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Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on September 23, 2013 in Personal with Comments closed |

Welcome, traveler. Thank you for visiting. Now take a few minutes to browse, to enjoy and show that you were here with a comment!

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Texas: Fighting A Losing Battle

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on June 29, 2015 in News & Opinion |

There is a saying that the battle may be lost (or won) but the war is not over, and it is exactly this fact of life which many people in the United States should take to heart. The Supreme Court may have the final word on same-sex marriage as far as the law goes, but there are always loopholes someone will seek out, always people who will not accept.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appears to be one of these people. He seems to think that he can get around the Supreme Court ruling by citing religious freedom, by telling his clerks that they can refuse a marriage license if they feel that issuing one impedes their Right to religious freedom. That is, if a clerk feels that their religious freedom is of greater importance than the civil rights of another person.

The two things are clearly miles apart. What the Supreme Court has ruled is that two people of the same gender may get married. What they have not ruled is that this marriage can take place in a church building or as part of a religious ceremony. Their ruling impedes on no religious freedoms whatsoever, and does not change Church law. It allows consensual civil unions under civil law for same-gender couples.

Supreme Court Ruling

Photo Source: Russell MondyCreative Commons

Another loud voice is that of Rand Paul who seems to be demanding that government should get out of the marriage business. He doesn’t want his Right to guns or his Right to form a (marriage) contract decided in Washington DC. He seems to feel that the Supreme Court decision is just the beginning of the end for marriage and that, given enough time, someone in government will manage to get other forms of marital contract approved – perhaps he’s hinting at incestuous marriages, the idea has been floated so often.

Just to be clear, an incestuous marriage could well be a contract between a man and a woman, who happen to be closely related. Isn’t the fact that a man and a woman, under the old form of law, could marry much more likely to bring marriage of a man and a woman who are closely related with it than the civil union of same-sex couples?

What Paul seems to have forgotten here is that removing the government involvement – which would mean that the license need not be issued by a clerk, but by a pastor, a deacon, a member of some religious order – brings one or two other problems with it. For the established religions, couples would find themselves severely restricted in who they could take as a partner. Do they have the same religion – as in: both Roman Catholic, both Latter Day Saints and so on – or even the same branch of the same religion? Are both virgins, and can they prove it? Has one or the other been married before and is now divorced?

With the smaller religions, and there are literally hundreds registered in the United States, we could well see polygamy coming back in to fashion. How about the old (in the Bible) tradition of a man marrying his brother’s wife should the brother die?

Each religion has its own rules about marriage, and it is only the civil involvement – the fact that people do not have to be married in a church building, through a religious ceremony – which keeps marriage active at all. How many marriages would simply not exist if only the Church were allowed to approve this binding contract?

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

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The Darkest Days Of Humanity

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on June 27, 2015 in News & Opinion |

It is hard to believe that some count the last hours as being the darkest ever. I do not mean in a natural light sense – sunlight, daylight saving time and all that – but in the sense of a set back for the human race, a turnaround in the wrong direction, a return to the days of cave dwelling and moral darkness. The United States of America, thanks to a clear and very public ruling by the Supreme Court, now officially has same-sex civil unions or, as some people wish to call it, marriage for homosexuals. This, apparently, is what will bring the End Times, the Wrath of God – or whatever – down upon our heads, and not rape, torture, terrorism, adultery, incest, blasphemy, idolatry – the alternate list is almost endless.

In what could be called the darkest week for (some) Americans, the Supreme Court has ruled on medical insurance, equality and many other subjects – directly or through clear relationships and follow-up legislation which will have to come – and damned the prospects of those who would limit the freedoms of ordinary Americans; who would split the country into rich and poor; who would allow money to decide who can live and who must die. For everyone else, for those who see the benefits and civil advancement caused by these decisions – which should have been seen and accepted as civil rights decades ago – it has been a week of blessings, of light, and of relief.

Slowly but surely, the United States is catching up with the Old World, the outdated world, with those who were meant to be left behind so many years ago. Slowly the USA is nearly parity with Europe in medical, democratic and civil rights, and pure quality of life.

