Category Archives: Culture

My Old TRS-80

TRS-80 top modelOne of my first ‘investments’ I made after college, when I started making a boat-load of money (that’s how it felt, at least) with my new job, was a TRS-80 computer from Radio Shack.

Today I ran into an article on Mashable about that Trash-80 that brought back memories of sitting on that machine for long nights, the ash tray overflowing, discovering all the things you could do with BASIC.

Despite my feeling of being totally rich, my pay check of nearly 2000 Deutsch Marks would not allow me to buy anything but the entry model of this computer. At that time the US Dollar was around 4 Marks which brought the price of that computer to an amazing DM 3000 – one and a half month’s pay. This made me think about what that top model Tandy computer would cost in today’s Dollars – – – turns out to be over 26 thousand Dollars!

And looking at the exchange rate from the other side – I made only $1500 in today’s Dollars and I thought I was rich? Now I wonder if the exchange rate of DM to US$ really reflected the relationship of cost of living. A quick Google search reveals that in 1980 a bread in the US cost about 50 cents, while a bread in Germany cost DM 2.50 – so the exchange rate is at least in the ballpark.

Maybe I should have moved to the US right after college – I might have been able to afford one of those fancy floppy drives from Radio Shack…

In case the TRS-80 catalog on Mashable ever goes away, here’s a copy…

SciFi Anarchy

Mack&pipe60sFor many years I have been listening to sci-fi stories on Escape Pod. Great way to make your driving time more enjoyable. In the olden day when I drove much more I was always up to date with the latest episode but lately I have fallen seriously behind – not enough commuting (well, not too sad about that, though.)

On m,y last trip back from LA I listened to a classic, written in the 40s – Expediter by Mack Reynolds. Happy to report that there were anarchist that long ago.

Living Differently

Recently – or actually not that recently – I have started questioning the idea of having a big space to live in. Sure, if it’s cold outside and you have to be inside for months on end, it is nice to move around in a heated space. But for many years now I am actually in an area where there is not that much of a winter and where that argument is not really valid.

I watched a video of a couple that changed from a big apartment to one of the typical tiny houses of hundred-twenty square foot. She had the obvious idea of simply going outside when she wanted space.

These very tiny houses might be a bit too small for me, but something like this looks very appealing to me.

What did you learn in school today?

That’s one answer down my alley…


And for all of you who want to sing along with this song “What Did You Learn in School Today?”  by Tom Paxton – here you go…

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that Washington never told a lie.
I learned that soldiers seldom die.
I learned that everybody’s free.
And that’s what the teacher said to me.
That’s what I learned in school today.
That’s what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that policemen are my friends.
I learned that justice never ends.
I learned that murderers die for their crimes.
Even if we make a mistake sometimes.
That’s what I learned in school today.
That’s what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned our government must be strong.
It’s always right and never wrong.
Our leaders are the finest men.
And we elect them again and again.
That’s what I learned in school today.
That’s what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that war is not so bad.
I learned of the great ones we have had.
We fought in Germany and in France.
And some day I might get my chance.
That’s what I learned in school today.
That’s what I learned in school.

The Lensman Series by E. E. Doc Smith

First LensmanMany years ago that I read the Lensman series by Doc E. E. Smith, the precursor to all modern space opera that came after it. Even at the time I read it the technology was dated as these books were written in the 40s and 50s (and even I had no read them when they were first published), but that all did not matter to me at all. These were just great stories.

My first read was in a German translation and I am rather certain that I read at least a few of the books in English after I came to the US of A. For a long time now I wanted to read them again but these books are hard to come by – most of them were out of print and I believe still are – you can’t really find them on Amazon in form of inexpensive paperbacks, maybe as bound collectors items but not for an amount that I was willing to spend.

So I had given up for a while to find a complete set, but recently discovered the first, Triplanetary, as an ebook and am about to finish it on my tablet (apparently the only useful application for a tablet.)

As I was approaching the last few pages I needed the next one – First Lensman. Quite a bit of googling later I finally hit the mother-lode at Arthur’s Bookshelp. He had them all and as I was at it, I also got the Skylark series for the time when I’m done with the Lensmen.  That could be a few years at the slow pace I am going.

Just in case you need the sequence of the book, because it is sometimes hard to figure it out the chronology:

  1. Triplanetary
  2. First Lensman
  3. Galactic Patrol
  4. Gray Lensman
  5. Second Stage Lensman
  6. Children of the Lens

And here – as we are at it, the sequence of the Skylark series:

  1. The Skylark of Space
  2. Skylark Three
  3. Skylark of Valeron
  4. Skylark DuQuesne


Anarchy is Good

voluntarizmI have to admit that my first understanding of anarchy was in line with the definition that most people use these days – chaos!

But if we look at the definition and root of this word, we find that chaos is not really part of it. It comes from the Greek an- + archos meaning no ruler. It is certainly true that the removal of an established ruler can easily lead to chaos.

