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3 February 2014
I learnt today that CET is also called Romance Standard Time. First I thought it must of course read "Roman" standard time. But no, it is "Romance". And right after that - and I have to say Freud would have been proud, I misread "move less - share more" and understood more (or) less, shave more. Well.

2 February 2014
Welcome to the NEW Broken Muses Website! I have been thinking of updating the look and feel of this website since quite some time and now here it is! Let me know what you think of it! It will be expanded bit by bit but I did not want to keep you from having a glance of it any longer!

1 February 2014
I suppose today is the day to recall an old advertisement that went like this: The future is bright, the future is Orange!

31 January 2014
On my return flight recently strange things have been showing whenever you switched from the inflight entertainment to the map and flight route view, namely famous shipwrecks with the according date: Alabama 1864, Titanic 1912, Colossus in 1798, Egypt in 1922.

23 January 2014
I had a chat with a farmer on the beach and suggested to dip the melons - which he wants to harvest in about 3 weeks – into the sea and then sell them as salt water melons (© TV series “Towards the sun”). He looked at me slightly bewildered and I think it is fair to assume that he will not be following my advice.
Another person came over and said he had just been bitten by a swarm of bees. He explained to me that the only thing that will help in this case is to rub one’s skin liberally with rum immediately after bees attack. The wind was favorable and so I did not have to smell it right away.
On the way to the village I passed a souvenir dealer. When she noticed me and heard I would be going to the supermarket, she handed me 150 Jamaican dollars (about 1.20 Euros) and ordered me to bring her sardines. Shortly after that she called after me and said she would trust me.
I thought of how I spent my birthdays in recent years, Rome, Iran, Myanmar, Munich. I wanted to keep things quiet but then still some things happened, a bonfire was lit, a cake organized, candles and even a candlelight dinner on the beach. I was not presented with the family silver, however, but you can not have everything.

22 January 2014
Whether it was a good idea to come to Treasure Beach for a few days is hard to say. My room in the Waikiki Beach Hotel is, to say the least, rather simple. The frog that lives outside my room is so large that jumping seems to be almost exhausting, the frog in my room on the other hand is so small that it wasn’t difficult to rinse him down the drain in the somewhat crude cold shower.
At about 9 p.m. the lights go out. To quite some embarrassment I fought and lost an unsuccessful battle for the one chair on the proch outside. The cat scored 1-0 and so I went to bed.
Treasure Beach is a small town with a strong sense of community. The community thought goes as far as that the owners of the hotel consider the neighbour’s Internet signal as their own. In other words, there is no Internet access in the hotel itself but you are told to just use the neighbour’s signal. To the surprise and utter annoyance of the hotel owners, said neighbour, however, has dared to change the password at around Christmas. I should note that said neighbor was not too imaginative when changing the password. However, it nevertheless seems so that a) the line is incredibly slow, b) the strong winds often kill the signal and c) the neighbour has the guts to shut down the power if he does not need his network.

20 - 21 January 2014
After the Summerset Falls, the Reach Falls, Port Antonio and Kingston, I have a somewhat mixed picture of Jamaica. The island is very scenic, varied, but not quite safe, although one that does not really notice that at first as a visitor. But on the other hand what can you expect of a country where coconuts are called “jelly”, the main seasoning for meat and fish “jerk” (as in jerk chicken, jerk pork and jerk fish) and an almost inedible garnish of corn flour in the form and color of dog excrement “Festival”? And I think I should also mention a rather special roadsign that read: “Undertakers love overtakers”.

14 - 19 January 2014
Jamaica is very diverse and its attractions range from the most beautiful beaches to the highlands where one of the rarest coffees in the world is grown, the so called Blue Mountain coffee. I like it here, it is a holiday far away from mass tourism and thus very interesting.
A raft ride on a bamboo raft along the Rio Grande was great and I could try paddling myself which is like stand up paddeling only on a bamboo raft with bamboo stick to teeter and row.
Swimming through waterfalls and then climbing them from the caves within also has something to it. And who would have guessed that I ever dare to enter through a hole from the top of a waterfall?
And well, my flip- flops have been through quite a lot already, not least a walk along a slippery waterfall (Reach Falls) and over slippery roots and leaves back through the rainforest. But the descent to Winnifred Beach on muddy roots was a highlight of a different kind. There is rain also in the Caribbean, heavy rain even. And if you are traveling with a Tyrolean guide, you have to be prepared to be sent over stock and stone and mud and roots. Of course, there would also have been a regular road, marginally longer, but no, I was told there, in between those trees there is a path…

13 January 2014
I bumped my head on a palm tree. Still hurts. A case of first world problems?

12 January 2014
Your Body has finally arrived where your mind has always been – Richard “Rick” Hershman 1974, founder at Rick’s Cafe, Jamaica

11 January 2014
If there was a world championship in clumsiness, I'd be their all time star... I manage to stumble about anything at any time. When the stewardess yesterday poured some orange juice over me (her fault, an exceptional exception), consequently I drop my in ear earphones - courtesy of the airline - into said orange juice only to water them out later - with little sucess admittedly – while reading a story about a sucessful operation on a patient's ear. A coakroack two centimetes long had lived in there for some time. The orange scent and the Carribean climate will hopefully not attract any of those animals...

10 January 2014
I just remember that I forgot to read the article on Alzheimer disease in today's paper.

9 January 2014
The spell-check on my computer wants me to change Salzburg into Sandburg. Not sure the people of Salzburg would approve.

8 January 2014
I continued to read some older blogposts and have to add that there are also some basic facts that remain true:
- Nobody really looks great when having a parking ticket in his or her mouth.
- One of the biggest modern day threats often come in very simple words: “Let’s have an e-mail discussion”.
- On hot days you can smell some people before you can actually see them.

7 January 2014
Reading through some older posts in this blog I noticed that there are some basic questions that remain unanswered. For instance:
- Are there collective obsessions?
- Is there a cure for cynicism?
- What is he deeper meaning of a magic tree in a convertible car?
- Is there an art movement in modern art which focuses on aesthetics?

6 January 2014
Don't get me wrong, I do have my issues with dogs as you know. Nevertheless I find this new study's findings rather helpful. If it should really be so that dogs dafecate in line with the Earth's magnetic field in an exact north south direction, that could really be helpful for getting orientated in foreign cities. Although of course one needs to double-check as always. The researchers say that this behavior does not occur under "unstable conditions" and so better make sure you watch dog and owner during the process before drawing any conclusions.

4 January 2014
I have two friends who modern day hobby-Freuds would diagnose with compulsory book buying disorder. I love their habits to be honest but keep asking myself where this world develops to: will we still recognize people's love for books when they just fill up eBook reader after eBook reader?

1 January 2014
I just had a mochi. And that reminded me about a comment I had gotten on what I wrote earlier on mochi. "Japan confronts mochi rice-cake death-trap with technological solution Safer recipe promised for traditional new year glutinous rice cakes that regularly take the lives of elderly people" Just like the article says, Mochi are quite "innocent-looking" but must by no means be underestimated. I agree that it is advisable to cut them into bite-sized pieces and never eat them alone - the choking risk is simply too high. Still something deep inside tells me I would not want to eat "safe" mochi.

31 December 2013
Furtune Cookie: You love chocolate.
Nothing to add here.
Or perhaps there is: Love chocolate completely, without complexes or false shame; remember, there is no reasonable man without a spark of madness. - François de La Rochefoucauld

28 December 2013
I’ve only just now stumbled across this newspaper article and seriously wonder what to make of it. As it happened, a man gave the impression to be a simultaneous interpreter for sign language during the recent funeral ceremony of Nelson Mandela but actually his gestures appeared to be completely meaningless. He gestured for hours. Especially the latter amuses me greatly and artistically I find it very appealing especially when it comes to translating meaningless speeches into equally meaningless gestures. But then again of course the question is whether a funeral is the adequate setting for such a performance.

27 December 2013
PA Charlotte’s fashion column: Tartan is about long-standing tradition. A style of clothing of cross-cutting weave with colors and patterns linked to generations of Scottish families. It was arguably an ancient unisex fashion too as men also wore kilts (skirts). And now it has moved beyond the traditional and is high fashion. Look at this and this. I am planning a tartan collection, for both sexes allowing for coordination of outfits at work or at leisure!
The Scottish tartan did not really seem to be exported to other Celtic fringe nations. The Irish kilts are plainer; and kilts are very much less evident in French ‘Celtic fringes’ or in Wales. Asterix the Gaul has just had a book set in Scotland, with kilt-wearing, whisky-drinking and caber-tossing much to the fore. Maybe the kilt could make the return journey to France with the Scottish Picts and eventually become part of haute couture! Received comment: A lot of the mythology is artificial, invented relatively recently.
At some time way back people mostly used locally produced textiles and they were dyed locally with what was available. So they were regional variations. And if you dyed the wool that you are going to use to make the cloth rather than the finished material then you could make the final results prettier? And stripy?
But in Scotland much of that was after William Wallace and Robert the Bruce and the so-called wars of independence. Later though tartans were used as a sort of uniform in the Jacobite rebellions.
Even those English, or at least some of them, who fought on the side of Bonnie Prince Charlie wore tartan.
Then with the defeat at Culloden tartan was banned. Well except for Highland regiments. Of course regiments already had and were to have to have standard patterns and colours: each regiment had its tartan or tartans.
And then the ban on wearing tartan was lifted. And the marketing machine started. I don't think it has ever stopped!
So each clan, region, family name had a tartan. If you go into certain shops in Edinburgh they will be very happy to tell you which tartan is associated with your name. Or hobby. Or profession. Or US state. Or whatever. It does not matter at all if you are not Scottish.
Mind you I read that some of the earliest examples of tartan were discovered in Austria.
For pretty see this link.
By the way there is a book about the Great War and there is a section on English guys being drafted into Highland regiments and being "obliged" to wear kilts "properly".

24 December 2013
Broken Muses wishes all readers a Very Merry Christmas!

22 December 2013
Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come. – Victor Hugo

19 December 2013
Interviewer to Frank Zappa: "So Frank, you have long hair. Does that make you a woman?" Frank Zappa: "You have a wooden leg. Does that make you a table?"

18 December 2013
I heard that Kellogg’s Corn Flakes is surpassingly the most innovative company on the planet. All their products are individually shaped.

17 December 2013
Note to self: It is utterly inappropriate to suggest that the touch and feel of a Japanese Mochi might resemble the touch and feel of silicon breasts. It is an assumption only and just spoils the moment for the guests that try Mochis for the first time. Somehow they cannot get the picture out of their heads it seems. It also does not help that the Mochi’s taste itself then is rather odd and the rice and sweet bean paste do their bit.

16 December 2013
The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence itself but to act with yesterday's logic. - Peter Drucker

15 December 2013
What a great video, even if you do not speak any German, just have a look at the video!!
Received comment: What a great video - It turned Monday morning into a smile. I guess your own dog is always special, and I recognized quite a few similarities :-)

10 December 2013
Allegedly in the press: The longest password ever: During a recent password audit by a company it was found that an employee was using the following password: "MickeyMinniePlutHueyLouieDeweyDonaldGoofySacramento". When asked why she had such a long password, she rolled her eyes and said: "Hello! It has to be at least 8 characters and include at least one capital."

7 December 2013
“All art has been contemporary.” Museum of Egyptian Art, Munich. Is that really so?

5 December 2013
The utopia is getting better, while one is waiting for it. Seen at the entrance of the Golden Bar in Munich.

4 December 2013
Many people believe that rituals are very important and appear to be effective. Ever since I live in Munich I have this ritual of bleeding radiators. This is only in the heating periods of course but still, that can mean all the months between September and June. So every morning before doing anything else really I dig out my little key which is on a chain made from an old shoelace. So the air comes out and my day can start.

3 December 2013
Wow, after hybrid cars we get hybrid animals! Number 3 is sort of cute but I want to mention once more that I really fancy dogs.

2 December 2013
I am told that what I am writing is not a blog. It is rather a long text that gets edited on the top bit. It is static. What a bad word that is these days. Static. Almost sounds like steady. Continuous. Predictable. One cannot group themes. Focusing on a particular year needs elaborate scrolling skills and may lead to a tennis forefinger. And it is not interactive. What is the opposite really? Unidirectional? But hey, comments are possible, it is just so that there is an admin part in me that wants to scan them first and check them against the motto of this blog (i.e. if only every eloquent person had something to say). So keep those comments coming and don’t shy away, otherwise I might consider re-naming this blog a block.

25 November 2013
The German youth word of the year 2013 is Babo (lent from Turkish, meaning something along the lines of boss) and the one of last year was: YOLO, you only live once.
By the way one of the most “creative” words of the year 2012 was “gate lice” meaning airline passengers who crowd around a gate, waiting to board.

23 November 2013
Just a brief and quickly noted list of my top ten coffee houses (the list is in no particular order):
1. Vienna - Diglas Wollzeile
2. Vienna - Cafe Central
3. Vienna - Cafe Sperl
4. Lisbon - Cafe a Brasileira
3. Rio de Janeiro - Confeitaria Colombo
4. New York - Cafe on Broome Street
5. Brussels - Cafe Metropole
6. Mürzzuschlag - Cafe Wien
7. Budapest - Cafe New York
8. Budapest - Cafe Gerbeaud's
9. Helsinki - Cafe Kappeli
10. Amsterdam - Eden America Hotel

16 – 22 November 2013
3D-printing has a certain fascination you see. I saw an exhibition of Ars Electronica at the conference I am attending in Bangkok and the person introducing me to it said that 3D-printing today still has various implications like what to do with the plastic waste one unavoidably produces. Most of the 3D-printing that is happening today is done with some sort of plastic but already today one could print with almost any substance that can be liquefied. He mentioned chocolate and got me even more interested. Then he ventured out stating he could print a 3D image of his face onto a chocolate figure. I looked at him, pictured his dentist who had obviously given up on him and thought I would not do that, given the likelihood of unintended consequences. On the upside: with chocolate people would perhaps not worry so much about the leftover waste. There were other things I learnt in Bangkok apart from 3D-chocolate printing.
For instance, that there are new jobs out there called “futurist”. Their job description has similarities to those of prophets and fortune tellers only that it is by far less specific.
And then I learnt that if trousers should fit at the waistline, you only need to take the trouser waistband and put it loosely around your neck. If it fits, the trousers fit. So in other words, it seems that half of your waist circumference equals your collar size. Fascinating I thought!
On a completely different matter I was asked whether I wanted any lice with my meal. I thought not necessarily having in mind the wasp larvae I saw on a market in Laos once. But in that case it proved completely harmless and referred only to rice. Oh yes, and I saw the phallic shirne! Allegedly Nai Lert (1872-1945) found a spirit house floating in the klong and he placed it on the bank of his property. It is called Goddess Tuptim Shrine and described on the spot as follows: “The origins of Chao Mae Tuptim are obscure. It can only be recalled that a spirit house was built by Nai Lert for the spirit who was believed to reside in the large Sai (ficus) tree. The basic offerings are fragrant wreaths of snow-white jasmine flowers, incense sticks, pink and white kotus buds. Chao Mae Tuptim has received yet another, rather less conventional kind of gift, phallic in shape, both small and large, stylized and highly realistic. Over the years they have been brought by the thousands and today fill the area around the shrine. Confronted by the extraordinary display the shrine has automatically been concluded to be dedicated to fertility.”

14 November 2013
PA Charlotte’s column on mostly anything relevant to her: Maurice Chevalier famously said: "Many a man has fallen in love with a girl in light so dim he would not have chosen a suit by it." I have the answer to part of this problem. Women could wear clothes with luminescence sewn into the fabric: see link. Come to think of it, and better still, this would be ideal in men's suits. It would avoid women making the same mistake! More fundamentally, if a woman always wear an elegant skirt suit or dress - as one certainly always should - then at least half of M Chevalier's problem is always solved...

13 November 2013
PA Charlotte has attended a course at the Copenhagen Academy of Fashion Design, a very classical training which has kept her busy prevented her from regularly contributing to this blog. Some readers have already sent in comments, some worry, some were rather content that they were not confronted with fashion advise and some complained bitterly and said they wanted to flag that there is a worrying absence of articles in the blog marrying fashion and book selling.
Now it seems she’s back on her regular duties, she writes:
My intensive six month fashion design ‘sabbatical’ was very instructive and very intense. Designers are inspirational and creative. Much of this is intuitive and ‘within the person’. But techniques and introductions to fabrics, materials, budgets, brand analysis/research and manufacture add the vital reality check. This is what I found most valuable and most difficult. The course I joined in fashion design try to train students to anticipate trends. This is not easy of course. I learnt a great deal from the basics of cutting and sewing fabrics (rather dull) to how to plan and choreograph a collection of day wear and evening dresses. I also learnt how to work around the clock getting fabrics, colours, people and models coordinated – often in a very tense and emotional environment! I now need a few months rest….. I may expose some of my design ideas in later blogs!

7 November 2013
The question “what is a weekend” is legendary, isn’t it?

6 November 2013
I have to admit I am not a big fan of Twitter but the question by @Harlequin77 that has been retweeted to me the other day has quite some relevance in today’s world. It was about that: „Is it ok, in cases of involuntary eavesdropping on public transport, to ask strangers follow-up questions if parts of their phone conversation remain unclear?”
In essence the same question applies in open offices I think.

4 November 2013
How to respond to a statement of somebody that the same somebody encountered a pig on his windshield? I for one was certainly borderline terrified. Was it alive? A piglet or already a grown pig? Frozen? In the context of the conversation I somehow noticed I must have misheard and said pig had actually been a stone ... pig shock, huh, Monday morning I say.

2 November 2013
A small selection of very cool airline safety videos: Air New Zealand’s 2010 version of The Only Way is Up, again Air New Zealand in body paint only - I got you under my skin and then of course Virgin America’s tips for the 0.001% of all of us who have never operated a seatbelt before. To be honest I have only seen the first one as the actual safety video on a plane…

1 November 2013
All Saints Day. On my way to the family grave I pass my favorite grave where Alfred Zero is buried. As every year I ask myself how it would be to go through life with this name. He did not return from World War II but still has lived up to 40, the forty years of Zero. The grave opposite the family grave lists two children with the same name who were both born and died in the same year. That is what I call devotion or is it rather a lack of imagination? It is hard to say really. I’d be interested whether a third child has ever been born, and if so, whether that child is still alive or just buried elsewhere and whether it has yet again the same name.

30 October 2013
As far as I am concerned I could live with Tom Standage’s analogy that blogs equal pamphlets, and microblogs equal coffeehouses :-)

29 October 2013
What to do if one’s Blackberry isn’t working?

28 October 2013
A very interesting collection: Just the two of us

25-27 October 2013
Sightseeing in Würzburg.

24 October 2013
Road-tripping through the American night: Photographer's eerie collection of abandoned ruins taken along the highway after dark.

23 October 2013
Dave Allen on teaching a child how to tell the time: "So the first hand is the hour hand and the second hand is the minute hand and the third hand is the second hand...".

22 October 2013
How to say yes and no: Conceptually, we support the concept; we also support targeting the target and support the target by and large albeit having concerns about the specifics.

21 October 2013
What a song, what a dance! Catgroove by Parov Stelar.

20 October 2013
From one of my all time favorites: Yes, Minister, The Diaries of a Cabinet Minister by the Right Hon. James Hacker MP, Edited by Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay:
‘Humphrey,’ I said, ‘will you give me a straight answer to a straight question?’ ...
‘So long as you are not asking me to resort to crude generalisations or vulgar over-simplifications, such as a simple yes or no,’ he said, in a manner that contrived to be both openly ingenuous and deeply evasive, ‘I shall do my utmost to oblige.’
‘Do you mean yes?’ I asked.
A fierce internal struggle appeared to be raging within. ‘Yes,’ he said finally.
‘Right,’ I said. ‘Here is the straight question.’
Sir Humphrey’s face fell. ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘I thought that was it.’
I persevered. ‘Humphrey, in your evidence to the Think-Tank, are you going to support my view that the Civil Service is overmanned and feather-bedded or not? Yes or no! Straight answer!’
Could I have put this question any more plainly? I don’t think so. This was the reply: ‘Minister, if I am pressed for a straight answer I shall say that, as far as we can see, looking at it by and large, taking one thing with another, in terms of the average of departments, then in the last analysis it is probably true to say that, at the end of the day, you would find, in general terms that, not to put too fine a point on it, there really was not very much in it one way or the other.’
While I was still reeling from this, he added, no doubt for further clarification, ‘As far as one can see, at this stage.’
I made one last attempt. ‘Does that mean yes or no?’ I asked, without much hope.
‘Yes and no,’ he replied helpfully.
‘Suppose,’ I said, ‘suppose you weren’t asked for a straight answer?’
‘Ah,’ he said happily, ‘then I should play for time, Minister.’

9 October 2013
Fortune cookie in Rosenheim: You may serve mighty men and beautiful women but your trust in them should be less.

4 October 2013
T-shirt print: "A bald head is nudism at the highest level" – Applying the same logic, I am asking myself what barefoot means really, nudism at the lowest level?

3 October 2013
German Unity Day, a public holiday in good old Germany and for me a day of hiking up to a summit called Brecherspitze (breaking tip). So far “Brecherspitze” was the name of one of the weirdest hotels I have ever stayed at. It is in Munich and prohibits taking a shower after ten in the evening - for those rooms of curse that with shower and toilet down the corridor. I forget whether one is also no longer allowed to go to the toilet after ten p.m. there. Anyways, hiking is just like real life: as soon as you feel sure-footed, some circumstances change and soon enough you land on your backside on what just a second ago felt like stable ground.

2 October 2013
One of the key findings during this cure here is that the local rainbow press has a considerable number of readers.

1 October 2013
After the long and quite exhausting hike up to the Wendelstein on Saturday, today’s trek to Tregleralm in dense fog felt almost like a light walk.

25 – 30 September 2013
Right after my arrival to the spa I had a severe cold and fever but recovered rather swiftly. The cure in itself is simply wonderful! I get various treatments, do some gymnastics, go for walks, hike, get time to read and talk and really have time to recover.
Some things are a bit unusual like the small parking lot for walking frames just outside the dining area and the puzzles. There are two puzzles for the whole community and usually one or two elderly people stand there deeply concentrated on their game. However, recently the joy for those who love to puzzle has suffered tremendously since one night someone destroyed a nearly finished image. Someone stuck a note to it with the question: Who was the destroyer? And someone immediately scribbled down an answer: It wasn’t me! Hmm, someone breaks an unwritten social contract and everything in disarray.

24 September 2013
Oh how time flies! I arrived at the spa in Bad Feilnbach for my three week treatment and was immediately forced to slow down considerably. The room was not yet ready and when it finally was it took me 5 minutes to unpack, 10 minutes if you wish incuding parking the car. I went to my doctor's appointment, read half of my first book, was lying in the sun, walked to town. And slowely started to realize that there is time to rest.

19 September 2013
It is really all but obvious what the Fox says...

17 September 2013
Been traveling a lot recently and got to fly one (budget) airline that advertises with the slogan "I believe I can fly" - not too reassuring in my opinion. And then this other budget airline I flew with yesterday had the song "Upside down" on infinite loop just before takeoff...

16 September 2013
Did I mention that I do not particularly like public transport? Today I had to listen to what must have been the most boring conversation of the century. Two shop clerks who both work at an airport boutique spoke about the ugliest brown dress they’d ever set eyes on, had to hang in the shop window and were forbidden (!) to sell. Hence they are stuck with the dress and furthermore an empty shelf. They kept on discussing the deeper meaning of the empty shelf for another 15 minutes…

15 September 2013
A friend of mine just shared a quote: “When you are dead, you do not know that you are dead. It is difficult only for the others. It is the same when you are stupid.”

13 September 2013
Vita es Lavorum.

10 - 12 September 2013
Went to a book presentation in good old Brussels. One of the speakers said he considered publishing this book at this point in time as “courageous but not in the Yes, Minister sense”. In the yes, minister one can only be happy for the author that nobody said it was original, imaginative or – worst of all – that his ideas were novel.

9 September 2013
It would appear that returning from Uzbekistan I have imported some nasty bacteria. Perhaps it is true what they say after all: In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria.

8 September 2013
Back from Uzbekistan I paddle with a SUP board on a small lake, lost in my thoughts.

6 -7 September 2013
Just a short stopover in Tashkent for a night and then back west. I will miss the sweet Uzbek melons, the Taptschans , this comfy sitting beds, divans where you can eat, lie down or spend any time you like, and the turquoise blue and green tiles.

6 September 2013
The tour guide one more provides for a good laugh as he swings a plastic bag with two used lady’s panties, asking shyly for the owner. All of a sudden the bus driver goes every color from pink to dark red and claims the bag with a please-let-a-hole-in-the-ground-open-up-to-swallow-me-gesture.

5 September 2013
The big power blackout in Samarkand has lasted for 26 hours by now. In the meantime we were heading for a museum in order to meet up with an archaeologist we had just met a few days earlier in Bukhara. At first we were in a taxi with a mad taxi driver moving persistently in the opposite direction, ignoring all red lights on the way and speaking relentlessly into a mobile phone. He eventually had to stop at an intersection and the four of us went out of the taxi before he even noticed. In another taxi with an almost equally stubborn driver we finally arrived to our museum and settled on a bench outside letting the museum staff know that we were there to see the exhibition together with a highly decorated archaeologist who would come be there. Forty-five minutes later we were still sitting like the Four Graces outside the museum but somehow a tad more subdued and decided to visit the museum by ourselves. Later, it turned out that the archaeologist had (somehow - and don’t get this the wrong way -rather aptly) fallen into a hole in the ground, broken his leg, consequently been hospitalized and thus not been able to guide us.

4 September 2013
Samarkand: It is one of the oldest cities in the world and only the sound of that word makes me dream. Like Bukhara, Samarkand hosts a collection of historic buildings in the middle of a fairly modern and sprawling city. And here again the architecture is quite different from that in Bukhara and Khiva. The Registan Square is monumental, with its mosques and madrasahs and further out, near the original city of Samarkand (now an archeological site), one can see the remains of Ulugh Beg’s large sextant which he used instead of a telescope to survey the night sky and catalogue over a thousand stars.
In one of the many souvenir shops I find a huge, old turquoise, ornamented tile. It is for sale but its origins somehow quite doubtful. Nevertheless it is of course beyond beautiful. The rules are strict in Uzbekistan and nothing antique must leave the country. I inquire about the price just in case. The merchant smells business and behaves Mr. Flexible. He says that should I think the tile to be just too heavy, he would gladly cut off a part and sell me the smaller fragment. I can only just imagine the man with the delicate tile and a crude angle grinder…

3 September 2013
From the desert we continue our journey to the village of Sentab in order to spend a day in a "Homestay" . At first sight the village looked like there were only a few houses in a barren, rocky area but to my astonishment behind the high walls there is a small oasis: A huge garden full of walnut trees, a stone pool which is somehow in between a pond and swimming pool and then there is a building next to it for a proper siesta. In it there are velvet upholstered mats and pillows on a carpet in a Bukhara pattern.
During the late morning we find ourselves the guests of honor at a local wedding. Weddings in the village are celebrated from 9 am to about 1 pm and so when we arrive by about 11 am there are already five empty vodka bottles under the table that has been assigned to us. A zealous wedding guest in a bright green shirt talks feverishly to two ladies from our group. I witness this only in the corner of my eye but notice all at once that something green tilts from the corner of this very eye. The gentleman in green slowly sinks back in his chair, no with his chair, drops from the chair and falls a few meters down the hill where our table is located. But he comes right back on and up and cheers to us as if nothing has happened.
In the afternoon we hike up some hills and come past the grave of the woman who has introduced the concept of batter to the village of Sentab in the 16th century. Only since then there is bread and the like in the village.

2 September 2013
From Bukhara on we go into the wilderness of the desert heading for a yurt camp. I feel a little queasy, perhaps a first sign or the ubiquitous diarrhea that seems to haunt all the westerners. But the night in the desert is simply stunning ! I've never seen so many stars, not even in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. The Milky Way was visible to its fullest, and close enough to almost touch it. Many fellow travelers have even seen shooting stars as well but I haven’t.

1 September 2013
Still in Bukhara. The domes and turquoise tiles are simply breathtaking. Where Khiva has felt as if it were an open air museum and somehow just like Pompeii shortly before the eruption , a fantasy of one thousand and two nights where you would have suspected Scheherazade at each corner and only a stone mason to break the silence, Bukhara is more of a mixture of old and new.

31 August 2013
In Bukhara there is an amusement park which almost looks like a museum from a 1960ies amusement park. At the entrance very small children are placed in small cars and directed over the large paved square by their parents who use remote controls (!). The Ferris wheel moves slowly and from how it’s built looks anything but safe. As in Khiva, Buchara has beautiful and perfectly restored buildings. Only two madrasas on the outskirts of the old town are still somewhat dilapidated. Through narrow spiral stair cases the adventurous visitor can even climb up to the roof.

30 August 2013
We drive from Khiva to Bukhara. We decide to give it a go and test the melon and cut it to everybody’s amusement. To everyone's astonishment it is not only a honey melon but also perhaps the sweetest melon of all times and - most surprisingly - enough for 10 people to try.

29 August 2013
The market outside the inner city wall of Khiva is about to close when we visit. At the entrance one finds the black money dealers with their enormous bags to carry cash (100 Euros are worth about 340,000 Sum). A separate and quite extensive part of the market belongs to the melon trade. For no apparent reason one of the dealers gives us a melon as a present. It is the smallest watermelon I have ever seen. An ostrich egg would be huge in comparison to this tiny melon. I have second thoughts about mixing with the crowd with this little melon, it is somehow really embarrassing given the sheer gigantic size of the other melons in this country, both the honey and the water melons. Especially against the background that Uzbek melons are known beyond the countries’ boundaries since ancient times and allegedly were traded in the ratio one melon against one slave once. I rear that for our mini melon we would not even get a little slave and perhaps not even a slave on a mini-job or timesharing basis. The other merchants have only a mild smile for us. In the 1000 year old mosque someone wants to know how much we have paid for it. I say, the melon was "free" but obviously the lady who asked heard "three" and was in shock that we would have paid 3,000 Sum for such a pathetic melon.

28 August 2013
Flight to Urgench. Before takeoff, the pilot has his window open and to everybody’s amusement takes another swig from a bottle of vodka. On the way to Khiva we visit the desert fortress Ayaz-Kala.
After dinner in Khiva, we note that there is no drinking water in the room and the hotel or bar ran out of water, too (they still served Vodka, though). So we walked back to the main road where all the shops and restaurants had closed for the night already. Someone advised to knock on a door somewhere in a back street. On the way to said door we pass a man in his underpants who was washing himself quite elaborately with about 2 liters of water from a small bucket. Sure enough I knocked on the wrong door. Around another corner I finally found the right one which indeed opened. It was the back door of the restaurant where we’d eaten earlier. The waitress stared at us and was somewhat puzzled and said that she cannot easily sell water. She would need to talk to her father and owner of the restaurant first. She lead the way and walked us from the spacious house to a Yurt in the garden where she knocked but to no avail. Apparently the yurt is reserved for the father. I had seen it earlier and noticed at the time that it was even equipped with a TV antenna and that a TV was on inside. Meanwhile, the TV sound was replaced by mighty snoring and consequently no water could be sold to us.

27 August 2013
Tashkent is so different than what I had imagined. It is spacious, very well maintained, features gigantic ex-socialist palace architecture, exuberant gardens, huge monumental representative buildings, gates, fountains, sculptures and magnificent flower beds. The Chorsu market was also very interesting, hawkers there place their goods on old prams, apples are imported from Japan and show intentionally ingrown symbols, shashlik spits are roasted at each corner and then of course also tea is sold everywhere.

26 August 2013
My trip continues from Latvia to Uzbekistan. At the airport a young man comes up to us at the gate and without greeting us says ”…well then again we hope that the Islamic world will not collapse in the next 14 days! You're also traveling to Uzbekistan?” I thought well obviously why would one sit at the gate announcing a flight to Tashkent if one were to go elsewhere. And of course I thought oh my, I have just left Munich a few says ago and there he is, the next madman, that'll be fun. I look at him somewhat sympathetically. Only then my eyes fall on the book my travel companion, Hamed Abdel-Samad: The downturn of the Islamic world. And then of course it turned out that the person is the tour guide…

25 August 2013
Excursion to Jurmala, a beach town at the Latvian Baltic coast. What is striking are the many fat birds, some extremely disheveled, others just a bit crazy. Some of the latter are on their mobile phones while they are in the ice-cold water, others just walk the hard sand in their high-heeled stiletto shoes. In their pictures the shoes might feature much more central than the respective ladies wearing them as they hold it in front of their faces whenever their partner snap pictures. So as to whether the focus is on the shoes or the mostly platinum blonde framed faces is often difficult to say. And yes, I liked that dogs on and smoking are prohibited at the beach.
Otherwise, the coastline is extensive, not all that spectacular and different from the Jurmala I visited about ten years ago, mainly due to the fact that now the summer season is in full swing and back then I just saw it in the quiet autumn. A number of new and impressive buildings have replaced the holiday homes from socialist times. But still there are the amber traders and their stalls on the main street of Maiori. And then there's this special light, everything is clear, the farthest things seem to close and already shortly after noon there are long shadows and reflections.

24 August 2013
I'm sitting on a terrace in a very nice restaurant in Riga, staring at a goldfish bowl. Is it really true that the goldfish has halfway through the glass already forgotten that he pulls the same old rounds? Somehow it seems probable. And not just goldfish. Come to think of it I seem to know quite some people who seem to have forgotten where they have started from after less than half a round. Most of them are not as pretty to look at as the goldfishes, though.

23 August 2013
Holidays! Today I flew to Riga. The last time I have been to Riga was about 10 years ago. It has changed a lot. Back then there were hardly any restaurants and now it is a vibrant, yet unpretentious town. Bars and restaurants are on every corner and there is live music everywhere you go. Music seems to have a special significance in the Baltics. I did not realize then, but there has been a singing revolution over here. Talking about music: I would have loved to see a place called Ginger&Fred, playing music from the 1930-ies but unfortunately it has closed down. What else is there to say? Flowers, yes, flowers are as ubiquitous as music. Flower stalls are open even after midnight and each stall has more, more perfect or more beautiful roses, sunflowers and dahlias than the next. The famous city market with its five huge, aircraft hangar-like halls is still there, too and just as I remembered it. One hall is dedicated to meat, one to fish, the next fruit and vegetables, then one to bread and finally one to cheese and milk. Especially the milk hall I find extraordinary. Cream is still offered form grandma's jars and the fresh cheese is a delight. And yes, there is still the heartbreaking image of the odd old women selling plastic bags.

19 August 2013
I found THE new sport for me and tried it for the first time yesterday. It is called stand-up paddle surfing. When I told a friend about it earlier today I was told that he knew a family who had once owned a piece of land at the very lake where I had tried the paddle surfing. The grandfather was a farmer and had decided to swap the piece of land at the border of the lake with another one a bit higher up, the reason being that he always had to get the cows out of the water. The family still regrets that exchange to this date. I can understand them all too well. Prices there are skyrocketing and it would have been cocktails and a butler instead of sunken cows at some point in time… But I like the picture of saving cows from drowning. Today come to think of it you’d just need a few standup paddling (SUP) boards for those cows. Put a cow on a SUP and it would feel like Jesus walking on water. Or rather a modern-day-Jesus-with-a-walking-cane feeling.

14 August 2013
To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive - Robert Louis Stevenson

13 August 2013
I may be prone to melancholy at the transience of things but today I almost could not believe my eyes when I saw today that the artificial beach cum bar at the Cornelius Bridge near my house was just being demolished. Only last Monday, I had been there (for the first time) and (again for the first time in over a year) felt like myself again. They will perhaps build up something similar again next year but somewhere new, at another spot entirely.

12 August 2013
Check out my friend Margit’s new website here!

10-11 August 2013
Two different experiences entirely: being in a photography workshop one day and in a canoe paddling down the Isar river the other day.

9 August 2013
Again and again we find that other people simply do not stick to the script that we had written for them. - Frank Berzbach

8 August 2013
So this is what happens if you miss out on the Latin… Just watch Peter Cook’s monologue experiences down the mine: “Yes, I could have been a judge but I never had the Latin, never had the Latin for judging, I just never had sufficient of it to get through the rigorous judging exams. They’re noted for their rigour. People come out staggering and saying: My god, what a rigorous exam! And so I became a miner instead…”

7 August 2013
Made apricot jam today and missed great company.

6 August 2013
Outside I assume the temperature is about 35 degrees Celsius. I sit in my office and am totally covered, wearing two sweaters, a fleece jacket and a scarf, actually a head scarf. There is a freezing draft from above and underneath and from the side. I am the only one who seems to be cold. The others laugh or simply cannot understand how one can just not love air-conditioning. On even said I look like a Nomad with my headscarf.

5 August 2013
Somehow this advertisement reminds me a lot of real life. All it takes is to push a (red) button to add drama…

4 August 2013
I was discussing middle names with a friend the other day. Personally I do not have a middle name but would somehow fancy one. So my fiend said I could have is middle name John which would then make me somehow MJ Brandl, or, as always when it comes to twisting my name around, preferably MJ Brando.

3 August 2013
What a “cheerful” line in a colleague’s e-mail address line: ‘I considered and observed on earth the following: The race doesn’t go to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor food to the wise, nor wealth to the smart, nor recognition to the skilled. Instead, timing and circumstances meet them all.’ Ecclesiastes 9:11
Received comment: Now you even quote the Bible and a rather unknown passage from the Old Testament, well, what can I say! Even the Sunday scholar in me had to look that up and then even found another quote for you: “…for a living dog is better than a dead lion”.
Answer: Ecclesiastes 9, 4: “For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.” - well, if it were for me I would not necessarily stick to dogs.

2 August 2013
Never underestimate the interest of Guantanamo prisoners when writing modern day novels! 50 Shades of Grey seems to be preferred over other and even over religious books these days. And in London the fire brigade needed to adapt their statistics due to the novel, which seems novel to me as well.

1 August 2013
PA Charlotte's weekly fashion column: My favourite summer drink now is a gin & tonic with Monkey 47 German gin and cucumber, with a dash of pepper. This got me thinking. Do drinks and fashion go together? A gin & tonic, or even a vodka martini, implies to me more formality and hence a business skirt suit with high heels. Whereas a gin fizz or a Pimms might be best combined with a floaty summer dress, perhaps in chiffon or silk, and wedge heels. The trendy Moet & Chandon Ice flute with orange zest needs a white flowing dress with orange pumps and handbag and large black sunglasses. When reading Cosmopolitan magazine, must one drink its namesake cocktail (vodka, triple sec and cranberry & lime juices)?
What would go with a tequila sunrise or a Manhattan cocktail? Or with a mini skirt? Readers thoughts are welcome….!
And what is the best C-level power dressing drink for women, assuming it is whisky for men? My preference year round is Cointreau with ice but then again I am a PA!

25 July 2013
PA Charlotte’s weekly fashion column: I love shopping! It's a female gene! And I love both high street and designer outlet shopping, but for different reasons. Going into a Dior high street store in a major city is almost a religious experience: I am swept away on a tide of passion and end up after many hours with one pretty impractical dress and non-matching heels, and no money left. A designer outlet is more about cold atheistic logic: there are lots of very well priced clothes, and you devise a strategy to buy as many as possible (often with for example several skirts of a very similar look...) as quickly as possible and then you leave. What fun!

24 July 2013
There just isn’t such a thing as seclusion and privacy in public. In my short lunch break in the park a dog scared me to death. The dog did definitely not met me eye to eye but, as usual, was far above me: I'm stretched out reading, the dog leans over me and gives me his most dangerous stare. Now as I can no longer sit and concentrate on my reading, dog number two lags up to me. Dog number two is beige colored, or rather has the color of white bread soaked in milk, limps, has a number of pus-filled wounds at the joints and tries to keep up with an old chap whose skin looks like leather. The leather gentleman sports some worn dark gray panties and demands my mobile phone. I point to the dog. He says the dog is harmless and now I should lend him my phone, because he has seen an ad for an apartment and now needs to ring the landlord. So it is dog against mobile phone. God, I'm so easily impressed in such circumstances. So the dog was instructed to sit at a respectful distance and I kept wondering whether this apartment he rang for had a balcony at last?

21 July 2013
Why one is in need of a balcony? Well, three short reasons: dogs, exhibitionists and other lunatics. Where to start? It is summer and I mean a hot summer. So without a balcony one is forced to go outside. And so as soon as one finds a decent spot in a park, dogs are never far. Munich seems to be a paradise for the odd dog and leashes are definitely not en vogue anymore. So I fought off five dogs from my blanket before an Italian approached me, asking whether he could sunbathe near me. In the nude. Him, not me. This is a Munich thing, it seems you can strip naked almost anywhere in the parks. So I said I did not know but guess it would not be forbidden. Two minutes later he came over again, handed me a camera and asked me to take a picture. There is no such thing as privacy in public places… A little later I sit on a bench and on the bench beneath me someone speaks very loudly on a phone. Only when I noticed I was being rudely offended by him I noticed there has not been a phone involved. I need a balcony. Desperately.

19 July 2013
PA Charlotte’s weekly fashion column: It is far too hot. But the fashion calendar waits for no woman! Autumn and winter collections are upon us. Check patterns and floral motifs on coats seem to be back along with clunky shoes. Gloves are making a welcome return. My 1998 wardrobe is in danger of being 'in vogue' again!

17 July 2013
The latest trend in Munich seems to be requiring children to wear reflective vests when out and about on a kindergarten excursion. And so more and more often one witnesses small and medium groups, accompanied by up to 5 grownups, that look like really, really junior road maintenance staff.

12 July 2013
Funny or Serious? Most of the time I’m a combination of the two, dear – Furious. Mrs Stephen Fry (Edna Constance Bathsheba Fry) in Veronika Asks: Author Interviews

11 July 2013
Surface is an illusion, but so is depth. David Hockney

10 July 2013
Back from Italy I find myself in the company garage without a badge on me to get into the building. I approach a colleague and slip in together with him mumbling that I was sorry I had forgotten my badge and all. He looks at me disapprovingly asking: Is your name by any coincidence Snowden? I say sorry, that is by far too secret to disclose.

9 July 2013
On my way back from Italy the car beeped and wanted a new light bulb. One and a half hour later I was good friends with Ossi from the service station who had by then almost destroyed the car. He handed me two seemingly superfluous parts which he could not fit under the hood anymore and sent me off to a garage. There I agreed that one should only touch these things if one was a specialist. The specialist then took another 50 minutes to fit in the bulb and the parts which held it in place.

4 July 2013
Remarkable quotes: Even with the best of intentions, it would be surprising if they now were to consider proposing ideas that they opposed just a year ago.

3 July 2013
PA Charlotte’s weekly fashion column: Escada never fails to deliver – it’s a timeless brand. The summer Sport collection of short and long floaty dresses and flouncy skirts in lemons and peaches and limes and pinks and lilacs looked lovely. Well cut and meeting their 'sensual femininity' ambitions. Their perfumes complement their clothes wonderfully. Personality profiling at its best.
This augurs well for the autumn and winter collection of suits and coats. Hopefully darker colours (deep grey and purple and burnt orange) and stricter tailoring with kick pleats on the business suits. And fishtail style skirts will please make a comeback – an ideal maritime match for Escada’s Marine Groove perfume!
Perhaps for my own outfit, I would add to this combination some fishnet stockings and sea green nail varnish.

26 June - 2 July 2013
Have been on the road quite a bit, from June 26th to 28th in Brussels, then Austria, briefly again Munich, Berlin and soon I will be off to Italy.

23 June 2013
„I believe the potential for increasing stupidity is limitless.“ Bernhard Heinzlmaier, expert on yourth culture

21 June 2013
PA Charlotte’s weekly fashion column: Punctuality. Being too late in completing important tasks can have grave consequences with a demanding boss. The answer? Invest in a good reliable watch. Make sure to get a model which is elegant (such as a Swiss Rado) in a 'timeless' sort of way. Something which fits with most outfits. But beware! Time can fly by while you admire your lovely watch as the challenging tasks build up. Those consequences are then unavoidable! It is a pity Einstein's relativity theories could not help stretch time in the office. I confess to not understanding the space-time continuum. But my watch may well demonstrate relativity - sadly, it knows to go slowly when there is filing or typing, and to go quickly when I doze off or read Italian Vogue. And my annual holidays seem to disappear at light speed into a black hole.
Received comment: “Would Charlotte's fashion column approve this fashion accessory?
I already thought it would not be all too popular with her but apparently she is appalled! "PA Charlotte's comment was: "I am outraged by this item. They are ugly and should be burnt in bulk. The way to deal with perverts is (a) legal proceedings and (b) modest yet elegant skirts or trousers."

18 June 2013
“Too much work consists of circulating information that isn't relevant about subjects that don't matter to people who aren't interested.” – Quote from Yes, Minister.

17 June 2013
I parked my bicycle at a spot for motorcycles and got a ticket in which I was kindly requested to note that I am not a motorcycle.

14 June 2013
Meeting quotes: There are pros and cons but great uncertainties remain.
Also quite remarkable when it comes to quotes: Under pressure, inaction is more likely than action.

12 June 2013
It is always interesting to hear people say that they are presently pointing out their current and not their ultimate position.

9 June 2013
“More often than not, things and people are as they appear.” - Malcolm Forbes

8 June 2013
PA Charlotte’s weekly fashion column: Does the pinafore dress deserve to make a stronger comeback? Its origins were plain colours, practical, often for school teachers, secretaries or shop assistants. But brighter colours for the dress and playing with shortening or lengthening the hem length of the skirt, coupled with a pretty pussybow blouse, could give it a whole new modern feel. Why are our brilliant young designers not looking at this? Maybe there is too much nostalgia around for maintaining the happy memories of youth. My own memories of wearing an old style pinafore dress in the office are of colleagues laughing and asking me if I had lost my way to kindergarten! And of the silly-looking 'elevator girls' in Japanese department stores with high pitched voices along with short pink pinafore smocks and tiny hats!

7 June 2013
Sometimes I reckon that pure luxury is something very simple, i.e. being absolutely at ease in order to do one thing at a time and attending 100% to that one thing instead of being in two conference calls at a time whilst skimming through 10 e-mails and attending one’s attention to a million other things as well.

6 June 2013
You will be pleased to note that on May 29th this year the German Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz ceased to exist and so with this piece of legislation one of the longest German words will not be used that much anymore.

5 June 2013
This is how beautiful it can be when things are taken apart. One does wonder as to whether Aristotle was really right when he said that “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” He might have reflected on that after seeing this pictures.

4 June 2013
On my way to London. Will have meetings at an obscure place that nobody knows, is allowed to know or has access rights to. What seems to be taken from a Dan Brown novel involving at least some sort of conspiracy, biohazard or other life-threatening experience is in fact just a very nice office.

3 June 2013
PA Charlotte’s weekly fashion column: Continuing the eastern theme. Asian fashion and fabrics are often delicate and feminine and understated. But they can be brash and bold. Just look at the creative energy of the Japanese youngsters in Harajuku. The layers of colour and cloth could offer all sorts of disguises. A rather over-dressed bankrobber perhaps? Or nun turned punk? Maybe a businessman showing off his creative side? Or the shy schoolkid becoming a 'riot in pink'? Not recommended for wearing in the office though!

1-2 June 2013
Switzerland has its charms I must say. Went to Winterthur which has its hidden quirkiness. A red cat in front of a window displaying a human skull for instance or a meadow with camels! And yes, we are talking about Switzerland!

31 May 2013
"Please send bullet points, no text, just bullets!" There could not be a simpler task really:

Received comment:
• Here's a free bullet point....
• Here's another free bullet point....
• Here's another free bullet point....
• Here's another free bullet point....
• Here's another free bullet point....
• I hope this will do.

28 May 2013
What has become of this world? The following is nowadays seen as an “opportunity”: “Try to (re-)tweet at least one tweet a day.” That important call for redundancy is then followed by the next important call for action: “You can repeat important in-house announcements multiple times (different moments of the day / week)”.

27 May 2013
PA Charlotte’s weekly fashion column: It is about time to make a fashion prediction! Just as business and culture is looking to the East, so too will fashion.... Take the body-hugging and colourful silk Chinese cheongsam or qípáo, for instance, as made famous by the 1950's Shanghai actress Suzy Wong. They can be worn in the office in plainer colours at knee length and in the evening at ankle length in dazzling hues of all colours. They flatter most figures. Try one now!

26 May 2013
A quote from a story I recently read online: “Five frogs are sitting on a log. Four decide to jump off. How many are left? Five, because deciding is different than doing.”

25 May 2013
The shorter the speech the deeper the thought. – Inaccurately translated from German.

24 May 2013
After only two days in Leipzig I get the feeling one could spend days and days here discovering new aspects of quarter like the Plagwitz district with its old factories in various states of decay. Especially liked the cotton mill.

23 May 2013
Courage stands at the beginning of the action, luck at the end – Demokrit quoted in huge letters atop of a house in Dresden.

22 May 2013
I am fascinated by Dresden’s beauty. It has quite a skyline and is so unlike other city center areas with nothing but shopping malls and the like.

20 May 2013
PA Charlotte’s weekly fashion column: Do you find half your day taken up with audio conference calls with colleagues around the world? Unless you are speaking, or the topic is really interesting, it is very hard to stay alert. I find that multi-tasking is vital in these circumstances, something that women are good at. I will listen attentively of course – but in the meantime, though I could get on with on-line travel and hotel bookings, and finish typing any briefing papers, I probably will not! The latest Jimmy Choo and Christian Laboutin heels are worth an internet browse, as are the latest skirts which seem to have lots of flounces and pleats this year in bold colours. This also means I need to get on with my ‘in office’ exercise system, with sit ups and leg bends to keep me trim, along with throwing things across the office into the waste bin! I may even make a coffee as the machine is within earshot. And of course, sometimes paint or file my nails if the call is unusually dull and lasts into my lunch break…

19 May 2013
It’s easy to destroy, but difficult to create. Just ask any great deity. Quoted from: A year of fortunes (without cookies).

17 May 2013
From the series of “meeting quotes”: My English does not become better when I am thinking. Or singing.”
Or: Three is what you can count with your fingers when you cut away two of them.
And this time shamefully quoting myself and I guess with that it is really time for a holiday: No, I have not seen any new non papers.

16 May 2013
Fame and fortune will come to you, relatively speaking. Quoted from: A year of fortunes (without cookies).

11 May 2013
Street art in Germany: I especially like the sandbox and the alternative bicycle tram!

10 May 2013
PA Charlotte’s weekly fashion column: Jewellery is very individual. Taste and style vary even more enormously that for clothes or shoes or hairstyles. Jewellery can of course also be very expensive, especially if you try to coordinate your earrings, bracelets, necklaces, watches, rings etc with your outfit day on day. Some jewellers (see Brazilian Amsterdam Sauer’s example one and two) however offer delicate and elegant multi-coloured jewellery and at fairly modest cost. These suit almost any outfit from glamorous evening wear to colourful weekend and beach outfits. I personally draw the line though at wearing such jewellery in the office: black/grey business suits and shoes and white/pastel blouses really benefit best from under-stated silver items.
But bear such multi-functional colourful offerings in mind. They look great without emptying your purse! Unless of course you are very rich or have a rich spouse……but securing one of the latter is beyond the remit of this column!

9 May 2013
As Inspirational Jimmy already said: Inspiration is better than being outside of spiration. So have a look at this amazing project on reviving the collodion process!

6 May 2013
Travel advise for London (and this is no joke but is attributed to some written instructions): Hailing a taxi in the street is quite easy, if you don't mind waving your arms at a black cab.

5 May 2013
Blue Ocean Approach:
1. What can you do without? ELIMINATE
2. What can be reduced? REDUCE
3. What needs to be raised? RAISE/RETAIN
4. Are there things missing? What needs to be created? CREATE

4 May 2013
A weekend in Vienna.

2 May 2013
PA Charlotte’s weekly fashion column: The weather has been so 'up and down', and warm and cold, and wet and windy. Often on the same day. It has been almost impossible to know what sort of coat to wear without getting it all wrong. This is where the humble trench coat comes into its own. Things have moved on from the ugly dirty brown Inspector Colombo variety! The coat keeps you dry and is lightweight. And the new styles in shiny materials such as by Burberry are lovely, and can match any outfit. I prefer the longer flared styles with a nice tight belt and coordinated boots. Don't leave home without one!

29 April 2013
From the series of “meeting quotes”: It is hard to find people who are both eloquent and have something to say.

27 April 2013
Once more on chocolate and bunnies: The native inhabitants of Nicaragua paid for goods with cocoa beans rather than gold and silver. Later the Spaniards also bought goods with this currency. A rabbit cost 10 cocoa beans, a slave cost 100.

26 April 2013
"Before you can make a dream come true, you must first have one." - Ronald McNair

24 April 2013
PA Charlotte’s weekly fashion column: How far should one go in coordinating your outfits? The right shoes with the right skirt, yes. The right blouse with the right skirt, yes. Handbags and earrings and gloves all being color and style and impact coordinated might be acceptable, though expensive. But matching accessories could possibly go too far. Only wearing gold or silver jewelry for instance with gold or silver zips on your jacket is on the edge but probably not too obsessive. But making sure your partner wears a turquoise tie if you are in a turquoise gown, or a matching pinstripe suit for your office wear, may be a step too far. And having your partner have the same lovely blond hair highlights as you would be extreme! Where could this all end up? Image cloning could become a trend maybe?
Received comment: 'Every day, my tie matches her dress'
Received comment: 'Experience: I've worn the same outfit as my husband for 35 years'

23 April 2013
I saw this amazing show “Dummy 2.0” today in Berlin. It is hard to describe the show as such, it is a vaudeville show with video projections, dance, acrobatics and quite a number of mannequins. Impressive it was!

21 April 2013
There are days like this I suppose where one is getting up to the sounds of a swing radio station called “Martini in the Morning” in order to behead a chocolate Easter bunny.
Received comment: I guess it is OK to behead a chocolate Easter bunny. Been there. Done that. No big guilt thing.

20 April 2013
From the series of unsatisfactory dialogues: In front of a futuristic looking stage: A: So what is going to happen here? B: Nothing anymore, it has already happened.

19 April 2013
I am absolutely fascinated by Sebastião Salgado’s work. He currently exhibits pictures of his project “Genesis” in the National History Museum in London. All pictures are in black and white and monumental. The project has taken him 8 years to complete, travelling the world. He started on the Galápagos Islands in 2004, and went then from Siberia and Antarctica to the jungles, deserts and mountains of Asia, Africa and South America. He went to the untouched regions of this planet, taking pictures of seemingly unreal landscapes, animals and indigenous peoples. Genesis is also the title of a coffee table book. There is a special edition limited to 100 copies, a hardcover book that comes with a book holder and a signed print. It is 46.8 x 70 cm big and costs 7.500 Euro. I was tempted.

18 April 2013
From the series of “meeting quotes” – and you will remember my all time favorite: “Let me repeat it for repetition's sake!”: “They’re just like me, they don’t bring much value to the organization!” and another one: “If you don’t know that much you do a better job!”

17 April 2013
Photoshop allows you to do crazy things but this is just hilarious: sports balls replaced with cats.
And, being in London today: There is a Live Blog for Thatcher’s funeral. Isn’t that slightly odd or a contradiction in terms? Can you be dead live or actively buried? At least there will be “a private cremation after a ceremonial funeral”.

16 April 2013
Fun Infographic asks: So, You Wanna Be a Professional Photographer?

11 April 2013
PA Charlotte’s weekly fashion column: Summer is coming... allegedly! White designer jeans are a staple for social occasions or holidays - but frankly they should only be worn if one is tall and has the right trim silhouette. A skirt is of course much more forgiving of varying shapes, but you can't wear skirts all the time (even though my boss prefers that.....). The jeans should be: (a) of boot cut variety with the tips of the high heels - not white! - just peeping under the fabric; (b) coupled with a colorful blouse e.g. of salmon pink or powder blue satin to add a splash of dash and color along with a powerful designer handbag; and (c) allied to a longer style haircut loosely worn or even in a French twist. White jeans can get terribly dirty so one must never travel on public transport. And never eat things which can color or stain if spilt. Indeed it is best not to eat at all when wearing them. That will of course help the silhouette issue. On the subject of 'jean skirts', I have to say that I am not a fan. They are not as smart as more formal skirts and they are not as casual as 'trouser jeans'. They are sort of 'in between'. Don't wear them.
Received comment: I want to see Charlotte in a jean skirt...
Received comment: I am certainly learning a lot about fashion. I too want to see Charlotte dressed in her finest. I can't imagine what she would think of my wardrobe.

10 April 2013
Is the following statement an expression of “pragmatism 2.0” or just “back to basics”? “Achieve essential, and then worry about excellent.”
Received comment: I say "Strive for the excellent, and the essential will take care of itself..."

9 April 2013
Beware of people who speak for 15+ minutes in order to come to a point where they say something along the lines of “I guess my point is” or “I guess the point I am trying to make is” followed by another 15 minutes of monologue.

7 April 2013
Finally all the pictures from my world trip are online!
Received comment: Love your pictures! Brilliant!!

6 April 2013
Oh I love red. I'm very loyal to my colors. I love violet! Elizabeth Taylor, 1932-2011
Received comment: Lilac, lavender and violet are my favourite colours!

4 April 2013
A rather interesting approach on redrawing the map of Europe has appeared in the Economist.

3 April 2013
PA Charlotte’s weekly fashion column: I have fallen hopelessly in love with this coat and boots ensemble. Even though it may seem somewhat evil queen or witch chic! They are by a Korean designer, Lie Sang Bong. True 'gangnam style' indeed - and somewhat more elegant than the admittedly hypnotic song and dance involving a plump man called Psy in a lime green dinner jacket and two-tone shoes! Just look at the hooped edging on the beautifully tailored floor length black coat; and the pink lining is just such a lovely contrast. I think the feisty boots complement the outfit perfectly. But sadly, I cannot afford to travel to the Gangnam-gu district of Seoul to buy them straight away. Life is so cruel! Where is my fairy godmother - or even the evil queen - when I need her help?

2 April 2013
And once more we have moved offices – this time we have moved into our final destination which is based on the hot desk concept. So one does not have an assigned permanent desk anymore but occupy then unoccupied soil on an hourly or daily basis. Unfortunately, there is no parking garage like system with green lights above unoccupied tables. The good news is that each table is equipped with a red card printed on both sides. It reads “Please do not disturb” in both English and German and features a pictogram as well for people who do not speak the said languages or are visional impaired. I somehow started to like this new concept. I can show the red card to myself when I find myself speaking too loud on the phone, when I start working on my own nerves or when I am disturbing myself in any other way. Showing the card to others would be rude. When seeking my desk, and I do have an assigned desk I should say because where there is a rule, there is also an exception to that rule, I orientate myself on two chocolate Santas who are standing on a trolley that I need to pass. They turn their backs to me and are beside one of the “Do not disturb!” signs. Next to them there are a few chocolate Easter eggs. What will I do if all that disappears, where will be the common thread?
Received comment: Liked your moving office piece. Rather amusing.

1 April 2013
Fortunately there were no anonymous calls and letters this year a propos April's fool day. Last year’s jokes were cruel enough and are pretty present in my memory.

31 March 2012
Broken Muses wishes Happy Easter!

27 March 2012
Is it really so that in the end opting-in and opting-out amounts to the same result? If I am not a particular morning person and I opt-in to getting up is that in the end better as opting out of staying in bed and hitting the snooze button for one more time? Is there a difference in refusing a second cup of coffee or deliberately not asking for one? Does opting-in feel better than opting out? Is it a question of politeness in case others are affected and a mere question of free will for decisions you take for yourself?

25 March 2012
PA Charlotte’s weekly fashion column: Why do women fare less well still in the workplace than men? In job and pay terms? Things are variable around the world but it is still a problem in most places. I am sure this is a combination of out-moded ideas of a woman’s place in society and of historic notions of femininity. How can things move forward faster? In my case, I was well educated but it seemed easier to move into well paid PA work in the retail, publishing and fashion sectors. It also gave me easy access to the latest styles!
But what if things moved too fast? It would be rather distressing to wear a pretty skirt (like the lady in the picture) rather than tailored trousers if all the men were underneath the glass ceiling looking up! Or if it was the men in dresses; and all the women in suits! We would probably then quickly realize it is all about how we see ourselves through social custom rather than through the perceived barriers of nature.
Received comment: Maybe the lady standing on top of the desk looking up at the glass ceiling needs to toss a chair through the ceiling...?

24 March 2013
New pictures online from Zanzibar, South Africa, Nepal, Bhutan, Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong!
Received comment: Saw your new pictures. Superlative work, as usual, my friend.
Received comment: I am fascinated by your pictures!

23 March 2013
I read somewhere that Karma points are dispersed unexpectedly over decades. How unfair.
Received comment: On Karma points and having to waiting for them?
Patience is like chocolate.
You can never have enough.
(Christelle Heurtault)
From a piece of paper wrapped around a piece of chocolate.

22 March 2013
According to Forbes there are 17 counterintuitive things the most successful people do. My favorite one is: "Repeat Mistakes – enough times until you really learn the lesson. Sometimes, mistakes do need to be repeated if the payoff is big enough. We hardly ever learn anything truly worthwhile after one try." Although I also liked "Purposely offend" and "play possum".
Received comment: How about “pre-emptive revenge”?

21 March 2013
From the series “there you go”: The prison Alcatraz was closed down on March 21, 1969.

20 March 2013
Tales from Absurdistan: The toast is not burning but the rain is pouring. In front of Gare du Nord station in Brussels is a juggler who juggles obliviously with three burning torches.

19 March 2013
From the series “there you go”: Kiss means “small” in Hungarian.

18 March 2013
Believing that your actions matter is how the human mind learns optimism.

17 March 2013
In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is. Yogi Berra
Received comment: A British delegate to some EU committee outlines his country's proposals, which, being British, are typically pragmatic, sensible and detailed. The French delegate reflects noddingly on them for a considerable period of time, before delivering judgment: 'Well, I can see the plan will work in practice, but will it work in theory?' as retold by Julian Barnes.

16 March 2013
Only a brief comment from the editor because I am more and more often asked as to whether I have changed and would be increasingly interested in fashion: The clear answer is: no. The weekly fashion column is a guest post from a third party, who in my opinion aligns beautifully with the core topic of broken muses. It is inspired by a different kind of muses that inhabit a world that is at least as promising, inaccessible and veiled as the human expression in “my” broken muses.

14 March 2013
PA Charlotte’s weekly fashion column: Well, dear readers, what do you think of this hat? I have been invited by a wealthy friend to a high society wedding this weekend. Hence very nervous. I have a knee length red and grey A-line dress, and dark red court high heel shoes. But hats really are my downfall. How to get the coordination right? Will this one work? Am I as 'mad as a hatter'? Please - help!

13 March 2013
Was just listening to a song called: My canary has circles under his eyes.

12 March 2013
On the other kind of elevator speeches or why home office isn’t as powerful as working at large corporate premises: The scene: One is waiting for an elevator. A rather good looking man, dress code consultant or better, approaches. One nods and says Hi. The elevator arrives. Out comes another man, dress code consultant hardly better, exchanging a line or two with the other one, then leaving. One enters the elevator. The good looking one radiates an intensive, incredibly good smell. One thinks that one can only say so much during a ride over 4 stories and so one says: You have a really nice perfume! The incredibly good smelling man now radiates a smile on top of his smell and says: Well, it’s a boutique series. It's called French Lover.”

11 March 2013
I was told that if you hold a grudge and can't let it go, that person is just renting a space in your head for free.
Received comment: I hope there also people that are renting a space in your head because you give it to them for free ;-) Because I know they let you occupy space in their head for free as well.

10 March 2013
In memoriam: A Love Letter from Emilie Blachère to Rémi Ochlik. The transcript can be found here.
Received comment: I loved March 10ths blog entry!
Received comment: Heartbreaking, and you can feel every bit of it!

7 March 2013
PA Charlotte’s weekly fashion column: Many apologies to my readers for not blogging in the last 2 weeks - but of course I have been on holiday at the fashion shows in Milan, London and now Paris. It has taken every ounce of my ingenuity to get into the shows: for example, pretending to be a make-up artist, faking a journalists’ pass for Russian Vogue, wearing my very best Karl Lagerfeld clothes just to ‘look the part’, agreeing to a date with one of the few non-gay designers… It’s been quite a trip. I need a holiday! The quality has been breathtaking at times. My favorite? It has to be Miu Miu in Paris. Just look at the extraordinary and beautiful detail here on the jackets, combined with elegant but flirty skirts. I cannot wait to get my hands on them. Whether my boss will think they are appropriate for the office is another matter...!

6 March 2013
The Austrian evergreen “Let’s (wait and) see” which can mean anything from yes/no/maybe/perhaps/eventually/rather no/rather yes/can’t be decided at this point in time/let’s postpone/let’s perhaps discuss it at a later stage/let’s never touch that subject again/don’t be angry with me/you can’t expect that from me/believe me, it’s better this way etc turns into “Let’s wait and see, then we’ll perhaps see clearer” in Bavaria.
Received comment: There was a Spaniard who was travelling in the islands. One evening over a dram he got talking to a local speaker of the Gaelic. Their common language was naturally English - even if delightfully accented. And so of course they got round to talking about the languages closer to their hearts. At one point the Spaniard mentioned the phrase "mañana, mañana". The Gaelic speaker asked what that meant and he was told "maybe tomorrow, but probably not. Sometime in the future, possibly, even if not being at all clear when". The Gaelic speaker thought for a while, then replied, "No, I do not think that we have anything in the Gaelic that conveys such a pressing sense of urgency".

5 March 2013
Things are looking up after all! After months and months of dire deprivation you get a fortune cookie again with your wok when dining in the canteen. So today’s cookie contained the following: Cheap things are worthless, valuable things are not cheap.

4 March 2013
New pictures online from Fiji and Hawaii!

28 February 2013
For some reason or other I was once again reminded of a number of shortcomings and disturbing news surrounding my name. My collection of misspellings contains so far: Brandes, Brandi, Branol, Brendl, Brendel, Brandle, Monsieur Margit Brandl, Martin Donald James (somehow remarkable), Margarita Brando (my favorite, could only be topped by Marlene Brando!), Brandl Marie, Margaret, Margrit, Merkit, Marget, Marlies, Margite, Margriet Brandel, Verena, Hanne Brandl and Margit Wandel (i.e. change).
Received comment: I like Verena best.
Received comment: And you forgot to mention your own name variation: Margitangela

27 February 2013
The problem regarding heating persists. This time the neighbor’s flat is affected. Whenever I turn on the heat, there is some kind of heat in the neighboring flat as well but when it is turned down, the neighbor freezes. He tried lightening an average of 50 (!) candles in the evening but despite his efforts has not reached temperatures above 18 degrees centigrade, yet. The heating engineers are – and sadly enough that was to be expected – overwhelmed. They saw that the concierge (a tinkerer of the finest sort) has aimed at repairing one of the neighbor’s leaking radiators with a straw, fixed with some rubber band and leading the dripping water into a huge frying pan – and they were kind of fascinated. The property manager said that in the future they aim to rent out the two flats to couples only. Furthermore she suggested a common destiny approach and thinking about getting together. We could spend the better hours of the day in the warmer part of the two flats and the one who wants to sleep in a cool room can easily retreat later at night.
Received comment: Eleven out of ten for language? ;-) The heating engineers who were ** "overwhelmed". I have heard of people being overwhelmed and more rarely underwhelmed. But the other day somebody just wrote that they had been "whelmed". By the way I sort of remember a comedy thing where they took words that were almost always included a certain prefix and then either used them with the opposite prefix or "naked". Now all I have to do is remember some! ** "kind of fascinated". A lovely phrase! And then "the common destiny approach". You are aware of "fate sharing" in engineering, maybe particularly network engineering?

25 February 2013
A classical Monday. We have moved offices. First thing in the morning is that I cannot find the new office. No chance. I meet a few colleagues who offer asylum (not permanently I assume). Finally I find it only to be locked out a few hours later. The ones that had offered asylum earlier become more and more skeptical. Again later in the day I attend a special gym class my doctor sent me to as he thinks I am not schwarzenegeeresque enough and could do with a few more muscles. The gym forms an integral part of an old people’s home. On the spot I discover that my gym pants have not made it into my bag. So I enter the gym in tights and incredibly ridiculous non-slip socks… I probably can’t go there again.

21 February 2013
Welcome back to Absurdistan: It is general strike in Belgium. Allegedly the metro service is not running at all or at least severely delayed. Actually, the metro system worked better than ever and the staff was cleaning the stations thoroughly – something I have never seen before.

20 February 2013
PA Charlotte is travelling and will not be blogging for a week or two.

19 February 2013
Quotes from the heart of Europe: We all speak Eurenglish over here much to the detriment of the native English speakers who generally don’t understand us at all but they’ll eventually get used to it.

18 February 2013
The most beautiful word in the world? Chocolate of course!

17 February 2013
Received comments: “It is a sin to tell an untimely truth.” - The Church of Scotland. So at the ball all dresses are wonderful? And only years later, over a happy glass, can certain things be said? ;-)
Please do ensure that the English and German language versions are in synch. Also am hoping for photos of PA Charlotte fully attired soon. Kate Moss

16 February 2013
For the first time in 100 years the so-called Viennese washer women’s ball was celebrated again. The decoration alone was worth seeing, clotheslines crisscrossing the premises of Gschwandner and on the clotheslines laundry in all colors. And then the visitors! A journey back in time, the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the washer women and the newspaper deliverers, all in appropriate dresses just like their ancestors. The women wore coarse linen dresses, skirts, crinolines and white hoods, the men were dressed in corduroy pants, suspenders and matching berets. My own interpretation of the whole was certainly a little strange - turquoise dress and my hair in an enormous bun. The music from the 1920ies and 30-ies was terrific, a pleasure, what can I say, a great ball!

15 February 2013
The Hotel Sacher in Vienna is really an institution. Allegedly the spa offers massages with chocolate as well as the matching shower gel, hair shampoo and body lotion containing chocolate. In summary one can assume that it is Sacher cake inside out.

14 February 2013
And again a week has passed and it is time for PA Charlotte’s fashion column: Why am I addicted to pencil skirts? I particularly adore those skirts falling just below the knee or even sometimes to calf length, mainly in black or in a grey pinstripe style. They are rather tight and indeed quite uncomfortable, and very hard to walk in or to sit down in. Sheer stockings are therefore vital. Combining the skirt - as I often do - with a wide belt and with high heeled shoes or boots makes getting anywhere quickly very difficult! (See video). Don't even try to run for a taxi if you are late for an appointment... And climbing stairs or getting into a sports car can be a veritable nightmare. But I have become convinced over the years that this is a quintessential part of the core attraction of fashion. Fashion is much more about how one is seen than how one feels. A pencil skirt for instance is smart, slimming, sexy; and accentuates your curves and gives you a great silhouette. It is almost always 'on trend', year in and year out. You look good - even if you do not feel so good. And for many fashion-conscious women, including myself, that is an addiction well worth feeding over and over again.

9-12 February 2013
Skiing in Switzerland.

7 February 2013
PA Charlotte’s thought of the day: In the late 1970's, Harmony Hairspray launched this campaign. Could such lovely natural flowing hair really be controlled by an artificial product? Well yes it could - and it would be accompanied by a wonderful life! In the next 30 years, it has become natural to be unnatural. And not always to advertise the fact. False sun tans. False lips and no wrinkles (via botox). Died hair of all colors - purple and blue streaks seem de rigeur currently! False finger nails and eyelashes and hair extensions. The market for newly sculptured bodies through plastic surgery has also exploded. Clothes now constrict and mould. Corsets are popular again. Is she or isn't she? Often I have no idea, and in multiple ways. Bring back the Harmony Hairspray days! It was simpler then.

6 February 2013
PA Charlotte’s weekly fashion column: With the ball season in full swing, most of us are wearing beautiful low cut strapless gowns. I know I will (see link). These are very feminine. But they can also be very cold where one is exposed to the elements. Is there any way to avoid 'frozen shoulder'? Well, you can wear a shawl or a small fur jacket. Or go for a high neck dress with long sleeves for a change. Or even insist - as I do - that a man keeps his arm around you all evening. Or you can even have warming linament rubbed into your skin (not recommended given the rather strong unpleasant smell, and the consequent need for more perfume). In the end, and this is almost always true - it's probably best to realize that there is rarely gain without pain!
Received comment: Dear Charlotte, let an old bloke comment on that: Men are far too shy to just put an arm around a stranger’s shoulder and if so it would not do as any good. It’s not easy for women, oh no, but we men also bear some misery. Well, my advice then is to either bring your own man (BYOM) or to stock up on the go and instruct him carefully. It might be best to create a handbook well in advance. Unfortunately my advice comes too late anyway as the ball season - at least in Catholic Bavaria - is now over. You can either go to Basel to celebrate carnival for 14 more days or you go to Vienna where the ball season seems to never really stop.

5 February 2013
Quotes from born communicators: At this point I do not need further messages.

3 February 2013
About a month ago I read an article about structured procrastination. Since then I have done a number of things I guess. Don’t ask me to name anything specific but I must have been up to something. At lest that is what the theory suggests. Well at least I have read John Perry’s book “The Art of Procrastination: The Art of Effective Dawdling, Dallying, Lollygagging, and Postponing”. And I of course admired the picture on Perry’s website a number of times; the one where he practices jumping rope with seaweed. Which reminded me about seeing the one or other successful attempt at “worming” on the Australian beaches (see blog entry from 11 and 12 April 2011). Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, so I could not get around writing about this remarkable, adorable piece of work which will be self-explanatory as soon as you start reading about the man’s ideas which were triggered by Robert Benchley who said: “Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he's supposed to be doing at that moment.”

2 February 2013
Can you get into a state of deep relaxation just through listening to an overdose of Jack Johnson? I recommend Talk of the Town, Good People and of course Jungle Jim. Try Lullaby if you can’t resist another one. Samples can be heard here.

1 February 2013
The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it. – Michelangelo

31 January 2013
PA Charlotte’s weekly fashion column: Today I feel like an 'agony aunt'. My girlfriend Sylvie has a problem at her office (a law firm). Whilst she is always beautifully attired, her female boss is often quite badly dressed and has a poor manner with clients. She loves her job and does not want to leave, but how to deal sensitively with the situation? My advice is below. Would you, the readers, have said the same? Or differently? Charlotte's advice to Sylvie was: - She must not let her own standards slip: lead by example! (As do I)
- She should compliment her boss when she dresses well and remind her how much she liked the previous outfit when dressed less well: a sort of positive reinforcement!
- Bring in magazines for the office such as Elle, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar: change through osmosis!
- Encourage a man friend or client that her boss likes to compliment her when she is well turned out: the psychological and sex angle!
- At the bosses birthday, and at Christmas, buy her a lovely scarf, bag or pair of gloves: stealthy bribery! For example.

30 January 2013
You’d think that one would attend to a number of new hobbies in Munich such as drinking beer in vast quantities or hiking nearby mountains. Not in my case. My new hobby is bleeding radiators! That’s what I do in my flat mornings, afternoons and evenings. Mostly in vein though, as the heat is definitely not on since January 22.

29 January 2013
According to a friend who has just recently had a number of refreshing experiences, job interviews have quite a history it seems. So does YouTube obviously.

28 January 2013
I’m proud to add a lovely quote to my “meeting quotes” series: “Let me repeat it for repetition's sake!”

24 January 2013
Vogue won’t get her, so here we go again: PA Charlotte's weekly fashion column: ‘I am often asked how I maintain my 'sustained elegance' week on week? My girlfriends ask how I turn so many heads - male and female, young and old, alike - whether I am in London, New York, Paris or Milan? The answer of course is: (a) attention to detail; (b) expert coordination of outfits; and (c) keeping up with the latest trends. You might have a lovely blouse, skirt or dress but that means nothing if the accessories - shoes, hairstyle, jewelry, hat, handbag, coat and gloves - are wrong. So too fresh and pretty make-up. The complete picture really does matter. For instance, if I am teetering along in a black leather pencil skirt and elegant white satin blouse to my office, I must get the gloves and shoes right and coordinated, particularly as the skirt makes such a powerful statement I think. Otherwise the ensemble simply does not work. Like anything worthwhile in life, looking good and being fashionable takes real time and effort - but it is certainly worth it. And, like most women, I love to see those heads turning. Though I am in two minds about the 'wolf whistles'!”.

