One thing I have noticed about the end of each year in Germany, the road works – not the major ones, but on the smaller roads between and in towns and cities – multiply. Why? Because it’s the end of the year, of course! The year’s end means balancing the books for many towns and communities, and seeing what they’ve spent, what is still to be spent and how much they can claim for their various expenses for the following year. We do it with our tax claims, communities do it with their budget.
Photo Credit: David Holt London – Creative Commons
It works this way: if all the money has been spent during the year which has been allocated by higher authorities to a community, then there must have been a need. If there was a need then it is clear that the following year will have the same, or greater financial requirements. If there is money left over at the end of the year, then the community has obviously not had such a requirement, so the allocation in the following year is cut back. Believe it or not, no one wants a cut back in their financial allocation. So what can they do?
It’s not that often that a book falls into your hands which makes you stop and think, reassess, consider and smile in recognition, and most certainly not a book which could be considered a textbook rather than a view of life as we see it in our day-to-day lives. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is that famous exception which attempts to prove the rule that not all is as it seems. It is a textbook which appeals to the masses, written in a free-flowing and easy style which appeals, which draws the reader into ever complex ideas, into a deep spiral of realization that our lives and thoughts, our actions and reactions are not quite as simple as we may wish to believe.
Photo Credit: Unhindered by Talent – Creative Commons
We are subjected to a vast array of situations each and every minute of the day, whether we realize it or not, which require some form of decision. Some are seemingly automatic, some require more thought. Many can change the way our life goes from one moment to the next, can alter our opinion, can bring drastic financial, emotional or other major changes depending on the information we have, the information we consider in forming our judgement. Let me give you a current example:
- A young gay woman posts a service receipt to the Internet which shows a refusal to give a tip because the customer does not agree with her way of life.
Many people will have immediately formed an opinion on what has happened simply from this one-sided statement, this public action. Reading through Kahneman’s book, however, we get to see that our opinion is based on a lack of information, on information which has also be augmented by recent events, memories of similar actions, personal feelings. We see that our opinion is formed and accept it as such without necessarily knowing why we came to this decision, or even how. We also learn that our decision, since we have no other information than that which is contained in one statement, could well be false, formed through misinformation or a lack of appropriate information.
Everything has a name, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to put things into their categories, to pigeon-hole them, to place something within context. So it came as no surprise to me when I discovered that even the damning reference to Adolf Hitler in a conversation has its own title, its own description: Reductio ad Hitlerum. Not exactly the best Latin – I’m sure they didn’t have a version of Hitler – as a word – back then, but a scientific sounding term makes it all the more official, all the more acceptable.
At least, it makes the idea that it exists more acceptable, not necessarily its existence. And so it is with this fad – if you can call it that – of referring to Adolf Hitler whenever something doesn’t quite match up with preconceived notions, with what one person believes or thinks against the opinion of another. A quick reference to Hitler, a comparison, and the fight is on. The person being labeled has received one of the worst comparative labels it is possible to give another person, and it is almost impossible to get away from it.
The last day of November and, once again, I ask myself where the whole year has gone. It seems only a few days ago I was celebrating the start of the new year and looking forward to all the opportunities it held and now, such a short time later, it is almost over. And the opportunities?
Photo Credit: Ennor – Creative Commons
It has been a good year with much achieved. I have no complaints whatsoever although, perhaps, even more could have been done, seen, experienced. I guess that is the way with everything: we look back on what could have been and regret but, hopefully, also enjoy good memories.
Would I wish, now, to change anything? Undoubtedly. That, I suspect, is the same for all of us. We look back and think: If only… We look back and wonder why we chose one path rather than another, what it was that influenced our decision-making, what it was that made us turn in one direction instead of another which might, perhaps, have been more worthwhile. Lost opportunities? Perhaps. But also opportunities taken, life lived to the full.
I do not regret all the things that I have done so far this year, that would be foolish. I made my decisions and I should – and do – stick by them. There is no time for regret, just thankfulness, and the pleasant thoughts of what is still to come in the new year. Am I an optimist? Most certainly! But an optimist who knows that everything lies in my hands: I make the decisions; I guide my path. A good feeling.
Love & Kisses, Viki.
