Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Actually it has taken quite a while until Halloween 'arrived' in Germany. I don't mean until it was the 31st of October, naturally, but until people started celebrating Halloween like it's done in the United States.


Classically, we Germans wear costumes on what we call "Fasching". This is celebrated about 40 days before Eastern, usually around the middle of February. Originally "Fasching" (also called "Fasnacht" and various other names) was the last time people could really dig in before the feast leading to Eastern began. As this time also roughly is the end of winter and people always liked to 'drive the winter out,' "Fasching" was celebrated originally by putting on some horrible disguise and scare the demons of winter into leaving.

During the time, in certain areas of Germany (including the one I live in) people started celebrating by putting on less horrible and more amusing disguises and drinking a lot of alcohol - before the church would forbid it.


Now we fast forward to the end of the Nineties. As so many other things from the English-speaking countries, Halloween came to Germany for the first time. In pubs found in various German town there was a Halloween party. Some people started renting out old castle ruins and the like to celebrate there, dressing up as monsters and scaring people just passing by. Slowly the shops caught on, selling suitable costumes in the weeks before the 31st. And, as the 1st of November is a holiday everywhere in Germany, people took to it quickly. They could celebrate all they liked, as they would always have the chance of sleeping in the next day and nursing their hangover.

Finally, the children got the hang of it, too, and there are even some walking around and playing "trick or treat" on the 31st, even though it's not a major thing (especially as they get the chance to walk around the neighbourhood with a hand-made lantern on the 11th of November anyway).


I personally, liking everything spooky, the colour orange and the October (because I was born in October, too, see "Happy Birthday for me"), love Halloween - for the many scary movies and reruns of "The Simpson" Halloween specials on TV.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Harry Potter Weekend

This weekend, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" was released in German. Not very interesting for me (although, today, I've finally managed to put my English edition in my bookcase - don't ask!), as I've gotten the novel ages ago when it came out in English.


Of course, a lot of books were sold this weekend, that's just to be expected. And, of course, all online-magazines I read did an article about it. One even managed to talk about fan fiction. But, as quite often, they didn't seem to get it - fan fiction isn't restricted to "Harry Potter" and isn't starting now, because people don't like the end of the novel. Such stories have been around for ages - and not just for "Harry Potter" either. I've been doing some of it, actually (and I'm still working on my "Harry Potter" dystopia without Harry Potter).

The fifth movie is still running in my hometown, too (although this week will be the last, or so they claim).


And, even before the kids have finished the latest and last novel, there's already people worrying: Will children continue to read books after "Harry Potter?" To me, that's pretty much like asking "Will air continue to be the favoured breathing medium for mankind?" There's never been a generation in which all children were avid readers. Not when I was a kid, not when my father was a kid, not when his father (whoever he may have been) was a kid. But there have always been readers, too - like me, for example. (I need more bookshelves...)

Admittedly, "Harry Potter" has made reading more popular - and not just for kids, there's been a lot of adults who started reading again, too. That's a good thing and one more reason not to damn the novels. But what is even more important, from my point of view, at least, is that the novels have attracted such a wide variety of readers. Nominally, the novels were for kids, but a lot of adults read them with just as much fun.

During that time I've stumbled across at least two more series of novels I'd advise people of all ages to read as well: "Artemis Fowl" and "Skulduggery Pleasant." I'd also recommend "Half Moon Investigations" by Eoin Colfer (who has written "Artemis Fowl" as well - and added to my inspirations, see to the right of this blog).


I personally think, the main reason "Harry Potter" was so successful was the fact that it was one novel in a long time dealing with fantasy, magic and fairy tales - and that not in an old-fashioned way. Before this, most children's novels (and those for teenagers) seemed to be based solely on reality, history or other non-fantasy areas. Maybe people thought the children needed to learn about reality, forgetting that "you can't build with your hands what you haven't seen with your mind" (quote courtesy to "Tail Spin") - in other words: without fantasy no imagination and without imagination no innovation.

With the success of "Harry Potter" other novels of that type were once again published in Germany, giving children access to a wider range of different fantastic worlds. And that's a good thing.


So stop worrying about children not reading anything else after "Harry Potter" - better spent some time showing them there's other good books to read!

News from my plants

As I've written before, I'm playing "Plant Tycoon" regularly - right while I'm writing this, actually. It's the ideal game to run while doing something else, because it usually takes about 50 minutes to raise a plant.


I've already gotten the best soil, the best water and the best pruning shears. I've also bought all the stuff for my nursery, except for the fountain. I'm currently saving for it, but it will take some time (it costs 4,500$ and I'm making an average of about 40$ per plant). I also spent 2,000$ on an extinct seed lately, but I'll get that back from the plants I can now create with it. I've gotten a little over 50 known plants now (and had to go down to keeping one seed per plant, instead of two - problems with the space, even though I've gotten all three seed boxes by now).


When I want to make money quickly I choose and pollinate expensive plants and then sell 15 of those (15 is the maximum of plants I can grow at the same time) that brings up the money quickly - as the most expensive plants I've got at the moment sells for well over 80$ each. Do this a couple of times and even the nice fountain is inside reach...


Well, we shall see, because an interesting seed is worth more to me than the fountain. I've got loads of visitors every time I open the nursery anyway.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Princess on a bad hair day

Screenshot taken from "Shrek the Third"


Yes, even a princess like Snow White can have a bad hair day. Or a week. Or a month.

For those of you not familiar with the movie "Shrek the Third," from which this picture was taken, in the movie the fairy tale princesses decide - after being betrayed by one of their own (Rapunzel) - to take matters in their own hands for once. Instead of waiting and being rescued, they go forth and rescue themselves.


Snow White - at least in the movie and in this scene - has the ability to attract and control animals. She starts singing like you would expect it from a Disney movie (I'm not sure, but the song could even be the one from "Snow White," sounds a bit like it). While she is singing and dancing, birds and various other normally harmless animals come to her. Then - and the picture is taken from the exact moment when the situation changes - she suddenly stops and screams out some kind of battle cry, sending the animals towards two evil, cursed trees (looking like the Ents from "Lord of the Rings"). The trees don't stand a chance against the animals.

