Category Archives: Stories

The Internet is Humming with Dr. Who

The-Doctor-and-ClaraToday the wait was over – the second half of season 7 of Dr. Who has started.

I bet that most views of the show happened on the official channels like BBC America here in the US of A, but, as we are out in the boons, with the cable left behind, we depended on the good old pirate bay to get our fix of Dr. Who (obviously this is a lie, as we would never download any tv show illegally.) Had we actually looked at the torrents we would have been surprised by all the buzz on the interconnected pipes that make up the internet. Way over 2000 seeders is rather rare, and still, download speed would have been – had we done that – still rather slow, so there would have been many, many people as excited to find out about the Doctor’s new adventures and all with a new companion.

Had we been able to watch the show after downloading it illegally we would have been able to actually watch it on the west coast before it officially aired. As I write this, it’s only a bit after the show ended and we would have finished it hours ago – way ahead of all the people waiting for the BBC to start it – Man – are time zones cool, or what?

I’m really curious if the Doctor will get lucky with this companion, but I’m not really holding my breath as one of the big tensions in the series is that that never happens. Strange things can happen if time travel is involved, like Amy turning out to be the Doctor’s mother in law – who comes up with those things?

Thanks, Steven Moffat!

Patrolling Space In the Spaceship Orion

I have mentioned the spaceship Orion previously in my post about Living Under Water. The German science fiction TV series Space Patrol (Raumpatrouille) follows the crew of the space ship Orion on their adventures through the galaxy.

Orion landed on a desert planetI remember waiting very excitedly for the première of the series and then every next week’s show. It came out at about the same time in 1966 as the original Star Trek, but it was much later that I finally watched my first Star Trek episode and it confirmed the German arrogance that we (the Germans) are better at creating things but it also confirmed the other stereotype that America is much better in marketing. Orion lasted seven episodes with a remastered movie version in the early 2000s, while Star Trek is still going strong after nearly half a century. Sets and special effects were so much more creative than the original Star Trek even though some people dared to make fun of some of the props, like the electric iron used to do some mysterious tuning task on the navigation console. In my mind then, those people just didn’t get it.

I do have the whole series on DVD and it is about time to watch it again, but today I enjoyed running into another fan of the series who took his admiration for the show a bit further than just buying the DVDs – he created stunning illustrations of the adventures of the star cruiser Orion.

I discovered Crossvalley Smith through a post on Facebook that featured one of his illustrations from the Perry Rhodan universe, another sweet memory of mine, a science fiction series published as weekly pulp novellas.

A scene from a landing of the Orion on a desert planet has for now replaced an anime illustration as my computer wall paper – go check out Crossvalley’s site, maybe you find something you enjoy.

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…

 

 

Boys Staring at Goats

One fine winter up in the mountains…
(isn’t it amazing that there are, in that densely populated Southern California, still places where boys can go out by themselves and explore – and make friends with goats – and stare at them?)

(Click on an image to start a slide show.)

The Hobby Kitchen – A Pre-Blog

thai-recipesThis is history as we made it!

It was in the early days of the internet, a time when Google did not exist yet, when we used Alta Vista to find things on that interweb. When Netscape was strong and the driving force for new developments on this world wide web. When there were pages at Netscape where you could tell the world about new sites or pages – and the world came.

It was 1995!

This is when we stared something that would later be called a blog. Sure, there was no php and certainly no WordPress, so the blog-entries had to be crafted by hand, usually in a simple text editor and the blogger had to know html. Not that there was much to be known – the leading edge of html tags were background images and music.

This was the year ‘My Hobby Kitchen’ was born. The plan was to publish one Thai recipe every few day, or how often we managed. If we would have kept it up, by now we would have – at one recipe per day – close to one thousand recipes. That number shows that it was just not possible as nobody knows 1000 recipes. We did – maybe – foresee that and invented the ‘guest-blogger.’ But only one came on board, shortly before the project died.

The amazing part of the story is that these pages survived. After a multitude of ISPs, and moving between different domains, these pages are still there and they are finding a new home no on this (real) blog.

I kept the pages as they were, just made some adjustments to fit into the framework of this blog, removed any pointers to web sites that don’t exist any more and anonymized it to protect the guilty. But I left all the tacky background music and images intact so that those young people can see how it all started. It was written from the perspective of my significant other who is Thai and knew what she was doing – your’s truly was just the webmaster.