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

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The Beauty Of Bureaucracy

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on June 20, 2015 in Immoral Conversations |

A politician in Germany recently lamented the fact that his country is now being seen as the strike center of Europe, far worse than Italy and France where strikes are a set and permanent part of the negotiation process. The latest strike to hit us is that of postal workers, who are claiming a right to higher pay by using their legitimate right to strike.

A strike, however, is not just a strike, there are small facets which only gradually come to light, which tend to be hidden from view by those – on one side or the other – who do not want their position to be made any worse than it already is. One of these is that not every postal worker is on strike, whether as a matter of freewill or not, since many are civil servants, back from the days when the postal service was government-owned, and are legally bound not to strike. Then there are those who are employed by the post office, but do not work for the post office; they work in smaller companies as a cheap version of the big picture.

Deutsche Post

Photo Source: J. TriepkeCreative Commons

And then there are those who are sent out to the sorting and distribution centers to find certain packages and ensure that they are delivered, such as those from Amazon. The German post is contractually bound to provide a delivery service, and clearly the possibility of a strike, a prevention by union action, is not within that contract.

Other companies, and most certainly private people, are not quite so lucky. They have to trust that their post will hit the right center, where people are working, or that there will be a worker who is prepared – or must – handle their delivery from one of the other companies. That is the way it is for me at the moment: I receive an order for a book and am bound to send it out, but cannot guarantee that it will get to its destination within a reasonable period of time.

This time factor is a great worry for some companies who are bound by time limits. A medical educational firm, which specializes in organizing exchange programs around the world, has applied for an injunction against both the post office and the union to ensure that their application forms are delivered, otherwise many students will not gain their places in the program and lose a great deal of educational experience as a result. As I understand it, the courts have granted the injunction, the post office must deliver these packages and letters.

The injunction is a written order, a verbal one is not legally binding in Germany, and, as such, has to be delivered to the post office. The court has, therefore, put the injunction in an envelope and stuck it in the post….

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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My Internet Superpower Should Be…

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on June 18, 2015 in Photography |

The first thing I thought when I saw this photograph on Flickr’s Explored today was: I wish I had taken this. I wish I was the person standing behind the camera who was able to capture this single image, this moment in time forever. For me, as a very inexperienced photographer, it has everything that I want to be able to find, to hold on film.

St Ann's Square

Photo Source: Tim BrockleyCreative Commons

I guess I’m just going to have to get out there more often and try, hope, experiment, take chances. It’s not just luck which brings such photographs, but also speed, thought and care. And patience, all you digital photographers out there – although this is a digital image from, according to Flickr, a Nikon D5300 – patience and the willingness to wait, to watch, and to wait some more.

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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Trade: Stating The Obvious

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on June 13, 2015 in News & Opinion |

Before I even start: I am not a political person, much of what happens in politics, regardless of which country you choose in the democratic world, will happen no matter which political party happens to be in power. If it make sense for the country, or their ideal of a country, they will try to push it through.

This caught my eye and, I do not doubt, will probably catch the eye of anyone else who can see how easy it is to re-write, to adapt. You can look behind the words too, and see another meaning, one which the Chinese could quite easily use to their own benefit.

Trade Rules

Screenshot Source: Twitter / Mark Knoller

Are the Americans not writing these trade deals, these rules to benefit their own workers too? Are these trade rules not designed to help businesses work on a global scale with one another, but without any detriment to the countries involved?

It would be exactly the same if someone had tweeted:

Xi Jinping warns that if China doesn’t write the trade rules, “countries like the United States of America will write those rules” to benefit their workers.

In the end it comes down to exactly the same thing.

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

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Man In The Shadows

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on June 10, 2015 in Immoral Conversations |

Not many people get to celebrate it, and certainly not many people have their birthday mentioned in the news media around the world. Prince Philip, Prince Consort, the Duke of Edinburgh (and so on) is ninety-four years old.