Then there's Lillian, just widowed and mother of Shrek's wife Fiona. She puts a hole in two stone walls with nothing more than her head. That's one head-strong woman.

Cinderella sharpens her glass slipper and uses it like a boomerang - and even Sleeping Beauty, who has narcoleptic attacks, manages to have them the right time to make the guards fall over her sleeping body.

In addition the group also contains Fiona herself - who keeps at the back a bit, but then, she's pregnant at that time - and one of the two ugly step-sisters, Doris, who surely knows where to hit really hard.


Now I wonder ... is this what the princesses would be like, provided they were feminists? In that case you'd have to pity the villainesses pitted against them.

Friday, October 26, 2007

If life were a RPG

... what kind of creature would I be? This is not a quiz or the result of one, it's just an interesting question that has been nesting in my head for quite a while.


As I'm currently playing "Neverwinter Nights" (again), I've been going through the character generation process once more. I usually play a human fighter (as I like close-combat fighting and humans aren't complicated in role playing). But what I play isn't necessarily how I am, therefore I have been wondering quite a bit. D&D alone (that's "Dungeons & Dragons" for those of you who are not familiar with role playing games) has a host of different character classes. There's humans, elves, dwarfs, gnomes, Halflings, orcs and all the mixtures in-between them. Then there's certain sub-classes among most of them.


If I could decide freely, I'd probably be either a Drow (that's a dark elf) or a half-Drow (half human, half Drow). It's not that I want pointed ears or white hair (I'll get that soon enough, the hair, I mean), but the whole class fascinates me. Yes, they're dark and you could consider them evil - and I usually end up as the good guy when I do one of those quizzes. But they're also interesting - more interesting than 'regular' elves. And I think being a Drow who does good deeds would be quite challenging, with all the upbringing and so on.

The other thing I could find interesting, would be a Planetouched (angels or demons can exist in other planes in the D&D universe), either touched by a celestial (that's D&D angels) or infernal (that's D&D demons, who would have thought). But, on the whole, I'd like to keep my parents on the same plane with me.


I usually choose 'chaotic good' as my moral orientation. I'm doing good things, but not by the law, so I'm not 'rightfully good' and I can't really cope with being 'neutrally good' - what's that, really?


So I'd probably be a chaotic good female Drow ... sound's interesting, really.

Culture vs. Entertainment

Well, I guess I could declare this topic my third crusade, but in my opinion, two of them are enough at the moment. (And I'm still regrouping and waiting for the enemy to make the next move.)


I've found a rather strange look on the value of "entertainment" and "culture" quite often in my home country. It seems as if you can either enjoy culture or be entertained. Strange, isn't it?

Now, I'm a fan of Shakespeare - and like actually reading stage plays - and I feel very entertained while reading "Macbeth" or "A Midsummer Night's Dream" or other plays he's written. I feel the same when reading, for example, Goethe's "Faust," despite the fact that it's considered a "classic" and thus should not entertain me.

But it seems as if people who have a higher education can't enjoy a simple movie (and Germany has shown some ability in producing comedies lately) without feeling guilty - well, on the whole, as I don't and I've been to university, too. "Entertainment," no matter whether it's a novel, a movie or something else, is very bad for you, at least if you want to be a cultured adult. And don't even dare to read a comic or manga (unless the comic comes from France or Belgium).


Why is that so? Why do so many people in Germany still think that "culture" and "entertainment" are different things? "Culture" encompasses many things, including entertaining novels, movies and so on. Everything we create is "culture," no matter whether we like it or not. I, for example, don't like the hyper-modern approach directors these days take to the classics of theatre. But that doesn't mean I don't consider this culture, too. It's just not my kind of culture. And if someone tells me comics aren't their kind of culture, that's okay, too. But saying it's no culture at all, goes a little too far.


Where does "entertainment" stop and "culture" start? Is Shakespeare or "Faust" "entertainment" in my case, because I enjoy reading it? Is "Gone with the wind" "culture" simply because I can't get through the first ten minutes without falling into deep sleep? Are fairy tales "culture?" What about movies toying with them (like "Shrek" or the versions a TV-station in Germany has produced and aired recently)?


Honestly, I don't think I'm qualified to really separate one from the other - nobody is, really.

Weekend update

Okay, so this is this weekend's update.


DVD this weekend: "Shrek the Third" and the last four "Sherlock Holmes"-movies with Basil Rathbone which I've finally gotten.

Book of the weekend: Currently none, but that could still change.

Logic not required

... for a job as a politician, it seems. At least one of the new feats of politics in Germany suggests this.


I have more than once written about the rather blue-eyed idea of everyone in Germany working longer than they do now, at least two years, preferably more. This will be necessary, the politician always argued, because the experience and working power of the older people was necessary. Currently the age at which most people stop working is theoretically around 65 and realistically around 63. The new age will be 67, theoretically.

And what is the government doing these days? Starting with the first of January next year, everybody who's at least 60 and unemployed is going to be forced to stop working early - meaning they will not get their full pensions.

I don't know about you, but it doesn't sound very logical to me.


This is just the latest lapse of logic I've seen or heard from our government. They've been putting up reforms by the cartload during the first weeks and months of being in control, but almost none of them were successful or well-planned. It seemed pretty much as if they just wanted to put out reforms so they could later claim "we tried, but to no avail." What kind of politics is that? And what kind of person do you need to make political decisions like those?


And then I heard about another rather illogical thing. A party that has not been on any polls lately - and is getting next to no votes - can still get money from the government for virtually nothing. Makes me rethink the whole "Gamer's Party"-issue. Imagine: I'd open up my own party, I'd appear on the polls of my hometown and maybe I'd even make it to the state I live in, then I can claim money from the government until I get my own pensions. At least, I'm stubborn and vocal enough for the job.


"Earn loads of money, logical mind or intelligence not required" would make a nice job offer for politicians, at least from what they show to the public. And those people are supposed to be the elite of Germany. The horrors! The pure, mind-bending horrors of it!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Are active women ugly?

