new adventures

it’s been over six months now that @jmdhh and i moved back together again and i started a new career back here in erlangen, germany. six very interesting and exciting months!

the new job is exciting: i can make use of my skills to the fullest and can extend my horizon into areas that have always interested and fascinated me. i work for a small project engineering company that does high tech jobs in the nuremberg-erlangen-fürth metropolitan region — an interesting and very refreshing experience when coming from a comparatively humongous international company with over 400000 employees: we are just about 60 in total now 🙂 and it certainly helps to have extremely interesting colleagues with a good sense of humor 🙂

after roughly 17 years of commuting back and forth between germany and switzerland every weekend (@jmdhh mostly in the last 5 years) and having led a very scheduled life, it felt like getting de-pressurized these last 6 months and we look back in awe at the past 17 years. life has been easy… 😉 we’ve started on new adventures, though: exploring the franconian mountains, visiting old and new places on the southern shores of the baltic sea, joining a new church …

— oh, and we bought a house. 🙂 as you can see above it’s still under construction and will take another year until it’s finished and we can move it — but we are very excited and very much looking forward to it! it’s close to where we live now, so we’ll stay in the current part of town 🙂

goodbye switzerland!

after almost 17 years living & working in switzerland i am traveling back to germany for the last time today.

it’s been a fantastic time. we learned a lot about us and about the swiss. we became friends with a number of people here, become even very good friends with quite a few folks!

we discovered the mountains and walking.

we lived in a suburb of zurich and we lived in the middle of the mountains.

we became members of the local churches.

i discovered singing in a choir and even had the honor of being part of the stiftschor of the abbey of einsiedeln!

we learned that swiss culture and german culture are two very different beasts. we learned to understand (not speak) swiss german. we became huge fans of the swiss transport system. we each had our own postfinance accounts.

we learned snow shoe hiking.

we were amazed by the strict rules on one hand and the flexibilities in applying those rules (or not).

we were welcomed by lots of folks. we learned what it feels like to be part of a nation that is slightly disliked by the swiss german media. we learned what it means to be foreigners. we learned how open and warm hearted the swiss people can be.

we shall miss switzerland, we shall miss einsiedeln, we shall miss the friends we made. we shall miss the benign mountains of the voralpen, we shall miss the awe inspiring mountains of the alpine regions. we shall miss the abundance of snow in winter, that first snow morning of each winter!

i will miss the stiftschor, the friends i made there, their kindness of taking me into their midst — most of all pater lukas with his kind humor. i shall miss our friends at the reformierte kirche einsiedeln who accepted us as we are and showed us new views on live as a christian. i shall miss the friends from the spedakel group of the chaernehus and the many shows we literally staged together.

@jmdhh and i have quite a lot of tours that we’d still like to do — it will be a bit more difficult now, but we’ll do them nevertheless! 🙂

we are looking forward to living together after almost 17 years of weekend commuting! we are looking forward to a less regimented, less planned life. we are looking forward to having more time with each other, to having a less complicated lifestyle. we are looking forward to living in our own house (eventually, hopefully, sometime in 2014). i’m very much looking forward to that exciting new job in erlangen! i’m looking forward to taking evening strolls with @jmdhh! i’m looking forward to being able to talk face-to-face with her instead of through a VoIP line. i’m looking forward to fall in frankonia, to winter together, to weekend hiking and walking excursions.

after almost 17 years living in switzerland, i’m on the train home tonight.

goodbye switzerland! take care until we meet again!

time to go…

for the last couple of months every morning at 8:00 a tweet like the following has been showing up in my twitter timeline:

no, i haven’t gone that insane: it’s a python script running on our server and calculating the difference to 13 september 2012. what’s so special about that date? well, it’s the date of my last day at work here in switzerland.

after almost 17 years in switzerland — i started working here back in 1996 – we have decided to call it a day for our “swiss adventure” and join forces again back in erlangen. i’ll start working for a very interesting and exciting high tech company in erlangen (more on that in the future). @jmdhh and i are very excited about this new chapter in our life and really are looking forward to living together again (we’ve been commuting over the weekends between germany and switzerland for the last 17 years). no longer 16 hours train travel on the weekend, just one apartment to support, much more time together!

