Another coffee, please…oh, and why are you so worried about people looking through your stuff?

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Mostly I write at home, but sometimes between appointments I find myself scratching something out in a café. Like this one.

There’s a column in one of the local papers where readers ask questions and one of the journalists answers in depth. Well, as in depth as is possible in a few paragraphs.

The question today was something like:

Why are Germans so obsessed with data protection?

If could probably do a better job of paraphrasing the answer, but it seemed to come down to a few major things. One was the populace encountering two data-collecting dictatorships in relatively recent memory. There’s no question that this is part of the story.

The other main point was that we are constantly reminded in the media, as well as by word of mouth, that our data is being collected and potentially used.

One factoid that I was a bit surprised at was that half of German Internet users are not just on Facebook, but regularly active on the platform.

If I’d had to guess based on a non scientific sampling of my friends and acquaintances, I’d assume that most Germans weren’t even using social media.

Truth be told, most of my friends here who are active online are using false names and constantly feeding false data to the monsters in the machine.

So, I’m curious. If you’re German and reading this, do you have an opinion on data protection/online anonymity? Obviously, you can contact me privately if you’re uncomfortable leaving a trace of your existence here.

Alternatively, if you’ve worked with Germans and/or lived among them, what do you think of this phenomenon? Are your German friends more cautious online?

I should warn you ahead of time that your answers could be used in an article I’m writing on the subject.

Bike Thief, Motherscratchers

 

 

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Stuck in a Dream

Ok, so here’s some news:

My friend Patrick White, who I knew as a guitarist, is now a bass player. And a good one. He plays in a band in Portland called Bike Thief, and they’ve got a new record.

Some of you are probably already scolding me, ‘Hey lahikmajoe, they don’t call them records anymore.‘ They do if it’s on vinyl. And Stuck in a Dream is on vinyl. Like a real band or something.

What if you don’t have a turntable?

Well, they’ve prepared for that eventuality.

Go to their Bandcamp website here:

Bike Thief’s Stuck in a Dream

You can load up on all the Bike Thief merchandise you’ve ever desired. Oh and most importantly, you can get the digital version of Stuck in a Dream there, as well.

Just in case I’ve been derelict in introducing the band properly, here’s the lineup:

Febian Perez: Lead vocals, Electric guitar, Acoustic guitar, Synthesizers
Greg Allen: Viola, Violin, Synthesizers, Backing vocals
Patrick White: Bass guitar
Steven Skolnik: Drums and Percussion
Thomas Paluck: Electric guitar, Backing vocals 

Purportedly, they’re on the radio in Prague. If there’s a tour, they might make it to Munich. Patrick has already been warned that even if they’re music is well received in Amsterdam, the band’s name won’t be embraced. As our mutual friend Jodi reminded him, stealing bikes ain’t cool with the Dutch.

loud, dirty and grey…just the way we like it

a bit of green in the courtyard

a bit of green in the courtyard

“Die Berliner sind unfreundlich und rücksichtslos, ruppig und rechthaberisch, Berlin ist abstoßend, laut, dreckig und grau, Baustellen und verstopfte Straßen, wo man geht und steht – aber mir tun alle Menschen leid, die nicht hier leben können!” (“The Berliners are unfriendly and inconsiderate, gruff and self-opinionated, Berlin is repulsive, loud, dirty and grey, construction works and blocked streets where you stop and go. But I feel sorry for those people who can not live here!”)
(Anneliese Bödecker, Berlin philanthropist and social worker, born in 1932)

There were people that were gruff and there was plenty that was loud, dirty and grey in Berlin last week, but this was the view that greeted us as we left the flat every morning. Gorgeous, eh?

The dogs had the time of their lives. There’s plenty to sniff on that stinky pavement. Unlike in Munich, where there are plenty of places for a dog to run free, there’s a leash law in Berlin. This means if you’re in the city proper, you’ve got to go to a Hundeauslaufgebiet (Dog Going Out Area) if your hounds are going to get any room to roam.

There are plenty of beautiful places in the German capital, but dog parks there are definitely not a tourist destination. Oo-whee. Talk about dystopian. If you want a set location for that apocalyptic film you’ve been working on, you should really consider the desolation row that is the Hundewiese (Dog Field) at the Mauerpark in the Prenzlauerberg district of what was formerly East Berlin.