23 January 2013
Among the many birthday wishes I received today there was one that I’d like to highlight here: Baz Luhrmann, Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen). My favourite lines from the lyrics are: “Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how. Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements.”

22 January 2013
Reactions (or so to say a good management summary): "I have done a “moon walk” and browsed your blog for the last month or so and thought to myself: You’re getting on quite constructively with life: I see you’re photographing friends and hanging socks at parties, you're thinking of a long list on increasing creativity, identify psychopaths already through their choice of profession and have your car being demolished on the 21st of December, the Mayan end of the world. Thank God you did not try to remove any winter mosquitoes from your windshield at this inopportune point in time! And so you’ve transported a thick red couch monster to Munich? Such monsters do not like being transferred and fight back very often. The hidden energies of such couches demand a lot of the backs of brave packers!”

21 January 2013
The Flemish National Theater in Brussels features a sentence – written in bold letters above it’s entrance: All problems can never be solved.

19 - 20 January 2013
“This is how life is,
One travels to Paris,
The other one doesn’t travel to Paris
That’s how life is”
Ja so ist das Leben, Josef Hader

18 January 2013
I was told that a poster in a bar in Verbier reminds one about one crucial: "The older I get the better I was".

16 January 2013
PA Charlotte's weekly fashion column: The ball season is upon us in Vienna. The settings are beautiful and ball gowns always very glamorous - but the tension and pressure is consequently always high. What should one wear this year? Should one go for tradition as here or for something a little more adventurous. I confess to losing a lot of sleep over this and to being in quite a quandary!!

15 January 2013
“As you get older your secrets are safe with your friends because they can’t remember them either.” Seen on a billboard in Panama last year.

14 January 2013
According to the author of a new book, there are actually some professions that attract psychopaths more than others, and civil servants (including politicians), lawyers and TV and radio people are among those ranking very high.
The list of the professions the author claims seem to have the most psychopaths are:
1. Chief executive officer
2. Lawyer
3. Media (Television/Radio)
4. Salesperson
5. Surgeon
6. Journalist
7. Police officer
8. Clergy person
9. Chef
10. Civil servant
On the other hand the author says that the evidence he found suggests the following professions as least attractive to psychopaths:
1. Care aide
2. Nurse
3. Therapist
4. Craftsperson
5. Beautician or stylist
6. Charity worker
7. Teacher
8. Creative artist
9. Doctor
10. Accountant

13 January 2013
Received comment. Webmaster warning regarding a recently received comment to the January 11 entry: Don’t put your hopes to high, this might be a hoax!
And so the comment reads: Dear Broken Muses: I think the fashion blog by PA Charlotte is creative and thoughtful in its feminine charm. Please offer her a regular column - before I do. Anna Wintour, Editor, Vogue

12 January 2013
Per aspera ad astram – what a nice saying and so true.

11 January 2013
From the adult education center’s recent catalog: “Masks - the second face” precedes a special course called “buckles - designed and made”. After the two the catalogue lists: “Picasso's bulls in 3D”. If you are interested in sewing techniques, 3 modules are available – on a need to know basis I assume: Module 1: the seam, Module 2: the zipper and Module 3: the bag. Then it goes further with: “Easy Fit: Sewing my first fashion item” and, most likely for participants who failed Module 2: “Ruffled and folded: sewing my first fashion item without a zipper.” Also very nice and almost like in real life: “Felting for Beginners”, “Felting in the studio”, “Felting – listen to your heart” and or course the evergreen: “Free felting”.

10 January 2013
I got an invite to participate in the “EU Serious and Organized Crime Conference 2013”. It almost sounds as if crime is either serious or organized and that serious crime is per definition never organized and vice versa.

9 January 2013
Received comment: I would like to say that (a) this blog is updated too often and (b) it should not include a weekly fashion column. :-)
Received comment: I am really interested in this red sofa which has been smuggled from Austria to Germany in a cloak-and-dagger operation.

8 January 2013
It seems that 2013 will be the year of ghost writers and occasional guest entries. This blog received the following contribution from Charlotte, PA in charge of almost everything: “Being a PA or secretary can be quite dull in fashion terms. The standard white blouse, charcoal pin-striped pencil skirt suit and sensible shoes might look smart - but it will not make you stand out in a crowd. Try spicing things up with a colourful satin bow blouse and an exciting print pencil skirt. Add a pair of black court stilleto's (ideally with ankle straps) and you will be the 'belle of the office'. This link offers a pretty idea.”

6 January 2013
My dad joined as a ghost writer for this blog and he suggests a somewhat longer and more accurate contribution to the January 1st entry, namely:
I'm out of bed as early as 3 a.m., as my friend Arno will be around in about an hour with a loaded trailer. To give you a bit of background: Margit has bought a new sofa at the big furniture store in Bruck. We had to clarify how to transport the bulky piece to Munich. So I phoned my friend Arno. Three hours later Arno was around to discuss details and dismissed all my (admittedly somewhat theatrical) concerns. Margit then went to Munich earlier than planned in order to check out as to whether the piece would fit into the apartment at all. It did, so the purchase was fixed and the red monster was to be on its way. On site we found that the furniture was too large for Arno’s big trailer. But Arno found a solution and put the long and lighter part into the trailer, the shorter but way heavier part into his car! After that Arno declared that the transport was due on the 1st of January with a departure time as early as 4 a.m.!!!
New Year celebrations were canceled. We hit the road as planned and after a quiet trip on empty roads we arrived at half past eight in Munich. The long part did not fit in the elevator, so we had to carry it upstairs. The shorter part had to fit though. So we put it upright and made the experience that gravity triggers the mechanics and the inbuilt bed unfolded. This happened somehow halfway down in the elevator’s cabin and while Arno was still in that cabin. Only some muffled sounds made us believe he was still alive. From the bed to the cabin ceiling there were only 30 inches of space, but like a snake, Arno’s head and shoulders appeared and somehow he slid onto the ground. We had to admit that the piece would not fit into the cabin and so again we had to carry the piece upstairs.

5 January 2013
American scientists have found that the color of the universe is beige. Young stars are more blue, older ones tend to be reddish but on average the universe has the color of latte macchiato thus the hue is now called “Cosmic Latte”. Other suggestions for the color included Skyvory and Univeige.

4 January 2013
Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire. Gustav Mahler

3 January 2013
I stumbled over this list of suggestions on the Internet and immediately liked it (not only for the coffee part but also).
33 Ways to Stay Creative
1. Make Lists
2. Carry A Notebook Everywhere
3. Try Free Writing
4. Get Away From The Computer
5. Be Otherworldly
6. Quit Beating Yourself Up
7. Take Breaks
8. Sing In The Shower
9. Drink Coffee / Tea
10. Know Your Roots
11. Listen To New Music
12. Be Open (to new ideas and ways of thought… all ways)
13. Surround Yourself With Creative People
14. Get Feedback
15. Collaborate
16. Don’t Give Up
17. Practice, Practice, Practice
18. Allow Yourself To Make Mistakes
19. Go Somewhere New
20. Watch Foreign Films
21. Count Your Blessings
22. Get Lots Of Rest
23. Take Risks
Break The Rules
25. Do More Of What Makes You Happy
26. Don’t Force It
27. Read A Page Of The Dictionary
28. Create A Framework
29. Stop Trying To Be Someone Else’s Perfection
30. Got An Idea? Write It Down
31. Clean Your Workspace
32. Have Fun
33. Finish Something

1 January 2013
Broken Muses wishes all readers a Happy, Great New Year!

27 December – 31 December 2012
What remains to be said after a long and difficult year? May 2013 be a better, a great year for all of us!

26 December 2012
Vienna is still there, the Christmas decoration in the innermost part oft he city is as opulent as ever and the Holy Ghost is still part of the ceiling decoration in Saint Peter’s church in Vienna.

25 December 2012
Does one have to worry about one’s sanity because of a white mouse crossing the street from the left or is that a natural consequence of a missing cat in the neighborhood?

24 December 2012
Broken Muses wishes a Merry Christmas!

23 December 2012
Inspirations @ work: Quote from an e-mail conversation: “I was asked to transfer the attached letter to the management stuff.”

22 December 2012
"You cannot tickle yourself. Tickling is a striking proof that a clean separation of body and soul only works as a rationalist ideal, but not at all in reality. From a book review talking about the book Curious Behavior: Yawning, Laughing, Hiccupping, and Beyond by Robert R. Provine.

21 December 2012
I can only apologize for not having kept this blog up to date and I accept the threat of certain readers who said some of them might rebel.
So what kept me so busy that I abandoned the blog? Well a snowslide smashed my car. Or rather the icy bits of it. When I finished shoveling it out of the snow masses I discovered the windshield was broken into a thousand pieces, nicely spread out inside the car and the roof was damaged, too. When the windshield finally got repaired one of the tyres was flat. And flat again the next day and then the following day. And then that got repaired, too. Oh well, I did not want to bore my readers with all that…
And so instead of driving somewhere nice I took pictures at a birthday party.

15 December 2012
Stories from the hairdresser’s: Men and women were mixed there. The guy next to me regarded washing as an overvalued luxury. He orders dynamically “12 millimeters on top, 9 on the sides”. I watch him from the corner of my eyes. He is obviously uncomfortable with the (free) ear hair trim. Another customer beside him tries to change the graying blond hair into something like blonde. Also he seems to be rather embarrassed. There’s not too much hair left on his scalp either but the hairdresser massages the rest of it with quite some passion. It almost looked like if she was passing a tribute to Che Guevara through Dreadlocks in Morse code.

14 December 2012
I just wanted to mention that I neither met Mr. McAfee when I was in Guatemala nor his double who was allegedly traveling on a fake North Korean passport.

13 December 2012
Ravi Shankar died on December 11. Out of the blue I get an e-mail on December 13 with the subject line: “New Year in Berlin with Art of Living program and the presence of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar”. Between the 31st of December and the 5th of January I can learn more about “meditation, breathing techniques and wisdom … in the presence of Ravi Shankar”. Personal interaction with Ravi Shankar is promised as well as a river cruise down the Spree with him. So in some cases reincarnation gets done very, very swiftly it seems.

12 December 2012
Inspirations @ work: “We will see what is possible as soon as possible.”

11 December 2012
Inspirations @ work: We will move to another building and thus we will more or less not be able to work effectively.

10 December 2012
Work is a true source of inspirations. A quote from Inspirations @ work: “The meeting was so busy (and confusing), all my time and energy has been consumed with trying to understand what is going on and where…”

9 December 2012
Do not ask what happiness is. Rather ask what your happiness is all about. - Zenita Komad

7 December 2012
Mannequins in Munich do not only wear the traditional costume these days but also Santa hats…

3 December 2012
Graffiti in Berlin: To count anything at all, zeros are requested to keep right. Seen at: Loonies United, Art Shop

2 December 2012
Everywhere one sees people hiding in winter coats and under hoods. The only one who really shines is a man on a billboard advertising hearing aids.

30 November - 1 December 2012
21h and three plane rides and I am back in Munich. It is foggy and the pilot announces minus three degrees Celsius. I'm sitting on the train to pick up my car. It's Christmas. Next to me is a woman who is reading a book with the sounding title: In the past there was more tinsel.

29 November 2012
What I have noticed everywhere both in Panama and Guatemala were the many parrots. Almost every hotel had one or more parrots, mostly green ones. One was especially eloquent. His hello “hola” sounds like coming from a real person and he could intonate it from sounding very welcoming and friendly to almost a “and what took you so long to stop by?” As soon as you turned your have backs on him, he immediately asked where you would go.
So once again, Guatemala City. I visited the Museum of Modern Art, a somehow depressing collection and then the Railway Museum. One of the first railroads in America was built in 1877 in Guatemala, but it has unfortunately been stopped in 1996.

28 November 2012
One last night in Flores, this time without any roommates with four and more legs. And finally a ride in a Tuk-Tuk to the airport – what a nice experience!

27 November 2012
I am not too lucky with hotels these days. In Tikal I seem to lodge in the staff quarters in what feels like 1.5 kilometers away from the restaurant and pool area. Some fellow travelers jokingly said I was probably in a hotel in Honduras. At dinner the waiter did not recognize my room number and said even when I showed him my key that he had never heard of that number let alone the existence of a room with such number before. When I return to said room there is a tarantula squashed in between the mosquito mesh and the blinds. I open the blinds again and push it over with the better end of my torch. Haven’t dealt with the frog in my bathroom, yet. It is greenish and far too slimy to be kissed. On top it has a weird stare. An Italian has offered to kill it or rather asked me timidly whether I insisted he’d kill it and was visibly relieved when I said I didn’t.

26 November 2012
There is a first time for everything my grandmother had said already and so this was the day for making unexpected friends with some insects in a hotel bed in Flores. On average I fancy a good discussion but discussing at 10 at night as to whether the three cockroaches that were in my bed were small or very small as the receptionist insisted was pointless. A further discussion with the same man at 4 a.m. as to whether the by then about 25 specimen (all on the top end of the bed next or most likely under my head for a certain time) were fleas or cockroaches, as to whether they were dangerous or totally harmless, and even if the latter were the case as to whether or not they should or shouldn’t be in a bed was rather bizarre. On the animals in beds yes or no question I was told I should better not complain as, back to square one, they were very small indeed anyway.

25 November 2012
En route to Chichicastenango I encountered 109 (!) speed bumps, some of which are so well camouflaged that they cannot noticed until the last possible moment before you break an axle. Each speed bump is so huge it demands a complete stop. In between there were holes in the road where I could have sunk the whole car. On the way back I found a better road with only 87 speed bumps and very few other hurdles. Well, anyway, Chichicastenango ("Chichi") is a village in the mountains with markets on Thursdays and Sundays. Given the amount of handicrafts I have seen in Guatemala by now this would not have really been worthwhile coming but what was really remarkable is that this village is home to a bizarre mixture of shamanism and Catholicism. At the staircase of the main church, Santo Tomaso, flowers are sold for shamanic rituals. Mortals are to use the side entrance. In the front, left side of the church a “normal” mass was celebrated with a singing priest holding a microphone and many churchgoers. Behind them in the main nave other believers burnt incense and candles and other things as offerings. Also at the Technicolor cemetery burnt offerings were everywhere to be seen.

24 November 2012
A boat tour brought me to various villages around Lake Atitlan. San Marcos is home to some Hippies - you can learn hypnosis there "without swinging pendulas or using witches brooms”, San Juan is home of many painters, and San Pedro and San Sebastian are catering mainly to tourists. It is warm during the day but freezing cold at night. Other travelers reviewed my hotel with the words “the Ritz it ain’t but you will love the large and airy rooms with great views”. Airy is true because the cracks between patio doors and window frames are about 2 cm wide. It is storming outside, and therefore also a little stormy inside. I have a fireplace in my really huge room with views of the three volcanoes. When trying to light a fire it unfortunately proves to be fake. The wood and ashes are likely to be genuine but I assume they come from previous tenant who busied themselves with extinguishing already burning logs with not yet burning ones only to escape to the balcony every now and then to grasp some air. Meanwhile, at least the air in the room is no longer a single dark gray smoke. Of course inside it is now even colder than before.

23 November 2012
I had a number of recommendations for the Friday Market in Sololá and so I went there. I did the 11 kilometers in about one hour, due to countless potholes and other impasses. From a purely photographic standpoint the excursion was rather unsatisfactory. Either people say "no" to any photographs, even of their products, or images can be taken for huge sums of money - an old woman demanded $100 and kindly offered to exchange money if need be.
The market is so crowded and so full of people that I gave up exhaustedly after about ten minutes. Just before that I felt as if someone had pushed an unusual pillow into my back. On closer inspection it was a woman with four chickens in her hands, two in each, holding them by their legs. She wanted to push past and obviously she succeeded.
Two confessionals were open in the local church. At each stood at a line of 32 people, everybody, without exception, in local Mayan costume. One wonders whether confessing makes much sense about 5-6 weeks before the predicted end of the world. Perhaps people expect a faster clearance later, because there will not be too much to confess then. I consider briefly a discussion on that, but got distracted by two small children who kept staring at me. Blending in with the locals is especially hard here in the Maya country.

22 November 2012
I drove through the beautiful highlands from Antigua to Lake Atitlan. As usual my GPS wanted me to believe in the most hideous shortcuts, but this time I did not give in and stayed at the main road. The main road was a kind of highway, interesting only because of occasional debris (for instance strollers that had just fallen down from a trailer, luckily without the child) and the very many buses. When it was time to really get off the main road I immediately reversed due to the bad road conditions. Only when a group of locals insisted that this was the right road, I thought that there is a gentle irony in these GPS devices. Follow the road for x kilometers they say. A rare touch of humor in modern technology really. On closer inspection I can confirm though that in some places there was some asphalt around the potholes. Quite often the little asphalt used has nevertheless been used for what I would call “reverse potholes”, massive hills, sleeping policemen and other uneven surfaces. But nothing, really nothing can discourage the yellow or brightly painted buses, former U.S. school buses, to still do 100 kilometers an hour or more.

21 November 2012
Antigua is really pretty. Colonial architecture, all streets are built in a logical grid, the buildings are painted in pastel colors and the many destroyed churches remind of the many earthquakes that have happened here over past centuries. There are three volcanoes surrounding the city, two of them are covered in smoke all the time. One helps to get orientated in the city. I briefly think of driving towards it or even partly up. My guide book says you can do so (if you really must) but should get the tourist police to escort you. Also groups are often target to armed robbery. I abstain. I guess you don’t have to force it. And one does not have to stare into craters or other abysses.

20 November 2012
I rented a car and went west towards the former capital, Antigua Guatemala. During the day it is almost hot but in the evenings it gets chilly. So I thought I better search for a restaurant that is not in the out and open and ended up in what was claimed to be a Neapolitan pizza place. I should have looked twice really. The atrium was covered with corrugated metal sheets. The decoration was unbelievably tasteless. Some faded pictures from the world championship 1982 on the walls, some empty Chianti bottles in the corners. The only other guests looks like he has survived a volcano eruption.

19 November 2012
Thinking about it I have not met a single other tourist in Guatemala City. Makes you think really. The old part of town is very pretty and I would say worth a visit, though. People are really friendly and super helpful. What sort of irritated me was the sheer amount or armed guards. You see them everywhere. No offense but two armed guards in front of a suburban Chinese restaurant?

18 November 2012
I flew into Guatemala City this afternoon after having once more been to Panama City’s old town. On the taxi ride to the airport we had a lively discussion on dangerous animals, mostly in sign language. I think I did not do that badly on my pantomime on sloths. Arriving to Guatemala I have to say I have hardly ever seen a more relaxed atmosphere than on Guatemala City’s airport. Hardly anybody there, hardly anybody outside. What is a bit unsettling though is that almost all of the restaurants in the area I am staying have one to two armed guards outside…

17 November 2012
Today was THE day really. I went through the Panama Canal from ocean to ocean, from the Pacific to the Atlantic! I can hardly describe the feeling. It was fantastic, it was marvelous, I was stunning. I guess you had to just be there to appreciate the feeling. It is like standing in front of the Egyptian Pyramids or like seeing New York for the first time. What a structure, what an artifact, what a construction!

15 - 16 November 2012
I headed on to Portobelo on the Carribean side of Panama. Portobelo has once been the most important harbor for the Spanish in order to bring the plundered Peruvian gold and silver over to Spain. The small harbor town is almost forgotten nowadays and so run down that even I thought it could be a bit more upmarket. By a rather unpleasant coincidence I ended up staying in a hostel, a rather dreadful experience. After a fuse broke there was no electricity and as the pump did not work also no water. The dorms were located directly under the bar that catered to foreign yacht owners (mostly anchoring, not sailing), other nonconformists and some rather ignorant students until about four in the morning. When the water eventually returned at about lunchtime I saw that bar and bathrooms (and the latter is an overstatement) were infested with fleas. Come to think about it, never before have I chased away fleas from my clothes before and after showering.

14 November 2012
Back in Panama City. I had this idea of renting a car in order to explore the countryside. The car rental company had these old fashioned pictures in their online database and I had already thought that for a multinational car rental enterprise this is pretty astonishing. As it turned out, those were the cars they had. I got a car that could have featured in any low budget gangster movie from the 1980ies. It was white. All windows were tinted black. Its maximum speed was about 90 kilometers per hour, downhill. One would have needed to film the car chases in slow motion. I felt like Bonny and missed Clyde. As always it was raining cats and dogs. I hardly saw the street let alone cars in front of me. The bigger potholes on the Panamericana (hey, I was driving down the Panamericana!) slowed me down better than the car’s breaks. Finally I came to El Valle de Anton, one of the world’s biggest inhabited extinct volcanoes. One could have hiked, one could have seen a waterfall, one could have taken a bath in thermal springs. The latter I did during the only two dry hours.

13 November 2012
Once again Bocas del Drago. A few days ago I cycled there but due tot he bad weather – we know they spell rainy season with a capital R in Panama - missed the core sight there, the so called Sea Star Beach. So today I went on the public bus. After about 20 minutes we had done about 1.1 kilometers. And we had seen people hopping on and off the bus. We had loaded and unloaded ice in blocks and cubes and fuel in tanks. When we finally refilled the bus the driver just opened his second beer. After about 50 minutes we had finally done the whole length of about 16 kilometers. The four (!) sea stars were rather big and beautiful but unfortunately in waist deep water and so could not be photographed.

12 November 2012
My stomach is still upset, hence my dry bread and Coca Cola diet continues. Die Magenverstimmung hält an und somit auch meine Diät aus trockenem Brot und Cola. Nevertheless I went on a tour through the archipelago but collapsed into the only hammock on the most beautiful beach, Zapatillos. Snoozing there I of course did not witness the boatman’s heroic attempt of climbing a coconut tree in order to fetch a coconut for me. Which I kept hearing for the rest of the day. The positive side of things was that after that he neither insisted on talking to me much nor on getting my e-mail, phone numbers and blood group (!).

11 November 2012
I have upset my stomach a bit. Note to self: a) you do not like mayonnaise at home, so why bother abroad? b) mayonnaise salad in a roadside restaurant in the tropics is just like a clinical laxative.

10 November 2012
My whole upper body still hurts from clinging on to the coral diving board yesterday and so I thought it a good idea to rent a bike and go to the other end of the island. To cut a long story short, in addition to my arms and shoulders, now also my legs hurt. Anyway, it is rather hilly and cycling in moist heat trough mangrove woods on a bicycle with flat tyres and no gearshift was kind of challenging. What did not help my motivation was a little boy on a horse who overtook me in order to wait for me around the next corner or on top of the next hill, let me pass and take pride (and a bit of schadenfreude) in overtaking me again with saying “hi, are you going to the beach?”.

9 November 2012
Today was the only day so far without heavy tropical rain and thus ideal for a boat trip. I went on a “coral surfing” trip which is the most fascinating thing I have ever done in terms of snorkeling. You hold on to a wing shaped fiber glass thing that is attached to the boat on a rope. If you bend the board down you dive down, if you bend it up, you get back onto the surface. And if you flex it idiosyncratically, you start to spiral underneath the water. The latter I did not dare to do due to my shoulder problem but I watched the instructor from close by and was amazed.

8 November 2012
I arrived to Bocas del Toro this afternoon. The whole town here looks like I’ve imagined the scenery in Uncle Tom's Cabin: crooked, colorful, wooden houses, hardly any traffic, humid heat and the next thunderstorm and the next intrigue cannot be far away. I also already met Captain Jack Sparrow, local weirdo and fortune teller who fixated my eyes, my palm and then my eyes again, desperate to tell me my fortune. As it was about the future anyway I suggested procrastinating to manana and he was happy.

7 November 2012
Yesterday I got soaking, soaking wet in Panama City, overlooking what must have been the Panama Canal under thick fog. I started off at the Yacht Club happy and dry and was met by the worst tropical thunderstorm of my life. Thunder and lightening directly above me for about an hour. I had taken shelter underneath a mango tree which let me down after about 5 minutes. After a while I saw that my umbrella had started leaking, a novelty really. So I thought I might as well carry on and dragged myself towards what I thought might be civilization. No car, no other person crossed my path. Eventually I took shelter in a Cable and Wireless phone booth and pondered about a new sport: wet walking: try to get as wet as you can, poor water into your sneakers, walk as fast as you can and imagine it is alongside the Panama Canal in foggy weather. Try to remain in good spirit though!
Eventually I made it to a store, each shoe weighing about 5 kilos and my pants clinging on to me like white see through rice paper. A girl in a shop seemed to believe me when I said I was “kind of wet” and sold me this ultra mini skirt, the only thing she had in my size. After that - surprisingly - it was not hard finding a taxi at all. So I learned something on magic caps today.
Received comment: I am sure your readers would appreciate to see 2 photos - before and after your purchase. :-)

6 November 2012
I was asked to explain in more detail what I meant yesterday saying that I would have wished for a slightly better dress code. Well, I would wish to see more elegantly dressed men in light brown summer suits, with matching polished brown shoes, walking canes and of course Panama Hats, sitting in bars drinking sundowners overlooking the Canal while shouting every now and then to their workers loading and unloading merchandise.
On the received comment what the PA dress code would be I say it would be a high-necked dress in off-white. And don’t forget about some lace here and there.

5 November 2012
Went to Panama City’s Casco Viejo the old colonial part of town. Parts of it reminded me of Havana but then again it is different. Many buildings are crumbling down and so it’s a very picturesque place and much to my linking. Today was a public holiday, the co called “first cry of independence” from Colombia. Thus there was hardly anybody on the streets and I had the area all to myself. The few people I met greeted me as if I was one of them. I met a Canadian pensioner who had recently moved to Panama City. His advice was to always stay in crowded areas and near groups. Looking around into deserted streets he too saw the irony of what he’d just said.

4 November 2012
Time flew in Washington DC a fascinating city with so many faces. My journey to Panama was easy. This time the seat next to mine remained free and I did not feel the urge to spill any liquids over myself or others. At least some tourists wear Panama hats but I have to say they could be dressed so much more elegantly!
Received comment: I really envy you, honestly! Have never been to Panama. Isn’t that where the Suez Canal is? I’d love to travel, too!

3 November 2012
The US seem to change. Microbreweries are the latest fashion and so I had a “Duck Rabbit Milk Stout”. The description said it would taste chocolate, coffee and toasted malts. And it did. It even smelled like that. I did not try the “Fat Tire” though, an American red ale, rich in toasted malts and slight floral hops. Seems they ran out of glooming wine and coffee descriptions and beer had to be next.

2 November 2012
The Jefferson Library in Wshington DC was and is divided into three sections: memory, reason and imagination with 44 sub-categories. Note to self: must think of sorting books when I get back.

1 November 2012
A clumsy start of a journey albeit the fact that I have to admit that the German newspaper I really enjoy reading is thick enough to drain a glass of coke I spilled all over my seat in the plane to the US today. I guess that is not what they mean by quality journalism. The lady next to me was not that lucky really. When I spilled her Bailey’s, her handbag looked rather messy…

30 October 2012
Read a very nice story online, author unknown:
When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 Beers.
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.. The students responded with a unanimous 'yes.'
The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed...
'Now,' said the professor as the laughter subsided, 'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things---your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions---and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.. The sand is everything else---the small stuff.
'If you put the sand into the jar first,' he continued, 'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.
If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.
Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.
Take care of the golf balls first---the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand. One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, 'I'm glad you asked.' The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.

29 October 2012
Only a mediocre person is always at his best.
Sommerset Maugham

28 October 2012
Attended an exhibition opening in Ingolstadt and was fascinated by some of the pictures by Manon Favreau.

27 October 2012
It was such a lovely day I thought it a pity to get up.
Sommerset Maugham

25 October 2012
Came across some very old “notes to self”. One of them was: I was sweating like a wet blanket in a zero star hotel.

24 October 2012
Somehow I found the so-called pretotyping manifesto on the web. Pretotyping more or less stands for "Fake it before you make it.": So the manifesto reads:
- innovators beat ideas
- pretotypes beat producttypes
- data beats opinions
- doing beats talking
- simple beats complex
- now beats later
- committment beats committees

23 October 2012
In Austria, especially East Austria, baba is the most commonly used informal term for saying “goodbye” or “see you”. The German “Wiktionary” attributes it to the Biedermeier period where it was common to end a conversation with the words: “… and give my very best to your father (papa)”. And as time went by and p is often spoken like b what remained from all that was “baba”.

21 October 2012
Seems there is quite some debate over an art exhibition in Vienna’s Leopold Museum
Received comment: Dear Dr M. A good blog update if I may say so, though a couple of under represented areas still if I may be so bold as to say so. Best wishes!

20 October 2012
What would the world look like if there were chickens on snowboards?
Received comment: Simpler... What would rocking chairs look like if our knees bent the other way?

19 October 2012
The Dilbertonian approach to innovation: Your first step is to draft an idea. Then, as a second step, you fill out the form…

18 October 2012
From the collection of noteworthy out of office replies: “OoO for rest of the day. Back tomorrow. This mail contains intentionally no email addresses and phone numbers to prevent spam mail validations and harassments.

17 October 2012
I called the IT help desk. They play Mozart’s A Little Night Music. So good night to your IT problems then. I was told later on by an automated system that my problem was logged as “Pending Request: I have ANOTHER problem”.

16 October 2012
I’ve always known it: A study now ties chocolate consumption to the number of Nobel Prize winners a country has!

15 October 2012
I’ve been told recently to obsess about something else – nevertheless I have to mention it here. There is a disconcerting trend towards brown cars. And don’t get me wrong. It is not just small cars of niche manufacturers, often the biggest, fanciest cars of all the big brands come in what I think would be called - in the cadences of today’s prose - fifty shades of diarrhea.
Received comment: For a person to whom English is a second language, you write very well. I know a few folk here in the USA -- victims, no doubt, of America's public school system -- who wouldn't know what "cadence" means.
Received comment: I too have noticed the fashion for brown cars. I even know somebody who bought a brown motorbike. Except I always referred to it as "chocolate". Have you ever heard though the phrase "As useful (or useless?) as a chocolate teapot"?

14 October 2012
I have never liked yellow really and I still don’t. So no surprise that I am a bit worried when I read about Yellowism.

13 October 2012
Brief note to self: Parents are whale watching in South Africa. Self: walked around a lake in the vicinity of Munich. No shortcuts possible as walking over the water not an option.

12 October 2012
Planning a trip to Panama and Guatemala.

10 October 2012
The first step in solving any problem is recognizing that there is one. From: The most honest three and a half minutes of television.

9 October 2012
‘Taking the risk to love others is the crucial step, perhaps second only to the risk of allowing others to love us. On the whole, it's worth it. It makes for life in all its fullness.’ From: Viewpoint: In defence of narcissism

8 October 2012
I should start a collection on automated out-of-office replies: A nice one: “…you might experience some delay when you urgently expect an answer.” So what if I just expect an answer without any urgency, will I then be served without further delay? And if I am really impatient will that have an immediate effect on the delay, will it then be a “considerable delay” and not just “some delay”? In other words are patience and delay inversely proportional, am I rewarded by patience and punished for impatience? Or is a more pragmatic approach better, i.e. simply leaving the person alone for now?

7 October 2012
Got an advertisement today from a French company for a new diet without any limits as to what and how much you can eat. On top of that it is called: la Méthode Chocolat. I think without knowing it I have been following that diet since quite some time already!

6 October 2012
Today in an artist’s supply store: A gentleman approaches a group of three, he seems rather excited about something or other. He says he assumes one of the three is an artist and he would hope to finally get reliable information about something that troubles him since quite some time. He wants to commission somebody to paint pictures, special pictures, in fact optical illusions. He says he’d fancy something like a picture of the random Bavarian countryside, yes that’d be really nice, wouldn’t it and that the picture would, on a closer examination or tilted to the side or upside down, display a beautiful woman. He says that everyone has an act in the bedroom or the odd Bavarian landscapes in the farmhouse parlor whereby, of course, not everybody calls a farmhouse or a farmhouse parlor his own. Assuming, and this is now my imagination, that the traditional farmhouse parlor in the basement and has no windows, one can only imagine the Bavarian countryside outside and thus may as well have a painting of it on the wall. Imaginary as it then is it all feels a bit like painting by numbers and connecting the dots. Unfortunately, the gentleman could not be helped. Hidden faces in Bavarian landscapes seem to be THE artistic niche.

5 October 2012
T-shirt print. I kiss better than I cook!
Received comment: Hey... thanks for the awesome blog and especially the t-shirt prints; I've been lost for awhile but your blog gives me a glimpse of your life; an updated one.

4 October 2012
T-shirt print: Get rid of the sadness, return to the madness!

3 October 2012
Had a discussion on the word ‘however’. It would appear that people think that the word on itself is overrated. It should never be the first word in a sentence, whereby it seems to provide the speaker with a short break and the opportunity to think twice about the actual end of a sentence.

2 October 2012
After two years I finally have a car again which feels like the start of a new era.
Thanks for all the comments! It is an Audi A2 and I was told that I must not say it is not the prettiest car ever. I should rather say it has quite some potential to become iconic at some point.

1 October 2012
“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” Dorothy Parker

30 September 2012
An Indian saying states: Focus on the actions, detach from results.

29 September 2012
“Yes, there are moments, like this moment, when I seem almost restored to the feasible. Then it goes, all goes, and I'm far again, with a far story again, I wait for me afar for my story to begin, to end, and again this voice cannot be mine. That's where I'd go, if I could go, that's who I'd be, if I could be.” Samuel Beckett, Texts for Nothing

28 September 2012
How sad: Maps of Syria are on sale for 2.50 Euro in a bookshop I came across today. It seems that also the geographies of Iraq and Cologne (!) are obsolete and maps need to be sold quickly.

27 September 2012
T-Shirt print: Stressed, repressed but well dressed.

26 September 2012
Absurdistan live: A Belgian energy supplier is the sponsor of a long desk with power outlets at Brussels airport. So one thinks one could charge a laptop or a phone eventually. Only after a closer look it turns out that the seats are exercise machines – no pedaling, no power. And how annoying: After pedaling for what felt like 10 kilometers my mobile phone’s battery was still flat!

25 September 2012
What an interesting company motto: “Europe does not believe in opportunism.”

24 September 2012
Melancholy? A pug dog is tied to an art nouveau table on a red leash. Every customer of the art nouveau coffee shop looks at the pug dog in admiration and somewhat disgusted. The pug dog stares out of the window.

23 September 2012
Maybe not really a blog post on fashion but nevertheless an interesting transformation - mugshot yourself

22 September 2012
As I get regular blog comments alerting me to a) the fact that this blog is weak on fashion advise and on PA attitude and b) that a daily piece would be most appropriate I say that for those interested in fashion, they might want to check out the - following website.

21 September 2012
Read advise, man to man, 7 days a week: All over the country, we’re asking men: “If you had one piece of advice that you’d give another man about love, what would it be?” http://www.themansguidetolove.com/

20 September 2012
That is what other bloggers say to potential commentators: “Comments: Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data, ability to repeat discredited memes, and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Also, be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor even implied. Any irrelevancies you can mention will also be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.”

19 September 2012
Somebody asked today: What is the smallest room in the world? A mushroom. And the largest one? Room for improvement.

18 September 2012
I am told that Voltaire said: Life is a shipwreck but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.

17 September 2012
I was reminded about the change training today a lot. Didn’t they say that our brain differentiates between threat and reward in five domains: status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness? And what was if with trying to find one where you have an influence and where you can increase your reward system? What if all five are severely challenged and there is no choice possible let alone influence? How can you fix that?

13 September 2012
In a shop window: We are looking for a manager or a next tenant.

12 September 2012
I am looking for a new couch since quite some time now. The other day I sat on a rather comfy model called Tom but unfortunately it was only available in black and one or two other lackluster colors.

11 September 2012
Went to an Afghan restaurant and somehow ended up in the male toilet there. I reckon the urinal mints were a German addition but then again I have never been to Afghanistan, yet alone to a male toilet over there. Had a cocktail in a cocktail bar which was disgracefully accompanied by jelly babies and wasabi nuts!

10 September 2012
My web hosting provider’s servers were hacked and so this website was down just when I attempted to repair the broken contact form…

2 – 9 September 2012
So summarizing what has happened that week: My own mother failed to recognize me without glasses (on my side). Had a few nightmares. The other Margit Brandl, you remember, the one who got married to this Thomas a while ago and whose wedding pictures I received (see blog entry from Sept 10th 2010), is invited to a party. I got the invite which I appreciate but not the train ticket this time.

1 September 2012
Not the most recent video, still nice: Mr. Bean opening the Olympics.

31 August 2012
A rare highlight: Obama sings “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen

30 August 2012
I get interesting invitations these days, one to download an app for a game essentially focusing on backstabbing work colleagues and another one inviting me to a debate on next steps in missile defense.

29 August 2012
I am not sure which is worse: talking to real estate agents or to used car dealers. Both use a very peculiar vocabulary. Just imagine what “high-gloss burr walnut trim with chrome highlights” might look like. And what is a kneebag? An airbag for your knees? The urban dictionary is not too helpful here either…

28 August 2012
The new Fiat 500 may come with a built-in coffee machine! Or they have built a car around an espresso machine, I can’t really say from the pictures.

24 August 2012
According to Parkinson’s law “…work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Thus, an elderly lady of leisure can spend the entire day in writing and dispatching a postcard to her niece at Bognor Regis. An hour will be spent in finding the postcard, another in hunting for spectacles, half-an-hour in a search for the address, an hour and a quarter in composition, and twenty minutes in deciding whether or not to take an umbrella when going to the pillar-box in the next street. The total effort which would occupy a busy man for three minutes all told may in this fashion leave another person prostrate after a day of doubt, anxiety and toil.”

23 August 2012
T-Shirt print: Born to grill.

22 August 2012
Somehow I was informed that Stephen Fry retweeted a tweet from EasilyGrumped: Was it Hitchens or Dawkins who said “Blasphemy is a victimless crime”.

20 August 2012
Part four and sadly the last part of the training about what change does to your brain was talking about how to focus better with others.
The trouble is that there is something called neural diversity: according to this concept, people process different stimuli in different ways. We perceive basic experiences in different ways even for some basic issues like pain. When it comes to complex issues this becomes even more evident.
On top of that is the so-called false consensus effect: The idea here is that once you know something it is hard to assume that others don't know about it. And it is hard to go back and reflect on the period when you yourself were ignorant about it. Also, often we assume that others with different points of view are simply wrong.
When interacting with others it is all about creating a process that maximizes quality conversation about the future rather than disputing problems that occurred in the past. Thereby it is good to keep in mind that positive feedback and recognition, minimization of competition between team members and maximizing collaboration helps. A person who is uncertain about the future has fewer ideas. In order to increase certainty, focusing on the rules of interaction can help. If emotions are labeled and things are not left unsaid, implicit things are put into the explicit and that creates certainty. Additionally it gives a sense of autonomy to know what you can and cannot control. In order to find out, it is indispensable to ask questions wherever possible, to propose options and give choices along the way, also choices on what to focus over time. Relatedness and experiencing empathy with people we have connected with creates a sense of communality and helps focusing on shared goals. The more authentic, honest and real you are the easier it is for others to connect. Fairness, being transparent, keeping promises and if not, apologizing in a clear way is also essential.
When choosing what to focus on we often go from vision to planning, then focus on details and problem and if all goes south end up in drama.
In the vision state we ask ourselves (e.g. in a group) why we want something and what it is really. So this requires conceptual thinking about the future, something humans are not particularly good at or want to spend a lot of time for. Once we know where we are heading for, planning is how you are going to get there. This is more tangible than vision thinking but still about the future and more different than thinking about the details. We tend prefer the concrete over the conceptual but nevertheless we should take time to get vision and planning done first.
Once we know where we are going and how we get there we need to plan the details. This is where most people tend to focus most energy on.
Focusing then on problems can be beneficial but our brains get easily stuck on the negative and lose track of vision and plan. The only viable way of attacking problems is by seeking solutions.
Where vision, planning, detail orientation and problem solving have fallen apart all that's left is emotional reaction, drama. Sometimes it is necessary to spend some time in this state, for instance in a personal grieving process, but more often than that it is counterproductive.
Overall t might be helpful to reflect on the following questions:
What do we have in common?
What do we want to achieve?
Where do we want to be at the end of this conversation?
What is the current reality, where are we now?
What do we know about the situation?
What are ways forward and what are the alternatives?
Where should we focus our energy now?

16 August 2012
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy pf life is when men are afraid of the light. – Plato

15 August 2012
It is astonishing what sun can do to (parts of) your face. I assume English truckers could demonstrate a mirror image and turn the other cheek. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2153611/Shocking-photo-reveals-damage-sun-does-face.html

14 August 2012
Even Tarzan’s cry is on YouTube! http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=MwHWbsvgQUE

11 August 2012
The highest form of happiness is a life with a certain degree of madness – Erasmus of Rotterdam

10 August 2012
Now are the good old days, of which we will talk in 10 years.

9 August 2012
I am reading guidelines for content creators, authors and editors on how to write online. One of the many useful suggestions is to “avoid personal opinion, irony and sarcasm”. If I was to follow that piece of advice, this blog would come to an immediate halt! And I guess I am not inviting any comments on whether that’d be better for mankind anyway.
Received comment: Please do not avoid personal opinion, irony and sarcasm. Nor helpful advice.
Received comment: I am sure you will continue to offer helpful advice.

6 August 2012
Rail travel is an adventure. And again I seem to have forgotten one of the most important lessons learnt from travelling to faraway countries: testing whether there is running water BEFORE being too pleased about abundant quantities of liquid soap. Smearing superfluous soap into a towel leaves a thoroughly bad feeling on the skin, especially when you have about 12 hours to go before you reach washing facilities which cater for water. Also it does not help being advised by staff to drink as little as possible, as the toilets on the train have become unusable, too.

4 – 5 August 2012
Naples is quite the ideal (Italian) city (for me): wild, confusing, bizarre, messy, disorganized, friendly, calm and beautiful in an unconventional way. The streets are covered with bulky waste. Since quite some time I ask myself what motivates people to deposit of a dirty, crumpled mattress just outside their door. Or why they put a doo in front of their own or a neighbor’s front door. Is changing a mattress or, in very severe cases, replacing one’s mattress and one’s door ultimate end of a love story?

30 July – 3 August 2012
UNESCO should deprive Rome its World Heritage status. Even the dog shit-on-pavement rate approaches zero. In late July reportedly more than half a million Euro was extracted from the Trevi Fountain. I've thrown my coin over my shoulder and hence most likely contributed to the fact that there will also be enough money available for cleaning the Roman roads in the future.
Other observations:
An American tourist asks his clearly irritated tour guide: And, were slaves paid well at the time? Note to self: obviously the concept of slavery is not known widely.
A pilgrim in white clothes lies on his back at a crossroad. Above him is an iconic image of a saint. He holds both arms straight up in the air and seems to attempt keeping either the sky in its place or the full moon.

28 July 2012
Rome is clean and looks tidy - something I did not expect to be honest. And then the Pope writes in the German-language edition of L'Osservatore Romano about the life and work of Guglielmo Marconi and about Marconi’s pioneering contribution to wireless communications. In addition to a university in Rome, a museum in Ancona was named after him and – and now it comes - a lunar crater on the backside (!) of the moon. What has happened to Italy?

27 July 2012
They say that a raised eyebrow is enough to convey an entire message to an intelligent person. – Farahad Zama, The Wedding Wallah.

26 July 2012
If less is more then nothing is everything. So you have to do less in order to avoid having everything. Otherwise there would not be any target anymore. But in order to do less you have to do more first so that you can skip things. – Uta Köbernick

24 July 2012
The EU is very considerate when it comes to holiday makersholiday makers. Thos of us who bring a pet are told that “a valid anti-rabies vaccination must be entered into your pet passport when you travel with your dog to another EU country. However, if you travel to Ireland, Finland, Malta or the United Kingdom your pet will also need to undergo anti-parasite treatment. These rules are only applicable to dogs, cats and [!] ferrets.”

23 July 2012
Summer 2012: I just read that we’ll get 16 degrees centigrade tomorrow! I almost spilled my mulled wine when I read that! (Quote from a German newspaper)

20 July 2012
T-Shirt print: Turn off the turntable. Sounds almost like she sells sea shells (on the seashore).

20 July 2012
Dialogue: A: In my case, life has never been easy. I tend to think that it would be too easy if it were simply easy. B: But if it were easy it would be easy.

19 July 2012
Part three of the training about what change does to your brain was talking about regulating emotions. Regulating emotions is key to staying focused despite stress that is ongoing around you. Stress can reduce cognitive resources just when you need them most. When a situation triggers threat, uncertainty and is just not as one has predicted this creates stress. Moderate stress is not a problem it is just overwhelming stress that puts us under pressure. As a society we tend to suppress emotions. But the more you practice putting words on emotions the better you can label them. Neuroscience shows us that we should learn to suppress less and get better at putting words on emotional states. The more we do that, the weaker those emotions become and the more resources we have for conscious and non-conscious processes. As we put words on emotional experiences, we feel better. The key is not necessarily to talk a lot about your emotions but to label them.
Labeling is useful for mild threat. With reappraisal we change our response to the situation, we can change the meaning of the situation. Reappraisal is a skill we can all do well to improve. It requires altering your perspective, seeing things as someone else may see them or as you may see them in another situation or from another person's point of view. It is hard to change your perspective in a given moment. Reappraise needs to happen quickly, before the emotions set in.
The next step is to regulate your emotions. There are two ways to experience a situation at any given time. You can use your narrative network or your direct experience network.
With your narrative network you think about the past or present or about people. You think about ideas rather than taking in information from others, so it is about thinking, planning, strategizing and daydreaming. The direct experience network is down at the time of narrative thinking. Direct experience means taking in information in from the world around you. This network connects the sensory system including the inner senses (like feeling discomfort or pain). When we activate one of our senses we activate all of them.
When we activate the direct experience network, we deactivate the narrative one. We increase the resources for processing information and for having insights. Paying attention to the moment and bringing yourself back into the present activates certain areas in the brain. Switching between the two and focusing one’s attention becomes easier with practice. It decreases our overall stress. The more we focus on sensations, feelings and direct experience, the more we are able to regulate our emotions.
Received comment: Interesting blog. I need a good new psychoanalyst.

18 July 2012
Before you act, listen. Before you react, think. Before you spend, earn. Before you criticize, wait. Before you pray, forgive. Before you quit, try. - Ernest Hemingway

17 July 2012
To a man of the world, the universe is a suburb. Edward St. Aubyn

16 July 2012
You can only give things up once they start to let you down. Edward St. Aubyn

15 July 2012
You’d think the Swiss always get it right. But well what can I tell you. I bought a bar of wasabi chocolate. Regular readers know about my love-hate relationship with wasabi (see entries on wasabi nuts from 19 Dec 2008, 8 Feb 2009, 18-19 Apr 2009, on wasabi cheese from 10 Dec 2011, on wasabi potato chips from 2 June 2011 and on wasabi peas from 1 April 2011). So back to the chocolate. It is sophistically called “à la pointe de wasabi” and well it tastes like a wasabi nut on a bread with nutella. Or actually worse, more like a nutella bread covered in horse radish.
Received comment: Good blog but rather weak on PA fashion and behavior.

14 July 2012
Quote of the day: There are people that look perfect from every angle, from the front, from behind, from left, from right but not from the inside.

13 July 2012
“Even when you were awake it was hard to know what grown-ups meant when they said things. One day he had worked out a way of guessing what they were going to do: no meant no, maybe meant perhaps, yes meant maybe and perhaps meant no, but the system did not work, and he decided that maybe everything meant perhaps.” Edward St. Aubyn, Never Mind

12 July 2012
A thought is an idea in transit. Phytagoras.

11 July 2012
Part two of the training about what change does to your brain was talking a lot about the non conscious and insights. Insights are brief moments and weak signals that are drained out easily by everyday thought. We have insights when the mind is quiet and we have more insights when we are internally focused. Most insights involve seeing the world in a new way. Insights create an urgency to take action. They are helpful to create change but they do not last very long. One should act immediately and not after hours or days.
Received comment before the actual blog update: Dear Dr. Brandl: I am to remind you that your blog was last updated on 10 July.
Answer: Since the international enterprise I am spending my conscious working hours at has blocked the unrestricted WLAN Internet access updates can only be done from 8 pm CET.
Comment at 7 pm: Might I gently note that it is 7 pm CET, so one hour to go?

10 July 2012
Had to do a training on the brain and what change does to it. It started by ensuring everyone that most often changes fail due to resistance. You have to ask what are your own barriers to change? Change is hard, it creates uncertainty and uncertainty causes pain. Five times a second your brain is working out whether something is good or bad. We generally prefer things to be constant; its normal and very human. Change can have us feel threatened on many levels.
We know that our resources are limited when it comes to managing things consciously; the unconscious resources are much bigger.
Our brain differentiates between threat and reward in five domains: status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness. It is about finding a domain where you have an influence. You need to find one or two where you can get an increase in reward system, e.g. autonomy: become more conscious of choices you have; focus on options and solutions you have.
We can play a role in what effects change has on us. It is important to put language on it: having language for different experiences enables us to make different choices; these new choices create new pathways literally rewiring the brain for new conditions.

9 July 2012
The oldest, shortest words - "yes" and "no" - are those which require the most thought. Pythagoras

8 July 2012
Vienna. Coffee shop. A rather helpless tourist with a big backpack and a city map enters the coffee shop. She asks: Can you tell me where we are, please? The waiter tells her stoically and without looking at the map and without any intention to be helpful: here. A rather Buddhist answer for a Viennese come to think of it.

7 July 2012
It is brave to get through what’s unavoidable but it is courageous to face what is actually avoidable. Gunkl

3 July 2012
An interesting interpretation of the original: Somebody I used to know.

2 July 2012
Although allegedly July is the time for ice-cream and - more generally - for icing it turns out that despite great promises, not every big package has a Magnum inside. Look at the concept of deceptive packaging; from a purely legal perspective one has good chances to win in court if the package of the packaged good contains more than 30% air. At 100% there is no point in fighting; you can only shake your head instead.

1 July 2012
So finally I took my first few shots with the camera. And they turned out quite how I feel, a sad Bavarian muse whose hands are tied.

30 June 2012
Freud said already in 1917: The ego is not master in its own house.

29 June 2012
I managed to put the strap onto the camera. I needed the manual for that. In my defense: it is made in China – so I had to stop and make sure at least the camera was made in Japan – and fixing it at the right spot wasn’t obvious. Finally I managed and put it around my neck once and so I suppose it is fair to say that it is getting closer to my heart. I still haven’t put a lens on it, yet let alone taken the first picture. I seem to be waiting for a special occasion.

28 June 2012
Tomorrow will be the decisive day. So the Germans lost (see blog entry from June 16, 2012) and now, after all, will it be sauerkraut and dumplings for lunch in the canteen or pasta, pretending that nothing has happened?

27 June 2012
Jessica Hagy writes on Forbes: Say yes to odd opportunities. Say yes to the things that intrigue you.

26 June 2012
The camera still sits in its box. Like with many situations in life, I need to give it some time to settle in, arrive to its new home and recharge its batteries.
Received comment: My advice to you is to start using it!
Received comment: Digital or not, I'm sure your photo's will be of the same quality. After all, the eye does a lot as well... I hope your new camera is feeling at home ;-).

25 June 2012
Today is the day: It was a small step for mankind but a big one for me. Finally, finally I have bought myself a digital camera, a Nikon D800E. It has not been easy for me. So after so many years: M goes digital!

24 June 2012
“The difference between ‘being willing’ and ‘being ready’ was that you could sit in an armchair and be willing to leave the house, but you weren’t entirely ready until you had on your hat and overcoat” from “Some Hope” by Edward St. Aubyn

23 June 2012
Only really good friends can give you a card reading: “No matter what your father says your are no princess!” without offending you.

21 June 2012
“We think someone else, someone smarter than us, someone more capable, someone with more resources will solve that problem. But there isn't anyone else.” Regina Dugan @ TED

20 June 2012
Ever heard oft the Streisand effect? I am not privy to what lead to this nice blog (have a look at June 11, 2012) but it definitely led to the Streisand effect. Read more here. “I absolutely totally forgot my camera again today.” I know the feeling

19 June 2012
Phrase of the day: preposterous hypothesizes: From: Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros by Flight of the Conchords. And: Be more constructive with your feedback, please.

18 June 2012
“Stressed” is “desserts” spelled backwards.

17 June 2012
T-Shirt print: If you ever leave me can I then come with you?

16 June 2012
The European football championship lead s to some bizarre consequences, part II: In a neighboring street people have hung up some German flags as if they were wash in an Italian backstreet. Somebody then has applied an oversized black and white portrait of one of the players; the whole setting unfortunately looks like a massive “in memoriam” card.

15 June 2012
The European football championship lead s to some bizarre consequences. For instance our company canteen serves a dish a day that has been inspired by the country that has last lost against Germany.
Received comment: I hope the Dutch food tasted well!
Answer: It wasn’t bad at all. A bit cheesy maybe ;-)

14 June 2012
It is utterly comforting that there are good books out there and that we seem not to run short of them. Just recently somebody said: There are fast books and slow books. And there are books that you finish in the morning. Because to finish them as you fall into sleep would be to take the wrong sort of risk. Now I feel ready. First this morning I will finish my book (which was: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes).

13 June 2012
I just love today’s Dilbert comic: “What feedback have other people given you on your idea?” “Smart people like it. Everyone else asks me what other people think.”

12 June 2012
News from the Promised Land (i.e. Bavaria): Close to Munich you can learn how to dive in a former sauerkraut factory!

11 June 2012
From Kant’s Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals: To be beneficent when we can is a duty; and besides this, there are many minds so sympathetically constituted that, without any other motive of vanity or self-interest, they find a pleasure in spreading joy around them and can take delight in the satisfaction of others so far as it is their own work. But I maintain that in such a case an action of this kind, however proper, however amiable it may be, has nevertheless no true moral worth, but is on a level with other inclinations, e.g., the inclination to honour, which, if it is happily directed to that which is in fact of public utility and accordant with duty and consequently honourable, deserves praise and encouragement, but not esteem. For the maxim lacks the moral import, namely, that such actions be done from duty, not from inclination. Put the case that the mind of that philanthropist were clouded by sorrow of his own, extinguishing all sympathy with the lot of others, and that, while he still has the power to benefit others in distress, he is not touched by their trouble because he is absorbed with his own; and now suppose that he tears himself out of this dead insensibility, and performs the action without any inclination to it, but simply from duty, then first has his action its genuine moral worth.

10 June 2012
Recently I stumbled once again over a collection of Austriacisms, words that are used in Austria only, that are very peculiar and – in order to be widely understood - need a translation into High German. A selection of my favorites:
Lurch (m) - coil-like dust accumulation
Marmeladinger (m) - name of (northern) German
Soletti (n) - very thin pretzel stick, thin man (coll)

9 June 2012
During exploration journeys through the promised land (commonly known as Bavaria, see blog entry dated 6 December 2011) one discovers the most exotic things. Not only can you buy toilet seats with the Bavarian flag printed on it at local hardware stores, no, in Nuremberg, there sell “fine milk chocolate with crumbs of salty pretzels”. Speaking of salt: right next to the pretzel/chocolate shop was a shop specialized on bathing salts. It quite aptly - and here I refer to the blog entry of June 3, 2012 - advertises with the slogan: Because salt does not equal salt.

7 June 2012
Quote of the day or rather lessons in life: "When I was younger and people did not do what I told them to do I thought they were either stupid or mean. Today I see that neither of that is the case. It is just human nature. You need to repeat things over and over again even to intelligent people to make them familiar with the obvious. So often even if they nod when you first explain it this is a first and necessary step but not necessarily sufficient."

6 June 2012
Quote of the day: "We know our mission statement but we don’t know yet how to add value."

5 June 2012
Quote of the day: "Whilst we were formulating our grand plan, life moved on."

4 June 2012
Quote of the day: "I am a great believer in getting hold of facts as well as of opinions."

3 June 2012
A few days ago my neighbor has presented me with a nice bucket of bathing salt - god knows why and let’s not go into that really. My point is that I now read on the Forbes website that “bath salts are highly addictive and apparently elicit intense cravings similar to methamphetamines. They act on the brain like other stimulants, and are sometimes referred to as a “cocaine substitutes”. Also known as “White Rush, Cloud Nine, Ivory Wave, Ocean Snow, Charge Plus, White Lightning, Scarface, Hurricane Charlie, Red Dove, White Dove, and Sextasy,” their most common side effects are agitation, fast heart rate, and hallucinations and delusions, seizures, high blood pressure, and paranoia...”
Received comment: Well now, that Miami-based cannibal chewed off 75% of his victim's face before being shot by police a couple of weeks ago. The autopsy showed he was high on bath salts.... Happy bathing, just don't drink the water.
Received comment: There are bath salts http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bath_salts and "bath salts" http://edition.cnn.com/2012/06/03/us/bath-salts-interview/index.html?hpt=hp_t2 which should not be confused!

2 June 2012
Poetry Slam championship in Leoben, what an interesting new way of presenting poetry!

1 June 2012
Finally people start to realize the merits of what I consider an old hobby of mine, lucid dreaming.
They talk about “The Sleeping Giant”, about “The Birth of the New Super Power” or “The Awakening of the Red Dragon”. Often with a strange kind of undertone, which is supposed to frighten us. For those amongst us who love to sleep: The reality definitely looks more peaceful.

31 May 2012
Lactose intolerance is so en vogue these days – one is almost embarrassed not to suffer from it.

30 May 2012
In 2010 the Unesco stated that around 759 million adults are illiterate – which is around 16% of the world’s adult population. This correlates nicely with one’s day to day experience says I, not the Unesco.

29 May 2012
“If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got.” - Henry Ford (1863-1947)

26 May 2012
Apron print: Drink coffee, do stupid things faster with more energy!

24 May 2012
T-Shirt print: A life well wasted. T-Shirt print: The fun starts when the sun sets. Bag-print: My other bag is Channel

23 May 2012
As there was a comment the other day that this blog could bring the occasional bit on fashion I thought I wanted to share this article here. It is about the queen and asks as to whether or not she has influenced fashion. And well, read for yourselves but I like the statement at the end: “She always looks like the Queen. We'd be very disappointed if she ever did anything different.”
Received comment: It is difficult for us humble support staff to relate to Queenly fashion!

22 May 2012
Quote of the day: Why should a basic Internet connection offer a connection to the Internet?

21 May 2012
From the series of eloquent excuses: Once again, I am sorry that my earlier inattentiveness has led to this embarrassing situation.

19 May 2012
Champion’s league in Munich versus Life Ball in Vienna, cities can be very different.

18 May 2012
The modern man of the world seems to say: Don't look a gift Koran in the sura.

16 May 2012
From the series of entertaining out of office messages: I'm in a light flue and staying at home on 16 May.

14 May 2012
There is a firm who finally does not offer solutions but problems! “Are you happy? Do you live a contented, carefree life? How boring this can be! What you lack are contrasts. You decidedly need problems to solve. You'll see - it works!” The firm also quotes Arthur Schopenhauer who has allegedly said: The biggest enemy of happiness is - apart from pain - boredom.“ For three trivial problems I would have needed to pay 3 USD via PayPal. One difficult one would have been 500 USD. I hope you all understand that although this is a non-for-profit blog we cannot get involved in losses for trivial or more sophisticated problems just for the sake of having some problems! There is an opportunity to give people problems as presents. I assume that is what some people had in mind earlier, so thank you all!

13 May 2012
Passing through Munich’s airport quite a bit these days I happened to come across something really new called Napcabs. Napcabs are sleeping cabins which are advertised with the questions: “Tired? Privacy desired? Work to do? - Enter the next level of comfort inside airport terminals… the napcab cabins provide a private hideaway from airport hectic and noise.” They are located at: Munich Airport, Terminal 2, Level 4, Gate G06 and at Terminal 2, Level 5, Gate H32.

12 May 2012
In 2008, new research suggested that people with blue eyes have a single common ancestor. Scientists tracked down a genetic mutation that leads to blue eyes. "Originally, we all had brown eyes," said Eiberg. Practically the reason for blue eyes is a gene deficiency. The iris looks blue due to a lack of melanin which would otherwise turn it brown. Grey and green are just variants of the same problem.

11 May 2012
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. Albert Einstein

9 May 2012
Billboards all over Berlin read: When was the last time you did something for the first time?

8 May 2012
Note to self: Do not pocket loose mint chocolate, sit on it and expect the content of your pocket (such as your mobile phone) to smell neutral.

7 May 2012
Most things we consider forms of the truth are personal opinions emitted from local perspectives.
Received comment: Increasingly literary blog!

6 May 2012
On the pursuit of happiness: Happiness is not just the absence of misery. - Nancy Etcoff

5 May 2012
We can do without reality when it feels like the present. - Alexander Kluge

4 May 2012
A story in the newspaper talks about four components (in this particular case: of a game) that make dependent: the simplicity, the reward structure, the humor and the physical realism. I guess to a certain extent that can be generalized.

3 May 2012
It is not only possible to live in parallel worlds but also in different climate zones simultaneously. I sometimes wonder that when others sport just sleeveless shirts I still tend to feel fairly warm and cozy in a dustcoat and ponder only hypothetically dropping the scarf.

2 May 2012
At the long night of research at the universities of Graz last week one thing really struck me: The brain is the largest construction site in every human being. It uses 20% of the total energy and 50% of the total blood sugar. It’s a very sweet thing if you think about it. The latest findings of brain research have shown that the mere imagination of a motion, the idea of a motion as such if you wish, anticipates said motion in terms of brain processes, contra lateral, mind you. In my view a wrongly imagined movement can therefore lead to contra lateral damage if you’re not careful.

1 May 2012
Some people are under guardianship earlier than they themselves ever expected. In the past incapacitation required sufficient reasons such as mental illness, mental deficiency, alcoholism, drug addiction or extravagance. In many cases today even uttering their own will suffices suffices for some to face severe consequences but indeed as we know: free will is completely overrated.

30 April 2012
Coming back to “tertium non datur” and thus to the widespread phenomenon of the lack of determination. And I do not want to imply that excluding a third option on a logical layer is equivalent to the character flaw of indecisiveness but often this flaw leads to a situation that was hitherto unthinkable and would have stayed unthinkable had only firm, targeted, timely action prevailed. Giving in to stability at a lower level possibly grants a short-term respite but most probably no real long-term alternative.

29 April 2012
Are the famous three words in our technophile world today really “route recalculation ongoing”?>br> Received comment: Sign of a life being lived? There are journeys we do on automatic. Stopping, starting, turning and then realising we cannot really remember the last hour. Then there are times we have to stop and think about where we are and where we really want to be and how we might get there. Not sure it all works that way. As Steve Jobs said: it is easier to join up the dots looking back. But for a moment that "route recalculation ongoing" suggests control. Even if round the next corner something unexpected and magical will happen. So "life evaluation ongoing" is better?

28 April 2012
For 1.615.000 airline miles you get a designer garden shed in the Lufthansa world shop. If one expects to receive an average of 150-750 airline miles for a one way flight within Europe, one just needs to accumulate about 5.400 return trips within Europe to earn enough miles for the garden hut. Do frequent flyers dream of home, sweet home, in other words of an idyllic small garden, an automatic lawn mower and ultimately a designer garden shed? Just as traditional garden shed owners dream of being up in the air on the way to new horizons? In the 40ies Lilian Harvey sang already: Somewhere in the world there must be a tiny little bit of happiness. I dream of it at every single moment and if only knew where that was, I’d go out into the world in search for it…

27 April 2012
As stated earlier, the blog entry from April 5 on the total control app has resulted in quite some discussion and remarks such as the following: “A good friend of mine has met a fascinating woman some time ago. At the first dinner she implemented – which went totally unnoticed by him – an app allowing her central control. First, he noticed some physical symptoms, like a blissful continuous smile and the feeling of butterflies fluttering in and around the solar plexus. After that the applet has gradually taken over his central nervous system. It has periodically pushed to the forefront and has always kept the thought of her awake, day and night. In particular when his attention was actually to be given to other females the app demanded its toll vehemently. Amazingly, it has turned down any defense mechanism in a very clever way, so that the app is now leaving him completely helpless, and connects even this fact with pleasant sensations. The applet tells him the wishes of the owner in a very subtle way, so he has a serious chance to react ahead of things in order please. He seeks regular personal meetings, but without letting giving any suspicion of stalking. Such an effective remote control of a man cannot be thought of in a smartphone app. Admittedly, this control requires a fairly broad compatibility of hardware and software that works certainly not for every woman and every man, however, cases are known where such compatibility has been successfully simulated despite some proven negative effects on physical and mental integrity of the man. Such aps are probably to be called Trojan Applets. I am however convinced that in the case of my friend this particular variety has not been used.”
Received comment: Scary blog, Dr. Brandl!

26 April 2012
Margit Kuchler-D’Aiello read from her second book Ein Mundwerk für Nellja this evening. First press reactions here (German only).

25 April 2012
At times I get invited to interesting events and sometimes they are rather special. Such as “Lunch & Learn session on: The Perfect Elevator Pitch” or “Wills: Something you have to do before you die”.
On my way from Brussels to Austria I am on short flight between Vienna and Graz. In a low, mostly inaudible voice the pilot tells us something about the “lovely, charming crew” and so on and so forth. All of a sudden he seems to change the subject and says: “And I wish you all the best for your future. Please enjoy your last flight to Graz!”. I see eyebrows rising and turn to my neighbor asking him about the relative chances of an Austrian Airlines pilot committing suicide while on duty. He replies in a very strong Tyrolean accent: It is just because of Yvonne, the stewardess. She has her last day today and he wishes her well.

24 April 2012
This blog’s entry of April 5 (total control apps) has resulted in quite some reactions worthwhile quoting: “And am still waiting for the Total Control App. - It is already inbuilt and fully configured my dear. - I fear you are right. Free will is obviously overrated.”

23 April 2012
Sometimes life is just about developing a will to want.

22 April 2012
Theme of an Italian restaurant: Tempus fugit, Eros manet.

21 April 2012
Gunkl’s wise words: “Not only it is not never too late, often, this is sooner the case than you think” and “Discuss with a physicist and an esoteric, if time went into the other direction, whether there is a chance to find out that this is the case.”

20 April 2012
All good things come in threes. It would appear: all bad things, too. My stereo died, followed by my beloved espresso machine and my watch. So no music, no coffee, no time. I hope that in due course, at the appropriate juncture, in the fullness of time there will be music again and coffee. I’d even hope for cold coffee.
Received comment: The real tragedy, of course, is the coffee machine... Your phone can tell you the time, even if it is a Nokia phone, and your computer can play music. But coffee....now missing that is going to hurt. You have my deepest sympathy.

19 April 2012
T-Shirt print, spotted in Berlin: Where exactly is that prince with his crap horse?

18 April 2012
Hundreds of years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove... But the world may be different because I did something so bafflingly crazy that my ruins become a tourist attraction.

17 April 2012
Hope may not be warranted at this point.

16 April 2012
Simplification does not always equal fairness.

15 April 2012
There are people who lack even the courage to be cowardly. "- M. Markus Ronner

14 April 2012
Barry Schwartz tells us: “Choice has negative effects. Paradoxically it produces paralysis rather than liberation. With many options to choose from people find it very difficult to choose at all. Even if we manage to overcome the paralysis, we end up being less satisfied with the result than had we got fewer choices. The more options there are, the easier it is to regret the choice you made.”
And on expectations: “Everything was better back when everything was worse. When everything was worse it was possible to have a pleasant surprise… The secret to happiness is low expectations!” Easier said than done.

13 April 2012
“Character is the ability to stand in one’s own way.” – Markus M. Ronner

12 April 2012
The German words for „wiping“ and „mixing“ sound very similar to „vision“ and „mission“ and so often English meetings with German participants discussing their visions and missions rather sound like cleaners sorting out how to fix themselves the next drink.

11 April 2012
I enjoy contradictions and well put offenses. A good one (by a landlord on - allegedly horrible - tiles in a flat ready to be rented out): At the time they were timeless. And as always a classic by Yogi Berra: It's like déjà vu all over again.

10 April 2012
Allegedly they say about the Austrians that they are either doubtful or desperate. At times perhaps both at the same time I reckon.

9 April 2012
A graffiti wall in Hamburg reads: No government is like no government. I say no communication is like no communication. Not to communicate even if one had the chance to is unfairness. Silence can be both a demonstration of ultimate power and abuse of just that power. In other words it is about the respect one can expect. Not to tell and not to make understand what is the case and why something is the case at all and why said case is like it looks like is the worst of all.

8 April 2012
Wikipedia tells us that “the process of creating a shrunken head begins with removing the skull from the head. An incision is made on the back of the neck and all the skin and flesh is removed from the cranium. Red seeds are placed underneath the eyelids and the eyelids are sewn shut. The mouth is held together with three palm pins. Fat from the flesh of the head is removed. It is here that a wooden ball is placed in order to keep form. The flesh is then boiled in water that has been stuffed with a number of herbs containing tannins. It is then dried with hot rocks and sand, while molding it to retain its human feature. The skin is then rubbed down with charcoal ash. Decorative beads are added to the head.”

7 April 2012
"He who does not strive forward is not serious about himself." - Johann Kaspar Lavater
"Proceed forward tirelessly,
Never stand wearily,
If you want to see completion and perfection."– Friedrich Schiller
Both is written on the walls of the so called "forward house" in Bremen.

6 April 2012
It is not entirely logic to take a train from Munich to Vienna in order to fly to Hamburg even if you can go to an exhibition there upon stopping over. But the famous Anonymous already said: If you want to breakfast in bed, sleep in the kitchen.

5 April 2012
It is high season for stalkers. So it is good to know there are appropriate corresponding apps out there. There are plenty of employment opportunities as well. Appropriate control measures such as existing ones for women can surely be extended to the previously little explored field of controlling men online. “Total Control” could be an easy-to-remember name for an app. And since privacy is not anymore a core value of our society there's definitely big potential. From a legal point of view it is vital to make the to-be-tracked men opt into the service.

4 April 2012
A report I read the other day says “if incentives don’t work, it is command and control that works best”.

3 April 2012
Interestingly enough the Wonderful Wizard of Oz just features a Scarecrow who wants to get a brain, a Tin Woodman who wants a heart and a Cowardly Lion who lacks courage. So the story lacks a spineless man but one could assume the Cowardly Lion also plays that part. In the Musical Film he is singing:
Yeah, it's sad, believe me, Missy,
When you're born to be a sissy,
Without the vim and verve.
But I could show my prowess,
Be a lion, not a "mowess",
If I only had the nerve.

2 April 2012
Chris Mulzer (and no, I'm not a fan of NLP but think what he has to say on this particular subject is absolutely true) writes on his website: "There are two ways in my experience, to take bad decisions and consequently to fail achieving the desired results. The first option is the “non-starter” decision strategy, which includes all those processes necessary to delay the decision, or to make it impossible. The second way is to take a decision, but choose actions that can simply not produce the desired result.”
He also says in another post: “In my world, self-discipline is always necessary when you've taken decisions and you want to take all required steps to implement the decision accordingly. In that case repetitive actions are often necessary.”

1 April 2012
Baseball player Yogi Berra is known for his iconic Yogiisms. Interestingly enough he has never thought about giving up when you are more than halfway there. What he did say though was: It ain't over till it's over. Reportedly he also stated, “If you don't know where you are going, you'll wind up somewhere else.” Or: “The future ain't what it used to be.“ And another one: “Never answer an anonymous letter.” Speaking of anonymous calls and letters: there are nicer ways to say it's April's fool day.

31 March 2012
On flirting (what to do and – like in this particularly unsuccessful case - what not to do): The situation: A man in a drugstore asks the girl at the cash desk: Are you from Arabia? The girl: No, from Turkey. The man: Seems they even got some pretty girls there, too. The girl mimics a halfhearted smile. He continues: I am from Germany and I am about to buy a deodorant! The cashier and I seem to think the same thing at the same time: That's about the only option you have got at this very moment.

30 March 2012
Last week at about the time I write this blog I went past a bar called “Kiss That Frog Again.” And it was right next to a place that seemed to be known for Pig Love (The Pig and Fiddle Bar).

29 March 2012
I wish there were more people that could say the same as André Heller: "I alone bear full responsibility for myself. Whether I will turn 75, 85 or 95 years old, I venture to say even now, I did not did not truant my life.”

28 March 2012
Wikipedia tells us – at least in their German pages - that “In psychology, the concept of parallel world is sometimes used to describe behaviors of escapism. This allows people to live out the fantasy with unattainable desires, wishes or needs or imaginary supplant intolerable situations by creating parallel worlds or the “replacement reality”. In the parallel world of the imagination one takes over virtual, desired roles, communicates with people that live there and creates an environment in which the real obstacles to one’s desires are no longer there. This – so we are further told - is normal up to a certain extent, helps balancing stress and can even be helpful for mental relaxation and regeneration - just as dreaming can be viewed as a parallel world. In the course of personality disorders fantasy worlds can become problematic especially when these worlds are more important than the actual reality”.

27 March 2012
A recent study we chocoholics have all been waiting for for years says that eating lots of chocolate helps people stay thin. What a relief!

26 March 2012
Talking about the Viennese tradition of serving coffee with a glass of water on a silver tray whereby the spoon is always placed on top of the water glass, perfectly balanced, face down. Allegedly there are a number of reasons for that. Among the better ones are: When only noblemen were allowed to visit coffee houses they put their spoon into the water after stirring. Then there was and sometimes still is a tradition of filling up the glass again and again free of charge which allows you to spend hours without ordering a second cup of coffee. Then going further back in time it is said that Arabic nomads treasured water even more than coffee and serving you a glass of coffee meant you were very, very welcome to their place.

23 – 25 March 2012
As I’ve been around the world but have not made it to Stonehenge and Bath so far I thought it was about time. And what amazing places these are! Stonehenge is truly mythical. And then of course there is also Avebury with its concentric stone circles. And well, Belgium has Spa but the UK has Bath. At the time Bath used to be the in-spa for the Romans in the far north west. Today it is I think among the best museums I have ever seen. Next to the audio guide there are videos in which dressed-up Romans go about their daily life and alongside the main pool you can chat with “real” Romans all dressed up in tunics and ready to share their experiences from about 2.000 years ago. Amongst the best things in the Roman Bath museum are examples of lead curse tablets. If you experienced something dramatic that required you to curse someone - for instance say someone were to steal your bathing tunic – you wrote that curse onto a lead tablet and threw it into the thermal water. More on that subject can be read here. The same source tells us that “time has not been kind to curses. The surface of the lead has often oxidised, corroded and fissured.” Another source tells us more on the actual texts and language used: “Typically texts … relate to theft, at Bath for example of small amounts of money or clothing from the bath-house... In formulaic, often legalistic, language tablets appeal to a deity … to punish the known or unknown perpetrators of the crime until reparation is made. The deity is typically requested to impair the physical and mental well being of the perpetrator, by the denial of sleep, by causing normal bodily functions to cease, or even by death. These afflictions are to cease only when the property is returned to the owner or disposed of as the owner wishes, often by its being dedicated to the deity.”

22. März 2012
London. Vint Cerf, one of the founders of the Internet and working for Google at the moment speaks at a conference. He talks about some – at least to me frightening - news. With Google Goggles it is already possible to search the Internet using pictures instead of text. For the time being this works for landmarks, trademarks and wine logos and the like. But how long will it take until everybody can be recognized on every picture? And for all those who haven’t heard it, yet: Google Earth is SO yesterday, what Google is into now is Google Mars!

21 March 2012
You’d expect it is rainy in London but quite the opposite. So it almost feels bizarre to see an ad in a bookshop that reads: Keep warm, keep dry, keep reading. The best thing you can do when it is raining is let it rain.

20 March 2012
Due to new cost cutting measures, the light at the end of the tunnel will be switched off until further notice.

19 March 2012
Apple sells the „Sleep Talk Recorder Pro™“ in their App Store. With the Sleep Talk Recorder the phone automatically switches onto recording as soon as you talk in your sleep.

18 March 2012
T-shirt print: Adonis: pure or on the rocks?

17 March 2012
The situation: One is chatting away with a shop clerk in a rather nice Viennese winery and is suddenly interrupted by another customer saying something that sounds like: “I hope you don’t mind my interrupting but can you tell me how I can get to Rome?” One is slightly startled and about to reply that the poet Johnny already mentioned that all ways eventually lead to Rome but given the almost circular shape of Vienna’s ring road the navigation, admittedly, might be of a more challenging sort than what can be called usual. But then the shop clerk all of a sudden seems all too understanding and leads her on to the Rum shelves.