The only reason that I mention this, since I have nothing to do with the British royal family and this is not, for me, a particularly special birthday, is because of the wonderful description in the local newspaper which, I suppose, could describe so many marriages in modern times.

Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh

Photo Source: Michael Gwyther-JonesCreative Commons

The dpa (German press association) sent out a general news item for all the local newspapers to print, should they so wish or if it happened to be a slow news day. As it happens, my local newspaper took up the story and, along with a photograph of the Prince wearing a grey top hat, printed the text exactly as received.

What I love about it is that the fact of their marriage – sixty-eight years – is brought out as the second part of a sentence. The first, if you believe all the stories about their marriage, the ups and downs, the problems between them – hearsay, of course – and the many branches of their family, seems to sum up what many people believe the Prince to be: merely a consort, someone in the background, a man in the shadows. Of course, if you also read the many stories about what he has said in public, about the many times he has really put his foot in it, you’d be hard pressed to believe that he really is just a man in the background.

The dpa opened their sentence describing the Prince as a man who has been in ‘contact with his wife’ for seventy-five years. They could have termed it better but, then again, perhaps they hit the nail on the head too.

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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Bargaining Powers

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on June 9, 2015 in Photography |

Sometimes you can have all the luck in the world, sometimes it is a clear case of bargaining against the odds to get what you want for the best possible price. In my case, over the last few weeks, it has been a bit of both, and my photograph today shows the results: two new – to me – cameras at a price even I can afford. Both of them, I hasten to add, are in perfect working order, and both came from the flea market on Schlachte in Bremen.

For the Yashica there was no need to use any of our famed bargaining powers. I made an offer considerably less than the price the woman behind the table wanted which, as it was beginning to rain and the selling day was drawing to an end, was accepted without a word. I had already done my comparisons through the Internet – which I tend to do so that the seller cannot see whether I have any background information or not – and with roughly twenty-five Euro just for the winder on eBay, I think I came out of the deal reasonably well, paying eight Euro for the whole thing.

Yashica FR with Winder and Daci

Photo Source: Viktoria Michaelis

The Daci was something else, and I must admit that I did not end up buying it at all. I communicated my offer a few weeks ago to the Syrian man standing next to a spread out bed sheet by the river Weser. I thought ten Euro would be quite a good price, and that was also the offer price on eBay for another Daci. The offer price, as the man so rightly pointed out, is only the starting price – which I knew because there were plenty of other Dacis on sale at between fifty and seventy Euro. It was also fairly early in the day, that time, and we wanted to get on and see a few other things, not just the market. I must add, one of us is not so keen on photography and cameras as the other; I hardly need mention which one!

Two weeks went by and the man was by the river again, the camera was still there, and he still wanted fifty Euro for it. No bargaining possible – although I did try to make my Love put more enthusiasm in the verbal side of the bargaining – he claimed to have paid twenty-five for it, and wouldn’t go below thirty-five or even forty.

Saturday. The sun was blazing down in Bremen as we wandered along the Schlachte, looking at the reduced flea market, cut down in size by the laying of new water pipes along half its length. There were four of us this time and, although I was tempted, I made a point of hurrying by the Daci, sitting there all forlorn with its case and no one to buy it and give it a good home. I’m sure the seller, if he even remembered me, didn’t see my furtive glances.

The idea is, perhaps, not a new one, but it is the first time I’ve used it. I bought the camera through a fairly simple form of trickery, something people may well say I shouldn’t be proud of, but I am nonetheless. And they would be too, if they had done it. One of our group was an eleven year old girl who, shy and unsure of whether she would be able to pull it off, went and made an offer to the seller. He turned her ten Euro bid down. I had expected this. I also expected her next bid to be turned down too: she should claim that she only had fifteen Euro, her entire pocket-money for the weekend.

So, I now own a Daci too…

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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Jobsworth: A Little Thought Goes…

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on June 8, 2015 in Immoral Conversations |

For anyone who doesn’t already know it, I travel a great deal by bus. Every college day I make my way to the local bus station, climb into a bus which takes me to Bremen, change over to a tram which takes me almost to the college door and, every evening, I do the same in reverse. It is fair to say, I believe, that I know a little about bus travel in this part of Germany although, it must also be admitted, not as much as some!