Here’s a photo I found:

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your local dystopian dog park

That almost looks nice. Looks are deceiving.

Not that Ella and Louis were complaining. How many Bavarian dogs get to go holidaying in big, bad Berlin for a whole week? Not many, I can assure you.

blurry photo of two Bavarian dogs in Berlin

blurry photo of two Bavarian dogs in Berlin

Here they are waiting outside the Döner Kebab shop. Did they get a few scraps of that sweet succulent meat that comes from the Dönertier? Indeed, they did.

I should probably explain what a Dönertier is, but that’ll have to wait for another time.

Hanging out in my temporary Wohnzimmer

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As Joni sings in my thoughts, ‘You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…’, I’ve spent this week in Berlin without wifi. It’s been more difficult than I imagined. Originally, I assumed I could make it work by just frequenting cafés that were wifi friendly. It hasn’t worked out that way exactly. Although there are plenty of places where you can connect, there are just as many that used to but haven’t altered their websites.

One place I’ve found myself going to again and again is Wohnzimmer in Prenzlauerberg. I could praise its virtues – it’s much more than just the wifi – but regular readers can look at the photo above and assume I feel right at home here. Art Deco entrance ways and comfy design couches. Weird and mismatched as some of the decor is, it’s definitely a great space.

Well, now my battery’s almost dead. Such is connectivity for me at the moment.

Club of the Polish losers

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I’ve seen this place before, but it’s not been open when I happened by. At some point I want to go in and see if they’re being hipster ironic or if this place is what they say they are.

And what’s a Polish loser like anyway? How might he be different from any other run of the mill loser?

If you ask nicely, I might go do a bit of sleuthing and find out.

Bound to be adventures in Berlin

 

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Berlin Berlin…wir fahren nach Berlin

Going to Berlin tomorrow, and although there’s no wifi in the flat we’re staying in, the city is purportedly all wired up. You can connect anywhere there, or so I’ve been told.

I’ve written about the capital of Germany on this blog before. What, you don’t believe me? Check out these links:

Berlin, Berlin, wir fahren nach Berlin

Willkommen in Berlin

and some of my favourite photos are here:

another day in Berlin

Some of you who badger me with requests for more photos of my dogs Ella and Louis will be happy to know that they’ll be making their first trip to Berlin

There are bound to be adventures and there just might be hijinks involved. If you’d like to know more, watch this space.

Simply staring out the window

 

Staring out the window one day long ago in Hamburg

Staring out the window one day long ago in Hamburg

Stumbling round the web today, I happened upon a New York Times article that was talking about how our brains work. The whole thing is worth reading, so I’ll link to it here:

Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain

However, you don’t need to read the whole thing to get what I thought was the best part. Never hurts if you can slide the word stick-to-itiveness into a sentence…here, enjoy:

This two-part attentional system is one of the crowning achievements of the human brain, and the focus it enables allowed us to harness fire, build the pyramids, discover penicillin and decode the entire human genome. Those projects required some plain old-fashioned stick-to-itiveness.

But the insight that led to them probably came from the daydreaming mode. This brain state, marked by the flow of connections among disparate ideas and thoughts, is responsible for our moments of greatest creativity and insight, when we’re able to solve problems that previously seemed unsolvable. You might be going for a walk or grocery shopping or doing something that doesn’t require sustained attention and suddenly — boom — the answer to a problem that had been vexing you suddenly appears. This is the mind-wandering mode, making connections among things that we didn’t previously see as connected.

Did you read that? Daydreaming mode. That’s the best mode. I excel at that one.

Have had some long meandering conversations this summer with some of my favourite people, and quite an unlucky few have difficulty with down time. Time when they don’t actually have to be doing something. It’s a topic I find myself coming back to again and again.

Writing and playing music and teaching are all things that I enjoy. They bring me untold pleasure, and I shine when I’m in my element. Yet, if there’s one thing I’m exceptionally good at, it’s idling. Doing as little as possible.

You don’t put much value in such a thing? Yes, I suppose I get that. Probably not going to change your mind on this one, anyway, which is why I was so thrilled to see the above-mentioned article. Don’t take my word for it.

The creative answers that make the breakthroughs? They don’t necessarily come when you buckle down and try harder. They just might materialise while walking the dogs or catching a street car. Or the one of the best scenarios for daydreaming?

Simply staring out the window.

Go ahead and try it. You’ll be glad you did.