52 States in 8 Months

Homecoming Announcement

Posted in Europe, USA by Ulf on June 24, 2009

British_AirwaysMy time in the United States is almost over. I’ll arrive in Germany around noon today, then I’ll spend a few days in Lower Saxony. Starting July 1st, I’ll attend the University of Stuttgart again…

Last year in November Pingu asked me how long I would manage to publish a blog post every day, and when my rhythm would break down. Pingu, here is your answer: from now on, there will only be irregular updates to this blog. Although there a lot of this that I have to tell you about. I have to tell you about our flight over the Grand Canyon, about our hike down into the Canyon, tell you some more stories about what we did in Las Vegas. I rarely mentioned the trip which I did with my cousin; we’ve been to New York again, we’ve been to Maine and to Boston. In Boston I bought my own copy of the GPL license in the office of the Free Software Foundation, which I’m a member of right now. And of course we’ve played “Boston Tea Party“, throwing some tea into the Atlantic at the very place where some others had already done that in 1773. Then there was my trip to the Northwest: I stopped in Chicago to see the Cloud Gate, I visited some relatives in Iowa (I have never met people before who were so proud of being German — especially not in the center of the United States!), I was invited to the house of someone who lives on a golf course, I saw the Mount Rushmore and I had my finger on the launch button of a Minuteman II ICBM, I visited the Badlands, and of course the Yellowstone National Park (which is the first national park — every Delawarean has to go there *g*). I attended the American Control Conference in St. Louis and gave a talk, so I now have my first scientific publication. I visited some more relatives in Columbus, Ohio. That’s where they have the (replica) of the Santa Maria, which Columbus used to come … well, not to the United States, but that doesn’t matter ;-). And I have to tell you about a lot of trips to DC. I’ve been to almost all museums (they have a lot of them in DC!!), I was in the Capitol, in the Library of Congress, in the Bureau of Printing and Engraving (one of two places in the world where Dollar bills are legally made), I saw a spaceship called Enterprise and I visited the National Archives and had a look at the Strategic Bombing Survey files from World War II. That basically means that I read a couple of discussions why some places in Germany and France should be bombed, and how they looked before and after the attacks. There are so many things I could tell you about… I hope I’ll find the time to write about them all before I forget all these stories! Oh, there are also some trip in this area that I can tell you about. There was this list which mentioned the zip code areas with the highest income in the United States. You’ll find names such as Montchanin, Rockland, Yorklyn, and Greenville. All Delaware. All within bicycle-distance from Newark :-).

But before I tell you about all that, I’ll come back to Germany. Looking forward to seeing all of you!

Zensurula: What to do next?

Posted in Europe by Ulf on June 19, 2009

I just read a nice article from someone reflecting about the recent events regarding the Internetzensurgesetz:
Vielen Dank Ursula v.d. Leyen (ernst gemeint)!” — it’s pretty nice :-).

My question is: What to do next? I believe it would be worthwhile to get the list of blocked websites. So if anyone runs into one of those “STOP” signs, give me the link please, I’m curious!

Internet censorship revisited

Posted in Europe by Ulf on June 9, 2009

wiefelspuetz-artikel-210Any news about Internet censorship in Germany? Indeed! The SPD proposes to use the filters not only against child porn but also against terrorism, crime and some religions. Basically, this law becomes not only an attack against privacy, but also against freedom of speech. Oh, did I say SPD? The CDU says that only child porn should be blocked at this point because they’re afraid of the public outcry. But you can read about this yourself.

Meanwhile the Arbeitskreis gegen Internetsperren und Zensur tried to find out if deleting child porn could be an option. They have interesting results — both on how fast the providers react, and on what you actually find on block lists from foreign countries.

Vote, voter, votar, eleggere, 选举, geh wählen!

Posted in Europe by Ulf on June 7, 2009

Our government is so out of fashion

Posted in Europe, USA by Ulf on June 6, 2009

usa-flag-photojpgA few days ago I’ve once again received an e-mail from the White House. The first time they sent me a mail it came directly from Barack Obama. That e-mail was about the American health care system (“Health care news worth sharing“). This time it was by some guy from his staff, David Axelrod. It was an address to the American people which asked them to watch the speech that Obama gave in Cairo (“A New Beginning — Watch the President’s Speech“). The White House has put it on YouTube. There are some remarkable things which I want to point out. It’s not about the content of Obama’s talk (it’s a very friendly and critical talk about living together peacefully). It’s more about Obama’s open attitude.

  • he publishes his speeches on YouTube. He is on Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Twitter, …
  • he sends emails to the people in his country
  • and whenever he says something, I have got the feeling that he is honest. Listening to both opinions, and choosing the better one. He shows that he is a smart guy.
  • So… now comes something interesting: I understand every word which Obama uses. This is really remarkable since I don’t even understand everything what the German politicians say!

Oh, have I mentioned Germany?
CB013125Yes, Angela Merkel also has a podcast on www.bundeskanzlerin.de. But you know what? It sounds very much like any political talk. I just wished she would be a bit more honest. She says that she was invited by the “Initiative neue soziale Marktwirtschaft”. If she was honest then she would explain that this an industry organization. She talks about the economic stimulus packages, but she doesn’t mention the resulting government debts. Has any politician in the current campaigns in Germany explained how we want to pay all the money back that we’ve just invested into our economy? Merkel says what the government wants to do, but she doesn’t mention what the government cannot do. It sounds like an election campaign talk. And worst of all: Her podcasts come in weekly rythm. Why not whenever she has something to say?

And how open is the German government? Look at the election of the president a few weeks ago: Julia Kloeckner (MdB, CDU) and Ulrich Kelber (MdB, SPD) have published the election results on Twitter. I believe that this is a good thing: “#Bundesversammlung Leute, Ihr könnt in Ruhe Fußball gucke. Wahlgang hat geklappt!
Imagine what our representatives in the parliament think about this? Kloeckner had to resign from her appointment as a parliamentary secretary… Args!
If you have no idea what Twitter is, please read what Julia Kloeckner is doing right now. Suddenly our representatives are much closer to us, aren’t they?

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.

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:

I mog di.
I hab di so gern.
Holadaittijo …


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!

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:

If you want to see a rather meaningless map, click here.

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):