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Every single day, when I go to buy my fresh bread rolls for breakfast, I see that the person serving behind the counter is wearing some form of glove. The idea is that any germs they might have on their hands is not passed on , through the food they are selling, to the customer. It’s no longer enough that hands are washed, there has to be even more protection against the bugs which threaten our health if not our lives.
And each day I see exactly the same thing, no matter where I go: the gloves are used constantly, there is no regular change to a new pair; money changes hands, and his taken in the gloved hand: one hand is gloved and, during the bagging process, the un-gloved hand touches the food item: surfaces which are not necessarily clean, utensils which have been used for other products, are touched and then food is handled again.
This, for those who are really concerned about their health, could be a nightmare. How can they be sure they’re not getting some form of malignant disease passed on to them by a shop assistant? And, although I am also concerned to keep my health intact, none of this others me at all. If the assistant touches my food with a bare hand, it’s fine. It makes no difference to me at all. Not because I am immune to health concerns, far from it, but because I have built up an immunity to most of the bugs and germs which could be passed from one hand to another and, if everyone would stop going overboard with their health concerns, they would be too.
Photo Source: Arlington County – Creative Commons
There is absolutely no protection from germs. The only way to get around them is to live and breathe the things, and let your own body build up an immunity to them through experience, through battling them. If this chance is taken away, if your body cannot experience and fight all the possible sources of bad health, or live through a childhood disease – for example – it cannot build up the necessary and natural immunity. This is not to say that inoculations against some diseases are wrong, far from it; there are some things which need to be protected against, but day-to-day germs are not amongst them.
That there is no true protection should be clear to everyone who eats any form of fast food, as just one example. The potential customer leaves their house, locking the door behind them, and drives to the local fast food outlet with their family. Today is family day, so all are in it together; no take-out at the drive-thru window. The family piles out of the car and trudge into the restaurant, find their seats and wait while one person does the ordering, paying, and carrying. All the service staff who come in contact with the food are wearing hygiene gloves and the food being prepared and offered does not come into contact with bare skin at any time. None of the staff are ill, no one sneezes or wipes their nose. There is no cause for concern whatsoever.
The family sits at their chosen table and eats their safe food. Except that, with all the hygiene concerns about the preparation and sales staff, one factor has been omitted: the customer who now holds a burger in their hands. The family has touched door handles, traveled in a car, opened the fast food restaurant door where countless other people have placed their hands, sat at a table which will perhaps have been briefly wiped over. They have handled money, car keys, everything which a person comes across in their daily lives.
How many people, going to a restaurant, do the one thing many Mothers insist their children do before a meal and wash their hands?
- Viktoria Michaelis.
The latest Windows 10 update is there, as promised, and has taken up a good deal of my time as, I do not doubt, it has taken up plenty of time for those others who are doomed to use this remarkable piece of software. And, no, for anyone wishing to take my words out of context as a compliment, I do not mean ‘remarkable’ in a positive sense at all.
It took seven attempts before the 1511 update managed to get itself onto my computer and work. The final, successful attempt took just over an hour, and I have broadband with a very fast connection. I pity those who are still living – Internet speed wise – in the Nineties or, above all, who do not have a massive capacity on their computer hard disks. Remember the days when Gates said we only needed a few hundred kilobytes working space?
The first thing that I noticed after the update was that the twelve irreparable errors I get – connections which do not lead to where they should – are all still there. Not just that, there are now a few more. The total number of errors which come up each and every time is now thirty-five. Some of these are links to DLL file errors, some are links to files which simply do not exist. The update has not improved the situation.
However, no matter how much this rubbish annoys me, that’s not what I wish to write about today, and thus my illustration.
Photo Source: Dalio Photo – Creative Commons
When you do an update, information is backed-up and saved in case the update doesn’t install properly. In the case of Windows 10 this is a good thing, but it also allows you to undo the update – or revert back to an earlier edition of Windows which was stable and worked as it should – with a few clicks of the mouse and a lot of luck. This means that, after an update, you have the new information saved on your hard disks, as well as the old, and that can take up a great deal of space.