16 March 2012
It is better not to quote certain sentences out of context. Such as the following: Sometimes I wish to have my second beer at nine o’clock in the morning.

15 March 2012
Politically correct invitations nowadays state explicitly that male and/or female partners, male and/or female part time partners, future male and/or female contributors to the pension system are welcome together with male and female non-smokers whereas beer lovers and those depending on baby bottles rely on self service.

14 March 2012
Note to self: It is not necessarily a sign of bad personal hygiene when flies are circling around a person’s head in a restaurant.

13 March 2012
You might fall in love with the organization where you work. But do not delude yourself about the organization loving you back. Anonymous

11 March 2012
It would appear that there is something called the “QWERTY effect”. A recent study has looked at the asymmetries in the way people interact with keys on the right and left of the keyboard and how they influence their evaluations of the emotional valence of the words. The study authors found that words with more right-side letters (right in terms of the QWERTY key position) were rated as more positive in valence, on average, than words with more left-side letters.

10 March 2012
I was told that recent studies have shown that against all odds humans are nicer than we think. Neuroscience and psychology are telling us about some “distinctly physical underpinning of basic morality and aversion to violence, implying that humans (and probably many other animals to) have a strong built-in 'try-not-to-punch-that-dude' mechanism.”

9 March 2012
"You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, an irrational fear of the unknown. But there’s no such thing as the unknown – only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.” Captain James T. Kirk, U.S.S. Enterprise

7 March 2012
And once more on Photoshop

6 March 2012
BIG the Breast International Group are looking for a Head of Development for their Brussels office. BIG, the Breast International Group who are looking for a Head of Development for their Brussels office promising hands-on leadership experience.

5 March 2012
P. G. Wodehouse said that “the fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun”. Sooner or later we might be confronted with being at the other end of a new sort of gun. If you believe the news on a new speech jamming gun it would no longer require courtesy, surprise or fear to mute someone.

4 March 2012
New Zealand travel advisory: This is a warning, New Zealand is boring!

3 March 2012
The best part about an article I recently read was its title: “When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Coffee”. That again reminded me of a quote by Voltaire: “Anyone who has survived a tragedy hasn't been its hero.”

2 March 2012
Charm is an inherent quality in everyone’s personality but nevertheless I often wonder how people get by lacking it so profoundly. To give you an example, I got the following comment on being shortsighted: “Your world will always be smaller than ours!”. And on the subject of astigmatism: “The moon you see will always have shadow”. Personally I think the moon has a corona (no, not the beer, the optical phenomenon). Apart from that I think it is time for a basic discussion about whether the moon has a shadow or a corona or both or none. And, more broadly, I’d like to discuss the concept of truth and about what happened to empiricism in 2012. I assume the discussion would proceed bloodily and expect that the fraction of those united by rationalism and normal vision will retreat to claiming that the man in the moon has no twin either.

1 March 2012
I can only recommend consulting “Dogbert’s new ruling class quotes” and I can tell you ‘this stands out like a dog's sore thumb”. After all “I am not the woman I used to be and I never was!” although despite that “I am bating my head against a dead horse” after all “there is more than one way to screw a cat”. If you are still not convinced let me reassure you “they used enough scotch tape to feed a third world country”. Well, I admit that “Walt Disney would turn around in his grave if he were alive today.” And as “we want this to be effective with a capital A!” I only ask you once more: “What part of No don't you understand? Is it the N or is it the Zero?”

29 February 2012
From a culinary perspective Munich offers a quite impressive large range of options. The day before yesterday I had caviar and champagne in a luxury hotel, yesterday it was a plain hot dog stand after a demonstration in the city center and today after a traumatic visit to an eye doctor cheesecake and weak coffee. The Germans as such are well known for their thoroughness and rightly so. So even over hot dogs things that had to be done before and will have to be done afterwards are discussed in painstaking detail. Concretely the party in question was soon to be busy with the challenging acquisition of moth balls. I swear it must have been hardly noticeable that I raised my right eyebrow but anyhow unfortunately that triggered a keynote speech on clothes moths in general and kitchen moths in particular. The latter should be blown out of all cracks in your kitchen furniture. The question on what has to happen thereafter remained open.
Received comment: This is all we need: a sight-impaired but none-the-less world class photographer...!

28 February 2012
An automated e-mail response tells me: “I am on holidays from … to ... During this time I will neither read nor respond to e-mails.” Turning this around it is obviously possible to respond to e-mails that you haven’t read. On second thought: that seems to happen a lot!
Received comment: Those answers are predominatly sent via “reply-all” in order to show one’s ignorance most broadly!

27 February 2012
The world in Vorarlberg is too small... Entertaining news from Austria. Ex-finance minister Hubert Gorbach is ready for new challenges and wrote a letter to Britain’s Alistair Darling asking for help. Well worth reading and so here it is! When he came into office in 2002 or 2003 he said? Only the best (people) from the West, for the jobs in the East (= Vienna)? For the German speakers amongst us I can only recommend to read some of the comments on the “Standard’s” website. Somebody says there: "In a referendum in 1919, a majority of 80% voted for a separation of Vorarlberg from Austria and annexing it to Switzerland. However, the Swiss government refused.”
Received comment: In the past there was also an Austrian Chancellor, who proposed to form a union with Switzerland based on the argument that both countries use the same colors in the flags. The Swiss representative allegedly replied: That's correct, but we have a “plus” in the flag and you Austrians got a “minus” ... ;-)

25 February 2012
A new poster has been added to the Bavarian airport advertisement line „From the sky to heaven on earth - welcome to Bavaria“ (see blog from Nov 16, 2011). So it is now not only condense stripes in the shape of pretzels or leather trousers but also castle Neuschwanstein.

24 February 2012
Viviane Westwood says that never before in history people have been so badly dressed, the only exception being the over 70 year olds.

23 February 2012
Once more a word on fashion. The situation: Hotel breakfast room between eight and nine in the morning. In comes a tall, slender woman in a black ultra miniskirt. In fact rather a pair of hot pants just without the pants element. Furthermore she is wearing a black undershirt under a a white see-through blouse and leans over the buffet reaching out for skinned orange slices. Later she does the same thing again, this time leaning over eggs that had been scrambled four hours earlier or so. My take: all in all not too sexy. Or rather not sexy at all. Hence nobody watching. In comes another lady in a pajama top and tight jeans, exposing a fairly well-built set of love handles, her jeans tightening up right beneath them. A healthy looking husband appears right next to her. My advise: use all you’ve got (in summary: pajamas, love handles, husband) elsewhere and don’t follow every jeans trend slavishly.

22 February 2012
Sometimes attending meetings can be really entertaining. Especially analogies are a source of inspiration. Or how often have you heard comparisons along the lines of “It’s like a hairy mammoth” or “This happens at the speed Putin changes his underwear”? Especially on the latter I thought it might be worthwhile to discuss whether we have evidence on the average speed and/or frequency before we assume that this is an analogy for “fast” or “often”.

21 February 2012
All of a sudden there are posters all over Munich reading: “This is your life. Do what you love and do it often.” It seems to be the first few lines of “The Holstee Manifesto”.

20 February 2012
So I learnt a new word today. I was told that I am down with the dreaded Lurgi, a childhood name for any common illness, including a cold or flu or a bit of a temperature. Wikipedia tells us that in “modern usage” it is bound “to mean any miscellaneous or non-specific illness”.
Again Wikipedia tells is that it was first used in a 1950ies BBC radio programme (The Goon Show), whereby back then the ”symptoms of Lurgi included the uncontrollable urge to cry 'Yack-a-boo,' though even during the episode the ailment proved to be an extortionate attempt to sell Brass Band musical instruments.”

19 February 2012
Having spent most of the past few days trying to cure a feverish cold, sleeping and feeling sorry for myself in the short meantime the only thing really worth sharing is watching David Hockney: Secret Knowledge – Omnibus on the BBC iPlayer. In this episode, David Hockney examines the origins of the photographic image.

15 February 2012
A subject nobody was really waiting for: http://first-world-problems.com For those of you who have no chance of checking people’s contributions there, they are along the lines of the following: “The increased legroom they have in First Class means I have to stand up to get my in-flight magazine from the seat pocket in front of me.”
Received comment: I loved the comment on first world problems...

14 February 2012
Given the number of comments, I should really write a non-paper on fashion…

13 February 2012
Sometimes it's astonishing if not appalling how much one lives in one’s own world. For instance I learnt today that not everyone knows what a "non-paper" is. In summary and with the help of Wikipedia it can be characterized as follows: A “non-paper” is an unofficial working document. It carries no official letterhead, no stamps and no signature. Often a non-paper serves as the basis for discussions and drafting of a formal written document. It opens up the possibility of introducing a proposal into a discussion or negotiation to which you do not want or cannot officially commit to. In case the proposal gets rejected people involved neither compromise themselves nor lose the ability to alter their positions. The author is free to take ownership and responsibility for the content of the document but may also indicate that it was meant as a non-binding concept and hence give the recipient the option to ignore the proposal entirely.

12 February 2012
On fashion: It’s not quite my name but still I find it rather fascinating that there is a label called Margit Brandt.
Received comment: Good collection well done!
Received comment: Given how many times you've noted in your blog that Dilbertonian bureaucrats keep on misspelling your last name, how do you know that Margit Brandt isn’t your real name? Perhaps your parents misspelled your name on your birth certificate....?

11 February 2012
I was reminded that since the 3rd of August 2007 I haven’t even once discussed the subject of cuddling. At the time I had just found out about cuddling parties.
Wikipedia redirects people searching for “cuddling” directly to “hug” which is interesting I thought. Even more so when reading through the article: “A hug is a form of physical intimacy, that usually involves closing or holding the arms around the neck, back, or waist of another person; if more than two persons are involved, this is referred to as a group hug.” Interestingly also Wikipedia differentiates between a “front” and thus “non-intimate hug” and a “back” hence “intimate hug”. Also it would appear that “hugging has been proven to have health benefits. One study has shown that hugs increase levels of oxytocin, and reduce blood pressure.” But one should not forget that “dogs tend to enjoy being hugged less than humans and other primates do, since canines interpret putting a limb over another animal as a sign of dominance.”
Ok, ok, I understand that my distinguished readership is not entirely pleased with today’s entry. So my attention was drawn to the following few web resources: Some definitions in the Urbandictionary, an article on How to Cuddle, another one on What His Cuddling Body Language Reveals and of course the Highlight: How To Avoid Trapped Arm Whilst Cuddling In Bed, a must watch.

10 February 2012
Word of the day: Surly.

9 February 2012
I'm on a plane. The man next to me is playing a card game on his smartphone. I read a newspaper article about the Arab and Turkish influenced youth slang of big cities. My plane is not even on the runway yet. No movement. Then I see Austrian Airlines - and believe me I heard that their boarding call was way later than mine for Munich – rolling past us, nimble, raises promptly and so quickly that as soon as you watch out again it’s gone. Up and away, the red painted tail still wobbles a bit in the distance. My article gives very apt ways to translate that into slang but still. The crane hasn’t even moved an inch since. So of course, I am led to believe that I'm sitting in the wrong aircraft. And what did Georg Kreisler say at the time? "There are Germans that come to Austria to relax. An Austrian only goes to Germany for business reasons or because he is off his head!"

8 February 2012
Harpe Kerkerling just sang a duet with Miss Piggy!

7 February 2012
Karl Thedor zu Guttenberg’s website has been hacked and he has been made German Cake Minister.

6 February 2012
Christianity is the belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree. - Makes perfect sense!
Atheism is the belief that there was nothing and nothing happened to nothing and then nothing magically exploded for no reason, creating everything and then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason whatsoever into self-replicating bits which then turned into dinosaurs. - Makes perfect sense!

5 February 2012
Bertrand Piccard says that when the wind is coming from the wrong direction, all you can do in a hot air balloon is change altitude and in order to change altitude in a balloon you need to drop a lot of ballast. And he continues that it is of course “not easy to know which ballast to drop and which altitude to take.” He says that you need accept to have doubts and accept to have fears. “Do you want to go very fast in the wrong direction or slowly in the right direction? … Which is the ballast you would like to throw over board? Which is the altitude at which you would like to fly in your life to get to the success you wish to have? To get to the point that really belongs to you with the potential you have and the one you can achieve? Because the only renewable energy we have is our own potential and our own passion.”

4 February 2012
P. G. Wodehouse said: “I just sit at a typewriter and curse a bit.” Feels like writing this blog sometimes. He also said: “I know I was writing stories when I was five. I don't know what I did before that. Just loafed I suppose.“

3 February 2012
You must think I'm a fool
So prosaic and awkward and all
D'you think you've got me down?
D'you think I've never been out of this town?
... (song by KEANE "Leaving So Soon?")

2 February 2012
This is not Wikileakes and I do not want to mention the source but I have to share this quote. It is a definition that struck me and it goes like this: “Tech freaks are those ... who get kick and satisfaction in showing their technical prowess even if it amounts to creating inconvenience to others. … Sometimes they take control of the computer controlled machines belonging to someone else. They disrupt the communication systems and channels through their technical skills and knowledge.” That could be the description of any support hotline really (but it isn’t).
Another quote I also found quite remarkable: The added value of the presentation was rather low and we presume that this was exactly what the speaker intended.

1 February 2012
The essence of all truly new is that the process of getting there has no master plan but follows tense, chaotic and rumbling democratic circumstances. This was written in an article in a paper I kept from mid December. And I know I have been accused before of reading oldspapers instead of newspapers.

31 January 2012
I was kindly reminded of Martin Niemöller today and his famous quote:
“ First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the socialist, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

29 January 2012
“ Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” - Mary Oliver

28 January 2012
Why do I get so many Viagra spam mails these days? I read that dissolving one in water and watering Christmas trees makes them stay fresh well into late January but I should think hardly anyone has any Christmas trees left by now…
One of my dear readers says that I may send the blue spam over. Seems more people than I thought still do have Xmas trees!
And then I got some more analytical and highly amusing remarks, stating that spam seems to consist of either financial enticements or performance enhancements or system extensions. So in reverse order it is either to make it bigger or to make it work better or to be able to pay so much that it does not matter. However dissolving the performance type spam in water and giving the result to your Xmas tree may be going too far even if it can keep it going strong almost until Easter.

27 January 2012
Getting used to public transport is quite challenging for me. Just one example: I sat in a more or less empty tram. A man of the type Bill Bryson in his early 30ies sits down next to me, reads my paper and then says rather abruptly: Women in the booming (?) economy may have some benefit from a good business newspaper! One could, he continued his monologue, trade wheat online these days now, trade it to the third dimension (?). Never before in history could humanity trade wheat as varied as now ... the rest of his arguments were incomprehensible.

26 January 2012
I read a comment (in German only) on Kodak’s bankruptcy that states something I agree on totally, namely that waiting has become unfashionable. It is an interesting thought that we lost the original since do more and more digitally. Jim Rocket says that "the lack of an original image is the phantom pain of photography."

25 January 2012
Europe will get new data protection laws. George Orwell is probably already turning in his grave, given official press statements like: “The right to be forgotten is of course not an absolute right. There are cases where there is a legitimate and legally justified interest to keep data in a data base. ... It is clear that the right to be forgotten cannot amount to a right of the total erasure of history.”
Received comment: Dear CBO (Chief Blogging Officer), can I highlight that your esteemed blog entry for January 25th is entirely different in English and German :-)
Answer: I can only apologize…

24 January 2012
The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. - John Kenneth Galbraith

23 January 2012
I got this poem by Joseph Beuys:
Let yourself go.
Learn to observe snakes.
Plant impossible gardens.
Invite someone dangerous to tea.
Make little signs that say "Yes"
And spread them throughout your house.
Become a friend of freedom and uncertainty.
Look forward to your dreams at night.
Cry at movies.
Swing as high as you can with a swing in the moonlight.
Nourish different moods.
Refuse to be "responsible".
Do it for love.
Take a lot of naps.
Give more money. Do it now. The money will follow.
Belief in witchcraft.
Laugh a lot.
Bathe in the moonlight.
Dream wild, fanciful dreams.
Draw on the walls.
Read every day.
Imagine you'd be enchanted.
Giggle with children. Listen to old people.
Open yourself. Dive in. Be free.
Praise yourself.
Don’t be afraid.
Play with everything.
Entertain your inner child.
You are innocent.
Build a castle made of blankets.
Get wet.
Hug trees.
Write love letters.

21 January 2012
In the series “remarkable quotes from telephone conferences”: A: Can you go on mute, please? B: No. A: Well can you then at least refrain from breathing?

20 January 2012
I promised to get back to you on the topic of skirt lengths and heel height. Many years ago I read that there is a relationship between skirt lengths and the economic cycle. They are indirectly proportional, so in recession times we have long skirts although you'd assume there is less money for fabric while skirts tend to be short in boom times. So my assumption is that in 2012 we're going to move away from tight mini and pencil skirts!
After some more research I found out that the 1920 Hemline Theory by George Taylor in fact suggests that hemlines on women's dresses correlate with rising or falling stock prices. Anyway the theory has been extended since. Quoting from “The hemline index, updated” by Tamar Lewin "During a recession, laxatives go up, because people are under tremendous stress, and holding themselves back," said Shapiro, now chief executive of SAGE, a Chicago-based consulting firm. "During a boom, deodorant sales go up, because people are out dancing around. When people have less money, they buy more of the things that have less water in them, things that are not so perishable. Instead of lettuce and steak and fruit, it's rice and beans and grain and pasta. Except this time the price of pasta's so high that it's beans and rice."
Well to be honest I like the skirt length index better than the laxative one.
And well, I got the hint that this piece here was falling short on heel heights…

19 January 2012
I really want to take the opportunity of today’s entry and thank you all for being raving fans of this blog!
Scott Mc Kain (yet another motivational speaker with round glasses; oh no, I never said that...) says on his blog: “How many followers do YOU have on Twitter?” “Have you maxed out your ‘friends’ on Facebook?” “What’s the traffic on your blog?” Questions anyone on social media are being asked these days — and it exemplifies part of what has been wrong with our thinking in business: More must be better. And, it’s NOT: More is just more. Better is better. In other words, having fewer followers and friends — and providing something so compelling, these people become raving fans — is superior to simply amassing numbers."

18 January 2012
As I am in exile and only going to Brussels on a day trip tomorrow I was told that only very few people regard being away from Brussels as exile!

17 January 2012
I have to share a brilliant video on Photoshop or rather: Fotoshop and another one on Viennese Coffee Shops.

13 January 2012
Poet William Blake on how to start the day: "'Think in the morning, act in the noon, read in the evening, and sleep at night.'

10 January 2012
I have seen e-mail signatures come and go and am not really sure whether they are now en vogue or not. Recently they started to pop up again more and more. One I liked was “Beauty comes first. Victory is secondary. What matters is joy." - Sócrates (1954-2011)

9 January 2012
And yet again more pictures, this time from Thailand, Australia and New Zealand!
Received comment: Nice photos especially Thai!

7 January 2012
It has been rather quiet with regard to the “promised land” Bavaria. But well, there we go. A Bavarian radio station has come up with the rhyme of the day: “It’s nice to be a Preiss (Prussian) but it’s higher to be a Bayer (Bavarian).“
Another interesting development has been noticed at Munich’s airport. Mannequins seem to sprout from the floors there. And I feel quite charmed that they were associated with me. To tell you the truth I fear they are part of Fujitsu’s recent advertisement campaign instead. Fujitsu’s new motto is „accept no boundaries“. It would appear that gravitation is one of the boundaries that are no more. Not too well placed in Munich I dare say. Speaking of which: A charming quote I read a few days ago, allegedly by Einstein himself: „Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love“.

6 January 2012
There are quite some new pictures on this website now namely from Chile, Singapore, Myanmar, Kuala Lumpur and Vietnam.
I swear I came across this article on how to be interesting by pure coincidence. Nevertheless I really liked the suggestions on embracing your inner weirdness. There is more on that here.
Received comment: Inner weirdness? What poppycock. I embrace normality!

5 January 2012
Video of the day: Everybody’s Free (to wear sunscreen).

4 January 2012
I found an old draft note for what I must have considered subjects of tomorrow back then:
1. Are hovers better with or without bags?
2. Should men be able to cook eggs?
3. Are bolt ties better than regular ties? and
4. How to make pumpkins out of ice cream?
I must confess especially the latter is quite a mystery to me together with the first item. It also escapes my mind why I have a soap bar next to a very sticky piece of candy and an even sticker pen in my coat pocket.

3 January 2012
Due to a comment I received from a well wisher who is disappointed there is not enough on fashion or sport on this blog I dare say I read elsewhere that the colors of the season are smoothie colors. And then again that fits all well with the overall tendency to blended or mashed food such as soups, smoothies, cocktails etc. Mostly drinks I guess. Anyway my point is the spring colors are very tolerant towards our eating habits.
Received comment: Thanks regarding the color advise for spring. Am sure your readers will value items on skirt length and heel height and rugby in the future :-)

2 January 2012
What I forgot in yesterday’s entry: The best advertisement punch line I read was by Tudor watches with their rule number seven: “Seduction is just a matter of time”. I could not agree more.

1 January 2012
So this was 2011: My one year sabbatical leave ended in late September and the brief summary is: I would not have had any difficulties meandering through the world for much, much longer.
I divide the longer version into various findings and/or lessons learnt:
On the status of the world at large: In a nutshell: Incompetence rules the world.
On personal details: Often questions around “Where are you from?” end up in a loop. „So where are you from?” “Austria.” “Sidney?” [note: for reasons of simplicity:] “Vienna.” “Where are you going?” … “What's your name?” … “What's your work?” … “How much do you earn?” … “How old are you?” … “Are you married?” … “What’s your shoe size?”… “Where are you from?” “You already asked me that.” “Oh, I forgot...”
On food and drinks: My overall advice is: don’t ever think a green bean is a green bean. When in doubt remember it can and will most certainly be green chili. One of the better encouragements for vegetarians I heard in Asia was: I hope you like rice.
Top 3 (+1) cocktails: Ambience: Singapore Sling, Raffles Hotel, Singapore. Quirky + best view: Coco Loco, Hotel Pink Flamingo, Acapulco. Best taste: Pina Colaca, Boracay/The Phillipines. Extra ranking for most astute promise: Orgasmo, Lake Chapala near Guadajahara, Mexico.
On hygiene and the right sequence: Always check first whether there is water at all and only then put soap onto your hands. I’m still doing very badly at that. And yes, a few years of regular Pilates training came in handy whenever balance without touching any of the surroundings was required, for instance most toilets.
On unfriendly controls at airports: Always take ample time when finishing your water or when tying shoe laces again after an insulting approach to get rid of any remaining water or off your shoes.
On vanity and/or losing it: Using a tiny black plastic sickness bag from a ferry in lieu of an expensive handbag proves one has become less vein than one used to.
On the material: Even waterproof shoes get wet if water (and leeches) are coming from above the ankle. Jeans do not only get lighter, they also get much thinner and eventually they are ripped apart. I lost a scarf, a sweater, my favorite jacket and a bikini - fortunately not all at the same time or at a time when those were the only things I was wearing respectively. Furthermore two people of my acquaintance (obviously no friends of mine) and last but not least a blanket - one of the more useful things I carried though how it slipped my possession eludes my mind.
On hotels: Most hotel rooms are equipped with either a copy of the bible or the yellow pages. Sometimes you’ll find both mostly when all you really need is the password for the wireless Internet.

31 December 2011
„Due to the rain the revolution has been postponed“ is written onto the window front of a shop in Munich. I think that summarizes the state of the world at the end of 2011 quite nicely. Broken Muses wishes all Broken Blog readers a Happy New Year!
Received comment: I hope New Year’s wasn’t postponed due to the rain, too…

30 December 2011
Having seen the tall crooked Christmas tree on Munich’s Marienplatz – a gift from Tirol - once more my only advice to Munich is never to complain about a free tree.
Received comment: Given your photographic instincts for the unusual and the broken, it would have been delightful for you to have posted a photo (taken by you, of course) of that crooked (dare we call it "broken"?) Christmas tree...

29 December 2011
My newspaper tells me that the latest trend in anaplastology (which is branch of medicine dealing with the prosthetic rehabilitation of an absent, disfigured, or malformed anatomically critical location of the face or body) is movable ears or eyes and eyelids. What seems to be en vogue as well is to have two sets of ears, one for the winter and one for the summer.

28 December 2011
I haven’t come across it consciously I fear but Wikipedia tells us that there is a phenomenon called the Hot Chocolate Effect. “It can be observed by pouring hot milk into a mug, stirring in chocolate powder, and tapping the bottom of the mug with a spoon while the milk is still in motion. The pitch of the taps will increase progressively with no relation to the speed or force of tapping. Subsequent stirring will gradually decrease the pitch again. The phenomenon is explained by the effect of bubble density on the speed of sound in the liquid. The note heard is the frequency of a standing wave where a quarter wavelength is the distance between the base of the mug and the liquid surface.” In the blog category: there you have it.

24 December 2011
Broken Muses wishes all Broken Blog readers Merry Christmas!

23 December 2011
Just discovered some recordings of this wonderful show called QI and so I thought I might want to share my favourite bit, why the giant tortoise had not got a name for 300 years. It is also quite remarkable that there is no Latin name for Maltesers.

22 December 2011
I was reminded that I had not yet translated the German blog entry from December 11. I apologize for the lapse and am sorry for the inconvenience.

21 December 2011
A new bestseller has arrived to Germany's bookstores. "Text messages from last night". Subtitle: “Did I leave my pants behind at your place?”

20 December 2011
My favourite Belgian chocolates used to be the pink hearts from Wittamer and the dark brown Euros from Neuhaus. Now I am given to understand that Neuhaus has decided to discontinue the Euro. What a statement if you think about it! They still have the light brown and the dark brown Neuhaus Ns which are similar in taste but well, that is beside the point I fear.

19 December 2011
One of the few Dutch phrases I can pronounce more or less without any accent is “ik bin op de pot” which means I am on the toilet. Not a very good resume after eight years in a partly dutchspeaking country.

17 December 2011
Having been made believe that Munich and/or Bavaria is heaven on earth and /or the promised land I was thinking whether one needs to assume that Frankfurt or more precisely Frankfurt airport is the navel of the world. In essence I am sure there are people who believe that Frankfurt as such has been a mere invention of the aviation industry who want us to believe that Frankfurt is the true heart of Europe.
And when you then enter Belgium (over land) of course it is raining just as you’d expect from Belgium. It is not all too surprising that one of the fashion labels there is called “Mais il est ou, le soleil?”

16 December 2011
Many thanks for some nice quotes:
Can miles truly separate you from friends... If you want to be with someone you like, aren't you already there? - Richard Bach
Absence diminishes mediocre passions and increases great ones, as the wind extinguishes candles and fans fires. - Francois de La Rochefoucauld

14 December 2011
It seems that the most renowned Viennese app these days is the so-called "Toilet Map Vienna". This app has been developed based on “Open Government Data” and lists all public toilets. It helps to find the closest public toilet in your surroundings.

12 December 2011
What I learnt is that in case of clogged pipes the quality of the soap that you just used becomes irrelevant very quickly and equally appalling than any other content that surfaces.

11 December 2011
I really don’t know whether subscribing to Groupon has been my greatest idea in 2011. I doubt it. Amongst the things I’ve been offered lately were coupons for a fondue dinner in the style of the 1970-ies at a reduced rate of minus 55%. I could also have bought a coupon for 5 dance classes at the Bollywood Crazy Dance Company (reduction 53%). I should also mention a facial and/or manicure at Egoist Cosmetics (72% off). Egoist Cosmetics promise that “nobody is facing the passing of time, wind and weather as much as your skin”. So it would appear that my skin (or anyone’s really) experiences wind and weather much differently differently than the rest of me. Interesting, isn’t it?

10 December 2011
Can I ask my readers for help in boycotting wasabi cheese? Cheese manufacturers may face tough international competition these days but to be honest wasabi cheese take things one step too far.

9 December 2011
I hear that there are people who really enjoy a rip to Ikea. I am definitely not one of them. Besides more and more I feel like starring in Hinterholz 8, an Austrian movie about renovating a ruined house that eventually gets more and more destroyed. At a certain moment the hero thinks the only remedy against wet walls under electricity is waterproof wallpaper…
Received comment: Margit it appears you’d rather leave sooner than later for the lack of intelligent life down here in Munich.
Answer: Was I that outspoken?

8 December 2011
For those interested in religion: www.vorleser.net offers the bible as audiobook-app for iPhone, iPad and iPod.

7 December 2011
Many thanks to somebody who really made me laugh today when pointing me to Bulgarian modern artist Yanko Tsvetkov’s mapped stereotypes. I especially liked Europe according to the Greeks. For our British readers I also recommend a brief look onto Europe according to Britain.

6 December 2011
News from Repubblica Bavaria: Earlier today the Bavarian minister president opened a summit with the words "welcome to the promised land". And I swear there was not a trace of irony.

4 December 2011
Sorting through some of my pictures I came across a book ad I had noted: “Bury my heart at conference room B – The unbeatable impact of truly committed managers”.

2 December 2011
News from Absurdistan (vulgo Belgium): Am invited to a discussion called: “The Unbearable lightness of the butterfly. What new taxes will the new Belgian government bring us?”

28 November 2011
Visiting Brussels where people cross the streets even when the green man is not yet visible and people stand left and right on escalators without being reprimanded :-)

26 – 27 November 2011
Been to Austria for the first time in six months! For those who speak German or think they do I can recommend listening to the song "Vo Mello bis ge Schoppornou".

25 November 2011
News from Planet Germany: I got fined (well it was a written warning rather) in the company parking lot for parking the wrong way around. Obviously reverse parking is not allowed.
I read that the Pope got in trouble for not wearing a seatbelt when visiting Germany last year

17 - 24 November 2011
Drinks: Oh how I miss Brussels and its historical landmark decisions: For instance that new EU bans claim that water can prevent dehydration.
UNESCO has recently added the Viennese coffee shops to their immaterial cultural heritage list. I quote: “The coffee houses are a place where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill."
On the other hand what can I report from Bavaria’s Monaco? A bar close to my new flat offers their cocktail of the month: Sex on the Beach while we measure about minus two degrees centigrade.
Berlin on the other hand deviates from the ubiquitous “coffee to go” and ventures out with “hot spiced wine to go”.
Received comment: I think Sex on the Beach suposed to be much hotter and better that minus 2 degrees. And you've been places where both the cocktail and the act itself would be much more comfortable.

16. November 2011
News from Bavaria: A new poster campaign on Munich airport shows a few pictures of Bavaria’s tourist highlights and reads: “From the sky to heaven on earth: welcome to Bavaria.” The most striking images in the background skies are a) condense stripes in the shape of a pretzel or b) a pair of leather trousers.

15 November 2011
Do I have to worry that the HR department addresses me as „Brandes”?

14 November 2011
Once more I am told there are new trends out there. A very recent one is called “owling“. People aim for the closest tree, sit in it trying to look like an owl. Another trend whose name slipped my mind aims at people who wear false beards in the attempt to look cool. And a third one is called “Johanssoning” whereby people take pictures of themselves following an example stated by Scarlett Johansson who took a picture of herself showing her face in the foreground and the mirror image of her back in the background. More to be found at: http://scarlettjohanssoning.com/

13 November 2011
We-love-Germany.com: The scene: a shop specializing in wine and spirits. Customer is approaching service clerk with a bottle of wine. Dialogue: A: What kind of wine is that really? B: White wine!

11 November 2011
Some are celebrating the end of WWI today others the beginning of carnival. I will finally move into my new flat today (11-11-11) which is probably neither of great historical importance nor a pure joke.

10 November 2011
News from Brezen-County (vulgo Bavaria): Interestingly enough people who give presentations here can „throw all hands up in horror“. One would assume that this is rather a quality associated with Goddess Shiva. Anyway at the same meeting and before I’ve had my first coffee that day a colleague warned me and advocated I should refrain from eating anything really. One never knows he said and can never be too careful when it comes to chemical food additives. After that I thought about throwing all my handy up in horror.

9 November 2011
I had lunch with a Greek colleague today who said you could already tell from his name that he was Cretan. Without even thinking my immediate response to that was: “All Cretans are liars." One would have expected an interesting discussion on the Epimenides paradox but instead I was greeted with utter incomprehension and almost asked to leave the table.

8 November 2011
It would appear that E.T has never phoned home. I quote: “The U.S. government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race. In addition, there is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public's eye.”

3 November 2011
Whenever – und under normal circumstances that is rare enough - I come to the conclusion to finally throw away some of my possessions I can be sure that somebody close by says: you cannot possibly throw THAT away…

2 November 2011
I have to say that spreading word about me going around the world has been slightly more exciting than telling people that I am leaving Belgium for Munich.

1 November 2011
Penultimate day in Belgium…

31 October 2011
After about 3 hours at the commune in Brussels I have finally successfully de-registered. I should mention that I had been registered under a wrong name (“Brandi”) a few years ago which could not be changed at all anymore. Today I found out - after having queued for 2 (!) hours in vein at the commune’s foreign department - that on top of that they had registered me as Belgian national.
Received comment: Can only happen to you: an unexpected change of nationality. Although, if you start arguing with people and claiming the Belgian king as “your king” you shouldn't be surprised.

30 October 2011
I am tired beyond words. Five hours of non-stop cleaning. Not that this is my strong side anyway. I am too clumsy for that. For instance I dropped a bottle of window cleaning liquid. It fell off the window in the seventh floor – before I had cleaned all the windows. Fortunately it did not smash the glass roof of the inner courtyard below.
Received comment: At least that window in the courtyard got cleaned now. Good to hear you found a flat in Munich.

29 October 2011
A dead cat stretched out on a Brussels cycling path. I am sure the cat had a lethal collision with a cycling German expat.

25 – 28 October 2011
In Brussels again and busy emptying the flat. One underestimates the amount of property that tends to pile up over the years. During the move I had to keep moving otherwise I am sure the movers would have forced me into a fair sized piece of bubble wrap, put a “fragile” tape around me and put me into the moving truck. What is slightly worrying is that as soon as I am finally about to let go of things sure enough somebody steps in, frowns and says: you cannot possibly throw THAT away, you need to keep it! And so I still possess my blue leather sofa and some garden furniture. The latter even though I had already loosened a few screws in order to dismantle it and throw it out. One of the movers had not noticed, the chair broke down and he sank gracefully to the floor which. Opposed to me he did not immediately see the funny side of that. But well, after many years of peaceful co-existence I finally parted with my mannequin Klaus. He took the lift down to the basement to stay behind. For those interested in learning how he got to Brussels, see blog entry from October 16, 2007. Already back then I have suffered from partial amnesia regarding the amount of things I seem to hoard.
Received comment: Ah, well, my friend, sooner or later this was bound to happen. And perhaps the person who finds Klaus won't be too surprised.... I trust despite the weariness that your move is going or went well.

24 October 2011
Eureka! I finally found a flat in Munich! So relieved…

23 October 2011
A few days ago I mentioned the real estate agency „Head and Colleagues“. At least there is no doubt about what business they’re in. It is harder to tell in the case of „Pseudo Scheininger GmbH“ which would translate to something along the lines of „Pseudo Appearance ltd“.

22 October 2011
Notes of a foreigner in a foreign country (in other words a stranger in a strange land or an alien in Germany): The average who goes to the movies on a Saturday night ranks in the age group of below hundred. But only slightly below hundred.

21 October 2011
The world keeps changing at a very fast pace. The Euro is in great danger, Kaddafi is dead, the Basque ETA has changed their program quite substantially. And what is new on my end? I am still looking for a flat in German’s Monaco. On the bright side of things I have been stopped because of the red numbers in my Belgian license plate and awarded by a hand kiss. Whether the kiss was a compliment for me or the license plate was hard to tell.
Received comment: From fighting frogs to fighting for a flat! I’d like to thank you for entertaining me with your numerous fights! Honestly I can really imagine that finding a nice place is not that easy there. I hope you’ll find a nice place soon!

20 October 2011
Quoting from the highly entertaining world of apartment ads: Some owners feel well represented by the agency „Head and Colleagues“. Others advertise their property as being part of the “hip slaughterhouse district”. Or they say quite pragmatically: “No flat could be more comfortable. The beautiful cemetery is in its immediate neighbourhood.“

19 October 2011
95% of all cyclists in Munich are men. They insist on their cycling paths, their right of way and generally they are riding their bikes way too fast. In short they are true testosterone bombs. One of those bombs has hit me hard this morning, crashing into my car’s already rather damaged door on the driver’s side. Luckily I hadn’t come around yet to having that damage repaired. I then thought it might be wiser to spend the rest of the day as pedestrian. As luck would have it I found myself walking on a cycling path once more. And there it was. A dead squirrel with many deadly open wounds. Obviously - although highly unlikely overall if one was to spend a second thought on the matter – the squirrel had fallen from a tree where it was subsequently and rather immediately squashed by a Munich cyclist.

18 October 2011
Observations on Germany: Three men with six packs were walking shoulder to shoulder towards a local discount shop. Had it not been obvious that they were only after the shop’s actual special offer (same bottled beer in the same carton) they would have appeared quite frightening.

17 October 2011
Getting used to Germany takes time and effort. Just to give you an example that made my stomach cramp quite a bit: a group of kindergarten children was quietly walking along a street in neat pairs of two and two. An inaudible laughter of one of the pairs resulted in a kindergarten teacher shouting: “We are not fooling around when we go to kindergarten! We are serious and reasonable when we go to kindergarten!”

16 October 2011
One of the more humiliating things about searching for a flat in Munich are what they call the lessee’s self declaration. One is basically expected to summarize one’s life ad give a detailed account about one’s financial situation. There is no such thing as a standardized form and so there is a variety of details that are being asked. Sometimes things get slightly absurd. For instance one question about whether one is married was followed by a question stating that if yes, was the husband or wife married as well. Just to stick to the facts: They did not go as far as stating a further question along the lines whether – in case the husband or wife was married as well – their married partner would move in as well and in case one would answer with yes here as well, could the last three income statements of that person also be kindly handed over.

15 October 2011
One gains quite some and often rather deep insights when visiting apartments that are still other people’s homes. For instance it made me wonder what makes people tick who own bright orange toilet seats reading: “Life jacket under your seat!”

14 October 2001
Phrase of the day: A Fool with a Tools is Still a Fool.

13 October 2011
Song of the day: No Monkey von Wally Warning.

12 October 2011
Until recently I was under the assumption that the Milky Way is high above us. In fact it is in the midst of Munich and you can even walk along it. All over the place there are coffee shops and bakeries that sell coffee to go and – less often – coffee to “sit in”. Interesting concept especially after the local newspaper said in one of its recent editions that coffee is and has always been assisting the muse.

7 – 11 October 2011
And once more days went by with hunting for a flat and without publishing anything on this blog – my apologies.
I struggle with the language of most ads here. Sometimes one has to be grateful that wannabe poets do not write actual poetry but housing ads. Else we would be struck harder by expressions like “ambience of a Mediterranean backyard” and the like. Often the laws of physics are stretched to the unthinkable limit or can anyone explain to me how I need to imagine a “spacious 25 square meter apartment on two floors”?
And then there are times when one is waiting for the real estate agent during freezing mornings or afternoons. During one such occasion a tour group stopped by. Their topic was suicides with a special emphasis on people who hung themselves in nearby cellars.

6 October 2011
Finding a flat in Munich is much more complex than I thought. I have my difficulties with the language used for describing places as such. “Generous” and “spacious” are only used to describe miniscule apartments. One of the more entertaining descriptions was: “The flat is located in a quiet inner courtyard. There is also a pond within (the flat?) which is not noisy at all.”

30 September 2011 – 5 October 2011
I have to apologize for not having updated this blog for a while. I have been busy with wrapping up and sorting through things, preparing a farewell party, doing my taxes, locking myself out of my Brussels flat and trying to break in again and finally with driving to Munich where I shall live from now on. I am probably one of only a handful of people ever injured by a ball dress and a big pack of cookies; both fell simultaneously onto my head whereby a reconstruction of the actual event would go beyond the scope of this blog. Well, if there were a scope at all of course. Anyway, I should mention that I learnt an incredible new thing about myself during the past few days: I am unbelievably gifted for keeping old boxes. Sometimes it would appear I simply found the design concept of the box interesting but most often I may have thought it might come in handy to wrap the thing that came in it again with the help of newspaper from 1999.

29 September 2011
I started packing and organizing things and if you have friends over to help you have to live with a certain sarcasm I guess. Like that hoarding stuff might be genetic or that one is inclined to throw things away “a la façon de la grand-mère” meaning holding on to them and merely putting them into another corner. But well it is probably safe to throw out things that have a) always made you look like things the cat has brought in or b) have 100 Lire coins in their pockets as a sign when they were last worn. And that is 10 years after the Euro has been introduced…

28 September 2011
The gentleman age is definitely over, also in Europe. I especially noticed that when throwing out heaps of rubbish being watched by two men standing idly next to their BMWs.

27 September 2011
And once more my e-mail account was blocked. Somehow there is a certain manic attitude to that on the side of the provider lately.

26 September 2011
So I am back in good old Brussels that feels so familiar. I just read that a plane of Nepal’s Buddha Air crashed in bad weather during one of their early morning Everest flights…
Although I have merely just arrived I am still thinking of all those places I wanted to visit as well but did somehow not have the time to include in my itinerary. Tibet, Yekaterinburg, Odessa, Isfahan, Mongolia, Madagascar, Eritrea, Panama, Peru, Galapagos and Canada come to mind...

25 September 2011
After two passport controls within a 10 meter distance they really let me out of the country. Quite astonishing. What major offence could you possibly commit within two consecutive passport control points? Istanbul’s airport at 4 a.m. is not as glamorous as one might think…

24 September 2011
The end of a long journey has come and I am about to leave Beijing and return to Brussels. And in order to keep me entertained this website was down for the whole day for whatever mysterious reason. And that was even before I had spotted a little boy in a very topical t-shirt that read: Big Brother. There was no little brother beside him. After all we’re in the country of single children. Briefly after that – and that was when I thought it timely to return back home – I spotted a hamster-colored poodle in what seemed to be hand-made red leather sneakers. The owner dragged him away from a white poodle and apparently the sneakers were too slippery for any major resistance.

23 September 2011
Again a word on Chinese toilets. A few days ago I mentioned a phenomenon that appeared to be following a policy of the open toilet door (see entry of Sept. 17/18). Having witnessed that I should not have wondered at all when entering a toilet facility at Xi’an airport where the only western style toilet had no toilet door at all. But there was a burning insect coil in the corner, how helpful! I have to say though that you could only see into the stall when approaching it directly which happened only three times or so. A seemingly insignificant number given the number of people around who get in your way, push you around, step on your toes, spit out in front of you or are just in any other way impossible.

22 September 2011
I thought my visit to Xi’an’s terracotta army would be one of the highlights of my trip but well then again I should have thought twice. I have had my problems understanding the state certain UNESCO world heritage sites are in before and apart from being one, the terracotta warrior museum claims it has gained its ISO9000 or 9001 quality certification recently – another one that makes me swallow hard at times. So little surprise it was then. Not only is the whole site a nightmare from an architectural point of view, it is simply not built for purpose and cannot handle thousands and thousands of daily visitors in large groups. The actual archeological sites have been covered completely and the halls and roofs take away the impression of standing next to one of the most interesting archeological sites ever found. The site maps are in Chinese only and do not reflect the layout of the museum. The audio guide must have been recorded for a different museum altogether. The most precious specimen found are in an unlit compartment in the basement of one of the museum buildings. There is no air conditioning and numerous Chinese tourist groups are required by their loud guides to build a Phalanx in front of overseas tourists and stomp them if necessary. And this necessity seems to occur all the time.
When I finally made it back to my hotel I somehow took it lightly that my e-mail account was blocked again! Meanwhile I have developed a routine of unblocking it…

21 September 2011
Quite interestingly whenever some directions are given in English you can be almost sure that they are misleading. Say at the Lama Temple or at the Summer Palace: A sign announces a certain exit as the one suited for the sight. And you can be sure it is - out of 3-6 exits - the one furthest away from the entrance gate. I wonder why?
Again a few words on food: I came across a number of interesting restaurants lately. In Shanghai we had a “Boxing Cat Brewery” next to a “Funky Chicken” restaurant and in Beijing I walked past a restaurant called “Walnut Tree in May – Low Carbon Restaurant”. The latter was a first for me indeed.
On various food stalls on the streets of Beijing I saw bee cocoons, snakes, water beetles, centipedes and silkworms – all fried on sticks. I felt very conservative walking by with my corn on the cob.

20 September 2011
I ventured out to see the China Central TV building and the Summer Palace. I thought that would be an easy day but again underestimated Beijing’s distances and spent almost eight hours just visiting those two sights. The Summer Palace has a huge man made hill and lake. I somehow climbed the hill from the wrong side and instead of walking lush alleyways found myself crawling through the undergrowth - much to the detriment of my already stained clothes. No offence to my Christian readers but on my jeans there are now two stains - one over the left, one over the right knee - just as the stigmata wounds of Christ would have left had he been in jeans at the time they crucified him...
Received comment: From MARGIT to STIGMATA, it only needs an S and an R and a good shaker.
Received comment: Jesus was crucified through his wrists (not the hands), about 2 inches above the hands, and through both feet with a single nail, between the bones of the feet and wrist, without breaking any of them. At any rate, the knees had NOTHING to do with the crucifixion. But your story was, nevertheless, quite entertaining...

19 September 2011
For those who are not following the daily Chinese news I would like to underline one of today’s top articles: “Mint growers in China are calling for more government support for the development of this small sector of agriculture”.
I have always had a weak spot for sociology and language and so reading the other top news story today made me think quite a bit. As opposed to the common stork theory in the west it seems that the Chinese tell their children when asked where they come from that they “were picked up from a trash can”.
After that I thought I need to stop brooding over newspapers and get out and about again. So I trusted my schematic Beijing map and ended up walking for hours and hours to and through Beihai Park and the Houhai area.

17 – 18 September 2011
Against all odds I made it to Beijing by train. But I think that was that with me and trains for the time being and I shall fly to Xi’an next week. With trains you assume starting and ending your journey right in the respective city center. But then you discover that for instance Shanghai’s long distance train terminal is not only as far out of town as the domestic airport, it is also right next to it and equally massive. You even feel like being on an airport there apart from the fact that gates are changed frequently without an announcement in English. There was a restaurant car but the only thing I could safely recognize was dried or rather dried unripe kiwi fruit. The other thing I identified must have been pork in a former and less dried out life.
But Beijing! What an enormous city! The hotel map is more a rough estimate and distances are at least 20 times larger than you’d assume. The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square are superlatives beyond description. Standing on the Great Wall reminded me of seeing the Egyptian Pyramids: no matter how many times you have seen them on pictures or on TV, being there for the first time yourself is definitely different. The Ming Dynasty Tombs were also impressive.
But at the same time there is often a slightly bizarre edge to things. Like hearing the waitress in a top restaurant say “I am afraid there is no Chinese tea left. But we have got fruit.” Whether there is no Chinese tea anymore in the restaurant, in China or even overseas was not to be discussed further. In one of the Forbidden City’s cafés they offered “Hamburg” and at a rather affordable price even. Almost all signs in both Chinese and English in the Forbidden City were sponsored or to quote literally “made possible by the American Express Company”. What I found slightly disturbing was a seemingly unwritten open door policy in the Forbidden City’s female toilets. Twenty toilets, all occupied but with doors just leaning or being open halfway. Talking about weird things: What I think I liked best was the skid down from the Great Wall section at Mutianyu down to the valley.

16 September 2011
Yesterday I saw a great t-short picturing Obama as Chairman Obama. And by the way, Lipton advertises its Yellow Label tea with the slogan “Drink Positive”. Another t-shirt I saw read: Dress To Distress. Speaking of which: most shops her do not have fitting rooms and fitting isn’t allowed. Only some Chinese haute couture shops do have some sort of fitting rooms but most only do clothes up to size 32 or 34. Some pieces I saw looked like a new interpretation of uniforms with a little bit of black lace draped all over.
Without a little note with Chinese letters outlining your destination or anything else you may want and need you are pretty much lost. I somehow managed to buy a train ticket for today (Friday) from Shanghai to Beijing. But I do not want to praise the day before dawn; it still remains to be seen a) whether I can get on that train and b) where I will end up.
Having talked about it at length in the past with various people in involved in the project I just had to ride on the Transrapid (Maglev) train for once. So fortunately I made the 10:45 yesterday which is the last morning train at top speeds of 450 km/h. It just takes 8 min to get to the airport 30 km away. The return train just kept at a steady 300 km/h - boring in comparison.
Received comment: 300 km/h? Is it because they have less electricity to use for the magnets as the rest of the city turns on their electrical equipment?

15 September 2011
McDonalds have western toilets here but from the dirt strains and shoe prints you see on them it seems people are using them just like the holes in the ground. I assume it needs more than six years of Pilates training to balance out on that level. A little Tai Chi from early childhood days on might be needed given the advanced and sometimes slippery circumstances.

14 September 2011
Again a word on food and drinks. Let me start with drinks: I don't know how I would have made it through Hong Kong's and Macao's humid climate without the occasional canned iced coffee. Somehow a side effect of my recent Ayurvedic treatment is that I feel a strong urge for lots of coffee. In China now everything is about milk tea. Sometimes there are even sweet beans inside the milk tea or some sort of jelly beans. In Fuxin Park I finally found a bottle of iced café latte which was first of all really cold. And it smelled coffee. But frankly: it was iced milk tea. I can only hope it is not based on milk powder.
Talking about coffee I had one of my better misunderstandings in a very tiny coffee shop this afternoon. I was the only customer and waited for my coffee and sandwich for about 25 minutes. It seemed much longer and while waiting for the waitress to turn up again I got bitten seven or eight times by mosquitoes. Finally the waitress was back and I in chatty mood that started with: “You have quite some mosquitoes here, don’t you?” She said: “Oh no, go out, go straight, turn left at the intersection and THERE you may find one!”
And food, well yes, food. I have a little paper that is supposed to say I want vegetarian food. At first I assumed it read something along the lines “this woman is mad, she does not want meat”. In fact it seems to say “this woman is mad, feed her noodle soup”. And don't get me wrong: they do great noodle soup here. But after a few days even the best noodle soup starts to lose out on its original excitement. Although, yesterday they almost sneaked some duck stomach into my noodle soup.

13 September 2011
Shanghai is just like I would have imagined Hong Kong to be. Alongside the Hiangpu River or the so-called “Bank” that is there are many impressive buildings from the beginning of the 20th century. One can only imagine how life in the Golden Twenties must have been here! The former Observation Tower has been remodeled into a bar with a rooftop terrace and stunning views to the other side of the river bank with its skyscrapers and the landmark TV tower. Shanghai must be paradise for architects. The sheer number of high rise buildings in bizarre shapes is breathtaking.

12 September 2011
Guangzhou is breathtaking. 18 million inhabitants, skyscrapers around the Pearl River and wherever you go just people, people, people. As some Austrian friends I visited today told me I have unfortunately missed out on some of the best sights here, the Shamian Island. But then again, I basically had one day here and you can’t have it all, can you?
My earlier idea of going to Shanghai by train quickly lost its charms when I was told that the overnight train was booked and the alternative would have meant 19 hours in another train and again sleepers fully booked. So I bought a plane ticket instead and arriving to the airport I once again felt that as much as I love flying I am just not a real train person.
As luck would have it I arrived on Shanghai’s old airport in the west instead of the new airport far outside of town in the east. The latter is served by the Transrapid train which I was looking forward to ever since I decided to go to Shanghai. I can only say that riding the subway to my hotel was slightly less thrilling.

11 September 2011
I hesitated for quite some time whether I should really include the Middle Kingdom into my itinerary for the world trip or not. But here I am now finally – in the land of the single children. There are many things one needs to get accustomed to. For instance traffic rules. It appears that red lights are only optional here and whoever assumes that crossing the street would be a safe enough thing as soon as the green man is thoroughly wrong. A man might push people around when getting onto a train and at the same time carry his wife’s handbag, both apparently socially acceptable behavior patterns.
After my first shock and awe about the sheer size of a random Chinese metropolis and the amount of people I have quickly gained back that lighthearted feeling of just travelling. And so it only took a “1.3 billion Chinese can’t be wrong” when a Brazilian acquaintance asked me quite worried how on earth I could dare and eat from Chinese food stalls.
Ah and yes, I could not accept the irony that virtually all electronic goods on this planet are manufactured here and I cannot get hold of a simple charger for my notebook. And so after quite some time and a few scribbled notes with Chinese letters on them I found what I needed!
Received comment: I DID find it amusing that it was hard for you to find the replacement charger you needed in the one country on earth that makes everything electronic.

10 September 2011
Trying to buy a suitable notebook charger in Hong Kong proves to be an impossible thing to do. The stares I got various shops in Kowloon’s electronic goods quarter were worse than the ones I usually get when asking for film for my camera. So after a night in Hong Kong and a morning with a “mission impossible” I am on my way to Guangzhou in Mainland China. By train. And the absurd thing is that after eleven months on the road I am so excited as if this were my first trip ever!
Apart from the toilets the train itself was very modern. And well, the toilets were basically just Italian/French/Turkish (whatever they may be called in your country) holes with a bright daylight view onto the train tracks. If six years of constant Pilates training have helped me in any way then it was helping me to focus on a thought center line, stabilize even over such a toilet in a moving and shaking train without holding on to anything and without losing my balance. This particular skill has also proven to be immensely helpful alongside African roads where hoards of children seem to take pride in watching the occasional tourist pee.
Just when I arrived in Guangzhou I had just seconds to jump into a taxi before the worst thunderstorm in my life. Nevertheless I was soaking wet when I arrived to the hotel as the taxi’s roof leaked considerably. Still having no power cord for my laptop I went to the hotel’s business center to check my e-mails and there the welcome to China present was that my e-mail account was blocked or, as the website that sprung open to notify me about said “had eventually has been erased”. Next thing was that the exact same website all of a sudden only showed Chinese letters. So instead of dinner I worked for hours with the help of some friendly staff to get the box working again. And so fortunately it does.
To chill out after that I thought I just go out and stroll around the block. My first encounter with China was that upon exiting the hotel an elephant man with a tumor on his throat as big a child’s head (a child of 5-6 years say) nearly bumped into me. When I looked up I saw a teenager with a t-shirt reading „Guten Tag“ (in German!).

9 September 2011
I packed a bit smarter this time (for instance all books except for the Devine Mad Man's biography went into my duffel bag) and had a mild Michelin Man edge to my overall appearance and so my suitcase was 20.9 kilos and went through fine from Kalibu over Manila to Hong Kong without me paying for overweight and thus cross-subsidizing cheap tickets.
A last Philippine massage at Kalibo airport. Next to me a Korean (from the southern part of the peninsula I assume) gets a neck and back massage sitting upright. He is 100% focused on his iPad where he is using a virtual machine gun to shoot at fish in an equally virtual fish tank. As a person that is experiencing back pain literally all the time and for whom a massage is more or less a holy act there was just one thing that came to mind, namely a quote from a well known Austrian insurance company: We'd be pleased to cope with your worries.
But then well, there was the flight itself and a thing you definitely don't want to hear on a Philippine Airlines flight: This is your captain from the flight deck speaking: We are experiencing - rather long pause, rather unpleasant cracks over the ether - turbulences. Silence. It is also not helpful if the person next to you is reading a book called "Transition" by Ian M. Banks. Up to now I was only familiar with a Rosie M. Banks - a made-up character in a P. G. Wodehouse novel. Nevertheless I made it safe and sound and with my suitcase back to Hong Kong.
Received comment: Gorgeous stories - happy travels with your laptop :-)
Received comment: It could be worse if it was the next message: "This is your captain speaking... Is there a mechanic on board?"
Answer: Indeed! I also found it bizarre when they announced briefly before we landed that taking any items such as blankets is prohibited and a serious crime... You do not want to end up in a prison on the Philippines for having nicked an airplane blanket...

8 September 2011
I am getting into this island feeling again. I move within a few hundred square meters - bakery, laundry, people watching at close by cafe, room, pool, beach, massage on the beach, book for the cocktail at happy hour, dinner not too far off.

7 September 2011
Well who would have thought that a laptop power cord would only last six months as a rule? For over ten years I used various notebook computers of a certain brand and never had any issues with the chargers and now within not even a year of having this HP computer the second charger has broken down. And of course on tiny Boracay Island it is impossible to find a replacement. Well I suppose that's just one of those things while travelling. Just have to use it quite prudently until I find the necessary replacement. When I returned from dinner last night there were about twenty ants in and on my bed. Meanwhile I am used to all sorts of animals - let me remind you of dogs in Mexico, pigs in Burma (ok, both not in my bed or anything), a monster spider in Thailand, diverse cockroaches in Singapore and elsewhere or the regular frog visits on Sri Lanka - and so I kept a rather unusual calm for a situation like this and just got rid of them, only to find one or two new ones after every paragraph I read. The regular reader of this blog will have anticipated that the discussion with the night porter on whether or not these ants were of a biting sort or rather completely harmless did not go very far or last very long. I insisted on sleeping in an ant-free zone and moved to the adjacent room where even the sound levels of the Korean karaoke amateurs were much more tolerable than before. So I was rather content.
As it was rainy today I went to see the local hairdresser. The mandatory glossy magazines that every hairdresser has were dating back to 2001 - and that was the most recent magazine - thus rather torn and obviously not that glossy anymore. The washbasin was an old sun bed in front of a sink where cold water could be poured over the customer. All mirrors in the place were blind. From time to time the hairdresser's bare-breasted son showed up in order to sing along with his mother to some songs on a local radio station. Later he wore s t-shirt reading: I have issues.
At night as I went back to my original room there was just one ant, easy to cope with. And that later I hardly noticed the worm watching me showering.
Comment: I am grateful for a comment correcting a spelling mistake. Evidently the Filipino hairdresser's son appeared in the shop bare-breasted and not bear-breasted. I reckon "Filipino" and "bear" do not go together well when it comes to body shapes and appearances.

6 September 2011
In order to escape the hordes of Koreans which have successfully occupied Boracay island I decided to march north towards Puka Beach on the northern tip of the island. In doing so I underestimated a number of things: although the island is only nine kilometers longs and one kilometer wide at its most narrow part, the road north is winding and hilly. And I also started from way more south than the middle. Flip-flops aren't made for hour long walks. Even on a cloudy day walking with a camera backpack can be exhausting and so can be comments by the locals: To Puka Beach!? Walking! Oh, that is so, so far away! But finally after three hours I made it! The ride back in a tricycle - a motorbike with a cabin attached on its right sitting up to six people - took a mere 20 minutes. I literally collapsed into the swimming pool, just in time to make it to the neighboring hotel's cocktail happy hour. All just a matter of good timing. Apart from myself there is a Korean family and a couple of Korean friends staying in my hotel. The latter were coming home at 5 a.m., after heavy partying, shouting at each other. They seemed rather astonished seeing me in my pajamas briskly shouting back at them about people wanting to sleep and all. Since then we mutually ignore each other.

5 September 2011
Miraculously my suitcase has made it to 24.8 kilos and lousy Philippine Airlines charging me for 10 kilogram overweight. Allegedly I had a promo ticket that allowed only 15 kilos. I briefly pondered about the Michelin man option of stuffing up all my pockets but then just decided to pay. When lifting my oh so heavy suitcase onto the belt I seemed to somehow squash the unfriendly flight attendant's finger. Oh was I sorry...
Received comment: Received comment: Pfff... that is so heavy... 24.8kg. I'm absolute sure I can't lift that suitcase anymore, nor can anyone else. Everyone in the world only needs 10kg max... Come on, 24.8 is nothing!

4 September 2011
Last night I followed my guidebook’s advice and searched for a restaurant it recommended and which I finally found. Even in the tourist area, at least I suppose the area I am in and where all the hotels are really is the tourist area is very dimly lit at night. Also walking isn’t made easy as most of the sidewalks/walkways are occupied by street dwellers which are rather difficult to spot in low light. Else it is kind of a freak show. Midgets are put outside karaoke bars to lure customers in. Most clubs have beautiful women with very little clothing outside, others employ transvestites and one even had a blind transsexual in a very sexy white dress matching his/her eyes. Luckily the guidebook advised to be careful with massages in order to not get more than you pay for which I thought summarized the situation quite nicely. Business seems low though. As far as I could tell I was the only tourist around apart from the few nerds in the hotel that had their catalogue women already including some angry looking patents in law in their entourage.
Today I trusted the guide book once more and ventured out to a place called “Happy Veggie” for lunch. Inside sat a sweating elderly lady in a t-shirt that read: “Save The Polar Bear”. She also gave the impression that she had recently had the “milk rebonding” hair treatment they offered next door. Soon after I sat down a chicken walked past the restaurant door. Obviously it had spotted the sign “meat products not allowed inside” just in time. I wonder though how “beefsteak” made it onto the menu…
Earlier that day I wanted to go to Divisoria market by jeepney, a weird-looking longish sort of jeep that is THE form of local transport here. Before I went the hotel staff said I should not go. That the market was just too big. That I would get lost. Or at the very least that people would snatch my bag. None of that happened but the jeepney had an accident. It crashed into a milk truck or whatever, luckily at very low speed. I fell onto the alcoholic sitting next to me which was insofar unfortunate as I then had an even more intimate chance to reconfirm what I had already smelled before namely that alcoholics the world over have the same body odor. And then obviously he was a rather lean fellow so my landing was a rather hard experience. He seemed to take it lightly though and together with everybody else disembarked almost immediately.
Received comment: Good blog! Where are you off to next?

3 September 2011
It was slightly unsettling boarding a plane of an airline that is blacklisted in Europe for lack of security standards. But apart from a few anomalies it brought me safely, on time and with my luggage to Manila yesterday night. For instance they advise that it is not only prohibited to smoke on board, no, it is even prohibited to use “electronic cigarettes” on board – whatever they might be. Then they serve from H to A instead of from A to H which is slightly unnerving if you’re sitting on an A-chair. As far as I can tell the reason for that must be that the Filipinos also count from left to right when using their fingers, starting with the little finger on the left side and ending with the little finger on the right side. As far as the airline as such is concerned they do not seem to mind being forbidden to land in Europe too much. They even fly Airbus planes.
For reasons unknown to me the taxi driver that brought me to my hotel was convinced I was Turkish. When he introduced himself as Arnold - as in Arnie Schwarzenegger were his words – and I identified Arnie as my countryman he was slightly puzzled. Arnie was a Turk? He changed the subject almost immediately and asked me whether we in Turkey get a lot of news about the Philippines. I was somehow glad he did not really understand my answer which was: no apart from when one of your airlines has a crash, a ferry sinks or your Manila ranks once more up high in the cities with most murders.

2 September 2011
Before leaving back to Hong Kong I went to Taipa and one the way back then once more to the A-Má Temple where I had seen people burning paper money, paper gold bars, quite nice paper shoes and the like yesterday. Not knowing the international standard sign for “fake paper money” in the appropriate dialect of the Macao sign language I was offered a lighter, incense sticks, a large pink candle in the shape of a lotus flower and finally after more gesturing much to the amusement of the local monk and all his helpers the real thing: Hell’s Money: paper money issued by the “Bank of Hell”. Following the as advised of the locals I burnt all of my Hell’s Money in order to bring prosperity to my deceased grandmother.

1 September 2011
To me Macao is much more appealing than Hong Kong. At times it feels as if you were in Lisbon or Porto and the colonial history is very present. They even have Pasteis de Belem/Nata but what is missing of course are the tiny little coffee places on every corner where you could get the strong espresso to wash down your tart. Even the casino district has something like grace about it. It is not as loud and imposing as Las Vegas. I had the chance to watch one great roulette player win a fortune which he immediately lost minutes later. He went away with the greatest dignity imaginable.

31 August 2011
It appears that I am quite talented in causing the Chinese to raise their eyebrows or to start laughing at me: Trusting my guidebook that said they sell incense and all kinds of funeral accessories in Shanghai street including fake money that is burnt for the deceased I entered one of these shops and asked the following question much to the amusement of the shop owner: “Do you have paper money to burn?” Obviously the answer was no. I should have guessed so.
A word on food: After two nights of running sushi I thought I ought to try something different. So I went to some other local restaurants that listed the following dishes, mostly under the section “vegetarian”: Chicken broth, drunken ox tongue, deep fried pork intestines, pig’s front leg with reddish bean curd rice and drunken goose liver. For an additional three dollars one can have “cold/hot coke with lemon/milk”. I can only imagine how drunken goose liver must taste when combined with hot coke with milk but only when I read “steamed grass crap with soy sauce” I gave up on the idea of eating there entirely. On I went and in one of the better looking places - and I use “better” as a quite relative them here – I ordered a menu of soup followed by “pomfret” (a fish) in soy sauce. Very soon a clear soup arrived in which swam a bone of the sort that already gave me shivers when I was a child. The fish was a very lean fellow, came in one piece and swam in dark soy sauce. I had to use all fine motor skills acquired in Asia over the past months to filet it with chopsticks only. Although still hungry I did however not feel for trying the desert: stewed white fungus with papaya.
On my last evening in Hong Kong evidently I had to go back to the running sushi place, mostly to brood over life in general and running sushi in particular. There are many similarities I reckon. What goes around comes around especially if it looks really bad and nobody wants their share of it. Mostly you just have to be patient and wait until something suiting your taste comes along. And have you then ceased the moment and taken your tiny plate of something you can be sure something better looking comes along. Although not everything white and shiny is butter fish either. Most things are nothing more than highly decorated rice anyway and you really have to be into side dishes (or marketing for that matter) to like that. Nevertheless one sometimes wonders whether one’s neighbor has the bigger ball of rice. At times you are forced to take an instant decision. Sometimes things go around that you can hardly believe are for real. And there may be things lurking from around the corner and meet you eye unexpectedly and others never announce themselves and disappear again silently.

30 August 2011
Judging from old pictures Hong Kong must have been a very beautiful city once. I expected a mix old modern and colonial architecture, many traditional Chinese shops and basically a tailor on every corner to serve the English gentleman’s need. In reality virtually all colonial buildings have been demolished and replaced by faceless modern buildings. Even on the Peak, the hill overlooking the city, there are no villas or anything just skyscrapers. Hong Kong must be the shopper’s paradise. And its market economy is so free that prices vary even between outlets of the same supermarket chain. Perhaps that’s why they called it 7 Eleven in the first place. Expect to pay anything between seven and eleven for the same product. When it comes to fashion I did not spot a single tailor, just lots and lots of prêt-à-porter shops. Oddly enough most of them would not allow any fitting. And looking at how badly people are dressed well that’s what you get then I suppose.
Received comment: When visiting the Man Mo Temple you can really see the enormous metamorphosis Hong Kong had undergone. A tiny single floor temple in between all kind of skyscrapers. Have you visited the Chi Lin Nunnery already? Which is near the Wong Tai Sin temple (Diamond Hill station is the one to get off). Good training on Hong Kong Island is to take the stairs up :-) And how long did you stand in line for the Peak Tram?
Answer: You are absolutely right about the Man Mo Temple. It made my eyes tear because of all the incense they burn there! There are incense spirals that burn for 14 days and obviously I just stood under one of them and was consequently covered in ash for the rest of the day. I haven't made it to the nunnery but as I will eventually return to Hong Kong I may still go there. And well, I only waited for 25 minutes of so for the Peak Tram. It was already past 5pm and a foggy day so perhaps that was why it did not take ages really.

29 August 2011
So now I’ve also done all my walking through Kowloon on the island facing Hong Kong Island and Victoria harbor from “the other side”. Interestingly for a person who loves flying I have all of a sudden developed the fixed idea to go by train to mainland China. So I thought it advisable to pay a visit to Kowloon’s Hung Hom station in order to investigate my options. One has to know that this is not just any remote train station; in fact it is huge and of course also serves as a stop on the metro line. Nevertheless – judging from the facial expression – it must have come as quite a surprise to the clerk at the information desk when I said I wanted to buy a ticket to Shanghai. He was obviously only selling metro tickets and gave me the odd “Do-I-look-like-the-Chinese-Emperor?” look, barely retaining his composure in order to send me to the “real station” upstairs. There, of course, tickets could not be sold, yet. They are sold between ten days and the day of the planned journey but you must not come too late also because otherwise, say four to five days in advance of your trip, tickets might be sold out. I know why I am just not a train person.
Else I went to the Gold Fish Market - the place to be for the gold fish connoisseur (which I am not). Gold fish are sold in almost any shape and form and also in colors beyond orange. Besides gold fish the offer on that particular market consist of a vast number of gold fish colored cats (it was impossible to find somebody to discuss the topic of overnight, cat-induced gold fish loss), turtles, hamsters, dogs, smallish sea snakes, rabbits and frogs merely out of their tadpole state (and I speak with some expertise here lately).

28 August 2011
Today I saw the western part of Hong Kong island. Around Hollywood Street there are lots and lots of antique stores many of which also sell carved ivory sculptures. Whole fairy tale landscapes or war scenes are carved into those tusks. A few roads further west there are endless rows of herbalists and shops selling dried fish, sea weed, black and hair moss, various kinds of dried sea cucumbers and the odd dried sea star. The inherent intelligence test is putting pots of cashew nuts and walnuts in between just to make sure people can tell the difference between say a smallish dried sea cucumber and a cashew nut. Mushrooms are also a delicacy it seems. Even dried they come in the oddest shapes colors and consistencies.
Received comment: Reassemble. And I insist on precision!
Received comment: You should mark India on your map. Answer: I will see to it!

27 August 2011
Not only do Sunshine Foot Massages who operate close to my hotel discount their massages during a “Happy Hour”; they also feature a so-called “fire treatment”. I did not discuss the matter any further and hence skipped the idea of another massage today. Instead I ventured out to see the eastern part of town around Causeway Bay. To summarize: it is one of the busiest places I have ever seen and there is probably nothing you cannot buy there. Only when it comes to food things get a little tricky. My taste buds were seriously challenged when dealing with some wobbly mass of tofu in a brownish sauce. It is also a tough call for vegetarians when meat-stuffed tofu is listed as vegetarian dish. Not to speak of most restaurants which have only Chinese language menus in the first place.
Dinner on the other hand was spectacular. I found an Italian place on the waterfront of Kowloon with a fist class view of Victoria Harbor’s skyline. After dinner I took the Star Ferry Back to the main island and was asked by a group of Polish guys where they could find the best bars in town. Much to my concern – it’s my second night here - and perhaps to the delight of some of my readers I could give them advice.

26 August 2011
What I have seen of Hong Kong so far is truly overwhelming. They have double-decker buses and double-decker trams, every square centimeter seems to be used and Nutella and Swiss chocolate is sold side-by-side with fried, sugar coated ducks, chickens and other animals (dogs?).
Right after my arrival I went to the Chinese consulate in order to apply for a visa to mainland China. Against all odds and despite many horrible stories I’ve read and heard the process was rather swift and efficient. Well, filling in a seven page form seems to be slightly over the edge but then again hey this is CHINA after all.
I had dinner at a running sushi place and overestimated the meditative effect of staring at a conveyor belt that caters raw fish on rice around and around and around. So I was still slightly dizzy when I made it to a massage place around the corner. I thought the treatment I’ve head could be continued with some Chinese massages over here. But well. The lady was petite but behaved more like a butcher. I assume she wanted to rip me apart at least partly and almost managed to filet my sciatic nerve with here elbow.

25 August 2011
Unfortunately my stay on Sri Lanka and the treatments are already over. By the way I confided the Cambodian Buddha to a fellow traveler and so he will now soon be on his way to Europe with a three day stopover in Dubai. Nevertheless my suitcase has some mysterious 21.8 kilograms. Anyway. So my journey goes on and once more I almost flew out under a wrong name and itinerary. I already had my boarding pass in hands that would have brought me to Bombay under the name of Mr. Magoswalati. What is it with India really? I deliberately did not want to visit India during this journey and so although I fly via India now for the third time it sort of draws me in. Even the in-flight magazine’s horoscope said I should prepare for spending some time in Mumbai and Delhi. Most likely it is because I keep on flying with this Indian airline that I kind of like despite their food that is soaked in chili which makes one whine for water or any other relief thinkable. Talking about their in-flight magazine. They ran a featured story about popular fairy tales and managed to reduce the meaning of Hansel and Gretel to an appetizing story. Never mind the overall cruelty of the evil witch or the captured children – no it was the gingerbread house that made all the difference!
India is different even at their airports. It is slightly unsettling to walk into a bookshop and see “Mein Kampf” in a new edition and wrapped together with the latest movie adaptation on DVD. And close-by a bizarre series of books with the following bewildering titles: Chicken Soup for the Soul, Chicken Soup for Indian Teachers, Chicken Soup for Indian Women, Chicken Soup for the Indian Bride’s Soul, Chicken Soup for Indian Fathers, Chicken Soup for the Indian Spiritual Soul, Chicken Soup for the Indian Golden Soul and Chicken Soup for the Indian Armed Forces (!). Just in case you wonder: I resisted even the weakest temptation and bought a P.G. Wodehouse novel instead.

24 August 2011
So what else have I done in the Munich enclave in Hambantota apart from following Ayurvedic treatments? I had a lot of very stimulating conversations with very interesting people. And I found once more how much I treasure charisma and authenticity. Many of these talks took place during long walks on the beach. Speaking of which: As we know my eyesight could be much better and so often I really miss out on things like colorful boats on the ocean and the like. And so during one of the walks I also overlooked the local exhibitionist. I only found out when I heard the girl who I was walking with started yelling at someone who at that moment had already closed his sarong again. S I can’t report on any details of the offender’s anatomy I’m afraid.
Else I read much less than I thought I would. One was a really funny and sarcastic alternative traveling guidebook called „No Shitting On The Toilet“ - for when you’ve really lost it and enjoying every second of it. Anything else I tried to read is not really worthwhile mentioning here at all.

22 and 23 August 2011
I went on day trips to the biggest and holiest pilgrimage area in Sri Lanka, the Kataragama temple and on the day after to the Mandunagala jungle temple. The Kataragama area is insofar fascinating as it serves as a Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim pilgrimage area with respective temples and mosques. During the evening puja one can smash a coconut and make a wish. If the coconut bursts asunder the wish shall be granted. I shattered my coconut into a thousand pieces. What my wish was is any attentive reader’s educated guess.

21 August 2011
It is little wonder that the hotel I’m staying at is called Oasis. It is surrounded by a beautiful, almost untouched beach and a lagoon with mangroves. My rather unambitious intention was to just sit on the beach for ten minutes and watch the waves but then it all came differently. The fisherman Limahl convinced me of what turned out to be a two hour long walk through the backwaters. At times we crossed hip-deep channels and when it got darker and darker and we sank into the swampy lagoon more and more it got kind of unpleasant. Sometimes he lifted me out of the mud, sometimes I had to drag him further. The last bit was then a thorny sidewalk alongside the outside wall of the hotel. I got back as dirty as one can possibly be and was of course promptly seen by most guests. One comment at dinner was then “and well when we went to that authority in country xwz at the time we were as dirty as you are all the time”.

18 – 20 August 2011
Meanwhile I have a certain routine when it comes to catching frogs. I can fit smaller ones into envelopes which I then carry over to the reception in order to hand it over to the first employee that crosses my path whereby I pay utmost attention to deliberately ignoring the occasional raised eyebrow. Yesterday I was particularly handy and caught a rather big specimen in a tea cup and the appropriate saucer. I carried it over to the restaurant where the first waiter thought it thoughtful of me to return an unused cup. When I confined to him that there was a huge frog inside and advised to be careful when removing the lid he seemed to react a little consternated. With the help of another envelope I could throw a third specimen into the backyard of my villa but more and more often I am asked why I do not finally kiss one of them or at least throw them against a nearby wall. Well before they actually start talking I think I can’t do that.
Received comment: It appears that frogs really like you but you don’t quite seem to reciprocate...
Received comment: After having read your descriptions I’d really love to be a frog in your room hoping to be the first one to be transformed into a prince!

