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The art of blogging, it is fair to say, has come of age. Although more younger people are just beginning to write their thoughts and lives for the Internet public to see, there are millions of older bloggers who have managed to overcome the first three months of cyberlife and continue to write. They have discovered that sharing, even if hardly anyone visits their site, is a relief from the stress and strain of everyday life, an outlet for their thoughts and opinions. With a weblog anything can be written and published, within reason.
Sadly I must add that caveat because of the censorious restrictions placed in some countries around the world. We read of bloggers who have been sentenced to jail terms for their thoughts, of those who have been publicly whipped or even killed. Freedom of opinion, when voiced in such a public domain as the Internet, is not a Right everyone enjoys. There will always be someone who disagrees with what has been written, for whatever reason, and some of these people, these officials, have the power to disrupt, to stifle, to destroy.
We also see, over the last few days especially, how the public domain Internet can be exploited. Live pictures of a murder in Virginia, USA come to mind immediately, but also the disinformation fed to a willing, gullible public by governments, by lobbyists, by ministries around the world. We see two sides to every story, sometimes more, and have to decide for ourselves what is real, what is imagined, what makes a difference to us and our world. We see verbal and pictorial abuse, devastation, plight, sorry and hatred. We live, in the manner of an outsider, the lives of those who write, who send their thoughts, their experiences out into the world of the Internet for all to see.
Photo Source: Clint Lalonde – Creative Commons
Blogging is alive and well, in a way, it is the people behind the blogs we should look at. What we read in the news media is, of course, very selective, designed to sell rather than to inform. We do receive the information we are looking for, or which is being fed to us, but not necessarily that which brings us a balanced and fair view. Politics plays as much a part in the media as it does in political life. Weblogs, in a similar fashion, can also be biased; we all wish to show the best side of ourselves, tell the best stories, present the most rounded opinion. We are not so much presenting ourselves as presenting what we wish to be, how we wish to be seen. We create an alter ego of ourselves, of our lives, which is filled with excitement, with interests, with character and personality. In theory.
I blog, therefore… But are we? It would be impossible to present a complete picture of our lives, of our feelings, of everything that goes to make us what we are. No one is capable of writing about themselves in such a manner that anyone reading the words, viewing the images, can leave with a whole picture, a definitive understanding. Perhaps we just blog to show that we are here, and hope that what we write, what we publish, will remain after we have gone. Perhaps we write in the hope of gaining contact with others of a similar opinion, similar circumstances and interests. Perhaps, in some cases, we write because we are lonely and have no other way of communicating our feelings, fears, emotions.
The Internet, when it comes to blogs, captures absolutely everything in life in one way or another. Put everything together, without taking sides, and it is possible to gain a deep and meaningful idea of modern society across all of its levels. This last is the reason why blogging is so successful, why it will survive. We, as we write, as we publish, contribute something to society that has never been there before: social history in a manner which, only ten years ago, was unthinkable. No matter the trials and tribulations, no matter the risks, the hatred and vitriol, the Internet, on a personal level, is alive and showing all of its faults, all of its good points and helping us, from afar, to understand. This is our contribution, this is why we write in the end.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
If you need a license to fly an airplane, why not also a license to fly a drone? The need for some sort of registration of drones in the United states and, perhaps over the coming years, in Europe, makes some form of sense. It will not stop people from building their own and flying them illegally, but what cannot be done illegally when opportunity arises?
There is, however, something that I would much rather see happen, and it is based entirely on my experiences driving – and being driven – around Germany over the last few years. Training and a license for people who ride bicycles.
Screenshot Source: Slate / Twitter
In Germany most people gain their first experiences of riding with their parents, as elsewhere I have no doubt, and the right way to handle road traffic in Kindergarten. There are special courses for Kindergarten and primary school children offered by the police and various national bicycle associations, but only at a very young age. By the time most children advance into the teenage years, and beyond, they have forgotten all the rules and good practices they were taught.
Yet, despite the lack of any real, formal training, anyone can ride a bicycle on almost any road. The fact that they have to abide by the rules of the road, watch out for pedestrians and other vehicles, seems to be lost somewhere along the route. Bicycles, it seems, have a set of rules all of their own, and the riders are not only invincible, but always in the right. They ride along the wrong side of the road, cross without looking, drive through the night without lights on and are generally more than just a simple nuisance to everyone else. They are a positive and constant danger.