It is also fair to say that there are some things about life in Germany which irritate me. One of these things is covered very succinctly by the Jobsworth title given by many British people to those who insist on doing their job exactly according to the book, even when there is clearly either a major problem with what they are doing, or it is just plain wrong. The thing which irritated me this week took place as I was traveling to the Domweih (an annual festival) in Verden with a Weser-Ems-Bus – a company owned by Deutsche Bahn and operating in the VBN region of Germany (Bremen – Lower Saxony). A little bit of thought and less rigid sticking to a bad rule would have saved several children a good deal of their pocket-money.

Bus

Photo Source: MichaelCreative Commons

At the start of the year the VBN – which is an umbrella organization for the Bremen – Lower Saxony area and covers almost all bus companies and the prices on the railways within its borders – issued a series of new tickets designed, theoretically, to make life easier and cheaper for the customer, without taking anything away from the profits of the individual bus companies. One of these tickets allows people with a monthly, school or subscription ticket to travel outside of their normal area – that covered in the ticket price – for a set fee. The customer shows their normal ticket and pays 3.40 for the remaining journey, no matter how much a normal ticket costs.

The problem with this ticket, which is good for adults traveling quite a distance, is that it applies to children with their normal school ticket too. There is no reduced child price, the 3.40 applies to all.

Three children – under fourteen – traveled with a Weser-Ems-Bus to the Domweih. They showed their normal school tickets, whereby, last year, they would have had to pay one Euro extra for the extra zone (they got in in Dörverden – one zone – and traveled to Verden – the second zone – with tickets only for Dörverden). The Jobsworth bus driver charged all three 3.40 each for the additional zone.

Had they not shown their school tickets, or had the bus driver been slightly more thoughtful, the full price for a child would have been 1.70 each.

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

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Pondering The Shopping Basket Of Others

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on June 2, 2015 in Immoral Conversations |

Have you ever stood in a long, slowly moving queue in the grocer store and, for want of something better to do, tried to imagine what the person in front is going to be eating for their evening meal? I do it now and then although, perhaps I’m lucky here, the queues tend to be short and quick-moving mostly, with exception of the day before a vacation day. Shopping is sheer hell before a vacation day because everyone knows, that one day without being able to shop, and we’re all going to starve.

A joke comes to mind, which I shall just insert here quickly before getting back to my real post: a man stands in front of the cashier who looks at his chosen products, then at him and says: ‘single?’. He nods: ‘but how can you tell? Oh, I see, buying so little and then only one of each item. Very good.’ She smiles and replies: ‘no, it’s because you’re pig ugly.’

Groceries

Photo Source: Dan4th NicolasCreative Commons

Today I was almost forced, by a weird quirk of fate, to wonder what the man in front of me would be cooking or, indeed, what he had in mind to do with his purchases. Now, I am not going to judge anyone, we all know that people are individuals and have their own habits, their own desires, their own culinary specialities and so on. In Peru they eat hamsters, in China and Singapore dogs.

This man had only two products in his cart: ten bottles of cooking oil and twenty cans of cat food.

Menu suggestions?

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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The Almost Perfect Copy

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on June 1, 2015 in Immoral Conversations |

You’ve got to give it to those people involved in technology and selling us things which we really do not need, they are full of ideas. Now that it appears as if the iWatch – or whatever the thing is that Apple has produced – could be something of a short-term success, other companies are jumping on the bandwagon. Here we have the Asus ZenWatch 2 which, I am told, is a partial copy of the Apple – although I cannot see it on the surface – which aims to challenge whatever it is that Apple plans on doing, and probably a whole lot cheaper.

Asus ZenWatch 2

Photo Source: Asus

All I can say is, if you’re going to enter the market with a product which should hold its own, at least have the good sense to perfect the item before you start sending out the first films and advertizing work.

Anyone else see where things aren’t quite right here?

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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