While I was browsing the blog of "The F-Word", I stumbled over what seems to be an American voting poster. It showed all the female Republicans looking very good - obviously the pictures were taken from promotion photographs or suchlike - and all the female Democrats looking very ugly (or at least not very attractive) - as those pictures obviously had taken from speeches and other situation in which the women were moving and not always showing their best side.


My first question after looking at the poster was "what the hell does the look of a woman have to do with how good or bad she is as a politician?" I mean, if this were important, our own Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel would not be in office either. She's efficient and a good politician, but attractive?

My second question was "which nitwit is voting for a female politician just because she's good-looking?" But then, I probably overestimated men when it comes to that. On the other hand, which full-blooded Republican voter will vote for a woman, anyway?


But back to the more important question. What the hell does the look of a woman have to do with how good or bad she is as a politician?

Politicians aren't very attractive as a rule, they tend to be quite old already and usually have spent a lot of their life doing all those things they're absolutely set against now. I guess you could do the same poster with promotion photographs of female Democrats and active female Republicans. And you could do the same poster with male politicians of both parties. There's enough footage on any given politician from the United States (or other first world countries) around to take such unflattering pictures from.


The blog post rightfully points out that the 'attractive' Republicans all looked very passive while the 'ugly' Democrats were all obviously actively taking part in speeches, discussions and suchlike. Therefore one more underlying message was "only a passive woman can look good." That probably was not what the poster was about, but I have to admit that it's a valid interpretation.


Beautiful women are depicted as passive quite often by the media. Beauty Queens present themselves, but although they walk and talk, they are not taking a very active role in the contest. They present themselves (just as pictures would) and the judged decide about "who's the fairest of them all."

Which brings me to another area in which beautiful women normally are passive: fairy tales. Honestly, what does the princess do during such a story? She get threatened (quite often by an evil, ugly, but also active woman) and then waits for the prince to save her. There's other stories, of course, with rather active women (thought most of them aren't noblewomen), but those are far less known today (as I pointed out before).

In the minds of most girls, the perfect fairy tale princess is beautiful and just waits for her Prince Charming to drop by and rescue her.


But why this idea? Sure, just sitting and getting a photograph taken is a lot less damaging for your looks or hairdo than really delivering a speech with all your heart. And why just women? A male politician can easily be shown like that without being considered 'ugly' or not worthy our vote. In fact, the more active a male politician seems, the better his chances to get elected, normally.

It seems as if we've still got a long way to go.


But what do people want from a politician? Sitting somewhere and being pretty or really doing something for society and fighting for their conviction? I'd personally prefer the latter.

Loosing a connection

It seems, as a post of Teacher Lady has shown me yesterday, as if I'm loosing a friend at the moment. Well, I can't say it hurts all that much - I've already accepted it subconsciously.


Heike and I have not had contact in any way (phone call, letter, e-mail or SMS) for quite a while now. I know she's got a lot to do - as have I -, but that does not explain why there hasn't even been a single SMS from her. I have held some contact by SMS for a short while, but I've been growing tired of it by now.

In addition, we've had two arguments this year alone, one direct and one over phone and SMS (and one last year when she misunderstood me and immediately thought the worst of me).


I'm slowly realizing that she has a very different idea of friendship than I have. Heike seems to think - as I can only guess from her actions and words and not look into her mind - that friends, especially best friends, should be very much alike, not argue and always understand each other perfectly. I doubt that is the way it would be with the two of us.

We are alike in some ways, but very, very different in many others. I cherish that, because I see diversity as a good thing. And I don't think arguments that stem from having different approaches on some things should be ignored or smoothed over. Sometimes you have to have an argument, sometimes you have to discuss things. That's nothing against the friendship as a such, it's just how it works between humans. How can we get to really understand each other's thoughts and ideas without talking about them and arguing sometimes? And I doubt she really understands me - or I do understand her. She, I think, can't understand my interest in computers and technical things and I can't understand why she's so set on getting me into a relationship while I'm perfectly fine without one. She's very religious, too, and I'm what you'd call an agnostic. I believe in some higher being, but not in a special religious way. Technically I'm Christian, but I don't see myself that way while she has become very religious herself.


Take our two arguments this year:

Even after all this time she has not understood that instead of doing it discreetly, I respond better to people talking to me directly. So, instead of showing me a newspaper clip (from a newspaper I can't stand, anyway) of a woman who has lost weight very quickly (giving me the impression as if she wanted to say "if that woman could do it, why can't you, too?"), she should just have asked me if I still went through with my diet and was doing the best I could to loose weight. So I felt attacked, she felt I was attacking her and we were arguing - when we could have talked about it far more easily, had she taken the direct route.

And then the second time. I had a short job for three months and, of course, I'm always taking my cell to work, just in case of emergency. My parents know and accept that - and apart from them, only very few people do have the number of my cell phone. Heike, of course, is one of them. So all in a sudden, in the middle of the day, the phone was ringing. I was worried, of course. She was calling me and sounded neither distraught nor sad, but rather happy and giddy. She wanted to talk to me immediately - although I was in the middle of working and it didn't seem too pressing to me. Had she, while I was telling her "I'm working right now," just once said something like "it's urgent," I would have walked out of the office immediately and talked to her, not matter what troubles I would have gotten for it. But she didn't and later on played dead and just sent me an SMS about how well she knew now how reliable I was. It set my teeth on edge and it took quite some time before she was talking to me again. Of course, it probably had appeared differently to her, but then, after twenty or so years of friendship, she should have known me well enough to know what I'd be doing in such a case - or how to ensure me we had to talk immediately.


We've had a ten-year-break in our friendship before, while she was neither talking or writing to me nor I to her, but it was not really initiated by one of us. Her relatives, as I know now, had just sent my letters back and I was wondering why she'd never told me she'd moved out. She then initiated contact again 2003 over my parents - as she still had their phone number and I had no idea how to reach her - and we went back to writing, phoning, sending forward SMS and, later on, e-mail and also some visits.


Maybe it's just a short break coming and she'll be contacting me soon enough, maybe it will be another ten years or even forever. I don't know and, although I care for her a lot, I don't really care about it right now. It will happen as it does. (And I know she has the address of this blog and could read it.)