Still, no license is required, no registration, no formal training. The accident statistics are not as high as other vehicular accidents, but the injuries often far more severe. Not just people being run over, or flying across the bonnet of a car because they cut in front without looking or signaling, but also for those forced to brake suddenly, to swerve out of the way and so on.
And, of course, licensing bicycles, forcing their riders to have formal training would bring a good income for the tax office…
- Viktoria Michaelis.
To follow the political news in the USA, especially when it comes to the various election campaigns already being waged, and gain a fair and balanced idea of what is happening, you’d need to watch all of the news channels twenty-four hours a day and read both the serious press and, sadly, the gutter-press too. An impossible task, no matter how good a person is.
There is no balanced reporting and there are no accurate polls. The press is biased, not necessarily through their own fault, by editorial guidelines as much as by the slant each individual reporter has on their story, following their own political beliefs and experiences. The only thing it is safe and sensible to follow is what the candidates themselves have to say, and then to form a personal opinion. This involves fact checking as much as anything, even here we cannot rely on any one source, no matter how convincing a statement, a policy paper, a manifesto may appear to be on the surface.
Photo Source: Dennis Goedegebuure – Creative Commons
There are some headlines, however, which catch our attention whether we wish them to or not. One of them – amongst many – is the demand / promise by Donald Trump to export all undocumented, all illegal immigrants from the United States back to Mexico, or wherever they came from. A glance towards Europe and the massive problems being caused by the influx of refugees from the Balkan countries, from Syria and elsewhere will show how difficult it is to stem the flow of those trying to find a better life, trying to flee from war, murder and the atrocities carried out by despotic regimes, by terrorism, racial and religious persecution.
The fact that the United States cannot afford to deport all the illegal immigrants should be clear to all: many industries rely on their undocumented, migrant workers to survive. It is, though, much more than that. The United States was born on the backs of immigrants, grew strong through their labor, and all of them were undocumented initially, all of them were illegal.
The idea of deporting eleven million – according to some figures – illegals out of the United States should, however, bring back other memories. We’ve seen it before, and within living memory. Deportation to other countries, into war zones and, above all, into camps designed to eradicate the ‘problem’, was a major part of Germany’s strategy during the late Thirties and into the Forties, and millions of people, whether they were involved or not, whether they were alive at the time or not, have sworn that such an event should never happen again.
The Holocaust memorial in Miami should remind our politicians and voters never to go this way again.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
In one of the last interviews the philosopher Richard Dworkin (1913 – 2013) gave, he was asked what is wrong with a person spending their entire life collecting matchboxes. His answer was that such a hobby is not a real challenge, it is trivial, the result is only a collection of matchboxes. He goes on to say, at the end of the interview, that the matchbox collector may well have gained a good deal of pleasure from his hobby but, at the end of his life, no matter how long it may be, all he has to show is a collection of matchboxes; he has no children; he has not contributed to science and he has seen nothing worthwhile during his life.
With this Dworkin has condemned countless hobbies to the realm of uselessness. He has effectively placed the value of a person’s life at the lowest end of the scale – for those who follow any form of activity – claiming that they have made no contribution to the world or their own lives, aside from having some personal pleasure in amassing their collection. What he fails to take into consideration, though, is the individual and, to a certain extent, society.
We live in a world which is constantly changing, where what was has quickly been replaced by something new, something better. What was disappears into the mists of time, often with scarcely a memory of its existence being left to show that it once, no matter how long ago, commanded a place in our lives. And here it makes no difference whether we consider matchboxes or any of the other artifacts which may well have been a common sight, a normal part of former lives. It would be just as easy to write off those who collect old photographs, books, maps and other artifacts from the present which, with these constant changes to our world, are quickly outdated, replaced, moribund. There is always something better, he seems to be saying, so we should leave the trivial behind us and concentrate on other things.
Photo Source: Simon Steiner – Creative Commons
What, amongst all these trivial, everyday things, can we raise to the ranks of the worthwhile? What should we be doing with our lives that leaves something of ourselves, as well as helping the furtherance of society, behind when we finally draw our last breath? The idea of several billion people all trying to leave something worthwhile behind them, something which will make their name stand out forever, something which will improve the lives of all others, defies reality. If every single person becomes a philosopher and spends their days contemplating the meaning of life, is there any real meaning to their lives?