Many people regularly run a cache cleaner or use the Microsoft system to remove temporary information. You click into the system, then onto the program which releases additional space on your disks by deleting excess files and information. For many, after a few hours in the Internet, this could be ten or twenty megabytes in total. hardly worth mentioning. After a major update, using Windows 10, it is exactly the same. You click-through, the program cleans up and asks whether you wish to delete.
What you might not see is that there is a second button which needs to be activated. The program cleans once, then has to clean the system – that is all unnecessary driver, error and update information – which the first sweep has not done.
One sweep after the Windows 10 update brought me a saving of eleven megabytes. The system sweep brought me a saving of twenty-six gigabytes.
This slightly larger data package included over nine hundred and fifty megabytes of something which included the word Retail in its title, which I can only assume is commercial – perhaps advertising trash Microsoft is foisting on us, or their new shop? – and decidedly not something that I want.
So, a small recommendation for those who need that extra space on their computer or who don’t want to sit for hours while programs try to load with a full disk hampering them: do a Hillary Clinton – wipe your disks!
- Viktoria Michaelis.
Undoubtedly many tens of thousands of words will be written about the terrorist attacks in Paris. Anger and fear will be expressed, or has already been. Blame will be placed, whether it is due or not. People will be attacked because of their appearance, their religion, their home country. I can easily imagine that the politicians in the United States, especially those candidates vying for the White House, will rant and rave and talk about closing down the borders, building walls and refusing refugees and, at the same time, blast Europe for closing borders and not helping the lost and homeless enough.
There is a lack of understanding on all sides, as much as a lack of will to allow other people to simply live in peace. It is difficult not to put the blame on religion for all this – and by ‘religion’ I do not mean faith, believe or anything similar. I mean the dogmatic religion which tells people how to live their lives and which can be, as is, taken out of context and used as a pretense for all forms of hatred and violence.
Graphic Source: Gary Winfield – Creative Commons
The lack of understanding on the part of the terrorists who claim to be Muslim was summed up, for me, in a sentence someone told me one of the terrorists used. He said that moving across Europe was easy since there are no borders, and he had no problems organizing the attacks.
It is clear what he hasn’t understood here. He doesn’t know what Freedom is. He has no conception of the idea of freedom of movement and, clearly, no idea of what the freedom to practice your own religion can mean. Freedom of speech is one aspect that many terrorists have understood, since they use our hard-won freedoms to spread their words of violence and hatred with the promise that, in the future, should they be successful, they will ban this very freedom, this Right.
Europe has been free of wars and conflicts since the end of the Second World War. That doesn’t mean they haven’t been involved in wars, but there have been none within the member states at all. In Europe all religions can be practiced, and there is, as a result, a far greater harmony. Lessons have been learned since the Thirties and Forties, ones which those in Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Palestine, Nigeria … it is a long list … have not yet come to appreciate. Ones which the terrorists cannot comprehend because they do not comprehend their own chosen religion.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
Never one to give up, and having plenty of time on my hands in the evenings, we decided to try another reading. This time we chose a very sparsely described reading at a restaurant. By sparsely described I mean that the event had a time, a two or three word description, and a place. Well, almost a place: if the title of the listing hadn’t been the town name we wouldn’t have known where it was.
To find out more we checked all our usual (Internet) sources and discovered that the restaurant is in the nearby town of Langwedel and that the reading was to be by the German crime author Jörg Böhm who, I imagine, hardly anyone has heard of outside northern Germany. The restaurant web site told us precious little more about the event, aside from time and address. Another check brought us to the web site for the author himself, which also gave precious little information – a one-liner on where and when just the same as every other listing. Despite this we decided to go.
Photo Source: Janaina C. Falkiewicz – Creative Commons
No one in German crime reading circles seems to be able to get the time right. We were early – that half hour again – but had the right place. Outside a well-lit and very interesting looking restaurant, public house, bar, event center we found a noticeboard advertizing the event in chalk on a blackboard. Inside we found a few fliers and another board which told us something we would have loved to know before setting off: the reading includes a three-course meal and needs to be booked in advance.