Without any further ado, here is

My Hobby Kitchen.

The Last Roll of Kodachrome

KodachromeI got myself some nice Canon T4i but I can’t figure out where to put that film in, of which I still have a few rolls and which I don’t want to let go to waste.

I think I like Nikon better because on the old 6006, I still have, there was not problem with that – I just opened the back – and there is the space where the film fit in. I got the back of my new T4i open but there is still no place for that roll of film, only all that electronic stuff, chips and wires and such – hmmm.

But, jokes aside, I know there is no more film produces any more – at least not in form of a mass production – and that I would have a hard time to find a lab these days that could still develop film. This roll on the right is probably about 15 years old and expired so solidly that there would be hardly anything on it any more, even if there was a process to develop it with.

But I got to think about that when I ran into a video of photographer Steve McCurry, securing the last role of Kodachrome produced in 2009 and going on a world tour to shoot that last roll ever to leave the factory.

Reminded me of the beginning of my photography career back in Germany. Obviously, with the German arrogance, I did not use Kodachrome – the colors were just too American to satisfy a German eye – we used Agfachrome which displayed a softer gradient of colors and saturation. Back then I always shot slide film and I don’t really remember what my reason was to suddenly get into film for color prints when I got a much better camera – the Nikon 6006 – after coming to the US of A. It might have been because there was an affordable service to give me, with the prints, a scan of the images I could download from the lab’s web site. Another reason probably was, that I was not a purist any more and did break down and took memory photos – back in my early days that would never had happened – the shutter was pressed only when art came out.

This very selective pressing of the shutter was paramount for Steve McCurry when he shot the very last role of Kodachrome. Here is his report…

This documentary got me very interested in Mr. McCurry and I found this interview with him.

You can see the gallery of the 31 images from the last role of Kodachrome on Vanity Fair.

PS: Reminded me that, during my early days of photography (with Agfachrome), I considered it a good outcome when I got one good shot from a role of film.

X11Forwarding But DISPLAY variable not set

x11-logoSerious programming in the olden days mean to deal with Unix – the father of today’s ubiquitous Linux running bigger part of the internet.

The first bigger project I was involved in was still the good old DOS with Turbo Pascal – anybody remember that?

As soon as I could, and we had to build something less of a hack but more of a software-engineered application, I steered my client into Unix, first the X86 version of Xenix, which turned out to be too flaky, and then a nice hundred thousand dollar HP Workstation. As it was an application involving graphics, an important order of business was to get familiar with the principles and techniques of the X11 windowing system.

This was not a very long-lived project and with the advent of more powerful x86 hardware and a finally decent piece of software from Microsoft – Windows NT – the develoment was moved to that new platform. The fact that the port from X to NT was not terribly difficult was a nice testimonial for proper application of software engineering principles. Hacking mentality as promoted by something like Turbo Pascal would have required a complete rewrite.

System administration, I had become familiar with during that time, was helpful when I started to maintain a few linux web servers years later. I always considered X11 far superior to all the other graphical windows software but I really had never anything to do with it any more – until a point in time a few days ago.

First of all, I finally succeeded in getting Ubuntu running on an old laptop. A flaky DVD had never gotten me through an installation properly and the machine was so old that it could not boot from a memory stick. I ultimately succeeded when I found a utility I could burn on a CD and boot from that made my USB bootable. Now I could load Ubuntu from the USB stick.

So, there I finally was again with a computer with a proper graphical user interface. But that computer was tucked away somewhere with little physical access. It serve as a local testing machine for web development – did not really need that X Windows for that!

But it was sitting there, teasing me, so I finally got XMing – an X Server running on MS Windows – installed on my main computer where I sit all day and I could finally connect to that old laptop remotely with a graphical user interface. In my early days of X11 there was not too much concern about security – it was all on the local network – yes, a coax ethernet cable – and to have an application display on an xterminal you just had to set the DISPLAY environment variable to the IP address of any X-Server, like a xterminal, and authorize its use.

That is all different now. I learned that from a remote machine you start an ssh connection on my workstation (windows 7) to the remote host (old linux laptop) using putty. If the putty session had X Forwarding enabled then a secure tunnel for all the X traffic was created. This tunnel could even go through a router with NAT without a problem. Initially I had wondered why I saw the value of the DISPLAY variable set to strange things like localhost:10.0 – but I finally understood that this was how the ssh tunnel worked: the ssh server on the old laptop pretended to be a local X server on display number 10; then it transported all the X traffic it received securely to the machine I was sitting on and fed it into XMing. It all worked perfectly.