For the matchbox collector, on the other hand, there is meaning. The challenge of finding and preserving rare examples, of presenting them to the public or, as many do, having them there as a personal pleasure. Such a hobby is, on a much smaller scale, the province of the great museums around the world: to collect, to show, to illustrate what was and what could be. Should we write off all the museums, the art collections, the libraries of rare books as being trivial, as being a sign of a wasted life? Or are they all, from the smallest upwards, a part of our lives, of our society in that they illustrate what was, show us the skills, the inventiveness, the creativity of our ancestors?
Richard Dworkin also says he would never condemn a person for spending their entire life collecting matchboxes; the person has managed to shape their own life as they wish and has a right to follow this hobby, whether it be rated as trivial by someone else or not. It is still, he claims, a major mistake, since there is so much this person could have done with their time on earth. He has no right, he admits, to interfere with this person’s life decision, with the direction they have chosen, with their interests.
Sadly the interviewer does not go further into the claim that the matchbox collector has no children and that he has not helped science or society in one form or another. What the collector has done is preserve something of our past, and he or she may well have traveled around the world, complete with a family, searching for the rarest examples to add to the collection.
As a philosopher, perhaps Richard Dworkin could have gone further into the idea of what an individual is, and what motivates them through life, rather than generalizing about their lives, condemning them, in effect, to a lifestyle only a very few follow. It is possible to follow a hobby in the greatest intensity and still have a family and friends, still see the world, and leave something behind which is of worth.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
If the weekend was hot and sunny in Germany, no matter where you are, you will get to see one thing Monday: stacks of beer crates, filled with empty bottles, being brought back to the shops. To be fair, not just beer, some soft drinks are also hidden in there, but the beer crates take up the bulk of what is brought back. Gone are the days of tossing the empty bottles out with the trash, everything has its worth today, and each one of these bottles is worth eight cents.
Glass is a recyclable product, which means that the government decided to put a deposit on all beer bottles a few years ago, along with some plastic bottles and metal cans. Not all of them, and certainly not everything that is made of glass or plastic, but a good selection. We now have a society which is not only used to separating one type of trash from another for the different trash cans which line the streets on collection days, but also one which collects bottles and cans for the money they bring back in.
Photo Source: Stefan – Creative Commons
And this extra value has brought a small industry with it. There are people who clear away empty bottles and cans from the streets – plastic bottles are with twenty-five cents each – and even go through the public trash cans sorting out what they can find, what is worth taking in to the local drinks store, to the supermarket to earn a living or, at the very least, a little pocket-money on the side.
Weekend and good weather, a good barbecue, and money back afterwards. Although I have come across some people who are so out of things that the money they could get back lies next to them in the street. Saturday morning, the early bus in to Bremen, and a few party-goers, complete with drinks, climbed in to the bus to go home, at eight in the morning. Another sign that the weather was good, the barbecue tasty, and the music enough to keep their attention through the night.
Love & Kisses, Viki.
Selfies, the fad of taking a photograph of yourself, is not a modern thing no matter what people may say. Artists through the centuries have recorded their own image in their works since man first discovered that he could scratch on cave walls, and many of the most famous Masters have included themselves in world events, in mythological depictions, in historical memories of their times and earlier.
Screenshot Source: Jerome Taylor / Twitter
With our modern technology, from the very beginnings of the use of a camera to (almost) instantly record an event, it has become much easier to place yourself within a scene, to record yourself in front of the Brandenburg Tor, the Eiffel Tower, the Houses of Parliament or the White House. Thousands of tourists do it every single day, and carry their memories of a visit to some historical place back with them, or send the images onto the Internet for others to share their experience.
Part of this ‘I was there’ is now the capturing of events at scenes of disaster, current and past. Self images in Auschwitz, in the funeral parlor, at the scene of a bombing or murder. Even firemen have been seen to record their own face in front of a burning house, and raised many questions about what they are doing, what they must be thinking when they capture, and publicize, such an image.
Screenshot Source: The Guardian / Twitter
For those who cannot understand why, we only need to take a look at the news media. We are confronted every single day with images of death and destruction, stories of mayhem and murder. Where a photograph of the event, or the remains after what happened, is available, the news media will use it. We see journalists and reporters standing in front of smashed cars and planes, ruined houses, massive craters in the ground, reporting the details. And we watch from the safety of our own couches, read about events at the breakfast table.