15 – 17 August 2011
Time flies here on Sri Lanka. Mainly I am following my treatments, enjoy the massages and the beautiful scenery at the beach in Hambantota. It seems all the back pain of all recent years is just coming out again. Hopefully I can leave some of it behind with all the Ayurvedic treatments. Yesterday I ventured out to the Udawalhawe National Park which was a peaceful and quiet experience of great scenery and wildlife. The jeep stopped in between an elephant herd with at least 50 or 60 elephants. There were even two week old elephant babies amongst them. We also saw crocodiles, buffalos, peacocks and an enormous amount of green parrots.
I should also give you a brief status update on the frog side of things as I was asked whether I finally opted to kiss the frog to see whether it was a handsome prince, or whether the frog was too ugly that I didn't even want to take the effort. Well to tell you the truth in the meantime there are three of them. One jumped right onto me when I entered my room last night, the other, much bigger and uglier one is meanwhile living in the toilet and refuses to be flushed down which makes me not only reluctant to kissing him but also to using the toilet as such and the third one was little enough to be captured and escorted out.
Received comment: So the frog that jumped onto you fell in love with you? I think he (or she) never saw such a gorgeous Austrian before.

12 August 2011
A tiny frog calls the space behind the toilet door of my „villa“ home. He is yellowish white and sticks to the wall. During the first night he has grown double in size. On my second evening he prominently jumped down from the ventilator into the center of the main room before retiring to his usual place on the wall. Finally during the third night he occupied the toilet and despite quite some attempts refused to be flushed down.
Received comment: Villa, tropics, massages and a frog. What else would you wish for? I have to say that I might envy you. Even though the weather in Toulouse is very good as well.

11 August 2011
A wise saying of a wise grandmother: You need to work hard for being envied, pity you’ll get for free.

10 August 2011
My hotel features standard and superior rooms and one special hut called „Villa“ or „Kabana“ that I rented. It stands slightly off the rest of the buildings and is built to Ayurvedic standards. What that means is that it is a hexagon in shape which would have done some of my father’s recent garage plans and drawings justice. On one of the six walls there is a door leading to a huge outdoor annex; the bathroom. Other than that and in order to have some kind of natural air conditioning the building is open to all other sides through window blinds that cannot be fully shut and open spaces between walls and roof. Would someone build up a windmill in the room they could for sure power the whole resort. Although I required some kind of drapes to at least keep the heavy storm out I still need a blanket, a fleece sweater, a hat and a scarf to sleep for a few hours at best before the wind wakes me again. And well yes, it IS hot and yes, I am in the tropics!

9 August 2011
I am in the south of Sri Lanka for an Ayurvedic treatment. It is my third treatment since 2004. Basically you can summarize Ayurvedic treatments as follows: You gain an insider’s knowledge about who an oil sardine (accidentally still alive) must feel before being tinned. What I want to say is t is the feeling of being oily all over, not so much the feeling of getting put into a tin. At the very beginning of each treatment about two handful of oil is poured over your head and the treatment does not seem to stop until the therapist has made absolutely sure that each oily hair on your skull is knotted with at least one other hair.

8 August 2011
Off to Sri Lanka and most likely without Internet access for the coming 16 days…

7 August 2011
Phnom Penh reminds me a lot about India. At least at the touristy spots there are many severely injured people begging for money. Some have eye diseases others are land mine victims, some have no limbs at all and humble along on the pavement before they are carried away by someone on a wheelchair. Street children want to sell bracelets or books and mothers are begging for food for their babies. It is not easy to take that all in. At the same time, dozens of restaurants want to sell you their “French fried” and their “Cooktails” during happy hour. The national dish is called “amok” – not that I am suggesting anything here.
The splendid national museum focuses on the pre Angkor and Angkor period and together with the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda is beautiful to visit. The recent history is vividly present in the so called S21 prison where the Pol Pot Khmer Rouge regime tortured and killed about 20.000 people in the cruelest ways. The atmosphere in the compound is still very oppressive. Only seven people survived.
On the so-called Russian Market dried fish is cut with scissors. There were no fish heads to be seen which reminded me of the stories from Norway. Allegedly almost all Norwegian dried fish heads are exported to Nigeria where a dried Norwegian fish head is considered a status symbol. Anyway. When discussing options for lunch I opted for a local restaurant. I got some kind of fish soup and my internal radar reminded me of things like amoebic dysentery. I fished out something that could have been a piece of snake liver (not that I have an idea how snake liver looks like) but fortunately and after quite some investigation by both the tour guide and me turned out to be a mushroom.

6 August 2011
After having travelled so many months through Buddhist countries I finally decided to buy a Buddha sculpture. It is new and carved out of wood, weighs four kilos and was bought in a fair trade shop supporting local villages. I wanted to bid farewell to the Buddha almost immediately, sending him on a long journey as a parcel to Europe but to my utter astonishment was told at the post office that Buddhas cannot be mailed. I asked for a written note in the postal regulation but the clerk could not produce them. He was also unable to explain the deeper reasoning behind that rule. Religious? Fear of bringing antiques out of the country? Who knows! So I am now sitting on a huge piece of Buddha.
Received comment: And thus resulting in a heavier suitcase. What's the current weight? Last time I checked it was 18.4kg (though 18.2 a few moments before).
Answer: 21.9 kilos, 21.8 the moment before. And the Buddha is 4 kilos…

5 August 2011
It is not always about food when rare or dangerous animals are mentioned. For instance a massage place advertises with “Dr. Fish massage – no piranhas!”. Another Dr. Fish at the other side of town says: “Dr. Fish massage can make you funny and happy – free can of beer with 20 min massage for 3 USD.” And beer is also advertised in a friendly manner: “Every great journey starts with a Kingdom. Kingdom – one for the road less travelled.”
I took a Tuk Tuk to Tonle Sap lake, the biggest lake in South East Asia with the most ridiculous regime for tourist boating trips I’ve ever seen. Everybody pays the same price no matter whether in a group or alone. A group would be given a boat but also a couple or a single traveler. So whether you are just one or 15, you are always considered a group and given your own boat. So lots of boats leave and are out and about with just one person on. The lake is dark brown, the so-called floating market was nowhere to be seen and the floating village was ok; its best part was the crocodile farm.
The best part was the ride I’d say. You drive through rice and lotus flower fields - both very pretty. One can eat the lotus fruits. They taste like fresh hazelnuts. And no, I do not think that people with a hazelnut allergy would be allergic to lotus flowers.

4 August 2011
Today I met the perfect antithesis to broken muses: Mr. Fix from Alberta, Canada. Talking about his job he said: if it is broken, I fix it. In the phone book they should call me Mr. Fix.
Other than that I finally got to visit Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm, the jungle temple. Both are stunning. Angkor Wat is the largest temple in the world and it is not only massive it is also very beautiful. Ta Prohm is the temple where enormous roots from so-called water trees grow over the temple ruins which creates a very special atmosphere. I was advised to wear long pants as in parts of Angkor Wat you are not allowed in wearing only shorts. So I wore my jeans (for my very true readers: since I last mentioned them they have been washed thrice only to get hopelessly dirty again the very next day) in what felt like 50 degrees centigrade and still haven’t found a way to cool down again.
My guide today (a different one than yesterday) said forget cobras and try tarantulas – they’d taste like peanuts! Fortunately they were not offered anywhere close-by.
Received comment: Are there really fried cockroaches and tarantulas on the streets down there? :-) If yes, have you tasted any? :-)))

3 August 2011
In comparison to Laos the Cambodians are really good business people. In Laos a Tuk Tuk driver would approach you with “Tuk (pause) Tuk”, no intonation, not even a question. In Cambodia at least they try it with “Tuk Tuk Lady?”. From what I can tell so far Siam Reap is a really pleasant place. My hotel is splendid, has a large pool and all nice amenities one can think of. To my shame I have to admit that the only thing I really remember from a guide book I read earlier this year about the place is that there is a bar called “Angkor What?”. And well, finally I found the place. It could also be an underground bar in Berlin, nothing to write home about really.
While visiting the Angkor Thom temples today my guide told me that although eating cobras is forbidden in Cambodia if only I wanted he could organize it; it would only take a phone call to some hunters and a couple of days. The meat he promised was much better than chicken. Although he said that the head with the poisonous teeth would be chopped off, I politely declined.

2 August 2011
My fight to Cambodia had a mere four hour delay. Luckily I had swapped a rather good book for a really trashy novel the other day and so I had hundreds of pages to read. It was all about betrayal, abuse and breach of trust, so perhaps not that trashy given the circumstances.
My first impressions of Siam Reap? Books are sold traveling hawkers only; all of them land-mine victims. One even had his story as a book. Other things are not sold on the street. There is an enormous supermarket right in the middle of town and where normal supermarkets have chewing gum and sweets right next to the counter, this supermarket has Viagra on offer. It is literally sold over the counter in small packages of four pills for 10 USD.
Received comment: Have you witnessed men buying those pills? Could make you able to gossip a lot :-)
Received comment: I appreciate your travel blog! Speaking of things to read during "mere four hour" delays, maybe you can convert your travel blog into a travel e-book so that other travelers with 4 hours to kill will have something to read? Illustrated with plenty of Margitangela's photos, of course...

1 August 2011
I spoke to a young monk for quite some time today. He wants to become IT administrator when he is older. Next to us some of his fellow monks were arm-wrestling and another monk hung in a tree. On second glance he was doing some pull-ups. Again another one was reading a book at the entrance of the temple, lying in his robe on his stomach. I am convinced Laos is not anymore what it used to be. Close to the temple once again living grubs and wasp larvae were on sale as a quick snack. The grubs were bright green or brownish and looking directly at you with their little eyes. If you are allergic to wasp-stings you may not eat wasp larvae. My guide is allergic and said that in his case eating more than five larvae leads to a choking fit and an ugly red rash. His eyes seem to say you need to know when enough is enough. I point to a one-wasp-sting-can-bring-me-into-hospital allergy (close enough to the truth) and am exempt from trying one of the larvae.
Received comment: I'm glad you know when you can't eat a specific product. I saw the results of what can happen when you order a meal containing peanuts (and which is clearly stated on the menu) when having a peanut allergy. Result: ride to the hospital by ambulance…

31 July 2011
Whenever I told someone in recent months who had already been to Laos before the reaction were shiny eyes and a sighed “oh Laos”. Well I understand now. Laos is very different. Nobody is bothering you, no one wants to sell anything and everyone seems just relaxed. On the local market you can buy dried buffalo skin for the traditional soup, dried seaweed from a side arm of the Mekong, fresh snails, living grubs and wasp larvae.
In the national museum (the former king’s palace) I’ve seen the Buddha sculpture Phra Bang which is almost 1000 years old and gave the city its name.
Temples and monasteries are called “vat” here (as opposed to “wat” in Thailand) and they do have quite a number of those. Some monks were predominantly occupied by planting flowers and trees today. Must have been a good day for gardening. Some of them had their bright orange robes knotted to form a simple loincloth that could have made Tarzan envious. But then again it is hard to imagine Tarzan as a gardener.
I am by no means an advertising expert but for one reason or another I have the feeling that “we do the best we can do” is not the best of slogans.
And on a totally different matter, isn’t it interesting that some people love it if you just repeat what they are saying and others want opposition and get suspicious if you agree with them for once?

30 July 2011
Yesterday’s 170 kilometers along the Mekong were totally different than today’s 130 kilometers: sunshine versus pouring rain. To be honest, today’s rainy scenery was even more beautiful than yesterday’s post card blue skies. On the way we visited the Tham Ting cave temple with its thousand wooden Buddha sculptures and the Pak Ou caves right above. In Luang Prabang now.
Received comment: Your blog is so very well written, makes me think about our last conversation.

29 July 2011
In between northern Thailand and Laos the Mekong forms the border. All you do to get into the country is crossing over on a slow boat, following the immigration procedures, pay for your visa and there you are. Easy. I hear that they still grow and use opium in Laos. So far no traces along the Mekong that is brown rather than blue.
The two day boat cruise from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang has a regular overnight stopover in Pakbeng. My hotel room there is a perfect cube, all polished teak wood: ceilings, walls, floor, doors. It feels like being deep down in an antique ship’s belly. Or like up in the Alps – then no teak of course and no soaking in sweat but you know, for the sake of the argument…
The local restaurants seem to know little else than the omnipresent Bob Marley and some Beatles. Why is it that wherever you go Bob Marley is for sure already there waiting and singing for you?
One of the local shops in Pakbeng sold mobile handsets, amongst them a fake Nokia quadruple SIM phone. Another one specialized in tools and had at least 15 different sorts of motor oil in stock; in comparison the selection of bras in the same store was not too impressive to be honest: one white or slightly yellowish bra amongst a number of composite gloves.
Received comment: Should be horrible if you are desperate for a new sexy bra and you only have such shops.

28 July 2011
There is nothing, really nothing happening in Chiang Whatever. How nice! The local mobile antenna is bigger than the local temple and in the restaurant they serve “French fried“. The Guide Routard Thailand is the first thing you see in the restaurant’s book shelve; obviously put there by French that have been fried recently.
My room has a balcony and a pretty view over the Mekong river. Far below I can see a road along the river but when I ask at the reception how I can get there, I am first asked to speak slowly and then whether I really want to go to the MEKONG river, really? When I reassured them they put me into something that looks like one of these caddy cars at golf courts and bring me to a staircase about 120 meters away. The driver looks at me and says “but be very, very careful!”. He sounds like a person I met in the plane to Australia a few months ago who said that the only warning he has for me is to be aware of brown snakes. The walk on itself then was totally harmless. Apart from the tiny black flies that make you feel like a piece of fruit covered by fruit flies.
At other places in this not all too touristy spot you are reminded about general intelligence tests (“strike what does not belong”): Shops for instance: Thai massage, Thai massage, Café with a range of sandwiches, monk outfitter, neon bulb wholesaler, Thai massage, Thai massage.
Received comment: Ha Ha Margit...I love yr blog...

27 July 2011
After I’ve been hiding in my Bangkok hotel for the past two days – no, I cannot recommend a tailor and no, Glorious Tailors are by no means glorious – I flew out to Chiang Rai (not Chiang Mai) today and was then driven for two more hours to the northern town Chiang Khong on the border between Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. By the way there are reserved seats for monks at Bangkok airport. Elderly and handicapped people, pregnant and women with children can also sit there.

26 July 2011
One of the best comments to my recent Brutus entry on this blog was as follows: „In a pool full of sharks vegetarian fish really have a bad hand. And they should not quite hang out with those sharks either…”
Not very long ago I was asking myself how many people were reading this blog or visiting this site overall. Since then I got the invaluable hint that all that could be double-checked with Google Analytics. And there I go: in the past four days alone there were 103 visits from 6 continents and 18 countries!

25 July 2011
Jet Airways brought me from Kathmandu to Bangkok via New Delhi where I had to run as fast as I could to the other side of the airport in order to catch the connecting flight. Hearing the last boarding call while you’re still at security is quite unsettling to say the least. There is a worldwide trend to it I know but still I ask myself whether there is a reason or deeper meaning in the fact that planes with tight connections are physically put as far apart as logistically possible?
So I am back in Tom Yam Soup country! And thinking of it my toe still hurts from that massage in Chiang Mai back in late February (see blog entry from 25 and 26 February 2011). Nevertheless I had another Thai massage this evening and it was just wonderful!
It won’t be one night in Bangkok but two. Anyway, I try to take it easy this time. No more scams hopefully. Driving into Bangkok feels familiar; they still wish their king a long life as soon as you enter the motorway/highway (and it seems to suit him well; he will be turning 85 in December!) and the hotel Me Style Place is as cool as ever.

24 July 2011
After a final long drive back from Pkhara to Kathmandu and a final visit to the Dream Garden I stay one more time at the Kantipur Temple House hotel. It seems many people I meet combine their stay in Nepal with a visit to India. And So I heard quite a number of stories from Varanasi, one of the oldest cities in the world and a place famous for burning dead bodies. Allegedly you stand no chance of being burnt though if you are a) a child, b) a monk, c) a leper or d) after you have been bitten by a cobra. In those cases a huge stone is tied around the waist and the bodies are sunken in the Ganges.

23 July 2011
Yesterday night I had a pizza with yak cheese. It was called Nepalitalia. When I asked the waiter whether it was fresh or dried yak cheese, he said: “fresh yak cheese but it is a little very strong”. Surprisingly it was really good. In Bhutan I had tried a piece of dried yak cheese which is a local snack there. Bumthang is famous for it and they sell pieces of dried white yak cheese on a chain that you can wear like a necklace – very handy on long trips. As I did not feel in the mood for a smelly necklace at the time I tried to buy just one tiny piece. Single pieces are on offer but… They are stored in plastic candy jars and what happened when I wanted to buy one was that both the shopkeeper and my tour guide shook the jar, touching one or the other piece of cheese, holding it against the light, dismissing it for another and so forth until they found the suitable one. I have no idea through how many hands this piece of cheese had gone by then and thought if I do not get sick from that one, I am really lucky. As it happened it did not do me any harm but was also definitely not the culinary highlight of my trip.

21 and 22 July 2011
From the Chitwan National Park I continued to Pokhara, a pleasant city in the adjacent valley, about 200 kilometers away from Kathmandu. It is basically a starting point to the Annapurna massive but as it is monsoon time there are not many people here for trekking. Having said that there are not many people here anyway. On my first evening the only other person on the road was the local drug dealer.
The tourist area is alongside a nice lake where rowing boats take you to a little temple on an island. I saw most of the tourist spots already, a rather interesting mountain museum, a waterfall, a river gorge, a Tibetan refugee camp (yes, that is a tourist site as well). There is not much to do here apart from those few sites, so having coffee and reading a book is what one does.

20 July 2011
In Dante’s Inferno, Satan is waist deep in ice, has three faces and each face has a mouth that chews on a prominent traitor: Brutus, Cassius and Judas (as always, Wikipedia offers much more information than that).
Since yesterday I am in the Nepalese Chitwan National Park. Unfortunately it is Monsoon season and what a monsoon! It is pouring down and all meadows and the rain forest itself are nothing but muddy. There are leeches everywhere. This morning a so-called jungle walk revealed nothing but a few termites, birds and said leeches. An elephant ride in the afternoon was a hundred times better and a real delight. I shared an elephant with a Nepalese family of three. You step on a platform and “board” the elephant that carries a rather uncomfortable litter on his back. One sits sideways, looking in a 45 degree angle either over the elephant’s head or back. We saw two rhinos – in both cases about 3-4 meters away from the elephant. The other highlight was for sure crossing rivers on top of the elephant. At some point the elephant had to swim and made sure to keep its tail dry and sticking out of the water.
With me in the hotel is a fabulous P. G. Wodehouse character (“Excellent! Oh isn’t the monsoon time just lovely?”) with his family. When one of his sons wanted to take a picture of the mother touching an elephant he said rather parenthetically and referring first to Gus, his son and second to it, the elephant: Gus, dear, please don’t use the flash or it may squash your mother!

19. Juli 2011
During a walk through Kathmandu yesterday I had merely one thought: Wouldn’t it be great to just let all the sightseeing be for a day and sit down in a park. I had just formulated that thought when I suddenly stood in front of an interesting looking door announcing the entry to the so-called „Garden of Dreams“ – constructed in the 1920ies by the late Kaiser Sumsher Rana who admired Emperor (Kaiser) Franz Joseph of Austria/Hungary (hence the chosen name „Kaiser“).
There are many pavilions, idyllic corners, statues, a pond with water lilies and a Roman theater. Most of the park was deserted and crumbling over many years until an Austrian development aid team recovered and reconstructed the park. That is also why there is a Viennese coffee house called „Kaiser“ serving Sachertorte, Wienerschnitzel and Backhendl. And so I spent the rest of the afternoon in said coffee house, having a coffee and Sacher cake, reading newspapers. Sitting in a Viennese park with sounds of Kathmandu all around does leave one rather melancholic…
Received comment: Is it veal Wienerschnitzel they are serving there? You see what is really important to a Viennese!
Answer: As the calves roam around and deliver themselves to your doorstep so to say I assume so, although I haven’t asked specifically.

18 July 2011
Bhutan’s society is definitely not based on guilt. I do not recall having heard the word “sorry” once in the past ten days. Interestingly people do not feel for apologizing even if things go really wrong. This morning I checked in for my flight back to Kathmandu (delayed by 2:45 hours, no apology), got my boarding pass, went through passport control, sat down and realized only then that my boarding pass was for a Mr. Martin Donald James going to New Delhi (as was my luggage by the way). So I went back out, reverse through passport control (smile, no apology for having stamped the wrong boarding pass without double-checking) and back to the counter where things were set straight without a sign of distress or guilt or anything. Quite remarkable I thought coming from a society where you apologize two hundred times a day.
Being mistaken is a great way of meeting new people by the way. Before I went to change my boarding pass I tried to find Mr. Martin hoping he had gotten my boarding pass. So I got to speak to a nice Australian group; all non-Martins but anyway. Finally I did met Mr. Martin. Actually we had already met last night in the hotel bar. He had not heard of all the trouble, had no idea why he should have gone to New Delhi today and just gotten another Martin Donald James boarding pass to Kathmandu (even on a different seat).

17 July 2011
Hiking up to Tier’s Nest, a monastery high up over Paro at about 3.000 meters altitude brought me to my physical edges. One could have ridden a horse up for most of the way but I am more afraid of horses than of altitude sickness I thought.
On the way up I discovered a new side of myself: obviously I am poisonous. Three big flies flew towards me, sat down on me and died more or less instantly thereafter. Or perhaps it is only a side effect of having sprayed about half a can of insecticides in my room the other day after having spotted an enormous cockroach. Anyway, being a graveyard for flies was slightly disturbing.
I wish I could say that after so many months of traveling I can stand dirt and/or being dirty better than before. I am afraid I can’t. For one reason or another I did not get the chance to wash my (one pair) of blue jeans since South Africa. Meanwhile I dread the mere sight of them. With some hints and quite a bit of fantasy you can tell that they must have been blue once. When I get off them in the evenings I do not have to hang them really; they can stand by themselves.

16 July 2011
Again this was a day with a long drive back to Paro. On the way we stopped at a water fountain which distributes holy water. You sip, you wash your hands, face and neck and whatever else you can reach easily and gone are all your sins. Easy. We then visited the oldest fort (Dzong) in the country and luckily met the tour guide’s uncle there who turned out to be the deputy head monk. He invited us into his monk’s cell which was very interesting indeed. It was a cozy place with a wooden floor, the walls painted in turquoise, pictures of other monks and the royal family on the walls, a bed covered with a pink mosquito net, a sort of yoga mat on the floor, a beautifully carved drawer alongside a wall, two comfortable chairs, a fridge, water fountain and a TV. While we had tea, the king was giving a speech on TV. We watched attentively. I did not understand a word of course but the king himself is quite handsome, has a nice somber voice and a lovely, calm way of delivering his speeches and what more can you ask of a king really? While watching TV the guide and I sat on the chairs. The monk was lying on his side on his bed, the pink mosquito net draped all over his dark red robe. I told him that he really looked like a lying Buddha. He said his aim was to become the future Buddha anyway and why shouldn’t he train whenever he could? Besides when he was little and only just had become monk they were required to sleep in that exact position.

15 July 2011
Another long drive today brought me back from Bumthang to Punakha over long, winding roads alongside mountains, passes and through valleys. During most of the journey there was heavy fog which made it very difficult to spot the beautiful scenery. There was just one sight to see on the way, the biggest fort in all Bhutan: Trongsa Dzong.
I’ve asked myself already so many times in so many countries: What did we do before flip flops and other plastic sandals had been invented? Whole nations seem to wear nothing else.
I still think about a story one of the tour guides told me the other day. He said that his grandmother had been attacked by a bear when she was 26. The bear bit off half of her face. These were the days prior to plastic surgery and so she barely got some stitches to hold the skin together. She lived up to the age of 96 with only half a face and was allegedly a very strong woman ever since the accident.

14 July 2011
As mentioned before Bumthang is the holiest city in all of Bhutan. There are tempels dating back to the 7th or 8th century and forts from the 17th century which are still used as administrative and spiritual centers.
All in all I find the sheer number of gods, goddesses and saints here confusing. Guru who brought the Buddhism to Bhutan can be found in many temples, monasteries and forts and so can Pema Lingpa – a hero and founder of many monasteries from the early 16th century. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who unified the country is worshipped a lot and of course Buddha in his past, present and future form together with his 16 Arhats.
When driving through the country you cannot help but notice many decorated trucks, most of them have eyes painted above the lights. Along the roads there are many, many cows and the occasional bull, often on a rope and led by a woman.
Marihuana grows alongside the roads like a weed. It is fed to the pigs which makes them happy pigs – or at least that is what the locals assure me.

13 July 2011
After 10 long hours in the (chauffeur driven) car and coming from Punakha I finally arrived in Bumthang. Bumthang is the holiest city in all of Bhutan. On the way we visited the Phobjikha Valley and a monastery where monks were just decorating their horses and ponies for a festival. Tradition and modern times overlap quite a bit. Unlike in Myanmar where Buddhist monks are not allowed to have money or own things, in Bhutan almost every monk has a mobile phone and some even drive cars. In order to get to the holiest of holy in a Buddhist monastery, you have to get off your shoes. Often you are rewarded by beautiful scenery of junior monks reciting their prayers and songs or monks performing music. Almost always there is a monk who blesses visitors. And so it comes always like a shock when you whisper with your tour guide, trying to be respectful and understanding the details a monk’s phone rings and he does not only answer the call but starts discussing vividly with the caller.
A fellow traveler who happened to be on a similar route has proven to be a Vietnamese ex-hippie who has been to 160 countries so far. He traveled mostly over land which he proves – whether you want to see it or not - with a plastic covered world map showing his itinerary. He does not get tired mentioning one could ask him anything about foreign countries and getting there and around, anything. Unfortunately you never get to speak up in his presence so there is no use of that friendly offer.
Being the only guest in a hotel has its advantages. You get a very nice room, tea whenever you want it and you have the guard dog to yourself. Exclusively in front of your room’s door which is a reason not to leave the room anymore.

12 July 2011
The Divine Madman is growing on me. Today I visited his temple and sooner than I could count to three got a blessing there. For that three phalli were dropped onto my head. One was rather big and made of ivory, the second one of wood and the third and comparably rather small one of stone. All three were dropped simultaneously onto my head which hurt quite a bit, especially in the case of the stone specimen.
After three days in Bhutan and I am eating chilies for dinner like there is no tomorrow. Chilies come in a creamy cheese sauce with onion and tomato is an actual dish here. But when in Bhutan, do as the Bhutanese they say, don’t they? I am sure I will have some butter tea soon enough, too.
Discussing the relative merits of walking around circumnavigating stupas in your old age with a Buddhist we concluded that this might be a great way of a) not mourning your various illnesses all the time like you would be inclined to in an old people’s home and b) that it is a great spot for new late romances. We also came to the conclusion that this concept would not work for Europe as it would perhaps be fair to assume that people circumnavigating a cathedral all day long would be considered utterly mad.

11 July 2011
If you do not figure in those young boys that are mainly seen in their Superman t-shirts (according to a trustworthy source that is due to a movie from last year where the hero sported such a shirt), the Bhutanese love to wear their local dress. For men it is a long piece of cloth that is artistically put around one’s neck and then folded so that together with a belt it becomes jacket and skirt. Allegedly the shape of the jacket also forms world’s biggest breast pocket in any male garments and this breast pocket is used to virtually store everything. I assume when a person gets smelly others tell him to search for something rotting away inside.
During an extensive sightseeing program in the capital city (nunnery, national library, folk museum, center for traditional medicine, weaver workshop, main post office, national bank and arts and crafts center) we ran into the Queen Mother twice. Unfortunately and despite visiting the king’s palace I did not see the king though. On the other hand that is not really necessary as his portrait is literally hanging on almost every wall.
The Bhutanese do not seem stressed at all. You work from 9 to 5 and when you are too old to work the only thing expected from you is to circumnavigate a stupa clockwise with a prayer wheel in your hand.
Received comment: Time flies... one moment you are enjoying the sun on a Zanzibar beach and suddenly you are in Bhutan. Pity about the shower in Kathmandu but you've seen Everest. I envy you.
AND I have seen the BIG FIVE!

10 July 2011
At breakfast the waitress tells me she smiles a lot as already her grandmother had told her it does not cost anything. She asks me whether I am happy in Bhutan. After being barely 20 hours in the country I say so far, yes.
After breakfast it is time to drive from Paro to Bhutan’s capital city, Thimphu. Along the road cows are chewing on low branches of trees. Most houses are painted with colorful symbols amongst them enormous phallus symbols. What is moral and what isn’t varies from culture to culture. Allegedly a rather uncommon saint from Tibet – he liked women and wine – has brought this tradition to Bhutan in the 15th century to help fighting demons. He became commonly known as the Divine Mad Man and his followers still worship him and use his symbol on their walls.
Big billboards and signs are forbidden by law in Bhutan and so you have to look twice what they sell in a shop. Some are selling men’s wear, some solely monk wear. The local book shop has a billboard where you can stick up your colored post-it answering the topic of this month: The most important thing I learnt in kindergarten. So far there is nothing to write home about on that wall. My own kindergarten experiences are too personal to be posted on a wall I thought.

9 July 2011
As China does not issue any visas for foreign visitors until the end of July I will spend 10 days in Bhutan instead of the originally planned four. Druk Air, the national Bhutanese carrier, flies for about an hour along the Himalayas from Kathmandu to Paro. I am seated at the left side of the plane in order to see Mount Everest again, last row, row 13 where even the stewardesses prefer row 12. I am staring out the window. The captain mumbles something. I ask the stewardess. She says she understood something jungle. I said I understood something Everest. We both do not get to see what we heard of, just clouds.
My guide book says Bhutan is Nepal for the Jet Set, referring to a steep per diem “fee” of 200 US Dollars the Bhutanese government requires each tourist to spend as a minimum. On the positive side, with that fee everything from accommodation to food, transportation and guided tours is covered. Like in Nepal I was met by a lady guide. This time it is somebody who studied English at University, is very, very, very well informed about her country and on top of that really easy to understand. So far we’ve only been to the national museum but that alone and the drive there has already been very interesting. Stunning architecture, mountains all around, friendly people. All in all there are a mere 700.000 people living in Bhutan. Since 2008 it is a constitutional monarchy but people seem to really love and miss their king having all the power. They do not take the gross national product as welfare indicator but the state of the individual’s content, nicknamed the gross happiness product.

8 July 2011
Back in the metropolis I ask myself what it is with me that I am offered hashish on almost every corner. If only they knew I can't even light a cigarette... A dinner acquaintance tells me later that as a man he is offered many more things than that. Being asked by him what has been so far my best and my worst experience on my trip respectively he got my thinking. The best, most unusual one was easy: it was definitely being told about my upcoming birthday the night before (in Mandalay, by a fortuneteller asked to not tell me anything). And the worst? Well, you could say broken promises but really, concerning the actual trip having money stolen from my hotel room in Saigon and being involved in a scam in Bangkok probably. Anyway, thinking about that I really should not complain, it has been a great 9 months since I took off on October 1st to Los Angeles!

7 July 2011
Unfortunately it is raining in Nepal. More or less non-stop but it is the rainy season so there you go. Interestingly enough up to three Nepalese fit under one tiny umbrella and do not seem to get wet at all. Nepal is four hours and forty five minutes ahead of cental European time, allegedly to prove a point and show independence from India which is gour hours and thirty minutes ahead. Nepal has a myriad of gods and goddesses and on top of everything a “living goddess”. Her name is Kumari and it is a young girl that needs to fit a certain physical description, fulfill a number of other requirements including passing a test of courage. As soon as she menstruates for the first time she loses the job and on goes the search for a suitable successor.
Kathmandu has a lot on offer culturally. There are palaces, stupas and temples galore. Yesterday I visited the largest Tibetian stupa outside of Tibet, Boudha, which is especially lovely due to many prayer flags and the painted eyes of Buddha that seem to follow all your moves.
After visiting Nepal’s second royal city apart from Kathmandu, Patan, yesterday I saw the third Royal City Bhaktapur today. Now I am in Nagarkot in the mountains where the hotel has a power cut schedule!

6 July 2011
I was on a Mount Everest experience flight this morning with Buddha Air whose motto is: “I did not climb Mount Everest but touched it with my heart”. Most of the Everest mountain range was covered in clouds but Mount Everest or rather its peak was visible. From the distance it reminded me a lot of Rio de Janeiro’s Sugar Loaf. Same same as they say in Thailand. Just a tiny bit higher (8.848 meters).

5 July 2011
After a sleepless night on Mumbai airport I finally made it to Kathmandu. My hotel is a very pretty, eco friendly place and advises its customers on the following (and I just quote A, B and C): A: Please don’t flush too often. B: Save water, shower together. C: Would you like to change your towels every day? Hope not! Rules D to G remind you that you can get a cloth shopping bag in the lobby, that plastic bottles are to be avoided and lights need to be switched off when leaving a room. So far I have been trying my very best but on the “shower together” point I am afraid I failed. Not least due to the lack of innocent bystanders in need of a shower.

4 July 2011
Leaving Africa again, headed towards Nepal. Some journeys lead you along quite bumpy roads. My ticket routed me from Johannesburg via Mumbai on to New Delhi and then further to Kathmandu. As I was only getting my connecting flight there of course I had not bothered about getting a visa for India. In fact and unfortunately I would have needed one in order to go to domestic departures in Mumbai. When I heard that my heart stood still for about five minutes. Kindly I got rebooked at a Johannesburg – Mumbai – Kathmandu connection. Still rather upset I boarded my first flight only to find out that I was trapped in the long distance traveler’s nightmare: a middle seat with a smelly person on my left and a tremendously overweight - albeit neutral smelling - person at my right. Fortunately I talked the stewardess into a comfy emergency seat. Before long I discovered that the occasional male throwing himself onto an airline blanket in front of me was neither desperate nor tired but a Muslim in search of the ideal praying spot. As we were flying northeast, Mecca seemed sort of just across towards the middle isle.

29 June 29 – 3 July, 2011
Upon arrival in the Krueger National Park we prepared lunch and were about to sit down on our terrace when two monkeys approached the set table and started to feast on the salad. I was moved - or rather petrified to be honest - by the picture of a grey monkey with a baby tomato in his left hand. The park itself is just amazing. We saw the BIG FIVE, lions, leopards, buffalos, rhinos and elephants as well as hippos, giraffes, turtles, eagles, elephants, crocodiles, monkeys, zebras, wild boars, all kinds of birds... What I liked bests of all? A beautiful elephant dung ball in low brownish grass in a great afternoon light. And little monkey babies hanging from their mother's bellies.

28 June 2011
Oh It’s Tuesday: It must be Johannesburg! Left Dar Es Salaam and arrived a few hours later to Johannesburg. I had planned to see the Kruger National Park when in South Africa and so I skipped a trip to the Serengeti in Tanzania which gave me more time on Zanzibar.

27 June 2011
After time-consuming discussions with unhelpful hotel staff, seemingly illiterate taxi drivers and car rental agencies who did not seem to mind whether their cars are rented or not I found out that I cannot spend three hours clinging to a bus on the outside (and that was the only option of getting “on” it. So finally I settled on a taxi driver who seemed reliable enough only to find out half way up to Bagamoyo that the last time he had actually been there was as a young boy in 1984. So we ventured of to explore the former capital of German East Africa together which proved to be quite difficult given the language barrier. The city itself is a quiet place with a long beach and a Dhow freight connection to Zanzibar. All old colonial buildings have already fallen down completely or are crumbling down to the extent that they do hardly resemble houses anymore.
Received comment: Did you find any house that you might consider reconstructing in order to have it as your own house (or palace)?

26 June 2011
I had a hard time leaving Zanzibar for Dar Es Salaam really. I quickly got used to being there and thanks to a nice acquaintance I was also updated on some local gossip. Before leaving I still went to the Palace Museum where, much to my surprise, I was greeted by a picture of Emperor Franz-Joseph and one of Sisi respectively. The paintings, literally the only paintings to speak of in the whole palace, were a gift from the Emperor a propos a trade agreement between Zanzibar and the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the 1880ies. The paintings as such look just fine but their frames have definitely seen better times.

25 June 2011
After quite some time I’ve seen two original t-shirts today: One read ‘trust me, I am a doctor’ and the other ‘my blog is running cold’. I saw the person with the blog t-shirt again and in reality and much to my embarrassment it read ‘my blood is running cold’.
Today I almost boosted into unseen activity. I wrote 4 (in words: four) postcards, bought a few souvenirs and made the two hour trip to Prison Island to see the giant turtles there.

24 June 2011
Today was the last and big day of the Zanzibar film and music festival and the big final event starring Shaggy. I am definitely here for much too long by now because without me asking for it or a second glance on me I was sold a resident ticket. My usual pace has decelerated to the extent that I almost missed the concert. In other words I am really slow these days. On the other hand I would not have missed much. A slightly aged and not quite fit ‘Mr. Lover-Lover’ appeared in beach clothes that every all-inclusive cruise passenger would feel too embarrassed to sport publicly. When he was not shouting ‘are you ready?’ or ‘put your hands up in the air’ he sang a few old songs in a lovely baritone voice. Bombastic was ten years ago or so.

23 June 2011
Zanzibar proves to be a sticky place for me; I just can’t convince myself of leaving really. Stone Town is like an oriental Venice with narrow pathways and winding streets too narrow for any cars to get through. There are no channels though…

22 June 2011
And once more I have changed hotels and moved from the Dhow Palace Hotel to a new place called Emerson Spice. Once again it is an old palace, some things are not quite finished, yet and there is lots of renovation ongoing. My room features a huge veranda with a wood carved balustrade. From the veranda I can see a small square in the midst of Stone Town and watch people from high above. Women with colorful headscarves hurry past with small children, the girls often dressed in their white or pink Sunday outfits, their hair braided into many small knots. Directly opposite the veranda is a mosque with loudspeakers that keep me jumping out of my seat five times as well.
The Zanzibar music and film festival featuring Tanzanian musicians is ongoing in the old fort showing documentaries about life in Africa. Everybody seems to be waiting for Friday and Shaggy who shall sing as the last performer of the festival.

21 June 2011
I needed a haircut and after quite some searching ended up at a men’s hairdresser’s on Stone Town’s Bazaar. A Rasta produced a pair of scissors that every child would have cleared out from his toy kit years ago and started to cut a very shaky uneven line across my forehead. After quite some cutting and looking into a more and more concerned face on my side the line got somewhat straighter. The discussion of “well I know one haircut for long hair” pointing at my shoulders and imitating a straight cut across ended with “no, we don’t do that”. Quite some bystanders were watching by the time and only a crab hawker dared to move past the small crowd to present me with a muddy dark green crab for further investigation.

20 June 2011
I just love what a dear friend had to say on one quite touchy issue that keeps me awake at night: “Perhaps someone can rise above uselessness and elevate into tolerable.”
Allegedly people are happiest when they are engaged in a task and fully absorbed by it not thinking about anything else.
I finished reading the second part of Stephen Fry’s autobiography, very impressive.

19 June 2011
As they say in Zanzibar (it is a book title, I swear on a book of proverbs):
“ When two elephants tussle, it's the grass that suffers."
” A coconut shell full of water is a sea to an ant.”
Received comment: I have been following your WONDERFUL blog… I wonder how many followers you have...
Answer: Well I also wonder, I really do...
Received comment: We are following your trip on your blog!

18 June 2011
The shipyard in the North of Zanzibar really looks like a Dutch painting from the 16th century – carpenters hammering away, dark cloud and edge of the world included. Occasionally a ray of light makes it through the clouds and highlights one of the Dhow sailing boats. Crows feast on the dead tuna fish that has been washed ashore not paying attention to the pelican skull that lies right next to it.
Although I wanted to restrict my dream on the Siamese ice bear to close friends only I decided to share it here nevertheless: So I dreamt about a Siamese ice bear with two heads roaring and groaning terribly in the attempt of ripping itself apart. The cows that were jumping over a wall next to it and the one albino cow with a lion face were then not anymore center stage really.

17 June 2011
Apart from the already mentioned layman Massai the most illustrious characters are shuffling past the beach. As soon as I have my camera ready they all seem to hide away though.
Talking to people here the Massai are not too respected here as such. People talk very derogatively about them and often refer to them as sort of another animal species that can be seen on game drives through the countryside. On the other hand the local artists seem to paint nothing else than Massai, mostly in bright colours, often from behind carrying firewood, babies or spears respectively.

16 June 2011
An easy definition for mania? One and the same policeman stops you three times in one and a half days and also wants to see your driving license on all three occasions.

14 and 15 June 2011
In the north east of Zanzibar you cannot witness any sunsets really but there are other incredible things to do, for instance a morning walk to a faraway coral reef through knee deep water. Whilst making sure not to step on one of the thousands of sea urchins you see local women harvesting pinkish and lilac see weed which they allegedly sell to a Norwegian beauty company. Sometimes you see beautiful bright orange see stars in between the black sea urchins. I convinced my travel companion to carry one ashore in order to take a picture there and advised to water it from time to time on the long journey. Quite a striking image I have to say…

13 June 2011
On Zanzibar the aperitif is called “sundowner” and it seems the best place for it in Stone Town is the terrace of the former British gentleman’s club, the so-called “Africa House”. You see ancient looking sailing boats competing with palm trees for the title of best sight during a spectacular sunset. My hotel (Dhow Palace) here resembles a palace you would use to stage a 1001 nights play and luckily it is only a few steps away from the Africa house. Laymen Massai seem to be all over the place, often in white sandals and permanently attached to their mobile phones.

12 June 2011
Stone Town is peculiar, its former wealth showing in majestic now crumbling palaces and grand houses. The former slave market is now a cathedral and the high altar is where the whipping post used to be. It used to be the world’s last open slave market and formally ceased to exist only in 1873 due to a successful intervention by Livingstone.

11 June 2011
I took the ferry to Zanzibar and already explored parts of Stone Town today.
Some conversations are doomed to fail. A: Tomorrow you should visit the museum first thing in the morning, followed by the bazaar and then by the slave market. B: I’d say if I want fresh slaves I ought to head to the slave market first thing in the morning, don’t you think?

10 June 2011
The good old Austrian rule of thumb – where there is a church there is also a church restaurant – cannot be applied to Africa. But then again I am in a mostly Muslim country. Nevertheless I heard the rehearsal of a church choir in the Luther Church. The choir’s band is equipped with drums, an electric guitar, keyboards and a powerful amplifier. Instead of “test” or “one, two, one two three” they test the microphones with „halllujah“ or „Jesus“.
I also went to some safari tour operators to enquire about possible itineraries and got the very useful hint that safaris include full board and accommodation but do not include whiskey and cigarettes.

9 June 2011
My first chat upon arrival started very promising. The taxi driver introduced himself with a hearty „Hey, I am Dead“ to which I replied “well for being dead to me you look rather alive”. We spent the rest of the ride in silence.
In terms of conversation I wasn’t much luckier in the hotel restaurant when asking what soup was served. I was told “cream soup” and that was that. To be fair it tasted exactly like that.
I have to say that a total lack of business sense can be very charming. So when I was told that I could get my drinks in a nearby supermarket and consume them in the hotel’s rooftop bar I was rather amused.
Talking about shopping I just want to highlight some of the many things you can buy on Dar El Salaam’s streets: High heels which prove to be very unpractical on dirt sideways/walkways. The local cobblers are well prepared though and have loads of mostly brightly red spare heels readily available. Other traveling hawkers sell pre-knotted ties, nuts, apples, maps of Africa, conference table flags of almost any country, single cigarettes, mosquito nets for children and dolls.
All in all it proves to be quite difficult to blend in here. Even after eight months of travelling I am still not tanned enough to not being instantly noticed as the only white one around. Not good for taking photographs at all… One of the locals asked me whether I could tell from a sheer look at other white people where they are from. I said well sometimes and asked him the same question regarding other Africans. The rather odd answer was “no, we all look the same and no one is blonde or so, so I need to hear them speak”.

8 June 2011
Allegedly Mark Twain said that “the man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them”.
By the way I remembered what I still wanted to report on New Zealand since quite some time. They have women for women female-undertakers-only enterprises such as White Lady Funerals. A brief Interent research highlighted that this is quite fashionable in the UK already since the mid 1990-ies. The motto of the New Zealand Funeral Directors Association is also worth noting: “because a live deserves celebrating”. What is a bit odd is that they have a “members login” button. Another one leads to “my live, my funeral kit”. “Prepaid funerals” are also on offer.

7 June 2011
I hit the road again and continue my journey around the world – part IV. This time I am flying via Ethiopia to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. I am getting better in packing lighter but again, miraculously, already on the conveyer belt during check-in the weight of my suitcase went from 18.2 kilos up to 18.4 in a matter of two minutes! See also April 1st, 2011 where I already reflected upon the fact that the laws of physics do not apply to my luggage.
Received comment from the only witness I have on the miraculous weight change: I hope you had a great flight... Did you check the weight of your suitcase already? And if yes, what is the current weight?
Actually I haven’t but I assume it has increased already. It definitely does feel heavier…

6 June 2011
It does not go down well at all with the Belgians when I refer to the king as “our” king. Somehow there is a stingy attitude and I as a foreigner cannot claim him. For ease of use we settled on “my adopted king” although I do not know whether the king himself would like that.

5 June 2011
It is a well-known fact that Manneken Pis is dressed at times and pees beer once a year. What I find outrageous is that a chocolate shop now uses a copy of the sculpture as chocolate fountain. It is slightly disgusting seeing melted chocolate dripping out of a little boy.

4 June 2011
Planning my onward journey isn’t straightforward really. Up to now the only thing I’ve booked is a one-way flight to Tanzania. Hardly the ordinary routing: Brussels – Dar es Salaam – stop.

3 June 2011
My grandmother used to say that what doesn’t kill you only makes you harder. She also claimed that things often turn out differently than expected. How right she was…

2 June 2011
German isn’t that easy to learn. A minor pronunciation error of a future father who enthusiastically claims he’ll feed his baby can be very entertaining and mean he’ll eat his baby.
Apart from that Austria has come one step closer to an uncertain and potentially fatal destiny: Meanwhile supermarkets sell not only wasabi potato chips but also chips with pumpkin seed oil!

1 June 2011
When discussing whether it should read “brain transplants” or rather “body transplants” in his book “The Blank Slate” Steven Pinker quotes Dan Dennett who said – and I think rightly so – that a brain transplant is the only transplant operation in which it is better to be the donor than the recipient.

31 May 2011
I heard that the US Department of Justice has a website that lists not only all names of the recently executed but also their „last statements“.

23 May 2011
I can only apologize for the recent blog holidays...

22 May 2011
I got a very beautiful necklace pendant in the shape of a Boomerang. It reminded me of course of Australia but also of a period in time where I learned a nice little poem by heart – much to the discomfort of my mother who had to listen to it again and again when I tried the right intonation. It sounds better in German and after I had found a rather unhelpful Esperanto version I finally found an English one, too:
Boomerang by Joachim Ringelnatz:
There once was a boomerang
That was a little bit too long.
The boomerang flew into the air,
Never again to reappear.
The audience stood around for long,
Waiting for that boomerang.

21 May 2011
As far as I can tell the world did not go under today at 18:00 as predicted by some. I think we can all be content with the situation.

20 May 2011
It seems that I really missed quite a bit during my long absence. For instance that the Viennese central cemetery hosted a “long night” at the cemetery with highlights like:
* Presentation of hearses and carriages
* Making lanterns and painting coffins (children’s program)
* Performance show of the Viennese undertakers
* Presentation of flapping coffins and coffins to sit in
* Exhibition of glamorous funerals and international death notices
* Lifting of coffins
Another highlight according to the website (in German only) was evidently trying out to lie in a coffin. According to a foreign newspaper one child wrote during the painting session “I don’t want into it” onto one of the coffins.

17 to 19 May 2011
Brussels has not changed much, although Rue Froissart has been revived and is now almost urban. The falcons nest for the seventh year in the Dome which is really no excuse for the ever so wrong carillon.

16 May 2011
What goes around comes around and now it is official: I have circled the globe once. On January 6 I started in Brussels and after having been to Singapore, Myanmar, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Hawaii and San Francisco I am back in Brussels. And Belgium did not disappoint me regarding the usual “Welcome to Absurdistan” notion: While I waited for my luggage at the conveyor belt a tray kept coming past a number of times that contained nothing but a single, bright pink bra. How you can lose a bra at check-in and still make it arrive at your destination was the mystery I was pondering today. And no, there was no luggage tag attached to it.

15 May 2011
It is time to say good bye to San Francisco and ending the second leg of my big journey. I like good advertisements and since quite some time saw a really good one at San Francisco airport. It showed a little girl looking into a big suitcase and read: What did Mary bring back from her vacations? The boxes to tick were: A: T-Shirt, B: snow globe and C: Measles.
To be fair: I also liked “Washaria” as a name for a laundry shop and a big sign near the road pointing to a fruit stand reading: “Nature’s gift: garlic and cherries”

14 May 2011
I could spend days just driving over San Francisco’s bridges. The Golden Gate Bridge at sunset is just like on a postcard although on a postcard you cannot feel the freezing wind. And yes, I did it again – driving down Lombard Street! Having a car in San Francisco is great, although parking is scarce like in any big city. What I remember best of my first stay in the city 12 years ago is walking, walking, walking. And it is a very hilly place! Of course in the end I also ended up walking a fair bit and desperately craving for a massage I only saw slightly dubious places called for instance “Les Nuits de Paris Massage and Spa”. So I refrained.

13 May 2011
San Francisco’s Valencia Street is ever delightful. I discovered a shop that advertises its expertise in “sustainable sex”. It invites people to learn more about “the eco friendly way”. I assume you get carbon credits these days in one way or the other. On the flipside of things: in my experience it gets harder and harder to flirt with anyone in coffee shops these days. It can be a sophisticated and nicely decorated coffee shop full of people all by themselves; as soon as there is free Wi-Fi there is no – no as in absolutely no – on-site communication.
I drove down Lombard Street, something I wanted to do since I first saw it in 1999. It was great! Must do that again! The best part was the longing faces of other (walking) tourists.
Received comment: I have to say they people in the coffee shop just don't know what they are missing!

12 May 2011
I’ll try driving back up to San Francisco today and briefly considered wearing my I love New York t-shirt for the occasion. Perhaps not the best idea so I dropped it.
I stopped by in Santa Cruz. The oceanfront is partly just a huge amusement park. At one booth – called the stinky feet – you could sit on a toilet while competing with others in throwing soap at stinky feet (of puppets).

11 May 2011
Still feel feverish, same as yesterday – dragged myself to the splendid Aquarium in Monterey but could not really enjoy it.

10 May 2011
I dragged my body to Napa city and helped it to a coffee. How pathetic is that in the middle of a wine region?

9 May 2011
Having the flu is terrible in all instances but especially when you are far away from home. So annoying. I am in a phase where friends recommend an overdose of Vitamin C. Maybe that helps.
From a comment I received today the good news is that my website is no longer censored in China as opposed to Google, Picasaweb or Xing.

8 May 2011
I moved on towards Napa Valley and went through Berkeley and Richmond today. I always like browsing bookstores and again there were very dubious titles on sale in one of them. For instance a book on “Zen Judaism”, a book called “Keep calm and cross-word on” or “The book of general ignorance – everything you think you know is wrong” and last but not least “The guerilla art kit”. Unfortunately the shop closed before I could decide to buy any of those.
When I arrived at my hotel I was approached by another guest with the words: What about a German shepherd? I sell it to you for a nickel!

7 May 2011
I spent a very agreeable time in Oakland. There are a few neighborhoods that are different and so I browsed shops in Rockridge on College Street, Montclair Village, Piedmont Avenue and Old Oakland. Some places had really curious names like “I squared”, “God’s Gym” or “Posh Polish”. As some of you will find very agreeable there were restaurants that advertised “the bottomless glass” – you could get your wine refilled if you had dinner with them. The Conga Lounge on College Street - their sticker covered toilets say they are “powered by pineapple” - fights hard for making the Mai Tai Oakland’s official drink. They also claim that it had been invented in Oakland.

6 May 2011
Time to leave Hawaii and go back to the “mainland”. I avoided a full-body scanner at the airport in claiming I could still not raise my left arm fully (which is sadly true). That was the only acceptable reason; moral ground did not count at all (I tested first: “and what if I do not want that?” which was met by “you are the next in line so you have through”). Sometimes I am really sad that certain pictures can simply not be taken. With me on the plane and later of course at baggage claim was a Chinese gentleman who wore a khaki jacket that was overly covered with badges of places he had obviously been to. You know those badges than can be purchased and sewn onto anything. The guy looked more like a suitcase than anything else. Had he not moved from time to time I am almost certain they would have deposited him at the lost and found counter.

5 May 2011
Captain Cook was omnipresent in Australia and is also quite a figure in Hawaii. I went to the pace where they finally ate him. His strategic mistake was that he bade farewell to one of his crew members in the out and open which lead the Hawaiians to believe that – contrary their former assumption Cook and the other newcomers were mortal. And mortal strangers could as well be eaten.
Did I mention that it had been raining most of the time in Hawaii? So annoying. Today – my last day on the Big Island and later on my last evening in Honolulu – was no exception.
Received comment: I checked out your blog, then got sidetracked on the photos of the Grand Canyon... I do not recall ever seeing the quality that you can reproduce… I am awed by your work!!!

4 May 2011
After driving on the left side for the last three months or so driving on the right side is – albeit automatic - all of a sudden unfamiliar. Guide books can really come in handy at times. How else would you know for instance that “Discovery Antiques” sells the best ice cream on the island or that a shop called “Donkey Balls” is in fact a chocolate shop that manufactures delicious balls using local ingredients such as macadamia nuts and Hawaiian coffee? The book also brags about frogs on the island and claims that a) Hilo in the east is “froggier” than Kona in the west and b) that “froggier” is an actual word! I have not seen a single frog over here in Kona and neither in Hilo. Talking about animaIs: I swam with a turtle today! To be honest – and those of you who have seen me respectfully retreating from even chickens will understand – I snorkeled behind a sea turtle without any attempt to making myself too visible to the turtle.

4 May 2011
After driving on the left side for the last three months or so driving on the right side is – albeit automatic - all of a sudden unfamiliar. Guide books can really come in handy at times. How else would you know for instance that “Discovery Antiques” sells the best ice cream on the island or that a shop called “Donkey Balls” is in fact a chocolate shop that manufactures delicious balls using local ingredients such as macadamia nuts and Hawaiian coffee? The book also brags about frogs on the island and claims that a) Hilo in the east is “froggier” than Kona in the west and b) that “froggier” is an actual word! I have not seen a single frog over here in Kona and neither in Hilo. Talking about animals: I swam with a turtle today! To be honest – and those of you who have seen me respectfully retreating from even chickens will understand – I snorkeled behind a sea turtle without any attempt to making myself too visible to the turtle.

3 May 2011
Now it is official: I am definitely not ahead of time, rather the opposite. I had an appointment on the 4th which in fact took place on the 3rd for me. But I suppose that is life, when it’s morning in Asia it is still yesterday afternoon in Hawaii. Anyway, very confusing all that.
Yesterday or – for most of my readers – the day before yesterday then I drove down south of Kona and saw the wonderful Place of Refuge in the Pu‘uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. Today (well, I suppose yesterday for you then) I circled the island which is surprisingly much bigger than I had anticipated. The famous volcano is unfortunately too active and too inactive at the same time. Since its last unforeseen eruption in 2008 parts of the rim road are inaccessible and so although there is some activity ongoing it is hard to spot. And contrary to many pictures you see around there is no place to see fresh lava.

2 May 2011
Sometimes I ask myself what future archeologists and anthropologists will say about mankind around the year 2000. Take for instance drinking water fountains, plastic bottles and skeletons. Will they assume that people who were about 1.5 to 1.9 meters tall mostly drank bent over a drinking water fountain in an impossible and very uncomfortable angle? And will they further assume that others filled plastic water bottles from the same drinking water fountains and sold them to the well to do?

1 May 2011
On I went from Honolulu to Hawaii (the „Big Island“). Hawaiian Airlines charges ten dollars to check a suitcase in. But they only charge US citizens, green card holders and others who live legally in the US. All others are exempt from that fee and are not charged extra at check-in. What an interesting example of discrimination. In most cases it is foreigners that suffer from discrimination. In Australia and New Zealand for instance only Australians or New Zealanders respectively can be handicapped. A handicapped foreigner is formally healthy.

30 April 2011
Welcome to Hawaii and definitely to the US. Instead of flower necklaces one is awaited by the same cumbersome formalities at passport control and customs as anywhere else when entering the US: long, long queues in fridge like air-conditioned halls, questions over questions and reassurance that one does not intend to stay long in the Promised Land. Honolulu is nevertheless somehow classy although there are no traces of Elvis left on Waikiki Beach, although skyscraper is next to skyscraper and hotels next to other hotels, expensive shops next to expensive shops and flower necklaces can only be bought. Talking about shopping: I intended to buy a minimum amount of alcohol in a shop and was promptly asked how old I was. My broad smile when I told the shop clerk was met by a frosty inquiry about a piece of identification. As I did not have any ID on me he only pointed to a preposterous sign stating: People who look 30 years of age or younger need to show a valid ID when purchasing alcohol. People who are below 40 years of age need to show a valid ID when purchasing tobacco.
Waikiki is also home to the Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club that advertises its large indoor shooting range offering a “premier shooting experience for the whole family”. The ad I saw did however not advertise a family package like four in – two out.
Received comment: Well I thought the Americans were completely paranoid but the proof of age is surely beyond common sense. Proving that you are old enough to drink alcohol or smoke tobacco. And then that add for the family shooting range: "Dad what is this lever for??" (while aiming at sister).

1 Mai 2011
I am leaving Fiji on the 1st of Mai at 9:45 in the morning for Hawaii and after six and a half hours and only two hours time difference it is April 30th (18:15) again when I arrive! It may sound childish but already when planning this trip I was excited about crossing the International Date Line. And I think it is also quite symbolic that I get to celebrate two May Days (and two April the 30th come to think of it) during a year where I am not working.

30 April 2011
I participated in a Kava ceremony. Kava is a root that is first ground to powder and then mixed with cold water. Its smell reminds you faintly of cacao and its taste of stale Chinese tea with a hint of chili. According to old Fijian tradition when a Fijian asks his potential father in law for the hand of his Fijian daughter he has to present him with a kilogram of Kava and a whale fish tooth. I suppose my father would have little use for such tooth.
The amount of frogs in Fiji is enormous. My cautious estimate is about five to ten frogs per square meter after dark. Unfortunately they are way too mobile to be kissed.
Received comment: I really wanted to go to bed as it is past midnight over here but then I really wanted to thank you still tonight, you really made my day! Your recent blog entries are once more Margit at her best although you seem to prefer “Eva” these days. Can we see a photo of you with that hat? And one more thing: don’t start kissing frogs please!
Received comment: You said today that I would not have any use for a whale fish tooth. Well I have to say that in your case a candidate better presents a whole set of teeth. I would use it as a door for a new garden fence. Papa

28 and 29 April 2011
1st note to self: When staying in a surfer’s paradise surfing resort expect only surfers speaking exclusively about surfing.
2nd note to self: Fiji may have 300 days of pure lovely sunshine but there is a possibility that you are there during the other 65 days.
3r note to self: renting a little traditional hut by the beach can mean you wake up soaking wet because it is just pouring through the roof, into your bed and spraying into your eyes. (The hut being called “rock lobster bure” had quite an accurate name as it was holding on to the surface just as I imagine a rock lobster would when threatened to be washed away.)

26 and 27 April 2011
Flying into Fiji meant again declaring food. I was met by a lady who insisted “and you don’t have anything to declare, do you?” When I said I DO have food to declare she again insisted I did not and waved me by. After spending a night in Nadi I took a ferry to a resort on the Mamaluka islands which people had often referred to as “home away from home” in reviews I read on the Internet. Well it all depends on what you call home back home I suppose. I am back again to a mosquito zone, I dare say worse than around Cairns. But apart from that the island here is pretty, relaxing and very remote. I think it is fair to say that I landed at the edge of civilization. And I really like it.
Received comment: What is it with food and flying? Hope you had good flights!

25 April 2011
All Australian airports I have seen fancy explosive tests. And for whatever mysterious reason I am always chosen for the test. That means I am approached in a very friendly way, informed that I can of course chose not to cooperate but in that case unfortunately I also cannot board the plane. I think I should be pleased that the last one did not hear me mumbling that one day one of his colleagues will eventually find something…
You must not bring any food into Australia or New Zealand unless you declare it. Fines are hefty and luckily I remembered some breakfast cereal and an apple I had on me. So I passed the first test but was briskly stopped at the second one. A voice telling me in a very sincere tone that I had an APPLE on me! I said, well yes, and that I had declared it and all. I was told to pull the apple out and so I stood there like a trapped Eve holding a dark red apple the size of a mandarin in my hand, waiting for further instructions. Soon enough an inspector turned up, evidently further up in the food inspection hierarchy and wearing gloves. With a disgusted look he took the apple from my hand and threw it into the garbage bin. Nobody around seemed to see the slightly off but still humorous side of it at all. Later in a bus heading downtown I spoke to a New Zealander who said the same thing had happened to him as well but as he had forgotten to declare the apple he had to pay a fine of 400 dollars.
Before I was allowed on to that same bus I had to tell the driver which hotel I was going to. When I said something about an Ibis hotel in Auckland city center he almost refused me on the bus as there was no such hotel in the center. When I finally found out that what I meant was a Mercure hotel (all Accor anyway) he gave me a puzzled look and said he would call my stop explicitly. I expect something along the lines of “perplexed woman with enormous scarf and silly boatman hat: get off here” or: “Eve step out, next stop’s paradise!”
Talking about the silly hat: Well into about 15 minutes of discussion with the New Zealander on the bus he remarked about how good he thought my French was. I must have looked quite surprised as I had not uttered a word of French he tried to explain that with my hat I looked very French. It was a late night for all of us I guess.

24 April 2011
Happy Easter! This is my last day in Australia and later today I will continue my journey once more to New Zealand (hmm, can I stay there please?) for one night before I fly on to Fiji.
So Australia in summary: I saw an awful lot of my various cars but also of the country. When I first switched on the radio in my first rental car the song they played was “I come from a land down under”, very intriguing for starting a four week roundtrip through down under. Australia’s bookshops feature titles called for instance “I am not crazy, I am just not you” or “Free Will, a guide for the perplexed” and – interestingly – “Obama and the Empire” by Fidel Castro. Used books reach prices above the original retail price overseas. And generally the price levels are as breathtaking as some of Australia’s natural beauty. Everybody reassured me that 16-20 dollars (maybe 14-18 Euros) for a kilo of bananas was due to the recent floods in Queensland but 7 dollars for a bottle of water and 20 dollars for a piece of local cheese were harder to explain.
The Australians are big into abbreviations. They call the 2008 financial crisis GFC – global financial crisis, BYO is a common thing to do at many restaurants, you just bring your own bottle of wine or beer. The best one I thought was: Don’t feed the sea gulls or they will s.o.y. (figure out for yourselves…).
Received comment: Don’t forget to mention the price of a good Belgian beer which is over 12 dollars. Makes them taste very nice!

23 April 2011
I’ve been up at a quarter to six and went over to the Ayers Rock to see the sunrise. How amazing. The color of the rock really changes from black to orange within an hour or so. In the afternoon I went to the Olgas, now called Kata Tjuta. I hiked through the Valley of the Winds, of course wearing my dear veil. What a beautiful landscape, almost as beautiful as New Zealand ;-)

22 April 2011
My last stop in Australia is Uluru - the Ayers Rock. Already approaching Ayers Rock airport was spectacular - seeing the massive rock and the so-called “Olgas” in the distance. The red desert is not as deserted at the moment as one might think. It has rained quite a bit over the past weeks and so there are a few lakes around the area which are normally empty and there is a fair bit of green all around. Unfortunately – and that brings me back to yesterday’s observations – also the flies seem to like those changed conditions. As we are on the boarder to Western Australia we’re back to black flies. The species here loves to hide in your ears, nose or mouth and if all places are taken they just sit all over your body. Like many other people I bought a black net to cover my head. To say it looks classy like a veil would be overstating the case but it does its job and insofar was worth the investment.
But back to the Ayers Rock itself. It is true that no matter how often you have seen it on TV or on postcards - nothing compares to having seen it with your own eyes and standing in front of it. It is massive, it is orange, it changes color in the sunset and it is beautiful.

21 April 2011
I have been asked whether there is something to Australia’s rough and sometimes dangerous "wild life". To be honest sometimes I am quite happy that my eyesight isn’t the best – even with glasses. I went for several walks through the so-called “wet tropics” during the past few days. The rain forests are fascinating and walking through those mystic and dark woods is definitely different. There are roots that curve down to the soil in spirals, Tarzan could be around every corner and giant trees and ferns are all over the place. But when you are there on those various well-kept boardwalks you wonder whether all the animals know that they must not bother you whilst on that boardwalk. And so at times I did not really look that closely or paid too much attention to strange noises. In short: I haven’t seen any snakes yet, wild kangaroos only in the distance, koalas and cassowaries only in the zoo and crocodiles and box jellyfish only on warning signs.
But I was bitten by about 400 insects over the past two or three days and the tendency is towards even more bites. One wonders but it is possible for Australian mosquitoes to bite into the same wound twice if it comes in handy or other nearby opportunities seem somehow deserted. As far as I can tell the difference between west Australian mosquitoes and those up here in the north-east is that the ones over here are miniscule and bite everywhere but in the head region whereas the west Australian ones are big and black, do not bite that much and focus on the head only. Mostly they sit near your eyes and are ready to enter them as well if need be.

18 and 19 April 2011
I went on to Port Douglas, a nice little coastal town with a beautiful beach. Further out there is the Great Barrier Reef where back then Captain Cook - naturally – stranded. Anyways, it is one of the most beautiful natural sights I have ever seen. I went out with the so-called Silver Sonic, a super fast boat that brings you to the outer reef area close to the continental shelf. I saw fishes in colors I have never seen before, shells and coral in all colors and even a dark blue starfish! It was like swimming in a very large fish tank…

17 April 2011
It appears and judging from things I read Captain Cook was obsessed by naming places. Still today the Aborigines are fighting back hard in getting some original names of places back onto the maps. To balance out you then see the James Cook University and a Captain Cook Highway the latter interrupted by roundabouts every 900 meters or so.
There are about 150 different tours out to the Grand Barrier reed and I am still undecided which one to book. So I ventured out to Ellis Beach north of Cairns. My attempt to swim there was quickly over when I saw the signs warning of jellyfish and crocodiles…

15 and 16 April 2011
Still in Brisbane and its adjacent towns. The Australians are very proud of being relaxed, laid back and in a continuous no-worries state. Sometimes that is rather unreal and seems to cause them quite a bit of stress.

14 April 2011
I really like Brisbane, it has a very nice atmosphere. In the Lone Pine Koala Park I finally got really close to kangaroos and koalas. I loved the koalas and their sweet faces!

13 April 2011
I spent again many hours in the car going from Black Head to Brisbane. As so many times before I listened to some talk radio. This time the topics ranged from stress and disease to an extensive report on a new book on the English castle. A topic that is broadly discussed here is whether the speed limit on motorways should be reduced from 110 to 80 kilometers per hour. I just hope that any initiative on that won’t be decided positively while I am still in the country. Anyway apart from hundreds of speed cameras there are many odd signs like the evergreen “stop, revive, survive”, “slowing down won’t kill you” and my favorite “don’t die for a deadline”.

11 and 12 April 2011
I spent two very nice and relaxing days in Black Head and Hallidays Point. Again a beautiful landscape with mostly empty beaches. If you are a fisherman in the area you really want to fish with sandworms. And if you are really experienced, you get your own sandworms on the beach. Seeing that was a real first for me. I found it quite extraordinary to see somebody “worming” and getting those worms out with his bare hands.

10 April 2011
Everybody I recently spoke to bragged about the beauty of the Blue Mountains. And so I skipped another city day and drove there – together with what seemed all of Sydney’s inhabitants and their visitors. I think it is fair to assume that as we started in sunny Sydney at 26 degrees we all assumed to spend a splendid day in the mountains. The road authorities were kind enough to devote most of the motorway to road works, leaving us for long stretches with mostly one lane. After we’ve made it through the traffic jam the weather had turned to windy, foggy and rainy at only 13 degrees. No mountains to see, not even the allegedly oh-so-beautiful three sisters. So we all boarded out vehicles again and created another long traffic jam when leaving the valley. I then still drove on up to Newcastle.

9 April 2011
My grandmother would have turned 95 today and I am sure she would have had tears in her eyes hearing that I saw Sydney’s iconic opera house on her birthday.
I explored the city today and walked I think between 15 and 20 kilometers. I am really, really tired.

8 April 2011
I really don’t understand why so many people thought it wasn’t worthwhile going to Canberra. I really liked it! Where else can you park in the Parliament’s car park for three hours for free and can walk to all major sights from there? The Parliament building as such is well worth visiting and the guided tour was excellent. The National Gallery made an impression on me as well. It is very well designed and has great exhibitions as well as a lovely sculpture garden. I saw a great designer water jug in the museum shop but refrained from buying it. A book on a shelf close by was titled “love it and leave it” and that is what I did in the end for a variety of reasons.

7 April 2011
I motored down the Hume Highway from Melbourne to Canberra. Driving 650 kilometers is tiring and it really isn’t surprising that every 200 meters or so there is a sign warning drivers that fatigue, a millisecond of sleep or dozing off can kill you. On the other hand they do everything they can to foster fatigue. There are virtually no attractions along the road apart from a fair amount of speed cameras, koala bear signs (with images of smiling koalas or timidly waving koalas), the occational kangaroo sign and a few gas stations. The only radio station you can listen to discusses interesting topics such as the variations in the milk price over what seems to be the last two centuries or the history and future destiny of the handkerchief. The latter was by far better all things considered.

6 April 2011
I am in a city again! Melbourne reminds me somehow of San Francisco. I was in a very special neighborhood called Fitzroy, in Brunswick Street to be more specific. It is full of quirky shops, interesting people and nice restaurants, bars and coffee shops. I have a weak spot for curious names and to name only two there was a clothes shop called Halsinky and a bar called “Naked for Satan”. For the sake of the argument I think it can be assumed that hell is a hot place and so perhaps „Dressed for Satan“ would be more the real sacrifice. Talking about interesting things: I read that Samsonite just issued a new trolley suitcase that can also be used as a scooter, very handy! And in Melbourne today I saw that meanwhile there is a „Lego Arcitecture” with which one can build for instance New York’s Guggenheim museum, the Rockefeller Center or Seattle’s Space Needle. Talking about Melbourne and things worthwhile mentioning: In Chinatown and beyond there are quite some Japanese restaurants. Some sell sushi that is made with brown rice and some have real bargains on both sushi and sashimi. Whether the latter is due to the recent catastrophe in Japan was unclear.

5 April 2011
From an olfactory point of view I am certain that the national dish in Australia is still fish and chips other than in the UK where I am told it is meanwhile curry. The unfortunate side effect of fish and chips is that wherever you go there is a smell after fried food and old oil.

4 April 2011
I accidentally turned Italian today when ordering a coffee. I said “Can I have an espresso, please?” and when the girl said what I heard was “Are you tired?” I smiled and said “yes”. In fact she must have said “Are you Italian?” because she continued and said “I can tell by the way you pronounced espresso! It sounds like music!”

3 March 2011
After a 750 kilometer ride from Esperance to Perth I finally arrived at my “hotel”. In fact and for a number of reasons I had booked a private room in a youth hostel. I parked right in front of the hostel’s pub and was merrily greeted by a drunken eighteen year old. After his initial hellos he gave me a stern second look and said disapprovingly “but you are not a backpacker!” I guess I have to admit that much.
My first impressions of Perth are that it is a very agreeable city. Many buildings in the city center are getting a facelift and it seems that a company called “Trojan Horse Interiors” is doing a lot of the interior design. Although I really admire the crearivity embedded in that name I am not convinced I would want my house decorated by them.

2 April 2011
In Esperance I saw wild kangaroos, a sailing race and beautiful coastline, especially in the Cape Le Grand National Park, and a pink lake!

1 April 2011
Half of my sabbatical is over and so I think I should reflect a little bit on travelling for half a year: The foremost thing I want to mention is that the laws of physics simply do not apply to my luggage. To give you some insight in the mysteries of that: I started with 19 kilos in my suitcase back in early January and to my knowledge only bought 40 rolls of film, one pair of short pants, one hat, some suntan lotion, a bag, two books and three guidebooks (apart from the three suits and the 12 shirts in Bangkok but that is another story). I traded one book for another and accidentally sent that one to Austria before I read it. In total I mailed five parcels to Austria so far with a total weight of about 16 kilos. Apart from the suits and shirts I sent a fair bit of the original load I carried. So net you’d assume I’d have less to carry but miraculously I still have 25 kilos (and I do not even dare to discuss my hand luggage!). Quantas was nice enough to put a “heavy, get some assistance and bend your knees when lifting” tag on my suitcase when I flew with them a few days ago.
Else I sometimes ask myself what is wrong with the world really. Even in the most remote areas you can buy wasabi peas these days!
Watching other travelers has left me with the note that future all-inclusive tourists are socialized in a quite peculiar manner. They carry their backpacks. They then put the backpacks and themselves onto huge busses that seem to cater for tourists that are on their “individual” journey. At interesting touristy spots the busses stop and the future all-inclusive tourists are let out for a few minutes to have a look around before the bus continues a route everybody else is also doing.
Without the Internet a journey like mine is unthinkable. And without my GPS I would have gotten lost more often than I want to think of.
My penultimate tribute to the analogue world, film (or flim like they call it in south east Asia) makes me a curious species that earns more raised eyebrows than helpful comments. I learned to be careful with shops that have proud signs reading “we still process film”.
And my last tribute to the analogue world, books, a for sure a part of the weight disaster discribed earlier on.

31 March 2011
I drove from Denmark to Esperance which was a fair distance I have to say. After having driven 1400 kilometers in Australia in total I have seen nine signs warning of kangaroos and three dead kangaroos on the roads. So either the Australians really have a point with their signs or they are very stingy with putting enough of them. Unfortunately the road I travelled did not go along the coast and hence was a bit monotonous. Lots of brown and dry landscape.

30 March 2011
My trip today brought me to Denmark, a tiny town in Western Australia. On the way there I stopped in the so-called „Valley of the Giants“, a valley full of giant trees. As if that wasn’t impressive enough they have installed a treetop walk there which was somehow similar to the one I did in the AH Reed Memorial Kauri Park in New Zealand. What differentiates the Australian variant from the one in New Zealand is that it goes up to about 38 meters in a zigzag. The steel bridges suspension bridges swing quite a bot while you see the treetops! Close to Denmark there is a bay called „Greens Pool“ which has really, really turquoise water, very beautiful.

29 March 2011
I have driven on to Margaret River where there is lots to do. Apart from a chocolate factory, a coffee roaster and a winery (there are about 200 here) I have been to the nearby beaches. I could not stop watching the enormous waves, as they were getting bigger and bigger, transforming their deep blue color to light turquoise before they break and toss against rocks and splash up like fountains!

28 March 2011
My first impressions of Australia? Flying over the country was like browsing the Geo coffee table book “the earth from above”. There are salt lakes, huge plains, fields and vast arrays of dry red landscape. Everything is so much drier than in New Zealand.
On the ground I have so far seen three beware of kangaroos signs and one dead kangaroo at the side of the road.

26 and 27 March 2011
I have to say good bye to New Zealand for the time being... Today (27 March) I flew to Perth via Brisbane (first a 4 hour ride in a super modern plane – the seatbelts had inbuilt airbags (!) and then a 5 hour one in an old and fully booked plane) and then drove to Bunburry. In the plane to Perth I spoke to two Australians who warned me of brown snakes. They said that if I invade snake’s territory they might go after me and as they are really fast and a deadly bite would be likely I better avoid disturbing them in the first place. I considered not leaving the plane, hoping the crew would only discover me when hitting more inviting territory. The Australians raised their eyebrows and said I should think twice, after all we have bears in Europe who not only kill you but also eat you. I thought it better not discuss the matter any further but thought to myself that this is debatable. Personally I don’t think it makes much of a difference whether you are bitten to death and seem rather uninjured or you are eaten alive.

25 March 2011
On I went to Waitomo and saw the so-called glowworm caves. You go down some stalactite caves and arrive at a lake down below. It is pitch black dark there but on the ceiling there are thousands of glowworms, looking like stars. Or LED lamps.
In Waitomo I stay at a small bed and breakfast called the Abseil Inn. My room is called “cave” and its four poster bed is decorated with black chiffon. On the bed sat a Mammoth. A teddy bear Mammoth to be precise. On the walls there are many artistically carved iron sheet geckos.