Two weeks later I received my first Raspberry Pi and that little wonder did behave the same way as the old laptop, a bit slower I have to admit, so the old laptop is still a bit more powerful than the miniature linux box sitting over there on my speaker. Both are full LAMP systems and are even accessible from the rest of the world through the magic of DynDNS and port forwarding.

But then my trouble began.

As I had all this so nicely and easily set up, it was suddenly not enough any more that I logged into my real web servers only with putty, SCP, and DirectAdmin. Nostalgia had me in its grip and I just had to get X running on them as well.

First of all there was no X-stuff installed on those servers as they were web servers in some remote data center. But a “yum install xterm” got this handled. Still no go – starting xterm from the ssh login gave me the error message that the display was either not there or could not be opened.

The next step, I found out, was to enable X11Forwarding for the sshd on the remote server – but still no go – the DISPLAY variable was still not set. Lots of Googling around but no solution – everything I tried made no difference.

But I learned about the -vvv parameter to ssh. It would give me insight into what was happening during the establishing of the ssh connection. Unfortunately, putty does not have it! But I found that it has a logging function and after turning this on and comparing the logs from connections to my local old laptop and the remote web server I finally saw the light:

xauth

After I had it yum-installed and run to generate a new .Xauthority file for a local X server my quest for the xterm running on that web server and displaying on my local machine behind a NAT router in my office had come to a successful conclusion.

Not that I will use that much – putty and SCP have done the job for me for years – but I now could, potentially, install firefox on that server and start browsing through that server located at a very different place on the planet.

Hmmm  – why don’t I just try that: yum install firefox……………………….
finally, after installing a gazillion dependent packages, the installation is – complete!

Now: firefox& – wait – wait – wait…

ff-on-linux

But it is clear that I have to file this away under ‘education’ as it is so slow to make it more or less unusable.

When Only The Government Has Guns

I grew up in a country that has one of the strictest gun control in the world – Germany. Once I tried to get a gun permit after I was being beat up by some guys and was very afraid that my little sister got mauled (which fortunately did not happen) without me being able to defend us.

I remember a cop actually showing up at my house interviewing me to evaluate if I had the maturity to be entrusted in defending myself – but I was mostly scoffed and laughed at. Funny part of that story is that I was asked by another cop for help with the guys that had beaten me up. Looking back, it was somewhat funny. After these three or four guys let me go, I did what every good citizen who survives violence is supposed to do – I called the cops from the next phone booth (cell phones were not invented yet). And they came pretty fast, scouted the area and apprehended two of them, which I identified. After then I made my way home and the cops look the bad guys to the station.

There, apparently, one of the guys got so solidly on the police man’s nerves that he hit him. He then came to me to ask if I would testify in his defense should the bad guy complain about that rude behavior. It never came to that, though.

But back to gun control – so I, as a law-abiding citizen, was absolutely not able to get me the means to level the playing field to put up an effective defense. Now, interestingly, the Wikipedia article about German Gun Control tells the story that gun and weapons (which in Germany includes bigger knifes) control was tightened even more in the early 2000s after a chain of school shootings. Imagine this, even with this nearly complete disarmed people, school shootings were possible and did, in deed, happen. This should be reason enough, at least for any semi-logical person, that gun control does not stop gun violence and school shootings.

So, what would then be the real reason for gun control – meaning a society where only the government has guns?

It becomes glaringly clear when we look at the following:

  • In 1911, Turkey established gun control. Subsequently, from 1915 to 1917, 1.5-millionArmenians, deprived of the means to defend themselves, were rounded up and killed.
  • In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control. Then, from 1929 to 1953,approximately 20 millon dissidents were rounded up and killed.
  • In 1938 Germany established gun control. From 1939 to 1945 over 13-million Jews,gypsies, homosexuals, mentally ill, union leaders, Catholics and others, unable to fire a shot in protest, were rounded up and killed.
  • In 1935, China established gun control. Subsequently, between 1948 and 1952, over 20 million dissidents were rounded up and killed.
  • In 1956, Cambodia enshrined gun control. In just two years (1975-1977) over one million”educated” people were rounded up and killed.
  • In 1964, Guatemala locked in gun control. From 1964 to I 98 I, over 100,000 Mayan Indians were rounded up and killed as a result of their inability to defend themselves.
  • 1n 1970, Uganda embraced gun control. Over the next nine years over 300,000 Christians were rounded up and killed.

