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The Art Of Building Bridges

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on March 23, 2015 in News & Opinion |

I am sometimes at a loss to understand the mentality of those who put something off, or seek out an alternative, in order to save money in the short-term, knowing full well that a long-term solution must be found. There are two wonderful instances of this form of money-saving in our local area at the moment, and neither one of them looks as if it is going to end the way politicians and accountants wish the ordinary people to believe.

The first instance is a footbridge spanning the river Weser in Nienburg. It was, at the time of its opening fifteen years ago, lauded as a technological marvel, an architectural wonder, a boon to mankind. Well, perhaps not quite so high in the laudatory ratings, but close enough. The problems began with the bridge almost as soon as it was opened to the public, but were carefully covered as ‘teething problems’ at the time. Now, fifteen years later, the problems are here to stay, and they are going to be expensive. The metal parts of the bridge are rusting away. The foot way is breaking up as slabs of whatever they used in the construction rub against one another. The concrete supports are breaking up. The company which constructed the bridge no longer exists, so there can be no claim for restitution there. There is no more to claim against those engineers and ‘experts’ who took the bridge over and passed it as suitable for public use.

Rather, there is a move to repair the bridge, but not at any cost. An engineering office has provided an estimate of how much repairs will cost, and puts the figure at about seven hundred and fifty thousand Euro. The answer from the politicians and bureaucrats in their accounting offices? They have brought in a second engineering firm to check the bridge, and expect to get a much cheaper estimate of repair costs as a result. Without a shadow of a doubt, they will then go for the cheaper model, and probably come together again in ten years time to consider repairs thanks to their short-term thinking.

Bridge

Photo Source: Russ NelsonCreative Commons

The second instance has greater proportions. It is also a bridge, this time spanning the river Aller in Verden. Here, again, those in the seat of power decided that they didn’t want the massive costs of replacing the bridge. At least, not this year. The bridge has to be replaced, of that there is no doubt and all are agreed, but not this year. Rather, they decided to replace some of the metal supports, and blocked off parts of the bridge so that only single lane traffic could drive across, and no heavy trucks. To do this they brought in traffic lights, and placed them at almost the same positions as the traffic lights which had been removed a few months earlier, when a beautiful new ring road was opened.

The bridge has now been only open to single lane traffic for rather more than a year, and plenty of heavy trucks still roll across it, despite the weight restrictions, since there is no one to stop them, no checks whatsoever. On one river bank are open fields, on the other an old building which the town decided to knock down in order to build a new park house. This area, from one bank to the other, would be ideal for a temporary bridge to alleviate traffic problems while the new bridge is being built, in a similar fashion to the temporary bridge built next to the second bridge across the river which was completed a few years ago.

Bearing this in mind, and knowing that there is a need to replace the bridge, the town knocked down the older building but, rather than using this ideal opening for something sensible, they began building the new parking area. A temporary bridge is no longer possible here, there isn’t the room for traffic.

Last week the engineering firm responsible for the new, temporary, metal supports being inserted under the bridge, began their work. There were hopes that the traffic congestion caused by the partial closure of the bridge would be at an end. Sadly, it is not to be. Someone made a major mistake whilst either inserting a new support, or making space for a new support. The bridge was rendered unsafe, even for lighter traffic, and is now closed completely. The town and other higher authorities involved in this planning catastrophe are now considering replacing the bridge completely. The problems they have to consider are clear: how to find the money for such a project since it will now be considerably more expensive than if they had just done the right thing in the first place; where to send the traffic which needs to cross the river, but cannot use the second bridge.

I sometimes wonder whether the people in these offices, whose jobs are often protected and who cannot be fired, have even the slightest notion of what they are doing. Have any of them been trained in town planning, or do they just look at the costs and try to find a cheaper one according to whether it is an election year or not? Either way, these two German cities, both of which are facing empty treasuries, are now faced with problems of a magnitude beyond their financial capabilities. Problems which could have been avoided if those in charge, those with the authority to do it properly the first time, had bothered to do their job efficiently and with a longer term view.