Since the magazine entry, the restaurant web site and the author’s web site didn’t mention this insignificant fact or the thirty-eight Euro costs, we had a journey out to Langwedel for nothing, turned around and went home again. A friend who did stay – but also didn’t know about the meal and so on – was given a chair at the side and heard the talk – which he decided was good and friendly when the book wasn’t being read, but somewhat flat for the text itself – right up until the main course was served. Rather than wait until everyone had finished eating for the talk / reading to continue, he gave up and went home too.
When it comes to crime books, it is good to have the information you need to solve the crime spread out over many pages rather than thrown at you all in one go. The reader invariably appreciates the chance to work out for themselves what has happened, who is responsible and so on. For a crime book reading, however, especially one where more than just the reading is involved, it is of great benefit to have all the information available right from the first moment.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
There’s one thing we’ve all experienced, as we sit and read our books in peace and quiet: that person who has to come and talk to us. Not just talk, but also give their own recommendations, the ‘oh, but you must read…’. These are always well-intentioned interruptions, but unwelcome all the same, and hardly likely, when the book you happen to be reading should be taking your undivided attention, to lead to further conversation.
Yesterday we decided to see what other people are reading, without the interruptions, and made our way to the nearby town of Achim. There, we were promised, the town library was to hold a presentation on new works of crime available in Germany. The library was easy to find and, of course, we were on time. Well, according to the time given on the web site we were but, sadly, those running the event were convinced that everything was due to start a half hour later, and the doors were closed. Which is why we had the pleasure of coming into the library practically soaked to the skin thanks to a sudden, vicious, rainstorm and, despite banging on the doors and calls to those inside from the other people waiting without benefit of any cover. And here, in the warm and dry, we discovered that the presentation had been put back that half hour, there was no one to take the entry fee and the drinks weren’t quite ready.
Half an hour later we had our drinks and waited patiently to pay the small fee for the show – which would have been easy had the person taking the money not allowed a group of seven people to push in front of me and pay first. It’s fair to say that, what with wind and weather, delays and rudeness, I was not in the best of moods when the presentation finally began.
Photo Source: Brett Jordan – Creative Commons
There were sixteen books on the list – and two or three added for good measure – some of which look almost interesting. The usual authors are there – Elizabeth George, Charlotte Link – but also a few names I hadn’t come across before. A few titles from the States and England, the Scandinavian countries didn’t get a look in though.
I’m not sure that many of the titles will be known to my English-speaking readers, and I doubt very much that any publishers across the water are likely to pick them up for translation, so I shall spare you the gruesome details. What I found more amusing, which didn’t improve my mood all the same, was the one woman who wanted to know how many pages each book had, because that, for her, was also a criteria on whether to buy or borrow, whether to read or gift.
Was I astonished – as my illustration suggests – by the selection? No, not really, more disappointed. It was a good selection, but I didn’t get the feeling that anything was going to grab my imagination and pull me into its grip, but more because of the style of presentation – and possibly my bad mood. One or two of the books are on my list to read, but not because they were discussed in Achim.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
The United States of America. Such a wonderful idea, such a complicated and yet simple ideal but, like Communism, it only works on paper. The United States would be a wonderful place, I am told, if it weren’t for the people. Cut the people out – those who live there, not those who are only visiting – and it would be perfect.
Of course I would normally have protested against such a slander, such an insult to my home land, if I didn’t believe it to be at least bordering on the truth. The United States of America is, indeed, a wonderful land, filled with everything the heart could desire and, at the same time, a twisted relic of what it should have been, what it could have been. No amount of patriotism, no number of good examples, is going to change the truth, because the truth is ingrained in each and every American citizen, whether they wish it to be or not, whether they understand it or not.
The United States of America is inherently racist, as well as being totally misguided about why it is not the number one, most popular land – politically – in the world.