and, yes, we’ll miss the mountains, the fantastic landscapes, the many walks we’ve been able to undertake, and we’ll miss those really good friends we’ve made. the stiftschor of the abbey of einsiedeln with its weekly choir practice followed by pizza and beer in the klostergarten will leave a gaping hole in my life.

there is an old german saying about moving on with a weeping eye and a laughing eye: in our case the laughing eye is, admittedly, larger than the weeping eye and we are looking forward to come october.

as you can above see i’ve started wrapping things up and packing the boxes. the movers will come and pick up our stuff on 19 september, deliver it at @jmdhh‘s place on the 20th, i’ll stay behind for two days to hand over the apartment and then leave switzerland on friday, 21 september by train — the same way we arrived back in 1996.

time to go.

shipping forecast

having just updated our squeezebox radios i re-found the BBC iplayer plugin. it’s been lingering in the depths of the squeezebox radio menus for ages, i guess, but i had never really checked it out. while waiting for @jmdhh to return i decided to give the iplayer plugin a spin.

for some reasons i narrowed in on BBC4 and encountered old friends such as “the now show” (which i regularly listen to via their podcast) or less known shows such as the intriguingly named “life: an idiot’s guide” (need to check that one out). the one that takes the biscuit, though, is the “shipping forecast”. not the 5:20 GMT one — too wordy the context of that one — but the 0:48 GMT one, nicely framed in music — the ante-music being Sailing By, the post-music being the british national anthem concluded by the BBC pips (all according to wikipedia’s Shipping Forecast entry 🙂 — and being the fully extended version.

i found it rather soothing 🙂 you can give it a go via the BBC iplayer.

a time trip to the 1950s

even though the place we live at here in switzerland has a rather rural character — there are several livestock markets throughout the year down at the station square, very few regions regularly vote more conservative than ours — einsiedeln has a surprising cultural live. one of the driving forces is the chaernehus, which several times a year hosts cabaret, an exhibition, and stages a play.

this year’s play is kino etzel — which @jmdhh and i went to see tonight. kino etzel is played in the old cinema, kino etzel and is a tribute to the old swiss rural cinema of the 1950s. until the of 2010 einsiedeln’s kino etzel was still operating and it had been lovingly kept in the style of the 1950s — i loved it. unfortunately, the end of 2010 was also the last curtain for kino etzel — until this year when the chaernehus theater group decided to make it the subject of their 2012 production.

we had made seat reservations and when we arrived at 20:00 were greeted by cloakroom attendants in 1950s outfit — the price to leave our coats was 1950s as well: CHF 0.20 (tickets were 2012-ish price-wise though 😉 we had not only reserved seats in the show but also in the pre-show restaurant: the gallery had been turned into a typical 1950s swiss restaurant complete with a 1950s swiss menu, lovingly decorated with furnishings from that era. due to running a bit late but still had time to have an einsiedler beer and something to eat before the show started.

the play itself is a mixture of cinematic, theatrical, and musical elements — sometimes intermixed (the initial showing of a piece from the 1950s schweizer wochenschau about the bad wolf in wallis1 was aborted by two 1950s policemen storming the cinema and reading out the regulations of the canton of schwyz regarding cabaret shows. all elements of the play work together to re-create the 1950s — and for most of the show it works quite well (the football piece was a bit drawn out and trying to imitate loriot but not quite achieving that really).

all in all: a very entertaining and interesting show, well worth a visit!