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

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Testing Security

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on March 18, 2015 in Internet |

Security on the Internet, as we all should know, is of the utmost importance. No one wants to lose all their hard work, their posts, images, their public face to someone else. So I am more than pleased to see that someone from Pervouralsk in the Russian Federation (IP 31.28.97.238 under the host 238.97.28.31.interra.ru) has been kind enough to test my log in security. In fact, they didn’t test it just once, before the permanent block came into effect they had attempted one hundred and fourteen different passwords to try to get to the backend of this blog. Since the block they’ve tried a further two hundred and thirty-one times.

Anyone with any commonsense who uses WordPress – and I would assume that anyone who does has a modicum of commonsense – knows that one of the first things you need to do is change the log in name from admin to something else. They will also know that a password must be secure, difficult to crack, complicated. It should comprise both lower and uppercase letters as well as numbers and, perhaps, symbols. This makes breaking in to a web site considerably more difficult. I have, naturally, long since changed from admin to something else, totally unrelated to the web site name, my name or anything close to admin or administrator. And my password? Well, not to give the game away, it has everything but the kitchen sink in there.

There are also additional safeguards a web site owner or user should employ: a good brute force blocker for one thing. Today Automattic upgraded JetPack – one of the vastly useful extensions to WordPress – to include BruteProtect, the plug-in which they bought out earlier in 2014. Everyone, and I think I wrote about this last year too, should activate it. The old BruteProtect plug-in is then automatically deactivated, and the new JetPack-based BruteProtect plug-in takes over.

You can never be too careful!

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

 

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What To Call My SO?

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on March 12, 2015 in Personal |

Relationships are so complicated, sometimes it is difficult to know what to say, what to write, especially when you’re trying to preserve a small amount of privacy. So far I have been successful, keeping most if not all of my private life out of the ‘public eye’, as far as the Internet is concerned. No names, no real description, no hints which could compromise. Which brings a slight problem with it, one which hit me just the other day as I was writing something about my photographs. I had to think hard about what to call her, my lover, when commenting that she had already framed the photographs I took, which was why I hadn’t scanned them in.

Up until now it has not been much of a problem. Here I can call her whatever I wish – my love, my lover, whatever. On other social media platforms, where I am perhaps not quite so well-known as here, it is different. Can I still call her the love of my life, which she is, or my lover? Should I revert to something more clear, more obvious such as wifey, even though we’re not married and it is a term I do not like?

Hands

Photo Source: IsaacMaoCreative Commons

I have no desire to call her my Significant Other or Better Half or anything so trite, but My Lover seems to be a little off course, since many will automatically assume – as with SO and other terms – that a male is meant. This could cause one or two problems when someone suddenly realizes that she is indeed a she and not a he. I already know about these confusions, this moment of revelation, from real life. I don’t need the same on the Internet too.

The other alternative is to call her by her name – which she doesn’t want, not that her name is so unusual that someone could recognize her. And it’s not as if we are really hiding, we’re quite happy with people knowing that we are a pair and have no problems holding hands or even kissing in public. Plenty of other do it too, so why not us? Perhaps I could abbreviate her name to just the first initial, as I did with my last lover, but I’m not comfortable with that either.

So, what to call her on the rare occasions when her name comes up in a post?

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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People Are Strange

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on March 11, 2015 in News & Opinion |

If anyone anywhere believes that the strangest creature on this small green planet is not the human, then I am sorry to have to tell them that they’re very naive! There is no doubt in my mind that the world would be a very dull place if people weren’t so strange, and a lot of news media would have nothing to fill their pages with. If it isn’t producing a snowball to prove that climate change isn’t happening – for those still convinced that it is global warming and not a complete change in climate – then it is those in my area, as an example, who believe they are doing the right thing, but cannot see the wood for trees.

Reading through the local news in this large farming community, I came across a very interesting proposition by local businesses and politicians for a change to the transport facilities into town. Interesting because it is very limited, but also because it makes no sense whatsoever.