24 March 2011
So it is official, I did the Tongariro Alpine Crossing! My guidebook says that this is described as the best one day hike in New Zealand. Frankly I would not be fit enough for a second day anyways, especially not when carrying all the photo equipment on my back. Life without a Sherpa is tough. Nevertheless - and despite my constant thoughts of why nobody has yet installed a cable car here - it was absolutely worth it. The Tongariro national park’s centerpieces are three volcanoes and the hike leads along and across them. The most stunning images are those of the Red Crater and the Emerald Lakes. In both cases it is not just a name…

23 March 2011
Yesterday’s Art Deco walk in Napier was lovely. After an earthquake that leveled most of the city in the early 1930ies the inhabitants decided to rebuild their buildings in Art Deco. It is an amazing place and from an architectural point of view most interesting. I had to come back here today and take more time to marvel at the buildings before I drove on to Tongariro. My hotel there (the Bayview Chateau Tongariro) is a great building in itself. It features a cinema for hotel guests in the basement, a huge billiard table in the main lobby and overall gives you a distinct 1920ies European feeling.

22 March 2011
The Bed and Breakfast in Havelock North has me wash up the family silver and their expensive English family China in the bathroom sink. Luckily they have no idea how bad the broken glass ratio (number of broken glasses per 100 hand washed glasses per week) was before I owned a dishwasher. I still remember the times when my desperate mother used to buy glasses in bulk during the biannual sales…

21 March 2011
Another detail of the New Zealand children’s painting is that there is only one sort of animal to be seen at any given point in time. E.g. black cows with white heads or black cows with black heads or black and white cows with unpredictable heads.
Have I mentioned that I finally made peace with McDonald’s? For years I have only used their toilet facilities but since they now offer acceptable coffee and free wireless Internet (at least in some countries) I frequent them more often. Talking about free Internet: After all this is one of the only disadvantages I’ve come across in New Zealand so far. There is hardly any Internet connectivity or to put more precisely: if there is it is often prohibitively expensive. And often coffee shops or restaurants who obviously do have a wireless LAN just say they don’t or would just not give you the password. What a difference to Vietnam and Thailand! And really annoying as planning my trip further is hardly possible these days without a proper Internet connection…

20 March 2011
Kipling once dubbed the white and pink sinter terraces of Weimangu once the eighth world wonder and these terraces also were the reason for the first tourists ever to arrive in New Zealand 125 years ago. Unfortunately the terraces are all gone after the colcano Mount Terawera erupted in 1886. Today there is a huge lake where the terraces used to be. Albeit the notion that all remains were destroyed, just recently a team of scientists found some leftovers of the pink terraces. I was the only guest on a boat tour over the lake and we stopped just where the terraces had once been, looking at some early photographs of the area. It must have been truly stunning at the time!

19 March 2011
New Zealand has a very peaceful and quiet connotation. Sometimes I think the country resembles a child’s drawing: here is the wood and here are the sheep, here’s the road, a rock, a grocery shop, a church, a railway crossing, a gas station, the coffee shop where they have the ice cream and look, over there’s a library. I always imagined the Astrid Lindgren stories to play in sourroundings like that but never thought they’d really exist.
Today I passed the Kiwi capital De Puke and went on to Rotorua. Unfortunately the Kiwi season has not yet started but still seeing the Kiwi plantations was qute interesting.

18 March 2011
New Zealand’s roads are basically in a very good condition but nevertheless driving here often feels like participating in a driver’s training. It is hilly, curvy and you don’t see much of the road in front of you. On top of that you drive on the left side. In essence I like that as it teaches you a lot about your concept of right and wrong and it works wonders on your coordination. But what gives me a hard time is shifting gears with my left hand.
One trip today brought me – amongst other nice stops - to the Cathedral Cove. It was a good trip but almost too cozy with seven people on a high speed hyper modern rubber boat.
Another less successful trip led me to a so-called hot water beach. I had rented a spade for the occasion and dug two deep holes in search of hot thermal water but in vein. I only earned curious looks by passersby. Some of them asked me whether they could pose with my spade in one of my sand holes. On the way back along the shore I was caught by a huge wave which ruined my newest mobile handset. This is particularly sad as this handset took really good easy to email first impression pictures.

17 March 2011
I visited a very unpretentious thermal spa on my way to Tairua. Basically it was just one huge basin with very hot thermal water. Apart from me there were four other guests. Interestingly enough there was a lower entrance fee for non swimmers. As I still do not dare to swim due to my shoulder problem I briefly thought of negotiating the matter but then dropped it.
On another issue: You really have to be careful when it comes to food in this country! I almost overlooked the text on my dried fruits and nuts pack. It read: “There be real pieces of eight, doubloons, pearls, rubies and other treasures here, me hearties. Aye, so look lively there mateys and don’t ye squander it all at once, or ‘tis the plank for ye! Arrrr!” I am sure the NZ dentists lobby had its say here.

16 March 2011
Friedensreich Hundertwasser used to live in New Zealand from 1973 until his death in 2000. I had no idea. Anyway he designed the public toilets in Kawakawa and that is really a strange experience. It feels like being at home somehow and still you know ot could not be further away from home.
I traveled on to Mangawhai today and on the way I visited the AH Reed Memorial Kauri Park. What they’ve done there is constructing a bridge through a Kauri forest in a very clever way. It is a boardwalk through the trees, not quite through the treetops but high enough to change your perspective on these enormous trees.
The Mangawhai Cliffs Walkway was another stunning experience of the seemingly endless beauty of New Zealand.
On the bizarre side of things: I had dinner in a restaurant called „Smashed Pipi“.The song they played nonstop was called “sex without love”. It could have been worse - the name of the place that is, the food was really good.

14 and 15 March 2011
I was on an overnight cruise in the Bay of Islands on a boat called “The Rock”. It was great. Colors here are just stunning!
Can I trust a hairdresser that has a sign out front saying: “Have fun... Anything can change and that's why I try not to take any of what's happened to seriously.” Well in the end I did trust it and the result is not too bad.
Something is definitely wrong with globalization: The kiwi fruits sold here in kiwi country come from Italy (according to the tiny tags on them I saw in the supermarket)!!! And that is actually really sad because one of the reasons that made me cone to New Zealand was the urge to eat local kiwi fruits!

14 and 15 March 2011
I was on an overnight cruise in the Bay of Islands on a boat called “The Rock”. It was great. Colors here are just stunning!
Can I trust a hairdresser that has a sign out front saying: “Have fun... Anything can change and that's why I try not to take any of what's happened to seriously.” Something is wrong with globalization: the kiwi fruits sold here in kiwi country come from Italy (according to the tiny tags on them I saw in the supermarket)!!!

13 March 2011
I started my day with a so-called „Mammoth Yoghurt”. On the package it read “This is man’s yoghurt and you are a man. Now find a spoon, fork or spade and didg in. This is a thick, filling apricot and honey yoghurt made for men – by men (seriously – it was made by a bloke named Brian). Men need to know that it is not acceptable to cry… It is acceptable to eat yoghurt – when it’s thick and chunky and it’s made for men.”
Then I drove about 400 kilometers up north to Kaeo. That does not seem much but it actually was. The road winds up and down and through forests. The landscape is just amazing and the light is as clear as it can possibly be. Sometimes it is just idyllic and you have heaps of sheep grassing around and under trees.
It seems to be a great country from what I’ve seen so far: There are wineries all over the place and cafés every few kilometers. Some have curious names such as Café Eutopia, or Ginger Cat Café.
The strangest thing today was a short dialogue that went along the following lines: A: So where are you from? B: Austria. A: Do you also have as many sheep as we do? B (has no idea where this will lead to and no idea about the proportion of sheep in the overall animal population of Austria): Well I think we have more cows than sheep. A (giving me a triumphing look and ending the conversation rather abruptly): Ah, so we have more sheep than you then!

12 March 2011
While brushing my teeth with Vietnamese toothpaste I am thinking of a Thai sunset and of a glass of New Zealand white wine at the same time. Then the scenery mingles with the stunning beauty of New Zealand’s landscape, its magnificent clear light and the taste of fresh coconut juice. I think I am losing it today, all is mixed up!

11 March 2011
As I did not have to make use of my emergency exit on the Bangkok – Sydney flight yesterday I had the chance to reflect on my two months South East Asia experience during the Sydney – Auckland flight today.
In Singapore everything seems to work out very well and despite that it is exotic enough to be interesting. For instance it seems to be the most obvious thing to offer dishes like “Claypot Drunken Live Frog” on the food parlour next door. On the other hand it is modern enough to make me fail with my attempts to buy 35mm film. My question or to be more precise the word “film” was turned around to “flim???” and came together with a peculiar way of a risen eyebrow.
Kuala Lumpur is somehow similar to Singapur but then again very different at the same time. What impressed me most was a naked Indian at the enge of a busy intersection. He stood there perfectly still as if in deep meditation and was later escorted to the other side of the road by two policemen. He had deposited all his clothes there and was forced to dress again.
Alongside men in pretty longys and women in their most colorful dresses the ordinary tourist outfit is a real visual burden in Myanmar. Anyhow Myanmar was by far the most impressive country I’ve seen this time in South East Asia whereby the hot air balloon ride over Bagan and the prophecy of my upcoming birthday are the most impressive and probably lasting memories I will have.
Apart from the disgusting experience in Saigon I was really pleased by Hanoi and especially its water puppet theater. What describes Vietnam best I think was a sentence in the mausoleum of the last emperor reading: Where sadness smiles and joy weeps.
In Thailand the Austro-Hungarian monarchy is still considered as one of the leading world powers. And other than in Europe where we have many tanning lotions all the bestselling deodorants and creams are “whitening”. Bangkok is much more international than many other capitals I’ve been to recently; even in the suburbs you will find the International Herald Tribune and Le Monde being sold together with local newspapers. Nevertheless my impression is a mixed one. After having been seriously cheated upon by a tailor and after having had many “interesting” experiences at various massage places (one masseuse fell asleep, one almost broke a toe and one was definitely a man or a lady boy) I also have to mention nice encounters with interesting people: in a fish-spa, at Koh Pha Ngan island and one in Bangkok with a travel acquaintance from Myanmar.
Received comment: Now you have me really curious: To what does your comment on 11 March's blog refer when you mention "the prophecy of my upcoming birthday are the most impressive and probably lasting memories I will have"?
Comment: The day before my birthday I climbed up a hill in Mandalay to see a monastery up there. When I went down a palm reader, an old man, stopped me. i said I do not want any palm reading and that I was afraid of it really. He looked at me and said, why? and furthermore: you are going to celebrate your 35th birthday tomorrow. I was really taken aback...

10 March 2011
On a plane from Bangkok to Sydney. A nine hour flight. I have never ever been in such an empty plane. It is an Airbus 340 with eight seats per seat row in economy class. In most rows there is just one person but some of those rows are completely empty. The premium economy class is empty, too and I think I have not seen more than five or six people heading for the business class section. Even the stewardess I just spoke to says it feels lonely today.
I am seated next to my personal emergency exit with nobody in my immediate vicinity. It is a pretty emergency exit with a tiny little window. It is also pretty modern as one does not have to throw the whole door out in case of emergency but just pull a handle to slide the door open. I was advised to instruct and assist other passengers in case of emergency to get to and through the exit which turns into a slide to a life raft when needed. I am just wondering how to attract others to my exit when almost everybody on the plane has his personal exit. Maybe the life raft is a proper attribute that could help me advertise my exit?

9 March 2011
In countries where you have a hard time making yourself understood it is vital to make local people you are able to communicate with write down essential phrases such as your hotel address or eatable food in the local language. And so before I headed out for my last Thai supper I was equipped with a nice little paper pointing out what I wanted. That paper made the restaurant staff laugh for a little while and shortly after that I found myself in front of a see-through plastic bag containing the soup I had just ordered and another plastic bag with my drink in. This is the local Thai takeaway culture: everything from liquids to solid food (mostly bedded on heaps of cooked rice) is neatly put into plastic bags, sealed and handed over to the customer. Seeing people drink from plastic bags is quite common. So after a few attempts in sign language I was presented with a plate and a glass and could dig into what proved to be my favorite Thai dish: Tom Yam soup. It is sort of the Thai variant of a Wiener Schnitzel; something widely available all over the country and well known to everyone, more appreciated by foreigners than the local crowd. What distinguishes the soup from the Wiener Schnitzel is that it comes in many variants: with and without meat, seafood, mushrooms and noodles respectively. Most astonishingly it contains many uneatable ingredients. There is a variety of leaves and roots floating in it and the average green bean can be a green bean, a green chili or a piece of green bamboo. At its very core the soup is enormously spicy. One only recognizes that after biting on something hidden and thus when it is too late anyway. Green chili has a tendency to hide in and around very aromatic stems of whatever it is. Even when the cook has added coconut milk to the soup the effect on the degree of spiciness is minor. By definition the soup falls in the category of slow food mainly because one is busy telling the eatable ingredients apart from the uneatable ones. Also there is a need to stop eating every so often just to deal with the rashes in one’s face and the tears in one’s eyes. In the concrete example o feeling that soup today I just necessarily disregarded the black rat that was passing by my table and also started to forget about the fact that a laundry shop had misplaced all my socks, that an hour ago I had to do a sit-in at a Thai massage place in order to claim a proper neck massage (I am not getting up here unless…) and that my brand new so-called tailor made shirts look still incredibly poor after being washed and ironed.

8 March 2011
I am in what I think is one of the coolest hotels I have ever been to. It is called Mestyle Place and is in Bangkok or let’s say the outskirts of greater Bangkok. The hotel is a refurbished concrete building that could also be found in ex-communist countries. It is very colorful though. The entrance is marked by a minibus sculpture and the reception is an old dark green minicooper. A collector has made sculptures from all sorts of old machinery. The central element of the bar is table made of a wooden kanu that has been put on some support. On top of the kanu is a glass surface that is indirectly lit by a blue neon light. Next to the entrance there are shiny red old oil barrels, the lobby is decorated with old dentist’s chairs and a hypermodern soccer table. The lobby’s ceiling is decorated with old window frames and some old bicycles.

7 March 2011
My laptop charger broke and what they sell here is somehow the wrong voltage… A long journey is sometimes just like any other time one spends at home. One is searching for things or trying to organize or fix things. I went to a shopping center called the IT City. It is packed with IT gadgets but against all odds I was not able to find the right replacement for my charger. Finally and totally stressed out I got hold of an appropriate specimen at another shopping center right in the gravity center of Bangkok’s shopping mile.
On the positive side: I saw a Buddha wholesale district earlier today. One giant Buddha was already wrapped for shipping. Being wrapped in orange cloth it looked like a piece of art by the late Christo and Jean Claude.

4 – 6 March
After some nice and relaxing days on Koh Paghnan Island I made it back to Bangkok where I saw a man with a white goatee that was held together with a hair clip. His other accessory was a catalogue woman about 40 years his junior. There are some things you just can’t take a picture of and that is a real pity.
On all local Thai airports one is offered free mobile SIM cards that can be charged at any 7/11 supermarket in the country. What a difference to Myanmar where there is no roaming and a SIM card is sold at a whooping retail price of 1.500 US Dollars!
A lovely acquaintance I met the other day alerted me on another remarkable fact which is the way people treat airline meals that are served during national flights. After the cardboard boxes have been distributed people open them, give them a disbelieving look and close them immediately whilst being visibly disgusted. I have to say the food is not at all THAT bad after you familiarize yourself with the fact that cake can be brown and yellow, green and yellow or sometimes even lilac and yellow.

1 – 3 March 2011
There are ample customers for all the tattoo shops on Die Koh Pha Ngan island. I’ve hardly ever seen so many people sporting tattoos at one place. Today I even spotted a travel agency that seems to specialize in tattooed people; it was called Tattoo Travel. Among the tattooed and apart from them there are many nonconformists whose best times are long over (dreadlocks getting dirty and dirtier and the savings have obviously long been used up). Overall the island is not anymore the secret hideaway, recommended only by insiders. At some stretches of the beach resorts can be found next to one another. A scooter adventure trip brought me to the north tip of the island and to a restaurant that served „no name with chicken or pork“. I took something that had a name and squid in it. Right across the street there was “The World's End Café” serving all day breakfast and lunch.

27 and 28 February 2011
I flew from Chiang Mai over Bangkok to Surat Thani and took a bus and a ferry to Koh Pha Ngan. Upon arrival I learned that I was upgraded to a super luxurious bungalow for the first night which was really nice and a good start for a steep learning curve. During the first eve I just had to deal with one ant and an oversized bug which I managed to trap in a water glass. It is still sitting there I suppose. My new and not as luxurious bungalow meanwhile looks more like a battlefield. Up to now I defeated about 30 ants and an enormous wasp. A monstrous spider (about 10 cm diameter, black, countless legs) survived two shoe attacks and is hiding in the bathroom ever since. All in all for once I do not regret my failing eyesight. Apart from the insects the island and the beach are very nice. Personally I am very tired and the nasty comment earlier today was that it is understandable that one is tired after five months of holidays. Anyways I only felt ready to explore the immediate neighborhood of the hotel and later on for the 50 meter walk to the nearby Pirates Bar on the beach. Around the hotel there are countless massage places, laundries, places to rent and fill up scooters and tattoo studios, in short, everything the visitor needs.

25 and 26 February 2011
I had a lazy day on the 25th and my main worry was whether I should have a one hour or a two hour Thai massage after all. I decided for a one hour neck and shoulder massage and the heavyweight masseuse had nothing better to do as also washing my feet and pulling hard on my toes. Overnight my second right toe swelled and grew double in size. So I thought it might be better to go check it and get an x-ray. After three hours in the hospital where they measured my blood pressure, fever, bloodsugar and checked my weight and height before I was admitted to get an x-ray done and speak to a doctor I can fortunately say that this toe is not broken. It is seriously injured and I have to take anti-inflammatory medication and painkillers now. Interestingly enough, the big toe shows a fraction but the doctor thought that must be an old one since it doesn’t hurt. I’m thinking of going back to the massage place in order to present both my double-sized toe and the hospital bill.
The funny part of the story was that the doctor asked me where I was from. I said Austria. He beamed and said: Oh: Austria-Hungary! You have such a lovely empire and that castle in Vienna! That left me sort of speechless, never mind the empire went under about 100 years ago.

24 February 2011
The bookstores in Chiang Mai aren’t any better. I quote just two of the titles I’ve seen: “Mad monks on the road” and “I’m too sexy for my Volvo”.
A tag in my Chiang Mai hotel bathroom advises me: “Do not take tower [sic!] out of your room!” and “Do not put tissue or others [sic!] in toilet!”
On the sightseeing part: I went to see the Doi Suthep temple and the Phra Tamnak palace.

23 February 2011
It is nine in the morning and I am in a Bangkok airport bookshop. Not that I need another book, mind you, I have just checked in a 25 kilo suitcase that owes his weight mainly to the three new guidebooks I have recently added to the other two I already had. Although I really love books I sometimes think those e-books have quite an advantage on a long journey. But still, having a real book in hands makes a difference. The problem of course is that airport bookshops are hardly the place to find any extraordinary book, especially if the bookshop is rather a line of shelves amongst a much wider selection of candy and last minute trinkets. So next to about 15 books on prison inmates telling the stories of innocent inmates in Cambodia, Thailand, India, Australia and god knows where else I had the choice between about 30 memoirs of various male, female and Ladyboy Bangkok sex workers/slaves. Of course there were the airport evergreens like Dan Brown, Stieg Larsson, John Irving and John Grisham, the latter on the decline I think when it comes to airport shelve space. Bloody “Eat, Pray, Love” is continued - the new book being called “Committed” – and I reckon it is equally bad than the first one. What really got me and drove me out of the shop instantly was the Harry Potter edition in Latin and Old Greek.

22 February 2011
So finally I saw a ladyboy show called Calypso. Stunning!

21 February 2011
Well, now that I have seen more of Bangkok I am still very pleased. There is so much to see! I really liked Chinatown, the Japanese market was interesting, too and the Wat Pho and the marble temples were really pretty. I did see the golden Buddha at Wat Tramit (it is a 5 ton pure gold sculpture) but somehow overlooked the Royal Palace and the Emerald Buddha…
What I forgot to mention yesterday was that I also had my first Thai massage. Unfortunately the masseuse fell asleep after half an hour and was slightly grumpy when I woke her.

20 February 2011
My travel guidebook is really incredibly bad. Instead of explaining how to best get from Bangkok airport to the city center it goes on and on about something the author calls “backpacker’s burnout”, a lethargy the backpacker experiences after an “overdose” of beautiful beaches and sunsets. Else the author advises not to make fun of the king. This is particularly difficult when you sit in a taxi with a giggling driver, a plastic pig with a wobbling head on the dashboard and the first thing visible on the motorway/highway is a banner reading “long live the king”.
I haven’t seen much of Bangkok, yet but I visited the Chatuchak weekend market and absolutely loved it. You can find anything there from puppies to dishes, clothes and decoration. Food is available on every corner. After quite some time I spotted a few interesting t-shirts. One had a print of Tut Ench Amun with 3D glasses, one read „I am not perfect but I’m limited edition“ and another one „my blog is bigger than yours“.
Else I have so far seen one dancing ladyboy and just a few westerners with catalogue women.

19 February 2011
It is quite interesting to observe what moves the Vietnamese soul. There was a newspaper article the other day on a so-called “kissathlon” in Vietnam, a kissing competition. In Europe that would make it onto the backside of the papers at most but would not discomfort people in the least.
I am back in Saigon and was positively surprised. The hotel I stayed in last time (where all that money went missing) gave me their best room for free. At my room there was a handwritten letter from the hotel manager waiting for me together with a rose and two apples as a small gift.

18 February 2011
I am still in this peculiar bed and breakfast on Phu Quoc island that has only for rooms. Today it took a while until breakfast was served because of a religious ceremony. First things first. A boiled chicken was offered on a makeshift altar in the front garden. I thought if would have perhaps been better to offer the chicken a place in the fridge instead of having it lay on an altar in the boiling heat for some time. But then again as the generator is only on from 6pm to 11pm the fridge would not make much of a difference anyway. The wireless Internet is only on when all guests have eaten up I have the feeling, so not very often.
Anyway I thought I would not push my luck again today and so I did not take another attempt on seeing the rest of the island on the motorbike but went to the beach.
On a different matter: A ship just like the one I had been on sank in Halong Bay just two days after I had been there. I also stayed overnight and was obviously very lucky.

17 February 2011
In order to escape my „home away from home“ which is located in the me jungle and admittedly near the best and most beautiful beach on the island I had to rent a motorbike from my landlady. As I had never driven a motorbike before I tried hard to pretend that it was only the manual gearshift that poses some problems. My landlady had a cigarette in the corner of her mouth, showed me reluctantly what all the buttons on the motorbike were for and gave me her best “I am so sure you are going to total that motorbike” stare. Ever the motivator she also mentioned that totaling would cost me quite some money. So after the initial challenge – a 3km dirt road with heaps of sand leading to the main street – I stayed on paved roads and saw most of the island (An Thoi in the south, Ham Ninh with its man made pearl production and Duong Dong, the capital city). The main road is broad enough for one car but not for many motorbikes, lorries and cars. So not being pushed off-road is also a challenge. People have to wear helmets but these helmets are more of a fashion statement than a means of protection. They are pink, yellow, green, some even have the Burberry pattern on them and they barely cover the back of your head. Luckily and to the utter surprise of Madame I made it back safely.

16 February 2011
After two days freezing on a boat in cloudy Halong Bay I finally made it down south and arrived to Phu Quoc island. The island has the shape of South America and I am in the very south, in Tierra del Fuego so to speak. Close by there is a beautiful white beach and hardly any people to share it with. What is kind of bizarre is that my landlady of the Inn here is of the overly protective sort. She told me to put on sun cream, sent me to the beach on a scooter that was driven by her son as she thought I could a) get lost in the forest on a 10 minute hike down to the beach or b) bored walking there alone. And just now as she is preparing dinner I was asked whether I had taken a proper shower.

14 – 15 February 2011
Despite six layers of clothes my two day trip to Halong Bay – a UNESCO world heritage site – left me half frozen. I am sure it must be a beautiful spot when it is warm and sunny. In cold and humid times it is unfortunately barely visible. Tomorrow I am off to the South again!

13 February 2011
Vietnam is just really not my country. It is humid and really cold up here in Hanoi and I just feel miserable most of the time. Was on a tour to the so-called Perfume Pagoda today – and I’ve seen quite a bit but somehow not the actual pagoda itself. First of all the 60km bus ride took hours (in a bus that was not heated). Then we were on a rowing boat for over an hour which would have been nice on a sunny day but not today. And then there were 51.000 pilgrims (allegedly really a counted number and due to one of the main religious holidays these days). When I say pilgrims I mean people who wanted to go to the Pagoda. One has a different image of a pilgrim really. In this case it was people pushing hard to get through, punching left and right and sliding on slippery muddy stones. There was nothing solemn to that. And I am still freezing while I write this.

12 February 2011
Today it is like Christmas and Easter at the same time! I brought the films I shot during recent weeks to a laboratory (against all odds I managed to find one) and now I am waiting for the results! Like I said many times before I still do not understand why people have so easily given in and have given up the wonderful experience of having to wait for the results of one’s photographic experiments. Although I see more and more people raising their eyebrows when I say I still use film or I earn the stare that is reserved for the die-hard I still think that what differentiates humans from all other races is the ability to deal with delayed gratification.

11 February 2011
In Hanoi now and that is really a different world it seems. So I am feeling much better. I’ve just come back from the evening show of the Thang Long water puppet theater. It was lovely! Just imagine a pool in the size of an average family swimming pool as a stage and the reflection of a pagoda entrance in it. After a few minutes of drumming the first puppets show up, in the water up to their waists and they drum along splashing the water. The firedrakes that follow are rather waterdrakes than firedrakes and there are two small bull puppets – one white, one black – who engage in bullfighting. What I thought best of all was when they showed puppets doing farm work. They were plowing the fields, planting rice seedlings and finally harvesting rice. I felt somehow sorry for the poor puppeteer who had to play the role of the ripe rice although could of course not see him. He reminded me of my father’s rather lusterless theater career. His first and only role was to act as “the wood” in the background scenery. What was quite funny was that one of the horse marionettes got involuntarily beheaded. They immediately withdrew the remaining marionette but the horse head floated in the pool during the entire show.

10 February 2011
As my plane to Hannoi leaves from Hué tonight I had to go back there from Hoi An. Well, what can I report from the bus journey this time? Well, no bats, no people who lost their wallets during the stopover (that was the other thing that happened two days ago). The biggest difference really was that the journey back was done in a blue bus, whilst the journey to Hoi An was operated with a yellow bus and almost double in price. I could have booked the same journey also 2.5 times more expensive but was not sure about the color of the bus then. Maybe purple or metallic. The point of all that? Prices vary so much and as most of them are very low nothing is exactly a rip-off but to put it diplomatically all in all they seem to be chosen at random. People careless and unfriendly and despite some natural beauty overall being here in Vietnam it is a most unpleasant experience.

9 February 2011
Instead of 2 to 3 hours the bus journey to Hoi An took almost 6 hours – without any apparent problem as it did not hold us up for long when a bat entered the rooftop window. The driver stopped only briefly, took the bat with the filthy door mat and threw it out of the window. The bat that is not the mat although that had somehow in the end disappeared as well.

8 February 2011
I would have needed more time for visiting Vietnam’s ancient capital city Hué. The Tet festivities are finally over but there are many traces of it that are still visible. For instance the traditional cone shaped hats are hanging from some trees, giving shade to some Christmas flowers that are also dangling in the trees. Hué and all imperial monuments in and around Hué are considered by the UNESCO as cultural heritage sites although there is neither a pigeon invasion nor a lot of dog excrement. Why cleanliness is not at all given see blog entries from December 4th and 20th, 2010, November 28th 2009 und April 25th and 26th 2009. Some of the buildings in the Tu Doc mausoleum crumble and are about to break apart but are supported by metal pillars – a true sign for an UNESCO involvement. I have to admit though that the pillars are not as ugly as the ones in Lalibela in Ethiopia.
In the Thien Mu Pagoda I saw some monks – a first in Vietnam. They are dressed in dark brown or bright yellow here and the novices in grayish blue. As opposed to the monks the novices are not totally bald but have raving haircuts. While most of the head is shaven, there is at least one very long strain of hair behind one ear, hanging down often almost to the boy’s waist in a nice curly manner.

7 February 2011
Ho Chi Minh‘s portrait is everywhere, on every bank note, on all the posters of the ruling party, etc. What seems rather bizarre though is that his picture is also positioned over the main entrance of the citadel and former imperial castle in the old capital city of Hué. Thinking about that having a handsome face really helps a charismatic leader, especially if the image of that face can still be used and reproduced after almost 70 years. I sometimes ask myself if the local population has seen enough of that face meanwhile. Same with all the numerous Fidel and Ché portraits in Cuba or the Lenin reproductions in the tourist places in Moscow. Only in Calcutta - the only other town I can think of that has a communist government and that I have visited – there was no visible image of a local leader.

6 February 2011
I have just learned a very expensive lesson: Do not trust hotel staff, even if they are very, very friendly. Up to now whenever people told me that various items or money was stolen from their hotel rooms I said I think that if a person chooses to work as cleaning staff they want to earn an honest living and would not go and steal. And that I have never had a bad experience. Yet. Well that has for sure changed. While being on a trip to the Mekong Delta yesterday 170 Euro, 50 USD and about 25 USD in local Vietnamese currency made their way out of my room. The General Manager of a hotel that is in other terms really nice was honestly very sorry and went to file a police report with me. And there I learned another lesson about power and the lack of equality. As in so many other places a bright woman (the hotel manager) speaks to an official (a police officer with 4 stars) and he would not even look at her, lest into her eyes. He simply refused to file a report. A younger one with only two stars that we approached after that showed the same behavior, did not really listen to her, did not look at me at all and needed to be asked a hundred times to fill in the report. Many questions later he released us saying I should have been more careful and all in all it was my problem.

5 February 2011
In the end I went to the Mekong Delta but it was a very unpleasant experience after all. Basically it was a tourist rip off and we were only brought to places where we were expected to buy something. During the day it was difficult to get an impression of the scenery really as there were just so many tourists. The better part of the tour was the envisaged one and a half hour speed boat tour back to Saigon which took in the end about 4 hours. At least it was quiet, nobody tried to sell anything and one could look at the beauty of the delta landscape.

4 February 2011
Finally I felt well enough to go on a day trip. Here in the South of Vietnam quite a number of people follow a special religion called Cao Dai. It combines Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism and Taoism. We got there to see the ceremony at lunchtime which was really interesting but spoiled by the sheer amounts of tourists there.
After that the tour continued to the Cu Chi Tunnels that were used by partisans in the Vietnam War. It is now sort of a theme park but still shows the cruelty of the war.

2 – 3 February 2011
Slowly I am recovering from my cold. Unfortunately I had to change plans quite a bit. Although I have seen the better part of Saigon already I have to stay on for a number of days. Due to the local variety of the Chinese New Year festival (the call it TET here), there are no three day tours to the Mekong Delta and also travelling on from here proves to be more difficult than usual.

31 January - 1 February 2011
After one more night in Singapore I arrived to Saigon/Vietnam. I am struggling with a cold so my abilities to get an impression are somewhat limited. What is noticeable is that you can buy almost anything on the streets. Women walk buy with vertical bookcases and sell copied books, everything from best sellers to the latest travel guide books. Others come by with sunglasses, bracelets, cigarettes or scales as if anybody having a nice meal would want their weight checked instantly. Apart from that the whole city is preparing for the Chinese New Year festivities.

29 – 30 January 2011
Visited all major sights in Kuala Lumpur including the Petronas Towers, the Oriental arts museum and the telecoms tower. What a difference between KL and its shopping malls in comparison to the markets in Myanmar where I even saw dried rats. Just as with dried fish you were supposed to soak them for a while in water before cooking them up.
But I have to say that I have quite a weak side for luxury sometimes. My KL hotel had an inbuilt TV screen in the bathroom mirror, a hypermodern toilet, the biggest bed I have ever seen and a great view.

28 January 2011
I came across another fish spa today in Kuala Lumpur’s China Town. Just for the record: As opposed to Singapore this one was a massage and beauty spa as well but not an Internet Café. There were three different fish tanks this time, one with small, one with medium and one with rather large fishes. I was told that the fishes chew away dead skin from your feet whereby the small fishes cause some kind of vibrations only whereas the medium ones tickle and make people (especially “newcomers”) giggle and the large ones really sort of nibble. Coward me only went for a very classy Chinese back massage.
It is frightening how quickly one is catapulted back to modern life both in Singapore and in Kuala Lumpur. Everything works perfectly, there is a subway/underground connection to Singapore city center and on the train from the airport to Kuala Lumpur city center there is even complimentary high speed Internet access. In both cities people are not unfriendly as such but they hardly recognize other people and the world around them as they mostly stare at their mobile phones or other gadgets. Alternatively they wipe them, stroke them or hit them with their fingertips. I reckon that the ultimate proof of intimacy these days is letting somebody else touch your phone or iPad.

27 January 2011
A truly great journey through Myanmar came to an end today and so before boarding my flight to Singapore I went once more to Yangon’s/Rangoon’s Shwedagon pagoda. This is a very powerful place to be and I would have loved to spend days and days there. It seems to be the perfect place for reflection. Only every so often one is interrupted by a monk or somebody else that wants to chat. From time to time those dialogues are slightly absurd. For instance: A: Where are you from? B: Austria. A: Ah! Sidney! B: No, Vienna.
Or another one: A: Where are you from? B: Austria. A: What’s your name? B: Margit. A: Where are you going? B: Nowhere at the moment. A (changing the subject abruptly): Are you married? B: No. A (harshly): Do you have a lover? B: ... (!) A (not too sensitive and obviously not in the mood of winning my trust): How much do you earn? B: Well that depends really. A: Same in my case. A: How long will you stay in Myanmar? B: Three weeks. A (slightly annoyed): Why only three weeks? All other tourists stay for four weeks! B: Well, you know... A (angrily): You must stay four weeks! Why do you only stay for three? B (slightly irritated): I guess I can’t help it. A: Where are you from. B (even more irritated): Austria. A: Yes, I forgot. What’s your name. B (rather sour): I think I gotta go.
At the end of the journey the group had one last discussion on the topic of mosquitoes and on how to best avoid mosquito bites. Allegedly only pregnant mosquitoes do bite which is why one of my fellow travelers brought a device that sends out sounds – inaudible for the human ear – that resemble the typical sounds of male mosquitoes in rut. Unfortunately for me my grin did not go unnoticed and promptly I was asked why I was smiling. So I thought I better stick to the truth and said that I had just imagined the lady in question as a male mosquito in rut…
Received comment: At a meeting of ASEAN lately in South Korea they put big dolls of member states outside the conference centre, all dressed in their national dresses.... Australia had Lederhosen and Dirndl and their delegation was greeted by a Korean children choir singing "Edelweiss".....
Additional comment: The epilogue is that the Australians filed an official complaint with the organizers.

26 January 2011
As my journey in Myanmar comes to its end in Yangon/Rangoon, finally I have some Internet connectivity again. It’s interesting how quickly you get used to not having an Internet connection or a working mobile phone all the time. I reckon as these are all very recent additions to our daily lives one can get used to not having them as quickly as one got used to having them all time. Finally I really had the feeling of being in a faraway country on this long journey around the world.

25 January 2011
I went over Bagan in a hot air balloon which was an amazing experience! I would have never thought how peaceful it is to hover over a beautiful landscape. Also the sunrise was amazing from up there.

24 January 2011
Bagan is a beautiful and magical place. There are more than 4000 tempels, stupas and pagodas spread out over a vast surface. Wherever you look there is something ancient to spot. It is like a journey back in time the only difference is that you would expect these impressions in black and white just like on old postcards but instead the journey back in time is very colorful.
The trinket salespeople are slightly annoying but some of them have got really curious thing on offer. For instance there were hand carved chess boards with bronze figurines that resembled aggressive garden dwarfs.
The sunset seen from the so-called sunset pagoda was also spectacular. A huge, dark red sun disappears behind a field of mysterious looking pagodas…

23 January 2011
This was a birthday according to the schedule of a one year journey indeed. I spent it on a boat on the Irrawaddy, on a nine hour journey from Mandalay to Bagan...

22 January 2011
When climbing the Mandalay Hill I met a fortune teller and was - against my will - told that I would celebrate my 35th birthday on the very next day…

21 January 2011
Mandalay is only about 150 years old. Its streets form a grid and so it is fairly easy to get orientated. Despite its young age there is a lot to see. One cannot imagine the process of manufacturing gold leaves for instance. It is still done manually as allegedly machines cannot produce as fine a gold leaf as a person can using a hammer. So there are men hammering gold for hours and hours with all their physical strength. Those gold leaves are so thin that where they are wrapped, talking is forbidden as talking or even inhaling could make the gold leaf vanish.
Mandalay is also home of one of the holiest pagoda in all of Myanmar, the Mahamuni pagoda. There is an enormous Buddha inside. Pilgrims are coating the body of this Buddha with gold leaves since hundreds of years and so what is stunning is that face and body still seem to be in harmony.
What really fascinated me was the Sagain Hill in Amarapura, eleven kilometers away from Mandalay. There are so many monasteries and you see countless monks and nuns. We visited the monastery on top of the mountain and I have hardly ever experienced such perfect stillness.
For sunset we went to the picturesque U-Bein bridge in Amarapura. I got to talk to a novice there for quite some time. Starting with asking me questions about a list of irregular English verbs and how to pronounce this and that we soon went on to discussing about divine and worldly matters. Mostly worldly as it turned out for I failed badly on reciting the Ten Commandments. I got as far as commandment 8 but even when told to concentrate very hard I could not come up with the remaining two. Very embarrassing. He on the other hand could recite his ten rules for novices perfectly but on the other hand admitted that adhering to them is not always easy. For instance not eating after 12 is of course hard or not listening to music at all. And he cannot fully adhere to a rule that says no moving images as football/soccer and the Internet are just to inviting.

20 January 2011
Mandalay, what a beautiful and promising name for a city! Mandaly is the city of the last Burmese king Thibaw Min who was defeated by the British and sent to exile to India. Mandalay and the history around this last king was the reason for me to come to Burma in the first place. After having read Amitav Ghosh‘s novel „The Glass Palace“ which seems to be accurate as far as historic details are concerned I wanted to see the country. The book commences with a description of the last days of the Burmese kingdom and gests more and more complex when the stories of two families are interwoven over the course of three generations. Having seen teak woods hee in the countryside Teak wood and the hunger for teak forms also part of the story and so seeing teak trees and woods was particularly interesting for me.

19 January 2011
Sometimes there are national peculiarities that are hard to explain. For instance while some others turn away in slight bewilderment, the Austrians on the table can very well appreciate (and laugh about) a story as follows: Years ago a grandmother died and when a few years later the family grave was opened again to bury another body they found the grandmother’s skeleton upside down. So obviously the grandmother had been buried alive and she had still managed to turn around in her grave (at least once). We were also told that in the same area there are quite some stories about funeral processions where the dead-said have been heard knocking from within their coffins.

18 January 2011
I am sometimes really astonished about the lack of sensitivity in men when it comes to sarcastic remarks. For instance take the following dialogue between a Thai and his female Burmese tour guide I eavesdropped earlier today: The Thai: So you really think I am handsome? The Burmese girl: Well, yes, by and large.
On a different subject: A little later I wanted to take a picture of a pretty little girl at a paper workshop. While kneeling in front of the kid waiting for a good moment an enormous black dog came by and licked with his tongue all across my face. I took it – and that will perhaps surprise all of my readers who know my issues with dogs – stoically, took my picture and only then washed my face.

17 January 2011
One of my fellow travelers practices a quite unique form of personal aid to the local population. He wears his shirts on two consecutive days and then hands them – worn and unwashed – over to a beggar. This is not always met with pure appreciation and deep gratitude. As far as I noticed the first reaction is mostly mild astonishment followed by a thorough examination of the shirt. It is then held against the silhouette of an almost always extremely lean passerby showing even from a remote distance that the shirt is by far too large. Then there is the phase of non-believing sniffing. Thereafter the shirt is folded and handed over to the next woman who has a look at it, sniffs at it while losing some grace in her expression, holds it against the nearest lean male body and so on and so forth.

15 and 16 January 2011
To travel in and through Myanmar is not always easy and being in a group really seems to be the only viable option. Nevertheless we waited for hours at Rangoon airport for a flight to Heho that then without prior notice landed first in Mandalay before continuing to Heho. So it took until the early evening of the 15th to get to the Inle/Inlay lake. The lake as such is a world in itself. You travel on it with a motorized canoe and get to see whole stilt villages. There are floating gardens that are home to an immense tomato monoculture. Allegedly about 50 tons of tomatoes are produced on the lake daily. Due to chemical fertilizers quit some fish sorts have been extinct from the lake. The floating gardens are 10 meters long, two meters broad and two meters deep. They are in a two meter distance from the next floating garden so that the farmers can harvest them from their canoes. In the villages cloth is woven as if the mechanic loom had never been invented. What was new to me was cloth made from lotus flowers. In a very work intense process lotus (their stem) flowers are cut, single fibers are released and then woven to cloth.
What was equally fascinating were the ruins of about 1000 stupas, one more damaged then the next. Some are about to be renovated but as far as I can tell from my layman perspective in that process holding on to historical features is merely an option. The sheer number of the remaining broken ones is nevertheless fascinating.
Unfortunately I could not see one thing I would have been particularly interested in: jumping cats in one of the lake’s monasteries. Monks train cats there to jump through rings. When we arrived there the cats were having “dinner” and so the monks reassured us after that they would not be keen on jumping anymore. A pity.

14 January 2011
On the way back to Ragoon/Yangon we visited Bago, a large city and home to one of the largest pagodas in the country as well as to one of the largest lying Buddhas. It is still strange getting used to being in a group again and just hopping on and of a bus being brought from one site to the other. To a certain degree it is relaxing but at the other hand it is not as intense as organizing everything by yourself.
Ah yes, I do not have any mobile connectivity here. There seem to be no roaming agreements and buying a SIM card proves to be hard to impossible.
At night I took a bicycle rickshaw back to my Rangoon hotel which proved to be equally dangerous than walking. The pedaling gentleman managed to find a way around every bump in the road but mainly through driving on the other side of the four lane road – without any lights on but making good use of his bell.
Received comment: Full of adventure... I can see you're enjoying it; especially I think Mayanmar is full of surprises!
Received comment: Myanmar !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Be careful with the military junta, they may force you to become a monk!

13 January 2011
A long journey brought us to Kyaikto and to one of the holiest locations in Myanmar, the Golden Rock. It is located on top of a mountain that you have to climb. There are Sherpas for the luggage and you can also chose to let people carry you uphill in a palanquin. I briefly thought about it…
The rock itself is an amazing structure. It sits on the edge of a cliff and seems to fall down any moment.

11 and 12 January 2011
The amazing news first: Against all odds there is some Internet connectivity here in Rangoon/Yangon in Myanmar!
My first impression was that the Shwedagon pagoda ist just incredible. Everything seems to be golden. What that must have meant to early visitors can only be imagined.
On the streets of Rangoon/Yangon there are so many monks – it is a sheer pleasure to see them in their orange, brown and reddish brown robes. There are even many nuns, bareheaded like their male counterparts but dressed in pink.
The traffic isn’t as bad as in other countries but still aggressive enough. It is advisable to cross any street closely behind a monk or a nun, hoping that for karma reasons nobody would intentionally run them over.
Talking about falling over: walking the sidewalks/pavements in Rangoon/Yangon is challenging as they are more uneven than in Brussels (if that does not mean anything to you, ask anyone who has ever been to Brussels on a rainy day). So the stones are not only broken but so mobile that one can only hope that one’s ankle joints, ankles and sense of balance would not fail at the same time.

10 January 2011
I think I said a few years ago that I really enjoyed all the complicated arrangements when it comes to film: buying film, having film developed, enjoying the result. But well, things are getting really complicated lately. It was already difficult to buy film in the US but with the help of friends and the Internet I found a place to stock up. In Singapore film is universally referred to as “flim” and already mentioning it is seen as a bizarre request. So I spent more or less the whole Sunday searching for a shop that would sell me some rolls. I went back and forth all over the place and saw many shopping centers in order to hear the same thing over and over again: Flim? No! At least people are very friendly when saying no and they try to be helpful, sending you up and down shopping centers. At level two they might have flim. And there they say, well no but at level 5 maybe. And at level 5, sorry no but the shopping arcade next door might be a safe bet. Or: sorry no we do not get too many requests for flim lately. Today I finally found THE shop (Ruby Photo) where they have the refrigerator for film and all that makes you a really good store. So I paid an arm and a leg for 40 rolls of film.
Apart from that Singapore is an astonishing city. You can have a feet and a neck massage in Chinatown (only a mild relief for my still aching shoulder) and then eat Indian food three subway stops away in Little India. On the way back one can stop at a Fish Spa Internet Cafe (for a picture click here) in a shopping center in order to spend 41 Singapore Dollars on: a soft drink, 30 minutes fish-spa (that is sitting on a smallish table while having one’s feet in a fish tank with a number of fish in it and surfing the Internet at the same time). And no, I have NOT tried that.
Received comment: On feet and fish tanks: Oh, Margit, you've really GOT to reconsider not trying the fish tank spa. What better way to illustrate the quirkiness of Singapore than to post a digital pic of your feet being chomped on by a bunch of fish!

8 – 9 January 2011
Singapore is the perfect orchestration of a post modern society: a low crime rate, draconian punishments (sometimes one worries whether drinking from a water bottle on the street is legal), one shopping mall next to the other. Where churches are still used as churches there are masses in all four official languages, one mass after the other. Near my hotel a cloister has been refurbished and serves as a restaurant and entertainment complex. The church building itself is empty and can be booked for “special occasions”. One billboard read: “Fatima comes to Singapore”. Whether that is a new rock band or a revival band is not clear but judging from the design of the billboard it may have a religious context.
A previous catholic boy school has been refurbished and hosts now the Singapore Art Museum. At the moment there is a solo exhibition of an artist whose name escapes me. He mainly paints the back of the head of his mother. The best picture for me in the whole museum was a photograph by another artist showing a conference banner that read: 5th annual congress of the Islam society XYZ for the abolition of polygamy.

7 January 2011
I arrived well to Singapore and only got a first impression, yet. The city is really as sparkling clean as all prejudices suggest. My GPS had quite some problems adjusting and thought I wanted to walk the 12.800km from Brasilia where I used it last to Singapore.
At dinner the house specialty was “live frog” but luckily the menu said “minimum two persons”. There was a choice between “Claypot Live Frog”, “Spring Onion Live Frog”, “Chicken Essence Live Frog” and “Claypot Drunken Live Frog”. I wonder really what the especially the last one was all about. Is the frog about to drown in a claypot of alcohol? Why is it so important that the frog is still alive? Anyway my mixed veggies were surprisingly good and not drunken at all.

6 January 2011
It is slightly annoying when people know you too well. They can then remind you at 14:00 on a day of a 19:00 flight that you haven’t started packing yet and still have a point at 15:00. In my defense there is always still an invoice to pay, a last coffee to drink and an Australian visa to apply for.

5 January 2011
I’ve heard that my blog is considered being more amusing when things go a bit south. So I should perhaps continue the story of my visa application at a faraway country’s embassy in Brussels (for the beginning of the story see 26 November). Upon return from Brazil I got to the embassy in order to pick up my visa. I was about 20 minutes late but with quite some begging was let in. My excuse that my flight from Brazil had been late was met with a raised eyebrow and the statement: So how can you be in Brazil if I have your passport? I could tell that my answer that I had a second one was not appreciated at all and so – expectedly – the power game had to continue. First of all my passport was hidden under a number of others and had suffered quite a bit on the outside. I took it lightly and proceeded to pay the 25 Euro fee with a 50 Euro note. After having already a 20 and a fiver in his hands, the embassy person decided otherwise, gave me a wicked smile and threw 25 single Euro coins in front of me. He then asked me when I would go see his country and continued that I will be thrilled how friendly and charming his countrymen would be. I could tell from my pleasant experience in Brussels I would answer, holding on to my passport and the coins and left.

3 January 2011
Romeo and Juliet are somehow still alive. You can actually write a letter to Juliet in Verona and will receive a personal answer…

2 January 2010
I finally put a selection of pictures of my world journey online! The US ones can be found here and the ones from Mexico here! You can also click on the countries on the world map here.
Received comment: Margit, Margit!! The photos are magnificent! Well done, my artistic friend. The Mexico Day of the Dead works are most colorful, and your photos of US national parks are beautiful, too.

1 January 2011
Resume after three months of traveling: The watch got repaired and is broken again. The tripod broke completely but I got a new one as a Christmas present. I still miss Kaff Country (the radio station) and my left wing is still clipped.

26-31 December 2010
After quite some days in Austria and seeing the doctor in Vienna yesterday to check on my shoulder I am back in grey, foggy and rainy Brussels and can hardly see the buildings next door. Nevertheless it feels good being home. The shoulder still hurts but luckily no further surgery is needed for the time being. And talking about appropriate ways of spending Christmas or New Year’s while on a world journey: I was on a highway/motorway at midnight this year.

25 December 2010
I finally made it. My 10:00 a.m. flight proved to be a 9:15 p.m. flight but never mind. A Christmas spent at the airport is probably the best thing to go with a world journey.

24 December 2010
Merry Christmas from Brussels Airport! So far I haven’t found anyone to share the costs for a Christmas tree. After a long and complicated journey through South America and a punctual return yesterday I am stuck now for the last leg to Vienna, isn’t that ironic? My flight to Vienna has been cancelled and whether there will be another one still today is more than unclear. Well, anyhow that’s life. By the way in times of modern social networks the Christmas story would anyway look slightly different (see video).

22 and 23 December 2010
Travelling home from Brasilia over Sao Paulo and Madrid to Brussels I had quite some hours to wait on the way but made it perfectly on time and without any problems.
In Brasilia I spotted a t-shirt print that perfectly summarizes my time in Brazil: „I’m lost!“

21 December 2010
I rented a car and drove all the way to Brazil’s second planned city, Goiania. The construction started in 1933 and well, what can I say? In about seven hours in a car you have a lot of time to yourself to think things over, especially with speed limits of 80 and 100 km/h. On almost all 80 km/h speed signs there was another sign reading: “Jesus loves you” and on the 100 km/h sign one that read: “Read the bible.” The only car that overtook me had a big sticker on the rear window saying: “I belong to Jesus.” Isn’t that interesting. A few days ago in Rio de Jeneiro I learned the hard way that the big sculptur is called Christ and not Jesus. The latter was unknown to all people I asked (and that was quite a number). So after my frustrating experience I saw now that along the highway/motorway it is not only so that Jesus loves you, you can even belong to him. I wonder whether people pray to Jesus then as well, just to be on the safe side.
Anyway, Guiania is as a city equally lifeless and boring as Brasilia. It seems that people are not made for living in artificially planned cities, even if they appear to live there in millions after a while.

20 December 2010
I met the other tourist in Brasilia today - an architect who speaks English!
So Brasilia was built in only three years and celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. It has as a whole UNESCO world heritage status and as reflected earlier on during my journeys it seems that UNESCO has it with animal infested towns and cities. This time it isn’t dogs but pigeons that nest on and around the main monuments.
In terms of building I have to say they are interesting, different but also somehow bizarre. The city as such as a concept and artificially planned capital is impressive. Whoever has missed his political science classes should really come and visit this city. All the government and lawmaking bodies are in immediate neighborhood and so are the enforcement and jurisdiction entities. Interestingly the ministries are lined up one next to the other and judging from the sheer number of buildings a state reform seems unlikely as you would then eventually have either too many or too little ministries.

19 December 2010
It was kind of a new experience to take a taxi to my pre-booked and confirmed Brasilia hotel only to find out that it has ceased to exist. Well, the taxi driver showed some sense of humor and was kind enough to bring me to another place.

18 December 2010
Film-based photography has really come to an end. Even at flea markets they now sell expired film and feel the need to additionally advertise it as „ideal for lomography“. So only lomography is still remotely en vogue.
On the same Rio de Janeiro flea market I saw a disproportionate amount of brass and copper objects as well as almost too many Buddha sculptures for south American standards.
And again I met a lawyer, also on the flea market. I think it is time to give up hope to ever meeting a doctor, let alone a shoulder specialist on any of my journeys. Anyway I have to work out a better job description for myself. Being a corporate lawyer doesn’t really fly and creates utter boredom it seems (the reaction – changing the subject quite a bit - in that concrete example was: “let’s go inside the pub and watch some soccer”). Well, not sure whether “lobbyist” would do the trick either. Luckily that was just an intermediary dip in the conversation. We then saw a very interesting orient exhibition. Some of the pictures shown there really reminded me of the 5 Euro Burka in XXL n Brussels that I almost bought when preparing myself to go to Teheran. The shop clerk advised me at the time that I should really go for that bargain as I could always wear it at home when cleaning the house or – and I quote literally – when “not so important relatives show up”. We also went to an interesting arts and crafts market and to two samba clubs.

17 December 2010
I did not go to Rio by bicycle (song only in German) but really got very acquainted to the local bus system. The 511 bus really grew on me. It brought me to and from almost all the sights and to and from almost all the metro stops I needed. Talking about sights: You get on top of the sugar loaf by cable car in order to meet all the other tourists. You do the same to get to the sculpture of Christ which is in my opinion a bit overrated as a sculpture. Talking about riding busses or the metro: Nobody ever sat next to me which makes conversing even harder than it already is. Talking about conversing: The Jesus sculpture is called Christ and not Jesus. If you mention Jesus people have no idea what you might be thinking of. And even when I said Christ people were only reacting after a pantomime act (which must have looked bizarre with one arm only).
I went to a Pizzeria at night and unfortunately accepted the waiter’s offer to cut the pizza for me. Note: We are talking about a waiter that resembled more a village butcher than anything else. Had I not said halt at a certain moment I fear he would have even pre-chewed that pizza for me. Note: The cute guys play volleyball on the Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon beaches; they do not wait tables there.

16 December 2010
I arrived late last night to my Rio hotel that was described as very welcoming by people on trip advisor. Most likely nobody has been there lately. At one in the morning they were fixing the floors in the lobby, the angle grinder at top speed and full roar. Well.
Maybe I have an issue with the Brasilians but somehow I fail to understand a lot of things, mainly their economic growth and stellar raise over the last years. I meet mostly people who have no sense of business whatsoever. For instance – vis-à-vis a waiter: M: I’d like a mango juice please. W (remains silent and cannot be convinced to do anything for quite some time). Or in a photoshop: M: Do you speak English? P: No. M: Just a little? P: Maybe. M: I’d like to have 12 films developed, 36 pictures each. P (stoically): No. M: What do you mean by no? P: No. M: But you say here that you do develop film! P: No. And he turns around, not paying any attention to me anymore at all.
After all that I made an experience what getting older means: I met a Swiss - approximately 400 years old – who wanted to have a look at my city map. When I approached him formally (in German), he said I could address him informally as we were about the same age.
Received comment: Sorry Margito, it's called Football and not "Soccer"! Having said that, England are bloody hopeless and seemingly cannot even play "Soccer" never mind Football! I will have to finally pull my finger out and comment on your adventures so far in 2010!
I can only apologize for that lapse!

15 December 2010
When travelling from San Pedro de Atacama to Rio de Janeiro today I had a long stopover in Santiago de Chile. I spend my last 6.500 Pesos on: a locker for mos of my camera gear (2.500), a return trip on the airport bus (2.500), an empanada and a drink (1.000) and shoe shining (500). The latter investment was the best of all! Not only did my shoes really need to be cleaned after 4 days in the desert but more importantly I have never been called queen so often in so little time (and for so little money).

12 – 14 December 2010
The Atacma Desert is a really, really dry place. The air humidity is about 1% which makes one thirsty all the time and the skin dry as leather. Apropos leather: I forgot to mention that I had been to the archeological museum in Vina del Mar, close to Valparaiso. There was a section with a detailed description how to make shrunken heads. Very impressive! They even had some samples there to underline the step-by-step process. It seems that the mixture of herbs to stuff the head with (after it has been expertly cut open and emptied), the boiling process and the drying period is most important and needs quite some practice. But if correctly done, the spirit of the defeated can help you a great deal.
Anyway, back to the Atacama Desert, where was I? Right, everything’s dry, the red dust is literally everywhere and the air is really clear. During the day it is quite hot and at night it’s almost freezing. You can see the moon and the stars almost as clearly and the four mobile communication masts. Frankly, compared to the moon and the stars and the Southern Cross the mobile masts are by far better visible. But I might suffer from selective perception here.
San Pedro de Atacama’s altitude is 2.500 meters and the landscape around it is just spectacular. On the first day I thought I might take it easy and do just a half day tour to see the sunset in the Moon Valley. In the end the easy tour turned out to be more than two and a half hours walking up sand dunes, through dried river beds and sliding down some more sand dunes. One handedly that proved to be quite a challenge.
On the second day another tour departed already at 4 am. The drive from 2.500 meters to 4.300 meters took virtually no time and so I got very, very sick with altitude sickness, not so nice. Nevertheless of course the hot springs and geysers were impressive. You do not see phenomena like that every day! Allegedly a Swiss doctor died just last year, trying to take a close-up picture near one of the boiling hot springs. He fell into the basin and nobody even tried to rescue him. The tour guide seemed rather worryingly disturbed by the question of why nobody helped. He said that trying to rescue him would have probably meant falling into the spring and dying oneself. Bathing in a thermal spring with minus nine degrees centigrade outside was nevertheless nice, especially as it did my shoulder good.
The last day finally was devoted to a tour to the Altiplano Lakes. They are deep blue and light turquoise respectively. Beautiful! And so were the flamingos in the salt desert.

11 December 2010
This second leg of my big journey is undoubtedly a bit rushed and so unfortunately again there was only one night and half a day for Santiago de Chile. But one must make the best out of the time one has got.

10 December 2010
After I have dragged myself through this ultra hyped and so pathetic book “Eat, Pray, Love” (plot: recently divorced woman travels around the world for one year and stops in Italy to follow the stereotypes and eat, in India to attempt learning to meditate in an equally stereotype ashram in order to make it to Bali finally to – physically and mentally pepped up – fall in love with a stereotype Brazilian Latin lover) a while ago I finally saw myself exposed to the 2.5 hour movie flying back from Easter Island to what the islanders call mainland Chile. It is hard to imagine but it is even worse than the book. Why is pathetic the new black these days?

9 December 2010
Sound bites from the Easter island: After waiting for a very long time for some very simple food the waiter says apologetically: “This is not the best restaurant on the island but I have to put up with it because I work here.”
Or, after a long walk down from the volcano in the south, having walked past the airstrip and not totally sure how to get to the center whereby there are only two main roads: A to a waitress in a corner restaurant (pointing to either the one or the other street forming the corner): “Would you know where the main road to town is?” B: “No, I am not from here, sorry!"
Or in front of Hanga Roa’s tiny little harbor sculpture of Jesus: A: Jesus Christ! B (laughing): Yes, that would be him!
Or talking to a person from mainland Chile who decided to live on the island 11 years ago about whether that is not a lonely place to be. The answer was: Let me put it as a famous Cuban author did for Cuba: Poor Cuba, so far from God and so close to America.
On another issue; I am proud to say that I finally bought a Moai sculpture. Very pretty! And I agree with one of my readers that in a way it is unfortunate that there is Internet and mobile phone connectivity on the Easter Island. But modern day life can’t be stopped it seems.

7 and 8 December 2010
I've been on a tour all day today and saw most of the Easter Island. It is absolutely stunning! It is such an outlandish place. The story goes that the locals at the time believed that they were the only people on this earth and in that sense the navel of the world. Having flown in for 5.5 hours yesterday seeing the airplane on the inflight mapping system over the pacific with nothing else around and just blue water underneath when peering out of the window you get a sense of that. They must have been mortified and their world view shaken to the core when they saw the first Dutch seamen arriving on Easter Sunday in 1722.
There are about 900 Maoi sculptures all over the island. They are incredible! I love sculptures but they top everything I have seen so far in terms of sculpturing. It is a most mystical and ethereous place.

6 December 2010
On my way back to Santiago de Chile I stopped again in the Casablanca Valley to visit yet another winery - Indomito – which has a spectacular view over the valley.
Santiago reminded me a bit of Brussels insofar as its charms are not immediately visible. What is quite interesting is the sheer multitude of (male only) chess players on Santiago’s main square. Nothingt seems to distract their concentration, not even the many homeless dogs in search for shade beneath the chess tables. The lucky dogs that find their cool spots are mostly lying on their sides. Breathing heavily first they slowly but surely retire to a state of mere hot dogs.

5 December 2010
Valparaiso is definitely different. Many if not most houses are painted with murals or graffiti, the steep, curvy streets run in zigzags over its many hills and the old elevators take you back in time quite a bit. Pablo Neruda used to have a house there – now a museum – and having seen the view he had over the Pacific, it is easy to imagine where he found his inspiration.
With the guidebook in my pockets I drove north of Valparaiso to see some other coastal towns. One was a Hippy commune 40 years ago and somehow there are still some elderly hippies there. Looking at their graying hair and flowery dresses I thought even back then I would probably not have been one of them.
Another thought that crossed my mind is that at the moment where regarding my shoulder a doctor would come in very handy I just get to know lawyers.

4 December 2010
How bad can a travel guidebook be really? The teaser was a seaside restaurant with the most magnificent view to watch the sunset. The reality was a remote costal village some 50 kilometers away from Valparaiso where the sun set behind the hills and not as envisaged right on the ocean. Plus the house specialty was what can be described as “remains of shellfish – mostly shell – cooked in cream and baked with cheese substitute in order to make it boiling hot while avoiding a crust”. At least the wine came from the Casablanca valley and thus was very good.
Valparaiso itself is absolutely worth a visit. It is very different, not beautiful but interesting. It also got UNESCO world heritage status in 2003 and that is really interesting. I do not know what drives UNESCO’s decision making but when I think of Porto in Portugal for instance half the city is empty and inhabited by pigeons leading to an awful stench all over the place. Valparaiso is most likely home to every single homeless dog with digestion problems - mostly constipation I reckon. You could study every possible kind of dog feces within a few meters. A stale smell is the least you can say when thinking of a proper description of the odor of that city.
Received comment: Read your blog. Very funny!
Received comment: I must say, dear Margit, you are one of the most colorful writers I've come across on the Internet… "homeless dog with digestion problems" ...creatively composed, Margit. Most creative. And I do hope your shoulder is feeling better today.

3 December 2010
I made it to Chile – despite the hurt shoulder and the arm in the sling and went to a vineyard (Veramonte in the Casablanca Valley) and a wine tasting on the way to Valparaiso.

2 December 2010
Coming to Sao Paulo as a tourist is not an obvious thing to do. It is vast. It is not strikingly beautiful. Mostly it is grey. The skyline is impressive but the only spot where you can see it from is the so-called BANESPA building, a bank tower that resembles New York’s Empire State building, where the staff allows you a meager 5 minutes on top of the building. With a handicap like mine (my left arm is of no use due to the dislocated shoulder) that is barely enough to take three pictures, let alone enjoying the view. To be fair it is one of the only things that are free of charge.
After I had dislocated my shoulder I had to venture out to a medical supply store in a neighborhood even further away from the usual spots. The store featured a mannequin with a mask. And I had no camera on me… On the way back I got pitiful looks from two guys from an anti AIDS campaign and two free condoms that will unfortunately expire soon. So you see, I just don’t have it with free things in this city.
As I can neither comb nor wash my hair properly I thought I might as well see a hairdresser. He was a Rasta with a tattoo on his right upper arm that read “I love living” in German! And he spoke German as well, working half the year in Zurich, half the year in Sao Paulo. After having washed my hair he stopped combing it half way, seemed to have lost all interest and went outside to smoke a cigarette. I tried not to take it personally.
My first general impression of the city was three homeless people sleeping in front of the ministry for employment of all places. Overall the sheer number of homeless people on the streets and digging through trash in search for food is remarkable.
The job situation must be difficult. Even nuns have side jobs here. I saw one selling CDs in a coffee shop going from table to table. With my handicap I was too slow to take a picture though. Another job option is sandwich. The sandwich people advertising for copy shops, gold and silver traders or mobile phone recyclers almost outnumber the homeless on the streets.
Sao Paulo is home to the largest Japanese community outside of Japan. The Libertade quarter is therefore more than just Little Tokyo. You see Japanese gardens, lots of shops with Japanese food and vegetables and even gift shops with Santa Causes in Kimonos.
What I had not at all expected was that virtually nobody speaks English here or Spanish for that matter. So communicating is extremely difficult. I just gave it a go most of the time, mixing whatever piece of language that was at hand which landed me a “sorry I don’t understand most of the time” and a ridiculous “your Portuguese is very good” in a taxi to the airport.

1 December 2010
A quick wrap-up after travelling for a month: Dislocated my left shoulder (while asleep…) and due to the pain I am not in a writing mood.

30 November 2010
My alter ego, the other Margit Brandl who recently got married, has taken a train from Vienna to Wels in Upper Austria the other day. The Austrian Railway Company has been kind enough to send me her ticket via e-mail. Sitting in Sao Paulo I can only hope that the dear lady uses only my e-mail address for her extravagant journeys.
I spent most of today’s afternoon in Sao Paulo’s cathedral. Not necessarily out of free will but mostly due to abrupt weather changes and a real bad thunderstorm. What was most interesting wasn’t the sheer size of the church (allegedly it seats 8.000 people) but that there were long lines in front of the confessionals. I guess the weather was to blame.

29 November 2010
And off I went again, this time I am headed for Brazil. Spending time in airplanes can be lengthy and so one reads the inflight magazine a bit more carefully than during shorter flights. Interestingly peanut allergies seem to worry certain carriers. I quote: “XYZ Airlines recognizes that some passengers are allergic to peanuts. Although we do not serve peanuts, we do serve other nut products, and there may be trace elements of unspecified peanut ingredients... Additionally other customers may bring peanuts onboard. Therefore, we cannot guarantee that customers will not be exposed to peanuts during flights, and we strongly encourage customers to take all necessary medical precautions to prepare for the possibility of exposure.” That sounds rather radical to be to be honest.

28 November 2010
A real classic: Hape Kerkeling pretends to be Queen Beatrix on a state visit (only in German).

27 November 2010
While I still stick to my beloved analogue film camera, interesting new laws get enacted, such as a ban of the use of digital cameras in Kuwait. I wonder whether in practice a distinction is made by the officials whether your SLR camera is a digital or analogue one – as long as it looks fancy enough to serve an unwanted purpose.

26 November 2010
Power games are played in remarkable ways. The setting: Embassy of a faraway country, visa department in the cellar, afternoon, no applicants, after one hour in the empty waiting room for no obvious reason. A: I would like to apply for a visa. B: Applications in the morning, picking up visas in the afternoons (4 weeks after the application morning that is). A: Oh! But would you please have at least a look at my application to see whether it is complete. B (gives it a glance): The picture is no good. A (surprised): Why? B: I mean, it is a good picture but is much too big! And we only see your face! A (asking herself what else you really need to see on a passport picture): Well… B: You need to go and get yourself a nice new picture and come back tomorrow.
One day later, 3 people in the waiting room, no obvious action. After more than one hour: A: Here I am again. B shows no obvious sign of recollection. A: You remember you sent me to get some new passport pictures and well, here they are, I hope they are good. B (beams): They are perfect now. Let me have a look at the CD (with the required softcopy of the picture in a special format). B frowns, saying: But that is the OTHER picture. A: Yes, you had a look at it yesterday on the CD and it was fine. B (neglecting the comment): But this is the actual picture that will be used on your visa! Why did you not store the new one on the CD? A: I just got it today from a machine… B: But why didn’t you scan it? A: I had no time. B (slowly recognizing the slight absurdity): But why didn’t you scan it? A: Well, you know… B (changing the subject, interestingly to make a constructive proposal): If you go to the traffic lights, turn right, there is a shop where they can scan your new photo. But come back in less than 15 minutes, otherwise we’re closed. After 15 minutes, quite some jogging and a harsh debate in the photo shop. B (showing no sign of recollection): Go to the waiting room. A: But I just wanted to hand you’re the CD. B: Ah. A hands over the CD. B: And you have your receipt? A (suppressing a sigh): Yes, thank you.
Received comment: Get yourself a column in the Standard on Saturday. It will make you famous!

22-25 November 2010
A brief visit to Austria where things have changed quite a bit during the recent weeks. One of the many bridges in my hometown Bruck an der Mur is being tiered down which gives the whole city a new and very nice look.

21 November 2010
Brussels has not changed much in the past few weeks. The only obvious change I’ve spotted is a recent name change of one of the already interestingly named restaurants. It used to be called “And Who Is Going To Walk The Dog?” and has been renamed to read: “And Who Is Going To Bring The Dog Home?” Et Qui Va Ramener Le Chien?

19 – 20 November 2010
Back in Brussels. What I miss already:
- Driving through Arizona and listening to Kaff Country. Luckily they have a live stream.
- Idiosyncrasies in Mexico such as whole packages of cigarettes in the mini bar in a non-smoking hotel room.
- T-Shirt prints such as “Delightfully Tacky, Yet Unrefined.” and – on a boy – “Guilty”, on a girl “Kiss Me” and again on a boy: “Sexiest Man Alive”.

18 November 2010
Thinking about modern travelling and its ups and downs. Are airport hotels helpful when they forget to do the promised wake-up calls? Captains tired of repeating the same sentences over and over again stating: We… aaaahhh… fly to…aaaahhh… Dallas. And flight attendants who continue with remarkable statements like: We sell snacks and beverages and accept all major credit cards. We do not accept cash. I repeat: We remind you that we do not accept cash. I wonder when airports will start charging for using their toilets, to be paid by credit cards of course...

17 November 2010
A last visit to Mexico City center which accounts to a number of accomplishments: Watch repaired, camera repaired, beautiful bookshop (El Péndulo, Cafebreria) visited, six more beetle taxis counted. I also saw a bubble wrapped Jesus in a Jesus et al sculpture wholesale store.

16 November 2010
Very insightful thoughts by J.: It’s a good thing to get something started. It’s a better thing to get something finished. Perfectionism is a poison to completion.

15 November 2010
Beetle counting mounted up to 756. Meanwhile the drivers start recognizing me and greet me with “Hello Austria”. There is obviously something to that song “Going Loco Down in Acapulco”. Talking to somebody today about Panama I recognized a recurring pattern which is that no matter where you go people apologize for things they have read at the hairdresser’s. It always starts with: I would never really read that magazine but as I was at the hairdresser and they had nothing else really there was this story I remember now…

14 November 2010
I could spend all day here riding beetle taxi cabs. In fact I guess I do… Yesterday night I had the best encounter of all. The usual three questions (where are you from, what’s your name, are you married) came out slightly twisted – admittedly after some nice chit chat about the beautiful beetle, a 2003 model and as such one of the last ones ever produced - and went like that: Where are you from? What is your name? Do you want to drive the beetle? At first I thought that must be a joke but he went on saying: No really, now you play the “taxista” and I play the guest! He did not have to say that twice really. That was one remarkable ride, especially uphill to my bright pink Los Flamingos hotel!
What I should not forget to mention because it is really breathtaking is the La Quebrada cliff divers. I went to see the show twice last night and once today in sunlight. It is amazing, the cliff divers jump from 35 meter high cliffs into a narrow channel. They perform saltos, jump two and two together, one even jumped backwards and made a salto on top of that.

13 November 2010
I would not have thought that finally here they are: Acapulco has them all, beautiful white and blue Volkswagen beetle taxis! Driving into the city alone I counted 200. With number 202 I headed down to the city centre this morning. I have noticed that I am not too social here looking impolitely over people’s shoulders during a conversation in keeping on counting beetles. I’ve come up to 543 by the end of the day.
Acapulco is an aged holiday town, it’s heyday long over. Even the bathing suits on sale in many shops look like they date back to the 50ies.
Just like in Mexico City one can buy vast quantities of church supplies and Jesuses next to the Cathedral. For what would be 30 Euros one can get a fine baby Jesus sculpture with either dark or fair skin.
The following dialogue spun loose at breakfast this morning: A: May I ask you where the local cemetery is and how I best get there? B (with a very kind and mild expression): Wait, I’ll draw a picture for you. Just go down to the center and take a yellow bus that reads “Maxitunnel”. Right at the other end of the tunnel you have the cemetery. B (thinking how accurate...): Ah, many thanks! B (even milder and in that sense very Mexican): May I inquire who you are paying condolences to? Family? A (honestly and therefore unfortunately a bit too matter of factly): Johnny Weissmueller. Tarzan! B (slightly irritated and already a bit reserved): Him? A: Yes, I read on the Internet that his tomb stone reads „Johnny Weissmueller, Tarzan“ and that his wife, fulfilling his last wish, had the famous Tarzan cry cried at the funeral when the coffin was lowered down. (Who she engaged for the cry or whether she had it played back I have not yet found out but it seems that the B was not too interested in that anyway). B (at that point VERY reserved): But he is buried somewhere else anyway! And you can’t go there. A (puzzled): But why not? B (coldly): Much too dangerous if you are by yourself. Which made the old cemetery tourist shy away at least for the time being. Instead I went to the other cemetery. On a bus, just as B had recommended. And without knowing it seems that all the passengers were on their way to the cemetery judging from the drivers’s driving style: overtaking on the other side of the street, never mind the traffic, overtaking on the right side through gas stations (!).

12 November 2010
On I went (on a bus) to Acapulco and ended up in a hotel which is spectacular in its own terms. Its name is Los Flamingos and allegedly it once belonged to John Wayne and Johnny Weissmüller. There is even a Tarzan Pavilion in which Johnny Weissmüller spent his honeymoon and lived during old age. Also movies have been made here. The hotel is painted in a bright flamingo pink and a bit worn but not without charm. It sits on top of one of the highest cliffs in Acapulco and from my room I see the Pacific bay. It is very romantic but has also a very lonely touch to it. Perhaps that is because the Hollywood celebrities are not walking in and out anymore like in the 1950ies and because there are hardly any guests here overall.

11 November 2010
The number of counted Volkswagen beetle taxis in Mexico City went up to a meager 82 out of which none (!) was green and white.
Mexico City is incredibly large. It took almost one and a half hours to go by subway and train to a suburban town called Xochimilco. With its canals and gondolas it really has something, very picturesque!

10 November 2010
Mexico City has changed quite a bit since I have last been here in the summer of 2003. Most notably the Volkswagen Beetle taxis have really almost disappeared. That was the reason for my original journey to Mexico City in 2003; I had read in early 2003 that for environmental reasons Mexico City wanted to phase out all green and white beetle taxis by the end of 2003. My first reaction back then was: The only (and also the largest) city on this globe that uses beetle taxis will phase them out? So I have to go see them before it is too late! And so I did. And it was marvelous. In three days I counted over 3600 green and white beetle taxis. In fact I did not do much else than counting beetles. This time things are quite different. First of all, all taxis are now halfway golden and halfway dark red. And second there is a plethora of brands out there. Third and most annoying: so far I have only counted 39 gold/dark red beetle taxis and not a single (!) green and white one.
I am somehow reminded of a line in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “What the Dog Saw” reading: Change does not necessarily mean progress.

9 November 2010
Puerto Escondidos Alcoholics Anonymous advertise with a meeting schedule that looks as follows: from 6 – 7 p.m. for the English speaking group and 4:30 to 6 pm for the Spanish speaking one. I could not help but notice that the first one coincides with the typical happy hour in Puerto Escondido and the other one would just be done by the time the Happy Hour starts.

7 – 8 November 2010
Puerto Escondido is a nice and calm costal town. People visiting here seem to be mostly interested in nice beaches, surfing, good food and interestingly enough wireless Internet and tattoos. There is also a clear age differentiation. Almost everyone I’ve seen under the age of 45 has a tattoo, mostly in a shape that can expand easily when the possessor gains weight (which seems to happen a lot). And particularly men over 60 seem to enjoy sitting in the back of coffee shops with their tiny little laptop PCs making use of the wireless links.