Doesn’t that looks like more the act of a gang of bad guys trying to get rid of a threat to their monopoly on violence?

The only thing that stop the bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Cops are supposed to be just that. But history shows that those guys often become the bad guys and then there is no line of defense if they are the only ones with the guns, except, maybe a few of the private bad guys who are the only – if weak – competition.

if only the government has guns

Free Home For Anyone Who Will Take It

Found this good story on Facebook and like to present it here…

I was in my neighborhood restaurant this morning and was seated behind a group of jubilant individuals celebrating the successful passing of the recent health care bill. I could not finish my breakfast. This is what ensued:

They were a diverse group of several races and both sexes. I heard the young man exclaim, “Isn’t Obama like Jesus Christ? I mean, after all, he is healing the sick.” The young woman enthusiastically proclaimed, “Yeah, and he does it for free. I cannot believe anyone would think that a free market would work for health care. Another said, ‘The stupid Republicans want us all to starve to death so they can inherit all of the power. Obama should be made a Saint for what he did for those of us less fortunate.” At this, I had more than enough.

I arose from my seat, mustering all the restraint I could find, and approached their table.

“Please excuse me; may I impose upon you for one moment?” They smiled and welcomed me to the conversation. I stood at the end of their table, smiled as best I could and began an experiment.

“I would like to give one of you my house. It will cost you no money and I will pay all of the expenses and taxes for as long as you live there. Anyone interested?” They looked at each other in astonishment. “Why would you do something like that?” asked a young man, “There isn’t anything for free in this world.” They began to laugh at me, as they did not realize this man had just made my point. “I am serious, I will give you my house for free, no money what so ever. Anyone interested?” In unison, a resounding “Hell Yeah” fills the room.

“Since there are too many of you, I will have to make a choice as to who receives this money-free bargain.” I noticed an elderly couple was paying attention to the spectacle unfolding before their eyes, the old man shaking his head in apparent disgust. “I tell you what; I will give it to the one of you most willing to obey my rules.” Again, they looked at one another, an expression of bewilderment on their faces. The perky young woman asked, “What are the rules?” I smiled and said, “I don’t know. I have not yet defined them. However, it is a free home that I offer you.” They giggled amongst themselves, the youngest of which said, “What an old coot. He must be crazy to give away his home. Go take your meds, old man.” I smiled and leaned into the table a bit further. “I am serious, this is a legitimate offer.” They gaped at me for a moment.

“I’ll take it you old fool. Where are the keys?” boasted the youngest among them. “Then I presume you accept ALL of my terms then?” I asked.. The elderly couple seemed amused and entertained as they watched from the privacy of their table. “Oh hell yeah! Where do I sign up?” I took a napkin and wrote, “I give this man my home, without the burden of financial obligation, so long as he accepts and abides by the terms that I shall set forth upon consummation of this transaction.” I signed it and handed it to the young man who eagerly scratched out his signature. “Where are the keys to my new house?” he asked in a mocking tone of voice. All eyes were upon us as I stepped back from the table, pulling the keys from pocket and dangling them before the excited new homeowner.

“Now that we have entered into this binding contract, witnessed by all of your friends, I have decided upon the conditions you are obligated to adhere from this point forward. You may only live in the house for one hour a day. You will not use anything inside of the home. You will obey me without question or resistance. I expect complete loyalty and admiration for this gift I bestow upon you. You will accept my commands and wishes with enthusiasm, no matter the nature. Your morals and principles shall be as mine. You will vote as I do, think as I do and do it with blind faith. These are my terms. Here are your keys.” I reached the keys forward and the young man looked at me dumbfounded.

“Are you out of your mind? Who would ever agree to those ridiculous terms?” the young man appeared irritated. “You did when you signed this contract before reading it, understanding it and with the full knowledge that I would provide my conditions only after you committed to the agreement.” Was all I said. The elderly man chuckled as his wife tried to restrain him. I was looking at a now silenced and bewildered group of people. “You can shove that stupid deal up you’re a** old man, I want no part of it” exclaimed the now infuriated young man. “You have committed to the contract, as witnessed by all of your friends; you cannot get out of the deal unless I agree to it. I do not intend to let you free now that I have you ensnared. I am the power you agreed to. I am the one you blindly and without thought chose to enslave yourself to. In short, I am your Master.” At this, the table of celebrating individuals became a unified group against the unfairness of the deal.

