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Monday Mornings: Cleaning Up The Weekend

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on August 24, 2015 in Personal |

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.

Empties

Photo Source: StefanCreative 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.

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I Was There: Selfies And Disaster

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on August 23, 2015 in Internet |

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.

Selfies and Disaster

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.

Selfies and Disaster

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.

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Anchor Babes: I Lost It For A Moment There

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

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’.

Anchor Babies

Photo Source: Augie SchwerCreative 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.

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Windows 10 Problems: Ignore Until They Go Away

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on August 20, 2015 in Internet |

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.

Windows 10 - Otherwise Engaged

Image Source: Zulkarnain KCreative 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.

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Dangerous Discussion Points And Questions

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on August 19, 2015 in News & Opinion |

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.

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Windows 10: The Crash Crush

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

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?

Glass Window

Photo Source: Dennis JarvisCreative 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.

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I Can’t Stand The Rain…

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on August 17, 2015 in Internet |

A friend of mine, when she has no more credit on her cell phone, always claims that the Internet is empty. She has seen everything, there is nothing more there, and she is just waiting until the end of the month when new content comes out, much as if she were buying her favorite magazine.

For me the chances are that the Internet will be empty, or not as full as usual, over the next few hours if not longer. The reason? It is raining.

Heavy Rain

Photo Source: Half Man, Half ApeCreative Commons

Now, this may seem strange to people who are accustomed to being online all the time, no matter where they are or what they are doing. For me, though, it is a fact of life: heavy rain, and the system – which is outside of my control – seems to break down completely.

At the moment it is raining as if a sea needs to be filled as quickly as possible. I am sure everyone in California, and a few other States too, wishes the rain was there, but it is here. And it is falling at an estimated sixty liters to each square meter in each hour. And that, even if you don’t do the Math, is a lot of water.

Not that I cannot do without my Internet, I can give it up any time I want. I just don’t want to right now.

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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Why Do North Americans Fall For Payment Scams?

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on August 16, 2015 in News & Opinion |

We live in an age when mass communication, the gathering and distribution of news and information, when education – in theory – is at a high point. In the Western world there are few who do not have some form of access to the Internet or, at the very least, a television with cable or satellite service. We hear that younger generations are locked in to their smart phones as if there is no outside world, and Gamers spend all their waking hours in front of a monitor playing. People who do not have a mail account are relegated to the status of outsider, as if they had been caught wearing yesterday’s fashion statement. And yet, despite this network of available information flooding through the airwaves, down millions of miles of cables and into the minds of countless people, payment and lottery scams still abound, are still making a profit from the susceptible, young and old.

With so much information available, so many warnings, how can it be that people are still falling for these expensive tricks? Why do so many believe that they will earn / win / collect millions through a simple online scheme? The answer could lie in between greed and the way in which people have been educated through television.

Falling For Another Scam

Image Source: Dave SheaCreative Commons

One highly successful north American game show is called The Price is Right. It has had European and other versions over the years, but the US version is the educator. Here, with a little luck, a player can win big: cars, holidays, a new kitchen or even a mass of cash. The catch to the game is that none of these prices, in the United States, come without a price. Winners are required to pay the tax on their winnings before they can collect.

In a recent New York Times article, David Segal details how one elderly woman nearly didn’t gain her rightful winnings, and how others, in the past, have decided not to collect theirs. Winners receive a written notification that they are required to pay their taxes, and have to provide proof that they have done so. This is, of course, perfectly legal in the United States, but has similarities to some of the more successful scams worldwide. The ‘winner’ of a lottery, an inheritance or a ‘get-rich-quick’ scheme is approached by the operators who advise them that their ‘winnings’ are ready and waiting, but for a small problem: tax or clearance money has to be paid first. Often they are told that a bank official, a lawyer or some other person connected to the ‘winnings’ needs to be paid to release the money.

At this stage of the proceedings, most people would back off and realize that what they are involved in is not quite correct, even if their inheritance – or whatever they have been offered – is clearly not within the realms of the law any way.

Not so with north Americans. Some could well be conditioned by the tax demands of their own game shows, their own government, that an advance payment for release, for tax, for someone to turn a blind eye to what is happening, is absolutely normal and above-board. And such conditioning is almost impossible to fight against since, as we all know, The Price is Right is a legal and correct game show; the taxes demanded for winnings are also legal and correct.

The same with officially sanctioned lotteries: everyone knows that what is won is not what gets credited to a bank account; the IRS has to be paid first.

Is it, perhaps, time to change the rules on game shows and the various lotteries and have the prizes awarded tax paid?

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

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World Maps: The Final Proof

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on August 15, 2015 in Immoral Conversations |

It is the truth as every single Australian knows it: all the maps of the world are wrong except those printed on their fair continent. Australia really is on top, along with all those other lands in the southern hemisphere, and President Obama, along with ex-President Clinton and a little help from Mark Knoller, prove it.

The Australian World Map Wins!

Screenshot Source: Mark Knoller / Twitter

It can only be assumed that the printing of maps putting the United States of America, China, Europe and – through nothing more than a quirk of fate – Russia at the very top is the most successful plot to keep those people ‘down under’ down under and the conspiracy theorists, undoubtedly in their tens if not nearly twenty, were right. The western powers have been bluffing through all the centuries, using the easiest of ploys to convince us that Australians play golf – and other strange sports – upside down.

Now, finally, the truth has been revealed although, if someone goes back and checks the feed anew, it may well be that the CIA or NSA – who is responsible? – has quickly stepped in and corrected the fault.

Nothing to see here, move along, all is right with the world!

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

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Sacred Cows And Art: The Eye Of The Beholder

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on August 14, 2015 in Immoral Conversations |

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, whether that ‘beholder’ is another person or some narcissistic selfie-shooter staring in a mirror makes little difference. And beauty in art is also a matter for each individual, something which often cannot be explained to other people since it is such a personal matter. Comparing Constable, for example, to some of Picasso’s works will always be an uphill fight for those who stand in one camp – on either what is art or what is beautiful – or the other.

Sacred Cows and Art

Screenshot Source: Jim Waterson / Twitter

Even so, committing yourself by saying you have never seen anything as beautiful in your entire life, whether referring to a cow made of butter or any other work of art, is an even more daunting idea. What exactly is Jim Waterson comparing the cow with? All works of art, or just cows made of butter? What forms of art has he seen in his life, which works, which artists?

Luckily the ‘I’m not sure…’ saves him, to a certain extent. Perhaps Jim has a short memory span? Perhaps he really has had a very sheltered life. Or, perhaps, cows made of butter are just his thing. I’m not sure I really want to know…

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

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