6 November 2010
Early this morning the journey went on from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido – this time with a tiny little Cessna airplane – a real experience. Fortunately the weather was really good. After temperatures of just around 10 degrees centigrade in Mexico City and later at night in Oaxaca the 25-30 degrees and light see breeze here are really a welcome change. For those readers who are interested in cooking with alcohol: I had a tomato soup with Pernod today whereby the Pernod was the best thing about the soup. Just as my grandmother used to say: That little bit of food you could also drink! The restaurant would have offered a “Bloody Merry” as well but I thought after the soup that that was maybe a bit overstated.

5 November 2010
After having visited Teotihuacan’s ruins close to Mexico City and returned the car at the airport, on we went by bus to Oaxaca (which non-Mexicans just cannot pronounce; it is supposed to sound somehow like o-a-ha-ha-ca but pronounced with a seriously blocked nose). Bus lines operate just as airlines in this country. The terminals remind you very much of airports and one checks in suitcases just like at the airport. At security and passport (!) control I was almost denied boarding the bus as my ticket read Margarita Brandooooo. Interestingly enough my rather lame excuse that my passport was in my already checked in suitcase was accepted and so I had no further trouble boarding the bus. On the bus there is ample leg space, headsets are handed out and even movies are shown (in Spanish). As traffic is unpredictable the journey lasted over seven hours in the end and was - despite the comfort on the bus – quite tiring. Oaxaca itself is a very pleasant place. I read somewhere that chocolate was invented here and so of course I had to test some. The hot chocolate was very good, but the rest not comparable to Belgian chocolate. What is indeed interesting is that in and around Oaxaca some sauces called “mole” are prepared using chocolate and chili as main ingredients. The sauces are not necessarily sweet but of course rather heavy. They are delicious but unfortunately mainly served with meat.
Monte Alban close to Oaxaca is not quite as big as Teotihuacan but the pyramids and excavations there are equally stunning.

4 November 2010
This morning I overheard the following conversation on the breakfast table next to me in my Hotel in Mexico City. On the table there was a 65 year old couple from Australia, a blind person with his mother and unclear whereabouts, a single American traveler in his 60ies and a Polish guy in his late 30ies or early 40ies. The Polish guy started telling everybody on the table that his career really took off since he decided to devote all his time and effort to this one company who sells a wonderful health enhancing product. It was so good that it could be used for and against virtually everything. He said that although he now works in the health business, there is one thing he cannot stand: cross-eyed people. And so one of his latest cases was a cross-eyed woman who he approached against all personal odds. And really, immediately after using the product she got back a superb straight vision. Nodding to one another the Australians and the US traveler said unanimously that they should perhaps buy the product and could they have a business card. The blind person and his mother understandably grew more and more silent.

3 November 2010
Driving to Mexico City and then through Mexico City was a test for one’s nerves. Again I had some troubles with a GPS unit and just though in the very last moment that I also could use my phone which then of course worked perfectly and guided us through a massive traffic jam.
Less worldly and a bit more on the bizarre side of life was a dialogue I entered in yesterday in Uruapan: A: You know, I don’t find any work here and I am a bit short of money. B: Ah. A: I’d like to work in the US. B: Ah. A: Where are you from? B: Austria and (C) Belgium. A (visibly disappointed and more to himself): Well, then it is rather unlikely that you could bring me to the US, right? Hmmm. Austria and Belgium, that is in the Soviet Union, the UDSSR, right? B (slightly irritated): No, in Europe and well the Soviet Union ceased to exist over 20 years ago. A (sincerely appalled): No! B (unsure whether to laugh or to cry): Yes! A: And Russia? Has Russia also ceased to exist? B (conciliatory): No, Russia is still there.
Received comment: I guess I don't have to worry anymore that it's folk from the USA who don't know anything at all about world geography. We Americans appear to have moved from last place, where Mexicans have just moved, to second-to-last place.

2 November 2010
One cannot imagine how the Dia de los Muertos is celebrated here. Parly it is one big folk festival, partly it is deeply religious mourning of the deceased. Mostly it is both at the same time. There is loud polka music and laughing and at the same time there are people sitting on the graves of their ancestors in meditative silence. Often whole families are around the graves and eat there. The graves themselves are beautifully decorated. Orange flowers dominate but there is a wide variety of colors used for crosses and other shapes. I even saw an airplane and a bicycle made of flowers. It is also not unusual to decorate the graves with a bottle of Tequila or a gun.
From a local brochure: “The Underworld, called infierno by the Spanish – in Latin ínferus – which means the lower region, was the equivalent of Heaven or the Christian sky for the Tarascans. They considered it a place of pleasure, but they also believed that in that place darkness ruled. The name designating that place was Pátzcuaro, which was literally translated as “place of darkness”, in other words, the world of death, because night is the death of the sun which is going to rule in the land of shadows. Pátzcuaro was also considered to be the “door to the sky”, the place through which the gods ascended and descended, and the seasonal seat of Curicaueri, god of sun and fire, to whom offerings were made in this place.”

1 November 2010
A quick wrap-up aftertravelling for a month: Watch broken, tripod broken, lost one scarf and one jacket and was almost bitten by a dog. The first four are not quite as bad but the last one really was. Three stray dogs were running towards me, the biggest one jumped onto me from behind and had my left upper arm already in his mouth when the smallest one also jumped onto me. This may have distracted the first one and so he let go of my arm. The third dog fortunately remained rather passiv.
Received comment: International recommendation from Albania and Georgia regarding dogs: Lift up your hand, try to appear taller than you are, puff yourself up and just try to imitate the peculiar look of men who are about to open a meeting where they are unsure about what to expect. You should further pretend having a stone in your hand that you are about to throw. That has so far worked everywhere, even in Mali where dogs only speak Bambara .

31 October 2010
Patzcuaro is located on a large lake and seems to be the zenith of all Day of the Death and All Saints Day festivities. The city itself was packed with visitors already today. On all corners skeletons were on sale whereby one booth really overdid it: There was a pregnant skeleton with a fetus skeleton in her belly. The baby’s skeleton was upside down and the belly was done with a layer of clothes.

30 October 2010
I am more and more convinced that death is not Viennese but Mexican. It is incredible what effort is put into decorating cities and even hotels and restaurants for All Saints Day. There are skulls everywhere and Morelia – according to my guide book the best place you’ve never been (and you’ve never heard of) – is decorated with skeletons in all shapes and forms, sourrounded by orange flowers. There are skeletons that drive carriages, skeletons in beautiful dresses coquettishly showing one boney knee, skeletons with mustaches and skeletons with ammunition belts and guns.
Received comment: Hello Margito :-) Love that one by the way. Did I make a stupid Orgasmo comment on the 27th? If so - sorry! I've been nightshifting for the last 10 days - the consumption of four crates of beer has probably no helped. Loving the first month!

29 October 2010
Queretaro is also a former silver mining town but it is really hiding its treasures well within a very ugly periphery. Within the old town there are numerous beautiful churches and a very nice art museum within an old cloister. Maximilian I. was sentenced to death and executed in Queretaro in 1867.
On every corner they sell day of the death sweets. Mostly the sweets are in the shape of skulls and made from sugar, chocolate or marzipan. Very bizarre but also very interesting!
More and more one sees people in various day-of-the-death costumes. Yesterday night for instance Death himself sold red roses. Today a family waited for a bus having their young son with them in a self-made cardboard coffin. One side of the black cardboard box showed a white cross, the other was open and one could see the boy who was busy putting a death mask onto his face.

28 October 2010
We went to a nice little town called San Miguel de Allende. The guide book describes it as Disneyland for aging Americans and well, it is a dreamy and perhaps typically Mexican town where everything seems to be at the right place.
I had a great and very funny misunderstanding with a waiter. I had forgotten the Spanish word for spoon and held a spoon up, somewhat pointing at the waiter, asking “y se llama” what probably sounded very dismissive and meant something along the lines of “… and the name is?”. He answered slightly puzzled: “Pablo”. We both had to laugh really hard.

27 October 2010
On we went today from Guadalajara to Guanajuato. Guanajuato is a UNESCO world cultural heritage site and is hometown of Diego Rivera. In earlier days there was a lot of silver mining there which partly explains the beautiful architecture. The city is very colorful and reminded me of Positano, Peruggia and Budapest, the latter just because the market hall resembled the one in Budapest. Guanajuato is not located at the sea but has quite some steep alleys and passages. Perhaps some places easily renind you of others. Traffic in Guanajuato is mostly led in tunnels that used to be mines or the river bed. Those tunnels are barely lit and a bit spooky. We also saw catacombs similar to those in Palermo where mummies are shown. The climate of the local cemetery was evidently well suited for mummifying the corpses. In front of the museum hawkers were offering mummy lollipops which perhaps stretches the point a bit too much and is really gothic.
On the received comments: I understand that just following this bog can be unsatisfying at times. The rather indiscrete question whether I tried the Orgasmo I’d rather leave unanswered.
And yes, as Brandl cannot be pronounced Brando comes in handy.
In the Yosemite national park the GPS has in essence led me rightly. After the downhill tour I was led back to a highway, drove 4 more miles and arrived safely at my hotel.

26 October 2010
Guadalajara is a very agreeable town and has many things to see. For ease of use in Mexico I changed my name to Margarita Brando which goes down very well it seems. Today we went to Ajicic and lake Chapala, also very worthwhile going to. On lake Chapala I saw that a bar offered the following three drinks, marked as traditional drinks: Vampiro, Gin and Toni (who’s Toni?) and Orgasmo, the first two ones for 39 Pesos each, the latter one for 59 Pesos.
Received comment: Received comment: Your blog seems to focus on drinking! Good...

25 October 2010
A bartender in Guadalajara asked me: "Have you heard the story of that husband who threw his wife off a cliff?" I shake my head. "Do you know why he did it?" I shake my head again. "Tequila."

24 October 2010
Tequila is a really nice and very colorful little town. All things considered, given how lively and multicolored everything is here, what a contrast to the United States! People dress up, go out and show their best outfits. So many things and corners are just so picturesque. Visiting a Tequila factory was a real highlight. The huge agave plants are harvested and the inner core that can weigh up to 60 kilos is then shredded, pressed and fermented. In the inner courtyard of the factory there huge amounts of the fruit piled up against a crumbling yellow wall. Very, very beautiful.

23 October 2010
Travelling on to Mexico was quite a tour that took many more hours than expected. After Obama had announced his visit the LA airport was about to be shut down and so my first plane seemed to be the last one to leave before his arrival. The connecting flight seemed to be on time, too but when everybody was on the plane, the plane started leaking and water was pouring down on me in the cabin. I was asked whether I’d like to move to first class and I thought for about 2 minutes that life was really good. Then everybody had to disembark, go to another terminal and wait for another aircraft which arrived hours later. Surely as soon as everybody was on board again – and I was back on nmy old seat in economy – the crew needed to be changed resulting in another one and a half hour delay. All in all I was on the road from 8 in the morning till past midnight.

22 October 2010
Leaving the US and reflecting upon things I was wrestling with in America a little bit. First of all I am not familiar with so many habits here such as drinking coffee from paper or plastic cups with lids on them. How do you, just in general, drink from a cup with a lid? How does one pour milk into a cup that is already filled up to the rim with coffee without pouring coffee all over the place or all over oneself? How do you mount a lid onto a cup or dismantle the whole construction without looking ridiculous? Where do you get a straw from and how do you place with regard to the cup’s lid? And why does one have to drink coffee with a straw in the first place?
What I find equally troubling is being forced into giving feedback several times during one single meal. One should tell whether the meal is good, whether anything else can be brought, whether you’re having a good time etc. Those questions are always asked when the guest is chewing or has in other ways a hard time of giving a propoer reply. The waiters also do not really stop by, they ask these questions on the go, leaving the guest in a dilemma: being rude not answering at all or being rude answering with a full mouth. Personally I think that waiters act upon a need for revenge for the „give them your best smile“-mantra they are facing from their employers.

21 October 2010
On my way back to Los Angeles (and again I absolutely underestimated the sheer distances in this country) I stopped at the Hearst Castle. It is an amazing structure, a dream come true for a true lover of mostly European art. One can really feel the spirit of the 1930ies when celebrities such as Chaplin or Lindström had been invited to stay there. Hearst simply liked good conversations they say and just invited people he thought interesting over.

20 October 2010
I left San Francisco and drove south taking highway number one and the 17 miles drive. Well it could have been anywhere really. The fog was so intense that I could hardly see the road. That was really unfortunate as I had absolutely looked forward to that part of my journey…
I worked on my personal charts of country songs:
1. Anything Like Me - Brad Paisley
2. Bullets in a Gun - Toby Keith
3. I loved her first - Heartland
4. Three Wooden Crosses - Randy Travis
5. Every Light In The House - Trace Adkins
6. Farmer's Daugher - Rodney Atkins
7. Whiskey Lullaby - Bill Anderson
8. Toes (I call it rather “Life Is Good Today) - The Zac Brown Band
9. All Over Me - Josh Turner
10. Little White Church - Little Big Town

19 October 2010
San Francisco is really a very special place. I went to the Pirate Supply Store on Valencia and they really sell glass eyes there. There is a little tag beside the eyes reading: Glass Eye frequently asked questions: Question: Can the eyes see me? Answer: Probably.
They also had a little booklet on kissing. I quote: Never interrupt a man when he prays, or curses, or kisses. From Red Pearls by Charlotte Mansfield.

18 October 2010
When I was driving into San Francisco I had to stop at the toll booth on the Bay Bridge. And interestingly enough the normal three questions I tend to get asked all the time (What is your name? Where are you from? Are you married?) were slightly twisted this time and went like follows: ‘A: So where are you from? B: Austria! A: Ah, Australia! B: No, Austria. Europe. A: Ah, south of Germany! B: Well, yes but… A (beaming): But that is where our Arnold is from! B (smiling regretfully): Yes… A (obviously coming to the next subject and remember I was just trying to pay the toll): How tall are you? B: Well, whatever, one meter and… A (not too interested in the actual figure): You are so beautiful! Have a good day!

17 October 2010
On my way to Sacramento. A few recent t-shirt prints:
- King Cobra
- All roads lead to summer
- You better read fast because I’m leaving you behind (on the backside of the shirt)
- Front of the pack, best place to be
And my favorite: My anger control class just pisses me off!
On a board in front of a beggar: Why lie? I need a beer.

16 October 2010
Still a bit shaky from yesterday’s driving experience I saw today (from below) not only where I have been driving but also where and how far I would have fallen down. The Yosemite National Park as such is really, really beautiful. Yet it was the first park where I really had the feeling that there were too many people. When climbing up a mountain it was not as crowded anymore than down in the valley but still. Nevertheless I came to understand why Ansel Adams took some of his most impressive pictures here in this park.

15 October 2010
I finally made it to Yosemite National Park. It was a 12 hour drive, over 500 miles (about 850 kilometers) out of which the last 120 or so were through a pitch black Yosemite Park, leading over a pass. That would have all been fine, even with the occasional rock in the size of a child’s head on the street. I’ve seen much worse and I mean MUCH worse street conditions when driving through Ethiopia, especially at night. The really lousy thing was that the GPS said about 10 miles from the hotel “please turn right on Forest Road”. And so I did. The first few hundred meters were still more or less paved. Then there was a turn. I took the wrong turn. The GPS shouted at me and said in a nasty voice that due to me it had to recalculate now. My turn was a dead end turn but there was still enough room to reverse the car. And then of course I went down the other turn just as the GPS said. I should say that the rental car I drive here is a Dodge van with eight seats and as such constructed very low, almost touching the ground. And then I went down what proved to be not only a forest road (well, sometimes they name roads for a reason) but a road that was built into solid rock most of the time. It was about as wide as a car, on one side there was the rocky mountain and on the other a cliff. The surface of the road as such was mostly not only uneven, there were massive cracks, rocks and god knows what. I would not even have dared to drive down there with a four wheel drive. But as said there was no chance to turn back. So I went down seven miles with the van. I sweated, prayed, trembled and stayed cool at the same time. After 800 kilometers and about 11 hours in a car this is the least you need. I wished I could wake up from that nightmare but unfortunately I was not dreaming but driving literally straight down a mountain.

14 October 2010
After having been to Zion National Park yesterday and driven through the Nevada desert I am happy to be in Las Vegas now. For the time being I had my share of nature and am happy to see city lights again! And what a city! Everything seems to shine and sparkle; there are neon signs all around you. One hotel (the Mirage) has a volcano that erupts one time per hour, another one (the Belagio) a light show using the water fountain in front of the hotel. The Luxor hotel is a huge black pyramid, the New York, New York features a statue of liberty in front and one made of candy inside and the Venetian is a masterpiece as such. It is Venice, inside out. But it is a Venice that is wholesome, intact and does not crack and crumble at all.
Unfortunately these days the slot machines are not actual slot machines anymore. They feature slots for dollar bills, not for quarters and winning does not mean you hear the quarters falling down but that you can print out a coupon and cash it. But winning does not seem to be much of an option anyway.
It is very, very interesting to watch people gambling on those machines. Shortly after sitting down and having inserted their first bill they seem to be drifting away. It is almost a meditative state, a stare in a faraway distant, interrupted only by the occasional tap on a button of the slot machine.
When driving to Las Vegas the country radio stations were getting fewer and fewer and to a certain degree I miss them already. Especially when people were calling in and then were too excited to actually say something. One of them said to the moderator: “Maybe you can help me decide. I can talk about my horse, my husband and about whiskey.”

13 October 2010
I saw the Red Canyon and the Bryce Canyon yesterday, again marvelous sights and totally different than the other canyons and valleys I have seen so far.
One of the local radio stations was raffling a new CD by a allegedly well-known band whose name escapes me. The number one hit on that CD is called “Pretty good in drinking beer”. I heard that while I drove through “Garfield County” (I swear…).

12 October 2010
Food photographer Carl Warner is a real artist I think. He calls his landscapes that are made from food foodscapes…
On the corporate word the following thought occurred to me when reading through some recent communication. During the next few months I will definitely not miss sentences like that (although they make nice blog contributions): The choice and promotion of xyz should be driven by the anticipated availability of an associated ecosystem.

11 October 2010
From a telecommunications point of view I am deprived of most services. There is either no mobile coverage or my various network providers have no roaming agreements… The Belgian phone should be back online (theoretically, but definitely at the moment the problem is not on the Belgian side…).
Lake Powell is beautiful – especially for a dam and artificial lake – and the Antelope Canyon just stunning!

10 October 2010
The journey goes on and so I went to the Monument Valley today which is, well, what can I say: monumental. It is in the Navajo reservation at the border between Arizona and Utah. I felt a bit like Joanna Wayne there. Joanna Wayne with a nasty cold to be honest. It seems that air-conditioned rooms, iced drinks and a 40 minute photo stop in the ice cold Grand Canyon at sunset the other day did not do me good at all.

9 October 2010
I was told to watch that little movie as sort of an intercultural training for the US… Isn’t it awesome, incredible, amazing?
My journey led me to the Canyon de Chelly today. It is huge and is maintained by the Navajo Nation. Standing on the Canyon’s rim is spectacular and again totally different than the Grand Canyon.

8 October 2010
I arrived at the Grand Canyon yesterday night. The only things I could still see were shops with Elk kitsch. Reminds me a lot of Norway…
But then the Grand Canyon as such sent cold shivers down my spine. I lack words to describe it really. I think it is apart from the calving glaciers in southern Argentina the most breathtaking natural wonder I have ever seen.

7 October 2010
I made a detour today which was somewhat silly, going south from Phoenix to Tucson in southern Arizona to see an airplane boneyard. And then I drove back up again all the way to the Grand Canyon. The boneyard was not as spectacular as I had exected, mainl because the planes were not as old or as broken as I had imagined. The adjacent museum had a better variety of old planes but still most of them were former air force planes. It gave me some chills seeing them in all different shapes and forms. It seems that human phantasy is without limits when it comes to thinking up military equipment.

6 October 2010
Didn’t they say that America is God’s own country? Nowadays he advertises along the highways in twitter style: ‘Feeling lost? My book is your map. - God’. Pay attention to the minus! There is even a website, called God Speaks.

5 October 2010
On to San Diego, a really lovely and hip town. Didn’t they say it never rains in California? Well it sure rains now and it is rather cold. I am dressed similarly to what I was dressed like in Norway a few weeks ago. A postcard print I read today said: Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that people who have the most live the longest. (Larry Lorenzoni)

5 October 2010
On to San Diego…

4 October 2010
Just as expected my Belgian phone died today. I hope that I will be able to bring it back online somehow...
I went on a tour called „Hollywood's Tragical History Tour”, organized by a tour organizer called "Dearly Departed". One is brought from one tragic site where a Hollywood star or inhabitant died or was murdered to the next. Very interesting and as such almost Viennese. What was special was that today was the 40th anniversary of Janis Joplin’s death. She died in a hotel that was called Landmark at the time and is called Highland Gardens Hotel today. Allegedly the room is booked for years in advance for October 4th. And one could see light in the room today as well.

3 October 2010
Disneyland is a different world. What is particularly amusing are people that beam when Disneyfigures embrae them or perfectly serious looking grown ups with Micky Mouse ears in their hair. Also a good place to spot interesting t-shirt prints such as: Future trophy wife.

2 October 2010
The Getty museum and Hollywood are two extremes. One is amazing and has a vast collection of nearly every direction in art, the other one hosts a 50 year old, meanwhile worn walk of fame. Its over 2000 stars on the sidewalks are dirty and partially even breaking.

1 October 2010
Big changes: it is day 1 of my sabbatical year and the big adventure has started. I read somewhere the other day that smiling requires about 50 mussels whereas sitting just requires one. After sitting in an airplane for 9 hours and then again for 4 hours I can only underline that we are talking facts here.

30 September 2010
It is becoming more and more difficult to buy film these days. I went to three shops and the result was: no film sold anymore. Or just Fuji which is essentially the same thing.

29 September 2010
I forgot to mention a nice analogue statement I found during the Photokina fair last Sunday: The return of Luck, coincidence, contingency, chance, fortune and surprise.

28 September 2010
Well, you can always have an explanation…

27 September 2010
Just discovered this website where finally somebody stands up against all the intentionally positive marketing stories. The 'Demotivators' sell calendars, mugs, t-shirts etc with very clear messages. Some of their statements are just so to the point. A few soundbites:
BLOGGING: Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few.
CLUELESSNESS: There are no stupid questions, but there are a LOT of inquisitive idiots.
CUSTOMER DISSERVICE: Because we're not satisfied until you're not satisfied.
DESPAIR: It's always darkest just before it goes pitch black.
GOALS: It's best to avoid standing directly between a competitive jerk and his goals.
INSPIRATION: Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99% perspiration, which is why engineers sometimes smell really bad

26 September 2010
I went to Photokina - the biggest photography fair worldwide. The Nikon stand advertised already on the steps leading up to their booth: I am colorful, I am imagination, I am happy, I am curious, I am here, I am home, I am ambitious, I am precise, I am fun, I am stylish, I am brave, I am the next step, I am innovative, I am slim, I am intelligent, I am awesome, I am cool, I am perfection, I am your muse, I am passion.

25 September 2010
Mostly things are not as straightforward as in movies where there are machos and non machos, beloved ones and denied ones.

24 September 2010
About mobile phone ringtones: What does the following lyrics of a song used as a ringtone tell us about a certain person? You lip stick stains on the front lobe of my left side brain... (from the song Hey Soul Sister by Train)

23 September 2010
Somebody said in a radio show that consuming is a secular promise of otherwise devine salvation.

21 September 2010
- Reading a long, well written, wise article on analphabetism
- Belgians buying chocolate in Switzerland
- A delayed landing in Zurich due to fog and an on time departure to Brussels despite fog – leaving me behind in Zurich limbo

20 September 2010
Thinking about contradictions: Even Schopenhauer has already pondered the thought that certain core principles cannot be applied to all possible cases. Should one assume a principle like if two or more people love doing something they can very well do it together then at least in certain cases that is not fully applicable. An example: A says he likes to go on walks in solitude. B replies, well, yes, me too and continues to state 'so we can perfectly go on a walk together then!'

16 September 2010
T-Shirt print: United States of Belgium.

15 September 2010
What an out of office auto-reply: I am on vacation all afternoon on Sept 15.

14 September 2010
Hectic times...

13 September 2010
I often hear people describing a situation in which somebody is taking ‘an active interest’ in something. I wonder how taking a passive interest feels.

12 September 2010
A song is playing on my mind… Shirley Bassey, Kiss Me Honey Honey Kiss Me

11 September 2010
I was told that the September 11 headline in China’s Guangzhou was that a 30 year old man fell asleep 47m up on Guangzhou's Haiyin Bridge. He had climbed intending to commit suicide. He was rescued by firemen when he fell asleep. Apparently he swallowed 6 sleeping pills before climbing.....

10 September 2010
Amazon sells ice cube trays that make ice cubes in the shape of the famous Moai stone statues!

9 September 2010
I love idiosyncrasies such as hating umbrellas when living in a really wet country.

8 September 2010
Since quite some time my name was misspelled again: Margrit.

7 September 2010
I got an e-mail today from a wedding photographer with about 8MB of pictures that were taken at my wedding last Saturday. According to the pictures I am blonde, my husband is called Thomas and we have a little son. Apparently I have a namesake with a similar e-mail address.
Received comment: I was wondering if you were blogging and just found broken blog. At quick reading I got a shock when I saw you had got your wedding photos Then I re read it!

6 September 2010
A routine check-up at the institute for tropical diseases ended with the order to 'stay alive' and to use a seatbelt when travelling as many more people are killed in road traffic accidents than die from malaria and the likes.

5 September 2010
There is an ongoing vote for the German word in youth language 2010. Amongst others there are words like egosurfing = searching the net for one’s own name, emotionally flexible = erratic, phantom vibration = illusion that one’s mobile vibrates and (can’t translate that really) speckbarbie = girl dressed in clothes that are much too tight.

4 September 2010
Roland Roos’ two year project of repairing broken, displaced or damaged things in public space ended recently. According to his website, each repair was intended to restore a particular detail to its pre-damaged state. Before and after the repair a photograph was taken that can be viewed here.

3 September 2010
Brussels is a very peculiar place. Until recently, the out-of-tune carillion of the catheadral played back 'Freude schoener Goetterfunken'. Now it plays equally out-of-tune 'Oh Du lieber Augustin'.

2 September 2010
T-shirt print: My boyfriend is out of town this week.

1 September 2010
What an interesting spelling error: Miss-used. I reckon it should have read abused. Or misuse. But it somehow made me stop reading that piece of text and reflect.

31 August 2010
Since quite some time Coca Cola has this new product ‚zero‘ on the market which seems to suggest being cooler than the ‚light‘ variant. I am told that it has been specifically designed for men which would be worth a discussion.

30 August 2010
There is a new Internet service that is really nice. It is an audio streaming service called Grooveshark. Really good!

28 August 2010
Very soon the big trip will start, so I am pondering whether or not to buy new Nikkor lenses...

27 August 2010
What a roundabout question in a questionnaire: What was your age on your last birthday?

25 August 2010
What do you think of a software that tells you the following: Say ‘yes’ if the security warning box appears!

24 August 2010
'The Baseballs’ should be much better known! What a sound!
Received comment: Most impressed with the Baseballs, except their name. Listen too to the Stray Cats and to Big Audio Dynamite.

23 August 2010
Driving into Munich I saw a sign reading ‘Munich is blue’. Signs in Vienna say ‘Vienna is different’.

21 August 2010
T-Shirt print: Who’s playing you?

18 – 21 August 2010
Stayed in Tisno, Croatia, near the island of Murter and stopped in Zagreb on the way back.

17 August 2010
Silence can be one form of a lie. So a philosopher on the radio said today.

16 August 2010
Back in Austria. The Norway/Finland/Sweden trip was very intense! So many impressions: landscape, stockfish, salmon ladders, reindeers, Fjords, light nights!

15 August 2010
Ferryboat from Helsinki to Stockholm. Stockholm is most beautiful! We had to go to the Astrid Lindgren museum which I thought was a bit childish. In fact it turned out to be really nice and rather inspiring. One goes on a lift through scenes of various Astrid Lindgren stories. Cute!

14 August 2010
Helsinki: The ‘Wrong Noodle Bar’ is next to the ‘Arctic Icebar’. The local hairdresser advertises with a number of sayings like: Hairway to heaven. Forget the brain, use the hair. One single hair can make your day. Sweet dreams are made of hair. I love your thoughts under your hair. Crazy little thing called hair. You’re haired. Hairs truly.

13 August 2010
T-shirt print: Your skill in reading has increased by 1 point.

12 August 2010
My Finnish skills are quite poor but in addition to my favourite words ‘banani’, ‘banki’, ‘posti’, ‘ravintola’ and ‘hissi’ I have learned two new ones: ‘grammofoni’ and ‘messinki’.

11 August 2010
Dialogue in Finland (on a boat): A: Where are you from? B: Austria. Silence. B: And you? A: Here. B: From here? A: No, from Turku. Near Helsinki. B: And this is your holiday destination? A: Yes. And this is my dog.

10 August 2010
T-shirt print: Steak Sandwich.

9 August 2010
Lappland, North Cape: I have think of Qualtinger who said: Why would I need the sun at midnight? And Fjords? You can’t bathe in a Fjord. And the Lapps? Rednecks in furcoats! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRAttwSV_7c

8 August 2010
Driving through Norway is like driving through the images of my grandmother’s calendar.

7 August 2010
Security warning in a hotel room: Leave the room at once. However, if exit routes are filled with smoke stay in your room. Keep the door and window closed. Let the firemen be aware of you.

6 August 2010
Stockfish must not be confused with cured cod. Stockfish is unsalted fish, especially cod and is dried by sun and wind on wooden racks. Cured cod is salted fish that is dried on cliffs. In both cases the tongue of the fish seems to be a speciality that is sold separately. Almost 100% of all dried fish heads are exported to Nigeria where a dried Norwegian fish head is said to be a status symbol.

5 August 2010
Standing on the polar circle really has something to it!

4 August 2010
We drove all the way up to Trondheim, a really marvelous Nordic cioty.

3 August 2010
The Briksdal glacier and the Gerangerfjord were really amazing! What a beautiful country!

2 August 2010
What was really amazing and what will be the last impression from a real city I suppose was the enormous Vigeland sculpture park. From there we went up north over Lillehammer to Lom. Saw a postcard from the 1950ies showing a woman with a toaster, reading: If it fits in a toaster I can cook it!

1 August 2010
Oslo was called Christiania for quite some time (from 1624 to 1925). Oslo is a very nice town, unfortunately there wasn’t too much time to visit. The townhall is somewhat special but could also be in Eastern Europe. A new Olympic ski-jump is about to be built.

27 July 2010
Quotes from Brussels: ‘You do not have to be dominant to be significant. It is more about relevance than dominance.’

26 July 2010
The bookshop Passa Porta in Brussels states on one of its walls: ‘The curse of babel is in fact a blessing.’

23 July 2010
When talking to people, random gaps in general education can hurt almost physically.

22 July 2010
Psychologists differentiate between rational behavior and so-called pre-rational behavior which is triggered by stress and causes action based on old and very simple mental strategies.

21 July 2010
I am discovering songs in old operettas that are new to me. So for instance I just love the refrain of a song that translates as kissing is not a sin. For the German speaking community I quote the text:
Küssen ist keine Sünd’,
Mit einem schönen Kind;
Lacht dir ein Rosenmund,
Küß ihn zu jeder Stund'!
Pflücke die Rosen kühn,
Die dir am Wege Blüh'n,
Nimm dir, was dir bestimmt,
Weil's sonst ein andrer nimmt.

19 July 2010
' I love to listen to you thinking out loud' is I think the most beautiful compliment I ever heard.

18 July 2010
YouTube is a place for real discoveries. Even Duracell’s drumming bunny has made it there!

17 July 2010
A song I haven’t heard in years is 'Heut' kommen d'Engerln auf Urlaub nach Wean'. What is quite funny are the summaries given for the non-German speaking community: 'This is an original Viennese song. It is about angels having a holiday in Vienna, and they like it and god Amor also comes an has a lot of fun.' – 'The angels are taking the 38 tram to go drinking to excess and they are happily planning some singing and some mischief during their vacation!' Actually I like this version better…

16 July 2010
During a very good talk at the venue of my current exhibition I got a very thought provoking comment concerning some of my pictures. Allegedly already hundreds of years ago painters knew that when painting nudes, the nudes had to look away and not directly at the beholder. A direct stare would shy away the beholder. Reflecting on my pictures the comment then was that those ones where the mannequin in question looks more or less dreamily away into a distance are more erotic and sensual than those where the mannequin boldly and almost offensively glances at the beholder.

15 July 2010
I am told that the highest honours for the British Civil Service are in the Order of St. Michael and St. George. The hierarchy is:
* CMG = Companion in the order
* KCMG = Knight Commander
* GCMG = Grand Cross
The alternative explanation given by civil service less senior officials is:
* CMG = Call Me God
* KCMG = Kindly Call Me God
* GCMG = God Calls Me God
Received comment: I like the 15 July entry a great deal!

14 July 2010
A frequent quote, often used after stating simple facts aimed at proving people wrong is: 'This is of course not rocket science.' From a modern day’s perspective, is the crown jewel of all sciences still rocket science?

13 July 2010
Life can be tough but there is hope. Yesterday I learned that there is life after death.
From the Q&A of a newsletter: Q: How will my insurance be affected if I travel a high-risk country privately? A: If you travel to such a country privately you must pay an additional premium if you wish to submit a claim to your insurance in case of death.
Received comment: Have an educated insurance!

12 July 2010
I am invited to an event where High Definition TV will be presented. The print on the invite is blurred. Honi soit qui mal y pense (evil to him who evil thinks)…

11. July 2010
Home, sweet home: Apart from Zotter’s chocolate there is a band that’s called Chilli da Mur. Sweet!

10 July 2010
Dilbert’s alter ego and creator Scott Adams has a theory that you should invest in the companies that you hate the most. I can only recommend the hilarious article, especially the bits where he ponders about Apple’s emotional control over himself and his family.

9 July 2010
How likely is that certain things can happen at all? It’s a busy day. I run to a meeting, I have a paper notebook. I finally also find a pen, a metal one. I can’t use it because for some reason it has a dent that makes it impossible to get the ink cartridge out.

8 July 2010
For the quote collection: ‘… and here I am considerably honest: we must not let the best be the enemy of the good!’

7 July 2010
Life in a modern society is challenging. I went to a garage today to have my tyres changed. The garage was opposite a supermarket and as I had an hour or so I thought I might as well go shopping for groceries. The trolley had a nice little plate saying ‘thank you for bringing me back’. I thought that was nice and just wanted to leave the compound to head off to my car when all of a sudden the wheels of the trolley blocked. I pushed and pushed – but no real movement. I got another trolley, unloaded the first and loaded the second just to discover that a meter further the second trolley’s wheels blocked as well. With all strength at hand I tried my best and dragged the trolley back into the shop where I was greeted with ‘Oh yes, it was you who wanted to leave the compound, wasn’t it? We have an electronic system that blocks the wheels as soon as you leave the parking lot!’ As said, the trolley had a nice little plate saying ‘thank you for bringing me back’. It did however not say: Don’t you dare to take me away in the first place.

6 July 2010
At the end of June the ‘First International Conference on Yawning’ was held in Paris. According to the website, 20 leading experts came to Paris for an in-depth assessment of the challenges involved in the dynamic and fast moving field of research and conjectures on yawning.

5 July 2010
How sad is that: a second hand wedding dress on sale for just 290 Euros.

4 July 2010
I hadn’t heard that song for ages: Adieu mein kleiner Gardeoffizier…

3 July 2010
Saw the newest Hasselblad cameras during a trade show. Amazing! Unfortunately also the prices are amazing.

2 July 2010
The exhibition opening at Expression Deco went really well. I got some interesting new interpretations of m pictures amongst them that the mannequin on a balcony looks like a figurehead.

1 July 2010
Tonight my exhibition at Expression Deco will be opened!

30 June 2010
A hectic day with a one day trip to Vienna followed by exhibition preparations in Brussels at Exhibition Deco!

29 June 2010
I read that bacteria in sewage plants work much better if exposed to Mozart music. I went to a toilet today that was exposed to the Radetzky March. I guess that helps in pre-processing the product before it comes to the Mozart-led finalizing touches in the sewage plant.

28 June 2010
T-shirt print: Everybody just want to be like me!

27 June 2010
Talking about snobbery my father told me the following joke: After having stranded there years ago, an Englishman lives alone on a deserted island. After quite some time, finally a visitor comes and sees three houses, asking the Englishman: Why three houses? The Englishman says, well, of course there is one house I am living in. The other one is the club I go to. And the third one, the visitor wanted to know? Well, the Englishman said, that's the club I don't go to.

26 June 2010
I hear that the word of the day is tenebrous.

25 June 2010
Quite a number of Spaniards are called Jesus. Sometimes I reckon it is only me who finds it kind of funny when a meeting is opened with the statement: ‘… and we are especially pleased that Jesus is with us today!’

24 June 2010
How come that a PC just dies from one second to the other???

23 June 2010
I came across a really interesting artist from Larnaca/Cyprus that works with Dolls. More on his website!

22 June 2010
Is it really a compliment if somebody says about somebody else: 'no matter how busy he is with work, he always finds time for people'?

21 June 2010
How often do you have to say something until you can safely claim to say 'I always tend to say that...'?
Received comment: Seven times.

20 June 2010
Reading 'At home' by Bill Bryson.

19 June 2010
The laugh is always on the loser: Have a look at this image from a BP gas station with the warning: Do not leave pumps unattended - you are responsible for spills.

18 June 2010
I am quoting from a Travel Advisory that I got from a travel agency in order to prepare for a trip to Austria:
- Do not call Austrians German or assume that their cultures are the same.
- Avoid discussing religion, money and politics unless you are well acquainted with your conversational partner.
- In the west, it is respectful to keep appropriate distance from another person. Around Vienna, it is common for social interaction to occur at a closer proximity to others.
- Austrians tend to avoid confrontation, compromising rather than disagreeing.
- The judicial system is not corrupt and is independent of the legislature. The police are competent, and … some police officers speak English.

17 June 2010
How come that some grownups decide to carry around their mobile phones in hand knitted socks? Somehow that socks. Also the thought of grandmothers who start knitting socks for mobile phones from November onward seems odd.

16 June 2010
If someone says he is in a "listening mode" I reckon that does not necessarily mean he is in a "changing mood" or that anything could ever change at all.
Received comment: There is a vast difference between listening and hearing; a lot seem to do the former; fewer the latter...

15 June 2010
A new sound bite in my series of logic reasoning or rather the failure of any logics when trying to reason: “Now, there is apparently an issue with your connectivity to the new server, meaning that our current understanding is that you may not have access to the server. We are trying to debug this situation and get the connection up as soon as possible. Related to this situation, we’ve set up a page at http://www.the-server-you-cannot-connect-to.com where we will be updating the situation as we get more information. Related to this, we won’t directly spam you with status updates: the next and final information will be visible at the page http://www.the-server-you-cannot-connect-to.com [which you can obviously not access]. We may email you again to let you know once we’ve solved the connectivity issue [but we’re not sure of that yet. It might make it too easy for you].” Comment: The comments in square brackets are a mere interpretation by the blogger

14 June 2010
Although the oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico is all but amusing, this video is! What if BP had to clean up spilled coffee….

13 June 2010
Isn´t it a strange form of brand loyalty that I get an immense feeling of wanderlust when driving by Frankfurt airport seeing planes take off but not so much when driving past Charles de Gaulle airport?

12 June 2010
Who invented payback cards? And why is it that I somehow see to remember that the original ratio was something like 3%?

11 June 2010
USB is a very powerful connection it seems. This video shows the latest groundbreaking invention

10 June 2010
People who put themselves in the center of their attention often stand in their own way.

9 June 2010
I promised to post a picture of the M&M dispenser… Here it is!

8 June 2010
I had a small accident. I heard a crack and thought my finger broke. It hurt, it swelled and I panicked. I called a hospital. They told me to come to the emergency room. When I arrived I rang the bell and told the person that answered that I had just spoken to him on the phone. He asked me whether I was sure. I said yes, I was sure, I had called a few minutes before and I most probably had a broken finger. He did not say he wished he could help. What he did say was that he was a psychiatrist and whether I was really sure I would not rather want to see him. I insisted on an x-ray instead. Coldly he sent me away to another branch of the hospital where I gladly waited for 2 hours in an emergency room until all reanimation for the day was done. Finally it was my turn and I was told that the finger was injured but fortunately not broken.

7 June 2010
Dilbertonian moments: A learns that B is invited to go to X. C and D should advise B whether to accept or to decline. C asks E to prepare pros and cons in order to advise B correctly. A advises that B accepts. B says, B would like to attend. D is all for it, too. E says mission accomplished. C says no, a proper pros and cons paper by E is due. E asks A for input. A sighs and fills in a 1.5 page form that says B is right in wishing to attend.

6 June 2010
I like the atmosphere on markets that are about to close. Shop owners do not pay attention to potential customers anymore. They hurry up to make sure they pack up all their belongings. Leftovers are taken by people passing by or end up in garbage. It so happened that my mother and I passed such a closing scene this afternoon. We walked by a flower booth and the owner presented us with 100 (!) tulips!

5 June 2010
Trip to Gouda and Delft: There is even grass green cheese in Holland, made by using basil.

4 June 2010
Modern societies and their unexpressed behavior patterns: If a rather civilized person says “sorry, I am eating like a pig here” does that actually mean the person is fishing for compliments? And, given the circumstances, is an apologetic nod an insult? How to keep one`s eyebrows under control in the situation?

3 June 2010
Sometimes unsolicited communication can be quite interesting. As recently blogged I was awarded an M&M dispenser for winning in a power point karaoke show. Now I get an e-mail alerting me to a service that allows you to order personalized M&Ms. I am tempted. Wouldn’t Broken Muses M&Ms be sort of cool?
Received comment: Will leave a big box of smashed M&Ms at your flat.
Received comment: How about posting a photo of the M&M dispenser you were awarded?

2 June 2010
Quote: “We have a contemporary website.” I wonder what that is really.

1 June 2010
A quite interesting quote: „The iPad is the killer application for the mobile Internet“. I have only seen it on pictures so far but dare say that it is quite bulky for an application. Especially given that it claims to be the haven for so many applications.
Another quote I actually liked was: We tend to overestimate the near future and always underestimate the remote future.

31 May 2010
This is also Europe: I parked my rental car in Cyprus, walked though the main pedestrian area and ended up at a checkpoint that divides the main shopping street into two distinct areas. After applying for a visa, I was allowed to walk over to the Turkish part of the city which proved to be much more interesting from a photogenic point of view. Unfortunately it was already to dark to take pictures.

30 May 2010
Observations from the airport: Most people aren’t dressed well. Jeans that do not quite fit in length, at the waist or are just in general wrong models for the persons wearing them seem to be latest fashion. Also, misfit high heels leading to shaky movements as well as ill-fit boots leading to dragging feet are equally beloved it seems. Above all elegance seems to be history.

29 May 2010
My next exhibition is upcoming: It will be through the whole month of July at Expression Deco in Brussels, Avenue Louise 226A. Opening: Thursday, July 1.

28 May 2010
Today a visitor in the office asked: Can I use your bedroom? How am I to keep a poker face?

27 May 2010
I only feel comfortable in a city when there is a coffee shop that could potentially become my favorite coffee shop – were I to stay in that city. Such place I recently discovered I Addis Ababa, right next to the old train station, the main station of the Ethiopia – Djibouti line that is not operational since quite some years. Only now, back in Brussels, I learn more about this coffee shop. It belongs to the Belgian ambassador
s wife and is described as follows: “Cleverly disguised behind a wooden picket fence, Café́ Choché́ opened a few months ago. After 18 years abroad, Rahel Zewdie wanted to create an oasis in a busy hub, only meters away from Addis-Abeba historical train station “la Gare”.

26 May 2010
I just love that statement from an e-mail I got earlier today: "Here is my problem: None of the organizations I had a look at actually seems to produce something useful. Everyone just looks around and summarizes what the others do." In essence that could also form part of my collection of circular definitions as if nobody is actually doing anything apart from looking around, what is there to summarize apart from general disorientation and tracking the overall inactivity?

25 May 2010
So again my name has come out as Margrit... This time it is consistently misspelled by a "communications manager". Isn't that interesting how broadly text blindness and/or dyslexia are spread amongst different professions?

24 May 2010
It is time to leave Africa again. Some thoughts on the famous sigh TIA – this is Africa: Don’t worry if you buy six stamps and the price you pay is a number that cannot be divided by six. The same holds of course true for all other things, too, e.g. a price of 11 for three coffees. Don’t feel the urge to raise an eyebrow if someone says wholeheartedly “good night mister” at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Also the attempt of being sold sunglasses or t-shits reading 13 months of sunshine in pouring rain is probably just TIA.

23 May 2010
Another way of spelling my name for the collection: Merkit.

19 – 22 May 2010
Lake Tana is as beautiful as I remembered it from the last time I’ve been there. Driving there from Addis Ababa is most beautiful, what a country, what a landscape

15 - 18 May 2010
Days in Addis Ababa with visits to the Entoto mountain, the big covered market Merkato and the Ethiopia National Museum with its archeological section featuring Lucy that was so far believed to be the earliest human-like being. Since 1994 archeologists have been digging out parts of an even older skeleton, Ardi, who belongs to a human-like species 4.4 million years old.

14 May 2010
A trip to the South of Addis Ababa, not quite to the Omo valley (which would be a three week tour I believe) but to Lake Langano and Lake Ziway. There are hot springs with boiling hot water and flamingos.

13 May 2010
Climate change is visible everywhere. Whereas it should be nice and warm in Ethiopia around this time, it is cool and rainy. Addis Ababa’s streets are covered with mud and at certain parts the streets seem to float away. Still there are picturesque moments but I have not been in a photography mood, yet.

12 May 2010
Flying to Africa again I have hardly ever seen such an empty plane with such caring stewardesses. A nice and easy trip so far!

11 May 2010
Slightly absurd dialogue: A: May I borrow your pen please? B: That`s mine. A: Yes, sure, but may I borrow it for a second? B (still staring at his phone): That`s mine. A takes it anyway and says thank you. B remains silent.

10 May 2010
I just love automated e-mails giving travel advise such as: "Organized crime groups occasionally carry out small-scale bombings, though these are generally closely targeted against others implicated in dubious business and pose little risk to personnel."

9 May 2010
Harbor cruise in Antwerp. After Rotterdam, Antwerp has the second biggest harbor in Europe.

8 May 2010
Quite an interesting day: I saw a flash mob event. A number of people had assembled on a large square in order to perform a polonaise for just a few moments and then walked on again just as if nothing had happened. Later on I participated in a Power Point Karaoke, spoke vividly on slides the organizers had downloaded from the Internet at random and that I had never seen before. I won. I even got a prize: a huge M&M dispenser. And I don`t know whether I should be proud about that really.
Talking about power point, one should never forget the take home messages and the lessons learned of course. So in essence three points:
1. On average people lack general education.
2. Overall people`s verbal skills are quite limited
3. It really depends what one tends to be ashamed of; when it comes to embarrassment, the bar has risen considerably in the past few years.

7 May 2010
Received comment on the April 28 reflection on the crowd intelligence: What if we had no stop signs, yet…

6 May 2010
Two attentive readers have pointed out two sides of the same story to me today. One is on mannequins and their history, pointing out that on the one hand they have over time become more and more homogenous but on the other hand still tell us something about ourselves: “At their best they tell us how we stand and carry our bodies; whether we want to be tall, willowy, athletic, busty, Amazonian, and if we need to pay attention to our arches. But even at their worst — headless, colorless, listless — a mannequin tells us something about ourselves.” The other article goes more into detail on one particular aspect of the change that has started to occur when it comes to the design of mannequins – an increase in slenderness. Interestingly enough it is called manorexic mannequins, and although the article contains mainly noteworthy statistics, the best part to me is the list of skinny men in history, lead by Hermes and Jesus. Gandhi ranks eighth followed by Fred Astaire…

5 May 2010
Parts of my recent Broken Muses exhibition have ended today. About half of the pictures will remain exhibited until summer.

4 May 2010
Is putting one`s cards on the table really the best way of getting something off the table?

3 May 2010
New names again: After having been called Marget the other day also the intolerable Birgit has resurfaced. And that from a man whose surname sounds like a prominent mixed yellow spice.

2 May 2010
A rather non-charming quote from a newspaper article: More and more people work out feverishly, trying to change for the better but fail to achieve any measurable result.”

30 April – 1 May 2010
Travelling is always exciting I find. It is interesting to see what people read, e.g. a book titled “Moscow is much more beautiful than Paris”, seen at Cologne airport waiting for a flight to Vienna. I also thought it rather uncommon to write one`s shopping list on the back of one`s hand as was the case with the person sitting next to me in the plane. What was slightly irritating was that “valerian” came first, followed by milk and bread.

28 April 2010
Being in many different sorts of working groups every so often, I am more and more wondering whether it is really true that groups or crowds are more efficient and intelligent than singular human beings. Anyways, in one way or another and contradicting Aristotle - who for that matter probably was never forced to attend working group meetings - I assume it is not always true that the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

27 April 2010
“A cynic is what an idealist calls a realist.” Sir Humphrey in Yes, Minister.‏

26 April 2010
T-Shirt print: Life is 10% how you make it and 90% how you take it.

25 April 2010
Reminded me of broken muses: “Behind every beautiful thing there is some sort of pain.” Bob Dylan

24 April 2010
If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you find an excuse.

23 April 2010
Casino Austria International opened an outlet in Brussels. It is rather an entertainment palace than a casino really. Impressive.

22. April 2010
Talking about bacteria: I recently read a slogan from an Asian campaign promoting washing hands: “If the cook doesn’t wash his hands, the guests eat more than rice.”

21. April 2010
The New York Times quotes two interesting figures, stating that according to the International Telecommunication Union, “the number of mobile phone subscription is expected to pass five billion this year” which means that “more human beings today have access to a mobile phone than the United Nations say have access to a clean toilet.” That reminds me of a study stating that there are more bacteria on our mobile phones than on an average toilet seat. Is there a trigger or are apples compared to oranges here? In other words do people value phones over toilets, do clean phones lead to clean toilets, or clean toilets to clean phones, or dirty phones to dirty toilets, or toilets to higher phone usage or a generally higher phone penetration to dirtier toilets?

20 April 2010
Best practice sharing is not a bad thing as such. I was reminded of a well meant advice I got a few years ago to never wear fair colored suits in morning meetings after early morning flights. The rational was that an early morning flight, moderate boredom and utter tiredness can, in combination with a mouthful of rather average tasting coffee, lead to nasty stains on fair colored suits. Not to forget the embarrassment - especially vis-à-vis the host - of having spit coffee while drifting away. What reminded me of that was the feeling that my black trousers got dusty during a meeting. Be it that the Icelandic volcano`s ashes finally settled on Europe`s surface or my feeling that I had been in that two hour meeting since about two weeks – the baseline was I felt I needed to be dusted.

19 April 2010
One tends to forget that the content of professional looking papers coming out from a printer is not necessarily good or true.

18 April 2010
You can go by bus along the silk road from Hamburg to Shanghai in 75 days! In a newspaper interview the organizers underline the environmental friendly way of bus journeys. On a bus journey the average fuel consumption per passenger is 1 liter per 100km as compared to about 4 liters for a train journey and of course only a fraction of a plane ride. After the Icelandic volcano made the European airspace more or less collapse, these journeys might become a real hype!

17 April 2010
Had a really Dutch day with a visit to a cheese manufacturer in Gouda, lots of history on Holland and a visit through the Royal Delft Pottery. One has to really like the fine pottery. There are some quite original tulip vases which cost a few thousand Euros, though. The oddest new invention is a series of plates with text painted onto. The so-called “Diskus! Plate Men” reads: "Success isn't good for men. It makes them much too secure. Left to his own devices a man isn't going to reflect on life; it's not in the genes. And a man who is doing well has only himself to thank. He thinks. So he needs to get knocked around a bit by life. That might have the desired effect. I think". Quite remarkable is also the text of the “Diskus! plate Chance” reading "I'm sure it's no coincidence that we're sitting at this table together. Some things cannot be mere chance; everybody has got an example of this. On the other hand I think it's nonsense to say chance doesn't exist. I mean what's the chance that nothing ever happens by chance". The latter one makes it into my collection of circular definitions I think.

16 April 2010
Is having a sparring partner just another way of wanting to engage in some sort of competition?

15 April 2010
Is it a form of powerpoint poisoning that while staring in the hole of a ring shaped graph you engage in pondering whether you like ring shaped or pie shaped graphs better?

15 April 2010
I read that year after year more and more bees die over winter time. I wonder what happens to the drones.

13 April 2010
T-shirt print: We did the sheep.

12 April 2010
'Never to get what one wants is never to want (for long) what one gets, unless, sometimes, when it is taken away.' Susan Sontag.

9 - 11 April 2010
London gives the impression of having only suffered a little bit from the recession. There are still plenty of big words and slogans out there like: 'The icon re-imagined'.

8 April 2010
After a really long time of moderate name stability I have been given quite a new nice new name again today: Marlies.

7 April 2010
I was listening to a really professional and exhaustive explanation regarding the proper usage of a mobile e-mail client. The presenter began literally every sentence with an inimitable "unfortunately". His best contribution was: "Unfortunately this device cannot be upgraded, but please have a look at the support page of unsupported devices - of course at your own risk."

5 April 2010
Just for your reference: Should anyone ever be bothered to sell or buy an island, there is a brilliant website out there. Vladi Private Islands even has islands to rent on offer! The island shop is really neat! I recommend having a look at the "Island Survival Bag" which is not only elegant but also contains – and I quote verbally – contents which Robinson Crusoe only dreamed of. Amongst the goodies are a 2-man tent which pops up in seconds, a voucher for a free three day stay on a Canadian island (great if you get stranded somewhere in the Pacific I say…), a bottle of mineral water and a message in a bottle (Which message? Beware of contaminated water???), some fishing rods with accessories and amongst others the novel Robinson Crusoe.

4 April 2010
Happy Easter!

3 April 2010
Easter seems to be high noon for spammers. After quite some time when Viagra offers were on the decline and Valium on the rise, the time for Shylocks has come. As far as I can tell from my spam mail, on the Viagra front generic medicaments are on the rise.

2 April 2010
Photographer Bettina Rheims says that at times one needs to conceal things even from oneself.

1 April 2010
Presidential elections in Austria are upcoming and so the people of this country are told by candidate A that our behavior needs values and – in response – by candidate B that without courage there are no values.

31 March 2010
For people who have not been Austrian kids in the 1980ies this might not mean anything at all but astonishingly enough Helmi, an egg shaped puppet and TV star helping to teach children responsible behavior in tricky traffic situations is still active and even has his own Internet page! Don’t miss the song on the website!

30 March 2010
The few things I ever read on small talk can be summarized in three `take home messages`: 1. Smalltalk is not a bad thing as such and one does not necessarily imply intrinsic shame. 2. The situation always gives you the topic you want to discuss. And 3. Practise, practice, practice!

29 March 2010
The German defense minister is from nobility and has an appropriate name: Karl-Theodor von und zu Guttenberg. Over the past months it seems that as a matter of simplicity, newspapers started to let go of parts of his name, calling him `Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg` only. Recently he had quite some bad press regarding German involvement in Afghanistan. From that moment on he lost all traces of nobility in his name and is referred to as `Guttenberg` only.

28 Mach 2010
Once more on kindergarten: I was told that there is even a book out there called ´All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten´. The author ponders over things like: share everything, play fair, don´t hit people, put things back where you found them, cean up your own mess, flush, wash your hands before your eat and many more. What I really meant when I mentioned a similar mantra a few days ago was rather different. I thought of things - and this is merely a start of a more elaborate collection – things like: Profound changes take place without anybody telling you. In the example: Child A promises child B to play together in a special corner on the next day. When child B gets to kindergarten the very next day, child A sits in the respective corner playing with child C and not allowing child A to join. Both, child A and child C smile at child B and act as if all of that were perfectly normal.

27 March 2010
As I noted on the 6th of June 2009, the words ‘Carefully balanced on the edge of a hole in time’ are engraved above the entrance of a bookshop in Brussels city centre. Today I saw exactly the same quote above the entrance of a theatre in Brussels city centre.

26 March 2010
Thinking about chess: Wikipedia tells us that the word ‘rook’ is borrowed from the Persian ‘rokh’ and the Sanskrit ‘rath”. In the past the piece was called a castle, tower, marquess and rector. The Persian word rokh means chariot, and the corresponding pieces in Oriental chess games such as xiangqi and shogi have names meaning chariot. Persian War Chariots were heavily armored, carrying a driver and at least one ranged-weapon bearer, such as an archer. The sides of the chariot were built to resemble fortified stone work, giving the impression of small, mobile buildings, causing terror on the battlefield. However, in the West, the rook is almost universally represented as a crenellated turret. One possible explanation is that when the game was imported to Italy, the Persian rokh became the Italian word rocca, meaning fortress.

25 March 2010
Men talking to each other: A: That comment you made earlier during lunch was brilliant! B: Actually it was a suggestion. And people took it up and so we can expect xzy as a result. A: Now that you say that I remember. It was great, whereas my own contribution was barely a comment. A: No, I have to protest, it was so the point! I have to say that without your contribution we would not be where we are now!

21 – 24 March 2010
The last few days have been very, very busy with preparing last night`s event which was really nice! Over 50 people gathered together and spend a nice evening I think.

23 March 2010
Exhibition opening and reading in Brussels!
Received comment: The pictures were wonderful!

20 March 2010
After quite some time I have been to Oostende again. And when I am there of course I pay the mannequin with the beautifully broken nose a visit. She is still there, still beautiful, but even more scratched and broken then in the past which makes her look even more melancholic.
Received comment: If she's melancholic, dear lady (and I'm inclined to think that a more appropriate descriptor is "pensive"), it's because she has missed you...

19 March 2010
A collection of messages that seem to help some people through hours of discussions: Well, it's kind of like, you know. You never know, it really all depends.

18 March
Overall when thinking about what has best prepared me for life I have to say, upon careful reflection of course, it was my time in kindergarten. Nothing in human interaction in day to day life that hasn`t already happened there in a, I must admit, less coded way.

17 March 2010
Steady observation shows that the older people become the more they seem to be interested in construction sites. Close to almost any modern construction site you see a few on average elderly people watching others work on the construction.

16 March 2010
Does the extensive use of smart phones and blackberries and the like lead to callused skin on the thumbs?

15 March 2010
I like the video of the song Serious by Richard Hawley a lot.

14 March 2010
Framing pictures for an exhibition brings you much closer to your own images. You are forced to engage with them in a variety of ways.

13 March 2010
Adam was only a specimen for Eve. Jeanne Moreau

12 March 2010
I tend to believe that there are people that manage to trigger severe Tourette Syndrome attacks in otherwise completely sane fellow human beings.

11 March 2010
Urban myth: Allegedly there has been a Viennese student who managed to nick a thighbone from the medical university. He used it as a gearshift in his car. He was expelled from medical school whether because of stealing a bone or because of impious behavior no one knows.

10 March 2010
Upcoming Broken Muses Exhibition and Reading from Margit Kuchler-D´Aiello´s book in Brussels on March 23!

9 March 2010
News from Vienna's bookstores: I was searching for a biography of Potemkin and all I found was a biography of Andreas Hofer, hero and rebel of the alps, so the title says. Another book which appears to have elapsed my notice is the bestseller 'I thought I was a panther – the story of a duck in search of its real self'.

8 March 2010
Vienna. Passport office. After a while one is finally served but quickly interrupted again. The clerk in the passport office takes a phone call of a person who obviously needs some more information on how to apply for a passport for a newborn baby. The official is in a really bad mood, shows signs of passive resistance and mumbles: all you need is a passport photo, a proof of citizenship, a birth certificate, and most importantly: a baby.

7 March 2010
Flowers are blooming at all times for those who want to see them. Henri Matisse.

6 March 2010
A house without books is poor, even if beautiful carpets cover its floors and precious pictures hang on its walls. Hermann Hesse.

4 March 2010
The keyboard has been rescued and the M key works again. So far, so good but now the mouse pad is on strike.

3 March 2010
I managed to poor some water over my computer’s keyboard. As if that wasn’t clumsy enough, I ended up losing the M key in my attempt to quickly wipe over and dry the keyboard. Having problems with my name all time, the M has grown on me lately.

2 March 2010
Problems were the day before yesterday, then we had challenges yesterday. Today we have mere opportunities. Everything, even the most challenging problematic situation is an opportunity. In Orwell's newspeak one would call that perhaps a paradigm shift. And as we know, alternative thinking is a thoughtcrime.

1 March 2010
I learned today that cognitive behavior consists of six phases: 'Observe, Orient, Plan, Learn, Decide, Act'

27 February 2010
Why is the movie Up In The Air nominated for 6 Oscars?

26 February 2010
Until recently I got between 3 and 5 e-mails a day advertising Viagra. Since a few days that has changed and instead of the Viagra ads I get ads for valium. What do the spammers want to tell me really?

25 February 2010
Having participated in countless meetings in the last decade I can summarize my overall findings in just one statement: men like to talk to men. The content of the conversation is of rather low importance but it seems to give them reassurance and self confidence. Also being amongst themselves they tend to go on for longer than necessarily needed.
Received comment: Loved the comment about men talking, especially. Your man friend who makes conversation "of rather low importance"... :-)

24 February 2010
The French have eight words for soup: Bouillon, Consommé, Crème, Bisque, Potage, Soupe, Potée and Verlouté.

23 February 2010
What I forgot to mention is that I read an article about latest findings in brain research: Contrary to common believe, forgetting is an active process of the brain!

22 February 2010
So much about gender equality: A 15cm scratch on a car formerly driven by a man is seen as a minor damage, to be repaired with some car polish. The same auditor however regarded three hardly visible spots on a car formerly driven by a woman as major damage.

21 February 2010
Now we know it, Tiger Woods allegedly wanted to let the world knowhe was sorry . What for was not really clear. With this speech he could basically have apologized for almost everything. It’s a good example how you can say rather little with many, many words and still manage to bore people to death. Even his mother seemed to sleep through most of the speech.

20 February 2010
Exhibition opening of the photo collages of Bernadette Reginster . Interesting!

19 February 2010
According to Alec Wilder, in his study of American popular song, the rhythmic pattern in 'Puttin' on the Ritz' is the most complex and provocative he has have ever come upon.
Wikipedia knows that the song is in AABA form, with a verse. According to John Mueller, the central device in the A section is the 'use of delayed rhythmic resolution: a staggering, off-balance passage, emphasized by the unorthodox stresses in the lyric, suddenly resolves satisfyingly on a held note, followed by the forceful assertion of the title phrase.' The marchlike B section, which is only barely syncopated, acts as a contrast to the previous rhythmic complexities.

18 February 2010
A travel agency I came across the other day offers tourist trips to Saudi Arabia (and to North Korea for that matter). For women, the Saudi trip includes a top-notch burka that is handed out in the plane just before arrival.

17 February 2010
Some published diaries - especially when edited and published by a deceased celebrity's child - can only be seen as a cure for insomnia.

16 February 2010
Incomprehensible blurb: 'There is a Finn in every Dutch guy.'

15. Februar 2010
Recently I notice bizarre book titles like: 'There is only me who calls myself I'

14 February 2010
The economic crisis fosters quite notable developments like this rap between Keynes and Hayek . One hears that this song is meanwhile even used at universities to explain the difference between Keynes' and Hayek's theories.

12 February 2010
Still sick.

11 February 2010
For the concerned reader who wonders what has happened to the poor guinea fowl (see 16 December and related days): In the meantime it is not smelly anymore and has made it from the freezing cold terrace into a warm room.

10 February 2010
Some people expect that if they let you have their read copies of 'The Economist' you would most certainly be jumping for joy.

9 February 2010
The American photographer Leonard Freud said about photographs: the more ambigous the better.

5 – 8 February 2010
Having an angina is bad enough but trying to find a doctor who could prescribe some antibiotics on a Saturday is a challege to say the least. A pharmacist sent me to an adress that proved to be the address of a city center hospital. It was closed. Just when I wanted to ring the front entrance doorbell, a friendly bypassing women said that according to er experience this makes absolutely no sense and I should instead follow her and enter the hospital via the garage. I did as I had been told and ended up in an evelvator that would not stop at level zero. At level five it eventually stopped, the woman headed out to the geriatric station that happened to be there and a young fellow with a swollen cheeck entered the elevator. Together we ventured through other levels of the hospital, deserted, dark corridors, construction sites and eventually took another elevator that – surpirsing enough - brought us to level zero. There - as expected - the information desk was unmanned. There were no people. All shops were closed. The light was dim. Suddenly another young guy appeared and asked whether we were also searching for the exit. We said no, we were searching for doctors, people who could help with swollen cheeks and swollen throats. In the end at least we could show him the way out through the grim garage. The moral of the story was that of course I should have just rang the bell. That was the direct connection to the Saturday/Sunday emergency service where two perfectly friendly people, a nurse and a doctor were there to help. No queues, just nice and friendly service.

4 February 2010
A sign of being stressed out? Politely asked for the reasoning behind a certain piece of text, the person says: 'Well as I have written it, I must have thought something at the time!'

3 February 2010
Manipulation or charming way of saying 'I want'?
If you take a cake, I will take one, too.

2 February 2010
The world of marketing: These days you get ancient dishes that are high in carbohydrates but low in taste in yesterday’s canteens with modern day names. An example: without the slightest change in the actual preparation of the meal, a tasteless lentil stew, cooked to rags becomes a lentil curry on basmati rice.

1 February 2010
The mannequins page of this website has undergone a major overhaul!
Received comment: I think the blog is increasingly witty and sardonic. And I enjoyed the new mannequins page esp 5th down on right

31 January 2010
Brussels' flea market was more beautiful today than ever I thought, be it because of the cold weather and sunshine or because of more classy goods.

30 January 2010
After quite some time I found again some useful instructions on how to wash your hands properly. The advice is to:
1. Wet your hands with water.
2. Put 3 to 4 ml of soap liquid into your hands.
3. Rub your hands together for 30 seconds, talking care to completely soap all areas of your hands and fingers.
4. Rinse your hands and dry them well with a paper towel.
5. Turn the tap of with the paper towel in order to avoid recontamination of your hands.
As if all that would not be complicated enough (I just remind of the need for water, liquid soap and a paper towel), the best advice comes thereafter: 'Avoid touching your face with your hands during the day!' So face touching only at night time in the future!

29 January 2010
Very inspiring video on one of the new EU Commissioners!

28 January 2010
Now we know it, heaven is not only on earth, it is in Belgium! A Belgian made chocolate bar I bought today states on its package: 'Chocolate made in heaven!' A few lines below they also state 'Made in Belgium'.

27 January 2010
Giorgio Armani seems to have said 'You should not be dressed for the job you have but for the job you want.' Well. During the last few days I was approximately dressed like that. Well, not quite. But still I felt very much like following the motto 'A woman modestly dressed is as a pearl in its shell'.

23 – 26 January 2010
72 hours in Tehran/Iran. It is a different place indeed. I had again quite some issues with my name and gender. It started with being registered under Brandi all over the place, but that was not so bad. When I gave my room number to the girl who controlled access to the breakfast room, her reply was: Where is your husband? I said politely there was no husband. She said that the room was booked on Mr. Margit Brandi. I tried to explain that there was a misunderstanding and that in fact it should read Mrs. Brandi. Instead of talking to me she opened a file with a scanned copy of my passport, pointing at the picture while stating: This is not you, this is your husband!
Before leaving the country I was greeted with the words: Thank you, Sir.
Wearing a headscarf as default accessory, I also had the chance to notice that the women’s hairdresser lobby is rather weak. When I called the hotel reception for a hairdresser they replied sharply: 'Only for men!' and hang up on me. I tried again, explaining that it was a hairdryer I needed, not a hairdresser.
Tehran’s covered market is the largest one on earth I was told. It hosts shops underneath about 10 kilometers of roofs in different styles and shapes. It was a paradise for male broken muses! I just could not hold myself back and took many, many pictures which of course did not go unnoticed. People were tremendously friendly and showed great interest in the broken muses theme as well as in foreign ethical behavior. I had quite an interesting discussion on women in general and their hypothetical husbands and their pars, the hypothetical boyfriends and whether, in the theoretical circumstances, one would or would not be jealous of the other.
Another issue was that unfortunately my website was not accessible from Tehran.

22 January 2010
Saying on a postcard: Feelings are unreasonable. That’s what makes them special.

21 January 2010
Oscar (the skeleton) travelled back home – again that went unnoticed.

20 January 2010
Oscar is a great photo model. Even after an exhausting session yesterday he was still fresh and in good spirits for today's.

19 January 2010
Brussels is a very liberal place and that's what I like about it. If one wanted to be overly critical, one could also call that indifffernce. But anyway. What happened wan't much but still amazing. After a long dry period of lobbying - but that's another story - I could finally borrow a friend's skeleton. It is a male skeleton. Real bones. The owner calles it Oscar. So Oscar travelled with me to the studio - all the way through Brussels on the passenger seat. And the amazing part was: nobody cared. No raising of eyebrows, nothing. Well that's what I like about Brussels!

18 January 2010
Also this year is obviously not the year where my name is finally correctly spelled. Today I learned on an official document that my name was Dr. Branol. That again reminded me of the first and most thrilling way of having my name misspelled. Years ago the owner of an Italian photo lab called me Signora Brando – with a big smile on his face!
Received comment: Maybe you should change your last name from BRANDL to SMITH? :-)

17 January 2010
From the collection of not so bad insults: 'Oh, I did not recognize you. You are blonder than you used to be!'

16 January 2010
My name was misspelled again. It read 'Brendl' in a hotel reservation. The nice thingthough was that the saying of the day on the hotel reception day said: 'Two wrongs don’t make a right, but they make a good excuse!' (Thomas Szasz)

15 January 2010
After quite some time of relative silence on the recent question on twitter (to tweet or not to tweet, that is) I had a discussion on the pros and cons of twitter the other day. Pros are hard to find I'm afraid but on the cons side I can't add much to this page describing what you should definitely not tweet about. Worth mentioning - also for day to day life I guess - is speaking out of context.

14 January 2010
An advertisement for some speakers I recently saw read 'Seduced by design, surrounded by sound'. Sounds like a lot of noise to me.

13 January 2010
A young girl wore a handbag with an interesting print the other day. It read 'Generation mtv - official sponsor of friendships'.

12 January 2010
Having thought about Ethiopia over the weekend again: Many schools there have their own mottos. I particularly liked: 'There is no darkness like ignorance' and 'Knowledge cannot be taken away from you.'

11 January 2010
Finally the Ethiopia pictures are online!

10 January 2010
And coffee once more: The 15 things worth knowing about coffee are really worth reading. What is also a remarkable idea is to paint in coffee. An artist called Karen Eland has reproduced famous pieces of art using coffee as paint. I wonder when the smell starts fading. And the most remarkable one: a Mona Lisa made from 3,604 filled coffee mugs whereby the color shades are derived from the various shades of coffee.

9 January 2010
And again a story on Nespresso: I have to admit that the newest TV advertisement is well done. In the shorter version it is not that obvious but I think that having seen the longer version one could say that if the machine and the tabs are the only thing missing in heaven Nespresso is perhaps not heavenly as such :-)

8 January 2010
Elvis is alive. We knew it. On the occasion of Elvis' birthday (8 January 1935) Brussels' Manneken Pis was dressed like Elvis. Unfortunately I was 30 minutes late and Manneken was naked again.

7 January 2010
Starting the day with a train at 6:54 is an unpleasant thing as such especially if at 6:53 a metallic voice lets you know that this train will not be running at all (for no obvious reason) and besides all coffee places in the station are still closed.

6 January 2010
There is a museum for glasses in Amsterdam where about 1000 glasses from various periods are exhibited, amongst them of course also monocles. They were originally used as magnifying glass and 'as playful distance correction'. The description further read that 'they were the favorite tool for eccentrics' especially at a time when 'it became fashion to hold them in one eye'.

5 January 2010
In Amsterdam the newest t-shirt print for t-shirts sold at tourist shops is: I am Sterdam.
What I’ve also seen in Amsterdam was a money saving box with Obama’s picture on it and the word 'change'.
Furthermore there is a fashion store called UN whereby UN stands for 'united nudes'.

4 January 2010
An article in the newspaper advises that one should always have much more knowledge than one shows.

1 January 2010
Broken Muses wishes a Happy New Year 2010!

31 December 2009
Isn’t it slightly unsettling if a restaurant advertises with the slogan: 'Patience is a sister of wisdom'?

29 December 2009
New book titles that make me shiver: 'The art of reading thoughts', '111 reasons for being a Philistine' and 'Let’s face it: I’m overweight'

28 December 2009
I almost bought the complete DVD set of the Austrian 1970ies cult series 'Mundl' and this just because the set had a complimentary white ripped flannel undershirt reading: 'My beer isn’t stupid'

27 December 2009
Quotes of real friends: '… and when you’re going to visit me in the US, make sure you come on a Tuesday. Tuesdays are good, I am free on Tuesday evenings!'

26 December 2009
Family stories: Christmas lunch. The late grandfather's ex-girlfriend has lunch on the next table. As one of the most unbeloved people ever – her nickname always was 'the witch' – people keep staring at her secretly. When she leaves the restaurant, she nods in the direction of the family. Soon after the family decides to leave as well and misses a coat. A family owned good winter coat. Instead of the coat there is a leftover shabby thin black coat. Angry and disgusted looks follow. The witch is accused. A group is sent over to her house. She swears she hadn't taken the coat, brings out every coat she owns, proving her case. The group leaves unsatisfied and returns the shabby coat to the restaurant. The family exchanges stories and the most vocal one has a lot to tell about lost coats, umbrellas and hats. When he prepares to leave he finds out he is missing his coat; the coat that was waiting for its owner to come back to the restaurant.

24 and 25 December 2009
Merry Christmas!

23 December 2009
Driving home for Christmas with a thousand memories from any available radio station that Michael Schumacher made it back to Formula I. As if there was no other news at all. Well. Riving through Germany and Austria I saw quite some differences. While you can mostly drive as fast as you wish in Germany there are some 'highway churches' on the way. The message in Austria is much more direct. There you have huge billboards where the word ‘Death’ is crossed out with a seat belt.

22 December 2009
It is thawing; the guinea fowl is visible again!

21 December 2009
I love those invitations you get from social networking sites. XYZ indicated that you are a friend. Wow! It reminds me a lot of my time in kindergarten where other children would eventually ask you: Do you want to be my friend?

20 December 2009
In the morning I could still see the guinea fowl’s head. In the afternoon even that was gone and the guinea fowl is a mere hill covered by snow.

19 December 2009
It was minus seven degrees during the day, the streets are slippery and cars meander through Brussels icy streets. Even pet dogs were dressed. I saw one in a pirate dress with the Jolly Roger printed all over. Creepy.

18 December 2009
The guinea fowl is rather smelly and had to move out. It lives now on the terrace and is totally covered with snow which is as such rather unlikely for guinea fowls I assume. Besides, it is also rather unlikely for Brussels to have 10 centimeters of snow that seems to be here to stay!

17 December 2009
I saw a picture of the demonstrations alongside the climate change summit in Copenhagen. One poster I though was simply great in its simplicity. It read: There is no planet B.

16 December 2009
I got a guinea fowl as a present. To be precise it is a helmeted guinea fowl which must by no means be mistaken for a white-breasted guinea fowl, let alone a crested guinea fowl. No, it is not a real one, it's made from terracotta but it is interesting. It has an enormous body and a very small head. Anyway I’ve been doing some research. Wikipedia lets us know that guinea fowls are social beings and are 'normally monogamous' although occasional bigamy has been recorded for the helmeted guinea fowl. How interesting. Furthermore there is a small and declining ethnic group in the south of Ethiopia called Karo. During festivals and dances men dress up as either guinea fowls or leopards. Well, one sort of understands that their number is declining.

15 December 2009
From my kinky quotes collection: 'We have looked at so much material we've gone dotty.'

14 December 2009
Karl Lagerfeld recently said in an interview that he has still not shot the perfect photograph. I have the same feeling when it comes to my own pictures.

13 December 2009
I always forget how many interesting galleries there are in Brussels and how many nice details there are over all.

12 December 2009
Very nice t-shirt print: 'Belgian chocolate addict'. I saw a very interesting muse today, maybe I can even involve that mannequin in my next exhibition!