Everlight

Some time ago I published three posts about "Simon the Sorcerer 4." Now I'm playing the next adventure by the same game company: "Everlight."


"Everlight" tells the story of Melvin, a dreamer who happens to walk into a candle shop one day during a heavy rain. There he learns that he's actually got some magical abilities and could learn how to use them by passing five trials in a fantasy world. Melvin agrees and is sent to the town of Tallen, a nice fairy-tale-like township with a host of rather shrewd characters. The town suffers from a curse which turns all the adults into their opposites during the night. Among the things Melvin needs to do to pass his tests is getting rid of the curse.


The whole story of the adventure isn't exactly new or very imaginative, but well told. (And if you feel reminded of "Harry Potter" a bit, it's no wonder, Melvin and Harry even share the same German voice. But most of the story is very different.) The humour is a bit rough sometimes, but on the whole very good (it's basically the same as in "Simon the Sorcerer 4"). Especially Melvin's discussions with the fairy Fenny (who is his spiritual guide throughout the trials) are extremely funny, because the fairy is anything but nice or friendly. And the whole day/night business adds to the story as well.

The graphics suffer a bit when it comes to showing characters up close. Although that's not really a problem these days, there's not much of a movement in the faces. Apart from that everything looks quite nice though.


"Everlight" surely is not the most inventive new adventure, but in a time when only very few good adventures are produced anyway, one can't be too choosy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ruling the world

No, I'm not going to tell you about my plan of world domination here - that plan is kept secret and I would have to kill you after you've read this post otherwise. But there's perfectly legal ways of ruling the world - provided you keep to a virtual world, made up of bits and bytes. "Civilisation" has always been a way to do it.


I do have to admit that I never played the first "Civilisation" game. The second one - the CD-version - was the first of the series I bought. Number three (actually, there's various number threes, because the name lay with the company and not the inventor) wasn't as good as number two (which still runs, even on modern computers). For quite some time - and with two add-ons - number four has been out now.

The moment I was through the tutorial, the old "Civilisation"-fever was back. To me, "Civilisation" is one of the few games with a "just another five minutes"-factor. Like "The Settlers", "The Sims" or some other games of the "Sim"-series, it's a game where it's hard to stop playing. There's always something happening, you're always waiting for something to be finished, for a new unit to be produced - or a new building to be ready.


"Civilisation" is especially addictive, I think, if you're interested in history, because it encompasses the whole history of mankind, from early humans to the future when you'll be sending star ships to colonize Alpha Centauri (which is another game by the same publisher). There's a lot of different civilisations you can play, there's a lot of different ways to win. And, as it is round-based and not real-time, it's relaxing to play.

I like real-time strategy, but the complexity of "Civilisation" would make it impossible to win, were it real-time and not round-based. There's so much to do, so many cities to manage, so many units to steer. (I won't say real-time strategy games aren't complex, but they're not that complex.)


So the moment I installed "Civilisation IV Complete" (the main program plus the add-ons), I was caught again. And I like it, because where else do you get the chance to rule the world and steer the development of mankind?

What about my crusades?

Currently there isn't much moving with either of my crusades. "Size 00" still exists, but there haven't been any special things happening. And, of course, the politicians still debate about "Killerspiele," but with no lasting success.


That doesn't mean I have forgotten about them. But there's no point in writing long posts about them as long as nothing moves.

But nevertheless here's a short update on both topics:


"Killerspiele" are not the major issue at the moment, but the politicians still have no idea what they are talking about, that much is obvious. There has been a discussion as to whether or not put more games into the category of "18+," but that's rather stupid: most games they are talking about are already "18+." The problem is not how the games are categorized, the problem is whether or not the games are only sold to people of the right age.

Just as with alcohol or cigarettes, vendors usually do not ask for the age of the person buying computer games. That's not a problem when it comes to "6+" or "12+" games. But there's games "16+" and "18+," games that should not be sold to people beneath those ages.

Currently, there's actually a huge discussion about the government sending in children to buy alcohol - to check whether the vendors actually sell alcohol to people beneath 18 (which is the new limit for buying any alcohol in Germany). But where was that discussion when TV-stations sent out children to buy computer games - to show how easy a child could get "Killerspiele?" It's one thing when the government lets children buy alcohol (which, of course, they don't get to keep, but is taken from them immediately). It's another thing when a company that's at least nominally not part of the government does the same thing with computer games (as they only do it for a documentary or a report). Not to the media, obviously. Maybe the editors and reporters always sent out their own children to buy them alcohol and don't want that to stop... But I can't prove that, so it's just a theory.


"Size 0" and "Size 00" still exist, too. And there's still loads of women out there who either really thin down to wear those sizes or at least try everything to make it. I personally rather find it scaring, to be honest.

It's one thing to go for a healthy weight, to keep in shape and do sports moderately in order to keep fit. But thinning down to a weight normally associated with girl much younger, hardly eating anything and looking like a refugee from a third world country, that's not what I would call healthy.

And as long as there's still women's magazines (though I can hardly understand what's so great about them...) out there who show a thin model on the cover - and a diet to reach the same weight the model has on page 3 -, women will still try everything possible and impossible to reach that weight. Because, ultimately, those magazines suggest that "all will be perfect" the moment you reach that weight and can wear those clothes (provided you can afford them). You'll find the perfect guy, get the perfect job and live happily ever after. At least it was much easier for the princess once upon a time: the prince was doing all the work, after all. And she didn't have to be that thin either.


So you see, I'm still following my crusades, but there's an armistice right now, so I'll regroup and wait for the next battle.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Happy Anniversary

This it is, the post to my first anniversary as a blogger. Precisely one year ago I started blogging, inspired by a now-defunct blog called, if I remember it right, "Diary of Barbie's worst enemy." This blog introduced me to two things: the wonderful world of blogging and "The F-Word", one of the best feminist web-sites I've found so far.


Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting into. I just wanted to try it out and thought - as it didn't cost anything - it would be fun for a while. I expected to stop writing my blog after a couple of weeks or months. It didn't happen.

