm Lake (all Iowa), spent a night in South Sioux City (say: “Soo City”), Nebraska and went through Sioux Falls (say: “Soo Falls”) to Rapid City, South Dakota. I went further west to Billings, Montana, where I started a discovery tour through America’s first National Park, the Yellowstone. I’ve seen both Wyoming and Idaho in that area.
On my way back from Billings, MT to Wilmington, DE I chose the cheapest bus ticket I could get, and that was about 2200 miles for $83. Awesome! And best of all: The bus went through Minneapolis, Minnesota and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Two new states! :-)

As you can see in my state overview, I’ve now seen more than 52 states in 8 months. Actually I’m counting 54 states in 7 months now! :-) :-) :-)

Every American needs a flag!

Posted in USA by Ulf on May 27, 2009

… and so do I.

I’ve sent a letter to Senator Tom Carper with a Flag Request, and it took only about a week to get one. If I had paid another $4.05 then they would have also flown my flag in front of the Capitol, but I was too cheap for this service.

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As you can see I asked them for the largest flag they have. That is 5′ x 8′ or roughly 2.5m x 1.5m. You can imagine that I didn’t think about the size before I ordered it. It might well be that my American Flag is now larger than my German flag… ;-).

Almost one month ago I also sent an email to John Kowalko, our Delaware State Representative from Newark. He didn’t answer so far, so I guess I won’t get a Delaware State flag. Maybe I should have just walked over, he lives just 0.2 miles away from where I am.

Various facts on railroads

Posted in Europe, USA by Ulf on May 26, 2009

All this comes from Wikipedia, so it’s not verified.

In the 1930s, the United States had 260,000 miles of railroad tracks. Today it’s about 100,000 miles. In Germany we have about 40,000 km rails today. The total length of the German tracks peaked around 1910 with almost 60,000 km, but Germany was a bit larger in those days…

In Japan about 27% of all passenger transportation (excluding metro) is done by train. It’s 15% in Switzerland, almost 8% in Germany and 0.3% in the United States. In fact the Swiss travel 2,120km per year and capita while the Germans do 910km and the Americans about 80km. Haha. However, the Americans transport 9,165 tons-kilometers per capita each year, while we only do 1,060 ton-kilometers per head.

The following map shows how the length of the railway system relates to the sizes of different countries:
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If you want to see a rather meaningless map, click here.

An empirical view on the swine flu

Posted in Newark by Ulf on May 25, 2009

Have I ever seen someone with the swine flu? No, of course not. Am I afraid of the swine flu? Haha. Does the swine flu have an impact on my life at all? — Yes, it does!

The first time I saw some real-life-impact of the swine flu at the University of Delaware was in our bathrooms and along the gangways. A bunch of anti-bacterial wet tissues have been distributed in our building.

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I was wondering if it is a good idea to touch those yellow boxes or not. I mean, everybody uses the normal (dry) tissue dispensers at the walls. Only those who are afraid of the swine flu will use the special tissues. If being afraid of the swine flu correlates to having symptoms, then there might be a quite a high bacterial concentration on those boxes… ;-).

As you can see, I didn’t really care about those countermeasures. However, there is one thing which bugged me. They had closed the Carpenter Sports Building for a few days. Args. The swine flu prevented me from doing sports two times!

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Luckily it’s open again. Too bad I’m in a no-sports mood now.

Edit: Andi sent me a link to the “Higher Education H1N1 Flu Map“. Yeah :-)

3x News

Posted in Europe, Rapid City and Yellowstone by Ulf on May 24, 2009

1. Wolfsburg won the German Soccer Championship! (Okay, that wasn’t too difficult since the last two matches were against Hanover and Bremen…)
2. Horst Köhler won the presidential election! (That wasn’t too difficult either since his opponents were a swan and an actor)
3. The Yellowstone National Park is awesome! But they don’t have Wifi inside the park, so I had to drive to the West Entrance to check the soccer and the election results. And guess what? About 10 miles west of the the Yellowstone National Park begins Idaho. I’ve visited that state according to the FIFO method (foot in, foot out):
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The next National Park in Utah: Canyonlands!

Posted in Las Vegas to El Paso by Ulf on May 23, 2009

After we left the Arches National Park we went to Canyonlands which is just a little bit further to the South. In the beginning there were still a few other cars on the road, but later on we were the only tourists for miles:

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At some point the road ended, so we parked our car and followed a little trail through the park. It was really interesting to see the how the landscape changed completely every few hundred meters. Have a look at the following pictures: Those places are about 500m away from each other, at most 1km. It only took us an hour because we had our lunch in between. And this time it wasn’t even my camera which changed the colors ;-).
If you’re not impressed, then keep in mind that we drove about 100km of everything-looks-the-same-landscape to get here!

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Please have a look at the picture in the lower left-hand side corner above. You’ll notice some needles along the horizon. The part of the National Park that we were in was called “The Needles”. But those needles are only one of the attractions which Canyonlands offers. In fact, Canyonlands is a mixture of different National Parks which are divided by the Green river and the Colorado river, so we’ve only seen a tiny fraction of the whole thing. But we saw this:

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After we left Canyonlands we realized that we were already pretty late on our way to Cortez, so we decided to take the shortest possible route. This route lead us over a mountain which was about 7000ft high. Not a real problem for us since the place where we took the pictures above already had an elevation of 5000ft. Right? Wrong. We took our summer tires directly into an area with full snow coverage, about 20cm deep… (this is the point where we turned around; one other car had turned around about 15ft further along the road, so that’s why you see the tracks on the road).

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With this little detour we enjoyed sunset on the road, heavily discussing if the truck in front of us would carry aircraft tanks or boat pontoons. When we came closer we decided that those were the aircraft thingies:

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