12 December 2009
Very nice t-shirt print: 'Belgian chocolate addict'.

11 December 2009
I love the creativity in this manual on how to hand wash! You shall never forget to start it all with wetting your hands (!), applying enough (!) soap and rubbing hands palm to palm. Also rotational rubbing involving the left thumb is a good idea it seems, and the rinsing with water should not be underestimated!

10 December 2009
And yes, I also noted down some new and interesting t-shirt prints in Ethiopia: One simply read 'Nobel' and another one 'Mr. Zero'. Quite a different approach to life I thought. Another one ran around proudly with a t-shirt reading 'Pyromanist' and a fourth one just let the world know: 'In that case I chose dancing'.

9 December 2009
Still digging through some notes and memories of Ethiopia: What I particularly liked were some menus with really interesting dishes: There was 'full with beard', 'raise with mean' quite some offers of 'paper steak' and – my favorite – 'chicken with raise'! Even as a vegetarian I could think of going for that one, after all it comes with a raise! Although you never know if they run out of it and just give you a 'raise with mean' served next to a 'full with beard' who is up for a ‘paper steak’ really.

8 December 2009
By the way who came up with the idea that raw carrots are a good snack at evening receptions? As soon as you eat them while trying to have a conversation, you spit. And depending on the person you are talking to, you regret or embrace that fact.

7 December 2009
Real life has me back I fear. I saw my name printed as Ms. Brendel today. Well, what more can I say?
Maybe something slightly ironic: I carry home kilos of Ethiopian coffee, of those at least three different sorts of coffee for my parents. And what have they done in the meantime while I was away? They have changed their coffee machine for a Nespresso one that operates with coffee capsules…

6 December 2009
Thinking about Ethiopia: I have so many impressions, memories and so many images. I liked a conversation around my question of the whereabouts of the city center. I simply wanted a direction or say pointing somewhere would have been fine as well. Instead I was confronted with the honest question - that was not in the least cynical - 'What does city mean?' A good question I thought. I said well, in a city you have houses, streets, shops. When he heard shops he beamed and said, aha, yes, shops and pointed me into the good direction.

5 December 2009
I'm back in Brussels with a severe cold. Who said that you could get a cold in Africa in the first place? Isn't it supposed to be hot there all the time?
What I will definitely miss is a word that I really learned to like there: Ischi. It is often used and sounds mostly like a sigh. Ischi can mean many things. Sometimes it simply means yes or ok, then also: I understand, I agree, I see, let's see, I will do what I can, you may think I will do what I can but I actually won’t, no, not quite, well, maybe. A very powerful word!

4 December 2009
Last day in Addis and so much was still to do. For instance last pictures needed to be taken, films needed to be brought to development and shopping (for the famous Ethiopian coffee) to be done. Exactly when I started to believe that I cannot do all what I had planned in my last day anymore and felt slightly stressed I saw a guy in a t-shirt that read: Too blessed to be stressed.

3 December 2009
About a 1.5 hours drive outside of Dire Dawa 7000 year old cave paintings have been found a few years ago. At first they seem to be quite disappointing given the long way and the bad roads leading there. One saw two or three rather faded images. But the longer you looked, the more you saw. There were hundreds of paintings, faded but still visible.
Dire Dawa on itself is quite a big city but only about 100 years old. Originally the Addis Ababa – Djibouti railroad should have connected Djibouti’s port with Harar and Addis. As the project developed, connecting Harar seemed to difficult and costly as the train would have needed to go through a very mountainous area and so the decision was taken to have a stop in what then was a small town; Dire Dawa. For me the most interesting site in the city was the train station with its many broken and discarded railway carriages and locomotives. A paradise for pictures of the neglected and the broken!

2 December 2009
From Dire Dawa it is about a one hour drive to Harar. After Mekka, Medina and Jerusalem, Harar is seen as the fourth most important Muslim city. Harar has a very intact city center that reminded me very much of cities I have seen in Yemen four years ago. Its 89 mosques are often tiny and hidden in people’s houses. Water is scare and water supply remains one of the most pressing issues in the region.

1 December 2009
Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar and advertises with 13 months of sunshine. Given that it was slightly raining during the last two days and else rather cloudy and July and August is the yearly rainy season I dare to doubt that promise.
I admit that flying to Ethiopia’s second biggest city Dire Dawa was much easier than driving again for 550 kilometres each way. On the other hand one also misses something when taking a plane, probably it is the feeling of travelling as such.

30 November 2009
I did not want to disappoint any shoe shine boy any more and so I took the car and went downtown in embarrassingly dirty shoes. Guess what, no shoe shine boy around. Not a single one, as if they were on strike or all had a day off. So I went back again still in dirty shoes. On the positive side I found a bunch of nicely broken muses.
Traditional Ethiopian restaurants often have hay on the floor and a corner where they prepare the coffee in the traditional coffee ceremony. In that corner there are also quite some animals, mostly rabbits and chickens. Mobile food it you will. What is logical but still slightly unsettling is that the amount of those animals decreases proportionally to the amount of food served to neighbouring tables.

29 November 2009
Due to unforeseen circumstances we stayed overnight in a real budget hotel in Dessie. The travel guide book would probably not even rate that hotel in its category ‘shoestringing’. Well, anyway, it was quite funny. I tried to convince the staff to give me a towel. After we discussed what ‘shower’ and ‘dry’ could possibly mean I really made them laugh when performing a pantomime of showering and drying myself with a non-existing towel. Anyway that was not necessary as there were a) no towels and b) no water at all. It was definitely an experience at Euro 2,- to put it that way.
Driving from Dessie to Addis took about 10 hours although the distance is a mere 400 kilometres. I tried to find rational explanations for what I saw but my only conclusion is that road works here are illogically planned and executed. The pattern is as follows: A stretch of about 500-1000 metres of relatively good if not excellent road is demolished and replaced by gravel or a dirt side road. The next stretch of about 500-1000 meters is left as it was before but gets worse and worse due to trucks that are heavily loaded with gravel. So one is forced to drive from pothole over bumps into the next pothole on a formerly good road, led sideways to a gravel stretch or a side road, back up on the asphalt stretch, down again and so on and so on. Instead of finishing one stretch and then going to the next, there are literally hundreds of these construction sites and of course works cannot be carried out at all places at the same time. What is also quite remarkable are big square shaped holes (about 10 cm deep) that are cut into good asphalt. Mainly that is done just behind crests or curves, naturally without any warning signs. Even a four by four car doesn’t pardon driving into a sudden hole easily. As if that wasn’t enough, various animal herds (lambs, goats, cattle, camels) tend to walk or rest on the streets and suicidal people seem to have declared it a national sport to run across the street only when a car is approaching. As soon as darkness falls groups of three tend to sit down on (!) the road for an evening chat. One can imagine more comfortable places. As the streets are not lit, driving past such groups makes your heart stop for a moment. The nastiest hurdles to driving safely are football sized stones on the street. As far as I can tell there are three reasons for those stones: One is that as soon as a car or truck breaks down, stones are arranged around it to block up the road for a while. While the vehicle might be removed after a while, the stones remain. Another reason is stones that have been thrown at animal herds in order to make them cross the street. And the third and probably most accurate reason for the majority of stones is bored children that place them there.

28 November 2009
Lalibela is THE highlight of a trip to northern Ethiopia! Its 900 year old monolithic rock hewn churches are breathtaking. There are eleven of those churches in two groups and one is standing freely apart. UNESCO has insisted on ‘preserving’ the churches from further damage (water, erosion???) by putting up equally breathtakingly ugly scaffolding and modern roofs on top of most churches. From an aesthetic point of view one can only wonder why it was necessary to do it that way. ‘Preserving’ the churches resulted in a large crack in one of them as some heavy machinery was parked on top of the church in order to install the roof...
Well, anyway one has to try hard and blind that out when looking at these masterpieces of human architecture. All of the eleven churches are still in use and different in style and decoration. King Lalibela wanted to build a second Jerusalem and had 40.000 people working on these churches for about 33 years. Most of them are connected through a subterranean network of corridors. Those corridors are not lit and it is said that this was done on purpose so that people could experience how hell could look like. For me the most beautiful church is the free standing church Bet Giyorgis. When walking towards it, the first thing visible is its cross-shaped roof. Later on one descends to the entrance and can visit it inside.

27 November 2009
When driving through the marvellous landscape it is striking how many unmanned offertory boxes there are even in the most deserted places. No church, no chapel, no priest but a tinny offertory box.
Juding upon various recommendations of locals, driving to Lalibela should have taken us between 6 hours and two days. What was more worrying was how they looked at the four by four car. In disbeliev they mumbled: You want to drive to Lalibela with THAT car? How many spare tyres do you have? Just ONE? And you dare to go like that? In fact it was long drive but then again the road was not that bad.
In Lalibela the traditional round hut is quite a special; it has two floors. There is a very nice new hotel (Tukul Village) that rents out either ground floor or upper floor of such a hut, combining traditional architecture with modern comfort.

26 November 2009
I see vasts amounts of haytsacks here in Ethiopia. Many of them walk on either two or four legs. When carried by people this is done by men using the inevitable stick they carry around. Haystacks on four legs are carried by donkeys, horses or camels. The interesting thing is that in all cases the haystack as such is about the equal in size. The only difference is the speed in which it is carried. Especially donkeys love resting at the middle of the street. Live in general happens on the streets. Most people lack a natural shortening reaction when a car is approaching them. I was told that the haircut of many boys in the countryside reflect upon that. Those boys are bald apart from two ringlets on their forehead. Although it is believed that nothing will happen to them these locks are there for security reasons. Should the kid’s guardian angel urgently need to act, he has to grab the boy somewhere and drag him off the street. Therefore those two ringlets come in handy.
What I was told, too is that instead of being celebrated yearly, birthdays are only celebrated shortly after a baby is born. A special bread is beaked for the occasion and the tradition is to break this crispy bread on the baby’s back. If is breaks and the baby does not scream, people believe that this will be a strong girl or boy. If the baby is crying, relatives pity the parents and wish them well with their weak child.

25 November 2009
Axum used to be the capital of a huge kingdom and is still perceived as the holiest city in Ethiopia. Today it is actually a small town and also when visiting most of the sights one is done with that in pretty much half a day. People believe that the Queen of Sheba has lived in Axum. The most impressive site are the obelisks or stelae. They are simply wonderful. After having been in Italy more than 70 years, the second tallest obelisk (about 27 meters high) has been returned to Axum in 2005. The tallest one (over 33 meters high and also carved out of one single piece of granite) is believed to having collapsed already during its erecting. It lies scattered into five pieces on the obelisk field but still is beautiful. I liked that one most, maybe just because it is so broken. All the obelisks are about 1700 years old and were used to mark tombs. Some of these tombs have been excavated and can be visited. Another remarkable sight is a church where allegedly the ark of the covenant is kept and guarded by a monk. This monk is the only one who is allowed to see it and hands over this duty to his successor on his dead bed. Sometimes it is shown during religious festivals but covered up so they say. Nobody, not even the monk who is guarding it may open it.
As in many places, chats on the road here tend to start with the phrase ‘Where are you from?’. After having disclosed that I come from Austria, the answer I got today was quite stunning: ‘All right, I also come from the US!’ In general I decided not to protest anymore if somebody takes me for an Australian. What was slightly embarrassing the other day was when a waiter then introduced me to an Australian band with the words ‘meet your countrymen’. The Australians gave me a certain look when they found out that actually it was Austria...

24 November 2009
The street from Gondar to Debark was the first really bad dirt road and the way to Axum was even worse. It’s a drive from one bump to the next and through nothing but dust. When we finally arrived to Axum I was covered with a red layer of dust. There is financial support from the world bank for paving these roads. The project has been won by a Chinese company and has already been started. Chinese lorries, road rollers and excavators are visible all over the place. Ethiopia as such seems to be largely in Chinese hands anyways. Most recently paved streets have been built by Chinese companies and all masts of the one mobile network are brand new and Chinese. In the cities you see Chinese companies digging the roads to lay new fixed telecommunications cables. Chinese sneakers and clothes flood the weekly markets. Most workers are locals but all the foremen are Chinese.

What strikes me particularly when driving through the villages is the sheer multitude of tabletop soccer games. Judging from their design, those tables must be about 25 years old. I assume they have been imported at the time in bulk and distributed to most villages. Almost every bigger village and any city has about one, two or three of these tabletop soccer games and most of them just stand next to the main road. They are either surrounded by 10-12 children or 2-4 teenagers. In the first case the game is rather static; there are too many players around the table and thus there is not too much movement amongst the little soccer players on the table. In the latter case two of the 3-4 teenagers play the game with high concentration; the others seem to be there for moral support only.

23 November 2009
Maybe I have been assigned my own personal rain cloud after having spent more than six years in Belgium. Anyway it is quite interesting to notice that already in Bahir Dar it was slightly raining and people said this is by no means normal for this time of the year. In Gondar there were showers, too and here now in Debark it is really pouring with rain. Debark is 1800 meters above sea level and it is not only wet but also very cool. In the mountains today it was still sunny but also very cool but sort of expected given the altitude of up to 4600 meters. Those mountains are spectacular. At times they reminded me of the Andes in Argentina, at times of the Alps but then again they are different. There are trees and other very lush plants up until over 3000 meters, cows, horses, sheep and baboons live there and today we even saw buzzards and lammergeyers.

22 November 2009
Gonder is a treasure and a real discovery! Gonder had its golden times as capital of Ethiopia and seat of the empire in the 17th century. Palaces and ruins of palaces are a sign that show the wealth and power still today. Emperor Fasilidas even built a huge swimming pool, about 30 by 70 meters big, with a castle in the middle. It must have been truly splendid at its time. Even today they fill the pool up once a year during the most important festival in January and have children bathe in it. UNESCO has declared the palaces world heritage and they had all reason to do so. The dynasty is said to go back to the mighty queen of Sheba who reigned Arabia and most of eastern Africa at her time. It is also said that back home in Europe people just laughed about stories of an independent and sophisticated empire in Africa when early European visitors told about Gonder in the 17th and 18th century. They simply could not believe that this was even possible. Since the empire went down, most of the palaces have suffered and some of them are only ruins. The interior decoration and treasures were all taken out of the country and most of it is probably in different British museums.

What is very bizarre in the city itself are the Pepsi cola sponsorship activities. Most interestingly Pepsi even sponsors police control points at intersections. Those little huts are not only branded but also have man-sized Pepsi cola bottles on their roofs.

21 November 2009
In the early days they used to say ‚Mens sana in corpore sano’. Nowadays that reads ‘When your body heats, your mind chills.’ Having read that on a billboard the other day I had a relaxing morning in beautiful spa of the Kuriftu Lake Tana Hotel in Bahir Dar. Actually this splendid hotel and especially its interior design reminded me very much of the Flintstones. From Bahir Dar we drove about an hour to the Blue Nile Waterfalls which are nice but as always I am more thrilled by artefacts than by nature. Anyway it was very well worth the visit. From there it took quite some hours to get to Gondar, home of the emperors of Ethiopia’s early days. The landscape was as stunning as on the way from Addis to Bahir Dar and interestingly often reminds me of Austria and the Alps. I really have to redefine my picture of Africa.

20 November 2009
Lake Tana hosts over 20 cloisters on its many islands. We reached some of them by boat today and this was really and experience. They are peaceful and quiet. On some of these islands only priests and monks live. On others there are also small villages. The lake itself has the colour of the river in my hometown during my childhood; a light brown that looks sort of dangerous. The cloisters were all similar. Their shape was the traditional Ethiopian round hut with a straw roof. The sanctum sanctorum inside is square shaped and only accessible for priests and monks. On the walls of the sanctum sanctorum that you surround walking inside the round shape of the cloister building there are naïve paintings of diverse bible stories from the new and old testament. Much beloved are Saint George killing the dragon, the martyrs, the circumstances of all Apostle’s death, all stages of Mary’s life as well as the angels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. What was particularly fascinating were the little museum that hosted old Gondar, Axum and Lalibela crosses as well as old bibles dating back to as early as the 9th century (!).

18 November 2009
Went to some excavations from prehistoric times in the south of Addis Ababa. Splendid and nicely presented!

17 November 2009
I estimate having seen about 80% of all mannequins in Addis Ababa during the last three days. It is a paradise for Broken Muses! What was especially nice were mannequins wearing glasses and all sorts of fractures. I think I experienced sort of a muse trance on those days, recognizing only very little apart from the mannequins. I have been to the Addis Ababa Museum though. There was a room ‘first in Ethiopia’ showing the then king driving the first car and operating the first telephone. Apart from that I had some interesting discussions with my driver/Sherpa, for instance whether or why it makes sense to switch on the lights when driving downhill in neck breaking speed over a sand road. Or why it could be worthwhile asking the way after having gotten totally lost. Earlier on and just before the first real turn and maneuver, we had figured out that he has never driven an automatic car. After I had violently removed his left leg from the break, things went generally a lot smoother.

16 November 2009
My first impressions of Addis Ababa: It is a big and not too beautiful town that does not unveil its charms immediately. There are more Volkswagen beetles here than I have seen in a long, long time. And else of course the gap between rich and poor is enormous although not as bad as I experienced it in India. People say that the Merkato is the biggest market in all of Africa. If you only search long enough I am sure you can literally really find everything there. The most bizarre sight I found was an area devoted to the production and sales of coffins. You can get anything there from the cheapest, carelessly assembled coffin made from raw wood, over carefully crafted and painted ones up to the upmarket coffin with cloth coating on the outside and a comfortable foam coating on the inside. What stroke me was that in another area I had seen matrasses in various shapes and forms. Not a single one of them was white: they all came covered in breathtakingly ugly patterned cloth. The same cloth or at least similar patterns were also used for coating coffins. There may be advantages in chosing similar patterns for both, who knows. In one corner children’s coffins were for sale. Those were rather on the simple and bare wood side but painted in bright pink. And they could be esily stampled by the dozen

15 November 2009
Arrived to Addis Ababa late last night and spent a beautiful day here. I had a massage, took a lot of pictures of mostly broken mannequins, had a car cruise around the city, a drink in one of the most luxurious hotels and a great French/Belgian dinner. So I guess I had a very good first day here!

14 November 2009
Recent T-Shirt prints: 'Your pizza has arrived!' – 'Idylls end in thunderstorms' – 'Sold out' – 'Future Artist' – 'Untitled'

13 November 2009
No problems with my name today but I am back to square one regarding my gender. I received the following invite, addressed to Mister Margit Brandl: Monsieur Margit Brandl, nous avons le plaisir de vous inviter à une table ronde sur le thème: "Irak 2010: année zéro?"

12 November 2009
Hadn’t I moved from time to time yesterday they would have taken me for airport inventory and probably dusted me sooner or later. Else I found that you see more men with backpacks at the airport than in the mountains (not that I would be in the mountains myself often but s till). And there has been a clear shift in trends; while it is still cool to have something behind one's ear it used to be a cigarette some years back and is a Bluetooth hands free device for your mobile phone nowadays.

11 November 2009
One should do a series of pictures in airplanes. Many people who most often don’t know each other and who also do not really want to communicate sit close to each other. Sooner or later almost all of them stare at a little screen in front of them, headphones on and show different stages of excitement.
Back from Lebanon. Well not exactly. I was flying over Brussels but needed to connect at Heathrow airport to finally go to Brussels. Standing 6.5 hours ahead of time in front of three screens that list flights for the coming hours and seeing that your flight is the last one on those screens can be rather depressing.

10 November 2009
Man is a creature of habit and worryingly so. After my late arrival the day before yesterday I did not notice, yesterday it was the evening small talk’s main topic and today it seems pretty normal: the ubiquitous military presence in Beirut/Lebanon. There are armed soldiers on literally every corner presenting their machine guns and often there is a fully fledged armed and camouflaged tank right next to them. All uniforms have the same camouflage pattern but differ in colors. There are blue ones, grey ones and khaki ones. The guns all look the same and very frightening but the guys as such are just very friendly. They chat, text, greet tourists but nevertheless a feeling of slight uneasiness remains.

9 November 2009
From the collection of well articulated offenses: 'Your English is very good! Do you want me to speak slowly so that you can understand?'
And, this time witnessed: An elderly gentlemen waves at a colleague of me and asks politely: 'Are you asleep?'
Received comment: I notice that you were not kidding when you put my unfortunate comment on your blog. Your website appears to be a true reflection of who you are, creative, confident and willing to communicate on every level.

8 November 2009
Even during the financial crisis banks advertise. Brussels airport is decorated with a huge poster of PNB Paribas reading 'The bank for a changing world.' On the same spot there used to be a huge Fortis ad showing a red curve reading: 'Life is a curve, where are you on it?'

7 November 2009
I saw a few beautiful broken muses yesterday in Paris and was suffering as I did not hav my camera with me. Today I spent a few hours in my darkroom, for the first time in months. It is such a thrilling feeling to see the picture slowly appearing in the developing liquid.

6 November 2009
Finally – after going by train to London Wednesday and from there by train to Paris I am on my trip back to Brussels. Well that’s what I thought. There is a high speed train between Paris and Brussels. I had an electronic ticket that required me to print out a paper ticket at the station using a code. Sure enough I could not print the ticket out in Brussels, as I had to rebook the whole journey and go straight from London to Paris. But the return trip remained valid and so I tried to get a ticket. What I found out is that I had a 7 digit code and that is what one needs for the Belgian electronic system. In Paris one would need a 6 digit code and sure enough it is not the first 6 digits of the 7 digit code. As the tickets are booked on codes and not on names, nobody could find the ticket. In the end I boarded the train and tried to convince the conductor that the print out of my lousy electronic booking confirmation is as good as a ticket. He ran away with my passport and for about ten minutes I thought he would either kick me out of the train (running 300km/h) or require an enormous fine. To my total surprise I got back the passport and a nod that everything was fine.

5 November 2009
From the collection of well articulated offenses: 'If we do not pay attention, xyz will employ some lawyers and a few other unemployed people…'

4 November 2009
I am not good at taking trains, And also not very lucky in doing so. From tonight onward there will be a 4 hour strike. So my journey back from London to Brussels and my trip to Paris tomorrow are affected. Great. And on top of that, the Eurostar train got stuck in the channel tunnel. A creepy feeling I have to say. While one is beneath the sea, all engines went out, the lights went out as well and no information was given. After ages the conductor said that he was in 'permanent contact' with the driver. Well, probably he saw him running towards the end of the tunnel…

3 November 2009
I hear that in the UK an area where there is no Internet is called Not Spot as opposed to the inevitable Hot Spot. I like that. It reminds me of my trip to India and that mountain resort that I assumed to be just nature and thus a classical not spot whereby it turned out to be the best hot spot I’ve been to ever!

2 November 2009
I’ll go to Paris later this week and will take the high speed train. Somebody told me that I can travel paperless; all I need to do is filling in an online form. Well. I tried. And I found it odd. The website opened but instead of a form it showed an idyllic image of a train in the far distance and a ruminant cow whose ears move accordingly!
Received comment: Yup, the old Margit is back. The blog is just hilarious! Harry
Harry is right. The \"old Margit\" is back. But the \"new Margit\" (whoever that is!) is just, fine with me, too.... William

30 October 2009
I would never have thought so but a touristic Flamenco show can be fascinating! Wonderful rhythm and proud dancers!

31 October 2009
Sometime life is fair. For a number of days you are somebody’s Sherpa and then on the next day when you least expect it, someone is your Sherpa.

29 October 2009
Arrived to Seville/Spain yesterday Tonight a colleague and me were was searching for the vibrant nightlife in Seville everybody spoke of. Somehow it is rather limited.

28 October 2009
My phone tells me that I tried to call myself 11 times today. I even left me a voicemail. Unfortunately I did not understand the message I left for myself on the voicemail.

27 October 2009
Seen as advertisement on a truck from a tires company: My sport is transport.

26 October 2009
Although it is not often publicly stated or if so very well paraphrased, passing things on has become a valuable job description of many people. Having said that, one must by no means underestimate the role of the forwarding function in modern day e-mail clients for growth and job creation!

25 October 2009
I’ve read it a few days ago in a newspaper and actually seen it in a leaflet in Austria this weekend: Penny, a food discounter with a budget travel agency subsidiary, actually offers journeys to outer space for 209.555 Euro – sold via their Austrian call center. This is no hoax but actually meant to boost their overall travel portfolio. Like they do for their food offer, they have a best price guarantee; if you see the journey to outer space for a cheaper price anywhere else, you get the difference back. More here.

24 October 2009
I wanted to order a new (HP) keyboard online. Unfortunately the online shop said when I typed in that I wanted to have it shipped to 'Belgium': 'We do not ship to Alaska, Hawaii and Prisons.'

22 October 2009
After a long period of relative name integrity I was called 'Verena' the other day as well as 'Margite'.

21 October 2009
Last weekend I saw a toilet seat in a shop with Obama's picture and the inevitable ‘Yes you can!’ printed on it.

20 October 2009
Everybody seems to be thrilled by social networking sites these days. After having reported on my dubious twitter experiences a while ago (29 April), I am now again amazed about the notification (!) of one of these websites that a number of people want to get in touch with me. One of them highlights a picture showing his well trained upper body; it can only be assumed that there might be a face as well but the possessor seems to suggest it can be disregarded.

19 October 2009
I have to quote a friend of mine who often says: 'The fact that one is paranoid does not mean that they are not after you.'

18 October 2009
We all know that you can see the Chinese Wall from outer space. What seems to be less known is that one can also see the illuminated Belgian highways. On second thought who would have thought that the kingdom of Belgium and the 'Middle Kingdom' have that much in common?

17. October 2009
And what else is happening in the world? Well, Hugo Chavez is about to nationalize a Hilton Hotel on Isla Margarita. In London, an art event is just over where 2400 people stood on a pole on Trafalgar square one hour each. One I read was dressed in brown, giving the image of a piece of shit with an impressively big fly on his back. He was holding up a sign reading: 884 million people do not have clean water.

16 October 2009
I spoke at a conference earlier this week and received the following thank-you letter (I only quote the relevant part only): 'Thank you very much for your participation at this week's … Conference 2009. We really appreciate your contribution, and the part that you played in helping to make the event the success that it was. I very much hope that you both enjoyed the event, and also found it useful.' Well obviously I could not hide my alter ego as the both (!) of us are mentioned.

15 October 2009
News News News: There is now a mobile page for reading the Brokenmuses Blog on a mobile device. Just bookmark that page http://www.brokenmuses.com/brokenblog-en.php on your mobile phone or scan the code with your phone’s bar code reader:

14 October 2009
A friend of mine just shared the following nice story, underlining that this really just happened in a Barnes and Noble coffee shop in the USA. 'That will be $4.17. Do you have a Barnes and Noble card sir?' 'No.' 'No worries sir ... hey good news get a refill today for only $0.50 when you return today before 11pm.' 'OK.' 'Here is your change. Thank you for shopping at Barnes and Noble. Have a love filled day.' All that was delivered perfectly with a straight face and no doubt pre programmed as part of the customer service manual.
Well all I can say now is 'Dear readers, thank you for reading the broken blog and we hope to welcome you back to our site soon again! Have a perfectly broken day!'

13 October 2009
Have a look at this website on Smart Logos With Second Thought To Make You Look Twice. It is really nice and thoughtful what simple images/logos can do.

12 October 2009
I love online tools that – after having used them successfully for registering demands for approval - give you the insightful line: 'Following requests have been granted or rejected …' without of course giving you any hint how to find out whether they were approved or rejected. Probably the decision has not been taken and will never be taken. I thought this rather neutral half-sentence would be a wise answering line for any requests that come over social networking sites: Your request to connect to me has either been approved or rejected.

11 October 2009
I eavesdropped on a conversation on the table next to me in a Munich coffee shop: A: 'You know I really like bears.' B: 'But they can eat you, too!' A: 'That’s right but you know when I went to Alaska I was very disappointed; I did not see a single bear!' B: 'That’s such a shame!'

10 October 2009
A bakery in Tyrol advertises with the following: 'We bake wishes!' and 'You should give good things to your body so that the soul is eager to live in it.' Well.

8 October 2009
Book title: 'Kiss, bow or shake hands: How to do business in 60 countries'.

7 October 2009
Saw a photography exhibition by Jonathan Zuck; very inspiring!

6 October 2009
Word of the day: throttle.

5 October 2009
New t-shirt prints: 'What is fashion?' – 'Future Billionaire' and 'It's all about me'.

4 October 2009
Today’s Dilbert comic strip is simply hilarious. We all know that Twitter is helpful.

2 October 2009
In 2000 the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 on 'women, peace and security'. What a title!

29 September 2009
I eavesdropped on the following conversation: A: What is that (xyz)? B: I have no idea. A: You can't know everything. A little later: A: Where is (city xyz)? B: I have no idea. A: You can't know everything. Again later. A: When will we arrive? B: I have no idea. A: You can't know everything. There was not the slightest irony in all that.

28 September 2009
I cannot stand blurred photos, especially when they are huge and used as advertisements. I keep staring at them thinking to myself: Why? Why is there a trend towards blurred images?

27 September 2009
Who has invented those smoking rooms on airports? Since smoking is prohibited, smokers are forced into foggy chambers, most often unembellished glass cubicles. This is humiliating for the smokers and a source of cursory compassion for passersby.

25 September 2009
Thoughts on a Friday: Why do printer jams only occur during Friday afternoons or when in a hurry? Why is it more difficult to eat round sandwiches compared to longish ones? And why is mayonnaise always dripping out of sandwiches when one does not have a napkin? And why is mayonnaise still used for sandwiches at all?

24 September 2009
A new fast-food chain in Brussels is called 'Take Eat Easy'.

20 September 2009
Just recently I had an evergreen conversation on what makes Brussels special and whether or not there is something like life quality in Brussels. Despite some drawbacks for me it is the surreal moment that makes Brussels worth living in. Twice a year (one was today) Brussels has a car-free Sunday. It seemed that virtually everybody was on the street, people were cycling, there were spontaneous flea markets. Roaming through the streets all of a sudden I found myself in front of a house, a tailor most likely, that had a bright red corset hanging out of his first floor window that was the top part of a long red carpet. Magritte couldn’t have painted a better picture of the surreal Brussels moment. Click here to see a picture.

19 September 2009
The Champagne region i not far away from Belgium and today was the most lovely day to visit. I loved the catheadral of Reims with its smiling angel, all the other beautiful sculptures on the outside and the windows by Chagall inside. I did not know that it is UNSCO world heritage. A visit to the Pommery champaign wine cellars was well worth the visit. About 20 million bottles of champagne are stored in about 18 kilometers of chalkstone cellars. The buildings on top seem like a castle complex, it is fascinating. I mused about buying a so called Salmanazar; a 9 liter bottle of Champaign but refained from it for a number of reasons. The Methusalem (6 liters) was also impressive but equally unhandy.

17 September 2009
I’ve spotted quite a number of new t-shirt prints: 'Superlative conspiracy', 'Make me cupcakes' and – next to a museum worn by a young girl: 'I really don’t like art'.

16 September 2009
I’ve been to the new Acropolis Museum in Athens yesterday. It is truly splendid. The museum is replicating the acropolis uphill which you see from many places of the building. They’ve brought together many remains of the antique decoration. What impressed me most were the Caryatids.

15 September 2009
It is always interesting to see people working close to airport terminals. Since one world is sponsoring ‘electricity geysers’ on some airports, you see more and more people around those pillars, connected through cables. In Byzantine times we had pillar saints but as far as I know they were sitting on the pillars and were very ascetic. On second thought I guess I prefer that they’re sitting next to the modern airport electricity pillars and not on them.

14 September 2009
E-Mail programs are tricky and sometimes do more than they should. I just wanted to file something in a draft folder, addressed 'to self'. Who can assume that I have a colleague whose name is Selfu to whom the message went automatically and who now probably muses about my message? I tried to recall it but in vein.
Unrelated to that but also oddly enough I got an e-mail saying 'Dear Mr. Margit … you should rent a technical resource program'. I have no idea what that means but after just having admitted writing e-mails to myself, I did not dare to ask. Ah yes, the gender issue came up again with that as well!

13 September 2009
Notes on a Sunday: Went to cinema with 15 Euros in my pocket. Lost the money on the way. Found out in front of the cinema. Went home.

11 September 2009
I really like the new song by pink ‘Please don’t leave me’. But the best thing about it is the video.

10 September 2009
I had no idea that a) carrier pigeons are still used today and b) that pigeons really provide broadband capabilities. A story worth reading… Where can I get a pigeon?

9 September 2009
This online presentation is a very beautiful piece of art with some very thoughtful observations. I especially liked ‘Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful’ and ‘Don’t take yourself too seriously. No one else does.’ And ‘What other people think of you is none of your business.'

7 September 2009
Adding to yesterday's butcher shop: Today I saw a Brussels bakery called 'Boulangerie Sans Souci'.

6 September 2009
Close to Brussels’ south station there is a butcher shop called 'Boucherie Stalingrad'.

5 September 2009
Just read in a brochure for woman travelers: ‘To concentrate your favorite shampoo and conditioner, just pour the shampoo into one pie plate and the conditioner into another. Place them in the oven at a low temperature (about 200-250°) for several hours. Much of the water will evaporate, leaving very thick liquids. Using a funnel, pour these liquids into small travel bottles and label them. All you need is just a few drops at a time, and they'll last for weeks.’ I don’t know if I would want to do that.

4 September 2009
I was invited to a wedding in Bruges which was really nice. It reminded me once more how difficult it is to be the wedding photographer and was happy that I did not have the honor.

1 September 2009
A new muse is online in the friends-section of this website.

31 August 2009
A new museum opened. In their frequently asked questions section on their website they say the following about whether or not one can visit the museum now: ‘the museum will remain closed to the public until after its official opening.’ Well great!

29/30 August 2009
I’ve been away from Brussels recently and after a fist assessment three huge buildings have been torn down in the meantime. Not a big surprise. I have not been to Vienna city center in a while and having been there just now I find out that they have torn down a building in one of the major downtown shopping streets. And that is sheer unbelievable.

28 August 2009
Seen on a car today (advertising a company that obviously has to do with construction or better destruction): ‘Our mission – your demolition.’ Taken out of context I would not necessarily think this is a great slogan.

27 August 2009
French is really not my strongest side. So it happens that three young guys in a little car stop and ask me for the time. Or at least that was what I understood. Actually they asked the way to the station. They were at least as puzzled as I was but took it nicely and said they liked my accent.

26 August 2009
T-shirt print (pink on brown shirt, worn by a 30 year old): I’ve been dressed by my mum.

23 August 2009
Thinking about it raspberry juice is somewhat totally out. I guess peach ice tea has made the race and replaces raspberry juice fully.

22 August 2009
I have become a Billy Bryson aficionado. Can’t stop reading his traveling books.

20 August 2009
T-shirt prints: 'I am entitled to be grumpy'
'Made in Jail IIII II'
'Live beyond your means'
'Real eyes, real lies, realize'

7 – 19 August 2009
Umbria, Rome. Well, Umbria does not feel like Italy at all. It is all neat and tidy and well kept. No dirt on the streets, plants are in pots and neatly arranged around the houses. Most little towns are on hilltops and from medieval or Etruscan times.
My best insight was that Baci, the hazelnut praline chocolate comes from Perugia. In every Baci there is a little paper with a quote or a proverb like: 'Of all sentiments love is that which has the greatest need of leisure' - Stendhal.
Perugia is overall the nicest and most enjoyable city in Umbria I thought. What was particular interesting was that there are escalators that bring you up to the historic city. So from various spots on the hill they’ve constructed escalators that bring you up and around so to say. Probably it is only possible in Italy to drill through historic walls and antique archeologically interesting ground in order to make life easier with escalators.
Assisi is a great spot for tourists, its double cathedral (one is above the other) is very impressive, Citta de la Pieve is enjoyable (especially the costume festival on august 15 was) and Orvieto is also a place one has to see (mainly again for the cathedral). Gubbio is allegedly the oldest medieval town which is still entirely intact and I must say it has something.
Else being in sunny Italy really felt like holidays with important questions: Do I have a second cappuccino for breakfast? Is it sunbathing or culture today? Do I read another chapter or will I just get lost in thought now?
The last day then in Rome was again totally different. Even in the middle of summer and in an incredible heat Rome is special and stunning. In quite a rush we saw Fontana di Trevi, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Campo di Fiori, Trastevere and San Giovanni in Laterano.

6 August 2009
Not underestimating the pandemic, warnings against the swine flu - or whatever it is called these days - have always quite some comic potential. I read today that the best way to avoid infection is to observe the following basic rules of hygiene (please pay special attention to the first two):
- Wash your hands and keep them away from your face.
- Cough hygienic: Keep your distance from others and cover your mouth with your - sleeve or a tissue.
- Make sure closed rooms are aired regularly.
- Keep your distance from others and avoid crowds.

5 August 2009
Pole Pole. Suaheli for take it easy.

4 August 2009
On 13 February 2009 I asked whether you can urge people who are already collecting bags of antique book shops to start a collection of sickness bags from airplanes. Well, obviously you can. And people do much more than that. There is an online gallery for air sickness disposal bags. Most wanted these days: any pre-1970 bag. Somebody offers a free starter kit consisting of 3 bags of his choosing.
My personal favorite is Rafael Antonio Lozano jr. He is on a personal mission to visit every Starbuck’s outlet in the world. See his webpage. I especially liked the about me page.

2 August 2009
Summer slump in the newspapers: The only things that newspapers do is pondering the beer brand Obama recently drank while receiving guests in the white house garden, whether – on the eve of becoming grandfather - it is about time for Sarkozy to have a baby with Bruni and whether it is appropriate for a serious newspaper to have an interview with Brüno, Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest figure (as Cohen is not willing to have interviews as such and rather prefers posing as one of his alter egos).

1 August 2009
So this is it, one of THE Belgian seaside destinations, Blankenberge. Seen it, been there. No need to go there again in the middle of summer I guess.

31 July 2009
Belgian Artist Phebus has created a limited series of broken muses stamps.

30 July 2009
Austrian wafer manufacturer Manner now also sells Manner 'soundbags': handbags where you can connect your iPod. It has integrated boxes and replays music…

29 July 2009
Is the NASA video of the moon landing still copyright protected?

27 July 2009
Swine flu isn’t called swine flu anymore ans also Mexican flu seems to be an outdated term. It has a very prosaic name now: Influenza A/H1N1. Anyway, a recent warning reads: 'Personal hygiene is all the more important, especially in contact with people who are returning from a trip or vacation and in contact with other people in general – at work, for example. …
- Cough and sneeze into a paper tissue (not into your hands).
- Keep a physical distance from people who have cold symptoms.
- Refrain from shaking hands.
There are basically no grounds for panic.'
I especially like the last two lines.

24 July 2009
T-shirt print: 'Secret society of vegans – saving the unicorns since the 90s'

23 July 2009
As my father would put it: Some people are really dreaming of lukewarm iced-lollies.

22 July 2009
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says in its article 24: 'Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.'

20 July 2009
New pictures from Cairo/Egypt are online, amongst them many new broken muses!

19 July 2009
'I can because I want what I must.' Immanuel Kant

18 July 2009
In Bruck an der Mur there is a school for explosive engineering.

16 July 2009
T-Shirt print: 'Reality is a stinky business'

15 July 2009
Sometimes you don’t know if something is a change of for a change.

14 July 2009
Even after many years of practice I find small talk tiring. And I still manage to go home hungry after an evening reception with food and drinks.

13 July 2009
The Finns are very curious people, they even have a competition for carrying wives.

12 July 2009
'I am always perplexed when people say that a photograph has captured someone. A photograph is just a tiny slice of a subject. A piece of them in a moment.' Annie Leibovitz in At Work.

11 July 2009
'Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.' Mark Twain

10 July 2009
'When you meet a man, you judge him by his clothes; when you leave, you judge him by his heart.' Russian Proverb

9 July 2009
'When I get a little money, I buy books: and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.' Erasmus
'My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.' Abraham Lincoln

8 July 2009
Weird scenes on Munich airport... Many young people in traditional clothes stood there waving huge signs reading ‘To the international convention of Jehova winesses’ with which they welcomed about half the population of Japan.

7 July 2009
No all song texts are cunning. An example: ‘There are nine million bicycles in Beijing - That's a fact - It's a thing we can't deny - Like the fact that I will love you till I die.’

5 July 2009
Advertisement for a bookshop: 'Shoot your own movie – read a book.'
And another t-shirt print: '99% angel'.

4 July 2009
Can you claim doing sports regularly when you just run after planes or between gates at the airport respectively?
Latest spotted t-shirt print: 'Greetings from Djibouti!' I am sure not everybody has got a t-shirt like that.

3 July 2009
A few very insightful Wittgenstein quotes:
The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.
What cannot be imagined cannot even be talked about.
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

2 July 2009
Dennis Meadows, who was part of the Club of Rome and co-authored the book 'limits to growth' said in a recent interview: 'In the short term you often have to go complicated ways in order to change things for the better in the long term' and 'you have to sacrifice now in order to live better in the long run'.

1 July 2009
A friend told me about a quote by Henri Ford who said 'When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.'

30 June 2009
My grandmother used to say: 'Life isn’t a musical request programme.' Today's word: 'muddle'.

29 June 2009
Today’s word is ‘cantankerous’.

28 June 2009
Nobel laureate Eric Kandel said in an interview 'a human being is what he has learnt and what he remembers'.

27 June 2009
I wonder why politicians like Obama are so successful with slogans of 'change', 'yes we can' or 'the time is now'. Change seems the most difficult thing to achieve for most people. Maybe it is because the marketing of these slogans imply that someone else will do it, that being for it is all it takes and the dirty work is done by others. I am curious whether the opposition will soon start marketing slogans like 'too little, too late'.

26 June 2009
What else do you need on a Friday apart from a pigeon that shits on you, a PC that gets stolen and the police that says they were not informed about a stolen PC but instead about the fact that somebody had been taken hostage?

25 June 2009
Bertrand Russell allegedly said 'Anything that can be put in a nutshell shall remain there.'

24 June 2009
New pictures at the Broken Muses start page.

23 June 2009
I ask myself what drives people to throw away things on the street. Today I saw a pair of boots on the streets. So somebody has left them behind. Why?

22 June 2009
After long months of relative stability regarding my name I was called 'Birgit' and 'Margrit' today. The latter is maybe a tribute to the recently opened Magritte museum in Brussels.

21 June 2009
Midsummer and it is raining cats and dogs in Brussels.

20 June 2009
I Can’t stop reading 'Shantaram' by Gregory David Roberts. It is one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in recent years.

18 June 2009
Trying to recover from bleeding hands, aching back and other pain from yesterday’s exhibition.

17 June 2009
Exhibition in Brussels in the Royal Arts and History Museum. My main take is that the secret of some people’s success seems to be having developed mastership in watching others work. Well, apart from that I refine my earlier assumption of personal hell (which was screwing together picture frames). Since I do pictures on aluminum support, that is no longer necessary. It now contains mounting and demounting easels. So it has changed a bit over time.
Some people but really just a few seemed to be interested in my pictures and said things ranging from 'I really like them' to 'they all look so sad' and 'well I'm into art from the far east'.

16 June 2009
I read a most shocking article by a woman who survived a prison sentence in North Korea.

14 June 2009
Finally found some time again to work in the dark room. Facing my negatives I only realize today in how many places I have been lately: Budapest, Lisbon, Porto, Prague, Maastricht, New York, Munich, Cairo, Athens.
What else is new? There is now a news archive on the website. And I will have a half day exhibition next Wednesday in the Royal Arts and History Museum in Brussels.

13 June 2009
My best friend tends to say ‘Man should stay amongst themselves and play football.’

12 June 2009
Returned from Athens. I read a very interesting article on photographic retouching. Retouching is not only commonplace, it becomes so bizarre that celebrities start to look totally different from magazine to magazine.

11 June 2009
News in the section of t-shirt prints: ‘Three reasons to be a teacher: June, July, August.’
and ‘To do is to be. Socrates - To be is to do. Plato - Do Be Do Be Do. Sinatra.’

10 June 2009
Arrived to Athens quite late and had barely time to see the Acropolis. Such a great city. So much to see and no time really.

6 June 2009
Written above the entrance of a Brussels bookshop: 'Carefully balanced on the edge of a hole in time'.

5 June 2009
My camera seemed broken. I am so relieved that it was only empty batteries.

4 June 2009
I got some very interesting feedback to this website today asking me whether I was suggesting James Bond is a 'broken muse'?!

3 June 2009
Newsletters are always a fruitful source for my blog. I read today under a heading ‘joyful news’ that ‘we would like to take the opportunity to inform you of the birth of our new website’. Had I only known that websites just get born, broken muses would have been up and running years before 2005.

2 June 2009
A while ago I reflected on the fact that there are people who you can smell before you even see them. In elevators I sometimes get the feeling that you can smell certain people also still a while after they’ve left. I am not sure which is worse.

1 June 2009
What I forgot to mention about Cairo the other day was a very insightful button on the livery of every hotel employee reading: 'Yes is the answer, what is the question?' It was not always easy to get the question across, especially as it needed to be worded in a yes/no manner. Difficult to ask where breakfast is served or when to check out at the latest.

30 – 31 May 2009
A classical trip to Paris involving a visit to the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel tower, a boat trip on the Seine, a stroll through St. Germain des Pres and a visit to Versailles. What was perhaps different to a really pure classical Paris trip was a tribute to the largest flea market of all times at Porte de Clinancourt where the bride, a broken muse in her wedding dress, is still sitting in the back of a shop for old metal.

29 May 2009
2 years of Broken Muses blog!

28 May 2009
WWF says without the environment there is no economy.

27 May 2009
While waiting for a takeaway pizza a woman with a dog on her arm entered the pizza place. She asked whether the owner needed a dog. He declined politely, not today. I was happy having ordered a vegetarian pizza.

26 May 2009
You can be registered in more than one country in Europe but it seems that you can only vote in the vote on the European Parliament in one country.

25 May 2009
I cycled to another bike shop in order to buy a lock. It was closed.

21 - 24 May 2009
My visit to Cairo already started of well. I was picked up by a driver who looked like Omar Sharif’s grandson and said his name was Honey. His two phrases were: 'Welcome to Egypt' and 'no problem'. Without any problems he welcomed me to Egypt at least 15 times. We drove to the pyramids of Gizeh. Although I had of course seen them numerous times on TV or on pictures, the feeling of actually standing in front of them is hard to describe. There is a reason for calling them a world wonder. Being there and looking at them is stunning, moving. The Sphinx is equally impressive. How must the first discoverers have felt when seeing them? Of course there are numerous people who try to make the impression even better for tourists, they offer posing with camels or riding horse carriages.
The bazaar in the Islamic part of the city offers a wide array of obvious and not so obvious products. There are shops that manufacture hats or bind books. In between there are goats living on the streets and stands where you can drink freshly squeezed sugar cane juice. A must is the picturesque El Fishawy Café on the Khan El Khalili bazaar. More posh is the rooftop bar in the Nile Hilton that offers a splendid view over the city.
Coptic Cairo, the oldest part of the city as it seems is also most interesting. So is the Egyptian Museum that hosts all the sarcophaguses, mummies, sculptures, tomb accessories and whatever one can imagine from the ancient Egyptian times. I guess one would need weeks to see all its treasures.
The City of the Dead is probably the thing that made the biggest impression on me apart form the pyramids. About 300.000 people are said to live there in mausoleums and huts between the gravestones and tombs. It is a city in the city for the poorest of the poor, it has bus connections, shops and car repairs. The alleys have names and the graves numbers, so even mail can be delivered.

20 May 2009
I decided to ride a bike again. I cycled to the office, somehow managed to lose the lock. I then walked to a sports shop, the only one I know by the way, only to find out it has been closed down and replaced by a clothes shop. Somehow my cycling seems to be ill-fated.

19 May 2009
Wherever there is a construction ongoing you can be sure that there are people close by observing the scene. Is there a meditative aspect to construction sites and the change coming with it? Or is it just comforting to watch other people work?

16 May 2009
Art is beautiful but a lot of work. Karl Valentin

15 May 2009
Have a look at this real estate ad. Isn’t that THE brokenmuses apartment?

14 May 2009
I visited a brewery in Munich which was really interesting especially regarding the logistics. What was nice to hear was that at some stage in the fermentation process the beer is cooled and a certain amount of CO2 is set free. You cannot smell the gas and if you breathe in a certain amount that is lethal. In the past, many people died when entering the cooling rooms. So a way out was that the master brewer had a sausage dog, accompanying him to the site. Then he sent the sausage dog to the cooling room on a long leash. If the dog collapsed, the CO2 level was obviously too high. The respective dog collapsed but did not die. He eventually recovered but remained dizzy for a while. On old pictures it seems that you always see the sandwich dog next to the master brewer.

13 May 2009
Why are there dishes that are described as follows: 'Fly fish caviar mousse on Castell Franco salad, asparagus spears in watercress vinaigrette and ciabatta bread'?

12 May 2009
… beauty is found in the everyday rather than in the ideal … Ann Temkin, the Blanchette Rockefeller Curator of Painting and Sculpture.

11 May 2009
Sentences you hear when shopping. Some of them sound pretty boring but make some sense, e.g. 'Would you want a plastic bag?' Others are a bit awkward like 'Do you collect Disney stickers?'

10 May 2009
A wine and book lover recently told me that only red wine is real wine. White wine he thinks is just a refreshment.

9 May 2009
New pictures from Rome are online!

8 May 2009
Some people think it is eccentric to read old newspapers. One could call them oldspapers. The advantage is that the chance of missing something important is rather low. On the other hand the problem is that one is never quite up to date of what is ongoing on the present day.

7 May 2009
At the airport I got a leaflet that draws your attention to various symptoms of what I thought was called the swine flu and what now all of a sudden is called Mexican flu. So at first, a whole species was discredited, now it is a whole country.

1 – 6 May 2009
An interesting fact I had not come across so far was that New York was briefly called New Orange after the Dutch had taken over briefly again from the British between August 1673 and November 1674. I found this nowhere in the Museum of the City of New York but only in a little brochure.
Being in the Library Hotel where every room has its theme and ‘please make my room’ signs read ‘please dust my books’ and ‘do not disturb’ is neatly worded ‘shhh, let me read’ all of a sudden New York seems to be all about reading. The theme of another bookshop was: Don’t judge a bookstore by its cover. Reading the daily paper, I came across an interesting article on the myth of multitasking and another one on the inventor and genius Nikola Tesla.
In New York Everybody between 16 and 20 seems to go crazy for Abercrombie & Fitch clothes. I saw many youngsters in the rain with paper shopping bags from the brand, protecting the shopping bag from the rain rather than themselves. The shopping bags show parts of the jeans and the well trained six pack of a male model. Allegedly the clothes are sold in dark rooms and so I wanted to check whether that was true. The first thing I saw was a gigantic poster of the shopping bag picture, a crowd of screaming girls, a girl with a Polaroid camera and – the model. I waked past the crowd, posed with the model and got a Polaroid picture of the two of us instantly.
Else it was raining cats and dogs most of the time and freezing cold. Nevertheless I saw districts I haven’t seen before, like the Meatpacking district, the Upper East Side and some parts of Brooklyn. A real discovery was the Bar of the Mandarine Oriental Hotel, overlooking Central Park.

30 April 2009
'I have always imagined that Paradise would be a kind of library' – Jorge Luis Borges.
Also read today: 'Busy loving, busy hating, busy laughing, busy going crazy'. And a new t-shirt quote: 'There is no future in time travel'

29 April 2009
I don’t know whether joining twitter was such a success. Amongst the first ones who became my 'followers' were persons calling themselves 'Harpi Bizarre' and 'I hate people'.

28 April 2009
I was informed about the following recommended health and safety procedures regarding the swine flu:
- Maintain good personal hygiene, wash your hands frequently.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Avoid people who are obviously sick.
And now my absolute favourite:
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and put your used tissue in a wastebasket. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands

27 April 2009
I think I will start a collection of insults. Heard yesterday: A person goes on and on about something. The next one says: 'Recently I heard something really intelligent. Actually it was the opposite of what you just said.'

25 -26 April 2009
It’s a shame. I am in Porto and exactly today (April 25) is the most important Portuguese national holiday. Everything’s closed. Well, eventually one shop was open where I could buy the thickest sweatshirt ever as it is sunny but freezing cold. Who would think that this is possible in Portugal? Anyways, Porto’s center is UNESCO world heritage and although there are not many people on the streets and somewhat is seems like a ghost town and although half or more of the houses are empty or breaking apart, there is an irresistible charm to it. It is truly broken, which I of course happen to enjoy very much. I even found a few broken muses.
One should definitely have dinner in the Cafe de Paris, a drink in the Bar dos Livros (both Rua da Galleria de Paris), have coffee in the neo-baroque Café Majestic dating back to 1921 (Rua Santa Catarina) and browse through the books in the Llelo bookshop (Livraria Llelo, Rua des Carmelitos).

24 April 2009
There are exceptionally many blind people in Lisbon I think. During the last three days I saw at least 15. Today there was one on the streets passing me who wasn’t very good at it, yet. Although I tried to make space he still managed to hit me with his stick.
On the Mrs. Bean syndrome (© by a friend of mine; what she means by that is being enormously clumsy just as Mr. Bean): First I burnt my tongue today with a Pasteis de Belem (a cake and real Portuguese delight). Then as said I got hit by a blind person’s stick. When I tried to help someone at a lunch buffet I managed to hold my own plate in such a clumsy way that sauce was running all over my hand. And finally without George Clooney I was just unable to operate a Nespresso machine – producing only hot water.

23 April 2009
At a conference: A colleague referred me to talk to a person from a particular country. So I walked up to this person, introduced my self and said I was referred to him in order to talk to him. The I thought not so polite answer was: 'I don’t think that this will be useful.'

22 April 2009
Visited Sintra/Protugal and got tremendously lost. When I finally discovered I was going around in circles, the police drove by. I managed to stop them. I must have looked very exhausted. The drove me about 15 km to the train station and dropped me there saying 'enjoy Portugal!'.

21 April 2009
It is not easy to keep a poker face when somebody who is about to present a no-nonsense topic stands in front of a white wall while a video is projected and has a play-button projected onto his trousers.

20 April 2009
There is nothing such as a casual Monday. I went to the office casually as there were no meetings foreseen. Then a meeting popped up. So I prepared for it, got back home, dressed up, went to the meeting only to find out it was cancelled.

18 – 19 April 2009
Maastricht is a very interesting city. A new bookshop (Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen) has been built into an old Dominican church from the 13th century. Where the altar was, today there is a coffee shop. Not far from it, a 15th century Dominican monastery has been transformed into a modern hotel (Kruisherenhotel Maastricht). What used to be the Gothic church is now the central lobby. The bar is in the altar area there and the breakfast room in the gallery. The inner courtyard is also well done. A fountain sculpture with a rotating ship propeller creates a whirlpool that moves an ostrich egg up and down. Remarkable! And before I forget: The wasabi nut is also a common delight in Maastricht...

17 April 2009
It is always interesting to see what people throw away. A particularly stunning combination of parts of a Hoover and a broken icon can be seen when clicking here.

16 April 2009
I read that in Stockholm a hotel was recently opened that has been built into a jumbo jet (Boing 747). The jumbo has been manufactured for Singapore Airlines in 1976. It is possible to sleep even in the cockpit! That’s the website of the Jumbo-Hotel.

15 April 2009
Prague is a beautiful city and interesting in many ways. Czech beer is world known and offered of course everywhere. Also in the mini bar of my hotel. The interesting detail though was that the cheapest item in the mini bar was a pack of condoms. The price was a third of the cheapest beer.

14 April 2009
A friend of mine has just started her wold-tour. She will go from Vienna to Madras, Sri Lanka, Singapur, Hongkong, Australia, to the Easter Islands and to Chile. More on her bi-lingual German and English travel blog.

13 April 2009
Best selling books (titles only; 4 titles taken from the top ten of the non-fiction best seller list quoted in the 'Standard' of April 11): The hurt human being. The olive and us. Happiness rarely comes alone. Who dies healthily has more from life.

12 April 2009
I was stopped at the airport because I had 26 film rolls with me. Obviously the four ladies at the security check were well trained and spotted the camera on their black and whiter screen but the film rolls remained a miracle. They found it very suspicious that a person would export 26 film rolls from Austria to Belgium. The digital age has hit hard again.

10 April 2009
After cinema a huge Granny Smith apple landed just beneath me on the street. It came from above but there was no person visible who has taken the first bite and then thrown it. Weird.

9 April 2009
The wasabi nut has arrived to Bruck an der Mur! Furthermore there are now garbage bins for dog shit only, see a picture here.

8 April 2009
I hear that there are very interesting philosophy lectures at the university in Graz. They are well attended. Amongst others there is an older student who – much to the disgust of the other students - starts eating a strange kind of dark brown mash as soon as the professor enters the room. During the last lecture before Easter he did not only eat his brown mash but presented his false teeth and licked the rest of the brown mash off them.

7 April 2009
I got a chocolate Easter bunny. According to the package this is understood to be a hollowware made of bitter chocolate. Said hollowware has grim looks, is wrapped in a golden aluminum foil and has a brown bowtie as well as an amulet (!) on a ribbon.

5 April 2009
Kierkegaard said once: 'You can make Wild ducks tame, but you can never make Tame ducks Wild again.'

4 April 2009
A new classic in the world of t-shirt prints: ‘Blame my sister’.

3 April 2009
A specialist told me that a bilby is an oviparous mammal. For a picture of a bilby, please click here.

2 April 2009
Just in time for Easter I came across a very curious trade mark case. The Austrian supreme court is seeking guidance on the concept of bad faith within the meaning of the Community trade mark legislation. The subject matter is chocolate Easter bunnies. The Austrian cholocate manufacturer Hauswirth has been challenged legally by its competitor Lindt&Sprüngli. Both companies produce golden chocolate bunnies at Easter time, both with gold-colored foil wrapping and a ribbon. Lindt also uses a bell on the bunny’s ribbon and has a three-dimensional Community trade mark of an Easter bunny wrapped in gold-coloured foil, with red and brown markings, wearing round its neck a red ribbon with a bell attached. The case is about the likelihood of confusion and more generally about the concept of bad faith when registering a trade mark that can be used against products which were already available on the market before the trade mark was registered. The interesting part comes in the opinion of the advocate general where the advocate general tries to define what an Easter bunny is: ‘Part of the mythology of Easter is an egg-bearing creature known as the Easter bunny. Different languages categorise the creature as a hare or a rabbit, and the English ‘bunny’ is perhaps flexible enough to encompass both. In Australia, where rabbits are viewed with disfavour, its mythological niche has been partly taken over by the ‘Easter bilby’ (although, given the animal’s possibly oviparous nature, one might have expected an ‘Easter platypus’). The article sold under the trade mark in issue in the present case is termed by its manufacturer ‘Goldhase’ in German, ‘Gold bunny’ in English, ‘Lapin d’or’ in French, ‘Coniglio d’oro’ in Italian, etc. Fortunately, the exact zoological classification of this (probable) lagomorph is entirely irrelevant to any of the issues in the case.’

1 April 2009
Recently a new sandwich shop opened in Brussels, brilliantly named for April’s fool day: It’s called ‘Fou’d Food’, crazy for food. This bar is close to a restaurant called Archimedes' principle or better 'Le Thé au harem d'Archi Ahmed', pronounced as 'Le Theorem d’Archimed'. Another nice name from my collection of interesting restaurant names in Brussels is 'Et qui va promener le chien?', so 'and who is going to walk the dog?'.

31 March 2009
Where to go really?

30 March 2009
Many people are talking about the 'Internet of Things' these days. Recently I read it slightly misspelled, being referred to as the 'Internet of Thins'. So it seems that the future Internet is only there for the really fit and slim ones.

29 March 2009
Brussels is known for chocolate. At Easter there are chocolate eggs everywhere and a particular shop advertises his giant chocolate eggs with 'eggsplosion of taste'.

28 March 2009
News for the collection of t-shirt prints: 'Animals taste good' and 'I recycle women'.

27 March 2009
Why is it often so that the answer to 'please decide either – or' is answered by 'we believe that what you proposed is the ideal way forward'.

26 March 2009
Conference in Cologne: It seems that the tensions between Cologne and Düsseldorf go as far as that the toilets in a Cologne conference venue are called 'Düsseldorf'.

25 March 2009
Is it really a sign of a rotting society when coffee shops advertise 'breakfast until 5 pm'?

21 – 22 March 2009
News from the world of t-shirt prints:
Under an print image of the Brussels atomium there is a sentence in small letters reading 'This is not Porto'. Or 'Portugal apologizes for having invented the fado' or 'Download the whole Portuguese economy, just 20kb'. What I also found appealing was a handwritten ad in the shop windows of a shop selling handmade shoes reading: 'pretty shoes = pretty feet'.

19 March 2009
Some buses in Brussels have a bright huge sticker nowadays reading: ‚This bus respects the environment.’ And then they block everybody’s way…

18 March 2009
On the Brussels Berlaymont building is a huge new poster reading: ‘Our food has become greener’ I’ve noticed. It takes ages for bananas to become yellow after you’ve bought them.

16 March 2009
From my series of meeting quotes: ‘It’s not a conference, it’s a real meeting with topics!’

15 March 2009
I tend to complain that there are hardly any ATMs in Brussels. Recently there are quite some at the airport at least. The image that is printed on their sides speaks for itself I guess, just have a look and click here.

13 March 2009
Nowadays there are more electricity plugs at airports, mainly due to the fact that a major airline customer loyalty program is sponsoring plug-in stations for charging phones and laptop computers. So people do not sit in the dirt between toilet entries anymore but gather around these charger stations. Their cables are now long enough to sit properly on the nearest benches. I have to say that I liked the humiliating image much more: businessmen in more or less tailor made suits sitting on the floor next to a power outlet…

12 March 2009
There is a new installation on the roof of the Musical Instruments Museum in Brussels. It’s a huge bright blue brain.

11 March 2009
I am quoting from a Belgium Travel Advisory that a colleague of mine recently got from his travel agency:
- There is an underlying threat from terrorism, but nothing that you should be concerned about.
- Continuing political tensions between the Dutch-speaking and French-speaking ethnic groups [sic!] led to the government collapsing in 2008, but this is unlikely to lead to long-term instability affecting the security environment.
- Driving standards are improving but remain poor by European standards – this is the legacy of a lenient driving test and inadequate driver training.
- Hepatitis B: Recommended for ... anyone who may have a new sexual partner, share needles or get a tattoo or body piercing.
- If you do not speak Flemish, it is usually preferable to speak English, not French, when speaking to a Flemish speaker.

10 March 2009
Recent studies seem to suggest that multitasking is not at all the great new approach that it has been said it was but makes people vulnerable to errors. More here. According to the study author David E. Meyer, director of the Brain, Cognition and Action Laboratory at the University of Michigan, it takes far longer - often double the time or more - to get jobs done when people try to perform two or more related tasks either at the same time or alternating rapidly between them than if they were done sequentially.

6-8 March 2009
New tales from Absurdistan: Chaudefontaine is in a spa area and home to thermal springs. There is a fountain with two interesting warning plates. One reads that the water is definitely not drinking water. The other one reads that the water is not subject to any control whatsoever. Interestingly enough people are queuing there with empty bottles and canisters in order to fill them up with the water from the fountain.
Not far from the fountain is a public park with interesting signs, one of them forbidding dogs to pee in the park!

5 March 2009
From my collection of t-shirt prints: ‘Information Overload’

4 March 2009
A controversial statement in a controversial debate: 'First of all I would like to underline that I agree with everything that has just been said…'

3 March 2009
New tales from Absurdistan: I got an invitation to join a running group. The advertisement read: 'Coached by xyz you will learn how to smoothly run 5km in 10 weeks time.' Well, 10 weeks seems generous for 5 kilometers. That gives you about 336 hours for 1 km or 20.16 min for each single meter. I guess that can be done not matter how untrained you are. Some snails may overtake tough.

28 February 2009
Ryanair’s CEO announced yesterday that in the near future his airline might charge customers to use its aircrafts' toilets.

27 February 2009
From a newsletter: ‘There are apparent pro- and cons on the taste of coffee in the new offices. A ‘taste’ test session will be organized to potentially change the coffee.’

26 February 2009
Thinking about the concept of a bad bank, I hear some people think it might be cool being a manager there. Titles could be along the lines: vice president toxic assets - bad bank inc.

25 February 2009
Again trouble with my name: Today it was Margit Brandle.

24 February 2009
My name was spelled correctly on a conference badge!

23 February 2009
An American friend from California tells me that talking to me and listening to my accent is way more fun than listening to their governors Arnold's. I guess that’s a compliment.

22 February 2009
From my collection of t-shirt prints: 'I need some truth and aspirin.' Fernando Pessoa

21 February 2009
Tales from hairdressers: A woman in her sixties enters the hairdresser at about 11 a.m. She has short hair. Approaching the first competent-looking hairdresser she says that she has to do a Mardigras parody of the local mayor later on the same day. In order to do so she wishes to also look like him which would involve pinning her hair down in order to model a bald head. Additionally she would want to have the one or the other long dark strand of hair – 20-30cm would do – that could be glued all over the bald head from ear to ear. The hairdresser’s mood changed quickly between disbelief, amusement and slight anger. Rather logically she argued that one cannot possibly model a bald head using – admittedly short - hair. When she saw the squashed hopes of that woman she advised to try find a wig that could eventually be shaved in order to resemble the mayor’s haircut.

20 February 2009
The rumour goes that there are acting librarians who refuse to read books that are written by female writers.

16 February 2009
For quite some time I hesitated to try. But I have to admit that there is a certain fascination in studio photography. Here are a few pictures.

15 February 2009
Allegedly Daniel Craig alias James Bond has sleeping difficulties.

14 February 2009
I thought three crosses stand for signatures of people who can neither read nor write. Now I find out that it stands for kisses. Maybe for kisses of people who can neither read nor write, who knows?

13 February 2009
Can you urge people who are already collecting bags of antique book shops to start a collection of sickness bags from airplanes?

12 February 2009
There are very creative ideas out there how to sell things. What seems to become popular at the moment are raffles for houses. Read more here.

11 February 2009
I stumbled over a list of spa treatments from the Margit hotel on Margit island in Budapest. They offer things like a Hungarian wine cream massage, a body scrub with salt and fruit brandy and a honey and cabbage packing!

8 February 2009
A few updates: The pictures from Budapest (January 2009) are online now, click here. The Wasabi nut has finally hit Belgium. I was told that a huge pile has been seen on a market in Antwerp. And last but not least: Bernd the bread (see blog entry from 18 January) has been kidnapped (!). After 11 days it could be liberated. Read more here on the kidnapping of Bernd and a related story about freeing Bernd.

7 February 2009
Is ‘Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän’ really the longest German word? That is highly questionable but there seems to be an interesting book on the subject matter by Guy Deutscher, called ‘The Unfolding of Language’.

6 February 2009
When crossing the street this morning a young guy with a suitcase asked me whether there were any cheap hotels around. He was searching for something in the range of 15-20 Euros. I pointed in a direction and said there was a youth hostel close by. He gave me a frightened look and said ‘No, never. I’ve seen a film about hostels…’ That left me slightly worried. What kind of films are out there on Brussels’ youth hostels? Or, even more worrying, what is happening there?

5 February 2009
I was again mistaken for being an IT administrator. Before the problem was reported I got a nice democratic opportunity to back out. The line read: ‘Do you agree that you are the correct person to ask about this?’

4 February 2009
On contradictions: I received an e-mail requiring me to immediately install a ‘mandatory’ piece of software. After explaining the obligation in more detail the inspiring next line reads: ‘The Installation at first is non-mandatory but it will become mandatory at a later stage, therefore we recommend that you install the software.’

3 February 2009
And again some news on my name: Yesterday I saw my name printed as ‘Margriet Brandel’ and today ‘Margit Brandle’.

31 January 2009
Some typically Austrian expressions: ‘and now again, nobody is to blame, right?’ (person searching for a culprit for), ‘is there still a Krone (newspaper) left?’ and (for taxis and busses) ‘just wait, I’ll take you there’.

30 January 2009
Austrian Airlines offers 'home made dessert’ on their flights. Are flight attendants required to bring home made desserts for their passengers?

29 January 2009
Again some news on my name: I got a letter that was addressed to 'Hanne Brandl’.

28 January 2009
A briefing that starts with the phrase ‘on the other hand’ is almost poetic, isn’t it? On the one hand at least...

27 January 2009
New tales from Absurdistan: A sign next to the elevator says: ‘The elevator is out of order’. On the sign there are workers with loads of cables and tools – obviously they are busy repairing an elevator. The elevator as such is working fine. It’s fast. No dubious sounds, so in essence much better than normal.

26 January 2009
There are actors out there that are appreciated because they are able to vomit when requested to do so. Click here and then go to picture number 6.

25 January 2009
According to my guide book, the flea market in Transtevere is well worth a visit. Either it was too late in the day or it has just changed too much I can’t tell but nevertheless it was quite disappointing. Mostly cheap new clothes are sold there and not much more. What was really worth a visit was Ostia Antica. Ostia used to be Rome’s sea port and the mouth of the Tiber river. You really get a great impression on how life must have been in an old Roman town 2000 years ago. The site is really well preserved. What fascinated me most were the splendid mosaics.
Harry's Bar is also well worth a visit, what a splendid restaurant! A real discovery was the Museo Atelier Canova Tadolini. It’s a sculptor’s workshop full of sculptures and today a restaurant.

24 January 2009
Unfortunately it was rainy and dark today and Rome’s Piazza de Fiori was rather deserted. If it is wet and miserable there it really is. Nevertheless we made it to the Vatican – or to the Vatocan’s post office that is. The crib is still there although Christmas has already been a month ago. I read that they took it down but the Pope had it re-erected until February 6.
One of the really curious sites is the Purgatory Museum. It is smaller than anticipated. Basically it is one room in a side corridor of the ‘Church of the Sacred Heart’ in the Prati district of Rome. There are a few photographs of objects and some books or cloths which are said to be showing evidence of contact made to the living from souls trapped in Purgatory. Mostly it’s hand prints and fingerprints which appear to be burned onto the pages of books, bed linens and clothing. More when clicking here. Interestingly enough a lady offered to show us around. She was from south America and spoke Spanish.

23 January 2009
Rome at it’s best: I got to see a tiny little shop or say a doll hospital, specialized in repairing old dolls. They were more than friendly when I asked whether I could take pictures and when I disclosed that their shop was basically the reason for wanting to come all the way down there from Brussels, they were really flattered. Piazza Navona is even more beautiful than I had remembered but I have to say that quite some time has passed since my last visit. The Pantheon is a remarkable building and so is the Trevi fountain. The advantage of traveling to Rome in winter seems to be that there are far less tourists than one would expect. There are all kinds of rumours around who renovated Via Veneto,’s ‘Cafe de Paris’, I can only say the only thing I spotted was a nicely renewed café that pays tribute to Fellini. One of the most remarkable sights today was definitely the Capuchin crypt in Via Veneto. The walls are decorated with bones, just like in Kutna Hora in the Czech Republic that I have visited back in 2004. The legend goes that the bones of about 4,000 Capuchin monks have been used. Unfortunately one isn’t allowed to take pictures. More on a very curious website here.

22. January 2009
And again news on my name: In an e-mail today a US colleague called me 'Margaret Brandl'.

21 January 2009
One of the English bookshops in Brussels sells 'anti-establishment mints'.

19 January 2009
Also other people have their imaginations of their personal hell: Amongst the best ideas: Changing telephone numbers on endless piles of business cards. And: Being forced to attach documents on a prefixed website that does not foresee attachments.

18 January 2009
There is a puppet character called Bernd the bread. He is a white bread that is mostly grumpy, frustrated and depressive. What he really likes is staring at the south wall of his house, learning the pattern of his woodchip wallpaper by heart, reading his favourite magazine "The desert and you" and enlarging his collection of the most boring railway tracks on video. More at Wikipedia.

16 January 2009
Do I worry too much when I get suspicious about a cost estimate that starts with the words 'Our objective is to add value to every client. Cost is only one aspect of value…'

13 January 2009
There are some odd diseases out there. A few days ago I read about the so-called Body Integrity Identity Disorder. This is according to the wikipedia definition a mental disorder implying a psychological feeling that one would be happier living life as an amputee and is usually, if not always, accompanied by the desire to amputate one or more healthy limbs in order to enact that desire. More when clicking here.

12 January 2009
I wrote a while ago that in my personal hell I will screw and unscrew picture frames with a non-fitting screwdriver for forever and a day. What I will be doing in addition is claiming missing airline miles.

11 January 2009
In Paris models who do life-modeling in art schools went on strike last month for higher wages and legalised tips. Read more (link).

10 January 2009
Kryolan, a company based in Berlin, is the biggest producer of artificial blood worldwide. Apart from blood, make up, hair colour and glue for artificial beards they also manufacture artificial excrements like faeces, vomit and pus. The aim is that these products look and feel as real as possible while at they same time they must not smell or taste bad. The main customer of the company is Hollywood. Interesting article (German only).

8 January 2009
I fear that pop songwriters are not the greatest poets: ‘I’m not a saint, but I’m not a sinner - and everything’s cool as long as I’m getting thinner…’ (from a new song by Lily Allen).

7 January 2009
The Brussels Broken Muses exhibition is now over.

6 January 2009
'The human face never lies. It is the only map that records all the territories where we have lived.' Luis Sepulveda 1998

5 January 2009
A new form of multitasking has emerged. People go to public toilets while talking on the phone and continue talking there.

4 January 2009
'Our social personality is a creation of the minds of others.' Marcel Proust, 1918

3 January 2009
Finnish saying:'Maailmaa on jos jonnekin päin, sanoi akka, kun kepillä saunanluukusta koitti.' How big and wide the world is, said the old woman while plunging out a stick from the sauna hut.

2 January 2009
Drove about a 100 kilometers into the wrong direction. I vaguely recalled that the Hungarians call Vienna 'Pecs'. Unfortunately it is 'Becs’ for Vienna and 'Pecs' for a Hungarian city somewhere in the south close to the boarder with Croatia…

1 January 2009
After having been to the Astoria hotel’s fine coffee shop and the posh New York Bar in the New York Palace hotel the day before yesterday, to the Boston bar and the Gellert and Callas coffee shops yesterday, the Gresham Palace coffee shop was still on my list for today. Not that there wasn’t anything else to do here than sitting in coffee shops. The Museum of Fine Arts and the Szecheny Bath were also worth a visit.

31 December 2008
It is freezing cold in Budapest but that was just ideal for the so-called Memento Park where many of the old statues from the Hungarian communist past have been put up in order to remind people of these times. It is fascinating, especially on a day where colours are fading away and the frost is visible on the grass and tree branches.

30 December 2008
Drove to Budapest – to the Margit island on the Danube river where I will stay for a few days in the Margit Thermal hotel. The island is connected to sides of Budapest (Buda and Pest) via the Margit bridge. The legend goes that Margit was the daughter of King Bela IV who forced her to live as a nun. She cured lepers and did a few more saintly deeds and eventually was beatified. The not so great part of the story is that for her lifetime she refused to wash above her ankles. Well, all that was back in the 13th century.

28 December 2008
'Ugh' can be pronounced in 8 ways in English. See the following sentence by Tony Benn: 'Going through the Borough of Slough, I bought enough doughnuts to give me a cough, which made me laugh.'

27 December 2008
From my collection of t-shirt prints: I saw a shirt today with a print that translates to something like 'star shaped cinnamon biscuit'.

26 December 2008
The British Department for Children, Schools and Families has produced more than 150,000 leaflets for 'the season to be careful' to advise parents in preventing typical Christmas Day accidents which have sent people to hospital such as:
- Parents stabbing themselves with scissors they’ve grabbed instead of screwdrivers to assemble toys;
- People cutting themselves with knives they are using to open presents too quickly;
- Children falling off rocking horses or smashing new bikes into walls;
- Tripping over toys and trailing cables in the rush to try out new computers and other appliances;
- Gravy exploding in microwave ovens;
- Tipsy party guests toppling down stairs or crashing to the floor when they miss their seat at the dinner table.
For more information on the leaflet click here, for a comment in the Guardian, click here.

24/25 December 2008
Sending holiday greetings has become difficult in today's world. The most politically correct one I found this year was the following:
Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter/summer solstice holiday, practiced with the most enjoyable traditions of religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.
I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2009, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make our country great (not to imply that it is necessarily greater than any other country) and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the recipient.
By accepting this greeting, you are accepting the following terms an conditions:
This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting.
It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others and is void where prohibited by law, and irrevocable at the sole discretion of the wisher.
This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher; me, in this instance.