After a few moments of unrepeatable comments and slurs, I revealed my true intent. “What I did to you is what this administration and congress did to you with the health care legislation. I easily suckered you in and then revealed the real cost of the bargain. Your folly was in the belief that you can have something you did not earn; that you are entitled to that which you did not earn; that you willingly allowed someone else to think for you. Your failure to research, study and inform yourself permitted reason to escape you. You have entered into a trap from which you cannot flee. Your only chance of freedom is if your new Master gives it to you. A freedom that is given can also be taken away; therefore, it is not freedom.” With that, I tore up the napkin and placed it before the astonished young man. “This is the nature of your new health care legislation.”

I turned away to leave these few in thought and contemplation and was surprised by applause. The elderly gentleman, who was clearly entertained, shook my hand enthusiastically and said, “Thank you Sir, these kids don’t understand Liberty these days.” He refused to allow me to pay my bill as he said, “You earned this one, it is an honor to pickup the tab.” I shook his hand in thanks, leaving the restaurant somewhat humbled, and sensing a glimmer of hope for my beloved country.

Use reason,
Clifford A.

Size does not matter

There is always that innuendo when discussing the question if size matters.

But I don’t want to get into this, even though I chose that headline to get your attention – – did work if you are reading this, didn’t it?

So, here I want to show you one example where size does not matter…

Before the mighty FAA we are all created equal. Once you have your clearance, it’s yours. You might give it up to let a big guy with 300 passengers go first, as these big guys are probably burning a lot more fuel in idle that I in my single engine plane will use for a whole trip.

Two things come to mind. One was a flight instructor telling the story at the Pilot’s CoOp that he did catch a ride on a business jet once and that the crew was treated to a nice dinner when they stopped somewhere for gas. Only when he saw the bill he understood.

The other story, I was involved myself directly. It was during my primary training when my instructor put me through the paces to practice my landings. Our airport had intersecting runways. One of them – 15 – was often used for the commercial traffic. If there was one plane ready for take-off on runway 15 and another one on approach on runway 8 the departing plane had to wait. Runway 8 was very long and the length from touch down to the intersection with runway 15 was plenty enough for a little plane to stop, so they never crossed 15. So it was customary that traffic control asked the landing traffic if they were landing short of 15, meaning they had no intention to cross runway 15. If the landing traffic confirmed that, the tower could let the big iron take off on runway 15.

That was standard operating procedure, but now yours truly, student pilot, enters the picture. On approach to 8 for the fifth or so time, I confirmed that I would hold short of 15 and tower gave takeoff clearance the the Southwest 737 and it started rolling.

Just then my flight instructor, who I was so glad to have with me, made the decision that I had messed up the approach – I was too high or too slow or both, floating too far down the runway. He gabbed he yoke, pushed the throttle to the firewall, keyed the mike: “Tower, Cherokee 888 going around!!”

Now that was not good. The 737 was rolling towards the intersection and we, in our tin can were now climbing over runway 8 towards the intersection.

Tower: “Southwest 114 ABORT – Southwest 114 ABORT!”

All went well, the 737 stopped before the intersection and we sailed unscathed across the intersection. I was too busy digesting this all so I did not take a good look into the cockpit of the 737 that was sitting right there on my left side. But I could imagine that the pitch of the captains voice might not have been so low as they usually are.

We got the expected call from the tower: “Cherokee 888, Tower, contact the tower after landing!” Was I glad that I was only the student, and my instructor was legally the pilot in command. A bit after we landed and tied down, I saw my instructor on the phone with the tower – very meek and apologetic – rather different than his usual boisterous self. Fortunately for him he got off with a warning.

It was a big story at the Pilot’s CoOp and many guesses where made how much money in kerosine that had cost Southwest. I mostly had to think of the poor passengers that did not really know what was happening. The usual bit of scare at the takeoff roll and then suddenly screeching brakes – it might have convinced never to fly again.

I only had one instance of “Call the tower after landing!” but I could weasel myself out with the fact that I was going someplace further away and could truthfully tell the controller that the tower would be closed when I returned. So, he just scolded me a bit and told me to listen better next time.