Start off with this idea that everyone wishing to settle in the United States must speak English. The idea bases itself on the presumption that the main language on the continent has always been English. The first settlers, we are told, who braved the seas to travel out of oppression in England brought their language with them. They most certainly did, but there was a language here before English, and it was Spanish. Christopher Columbus, the man credited with discovering the Americas for the Western world – or, at least, for the Portuguese Queen Isabel – did not speak English, and nor did his crew. Perhaps that’s the real reason so many people are suddenly not so interested in celebrating a holiday in his name.
Photo Source: Thomas Hawk – Creative Commons
Spanish, however, was also not the first language spoken. It was merely the first language of an invading force. The original languages – plural – are those of the Native Americans, of the Cherokee, the Sioux and so on. These are the languages which the invaders damned and forced out (almost) of existence. Today, of course, we complain when other lands insist that a certain language be used and the native language is oppressed, much the same as Americans object to many occurrences in foreign countries which they accept in their own.
And here we have another form of racism, aside from the insistence that English is the native language of Americans. The word American itself. What is an American?
If you work through the whole list, you can only come to the conclusion that an American is white and that his ancestors came from the United Kingdom at some stage. There are sub-sections to ‘American’ for everyone else: Polish-American, Japanese-American, Afro-American, Irish-American. There is no English-American because they are simply American. In truth, though, the true Americans are those who speak the original languages of this vast land. Except that they aren’t called American, they are Native American, another subsection of the foreign mass, of those who are not quite American, but merely a subdivision of the whole. Not quite perfect. Not quite American.
Racism is a central part of the ‘American’ psyche. No one who uses the language of the white American settler can claim anything else, or be anything but racist. It is inbred in all, through the manner in which children are raised – indoctrinated to fit in with the whole – through the educational system, the judicial and political systems. Only a complete reworking of the entire system, from the top right down and into the minds of the people, will ever change this fact, and we needn’t expect such a change anytime soon, if ever.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
I sometimes wonder what it will be like, the future. Will we still be doing much the same things as today, or will there really be hoverboards and shoes which tie their own laces? It’s not so long ago, roughly the time when I was born to put a date on it, when much of what we take for granted today was still science fiction. The smart phone hadn’t robbed us of our grip on reality; Internet wasn’t quite at the point where we no longer needed top physically meet anyone; shopping meant leaving the house and going places; you could break the spine of a book without losing all the text.
I’m told that Margaret Thatcher, in the Eighties, prophesied a time when there would be no need for a working class, when we would all be at leisure and work would be done by machines. She looked forward to a time when entertainment was the thing which filled our days, and the trouble and strife of finding, holding, doing a job properly, simply didn’t exist. Today our thoughts are similar, but tend more toward the ethics of having sex with robots as much as keeping them out of the workplace, along with all those immigrants.
Photo Source: Gene Wilburn – Creative Commons
With the advent of robots, of machines which take over the hard work, the production of our daily necessities – such as new smart phones, televisions, cars and the like – we have time to do other things, aside from seducing the new mechanical Mark IV housemaid. Or we should have the time, if things had worked out that way.
Instead the fight for a job, for an income, is still first and foremost in many minds. The fear of unemployment, of being useless, living off the State remains a constant worry. The number of unemployed seems to fall regularly, and there are jobs out there, but the mentality has changed along with the technology we use. Those aren’t the jobs which suit us, but the immigrants shouldn’t have them either because, if they do get employment and we don’t, they’re stealing our jobs. And robots will release us from stress and strain, from the daily nine to five, or eight to four or whatever, but that is a bad thing. We want more leisure, but work more overtime. We need to be able to afford it all, the new phone, car, television. Things which were once a luxury, but are now so standard that no one wishes to be without them.