I read a review recently which criticized this classic work simply on the basis that the language was that of the Forties, and times have changed. If a reader is unable to get over this point, and the book was first published in 1951 with sections from earlier years, then it is unlikely that they will be capable of appreciating the main thread of the entire work. Salinger has written from the perspective of a young man, beset by many troubles, who is unable to come to terms with his own life, with society, with the education system which, he seems to feel, has failed him in many ways. It is, from the main character’s point of view, a very one-sided, lamenting tale filled with worries, with missed expectations, with mental anguish and hopelessness.
It is a work which is still very relevant in our times, if the reader is able to understand everything that has been packed into the text.
Photo Credit: madamepsychosis – Creative Commons
We are confronted with a young man who has failed in college and faces the prospect of returning to his home, his family, with little hope for the future. He has failed before, and we gain the impression very quickly that he knows he will fail again. He has no real interest in society, in the world around him, but has an inner vision of what he wishes to do, where he wishes to be, but not how he can achieve it.
He is a young man lost in memories of better times, of possibilities, of grand ideas. His mind constantly wanders, digressions within the story as he recalls people and places, events which have impressed him, mainly from his childhood and formative years. He is comfortable around younger children and avoids, with few exceptions, conversation with his peers who are, to his way of thinking, boring, shallow or arrogant. We gain the impression that he hates much of society, or the society he has been forced to grow up in, to spend his college years with, and would love to return to an ideal which, perhaps, has never existed.
We follow the wandering thoughts and memories of a man on the brink, overwhelmed by events he cannot understand, surrounded by people who cannot help him, by people who see the chance of taking advantage of his problems for their own ends. We see a man who other people do not want to understand, who cannot see that he has mental problems and that he is completely out of his depth in society. And it makes no difference whether the language used is from the Forties or from our own times: the story is as fresh today as it was over fifty years ago.
That The Catcher in the Rye is one of the most banned books in the United States is understandable: it has been objected to, removed from bookshelves by those who cannot read beyond the words on a page, who cannot see the anguish, the pain, the complete lack of hope a young man feels. People who cannot understand that a seemingly normal young man from a good family, attending a good college, can have problems far beyond those they have experienced themselves. It is a work well worth reading just to delve into the mind of someone faced with insurmountable mental problems, with depression, with hyper-activity who cannot keep his ideas running along one straight track but has to digress, explore, worry and justify.
The more astute reader will understand long before the final passages exactly what this character is talking about as he relates his life and memories, but the closing lines are still an eye-opener, and a warning to society. In modern times it could almost be suggested that this man is one who is working towards a complete breakdown which, with the right tools, could cost the lives of countless others through an act of violent hopelessness.
Published by Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978 0 316 76948 8
- Viktoria Michaelis.
Yesterday I received – finally! – a mail I have been waiting quite a while for. You will remember that I won the seventh prize in a photographic competition for my image of Colditz Castle in Saxony through Wikipedia, now I have confirmation that my prize – €30 book gift voucher – will be sent soon and that my photograph, along with other winners, is being featured in the 2014 Saxony calendar.
Once I get my copies and a bit more information about the publishers / sales points, I’ll let you know. Perhaps one or two of you will want a copy…
Love & Kisses, Viki.
I was caught quite by surprise when I found continuous entries on my logs which read:
and come from a wide range of different countries and IPs. Were a whole load of people trying to find one or another image on my blog and getting redirected straight to a 404 page? I someone trying to download images which don’t exist?
The thought arose because I’ve also been seeing things like this:
which is a clear example of someone trying to gain access to my theme files, even though the theme name they are using – and there have been several – isn’t mine at all. In fact, had they bothered to check the Footer, they’d know what the name of my theme is, but still not be able to access it.
Anyway, back to the initial thought. Which image are people trying to access, and why?
Research is better than just furrowing your brow and trying to come up with any form of explanation that might pass, so I did my favorite activity, and searched the Internet for information. Some people like to just move on, none-the-wiser, I like to know.
It turns out that it is a system built-in to certain Apple mobile devices which tries to find a favcon when someone accesses your site, by searching through the
Head section of the site’s code. The search follows a particular form and, being Apple, they search for Apple defined icons first – or perhaps even exclusively.