In the beginning I wanted a 'serious' blog, only filled with stuff about politics, society and stuff like that. Nothing personal, nothing funny, nothing that was not 'serious.' The change came with my "no bitching between Christmas and New Year"-solution. As I had decided not to write anything scathing between the 24th of December and the first of January, I started answering challenges from other blogs - like "Sex Ed in Higher Ed", which unfortunately isn't updated much these days - and writing more personal and less serious stuff. Around New Year I also got my connection to Sitemeter - and ever since then I've been getting my weekly statistics, telling me that somebody out there actually reads my ranting. After New Year, I decided that the seriousness of my ideas would not be destroyed by some fun every now and then - like a post with a little game in it or with the results of a test I did. I still think I'm right.

By now, I think, I've found a good combination of serious issues (mostly politics, feminism, society, "Killerspiele" and "Size 0") and far less serious ones - including even some personal things (a lot of them, judging from the number of "about me"-labels on the left of this blog).


What to expect from the next year? I have no idea. I had no idea last year - at least none that was right.

And another quiz

I went forward and did it again ... and I can't even stand western. But - judging from the 'superhero-test' I did some time ago - I'm fated to bring law wherever I go.


>

What kind of (Deadwood) Cocksucker are you?
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as Seth Bullock

You didn't want to be sheriff, but someone had to do it. You wish you didn't have such a high moral compass, because you just want to sit in the background. However, in this town someone needs to step up, and if no one else will, that only leaves you. If evil only needs the good to do nothing, you won't watch from the sidelines. (Seth Bullock is played by Timothy Olyphant)

Seth Bullock



56%

Doc Cochran



56%

Alma Garret



44%

Mr Wu



44%

Calamity Jane



31%

Trixie



31%

Al Swearengen



25%

Cy Tolliver



13%

E. B. Farnum



13%

Joanie Stubbs



6%

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Weekend update

Okay, so it's weekend again. Time for an update.


This weekend I'm going to write something about one year of blogging - as my first anniversary is coming up next week.


On this weekend's booklist: "Skulduggery Pleasant."

In my DVD-drive: "The future is wild."

(Yesterday I watched "Hot Fuzz" and I nearly laughed my head of. Great story, great characters and hilarious gags. Definitely my kind of movie.)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Reading the human mind

This post made me think about the reasons for sadistic or masochistic interests (as one hardly works without the other). Warning: I'm not a psychologist, so I have not studied psychology and am purely acting on my practical knowledge of the human mind.


The basic question for most people seems to be: why would somebody want to injure someone else (and, even more pressing a question, why would somebody want to be injured by someone else)?

The basic question for me is: why should they not?

I might be a bit biased on this, as I was mobbed in school and thus have seen the sadism that resides within teenagers, but as far as I see it, both sadism and masochism - in a weak form - are embedded in the human nature. But why am I thinking this?


Both the will to lead and to be led are part of human nature, too. If we didn't have the will to lead, there wouldn't be anybody around who could tell others what to do. If we didn't have the will to be led, nobody would listen to the leader. (And what about SM? We'll come back to that later, don't worry.)

Now, "leading" means taking control of a situation. That's what a sadist does: taking over complete control, including the control over the well-being, possible pain and even possible death of others.

And "being led" is nothing else than giving over control of a situation to someone else. That's what a masochist does - and that's why there has to be a lot of trust between sadist and masochist in such a relationship. (If you don't understand that statement, try to combine this paragraph and the one above.)


Humans like being in control - well, most of them. It makes us feel powerful and important to be asked for guidance - or even orders - by others. It makes us feel good. Having control equals having power over others. That's the sadist-part in us, I should say. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean we all would like to really hurt someone. But the idea alone of being able to ... it's interesting and a little tempting.

But on the other hand, always being in control is also very tiring. People depend on you, they do not act or work without you supervising them. In business life, the working life - and thus security - of hundreds or thousands of people might depend on the decisions of one person. That is a heavy burden to shoulder. Giving over the control of your life to somebody else, can be very relieving, therefore.


For somebody who has been controlled by others - even mistreated or even abused by a person more powerful, being in control must be a great thing. It will make them more secure in a relationship to be the one in control, instead of being under control. That, I think, is why people with such a past tend towards being sadists. There might also be some revenge mixed in.

And somebody who thinks they've made great mistakes in their past, might see a masochistic position (including pain and humiliation) as some sort of atonement. But that's just a theory I have come up with.


Especially reading Bitchy Jones' blog has helped a lot with those insights, apart from my own looks into the darkness of the human soul (my own and that of others).


On the whole, I wonder more about people wondering about sexual or other preferences than over the preferences themselves. As long as it's consent between both partners, I don't see anything pathological or otherwise wrong with something two adults to with - and to - each other.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Happy Birthday To Me!


Yes, today it's my 33rd birthday - meaning I was inflicted on this world 33 years ago.


I've no big plans for today - I haven't been celebrating my birthday for a long time, not the 'real way' with party and so on. I'm celebrating with my parents a little bit, otherwise it's just a normal day and that's okay for me.


As usual, ever since I stopped wanting to throw parties outdoors, the weather is nice, some dark clouds, but also a lot of sun. Figures...


So, just once more: Happy Birthday To Me!

I'm worried

The day before yesterday I watched a documentary on fundamental Christians in the United States. And what I saw, really, really worried me.


Maybe it's just because I'm German and know quite a lot about the Third Reich and it's leaders. Maybe it's just because I'm not really a firm believer myself (but I just wrote about that topic). But seeing children being used for "Christianity", for the goals of adults who either are slightly deranged themselves or have an ulterior motif they've not shown this far, makes me sick. I'm not a children's person at all, normally I don't care too much about children. But seeing them used, seeing their minds being crippled by adults who should know better, who should learn what the world tolerance means, really gets me angry and sick.

Creationists, anti-abortionists, people who want to wage war on those who do not believe the "right thing," all those people make me sick anyway. But seeing them influence children, before they are old enough to really understand about it, that makes me more than sick, that makes me angry.


That suddenly makes me grateful for the fact that children have to go to a proper school in Germany, that mothers are not allowed to teach their children at home, just because they think the 'average' education is wrong. They may find a private school for their children which is religiously based - but even they are controlled.