Thatcher could still be proven right, for some of us, if we change the way we look at things. I want to work at a job that I enjoy, because I know I will do it well. It would be a pleasure for me to work and the mundane, the repetitive, the routine can be done by the robots, by mechanical means. And the immigrants who come over here, have a baby in order to gain citizenship and a right to stay? They want just the same as we do: security, an income, a life. That’s the way the United States began in the first place.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
I didn’t need all that much convincing, crime on a Sunday is a perfect start to the day, so I went with a few friends to the Murder Breakfast at the Bremer Kriminal Theater with high expectations.
The theater is in a small backstreet close to one of the more interesting areas of Bremen – called Viertal or Quarter, it is the only Quarter in Bremen which can be recognized as such, all the other Quarters ( and there are, of course, more than four) need their full name! – where parking is a matter of luck and skill more than anything else. We had luck in finding a small spot close to the theater, and it was the only one available. The theater is right in the middle of a residential area – away from the shopping side of the Viertal – with narrow streets and cars parked on both sides of the road if there’s enough room.
We were early, which was a good thing, and took the time to wander through the streets, trying to discover where the smell of freshly baked bread came from. We didn’t, in the end, but it was fun looking. Good, too, because quite a few other people had decided to come to this special, once-a-month breakfast, and we hadn’t reserved tickets. Still, we made it in, had a good table and filled it with fresh bread rolls, slices of cheese, mugs of coffee and hot chocolate. The theater is small, the stage open, the orchestra pit – of course, there isn’t one, but it’s that part of the house – filled with tables and the seats, for those who couldn’t afford a table, or came too late, rising steeply away from the stage. For such a small stage, adorned with a slanted wooden area and two chairs, I was surprised to see so many lights up above.
Photo Source: Bill Ohl – Creative Commons
We came to hear a reading, rather than see a full play, performed by an actor and actress and read direct from the script. They had clearly read their lines through and, despite the fact that we were all just sitting across from one another, set the scene wonderfully. A professional blackmailer meets up with his victim in a train compartment, and begins to ply his trade.
It was amusing to see how the blackmailer justified his trade, and hear how much hard work he put in to make each coup a success: all the research he needed to do; the background information on his clients; the spies he employed to find future clients; his love of photography to keep a record and make his trade possible. It was also very interesting to see the actors reading, up until now I’ve only heard such plays on the radio and the feeling, being in the theater, is completely different. And the breakfast was good too.
Makes me want to get out – even more – and explore other hidden delights around the area which, as I can imagine you already guessed, is exactly what I plan on doing.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
If you think that trying to learn a new language is difficult, then consider trying to teach someone a new language without words, without sound, when that language is not your native tongue. Now add a small difficulty to the whole: you’ve forgotten the word that you want to use.
English is not, as you know, her first language. She took English at school and went on to the (fairly) advanced level needed to gain her qualifications. Even so, it is school English and not native, so there are many, many words which remain unknown. You have to live the language, you have to be there and use it.
Photo Source: Stijn Nieuwendijk – Creative Commons
So I am trying to explain what we are going to have for dinner. It’s my turn to cook, my turn to find something interesting, and I am determined not to take the easy way out and either order pizza or invite her out for a meal. Fine, both are fun, both are easy, but that’s not the point of the whole thing. Now and then you have to get dirty in the kitchen. It’s just a part of Real Life.
So I am trying to explain what we are having. She doesn’t know the sign for cooking art of the main ingredient, and I don’t know what the German word is. More annoying, I’ve forgotten the English word and have been squeezing my brain in all directions trying to remember what it is. Of course, I could show her, but that doesn’t bring the word back. I’ve tried relationships – what the word is compared to what it does – but that doesn’t work either. The word is not related to what I will be doing; it is one of those strange words which needs to be explained to foreigners. And to native speakers.
I’ve tried going through the alphabet. Nothing. It will probably come to me at three in the morning, a sudden inspiration, a sudden flash of light in the darkness. Or when I’m alone in the shower, as do all my best ideas.
It’s an art of cooking eggs and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the art of cooking eggs. Of course, I know what the word is now, now that I don’t need it, but I didn’t know what it was then.
- Viktoria Michaelis.