“kino etzel” is on until 11 february 2011

  1. nothing really new then. 

smells & memory

the other day @jmdhh and i were out shopping. while i was waiting at one of the shops i was “hit” by a smell of coffee — and immediately taken back to the apartment of my grandmother in the late 60s, early 70s. she lived in bremerhaven, one of the german sea ports, and had a penchant for coffee.

her apartment always smelled of coffee in a certain way — the smell of coffee emanating from that shop at which i was waiting for @jmdhh must have hit my olfactory memory at just the right spot and triggered that flashback to my childhood. all of a sudden i could remember how her apartment looked liked, the milk bar she sometimes would take me to for late lunches (milk rice with fruits and cinnamon!), the trips to look at — from my child’s perspective certainly — gigantic vessels moored at the columbuskaje, one of the oversea’s ports of bremerhaven. the visits to wremen where i played as a little kid on the beach and even remember taking a dip in the river weser — probably unheard of today. or, the visits to one of her friends who lived in a high rise close to one of the ship yards in bremerhaven, whose apartment had panoramic windows looking out across the north of bremerhaven and in particular over the ship yard. i also remember that there was a huge toy store in the bürgermeister-smidt-straße (huge, from my perspective as a little boy, that is) — which was a great place to be, certainly in the time before christmas 🙂

it’s interesting, how smells can cause an immediate memory flashback. i’ve googled for “smell memory” to find out more about it. jonah lehrer quotes in his post smell and memory the french author marcel proust

But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection. — [marcel proust: swann’s way, translated by c. k. scott moncrief]

— and goes on to explain that

[…] the olfactory cortex has a direct neural link to the hippocampus. in contrast, all of our other senses (sight, touch and hearing) are first processed somewhere else – they go to the thalamus – and only then make their way to our memory center.

so smell (and taste, really, since it’s connected to our smell sensors as you’ll find out once you have a severe cold) enjoys a direct link into our hippocampus which seems to play a, if not the, major role in what we consider to be our memory. the only other sensory input i can think of which seems to have some kind of unfiltered access to our brain and emotions is music.

interesting stuff.

some more pseudo HDR experiments

during sunday’s #twallfahrt i managed to take a couple of 5-step bracketed pictures, two of which i think produced some interesting results. the first one is the view from etzel pass towards einsiedeln:

at first i thought that it looks a bit weird, then i realized (and on my way home looked at the clouds with “different eyes”) that it does look like that.

the second one is a classical, an in-door shot in the church of the monastery of einsiedeln1:

i kind of like both, but the second one is more the classical one and i like it best. what do you think?

  1. we did have special dispens from @abtmartin to take pictures, to film, and — gasp — to twitter inside the church from 14:40–15:00 :-) 

world’s first twitter wallfahrt!

9:10 — ms d and i arrive at einsiedeln railway station, all kitted out in our walking gear, ready to go. walking past the train we spot our fellow pilgrims. yep, pilgrims: we are on our way to the starting point of the world’s first twitter pilgrimage, the #twallfahrt1 from pfäffikon to einsiedeln. in the train we meet @decolores1, @konzertharfe, @sempreincorsaa also ready to go on the #twallfahrt. just before the train is about to depart at 9:13 we are joined at the last second by @abtmartin — good thing, too, as he is supposed to lead us on our pilgrimage 🙂

i’m looking forward to the first twitter pilgrimage which is at the same time my first pilgrimage on foot (last year’s pilgrimage was by bus, which somehow gives it a different twist, i think). @abtmartin is apparently still in the “geheimprojekt” stage of the #twallfahrt, as he is not really forthcoming with any information about what’s planned.

we get to pfäffikon on time, cross through the station tunnel and see the #twilgrims gathered — a bit short of the maximum number of 8000 mentioned on @pixelfreund‘s blog (about 7969 short, in fact) bit still a sizable group. as various #twilgrims let us know via twitter, that they are still on their way, it’s a bit past 10:00 that we start on our way from pfäffikon up to etzel pass (where we’ll have a lunch break) and then on to einsiedeln to the benedictine monastery there.

the weather, fortunately, is cool, a bit humid, but not too bad, and the hike up “1000 steps” to etzel pass is easy to walk. the clouds are just fantastic (as a subscribed member of the cloud appreciation society i find blue sky days boring) — just past the autobahn we stop for our first #twallfahrt station: @abtmartin tells us a bit about the area (and the history of the monastery of einsiedeln), but the main focus is on two short canons (both in twitter length) that we even manage to render in a half decent way (no trees falling down, no birds falling from the sky). up and up it goes with the next stations at restaurant luegeten and at the fork in the road where the road from schindeleggi-feusisberg joins. around noon we are (as planned) on the etzel pass where a #twallfahrt group pictures are taken, we have a our lunch break, the sf drs tv team does the interviews with @abtmartin and we relax in the sun.