Is there such a massive difference between the reporting of events – before, during and after – through the news media and the taking of a selfie by a private person? The individual is simply doing what the media does: placing themselves at the scene, recording their own image to tell the story to others later. We can be there through the news media, through live reporting on our television screens just as much as being there in person.
Why condemn someone for taking a selfie, when the media do it too, even if their methods and reasoning are different? We may not be able to understand the mentality of an individual taking advantage of such an event, but we should be able to understand the reasoning. ‘I was there, and here is the proof’ is much the same as ‘I have a story to tell, with pictures’.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
I got caught up in my own confusion recently, reading through Twitter without clicking on any of the links to get the low down on each short message. What I read is not what was written, at least, not in the way that I thought it was. In other words, I gained a completely different impression of something and it threw me completely.
Apparently several of the Republican candidates for the office of President of the United States of America commented on the term ‘Anchor Babies’. I caught it with The Donald’s name mentioned – I haven’t bothered checking to see whether he coined the phrase or whether it is a general GOP thing – and read the term as ‘Anchor Babes’.
Photo Source: Augie Schwer – Creative Commons
Now, if you consider the run-in The Donald had with Megyn Kelly recently, you might already have figured out where I’m going. My first thought was that The Donald was sending out another of his attacks, aimed at Ms Kelly, and had used this belittling term to describe her. I suppose, as far as he is concerned, it could well fit: she is an anchor on the show and, for many, most certainly a Babe (capital B!). Coming from a man like The Donald, and many others of similar persuasion, this would be an insult, especially if he happens to be on the look-out for another trophy wife.
But no, what was meant was Anchor Babies, children born of immigrants – mostly termed either alien or illegal – who gain citizenship thanks to being born on US soil and, as a result, can ‘adopt’ their parents to stay with them. I have my thoughts about this, but they will not appear here today. Likewise I have my thoughts about The Donald’s idea of packing eleven million people into trains and shipping them off somewhere, but that will also have to wait for another day. Right now I shall think about my Anchor Babes.
Before you ask, no, Megyn is not taking her holiday here with me… although, were it not for her political bent…
Love & Kisses, Viki.
I’ve mentioned several times over the last few days that I am either upgrading to Windows 10, have upgraded to Windows 10, am having problems with Windows 10 or am considering reverting to Windows 7. I cannot imagine that I am the only one who is going through this phase, if other people have the same problems as I have been having, that is: constant crashes.
I didn’t have this with Windows 7. It was a stable piece of software, easy to work with, comfortable. Windows 10, on the other hand, appears to be unstable. It is not, as someone told me, a finished product.
My Blue Screen of Death, with its demeaning sad smiley, tells me – between seven and ten times a day – that something has gone wrong with my computer, and that I should do a search on the Internet for the term DPC_WATCHDOG_VIOLATION (yes, all in caps). This is not a part of my computer, it should be noted, but a problem with the Windows 10 software itself.
In fact, a search on the Internet, during one of those brief episodes when my computer works, shows me that this major problem is well known, and reasonably well documented. Checking the discussion boards on Microsoft’s own web site, I see that it has been talked about for several years and was also a great problem with Windows 8 / 8.1.
The solution, some suggest, is to remove a certain piece of software, a driver which is unnecessary. This has to be removed during the installation process or, if not possible, removed during a re-installation. The problem is, if I do a re-installation through Windows 10 all of my foreign (non-Microsoft) applications, such as Firefox, ZoneAlarm and so on, are also removed, automatically. I have to go and find each and every one again, and re-install them separately.
Image Source: Zulkarnain K – Creative Commons
The question is: if this problem has been known about for several years, and if it has been discussed on Microsoft’s own discussion boards, why is the software file which causes the crashes still in Windows 10? Why have we been given an incomplete, problem-filled package? Had we bought this from a store, most of us would have returned it by now and bought elsewhere.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
We live in Politically Correct times, not as bad, perhaps, as they were a few years ago, but still times which cause many people to think before the speak or regret the simplest of things said. It is a time when we should be asking ourselves questions, re-evaluating what we know and do not know, what we wish to explore. We should be asking awkward questions, challenging norms, finding out exactly what is no longer allowed and why. It is no use just accepting that a certain question cannot be asked, that statements on specific subjects may no longer be made, we should challenge the silence which prevails and bring these questions out into the open, no matter how provocative or – in an innocent way – insulting they appear to be.
Is it possible that intelligence is inherited?