Market

Photo Source: PrayltnoCreative Commons

The idea is to have a special bus drive through all the local villages and collect people to bring them in to town. This service would be limited to once a week when the Farmer’s Market is underway, bringing people to and from the market. It is designed to ease traffic congestion, and increase the popularity of the Farmer’s Market.

On the good side, yes it would ease things for some people, especially during the school vacation. Most of the buses which run through these villages are there to bring children to and from school. They don’t run at all in the vacation periods, since there is no demand and the local authorities in Nienburg, who pay many of the bus fees, don’t want to pay for a service which isn’t going to be used. No service in the vacation means people have to use their own cars outside of school term and, despite the fact that there are over seven hundred free parking spaces here in town, this apparently leads to some congestion.

Now the downside. If people are transported in to town once a week, and that in the middle of the week, they are going to neglect the smaller local shops. There may be only a few of them in the surrounding villages, but they are a lifeline for many. The closure of community shopping facilities, all of which are family run, will cause even less social interaction amongst villagers who, there being few bars, tend only to meet up with one another when there is a shooting festival or some other annual activity in their immediate area.

This, of course, is not an argument which can be used when it comes to raising the income of the Farmer’s Market in town. The town is interested in getting more customers in, any way that they can, and the local businesses benefit from the extra attention they are bound to receive. For me the main argument why this is a bad idea is that this is a Farmer’s Market, and the town is in the center of a large and prosperous farming community. Why should local villagers be interested in traveling in to town to buy what they can get from their neighbors or their own farm?

Perhaps someone ought to throw that famous American snowball at a few of the planners here, and see if it melts from the heat of their planning abilities.

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

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Analogue Photography: On The Streets

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

I was pleasantly surprised that this image, of two homeless men reading in the Lloyd Passage in Bremen, worked. One of the things that has always bothered me about taking photographs is the noise a shutter makes. I always have the impression that it is very loud, perhaps simply because I am right next to the camera. Most people, unless they see the photographer taking up position, don’t seem to notice or hear anything. That makes street photography easier, but I am still caught up in this feeling that if I can hear the shutter, so can everyone else.

Pleasantly surprised not only because neither of the reading men noticed that I had taken a photograph, but also because it came out at all. This was my second attempt. My first was doomed to failure because I had the wrong light setting and the exposure was, as a result, considerably longer. The negative shows me just how much camera wobble was caused by these extra milliseconds, and I felt it too as I heard how long the shutter was open!

Homeless Men Reading in a Shopping Center

Viktoria Michaelis – 2015

Again, as with the photograph I offered yesterday, this is a scan direct from the negative with no embellishments or alterations. And, as with the other image, the printed version is much darker and with more depth from the shadow / light play.

The thing that I learned from this photograph is always to have my camera ready, you simply never know when such a chance will come up for a good photograph, especially out on the streets, and need to seize the opportunity. Also, just take the picture! If someone says something, well, that’s the way it is, the chances are that they’ll be so engrossed in what they are doing, they’ll not even notice you’re there.

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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Analogue Photography: The First Attempts

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on March 8, 2015 in Photography |

A few days ago I mentioned that my first attempts at analogue photography have come back from the developer, and promised that I would post a few of the results here. As an absolute beginner, and teaching myself by ‘doing’ rather than just by reading, it is something of an eye-opener to see what really comes out of such an experiment. I don’t know whether I can say that I have had a good return on my investment – time and cost – so far, but I’m not exactly disappointed with the results. Of course, not every single frame is a success; some of the shots have movement in the wrong places, some are over and some under-exposed. Some show absolutely nothing of interest whatsoever.

Analogue photography is completely different to digital, not just in that we, the photographers, cannot see the results immediately, but also because nothing is automatic and a good deal more thought and planning needs to go into each shot. Just standing there and rattling off a series in the hope that at least one will be worthwhile is out of the question. I have thirty-six chances with each film, and that is it.