Children will, at least until puberty, believe what they are told. They will believe all non-Christian people are bad. They will believe the world was created in six days - plus one day of recess. And for many of them, it will take a lot more years - until they themselves get into a conflict with the strict and intolerant belief of their fundamental religion - before they see that the world isn't that easy in structure. That black and white are not the only colours, that people are not good or bad because of whom they pray to, but because of their hearts, minds and souls.

They become soldiers in "God's Army" (and I find myself thinking of Christopher Walken...). They think it's great to be a martyr - well, that's not what it's often made up to be, after all, you have to be dead before you can become one.


But I'm not angry at the children, they don't know better. I'm angry at the adults who use them. And to me, who has studied history and heard a lot of speeches, made by Hitler and his minions, a lot of the things they tell the children - and of the way they motivate them - look and sound scarily similar.

That scares me, because I look at those children and think 'HJ' ("Hitlerjugend", the youth organisation of the Nazi) or even 'Werwolfkommandos' ("Werewolf Commandos", that was the name of the commandos made up completely of young boys that were sent against the enemy as the last wave during the last weeks of battle in 1945). Maybe I'm over-reacting here, maybe I'm seeing things that aren't there at all, but I'm really, really worried.

Hitler showed what you could make children do: betray their own family, kill people, die for people - and other things. He didn't do it in the name of a god - but does that make it less bad or even worse? In the end he used children in the worst way possible - save for actual physical or sexual abuse.

It's what terrorists do, it's what fundamentalists do. In my book that makes them bad people by default. They can fight all they want - as long as they do it themselves. They can believe all they want - as long as they don't impose their belief on other people. And those who do it in the name of god, they are the worst. And they should read the bible again, especially the New Testament. They've got something fundamentally wrong.


Christianity is a religion, and a strong one. It's one of the five major religions in the world today. One of the others is younger - Islam -, the other three are older. The older ones are past the 'hot phase' already and have settled down a bit, just like older people would. Islam is still a lot 'hotter', but it will settle down, after all, it's six hundred years younger than Christianity. Christians were pretty wild, too, six hundred years ago.

Tolerance should be a high value in the life of every human being, today more than ever before. Because tolerant people recognize and accept that every being is an individual and has its own views and beliefs.

I, for example, strife for tolerance every day. Sometimes I make it, sometimes I don't, but every day I try it. If there is a god (surely not the god the Roman-Catholics or those Christian Fundamentalists believe in, but a god, nevertheless), I hope she'll take that into account, once I die. And if I'm going to be reborn, I hope that will help me not to end up as a cockroach. But above all, I hope that, in this world, I make those I meet feel a bit better, because I try my very best to treat them without prejudice. But honestly: I'd find it hard to treat those female preachers who teach children all those things with tolerance.


Jesus forgave his enemies, even Judas who betrayed him. He stood for peace, tolerance and love. He surely would not like people waging war and teaching intolerance and hatred to children in his name.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Late News Flash

There have been two major discussions in Germany over the last week (though one seems to start over [again], one was already in full swing). One is about Richard Dawkins and his theories of the non-existence of God. The other - very typical for Germany ever since the 70s - is about the German school system. So I have worked out one post each about those topics.


Nothing new from the DVD front, only a scientific book new on my shelf, so there's nothing about those topics coming up right now.


But I've started raising virtual plants, so I'm writing something about that, too.

German School Discussion

The German school system is complicated - and it doesn't work very well, either. For all those of you who have not had first-person experiences with the system, I'll give a short description first, before going over to the discussion that's been going on - with breaks - ever since 1968 or so.


While most other countries - especially those in industrialized areas - have a rather straight school system with only one type of school for all children (though it's quite probable that they're separated into primary and secondary school). Germany does not. We have one type of primary school and three types of secondary school (not accounting for specialized schools to help the learning impaired). Those three types are completely separated from each other, they are in different buildings, have different head-masters (or -mistresses, of course), different teachers. A child that has been sorted into one of those school types will not, under normal circumstances, switch into another school type later on.

After four to six years of primary school (when I went to school, four years were average, but now primary school usually goes up to sixth grade) the children are sorted into the three types of secondary school. They are between eleven and thirteen then. After this time, they hardly stand a chance to switch into another type of school (at least 'upwards', downwards is always possible). Until the end of their school career (after 9 to 13 years of school overall), they are stuck with this school type.

Now, what are those three types? As I'm quite sure there aren't such types in most other countries, I'll keep the German words for them.

"Hauptschule" once was where the largest amount of students went after primary school (therefore, a lot of primary schools still also function as "Hauptschulen"). It lasts for 9 years (including the aforementioned 4 to 6 years of primary school) and is supposed to prepare them for work in lower-paid jobs in companies. The majority of workers comes from this type of school and it's rather practical orientated.

"Realschule" is the newest type of those schools. It was created when office work became far more important during the industrialization. The school lasts 10 years (again including primary school) and brings forth the middle-class of workers in a company (or at least it's supposed to), so there's more place for theory in this type of school.

The "Gymnasium" (and I know that name is confusing to people from English-speaking countries, as 'gymnasium' there means a building for sports - but both words come from the same Greek origins) is the only type of school from which you can go to university (and Germany doesn't know the principle of colleges). It's as old as the "Hauptschule", while the "Realschule" was created quite some time later. "Gymnasium" lasts 12 or 13 years (depending on the state you live in, southern states usually have 13 years, northern states mostly have 12; again the primary school is included in this number). The "Gymnasium" brings forth the scientists, doctors and high-level personnel for companies. Politicians usually went to the "Gymnasium" as well.


So, now that you know the different types of school, about the discussion in Germany. In PISA we didn't exactly fare well. Even though some states (Bavaria above all) scored at least good enough, Germany on the whole was left in a rather bad position.

But long before PISA, during the 70s for the first time, people tried to change the system. The idea of separating the children that early didn't go well with the young parents who were doing their best, not to rise their children like their parents had. The strict school system was not what they wanted.

Every time they tried to change the system, though, they failed. There are a couple of school types in Germany that incorporate what those parents really wanted to create, but the average public school was not changed. This means, parents who cannot afford or don't really want to sent their children to private schools are left with the old school system and its weaknesses.