Some of these questions are already being asked, especially following the many, many incidents involving the police and unarmed, colored people in the United States. Facts and figures are beginning to come out into the open which have been hidden within other facts and figures, without their own highlight, without anyone asking exactly what the whole means. People are beginning to break things down, to look at the smaller picture rather than just the whole. The whole, we are discovering, hides too much which needs to be addressed, which needs to be made public.
Is it possible that a sexual relationship between and adult and a child might not be dangerous?
But it is not just questions about race, about sexuality, about religion we should be addressing, more what our society is, what it has become, how it has changed over the last fifty years or so. People look back to the Good Old Days and claim things were better, but would they be willing to go back and live in those times? Would they be willing to give up what they have now and live in a pre-technological age? By that I mean a time when telephones were used to talk to people, when letters were written, when the television still only had a handful of channels. Were we more innocent then, before all the Political Correctness began to shape our lives? Were things better without mass communication systems, without social networks, without globalization?
Is it possible that there are moral and intellectual differences between people of different skin colors?
Perhaps society, or a few brave people with the courage to speak out, should take a look at how our education system works and whether we are preparing our children for a future in a free and morally sustainable society. Are we concentrating on keeping the status quo, hiding the awkward, the real facts of life? Are we glossing over those things which need to be addressed for fear of offending someone? Perhaps that offense would disappear, were we given the chance to talk without fear of retribution, without fear of being hounded and abused on social networks. Perhaps even our feelings about ourselves, our appearance, our sexuality, our desires and dreams, would benefit from open discussion.
Is it possible that the Holocaust in World War Two is not a unique event?
If we were capable of discussing, openly and without fear subjects such as the differences in belief – political or religious – would we gain a better understanding of those other people who live with us in our society? Would we be capable of understanding their hopes and dreams and placing them in relation to our own? Would we be capable of talking, debating, with people of different ethnic origins, different religious beliefs, different political ideals with an open mind? Clearly, going back to the Good Old Days would prevent such an open discussion, but today?
Is it possible that including or integrating disabled children in schools is harmful both for the class and for the disabled children themselves?
Our society has achieved much over the last fifty years, but is still incapable of coming to terms with the world as it is. We still see foreigners as a danger, as a challenge to our success, to our peaceful lives. We still see those of a different religion – including those who have the same religion, but follow a different type of worship – as being a threat. Some imagine that the granting of equal rights – for women, for those of color, for foreigners, for non-heterosexual couples and individuals – will be the downfall of society as we know it. Granting these rights, which we take for granted for ourselves, is just the first step on the slippery slope to anarchy. Did the granting of voting rights to women, to blacks, end the United States, Europe? Did society fall apart?
Every time someone tries to ask one of these questions – some of which I have highlighted here – they are beaten down as being Out Of Order. these are subjects which are not to be discussed in public: someone on high gives an order and it is accepted by some, legally challenged by others. But where is the open discussion, without heat and abuse? Where are the facts to back one side or the other?
Isn’t it about time that we settled down to the task of proving that our intellectual superiority – as a race – is justified by using our capabilities to explore ourselves and our world?
The questions I have highlighted above were posed by Hartmut Rosa, Professor of Sociology at Jena University, and form only a small part of what we could, and should, be looking at to gain a better understanding of our lives, our society and the future we wish to form.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
I can’t say that I’ve come across that many people who have lauded Windows 10 as if it is the new sliced bread. I remember people telling me about The Blue Screen of Death and now, with Windows 10, I have been experiencing it myself. I don’t know how many times it has crashed, I’ve lost count. I just see this damnable dark blue screen with a sad smiley on it – as if they are taking the mickey out of us or, at the very least, me – and then the whole thing reboots.
With the reboot things are not back to the way they should be. I have to reboot it again after the reboot so that the web sites I want to be on, the sites where I happen to have been working and where, luckily, I have regularly saved my work, reconnect.
To add insult to injury – as if the Blue Screen Smiley wasn’t insult enough – all the wonderful updates which Microsoft are offering me, which do not occur automatically, are failing to install. Perhaps one of them fixes whatever it is that causes all these crashes?
Photo Source: Dennis Jarvis – Creative Commons
I still have two weeks to decide whether I want to revert to Windows 7 again and, believe me, the prospect is looking better and better each day. I had no problems with Windows 7 at all, not even one. New is not always better.
And, in case you’re wondering, I’ve included a photograph of a window which isn’t broken.
- Viktoria Michaelis.