My log shows all of these searches are redirected to a 404 page, which could have meant that the person surfing my site doesn’t get any of the posts at all. No, I am reliably informed, this is not so: the 404 is hit in the background and the viewer doesn’t get to see it at all, just the machine being used and my log.
Life, and the Internet, could be so much easier, if only….
Love & Kisses, Viki.
It probably won’t come as much of a surprise, but I am a coffee person. Oh, I enjoy tea too, late at night, and red wine (of course!) but, deep in my innermost me, I am a coffee person. Which means that I am often out and about looking for new experiences in coffee drinking – not just Starbucks! – and something which will really get my taste buds going. What do I do at home though? Well, at home I have my famous coffee machine – famous because I know it personally and it is one of my best friends in the kitchen – and a small selection of interesting types of coffee beans which, during the day and early evening when I have enough time, I grind down and enjoy. Sometimes, I admit, I’m a little jealous of sharing, but I do let the odd cup disappear into other appreciative hands now and then.
And first thing in the morning when sleep is still trying to wrap me in its arms and pull me back into its gentle embrace?
Yes, I go for the instant coffee type. Not just this (pictured) one either: anything which will give me that little boost before I made my way to the bus station and settle back for another long ride into college.
But I had to pick out this snapshot (taken on my cell and rather quickly!) because it falls into the You Had One Job category. All the jars with red tops are decaf, so I guess someone in the packing plant might have been either colorblind, or playing a mean trick. And, no, I didn’t buy decaf, I actually forced this one jar of coffee out of the stack and took it home with me. I’ve always been a sucker for the outsider.
Love & Kisses, Viki.
I am currently reading, amongst other books, Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow and came across this interesting paragraph:
To appreciate the norms in communication, consider the sentence ‘The large mouse climbed over the trunk of the very small elephant.’ I can count on you having norms for the size of mice and elephants that are not too far from mine. The norms specify a typical or average size for these animals, and they also contain information about the range or variability within the category. It is very unlikely that either of us got the image in our mind’s eye of a mouse larger than an elephant striding over an elephant smaller than a mouse. Instead, we each separately but jointly visualized a mouse smaller than a shoe clambering over an elephant larger than a sofa.
Sorry, Professor Kahneman, but I disagree.
I could watch the livestream of my visitor logs for hours on end, just frowning and wondering what on earth some of them think they are doing. Could, but I certainly have no intention of doing so, since there are enough other things in life which interest me considerably more, and I’d have a hard time keeping up with the updates if I did. Not boasting, but there were a lot of hits on the site yesterday: we’re talking about double my usual number of visitors, and that is not a small number.
I do read through the logs though, now and then, just to see if there is anything interesting in there and, believe me, sometimes there is. I’ve already mentioned these bots which try to gain access to the back-end of the site, and those which try to sign-up or register as a user. I don’t allow that, only one person posts here – even when there are occasionally more writers (those rare Guest Posts for example) – and that is the way I intend keeping it.
This is interesting, though. My security options are set to throttle anyone who tries to access pages too quickly. I’m not interested in having an overload making the site either load slower for real visitors or collapse through overwork, so I’ve set a limit on the number of page accesses a person is allowed. Note: this is for those who come to the site as humans, not as bots or crawlers. The limit is set to a maximum of thirty page views per minute (crawlers get twice the number) which, to my way of thinking, is more than enough. I like to think people come here to read the content, and not to just boost my pageviews score.
So how can I feel about someone who hits pages at such a high rate they are throttled back two hundred and seventy-one times in just a few minutes? At least, that’s the way it looks to me. You might see something else there, but that last entry seems fairly conclusive to me, almost like an attack. I don’t know how many hits they tried to get through, but I could guess at more than eight thousand. Not a good thing.
That said, the massive number of hits didn’t bother the server, no downtime and no slowing down of traffic, which is a good thing. Guess I’ll just have to block the IP permanently rather than have it throttled whenever they come back again. Makes no difference to me because, as I say, I’m not overwhelmed by the number of pageviews – although many visitors is a fine feeling – more by the idea that my visitors do read what I’ve written.
Love & Kisses, Viki.