While other countries, countries with just one type of secondary school, have fared well with PISA and other tests of that time, Germany still holds on to an outdated school system that keeps children too long in school (if they're going to go to university) or doesn't teach them well enough (if they go to the "Hauptschule").


Politicians always excuse the German system, claiming "it gets better" at the moment and will soon be up to par again, competing with the other countries in Europe, with Japan or the United States. Well, they can dream for all they like, but that doesn't make it true.

The main reason they always give for not changing this system, is money. It's too expensive and won't warrant the costs afterwards, they say. But is it really?


I have to admit that I have no idea about the costs of changing a complete school system - although even I can imagine it will take quite some money. But doesn't the outcome (German children being able to really compete with those from other countries) warrant that money, in the long run. Unfortunately, seeing things developing over a long time, isn't really a forte of German politicians. At the moment, it's too expensive from their point of view (and their children go to private schools, anyway).


The German school system needs a serious make-over, but it won't get it, that much is for sure...

German School Discussion

The German school system is complicated - and it doesn't work very well, either. For all those of you who have not had first-person experiences with the system, I'll give a short description first, before going over to the discussion that's been going on - with breaks - ever since 1968 or so.


While most other countries - especially those in industrialized areas - have a rather straight school system with only one type of school for all children (though it's quite probable that they're separated into primary and secondary school). Germany does not. We have one type of primary school and three types of secondary school (not accounting for specialized schools to help the learning impaired). Those three types are completely separated from each other, they are in different buildings, have different head-masters (or -mistresses, of course), different teachers. A child that has been sorted into one of those school types will not, under normal circumstances, switch into another school type later on.

After four to six years of primary school (when I went to school, four years were average, but now primary school usually goes up to sixth grade) the children are sorted into the three types of secondary school. They are between eleven and thirteen then. After this time, they hardly stand a chance to switch into another type of school (at least 'upwards', downwards is always possible). Until the end of their school career (after 9 to 13 years of school overall), they are stuck with this school type.

Now, what are those three types? As I'm quite sure there aren't such types in most other countries, I'll keep the German words for them.

"Hauptschule" once was where the largest amount of students went after primary school (therefore, a lot of primary schools still also function as "Hauptschulen"). It lasts for 9 years (including the aforementioned 4 to 6 years of primary school) and is supposed to prepare them for work in lower-paid jobs in companies. The majority of workers comes from this type of school and it's rather practical orientated.

"Realschule" is the newest type of those schools. It was created when office work became far more important during the industrialization. The school lasts 10 years (again including primary school) and brings forth the middle-class of workers in a company (or at least it's supposed to), so there's more place for theory in this type of school.

The "Gymnasium" (and I know that name is confusing to people from English-speaking countries, as 'gymnasium' there means a building for sports - but both words come from the same Greek origins) is the only type of school from which you can go to university (and Germany doesn't know the principle of colleges). It's as old as the "Hauptschule", while the "Realschule" was created quite some time later. "Gymnasium" lasts 12 or 13 years (depending on the state you live in, southern states usually have 13 years, northern states mostly have 12; again the primary school is included in this number). The "Gymnasium" brings forth the scientists, doctors and high-level personnel for companies. Politicians usually went to the "Gymnasium" as well.


So, now that you know the different types of school, about the discussion in Germany. In PISA we didn't exactly fare well. Even though some states (Bavaria above all) scored at least good enough, Germany on the whole was left in a rather bad position.

But long before PISA, during the 70s for the first time, people tried to change the system. The idea of separating the children that early didn't go well with the young parents who were doing their best, not to rise their children like their parents had. The strict school system was not what they wanted.

Every time they tried to change the system, though, they failed. There are a couple of school types in Germany that incorporate what those parents really wanted to create, but the average public school was not changed. This means, parents who cannot afford or don't really want to sent their children to private schools are left with the old school system and its weaknesses.

While other countries, countries with just one type of secondary school, have fared well with PISA and other tests of that time, Germany still holds on to an outdated school system that keeps children too long in school (if they're going to go to university) or doesn't teach them well enough (if they go to the "Hauptschule").


Politicians always excuse the German system, claiming "it gets better" at the moment and will soon be up to par again, competing with the other countries in Europe, with Japan or the United States. Well, they can dream for all they like, but that doesn't make it true.

The main reason they always give for not changing this system, is money. It's too expensive and won't warrant the costs afterwards, they say. But is it really?


I have to admit that I have no idea about the costs of changing a complete school system - although even I can imagine it will take quite some money. But doesn't the outcome (German children being able to really compete with those from other countries) warrant that money, in the long run. Unfortunately, seeing things developing over a long time, isn't really a forte of German politicians. At the moment, it's too expensive from their point of view (and their children go to private schools, anyway).


The German school system needs a serious make-over, but it won't get it, that much is for sure...

Does God exist?

That is one of the basic questions of mankind, I think. Religion is an important part of our culture, no matter which religion it is. But does the fact that we believe in a god really mean this god exists? (Warning: this could be quite a philosophical post!)


Richard Dawkins doesn't think it does. That much is obvious from the various interviews I've read. There is no scientific proof of God's existence. (Of course, the point in believing is not needing proof.)

What I sometimes wonder about, is the question whether that really matters.


First of all, I need to point out my own approach to religion. I'm not very religious. I think there might be some kind of divine being around, but I don't believe in the Christian god as a such (although technically I'm Roman-Catholic). I'm not a follower of any church you might find out there. In fact, I'm highly suspicious of people who tell others what to believe. To me, belief is something highly personal and nobody else can tell me what to believe in.

In Europe, that's not very important. Europeans are not judged by other Europeans based on their belief (well, some might do so secretly, but not openly). Fundamental Christians are almost non-existent over here - or at least such a minority that they can't do a thing. Most European countries might be based on Christianity (though various kinds of it), but that doesn't mean they're Christian in the way a Fundamental Christ in the United States might understand it.


But then, what is belief?

Most people believe in some kind of god (or in more than one, that's what's called polytheism). They believe this god (or these gods) has created the universe, has created mankind and - usually - some special plan for us humans. Some religions have the idea of people being reborn again and again to learn about life while others only give us one chance on this world, before we are judged. (Sometimes I wonder what's worse: coming back as a housefly after a very bad life or spending eternity in hell...)