The Shopping Center

Viktoria Michaelis – 2015

Many will already know this shot from the digital version. I’ve scanned it direct in from the negative and done absolutely nothing to it by way of toning, darkening lines or deepening shadow.  When I finally get around to producing my own prints the end result will be darker and have considerably more depth. You can play around with exposure times in the darkroom until the desired image with all its facets appears as a print, but I dislike doing that with a negative, or the scan of a negative. The copies that I had printed are fine, much deeper grey tones, and that is what I will aim for when I come to open my own darkroom.

In the meantime I have a great deal more to learn, and will undoubtedly use up many films before I start to get satisfied with the results. My experimentation with color film was considerably less successful, guess I was still thinking in black and white when I should have tried thinking according to what I could see, but that will come with time too.

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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Things Are Looking Up

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on March 5, 2015 in Personal |

Another brief pause, but only because I have so much to do at the moment: college is not as easy as some believe! I have my first analogue photos back from the developer – I’m not quite so experienced to develop my own yet – and with some very good results. I’ll be posting a few over the coming days, here, on Flickr and Ello. Of course, the best place to see them will be here!

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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Can You Love America?

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on February 26, 2015 in News & Opinion |

The long line of personal insults aimed at President Barack Obama over the years is unlikely to come to an end with the end of his term in the White House. The latest, deepest and probably most hurtful is that aimed at him by Rudy Giuliani, claiming that he does not love America. The comment is, as most people appreciate, one of the utmost stupidity; claiming that anyone does not love their own country as much as the next person cannot be rated as anything like intelligent. No one loves their country as much as the next person, because every single person is different, every single person appreciates – or dislikes – their country in a different manner.

The simple fact is, there are countless versions of the United States of America. Ask the ordinary person on the street what they love about the country, and you’ll get several different answers. What you are unlikely to get is someone who claims to love everything about America, or any other country for that manner. Do these people, therefore, not love the country?

Photo Source: Oakland PD Memorial Service-12Creative Commons

Does Rudy Giuliani love everything about America? The slums, the poverty, the pollution included? The ideal of the country, yes, that is understandable, but this ideal is different for each person too, and it is not reality. The reality of the United States of America is something that no one person, no group of people can love. They cannot even come close to loving everything about the country, whether it is the United States or any other country in the world. None is perfect and, even if it were, it is human nature to find fault.

Giuliani did no service to his aim, no service to the country, his political party or anyone else. He merely showed that he has lost touch – if he was ever in touch – with the reality of life. His insult should be treated as the ranting of a small-minded, belligerent child aiming low, and still missing his target.

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

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Just A Few Letters: Big Difference!

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on February 21, 2015 in Immoral Conversations |

Sometimes it is good to know what you are writing about, to have paid attention in school. There are enough instances of people who do not know the difference between they’re, their and there or your and you’re. These, however, are something special.

Screenshot Source: Twitter / Luke Hemmings Stan

I will be perfectly honest and say, if this was my friend, the person I am planning on living with, or even spending one night together with, I would learn to write about such intimate moments, such memories of the night before, before sending my thoughts out for the whole world to read and marvel over.

Screenshot Source: Twitter / Ryan

There are somethings which we, the public, simply do not wish to read, which are beyond awkward, beyond everything that a relationship should mean for us. And for those who are still unsure, a small tip from those in the know:

Screenshot Source: Twitter / Knowledge

If the writers above cannot work it out from this last Tweet, then there is no hope for them in society!

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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Fashion Terms Are So Complicated

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on February 19, 2015 in Internet |

Even a full color monitor isn’t going to help you with this one: The Daily Beast wants to tell us that we can buy Olivia Pope’s white blazer by using a new application, which would be a wonderful thing if it worked, but most people do not have a problem seeing that there is a slight problem here.

Twitter: The Daily Beast and Colorblindness

Screenshot Source: Twitter / The Daily Beast

Clearly the application is still in beta, but no matter what the color, I wouldn’t have thought what was on show here was a blazer. Clearly a men had his hand in this tweet, probably one who eagerly goes shopping with the woman of his choice, but merely nods and agrees that whatever she has on is fine – depending on the price tag – without looking up from his smart phone, checking the latest football scores.

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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