Take, for example, a kid that is strictly controlled. Take this control away suddenly and you will most likely had a child that goes wild. But does that mean that the child will remain wild? With most sane kids – and most of them are sane – they will soon find a balance and become accustomed to the lack of control and will be as productive or unproductive as their inherent make-up is. This has been demonstrated in an experiment of un-schooling, where a group of kids were not forced to do anything. Certainly they first slacked off, but after a rather short time of turbulence they started to better themselves voluntarily. If you have ever experienced the difference between forced and voluntary learning you know how much more efficient learning is that you actually want.

But this is an experiment that needs to be run to its end result. A system that would want control could easily subvert the experiment by first taking away control, let the kids go wild and then, when chaos is at it’s best, step in, proclaim that freedom does not work, and put the control back on.

This is the same principle used to convince us that anarchy is not working. Governments want to keep their control because this is what they live on. Any instance where control slips for a while, for example after a revolution or war, is them used to rationalize that chaos ensued and that government has to be established again as soon as possible.

Let me give you another picture that demonstrated that perfectly and which you will have in mind from now on whenever you hear about anarchy. Think of cooking pea soup in a pressure cooker. All the ingredients go in the pot, the lid is closed (control) and heat is turned up. Soon boiling starts, steam develops, and pressure builds in the pot. Nothing dramatic happens. The valve in the lid of the pot will let off some of the steam occasionally in order to keep the pot from exploding.

Now, suddenly open the pressure relief valve and see what happens.

You will have pea soup all  over the kitchen. Yes, I tried that and this is the reason I used pea soup for my example. All the pressure trapped within the peas suddenly has no opposition any more and goes everywhere and takes pieces of the peas with it. The conclusion could now be to never relief the pressure – which would be equivalent to the politician telling us that we need police and military and prisons and laws regulating everything from commerce to farting.

But there is also another solution, because, after all, we want to get to the delicious pea soup. That solution is to release the pressure gradually, or – in the more dirty alternative – don’t care about the mess in the kitchen. Either way, we can enjoy the pea soup.

The sweet taste of liberty and lack of legalized violence where personal interactions occur on a voluntary basis.

Back to the idea of anarchy, a society of ‘no ruler.’ To get there will require a total revamping of the up-bringing of the next generations. Right now, kids, that have a disagreement or fight, are taught to go to an authority who will decide for them who is wrong and who is right. That will have to change to teach them to solve their problems and disagreements amongst themselves. Certainly this will not happen in schools that are sponsored by those who want the status quo.

I see this state of mind appreciating a society based on voluntary interactions spreading and getting more and more into the main stream, Ron Paul being one of the examples for that. He had to fail because the bigger part of the people is still too afraid of pea soup all over the kitchen, but it appears to me that we are at this time in state two of the three stages of truth as described by Arthur Schopenhauer:

  1. It is ridiculed.
  2. It is violently opposed.
  3. It is accepted as being self-evident.

I just wonder when we finally get to stage three.



German Seeking Political Asylum in the US

When I went to school in Germany, there was no real choice where to go. If you were Catholic you went to the Catholic school, and to the Protestant school when you were anything else – like Protestant.

That was the first four years. Then you could either stay and prepare for a life in trade or craft, go to middle school and plan to become a middle manager, or go to high school and aim for an academic career.

home schoolingWe heard it through the grapevines that there was something like private schools but that was for the very rich and weird and I never knew anybody who went that route.

Homeschooling was not even a consideration.

Apparently there are some parents now in Germany who don’t want to get their kids to be state-indoctrinated.Uwe and Hannelore Romeike are such parents and they tried to homeschool their kids but the government said ‘No!’ and the battle ensued. They, eventually,  fled from Germany to the United States after their family was vigorously prosecuted (fines, forcible removal of their children, threats of jail and more) for homeschooling. Initially, the Romeikes were granted political asylum, but the U.S. government appealed that decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals. That Board sided with the government. The HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association, a group defending homeschoolers in the US) took their case and appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

First of all I wonder why the US government would try to deny this family to stay in the US. I can only imagine that they want to stay friends with the Germany government which tries everything to avoid creating a precedence. Imagine the PR flop if a German family is granted political asylum in the US!

In addition, those domestic homeschoolers are already a thorn in the government’s flesh, daring to doubt their benevolence. The arguments brought by the government why this German family should be sent back to Germany to be torn apart and fined into oblivion are very revealing and indicate what might be in store for American homeschoolers.

Read the full story at the HSLDA web site…

The Myth of Germany Conquering the World

german prisonersIf we believe Hollywood, Germany was a danger to the world during World War II and needed to be stopped. There was nothing that could be done by the US, but to enter the war and help defeat this dangerous foe.

As much as I like to believe in this German superiority (being one of them), historical facts, as they become more and more known, do not support this notion.

Starting with the fact that all Europe and Asia had been at war pretty much most of the time, so it was to no surprise that this newcomer among the war lords wanted to play and get a piece of the empire cake. But this young and inexperienced new kid on town – compared to the old masters like Britain which owned about a quarter of the world as well as Russia with another quarter – was no match.