Still, that doesn't answer the main question. What is belief? The question is not how it manifests itself.

Belief is, most of all, thinking something is true without having any proof - and that's why Dawkins will never really convince firm Christians with his book. A true believer doesn't need proof of the things he believes are true. Belief is self-sufficient.


That brings along the next question. What do we need belief for?

Believing in something seems to be a major human survival trait. By believing what the parents tell it, a child can survive. Animals don't need belief, though, because they have more instincts to help them along. But then, maybe believing what older people tell you, is an instinct. We still don't know.

Belief makes it easier to control large quantities of humans. If you can use a group's belief, you can make them do whatever you want. That's what happens in some countries to this very day - and has happened in most others in the past. You just have to say "god wants you to kill those people" or "god wants you to give me all your money" and they will obey. Tyrants have to put in a lot more hard work for the same results...

On the other hand, for children, belief really is an important thing. If a child can't believe its parents when they tell it something, then who could teach it about what to do to survive? If a father tells his child "don't eat this" or "don't touch that", it's usually because those things are dangerous. And as the child believes all he tells it, it will be safe.

So belief is important, but it can be misused easily (and this has happened in the past).


Religion also brings us straight to "the meaning of life," this fundamental question embedded in the human nature. We like to think our life has some kind of meaning. We like to think we're on this globe for a purpose. And, of course, we like to think we're important.

"God has given this world to us" is a basic principle of the Christian belief. We are in charge and can use the world whatever way we like (and just look what we did with it). With this and the idea of Christianity being the "only true" belief, Christians conquered other people, enslaved the populace, took over their country and in addition thought those conquered and enslaved should be grateful for it (but, to be fair, so did the Moslems as well - and various other religious groups). Genghis Khan had a more difficult approach: he just took the country and said "believe what you want, but don't oppose me." Strangely enough, that worked well.

Biologically speaking, the only "meaning of life" for every living creature is to propagate. But that's not enough to keep the human mind entertained, so we need something else to do with our spare time. So we're making our own "meaning of life" and invent reasons why it's true. And belief is a practical way to make others share our idea of the "meaning of life" and help us to make it come true. That might create a paradise or a hell, based on the ideals of the one starting all of it.


And now back to God. Does God exist?

Scientifically: probably not. It has never been proven. Religiously: yes, without a doubt. What would a religion be without God?


And who is right? That's the question nobody can answer.

Virtual Plants

Another chapter in my sometimes ongoing series of "games to play while doing something else." This time "Plant Tycoon":


Actually, in some ways "Plant Tycoon" is not a 'normal' game. I like searching games and I like some arcade games. This game falls in none of those categories.

It's a bit like a simulation. You start out with a 8 seeds (not necessarily all from different plants) and four potted seedlings. From those you can build up your very own catalogue of plants, cross-pollinating plants in order to create new ones. In order to obtain supplies (like better soil or water, more space for your seeds, plant foot, insect poison and so on), you can sell grown plants (after you've harvested new seeds or without even pollinating them) in your nursery. They sell for different prices, some are quite cheap while others are quite expensive. On the whole, most expensive plants require better soil to grow, so you have to earn money in order to advance. (Currently I'm saving for the best possible soil.) In addition you can catch bugs that will come to see your plants (everything from beetles over spiders and butterflies right up to dragonflies).

Plants have a growing cycle that will advance even while the game is not running (unless you pause the game before quitting), looking like this:

At fastest speed, a plant requires about 50 minutes to mature, this way you can rise one charge of 15 plants for selling in a little under an hour - depending on what plants you rise, it's quite a fortune you have in your greenhouse.

By default, a game in which you have to wait that long before doing something is a perfect game to keep running while doing something else. (I'm currently waiting for some plants to grow, produce seeds and get sold while writing this.) Nevertheless, you shouldn't leave the game alone for too long, as plants can catch diseases and need treatment then, otherwise they die - and dead plants don't sell well, as you can imagine.


I like experimenting with the plants, too, by cross-pollinating them. This way you can create over 500 different plants (or so the in-game help says) and find 6 special magical plants (I've found one so far). Well, I've got about 2000$ to earn before I can buy the best possible soil - and I already have 3 types of seeds that will only grow in this (I used very expensive medicine to get one of those plants each through growing and producing seeds). I'm also planning on cross-pollinating some more plants - the basics are already growing, I keep two seeds of each plant I've found in my seed-box, so I can grow them again whenever I want. Those I self-pollinate to get more seeds and those seeds I replant and sell (or use for experiments).


Well, I will go back to planting and pruning and pollinating now...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Offline on purpose

Today most people are proud about being 'online' all the time. I'm not. Quite some time during the day I'm 'offline' on purpose.


I do have a flat-rate, so I could be online 24/7, but I'm not. I do have a cell phone and could keep it on 24/7, but I don't. I make a point in only plugging in my router when I want to go online - that way nobody can use it to surf for nothing. And I also make a point in only turning on my cell phone when I need it. I do have a normal phone and everybody who could want to contact me, either has or can find my number. The cell phone is merely used when I'm on the move (or at work).

That might sound simple to you, but from what I see around me, it's pure luxury. (And, strangely enough, even cheap luxury, as my cell phone and router need less energy and I do use less short messages and make less calls from the cell.) Most people feel as if they're missing something by not being 'online' (or rather: reachable) all the time. They worry about being left out of the loop. I don't. Emails can wait. Whoever really wants to reach me, can do so by using my normal phone number (and try the cell when I can't be reached at home, though I do not necessarily have it one when I'm gone). I answer my emails when I've got the time. I take phone calls when they come - but I reserve the right not to take a call when I'm busy and don't know the number. I do have an answering machine people can use at their leisure.


I control my communication, you could say. I decide how many ways I leave to people to reach me. I'm not succumbing to the pressure of people always being able to reach me. Why should I? I'm not a political leader, I'm not head of a company, I'm not a doctor. People do not need to reach me 24/7.


I'm not online permanently, because I do have an offline-life! And I like it that way!