at 13:00 the #twallfahrt re-commences and via teufelsbrück and galgenenhügel we get closer and closer to our destination: the monastery of einsiedeln (interrupted by a short break to give the sf drs tv team a better take on us walking down to einsiedeln). the last station on our pilgrimage is at the gangulf chapel where we meet up with those #twitterati that couldn’t make it for the whole #twallfahrt, practice our twitter-length canons once more and then fight our way through the chilbi crowds to the klosterplatz — where we are greeted by a flag bearer and a cross bearer who lead the way, with the bells of the monastery ringing for our #twallfahrt, through the main entrance into the monastery church!

as we are a bit behind schedule, we #enjoy an even more twitterish worship service than planned — the highlight certainly being the twitterific organ piece (which @boumi manage to capture)!

an apero in the southern court yard concludes this unique #twallfahrt pilgrimage!

all in all: a very interesting and stimulating experience, meeting very different folks and with a couple of good spiritual impulses.

would i participate again? yes, i guess, i would 🙂

if you are interested, here are some further links:

  1. from the german wallfahrt and twitter == twallfahrt 

how my grandfather created an island…

my grandfather was a sea-faring man.1

my grandfather was a sea-faring man, and, what is more, he helped create an island… an island that is still visible today.

he was employed by the North German Lloyd aka Norddeutscher Lloyd as an officer, his last ship was the steamship goslar. shortly before the outbreak of world war II the goslar was on its way back to germany and had just passed the panama canal when adolf the terrible declared war on poland. to avoid being captured by the british marine (who was patrolling the atlantic) and also avoid US ports (and the US coast guard) the crew of the goslar had disguised the ship as at first a russian merchant ship and later apparently even sailed under american flag and where slowly making their way along the north-east south american coast until they reached suriname, then a dutch colony, where they anchored during the night of september 5, 1939, and applied for asylum.

at first things seemed to have been fairly relaxed, with the officers of the goslar even being invited by the citizens of paramaribo, that, however, changed on may 10, 1940, when germany invaded holland. the captain of the goslar had the ship moved into the middle of the river suriname and instructed the crew to scuttle the ship in the middle of the river — there are different reports regarding the reasons, and unfortantely, my grandfather has long since died otherwise i could have asked him. one version of the story is that the goslar was sunk to prevent it from falling into allied hands, another version, reported in the june 27, 1943, edition of the st petersburg times, is that the goslar was sunk in the hopes of blocking the harbour and bringing the bauxite export to a standstill (or at least slowing it down). there is even an implied link to an attempted coup to overthrow the government of the dutch colony, as reported in the december 1, 1941 edition of the pittsburgh press according to which the goslar was scuttled as part of the attempted coup. perhaps all stories are just different sides of the same coin.

the crew of the goslar along with my grandfather was then interned in suriname as prisoners of war. apparently there were a couple attempts of escaping from the internment camp, but none of them successful.

the goslar was never raised. according to the report in the st peterburg times it actually helped improve the harbour and bits and pieces of it were re-cycled by the US troops then stationed in suriname. if you look at google maps, you can still see the goslar today!

(larger view)

so, in a way, my grandfather (and the crew of the goslar) created an iron island…

  1. now that is a rather enticing beginning to a blog entry 😀 — but he really was. now mobile friendly

thanks to the excellent [wordpress mobile pack]( wordpress plugin i’m pleased to announce that []( is now mobile enabled: if you visit it on your [android]( or [iDon’t](, err, [iPhone]( you’ll get a mobile browser-friendly version of our web site. also, []( will take you to the mobile version directly as well.

oh, and you might have noticed, i’ve re-organized the site structure slightly, the blog is now directly at the root of the site.