Especially after it had been beaten into submission by the Treaty of Versailles at the end of WW I. It sure made them mad which was fertile grounds for WW II, but the fact remains that they had to start from scratch while their adversaries still had plenty of left-overs and the resources of half of the world.

Looking at the economics of war it becomes painfully obvious that the one who runs out of bullets and beans looses the war. This small Germany depended upon raw material from the rest of the world and as long as that world was not yet conquered, the flow of those materials could easily be stopped – and indeed were.

German innovation and creativity reared its ugly head when the initial surprise attacks were over and the war started to draw out. German stubbornness of improving and innovating war machines came at a huge cost. Hitler wanted only the best but research is expensive. This created a financial and resource shortage which in turn reduced the production of proven and reliable war equipment. It came to great surprise to me that, beside the Hollywood version of the well equipped German soldier, in reality the great majority of the German soldier was a foot soldier with wagons drawn by – yes – horses.

Why was the German soldier so completely mischaracterized by Hollywood and in the schools’ history books?

Combined with other historical facts, the only logical explanation was the FDR wanted to get in – he wanted to play with the other imperial leaders. Unfortunately the American people did not really want to, so he poked the Japanese so long that they had no other choice but to attack Perl Harbor. This so-called ‘unprovoked’ attack was used to change the mind of the American population, similar, by the way, to the ‘unprovoked’ attack on the twin towers which was used to get America behind Bush and his war.

Many facts have come to light since then that would indicate that an attempt had been made to minimize loss of material and life at Perl Harbor (again similar to the twin towers) but enough damage had to be done to enrage the population. The ships that had been destroyed were not even supposed to be in Hawaii and the fleet had been strategically weakened so that they would be beaten. An excuse was later made, when those facts came to light, that it was a necessary sacrifice in order to enter the war, and save the world. Hollywood was all behind it – apparently.

But America could have stayed neutral. Germany was more or less defeated when the US entered the war and Britain together with Russia would have been able to do the job easily. The biggest part of the war was the Eastern front and Germany had been beaten by a proven weapon – the Russian winter – something experienced by a previous imperialist – Napoleon.

How much different would the world be, had the US Government with Roosevelt at the top not entered the war? No, we would not all speak German now, but the cold war would probably never have happened as the German and Russian war machine would have annihilated each other. Russia would have never become a threat as quickly as it did.

Now imagine all that money that the military-industrial complex would not have made. I watched a documentary the other day describing the salvage of a Russian submarine during the height of the cold war. This was the Russian sub K-129 that had accidentally destroyed itself and had sunken in the Pacific. US military had better info on where that had happened and had been able to locate the ship without the Russians knowing. It was an engineering feat to get at least part of the sub raised from a depth of 17,000 feet in all secrecy – but this little bit of intell that had been extracted from the wreckage had cost the tax payer a whooping 350 Million Dollars – and that was 70s Dollars!

Imagine how many hungry children an Africa could have been fed with that!

So, are you still paying taxes without doing your utmost to drag your feet, making it as hard as possible to get anything out of you? Are you still quietly ‘in compliance’ – still not practicing civil disobedience?

(A very good run-down of the real events and economics can be found in Richard Maybury’s ‘Uncle Eric’ books – a ‘must-read’ for kids in public school to counter government indoctrination.)

A Hollywood Experience

st_schoeneOne of my early Hollywood-experiences occurred in the late 80s – the place was the Irish pub ‘The Cat & Fiddle‘ on Sunset Blvd.

My buddy and I hung out there pretty regularly, had learned that just a single extra dollar in tips was well worth the investment for much faster and friendlier service and were, that fine summer evening, out in the patio, slurping our Guinness.

The table next to us was occupied by two guys, one of the a very tall, and cool, guy that looked so familiar but I could  not place him. I heard somewhat of a German accent, but that did not help much at that time.

If was a few days later that my buddy dragged me to the gig of a German guy he had met a few days earlier. As yours truly is from that area of the planet as well and ethnic support is a given I was glad to comply.

Even this big Hollywood is a small place and so I was only mildly surprised that this tall guy I had seen at the Cat and Fiddle was there as well. The gig was great and I still have a video document of this band, Bigger than Blue, even though this is not of the gig, which was much wilder and much more hard rock.

Already at that time I perceived the vibes between this tall German guy and the cute, absolutely petite, singer of Bigger Than Blue, Francesca Capasso.

To make a long story short, the tall German guy turned out to be a very well-known German actor, Reiner Schoene (Schöne), whom I had seen in television shows when I was a lot younger. He and Francesca started dating and we (my buddy and I) had a few parties at our house with the whole Bigger than Blue and so Reiner was there, obviously.

Francesca and Reiner did get married and had a little farm in or around Agua Dulce but, despite efforts to do so, we never managed to visit and the contact went away eventually, especially after Reiner moved back to Germany and he and Francesca separated, unfortunately.

So, why would I write all this after more than twenty years? Simple, when going through my old music collection, I found demo tapes of Reiner as well as Francesca and the most amazing piece on that was a song, written and performed by Reiner, telling the beginning of the story…

      Wild Wild Rose of Texas - Rainer Schoene