21 December 2008
Some people are genuinely rude I think. I quote: “Please send me your comments/thoughs by the end of the year if you have any.”

20 December 2008
According to Manner, every two seconds a Manner Neapolitan Wafer is is eaten in Austria.

19 December 2008
Vienna or at least parts of Vienna face a hostile takeover by either Christmas market booths or the ever present wasabi nut. Whereas the former is widely visible and can be smelled clearly and distinguishably (what is called “Punsch” is most often just lousy hot wine with loads of sugar and some artificial flavours), the latter is much more subtle. Whole market areas that were used for selling fresh or dried fruits and nuts before are now devoted to a big, green artificial peanut covered with wassabi paste.

18 December 2008
An online service informed me today via e-mail that again Christmas will fall on the 24th of December this year. That insightful comment reminded me about a book I read a few years ago with the title: Our second daughter is again a girl.

17 December 2008
Isn’t it interesting that extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy for treating kidney stones was invented by Dornier because of problems the company was facing with their supersonic aircrafts due to shock waves? More here.

15 December 2008
Sometimes being ahead of time it is rather easy. What I heard today just seems to prove it: “The Directive from 1998 is already 20 years old.”

12 December 2008
What I forgot to mention about Tokyo: I met James Bond! Click here to see a picture of Daniel Craig and me and please take into consideration that I had a heavy cold and high fever. Bond girls look differently I have to admit.

10 December 2008
From the classes in basic logic reasoning: “We have the solution and you tell us what the problem is, right?”

9 December 2008
From my collection of circular definitions: „A connected world is a better world because it helps connecting people to other people“.

8 December 2008
I think one could make a lot of money with seminars on basic logic reasoning for IT support personnel. One basic modul would deal with the thought of “no e-mail without e-mail” or in other words “I cannot send an email to my client describing his problem and possible solutions if he does not have e-mail access and reports exactly that as a problem”. Module two would be “if – then correlations” or “why the user needs to have an Internet connection before he is told to search for a solution on a particular website. Module three could be “a good because and an even better but” such as having better explanations for non-functioning services than “it’s not working because the user is in Belgium”. A module for the advanced staff would then be “there is only so much a user can take”.

6 December 2008
As a private person it is getting more and more difficult to visit factories. Today and therefore with a two week delay I received an email refusing me a visit of a factory in Sendai/Japan. They would not do guided tours for tourists they said. Well. What also interests me to a large extent would be visiting old factory buildings that are not used any more.

5 December 2008
Sometimes I wonder about modern day’s professions. About their names, that is. And I think at times it is really not at all easy to figure out, what is meant. Who would have thought that a job ad for an „after sales service technician“ actually searches for a watchmaker?

4 December 2008
Announcement in a bus: Passengers should not use their mobile phones as they annoy their neighbours.

3 December 2008
Why would somebody put his bed’s head board in the office garage? Probably that is meant for not bumping into the wall when parking.

2 December 2008
Tales from the Dilbert side of my life: For whatever mysterious reason the IT department seems to believe that I am the responsible administrator for a particular IT service. They gave my name to everyone who reported a problem. As the server for that service seems to be down since many hours, a number of people contacted me in varying degrees of anger, telling me to get the problem fixed. I spent the day telling them that I had no idea what this was all about.

29 November 2008
I am back again in good old Europe where things don’t move as smoothly as in Japan. But on the other hand at least people do not wear protecting masks and so you do not feel as being part of a science fiction movie that is all about rebel bacteria and where you are the only one who has not heard about an effective means of protection, yet. And still they hit me hard. I have still not recovered from one of the most annoying colds I had during recent years.

20 - 28 November 2008
Tokyo is very much first world. Everything seems to work out, things function smoothly and people do not make big fuzz about it. Trains are on time, taxis available on every corner of the city, people genuinely friendly and helpful and no one seems to be stressed out.
My first impression of Tokyo was the toilets. The seats are heated and most of them have a quite sophisticated menu. You can chose from various bidet functions and – most interestingly – put a flush sound on. So without actually flushing you can enjoy a flush sound. The flushing button as such is often not part of the sophisticated mechanism and rather hidden.
Already on the way from the airport it is stunning how little advertisement there is next to the road or on buildings. It is like big cities should be; you concentrate on the skyline and you are not distracted by advertisement.
What is the biggest metropolitan area in the world does not give that impression at all. When looking at it from top of a skyscraper, you can see it’s enormous dimensions but when walking in the streets you have the feeling of being in a small town or discovering a certain neighbourhood of such town. There is no rush, the air is clean, there are hardly any traffic jams and there is no shouting or other forms of loud noise. People are not moving in a hasty way either. Next to skyscrapers there are residential areas where you walk in the middle of the street and don’t even think of the possibility of a car running you over.
There are many vending machines in Tokyo where you can buy most anything from. Mostly it is hot and cold drinks, but there are also food vending machines with attached kitchen. You chose your food first, pay and as soon as it is done you are allowed into the shop. People still smoke a lot in Japan. There are cigarette vending machines with cigarettes brands called Hope, Seven Stars, Pianissimo, Cabin and Péche.
Other interesting brand names were: “dog’s care joker” for a shop with dog supplies and “Doughnut Plant” for a doughnut restaurant.
The Mori Art Museum greets visitors with the words: “Visitors who have consumed alcohol will not be permitted inside the museum.” In the museum there was a sculpture of a tuk-tuk motor rickshaw made of artificial bones and called “Autosaurus”. That was very special I thought.

20 November 2008
I always thought that although most shopping streets look alike, no matter in which city you are, they have a distinctive smell. In Brussels, it is the smell of waffles. Since I walked past the “gourmet wander waffle London“ booth yesterday night, I am giving up on the idea of distinctive smells.

19 November 2008
An advertisement in a shop in London’s Oxford street – decorated for Christmas - reads “the more the merrier”. I guess that slogan has been agreed upon well ahead of the current global financial turmoil situation.

18 November 2008
News on my name: A taxi driver wrote me a receipt for Marie Brandel and a hotel was reserved on the name of Margit Brandelille.

17 November 2008
Unfortunately I missed an interesting project in the KDW (Kaufhaus des Westens) in Berlin, called “revolting mannequins”:

16 November 2008
I had an odd flight today. My luggage decided to spend the night in Vienna instead of coming with me to Brussels and the stewardess said “all remaining passengers are kindly requested to board the aircraft. Otherwise they will be uploaded.”

15. November 2008
J. M. Keynes said after some disappointments: „Three things drive me crazy: love, jealousy and studying share prices.

13 November 2008
My mother says that a colour iPod does not become white when washing it in the washing machine (not even at 60 degrees). She has to know as she tried it recently. She also says that it does not become an iPod shuffle through washing although since then there is some noise when shaking it. Interestingly enough the new one though reshuffles songs when you shake it.

11 November 2008
In Belgium, the 11 November is a national holiday that reminds people of the end of the World War I. In Austria, the carnival season starts on November 11 at 11:11.

10 November 2008
The slogan of a bio supermarket reads: „Be positive – health is an attitude!“. This will for sure make really ill people very happy…

8 November 2008
My best friend Margit Kuchler-D’Aiello’s novel has been published! It is called “Portrait eines Balkonsitzers“. The blurb says: “Mr. T. is sitting on his balcony and looks at the world. He is rather content until one day his attention is drawn to a young woman in the neighbouring house… Margit Kuchler-D’Aiello has written a touching story full of melancholy and poetry. It is a story about aging and longing, about failing, about hopelessness and the fragility of love.”

7 November 2008
From my “meeting quotes” series, this time a quote during a moderate dispute: A: I have the feeling I live in a parallel universe! B: I can assure you that this is the case.

6 November 2008
On core (immaterial) values: A beggar in Brussels city center plays the European anthem on a flute.

5 November 2008
On core (material) values: Nutella is raffling a golden Nutella pot (14 carat).

4 November 2008
There are different dustmen in Brussels. There are those who are just regular garbage collectors and then there are those with an over dimensioned hoover. The machine is then either used to hoover leaves or to blow away leaves. Those that hoover leaves can mostly be found at intersections with little or no trees and thus little or no leaves on the ground. The others are mainly populating alleys with loads of leaves. There they use the hoover to blow leaves into nice patterns.

3 November 2008
I wanted to make an appointment at an institute for Thursday. Sympathetically enough, they still use a paper agenda with loose sheets for each day. Much to the embarrassment of the assistant, they had lost Thursday. She mumbled that this had never happened before that they lost a whole day. She then had a last attempt searching and pointing to the other end of the room asked her colleague: “Veronique, can you search for Thursday over there?”

2 November 2008
I uploaded a few pictures from the recent exhibition opening in Austria.

1 November 2008
What’s new on the market is the so-called BachPod, an iPod that contains the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach. On a parallel issue I sometimes ask myself whether future generations - instead of browsing albums with their childhood photographs - will receive a memory stick from their parents with the complete childhood photo compilation.

31 October 2008
On winning time (taken from my “meeting quotes” series): I will actually, kind of, sort of like double-check…

30 October 2008
And again another story on my name: I reserved a table in a restaurant on my name. When I got there I was greeted with the words: “Good evening, Madame Wandel”. [In German, “Wandel” means change.]

29 October 2008
There are bags from bookshops that read: Attention, reading might endanger stupidity.

28 October 2008
From BBC News: “Man's arm trapped in train toilet: TGV toilets are equipped with a powerful suction system. A passenger on a French train had to be rescued by firemen after having his arm sucked down the on-board toilet. The 26-year-old victim was trapped when he tried to fish out his mobile phone, which had fallen into the toilet bowl, and fell foul of the suction system. The high-speed TGV train had to stop for two hours while firemen cut through the train's pipework. The man was carried away by emergency services, with the toilet still attached to his arm. "He came out on a stretcher, with his hand still jammed in the toilet bowl, which they had to saw clean off," said Benoit Gigou, a witness to the man's plight. The incident happened on Sunday evening, aboard a train travelling in western France between La Rochelle and Paris.”

27 October 2008
Belgium has a club called the “League of Optimists of the Kingdom of Belgium”. According to their brochure their purpose is “to help bring about a change in the mentality of the inhabitants of Belgium, encouraging optimism and enthusiasm, good humour and positive thinking, greater daring and a spirit of enterprise, tolerance and understanding between individual citizens and communities”.

26 October 2008
Sometimes I feel like a city map on two legs. Random people looking for addresses come to me and ask me. Today it was in particular funny. The houses the girl was looking for had recently been torn down.

25 October 2008
There is a book with the title: Women who read are dangerous (by Stefan Bollmann).

23 October 2008
Another one on the Fortis advertisements: As said they still advertise with the incredible slogan: “Life is a curve – where are you on it?” but they also ask underneath the picture of that curve: “Are you heading to the right direction?

22 October 2008
The exhibition opening in Brussels tonight went really well. It was very pleasant and I had the chance to talk to many people. When I mounted the pictures last Friday I noticed that the cleaning personnel looked at my pictures and I had a good debate with them. That was a really nice compliment I thought. Also yesterday it seemed that everybody really discussed the pictures.

21 October 2008
A typical one day business trip: Getting up at five in the morning and returning home after eleven at night. On my way back home I finalized the preparation for my exhibition opening tomorrow. All pictures now have their little tags.

20 October 2008
New tales from Absurdistan: Fortis still advertises with the incredible slogan: “Life is a curve – where are you on it?”
There is a Belgian label called: But were is the sun? (Mais Il Est Où Le Soleil?) and a new (Belgian?) movie called “Let’s talk about the rain” (parle-moi de la pluie).

17 October 2008
Quotes from a very entertaining meeting: “I can tell you one thing, this is not inconsistent with what we’ve just said. This is just a daisy argument!” and A: “And, did they say anything intelligent on the subject whatsoever?” B: “Let’s double check, we can’t preclude that.”

16 October 2008
Again on the never ending story of my name. I added a subsite to an Intranetsite. In normal circumstances the new page shows the author’s name at the very bottom, something like MargitBrandl. But to my surprise today the new site all of a sudden said SabineBrandt. Isn’t that weird. Now it is not just about taking away my first name, it is also about changing my second name. It seems Birgit was only the beginning.

15 October 2008
The exhibition opening yesterday night was a really good party with over 100 guests. Most of them were really interested in pictures and I guess everyone has seen my pictures. The most interesting comment was: “Even though your pictures capture inanimate objects, they seem to be the liveliest ones”.
A lady asked me why, by all means, broken mannequins. I said, exactly because they are broken. We had a lively discussion, interrupted many times though. She spent at least 2 hours in front of one of my pictures, a mannequin from Moscow (Inside Gum). That made quite an impression on me.

14 October 2008
Hairdresser to customer: "How old are you by the way?"
Customer: "Seventeen."
Hairdresser: "And how are you coping with that?"

13 October 2008
Worked. Drove to Germany. Worked. Refueled. Drove back.

10 October 2008
On the current financial crisis: I read the following insight on some well-known and now bankrupt banks: 'There are two sides to a Balance Sheet - Left & the Right (Liabilities and Assets respectively). On the Left side there is nothing right - and on the right side there is nothing left'.

9. Oktober 2008
On the way to the airport in Bucharest, the driver was very positive about Tarom, the national airline that would bring me back to Brussels. He said: "Our pilotes are the best in the world. Should there be an accident, it wasn't their fault."

8 October 2008
Is it a sign of fatigue when you become dizzy in a running sushi restaurant just because the food is moving past you all the time?

1 October 2008
Worked. Had dinner. Went home.
In Paris they would say: Métro, boulot, dodo.

29 September 2008
There are still occupied houses in Berlin, one seeems to be a real artist's camp.

26 September 2008
What a statement: „Our current debate shows that there is only a marginal corridor for consensus…”

23 September 2008
I am not officially known as THE corporate spammer. A few latecomers are still spamming back. A nice one today read: “Please don´t pusch [sic!] the button answer all. It´s terribble [sic!].” In essence he is right.

21 September 2008
Seen on a t-shirt in Paris: “I am muslim. Don’t panic.”

20 September 2008
I would not have thought that my “bride” is still where she used to be 6 years ago when I first took a picture of her. But she is, I found her again on what seems to be the biggest antiques and flea market in the world, located in Paris.

19 September 2008
I think I’ve understood today what they mean by glass ceiling. It almost definitely has to do with soundproofing. And so the story goes:
VIP: I’ve just missed a call from a number starting with +27. +27, that’s the country code for…?
Margit: South Africa.
Deputy VIP (pretending nobody has said anything, yet): I don’t know.
VIP: Hm…
Margit: South Africa.
Deputy VIP (still pretending nobody has said anything, yet, checking something at his mobile phone, face lightening up): South Africa!
VIP: Ah, yes, South Africa, thanks!

18 September 2008
From the pool of realistic quotes: “I have a personal opinion on that but that is irrelevant”. What a statement from a civil servant, every administration would love to have people like that.

17 September 2008
We’re back to Birgit. The newest slogan is “Birgit take me off that list”. But also Margrit, Mgit and Martingit have been used lately. To be fair I have to admit I have a huge pool of potential spelling errors as I got about 100.000 e-mails since yesterday.
Nevertheless “Birgit take me off that list” almost sounds like a song title.

16 September 2008
After calling me Birgit has become popular, the newest trend seems to be calling me “Kathrin”.

11 September 2008
Tales from Absurdistan: At night I sit down at a restaurant table. The waiter comes over. I tell him that I am still waiting for someone but would like to see the menu already. Instead of the menu he brings me coffee.

9 September 2008
I saw another half mattress today. Not the other half of the one from a few days ago, though.

8 September 2008
Tonight I used my retouches color set for the first time, trying to recolor some black and white prints. I like the redundancy of that work in the age of digital photoshopping. It is the luxury of the outdated, the physical pleasure of the old-fashioned.

7 September 2008
I got to know a street artist called Mimi the Clown. I saw his work earlier in Brussels and Paris and was always asking myself who was behind it.

6 September 2008
I recently read: “If you are good at anything, that is beauty.”

5 September 2008
My e-mail client does not work. There is a new hotline. They are friendlier than the previous ones but equally unhelpful. In order to refer to the problem, you need a number. The number was sent to me by e-mail which I cannot access (as this is precisely the problem).
In the past there was Yves. Yves worked for the previous hotline. Whenever I called – sometimes up to 10 times a day – he would ask me for name and essential PC data. He refused to recognize me. He did not even show a sign of recognition. Never.
The new hotline employees are not allowed to state their names. They also do not have a personal telephone number. So there are neither traceable nor responsible. I do not know what I like better, forgetful Yves or the no name world. A day in the life of Yves, that would be at least a title for a tragedy. I am not in the mood for comedies.

4 September 2008
I attended a workshop and can report back a nice quote: “… it depends whether you live more or less than 25 km away from your home”. Living away from your own home is an interesting attempt and requires further study I think.

3 September 2008
A conversation from across the corridor: A: “I hate my car, I just hate it!” B: “So why is that?” A: “It’s missing some essential parts!” B: “What? A steering wheel?”

Still 2 September 2008
Democracy live. I spent a good part of the day in the European Parliament, listening to their Plenary debate. A good 20 out of 785 or so people were present. A few of them had helmets on their desks, interestingly enough only on the Socialist’s side.
Note: On 7 August, a 200-square meter section of the ceiling of the Parliament’s building in Strasbourg fell down. Subsequently the Plenary session exceptionally takes place in Brussels this week.

2 September 2008
He holiday season is finally over. The best thing to recognize that is the amount of conference calls. During a call today, three colleagues faced the following difficulties: A: “I can barely hear you”. B: “No, no, that’s all right, we’re here!” A: “As far as I can tell from the acoustics, to me it sounds you’re in a toilet!” B: “I can reassure you, we’re NOT in a toilet!” At least not together I assumed.

1 September 2008
On my way to work I came past half (!) a mattress that someone had thrown away there. I understand that after a while you throw away a mattress. But half a mattress?

29 August 2008
26 August: Someone refers to me as Birgit in an e-mail addressed to a whole group. Slightly hurt I politely corrected that and got an appology. 29 August, same person, same group, same mistake „Birgit and I propose…“. Alzheimer is a subtle disease and affects the short term memory first. I wonder whether we’ve now found common ground for my name. I feel that there is hardly any room for a compromise on my end.

28 August 2008
Why do I get invitations to luncheon (!) meetings on “Obesity and Weight Loss: The Empowered Consumer”? Probably the new slogan in Brussels is “Burn fat, not oil”.

26 August 2008
There are very interesting t-shirt prints out there. A recent one read: “I taste good”. In a restaurant I saw a guy whose sweatshirt read “vagina lover”. On her t-shirt, his girlfriend only committed to “mango”. A little boy in Stockholm sported a shirt reading “trouble maker”, and a guy in Brussels one stating “trouble with authorities”.

25 August 2008
Welcome to Absurdistan: While I wait at an intersection, a woman in pink pyjamas (!) is crossing the street pushing an empty buggy (!) and a person is calling me, happily informing me that he won’t be able to join me for a meeting that took place a week ago.

23 August 2008
A t-shirt in Amsterdam read: Cereal killer.

21 August 2008
The seven deadly sins are contrasted with the seven holy virtues. They vary to quite some extend depending on the source chosen. There is chastity, abstinence, temperance, diligence, patience, kindness and humility. But also chastity, temperance, liberality, diligence, patience, kindness and humility and another set that reads prudence, justice, restraint, courage, faith, hope and love or loving-kindness.
Anyway, to my knowledge there are no new virtues that reflect the age of globalization.

20 August 2008
I just learned yesterday that the Vatican has added seven new deadly sins for the age of globalization. The original ones are lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, anger, envy and pride. They were laid down in the 6th century by Pope Gregory the Great and popularised in the Middle Ages by Dante in The Inferno. A distinction is drawn between mortal and venial sins. Mortal or deadly sins threaten the soul with eternal damnation and immediate descend to hell unless absolvation is sought before death through confession and penitence.
Whereas the old sins were personal in nature, the new sins are social (it should be added that the old ones are by no means abandoned):
1. "Bioethical" violations such as birth control
2. "Morally dubious" experiments such as stem cell research
3. Drug abuse
4. Polluting the environment
5. Contributing to widening divide between rich and poor
6. Excessive wealth
7. Creating poverty

19 August 2008
On saying it bluntly: “20 years ago when you were green, you were a freak. Everybody laughed about you, except other greens of course.”

18 August 2008
Isn’t that a form of globalization, being in Amsterdam on Sunday, sleeping in Brussels, having Indian food on Monday in Helsinki and biking to the hotel after that?

15 August 2008
Brussels bi-annual flower carpet on the Grand Place is ready and can be admired for the next three days. It is truly splendid, a masterpiece made of flowers! I had ever seen it before, as I was out of town during the two previous occasions.

14 August 2008
Heard during a lunch discussion, the topic being neighboring countries: “Well, I don’t want to be judgmental, but they are stupid, unsatisfied idiots there!”
Well, so much for not being too judgmental.

13 August 2008
A friend of mine sent me a quote from the Kung Fu Panda movie that is really nice: 'Yesterday is History. Tomorrow is Mystery. Today is a Gift. This is why we call it "Present"'...

12 August 2008
A quote from an e-mail that came in during the holiday season: “I just came from vacation and life is still somewhat disorganized. This is of course a state that will continue…”

11 August 2008
Leaving Stockholm seems to be difficult for me any time I am visiting this charming city. When I was here for the last time, I missed my plane due a delay caused by a traffic jam following a heavy car accident (where I for heaven’s sake was not involved). Today my flight was cancelled because baggage handlers on Brussels airport went on strike.
All that is dwarfed by an incident that happened earlier today in the archipelago around Stockholm. We were called by some neighbors and asked to help rescuing a guy who has shipwrecked with a little boat. The boat, not more than a nutshell, has turned upside down and swam unmanned in a channel between two islands. The driver had been rescued already and brought to the shore. When we arrived there, the man who had saved him and brought him over to the shore had his head in his lap and seemed to wait for a doctor to arrive. The shipwrecked person did seem to be pale and in severe shock, as if he was unconscious. In fact he was dead already when we came there. We thought that the coast guard, a helicopter that just landed there with a team of experts and the medical team that arrived on another ship would do the trick of reviving him but in fact all help came too late.

10 August 2008
A trip to beautiful Stockholm city center where we saw a Lennart Nilsson photo exhibition called “Somewhere in Stockholm”. It was very interesting to see that in his earlier work Nilsson, Sweden’s most well known photographer who is famous for his medical photography, has taken black and white images of Stockholm. Around 40 pictures taken between the 1940ies and the 1960ies, none of them previously exhibited, are shown in the Kulturhuset until 7 September. Also have a look at www.lennartnilsson.com.

9 August 2008
A boat tour in the Stockholm archipelago took somehow longer than expected. Also in Sweden it tends to get dark around ten at night…

8 August 2008
I read a nice quote along the lines of “Real achievements need passion…”

7 August 2008
In 1865, the Boston Post opined: "Well-informed people know it is impossible to transmit the voice over wires. Even if it were, it would be of no practical value."

6 August 2008
Even universities do marketing. The Yale university advertises its summer courses with the slogan: „Same veritas. More lux.”

5 August 2008
I got a post card from the “beginning of the world”, a slogan Brittany obviously uses. I’d be interested if there is any region that advertises itself as the end of the world.

4 August 2008
From the sound bites collection: „The group was very successful. No effort was made to seek consensus.”

1 August 2008
One can hardly believe it but there are CDs out there for babies. They carry nice titles like „baby dream“, „classical lullabies“ and „nature sounds“.

31 July 2008
Driving back to Brussels took much longer than expected. But being on the road there is plenty to learn. For example that Worms is not only a legendary town but a real city with a Nibelungen festival. They even have wine from the area with names like sea spider and donkey’s skin.

30 July 2008
A nice Freudian slip towards me: „… there is no problem as you do not have a wife or children“.
On a different subject I was reminded about the special language of real estate agents when trying to rent out impossible apartments, e.g. saying spacious apartment and in brackets: 34 square meters.

29 July 2008
Isn’t it odd that the VIP computer hotline deletes my enquiries not on grounds like I was not entitled to VIP service but because of my “Viennese” accent?

28 July 2008
I hear a very interesting radio program on recent research done on happiness. They foud that in order to be happy and contented with a job or more generally an occupation, one has to find positive replies to the following three questions:
1. What do I think makes sense?
2. What do I really like, what pleases me and makes me feel good?
3. What am I really good at?

27 July 2008
Once more Mariazell and the Basilica there. What’s new there? Well, they do not only sell gingerbread there but also gingerbread ice cream and there is a pizza place and a bet and win bar close to the church.#

26 July 2008
Someone who was interested in acquiring a Broken Muses picture had to refrain from doing so as he was held back by his family. The argument being that he is a hopeless collector and on top of that has 34 pairs of shoes. Unless he is willing to throw some things away they would oppose any new acquisition.

25 July 2008
The tourist season should be at its peak but in fact there is not too much going on in Istria at the moment. In Novigrad’s five or so harbor restaurants there was not a single person at lunchtime today!

24 July 2008
Rovinj is always worth a tour!

23 July 2008
We went to some stalactite caves today in Baredine, in between the towns of Porec and Vizinada.

22 July 2008
Istria is full of old and interesting little towns. A real discovery was Grožnjan, a town full of galleries. The one that made the biggest impression on me is run by the artist Jozef Todjeraš. He makes little terracotta heads that resemble doll heads, cuts them most often in four pieces and re-assembles them in an intriguing fashion.

20 July 2008
After a very nice wedding party I drove further to Croatia. A thousand kilometers can be a long way. Finally I ended up at the entrance of the local nudist camp. With the help of my dear friends in the end I arrived safely to where I was supposed to go.

19 July 2008
Europe without frontiers - that is always impressive. Nowadays you only seem to recognize having passed another frontier and thus being in another country when recognizing that your mobile phone is booked into another country’s network.

18 July 2008
On politeness in the electronic world: Using my great new list I invited for a meeting. The tool was kind enough to send me – on behalf of myself - an invitation as well. Trying to be polite, I wanted to accept the invitation and pushed the appropriate button. I received the following warning message: “As the meeting organizer you do not need to respond to the invitation.”

17 July 2008
I feel a little like the Sorcerer's Apprentice. In trying to make my life easier I wanted to set up an e-mail reflector and accidentally subscribed about 57.000 people. Now I am trying to get most of them off the list again… I am just about to get rid of all the Florians. Filipos are next. But there are still 50.000 to go.

16 July 2008
A thoughtful reader has alerted me to the fact that his company has specific employees that are responsible for certain corridors. In an emergency case those corridor agents need to make sure that everybody has left their rooms. There is even a job description for that kind of job. According to that description, apart from foreign languages, a corridor agent has to have a loud voice. It is worth mentioning, that there are also deputy corridor agents. It would be interesting to know whether there are training workshop for all corridor agents worldwide.

15 July 2008
Some restaurants in Brussels have interesting names. One is called “Ultimate Atom”, another one “Second Element” and a third one “Ultimate Hallucination”. I have been to the latter one just recently and what is worth mentioning is that they sell Champaign in full and half full glasses.

14 July 2008
On Belgium: There are beers with raspberry, peach and cherry taste (I should say that they are actually brewed together with those fruits) which taste uncommon to put it diplomatically. One of the best known breweries is called "a la mort subite", to the sudden death. As far as I know they do not own the rights of the equally well known beer "Delirium Tremens".

12 July 2008
The photo museum in Charleroi is a real discovery! It is said to be the largest photo museum in Europe with about 50.000 prints and over one million negatives. From one of the billboards I noted down the following quote: “Is photography a mirror, a view of reality or a relection of the photographer’s subjectivity? The two complement each other – a window can open onto a mirror and a mirror can reflect a window.”

11 July 2008
" The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it." Theodore Roosevelt

9 July 2008
It has been quite a while since I last had as bad a meal as today. They ran out of sandwiches on the train to Strasbourg and what was advertised as the „salade compose“ turned out to be stinky cubes of ham on a variety of salads that have gone bad a while ago. Ah yes, and no dressing available.

5 July 2008
Albert Einstein said: Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.
He also said: The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.

4 July 2008
There are gifts that come around and go around, like for example a nice large box of exquisite chocolates. Everybody is happy to get them. What has proven to be absolutely wrong was to open such a box. The content proved to be rather prehistoric: the chocolate was covered by a thick white film and literally nothing was eatable anymore.

2 July 2008
I was standing next to a neighbor in the elevator. He had an ID badge and I was close enough to secretly read it. It read Free Lancer. I thought, what a terrific name and that this probably has lead to some hilarious confusion already until I found out that of course he was called Freddy so-and-so and that was just the job title.

22 - 28 June 2008
22 – 27 June 2008 A snapshot on Montreal: Hm, what can I say? I had expected metropolis, but de facto Montreal is much more one of those North American cities that give you a sense of calm and quiet - at least in the time that I was there. The streets are wide and laid out in a grid, even in the old town, so getting around is made easy. There is hardly any traffic. On the surface, there are less shops to be seen than in other cities, for a large part of the city is built and connected beneath the surface. The total corridor length is supposedly about 30km. This city under the city has something sinister. Due to the rain on Sunday I spent quite some time in the underground. It was partially bleak, the shops were mostly closed. You walk up and down escalators and stairs, cross through connecting doors and find yourself in sometimes wider, sometimes narrower aisles. Perfect conditions for a horror movie I thought. Maybe it's slightly less frightening during the week.
If Bucharest is the city of wedding dresses, then Montreal is probably the city of weddings. (I should probably to venture out as far as suggesting that probably all Montreal newlyweds had been to Bucharest to buy their dresses). Without paying special attention I counted five weddings on Saturday night alone, with all that that entails: Stretch limousines, bridal virgins in the dozens and in native dress, at least two photographers and a professional cameraman per wedding couple . At the edge of the old town I found a bar called Wonderful. Very nice.
The most interesting quarter, not least because there is a Viennese café there, is located around Boulevard Saint-Laurent. Speaking of the Viennese Café: The name is indeed Cafe Vienne, but to my utter astonishment they do not serve Sachertorte. When I asked why that was so, I got the almost cutre answer that they had offered them right after the café opened but as all (!) Austrian pastries and cakes were based on Champagne the production was simply too expensive. And after all you cannot offer your customers overpriced desserts, can you? Therefore one had decided to resort to local cake knowing that they do not come close to the Austrian original. After a test of the cake of the house I can only agree. Nevertheless at least there is a café that's already something.
Also otherwise the city is interesting. There is a myriad of cafes, bars, restaurants and shops. The most bizarre was a costume shop cum café. I guess they must have had between 500 and 1000 different costumes there. Some of them were of course also exhibited on mannequins and both the costumes as well as the dolls are likely to have seen better times. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed.
The Museum of Modern Art had a retrospective on the work of Yves Saint Laurent - and also there was a variety of (wholesome) mannequins with wonderful (new) clothes and of course a ban to take photographs with flash...

21 June 2008
On my way to Canada with Jet Airways the steward called me Mrs. Brandy. As he was Indian, he wiggled with his head. I saw that there was no chance to get on with Brandl. So I suggested that Brand would do as well, but he kept wiggling his head and stayed with Brandy. Actually I started to like Brandy. And after all that’s what my Belgian registration card reads as well. They pronounce it Brandi, though.
On the ground and after quite some months with no major male-female confusion, the customs officer waved me through while saying “all right, go ahead, Sir!” At least he did not stop me.

20 June 2008
Two songs are played up and down in the Belgian radio. One keeps repeating your eyes are as big as the moon and the other refers to a silhouette that resembles the loved person. I wonder how a silhouette of a person with eyes as big as the moon might look like.

19 June 2008
Today’s witticism was: Delegation can be learned but the comfort zone for many people is in micromanagement.

18 June 2008
A friend of mine says it is better to be known for being eccentric than not being known at all.

16 June 2008
A friend of mine has programmed a widget for my blog - unfortunately for Apple users only. What is rather cool and what is a nice inspiration is that he is calling it "broken blog"

15 June 2008
Another trend in the seminar business I spotted in a newspaper: There are seminars to “de-resent”. Anti anger training.

14 June 2008
The newest trend in calling anyone a manager is having the profession of “engagement manager”. I have to admit that I have absolutely no idea what that person would do in his day to day work.

13 June 2008
I followed an 80 slide presentation today – which as such already qualifies for power point poisoning. The tragically funny part about it was that the whole concept was built on outlining terms and conditions for a group of “exempt” and another group of “non-exempt” people. Somebody dared to ask “exempt from what?” and just got the answer from the guy who was not only presenting but really should have known “I have no idea”. What a brilliant way of wasting about 80 people’s time. One could also talk about a dilbertesk afternoon.

12 June 2008
Probably Freud would have had a good time hearing me say: And whom are you going to cook tonight? I think I wanted to say what…

11 June 2008
A nice new lesson for those who have some difficulties with logic reasoning (heard in a meeting today): Well, if we finish step one, we can then start with step two.

10 June 2008
After a long pause something adding to the „sort of kind of“ collection: Some people like to end all their sentences with “and stuff like that”. And I mean ALL sentences.

9 June 2008
A nice quotation from a conference call: Would everyone please open the first Excel shield… I always thought that these spreadsheets are used for protecting and hiding reasons.

8 June 2008
Now the Leuven exhibition – after having been extended twice – is finally over. I brought the pictures back home and made room for another artist’s exhibit there in Leuven.

6 June 2008
A friend told me that in today’s world bus drivers are called “destination managers”.

5 June 2008
From the series of nice filling sentences: “We can have as many opinions on this issue as we have people in the room.“

4 June 2008
Since my car needs to be fixed I have a rental car for the time being. Yesterday I wanted to put something in the trunk and discovered a huge bag with many little bags inside. Although I did not really want to see what’s inside I could not resist checking it out. And well, it was bread, loads of old and dry bread. Is this the rental company’s way to communicate their driver’s omen?

3 June 2008
There is something I find quite frightening when it comes to telephone conferences. There are people who get started very vividly, they state their name and say hello to everyone but then they fall silent. From time to time you hear them breathing and that is in a way frightening.

2 June 2008
On hot days you can smell some people before you can actually see them. But I should of course mention that I am shortsighted.

1 June 2008
Meanwhile smokers are discriminated against (see blog entry from May 14). At Munich’s central station they have painted parking place sized spots with a smoking sign in the middle. There and only there smokers can gather.

30 May 2008
The Austrians are never to be blamed: A train conductor said in his announcement right after taking over in Salzburg from his German colleagues: “Due to a delay on German territory (!) we are 12 minutes behind schedule.”
The reason for the delay was that several children were playing on the train tracks somewhere between Munich and Salzburg. The German conductor had announced we would stop there for 10 to 15 minutes. Probably to let them finish their games.

29 May 2008
From the collection of last and concluding lines of people’s e-mail messages: "enthusiasm is contagious, start and epidemic".

28 May 2008
The newest trend seems to be hotel rooms specially designed for women. A Brussels hotel is very proud of it I heard and offers not only magazines, but also extra toiletries and a special professional hairdryer.

27 May 2008
Brussels has a broken plane now. It seems to be very popular to go to the place where the cargo flight crashed a few days ago.

26 May 2008
The gipsy quarter in Bucharest is somehow smaller than I remembered it. Nevertheless it is an interesting area. There was a street that was devoted to flowers. People were sitting in front of their houses, working on flower bouquets.

25 May 2008
Another memory from 2002 was the immense amount of wedding dresses that were sold in Bucharest. Although much seems to have changed, wedding dresses are still sold all over the place. In the old town almost every shop seems to specialize in wedding dresses or bride’s necessities. It almost looks like collective obsession. And actually there was even a wedding that we saw on Saturday night. It was slightly disappointing as most guests seemed to have either already left the place or never shown up. My suspicion was that most guests were taking a paddleboat tour on the lake that surrounded the restaurant where the wedding dinner was hosted.

24 May 2008
I did not now that they’re now even offering visits to the Parliamentary Palace, the huge monument that Ceausescu had built in the eighties. Unfortunately one would have had to pre-book it quite some time in advance so we did not have the chance to get in. Nevertheless it is an impressive building, somehow so big that it seems almost unreal.
From my earlier stay I remember alleys leading to it with half-finished monumental houses where the cranes marked with the construction year 1989 were just left over. I did not find these streets anymore, it may very well be so that in the meantime the buildings have been finished and the cranes been removed.

23 May 2008
Since my last trip to Bucharest in 2002, many things have changed. The city is much more modern and westernized than it used to be. Huge advertisement billboards are mounted to buildings and give the impression of being in just any other city. What fascinated me in 2002 was that you constantly had to watch your step in order not to fall into a hole in the ground, step into motor oil or dog excrements. Not to speak about stumbling over a dog. Well, there are still bumps and deep holes in the streets and sidewalks and one has to watch one’s step. There seems to be less oil and less dogs but for the latter still too many for a biobigot person like me.

22 May 2008
On my way to Romania I needed to go through Vienna. It seems that a little odd to just have a stopover in a city were you once lived.

21 May 2008
Isn’t it bizarre if a waiter is greeting with the words „I am sure you take a lager beer!“?

20 May 2008
Is there a cure for cynicism?

19 May 2008
I took a very beautiful picture of a muse in Slovenia and developed it today.

18 May 2008
One of the best reactions I got regarding some black an white pictures (taken in New York in April 2008) came from an eleven year old boy: “… hmmm… I guess it has been quite a while ago since you were there, right?”

17 May 2008
According to the New York Times there is a special term for disliking certain animals, it is called biobigotry.

16 May 2008
I think I will start a collection of last and concluding lines of people’s mobile e-mail messages. A nice one reads: “I am sending this on move so please excuse the lack of grammar and spelling.”

14 May 2008

Smokers are not treated well anymore these days. Meanwhile – seen at an airport today - they have to go into closed cages, four at maximum to smoke inside a glass cube watching the non-disturbed non-smokers outside.

13 May 2008
I am not superstitious but we have the 13th and a black cat was coming from the left side, well, that is almost too much.

10 May 2008
The homeless woman is still sitting on that doorstep day in and day out (see blog entry of March 23).

7 May 2008
As we know there are lousy jobs out there (see blog entry from February 8 - shark on a diving fair and Feb. 15 - policeman directing traffic together with a functioning traffic light). If you have to wear a red tight dress, playing a pregnant woman that is in fact pregnant with a magazine that is just about to be published, well, I do not know whether that is really a fun job.

3 May 2008
3 May 2008 Close to my Brussels flat there is a monment, a column, with the statue of king Leopold I of the Belgians with total height of 47 meters. The column is sourrounded by four sitting statues representing the major constitutional liberties; the 'Liberty of Union' by Charles Fraikin, the Liberty of Worship by Eugène Simonis, the Liberty of Press and the Liberty of Education both by Jean Geefs. Two monumental bronze Lions by Eugène Simonis are placed in front of the monument. As a memorial to the Belgian victims of the First World War, five anonymous soldiers were buried on the foot of the monument, the 11th of November 1922. Their tomb is surmounted by an eternal flame. During the severe storm of January 18, 2007, which affected a large part of Europe, the impressive (but hollow) representation of the freedom of the press has been thrown down from its pedestal. The bronze statue, a height of five feet three and an estimated one and a half tons weight had resisted for 150 years. It is damaged by his fall but will be restored.

2 May 2008
After quite some time I’ve been to the movies again. „Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis“, which is a really funny comedy about prejudices.

30. April 2008
The suicidal pigeons in front of my office window are back. The tree where they obviously are nesting is about to bloom and stretches its branches against the windows. That leads to a rather frightening scratching sound and as if that was not irritating enough, those pigeons are sitting there and keep staring towards the window. From time to time they then fly against the window and probably suffer from a traumatic brain injury and immediately drop dead.

28 April 2008
Taken from the series of avoiding immediate action: “We are really just starting and not aiming very high with fast actions.”

24 April 2008
Close to being allowed access to the collection of circular definitions: We must not confuse the term service with the term service.

23 April 2008
Recently I saw a picture of some vegetables by Markus Vater stating that they „like plants because they have a different organic background“.

22 April 2008
There are hotels who charge 1.5 Euros for using the shower (and forbid using it after 10 p.m.) but offer wireless Internet access in the room for free.

21 April 2008
What is he deeper meaning of a magic tree in a convertible?

20 April 2008
Viktor & Rolf say that fear is a bad advisor.

19 April 2008
Spending most of the day at Frankfurt airport is a rather boring thing.

18 April 2008
„ I still have a video conference with the Pope“ was one of the best excuses for declining an appointment on short notice that I have heard in a long time.

17 April 2008
It is Thursday and I was sitting next to a guy whose socks said “Friday” in elegant print. Luckily I was not close enough to find out whether they were from last Friday.

14 April 2008
My insurance company kindly let me know that there is no Malaria in Austria and no Malaria in Belgium.

13 April 2008
The former Golden Tulip hotel is now part of the Thon hotels chain. I am not quite sure whether changing from golden tulip to tuna fish was really an improvement.

12 April 2008
The latest hotel ad in Brussels reads: “Come, get closer, stay a while and experience the way you deserve to be treated.” Isn’t that nice.

11 April 2008
Underestimating the distance from Brussels, I went to an exhibition on “Radical Advertising” in Düsseldorf. In total it was about a 500 km drive and starting at 19:00 was probably a bit late but nevertheless it was truly worth it. A series of black and white shots of oversized Calvin Klein posters in cities made quite an impression on me. And although up to now I had been rather skeptical on video art I saw some intriguing scenes of a guy trying to just blend everything – from coke and chicken to iPhones – using an ordinary kitchen blender.

10 April 2008
From a toilet poster: “If you sprinkle when you tinkle be a sweetie and wipe the seatie!”

9 April 2008
Too soon we are leaving New York again, heading back to Washington and from there to Europe.

8 April 2008
In the Museum of Modern Art I found a very interesting statement by Ann Temkin, the Blanchette Rockefeller curator of painting and sculpture who said: “… Beauty is found in the everyday rather than in the ideal.”
SoHo is fascinating as always although I did not find my New York Muses that I took a picture of some three years ago. What I did find though was the Italian coffee place I like to go to in Broom Street in Little Italy.

7 April 2008
Yesterday - after a quite intense photo equipment shopping tour - we saw an exhibition of the Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang, called “I want to believe” in the NY Guggenheim Museum. His installations are fabulous. Cars are hanging down in a spiral from the ceiling of the Guggenheim. A ship wreck is placed on broken china, gunpowder pictures are framed by videos of explosions he has arranged in many places all over the world and wolves are arranged in the shape of a flying dragon.
Having seen the flat iron building and parts of Fifth Avenue, we saw the Empire State Building and Groud Zero today and walked all the way across Brooklyn Bridge.

6 April 2008
Eight years ago the Broken Muses concept started with a picture I took at the Italian Market in Philadelphia. Yesterday on my way from Washington DC to New York I spent a few hours chasing them. After having almost given up I was lucky and discovered them – hiding in a narrow corner. They have suffered surprisingly little over those last eight years. Some have a few more scratches, the occasional nose has bigger bruise but in general I would say they are doing just fine.

5 April 2008
Some quotes to remember:
Some Think Tanks do not much thinking but lot of talking.
Not knowing much does not prevent you from having an opinion.
A response to crisis is re-organization.
Often there is a triumph of experience over performance.
Most groups increase efficiency if they lose one of their managers.
86 Mio barrels of oil are consumed worldwide per day.
Looking at the western world’s economy today, what’s left for my children to do is burger flipping or working as gender equality consultant.

30 March till 4 April, 2008
It feels good to be back to University even if it is just for a few days. It feels like intellectual holidays. Being at a US university is also a very interesting experience. The identification with the school is omnipresent. Apart from t-shirts, sweatshirts and other trinkets, the University bookstore sells even Georgetown University pajamas.

30 March 2008
Boarding a long-haul flight and having a look at the necessaries they had out, one gets a good overview about what globalization means. The plastic package reads: Bag – made in China, socks – made in China , eye mask – made in China, ear plugs – made in USA, tissue – made in China, mints – made in Spain, marine body butter – made in USA, toothbrush – made in China, toothpaste – made in India and romance card – made in USA. Interestingly enough, the romance card made in USA is missing.
Another airline, different security requirements. I find the following very charming: “If you are sitting in an exit row please identify yourself to allow for reseating if: You lack the ability to read, speak or understand the language, or the graphic form, or the ability to understand oral crew commands in the language specified by the airline.” So how can you possibly find out about you obligation to identify yourself to the crew if you just don’t get it?

29 March 2008
Den Haag hosts an exhibition of Lucian Freud, Freud’ grandson, who is a painter. Next to that there is a Picasso exhibition. Both were really interesting.

24 March 2008
There are a few new India pictures when you click on that link and three new trinities!

23 March 2008
During an Easter walk in a big city: A homeless woman camps in a narrow entrance next to a new flower shop, the close by glass eye shop still presents a variety of glass eyes in their shop window, an old lady in a fox fur coat blows hr nose on the street using only her index finger and not far away there is an old ventilator leaning against a bus stop.

22 March 2008
A few days ago I took a plane and got a seat in the emergency row. What is a standard procedure is always an embarrassing spectacle. As soon as one is seated, a steward or a stewardess is leaning over, giving you looks like “I have my doubts that you can count to three”. Then, in a soft and slow voice he or she starts explaining about the tremendous responsibility that comes with that seat. All that concludes with “… and we strongly recommend reading the briefing card for passengers sitting at emergency exits” that can be found in the seat pocket in front of you. And well, this briefing card is worthwhile reading. I cite: “If there is a clear order from the crew, unfasten your seatbelt”. So if they accidentally forget about that order or if the order is just not clear enough, tough luck, the heroes at the emergency exit stay buckled up. Further in the text it reads “2. Check outside condition an only open exits which are not in direct danger area (e.g. fire)”. As if one would have the choice between opening more than one exit at a time anyway, but more importantly: one sits there, seatbelts unfastened, stares out of the window as told and thinks to oneself: if it is burning to my left and to my right, am I in a direct danger zone? If not than one has to remove “the cover”, pull the handle on the top of the exit and place the other hand in the grip mould on the window (points 3 and 4). After having managed that, one has to “move the exit inwards” (5) and “6. throw the exit out of the aircraft”. That seems to be a compromise text. Pull it in, throw it out and all in one go. Something just does not seem right here. Plus, it is not only the exit door that needs to go, the exit as a whole has no be thrown out of the plane. Isn’t that just to much to ask of a passenger who happens to sit at that exit? Finally one is told to get out on the wing – foot first, slide down the escape slide and assist passengers sliding down (7). So no jumping head over heels. Interestingly enough one has to assist others in sliding – now word about any other form of giving them a helping hand.

18 March 2008
My e-mail address died more or less completely. Not only that senders are told that I do not exist anymore, meanwhile it is even worse, telling me that I am an “unknown sender”.

17 March 2008
Little by little my e-mail account is dieing. Senders are told that I do not exist in the system anymore.

13 March 2008
For the collection of very positive thoughts and statements: “I was positively happy with the event.”

10 March 2008
Lousy weather ok, but no people queuing in front of my favorite AMT? That is unusual. And well, yes, there was a metal fence cordoning it off leaving me with 20 Eurocents and no chance to get closer to it.

9 March 2008
Price finding for locksmiths is closely linked to the degree of desperation of the one who has locked himself out. Plus there seems to be a weekend cartel in the sector.

8 March 2008
The photographer Miroslav Tichý says: Beauty and perfection does not interest anyone!

6. March 2008

Finlly I have uploaded some first pirctures from India. Just click here to see them!

3 March 2008
A little collection of sentences that help you to say nothing if you do not intend to say anything really: We cannot underestimate the issue. This matter is more important than urgent. It is never too late to do the right thing.

2 March 2008
I read in a newspaper article reflecting on art that there are no male muses. Which is actually true, all nine muses are female.

1 March 2008
In the dark room developing pictures again - a long learning curve.

29 February 2008
Following up on kind of, sort of: I have a jazz CD that’s called “Kind of Blue”.

28 February 2008
In a rather well-known institution in Brussels there are signs that point you to “restrooms and translators”. So you think those poor guys are mentioned together with the toilets. To my surprise those restrooms weren’t toilets but actual rooms for resting and reserved for the translators.

27 February 2008
When entering the European Parliament with a laptop you have to go to a special counter and register the laptop. There is a special form for it, requiring the PCs serial number and a signature of the owner. So far so good - assuming that there is a similar control when leaving the building. But there isn’t. In that sense I have brought my PC many times to the building but – theoretically – never brought it back outside.

26 February 2008
For the collection of useless filling words: "The remaining single sentence would kind of require some additional explanation because it is otherwise somehow lost."

24 February 2008
In the train from Austria to Germany today I discovered a so-called „tail light switch“. I thought it was “sort of” interesting.

23 February 2008
The rumors say that my beloved coffee shop in my hometown is almost bankrupt. Will it disappear?

22 February 2008
There are four different sorts of garbage bins at Munich central station in order to sort garbage for roper recycling. The local clochards have a difficult time grabbing into those bins because of the design of the bins. Nevertheless they carry foru different plastic bags with them in order to also sort the meager harvest.

21 February 2008
Is there reason to believe that a big office coffee machine that says “no flow” even though water supply and electricity are ok is just unhappy?

20 February 2008
Watching people boarding an aircraft is sometimes odd. What can you think of a passenger that carries a book showing with a summary on the backside that reads “My name is Joe. Actually I am a rather nice guy but sometimes I just kill people.”

19 February 2008
Isn’t it sarcastic if the hotline wishes you continue having a great day just after you told them that your computer just doesn’t work anymore?

18 February 2008
For whatever mysterious reason, „okidoki“ seems to be back in fashion again. I fear that “super-duper” will celebrate its revival soon, too. Thinking of it, together with “sort of“ and „kind of“ one could form some nice little sentences.

15 February 2008
In the series of really frustrating jobs (see blog entry of Feb. 8 – shark on a diving fair) there is another one: policeman directing traffic at an intersection together with a functioning traffic light. Without a working traffic light I can see some excitement but with one, well, that is then basically supporting the traffic light through waving and whistling.

14. Februar 2008
There is a tram here in Brussels that goes to what would translate like „Viennese“ and a bus which has its final stop at „Heroes“. So I guess Viennese and Heroes are not close. Can the Viennese be Heroes? How about those Heroes that want to become Viennese? Can you blame the Heroes that do not want to become Viennese? And what if both are just end stops?

13. Februar 2008
The „Kite Runner“ movie started today and is one of the best films based on a great novel I have ever seen. The other people in the cinema must have seen it likewise, they applauded after the show.

12. Februar 2008
How often can you use „actually“ in one single sentence?

11. Februar 2008
In a close by house people are in hunger strike since quite some time. It seems that the authorities do simply not react.

10 February 2008
The spa in Spa has something, especially on a beautiful day.

9 February 2008
A very well known hamburger restaurant chain advertises “Sauerkraut” burger in Holland. And they interestingly charge men 25 Eurocents for using their toilets while women go for free. On the other hand Holland is very blessed with ATMs. Today in Utrecht I saw four in a row, one next to the other!

8 February 2008
There are lousy jobs out there, for example being in a shark costume at a diver’s trade fair handing out brochures.

7 February 2008
It seems that Belgium has been annexed to the UK. That must have been done rather smoothly and without any media coverage. I just learned about it today when reading the not so fine print on my sandwich bag: „Please use a bin and keep Britain tidy!”

6 February 2008
Booking a non-smoking hotel room and a parking place in a hotel over an Internet platform, means you end up with a non-smoking parking place. Thinking of non-smoking parking place might really be a market gap…

5 February 2008
Had a chat with an anthropologist who basically summarized the findings of all the studies he had done so far in saying that what makes human beings special is that they behave irrational.

4 February 2008
On car dealers and copyright: “… and into this data slot you can put a data card just like the one you use on your PC. So you just download music and put it on the data card…”

3 February 2008
I have talked a lot about India today and shown pictures. India changes you to a certain degree and teaches you a lot about different values in different people’s lives. By the way, Calcutta has a town twinning agreement with Naples.

2 February 2008
A dizzy day after a long ball night and a nice train ride through Austria.

1 February 2008
Although I have not been to the Opera Ball yesterday I have been to the Coffee Maker’s Ball today. It was a great, impressive, cheerful and truly majestic party.

31 January 2008
Vienna is different. So they say in an advertisement. But yes, it is the country that has more ATMs than people. No, I exaggerate…

30 January 2008
Today I heard a piece of small talk, put to the extreme. “Well, thanks for the meeting and now we need to go out and I think we need to go through a door…”

29 January 2008
What I thought was a nice and huge sculpture of a snail – exhibited in a chic restaurant in Brussels - is obviously only a wheelbarrow that is put in a weird way with its handles pointing to the ceiling.

28. January 2008
Casanova has obviously said “I attribute nearly all the good fortune I have had to coincidences.” That is what my new mouse pad says.

27. January 2008
Nobody really looks great when having a parking ticket in his or her mouth.

25 January 2008
On a close by restaurant table people were drinking orange juice. I heard the following statement which would probably not really thrill the Nobel Prize committee: “If you give it a thought what we’re drinking here was three oranges just some minutes ago…”

24 January 2008
I have to admit that I thought spitting was not en vogue any more in Europe. Having a closer look at the street around a bus stop that I pass by almost every day gives another picture. It is not really sputum but rather remains of chewing gum but still. It seems that spitting has just come to another dimension.

23 January 2008
I should have kept the old habit of taking a day off at my birthday.

22 January 2008
In a garage in Brussels’ city center that I often use there is an old wrecked car. It used to be blue at the time and is now covered in a thick layer of dirt. A little while ago somebody wrote into the dust “Exists also in blue” (see blog from Dec. 16). Now there is a new line on the rear window that reads “Wash Me!”.

19 January 2008
In comparison with Delhi Brussels seems like a climatic spa. Nobody is running after me, touching me or wanting something. Red lights are not really ignored, they do are not only strong suggestions. Nobody is clearing his throat right next to me in order to spit in the next second. And I mean there is NO spitting at all. Over the last weeks I was already confident when there was no 180 degrees spitting or no direct spitting into my direction. Thomas Mann would have been thrilled by the amount of sputum there is in India. At the time I am sure there was plenty of spitting in Europe as well. I still remember the spitting pots that were mounted next to each reading room at my university. I always thought of them as ashtrays until somebody once explained they were actually spitting pots. Besides I am enjoying the warm light of ordinary light bulbs while reflecting on the incredible luxury of life in the western hemisphere.

18 January 2008
Travelling back to Europe I’ve been reading an excellent book called Animal’s People, written by an Indian author. In a way the journey back home could have even lasted longer.

17 January 2008
After three weeks trevelling back and forth through India, Delhi is almost boring. What cheers me up is the Cah Bar, a tea bar in the Oxford Bookstore. It seems to be hip in India’s main cities to sip tea. Also chains of coffee shops are booming. Nevertheless this tea bar in the bookstore is a real pearl. Indians seem to love reading. There are excellent newspapers and magazines and books can be bought on every corner. Literally. I’ve seen books being sold in tiny trolleys in railway stations, packed in plastic covers or piled up on the street and in various bookstores all over the place. What makes the Oxford Bookstore so special is probably not only their selection of books and the nice calm atmosphere but the concept of integrating the tea bar into that. There is a selection of over 40 different teas but the most fascinating one is still the marsala tea (black tea with cardamom) which comes in a silver, ape shaped tea glass holder.

16 January 2008
Agra is a two and a half hours train ride away from Delhi and home of the Taj Mahal, one of the world wonders. It is definitely an impressive building, although as one has seen so many pictures about it already, the big bang is not really happening. It is majestic, and the white marble is splendid. If you get closer it is not that white anymore but from a distance it looks bright white. The guide said that it is also cleaned once every few weeks as the air pollution is simply too high. Not too far away there is another very interesting site, the abandoned palaces of Fatehpur Sikri, including a Red Fort made out of red stand stone. Those sites are very touristy and so are the hundreds of trinket sellers that can be really annoying. Going back to Delhi in the evening confronted me again with the extreme poverty of this country. It is incredible how many people and especially children live in the poorest circumstances, often handicapped, lepers, and forced to begging. Children seem to live in or at lest in the vicinities of the railway station. They play on the tracks and when a train is about to arrive they quickly jump up on the platform, shake out their dirty clothes, smile a friendly smile and sign that they are hungry. As if their skinny bodies would not speak for themselves. Their skin is covered with dust and so are their clothes, some of them are only able to move using their arms and hands, while their feet and legs are underdeveloped and useless. It is shocking to an extend that is going over what one can support. Ignoring it is impossible and facing it almost unbearable. You want to help but feel that you are basically helpless give the vast number of cases.

15 January 2008
New Delhi, Old Delhi, two rather different places compared to the rest of India that I have seen so far. New Delhi is rather boring, there are wide streets and condominiums and modern hotels like everywhere else in the world. Old Delhi has a Red Fort, where you can only see the outskirts of the palaces within, an impressively huge Mosque and some busy market streets. People are running after you, begging and touching you constantly. It is impossible to just stop for a second and watch the scenery. Cannaught Place is a busy intersection and somehow the point where Old and New Delhi meet and is compared to other places rather calm and modern. The most modern subway has some stops there, there are bookshops and coffee houses and trinket sellers are relatively moderate.

14 January 2008
Finally my suitcase appeared again and with it all the films I had shot so far. Meanwhile they form part of my handluggage. Calcutta is really impressive, the Brits have done a really great job here. The so-called writers building for the clerks of the East India Company and the administration of India is amazingly beautiful and in a very good state. The Post Office looks like a cathedral and the Indian Museum is a huge complex hosting many dusty but interesting items. In one quarter one bookshop is next to the other and almost anything is available (second hand) on any subject in any language. In the middle of all that there is the „Indian Coffee House“, an insititution by all means. From how it looks and how it feels to be inside it could also be somewhere in the Arab world. A huge hall, lika a ballroom hosts many simple tables and a bee like humming so loud that a conversation is rather difficult. The coffee is great. The walls are painted in a light yellow that comes off on many places. The balcony in the first floor gives people an even better look over the rest of the place. The only (rather small) photograph on one of the walls shows the Rabindranath Thakur, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature. Besides that there is no other picture. The only other furniture are ancient fans all over the place. Right next to that quarter is a street with professional writers. They sit in open rooms one next to the other and write texts for their clients on really ancient typewriters.

13 January 2008
In a way Calcutta (Colcata) was the real target and centerpiece of my journey to India. I always assumed that Calcutta is the methaphor for India and whenever I heard „India“ I thought Calcutta. India`s former capital city is a real perl in the true sense of the word. It has been designed by the British as the London of the East and was meant to be even more beautiful than London. Many of the palaces and houses could also be in Europe, in Italy or France or Vienna. But mostly it reminds me of Palermo where also hundreds of beautiful buildings are just rotting and falling apart. All those nice buildings are very worn and everywhere you look there are people, plants, dust, dirt and pieces of walls, bricks and stones. Before getting to enjoy the city I was brought back to reality rather intensively. My luggage got lost on the flight from Kerala over Bangalore to Colcata. And with it all the films I have shot so far. Well, if only I get the suitcase back! To me, Calcutta`s most interesting quarter is the so-called potter`s lane. Calcutta adores goddess Kadi, a goddess of death that demands huge sacrifices from people. The usual sacrifice is donating a Kadi sculpture that has been made out of mud/clay from the Ganges river and throwing it back into the Ganges. Once a year there is a procession where this is widely done. The Ganges gives and Kadi takes. After that the potters start over again, take mud/clay out of the Genges and start sculpturing new huge statues. In many tiny streets there is one potter workshop next to the other. Some of them manufactue the inner straw skeleton of the sculpture, others add the first layer of clay to form the final lifesize statue and then again others model heads or hands to be added later on in the process. Numerous scupltors work there. Some of the statues are fresh and the clay is still wet, others are older and the clay breaks up, leaving traces and wrinkles. Broken Muses made out of clay. I was fascinated and wandered around in this maze of incredible craftsmen streets taking picture after picture.

12 January 2008
The difference between a five star hotel and a home stay is that it is easier getting in touch with local people and other travelers in the home stay. This morning right after breakfast I was offered to see the wedding pictures of the home stay owners. Although the house was packed with pictures of Christ, crosses, a Christmas tree and other related items I could have sworn they were Muslims. But in fact and against all conspiracy theory attempts on my side including the hidden picture of Mecca I’ve spotted close to my room they were Roman Catholics and got married 16 years ago. I briefly thought about a camouflage attempt but gave up on that thought quickly when I saw the wedding pictures that seemed almost Hindi (bright saris for the bride and a huge multilayered cake etc). The album and the pictures were so worn that about 5.000 – 10.000 people must have flipped through them already. The best part came after that. The husband asked in a very subtle voice whether he may show some more pictures. He said his father has “expired” just one week ago. The Indians do not speak of “passing away” or “dying”, rather they say someone is not so well anymore or simply he expired. I was slightly astonished, especially because I am not used to see pictures taken at a funeral. Those shots of the 82 year old showed a slightly blue face and were taken from a perspective that made the dead face seem huge and the grieving visitors besides and behind the corps looked rather small - relatively spoken. Weird and in a way rather funny. In the Jewish part of Cochi an artist had made quite some impression on me. The guy was in a long batik shirt with a huge Krishna on his back. According to a leaflet he offers sketching in a meditative environment. I was curious. He led me to his first floor loft studio where he made me sit down on a mat and started sketching. I posed but that did not really work out the way I had supposed it would. In the end the picture does not resemble me too much, the only thing which is rather realistic is the green color of my t-shirt. I waited for a attempt to start a meditation together. Instead he started chatting and told me about an old judge whom he had sculptured once. He showed me pictures of that sculpture and said that t has caused quite some controversy in the local news. We talked about his difficulties in finding a good spot for exhibiting and I told him about my pictures. He said he is friends with the minister of Culture in Kerala who could eventually be of help should I want to exhibit in Kerala. He gave me the Minister’s phone number and most importantly his name: he is called Mr. Baby.

11 January 2008
A day on the beach of Cherrai. I drank way too much tea with Kardamom, the taste was simply wonderful. In that area the tourist trap has not been invented. Lunch was costing the equivalent of about 20 Eurocents. Mostly that beach is used by the locals to see the water. As neither men nor women can get out of their clothes, the waters are if at all just tested with their feet. It is most astonishing. Busses full of schoolchildren are brought over 120 km to that shore. 6 – 10 year old girls and boys are allowed to play near the sea but only with their school uniforms on. Their teachers wear the most colorful Saris but cannot get wet either. Most of the afternoon we’ve chatted with and English nurse who spends about three months of unpaid leave in an ashram, helping to set up a hospital. A very fine woman who has definitely gotten some insight in Inidan society.

10 January 2008
Cochi is a really nice town that has many hidden treasures. I saw how candles are made and how ginger is dried in the sunshine of a huge inner court of an old warehouse. Ginger and mango pickles are still handmade, packed and sealed in a very odd manner. Working conditions are more than hard. Some girls and women sit on almost broken chairs in a packed open air corridor of that old warehouse stirring pickles, pouring them into little plastic bags or sealing them with an archaic hot plastic sealing machine. One of these girls was so pretty that I could not help but think she would be a model elsewhere. Instead, her task was sticking labels to the filled little plastic bags. Another warehouse hosted all imaginable spices, packed into big bags for wholesale purposes. Most of those spices I had never seen before or never seen in a size as big (huge pepper seeds, dried chilly, cardamom, coriander). In the middle of the spices district all of a sudden there was an art gallery, showing impressive modern art works, mostly paintings and some installations. Unfortunately all of those who I would have shown some interest for were not for sale. In the hostel there are regular power cuts. They are even announced beforehand. During dinner there was one, bringing an interesting scenery to life: leftovers from dinner, smells after cold spices, mosquito sounds, and a lonely rocking chair that seems to move all by itself before I discover that there is a child in it. Just when the dripping candles were lit, I had the feeling to be in the Adams Family’s living room.

9 January 2008
Another five hour train ride away is Cochi, one of the oldest towns of Kerala. The Portuguese, Dutch and British used this town as main entry point for the spice trade. There are giant so-called “Chinese fishing nets” in the harbor. Those nets are huge and can only be bent into the water with the help of at least four people. The nets give the harbor a very nice skyline. One of the fishermen said that there are only 10 left where there used to be 24. The Tsunami destroyed most of them and since then the catch is most depressing and therefore the owners are reluctant to build up the missing nets again. Biologist forecast another 5 years until the big fishes will be coming to Cochin’s shore again. Nevertheless they must catch something because in one of the fish markets there was a massive amount of huge, flat, so-called “Pomfret” fish. It was a nice spectacle to see the Pomfrets being loaded into baskets, and after weighing packed into boxed cooled with crashed ice. The ice itself came in big blocks and was crushed with an enormous shredder.

8 January 2008
Finally leaving the jungle resort by jeep to take a train from Ooty to Metupalayiam. This train has been constructed in 1886 by the Swiss and has not been changed since. It leads through the Nilgeri mountains, showing an impressive panorama of mostly tea plantations. The train ride took about three and a half hours whereby most of the time the train was pulled by a historical diesel/steam engine. Although that was very nice it lead to a very dirty face. From Metupalayiam another train brought us to Coimbatore, the Indian fashion capital but as we were only arriving there at night there was no opportunity to check out the shops. The dialogue of the day (in a hotel): A: Do you have a free single room for tonight? B: Yes, for how many people? A: For one person! B: Yes, ok, a single room is available, but for how many people? … continued. The dialogue took place in a very friendly atmosphere with a lot of head wiggling on the Indian side. Wiggling in a way that resembles moving the head to either side, resembling the figure eight, neither nodding nor shaking the head is a frequent behavior pattern in India and can mean anything from yes to no, maybe, for sure, I do not understand, or not quite, I also see it that way or no, most certainly not to we will see or god only knows.

7 January 2008
Getting up at 6:15 during your holidays is not an easy task. Anyway, a trip to a village where they wash elephants in a river seemed to be worth it. We drove for about half an hour to arrive on the one side of the river that was not only in a very bad back light but also rather impassable. Well, an Elepghant was down in the river and about to be pulled to the other side. There \he was briefly washed and then quickly led away over a hill. A brief discussion with the driver to bring us to the other side resulted in a no based on a story that there is this forest ranger who does not allow tourists to be there. Shortly after that, two tourists were visible on the other side and sure enough the forste ranger was not mentioned anymore. We were brought to the other side. Unfortunately the last elephant was just about to be washed. The driver said that we should have started earlier, they always wash the elephants earlier and that he would have mentioned that to his boss anyway but nobody ever listens to him. Well. A serious discussion with that boss later on resulted in comforting words and pittyful looks. Of course they would take us on the afternoon toor again. But in the afternoon all of a sudden it was the regular tour and of course to be paid again. As I figured it would not be feature-length anyway I did not get into a serious argument with the guy. Tomorrow we are heading back towards civilization...

6 January 2008
Another long taxi ride brought us to the Nilgeris, a jungle area. The hotel here is in the middle of nowhere and called Jungle Retreat. Not only that they warn you from tigers and elephants on signs beneath the road going there, the welcome to the holtel was two large black Rottweiler type of dogs. I almost fainted. But in the end, the rooms here are marvellous and it is really quiet. Quite a change from the hectic city life during the last days. Interestingly enough there are only Americans staying here. Probably they mixed up India and Indiana - no that was not nice.

5 January 2008
Mysore used to be the capital city of one of the last Maharadja kingdoms. It is an ancient town although you cannot see that anymore. Most of the older buildings have been destroyed some 200 years ago and so the city looks rather young. The most interesting site is of course the Maharadja Palace. It is a palace out of the stories of 1001 nights although borderline kitsch most of the times. What is rather annoying is that one cannot take any pictures and even has to hand over all cameras at the entrance. The Green Hotel here is a really interesting place. It was built to serve as a palace for the unmarried sisters of the Mahardja, just outside the city. Then in the 1950ies it was transformed into movie studios and recently into an eco friendly hotel. You could see Miss Marple there. The main house unfortunately only hosts 7 rooms and we had to stay in the other buildig, most likely the servant`s rooms back in history. Anyway I got a glimpse into one of the rooms in the main building: it really looked like a bedroom for the court. The main block also hosts a library with a bed beneath the window, a reading divan, simply great. And the chess table in the games room was just tiny but brilliantly carved.

4 January 2008
The energy saving bulb has conquered India and puts everything into a cold and unfriendly light. Even in the train that we had to catch very early this morning heading west towards Asikere Junction gave you the sterile feeling of a hospital. After quite some time in the taxi, we visited the Hoysaleswara temple in Halebid which is a marvellous site, covered over and over with sculptures and reliefs. After another long ride we arrived to the Channekeshava temple in Belur. Hundreds and hundreds of figures are carved into the outside wall of the temple as well but in a different manner. After another two hour ride we came to Sravanabelagola, a temple that can only be reached after climbing up 600 or more steps. It hosts a 17m high monolithic statue of a naked god called Gomateshvara. Rumors say that it is the tallest monolithic statue on earth. What is impressive is that it is over 1000 years old. The most funny thing was that in a corridor behind the statue there are smaller statues and one of them was just cleaned by a naked man. I asked the tour guide for an explanation and he said that about 12 monchs serve there and four of them are naked. All the trinket sellers around these three temples are rather delighted when the rare tourist shows up. They are all called „Hello my name is Johnny Maybelater“. Yes, maybe later.

3 January 2008
After a short trip to Hospet center we took a flight back to Bangalore. The same instructions on how to use the sickness bags, a short flight and back we were to the luxury of the Windsor Manor Hotel where hot chocolate is not only served on the private terrace but also sweetened and stirred for you. Eventhe toothpaste tastes after cinamon here. I keep on wondering since quite some time why both the English and the Dutch who controlled the spice world market for such a long time actually never developped a special way of cooking based on all these spices themselves.

2 January 2008
The journey continues. Today it is a visit to Hampi and Hospet. On the flight to Bellary, Deccan Airways explained amongst the usual safety instructions the use of the sickness bags. In Hampi there are the remains of an old ancient kingdom that existed until about 1550. I did not quite get the whole story due to some consistency issues although the tour guide was quite knowledgeable. Anyway, he said also that towards the end of that monarchy the Portuguese brought quite some horses as present for the king and those horses then lived there together with the elephants (when they were not fighting in a battle). The elephant stalls have been uncovered and did not need too much restoration while the barracks for the elephant guards have completely rotten. So the life of an elephant at the time was so much more important, a clear discrimination in favor of the elephants. The most interesting palace in Hampi is the musical palace. It is a palace that consists of many columns with even smaller columns around them that seem to be there for aesthetic reasons only. But in fact they are hollow and make a beautiful noise if you touch them. You can play a full concert with different tones there. Unfortunately is just in the process of being renewed so one cannot touch those columns. Hospet is particularly remarkable as there are so many pigs on the streets. The way back to the hotel was easy; we just had to turn right at the big black pig that was eating garbage in a little hole there.

1 January 2008
It is unbelievable but the Dalai Lama came today to stay overnight in the same hotel in Bangalore. Together with 12 Buddhist monks I sat for several hours just outside the hotel lobby to wait for him. In a way it was like the preparation of the last supper. Being number 13 and constantly in trouble with the ceremony master of his holiness who doubted that my photo backpack contained only photo equipment. I was seen as security risk. While waiting I found out that almost all of the monks had mobile phones and on average four out of the twelve were in a call. Furthermore the rest did not sit there contemplating or meditating but rather chatted with their peers or wrote SMSes. The one that did not have a phone had his finger in his nose most of the time. In other words they seemed to be pretty modern and human. And then he finally came. A red carpet had been rolled out, the monks and other people from the Buddhist community of Bangalore lined up and last in line the only six Europeans waited for the Dalai Lama to come by. I was so excited and then he came and really shook hands with me! For a picture of that scene, please click here!!

31 December 2007
New Years eve and a quiet day with massages and sauna in the hotel. At night during the new years eve party, H. was awarded “Best European Bollywood dancer” and won a hotel voucher in Jaipur, 2000 km to the north and therefore not very useful.

30 December 2007
Leaving Mumbai and going to Bangalore. The rumour says that since outsourcing is not en voguie any more, there is already a new verb in English namely „to bangalore“. And really, Bangalore seems to be better off than Mumbai if that can be seen as a category at all. Also here people are poor, dentists pick teeth on the street and beggers have all kins of heartbreaking physical shortcomings. The city market is a great mixture of fruits, vegetbles, colors and flowers whereby this description is by no means sufficient. The floweres are folded to long chains that are devoted in temples or used in order to decorate statues or pictures. The smell is very pleasant and not even the smell of the ubiquitous leftovers of the holy cows can kill that smell.

29 December 2007
Those of you who have seen my first self-developed pictures already know the story and will probably never believe whom I have met in Bombay by pure coincidence. In a very picturesque market hall that would deserve a description on itself all of a sudden Mr. Kahn stood in front of me. Mr. Kahn, the artist from Paris whom I took some picture of last August. Those pictures were my first ever self-developed pictures! So there he was in flesh and blood! I was not only astonished but just merely happy. What a coincidence! Some might say: Will wonders never cease? How is it possible that you meet a person in a city of 20 million that you have seen only once before in Paris? And who has nevertheless left such an impression? I just could not believe it. He has left Bombay for Paris in 1973 and was there again to visit family. But it was the first time in years that he actually went back to India!
Just a few days before Christmas I had mailed him the pictures I had taken last summer. When promising him to do so in August I felt rather stupid, explaining that it might take months for me to actually send some pictures. The reason for that was that I was just about to install my darkroom and setting everything up to get started. In today’s digital age that sounded like a cheap excuse but probably too bad to be true.

28 December 2007
A visit to Bollywood was very high up on my „must see“ list for Inida. But that is not as easy as one would imagine. What people told me about Hollywood, basically buying a ticket and then being shown around in order to see how special effect are made is not happening here. A big sign at the entrance of Film City informs all visitors that they are not allowed to get in. After intense discussions I was informed that neither the ators nor the producers want to be disturbed on the set. I could try and send a fax to the administration but no, for today that will never work out. Slightly depressed and definitely disappointed I decided to check out with the tour organisation I had heard about whether they could help out. After searching with for an Internet cafe with an uninspired taxi driver I found their site but as it was lastly updated in 2002 and the phone was dead I thought that they have probably gone bankrupt or so. Before I could go on with searching for another solution the guy next to me in the Internet cafe announced in brilliant English that there will be a server update and no Internet connection anymore. I took the chance to tell him about my wrecked plans. He said that never having seen a Bollywood movie is not an issue as you have to be brain dead anyway to suffer through a three hour performance. He was pilot for Kahthar Airways by the way. But else he said it would not be a problem at all to actually see the studios as the owner of the cafe was regularly going to the studios and could definitely bring me in. So we tried it again, this time with the owner of the cafe and his nephew – just to be thrown out again and even more harshly than before. Under a certain performance pressure the guy than propsed to go to another studio where we faced a similar tretament but after long discussions and handing over some rupies were finally sucessful. And what a reward! They produce 800 films a year in Bollywood but just at this very moment thy were shooting a prisoner`s story „Prisoner 420“. At least 150 people were dressed up as either prisoners or guards, chatting and hanging out at the set waiting for the main character to show up. They were having a really good time especially after they got some attention of unexpected visitors. I shot many, many pictures. Especially in the cantine that really looked like tghe cantine of a prison with all the prisoners eating there. I have rarely before enjoyed a meal as much as there. And of course actors had a good time as well posing for my pictures.

27 December 2007
Mumbai (Bombay) is a huge and loud city where the ubiquitous poverty is overwhelming. My first impression was most depressing, people sleeping on the streets, mostly only wrapped into a piece of cloth. They roll themselves up on the sideways where cars pass by only a few centimeters away. Their belongings fit into a single platic bag which is placed besides or behind them. Some use plastic covers to have a roof or at least the impression of a tent over their heads. But then again, it is unbelievable how poor people can be and how privilegeded we are.

21 December 2007
My mailbox is inaccessible and neither opens, nor allows for sending or receiving anymore. That seems to be the protocol of a sudden death.

20 December 2007
My mailbox started telling me (via e-mail) that I cannot longer send anything as I do not longer exist.

19 December 2007
My mailbox does not accept incoming e-mails anymore and tells the respective senders that I do not longer exist.

18 December 2007
I heard that a racing driver once said his life was a car race. In betweein races he said he was just waiting.

17 December 2007
I finally managed to take a picture of the “sandwishes” billboard!

16 December 2007
I saw a car in a garage the other day which was grey and dirty as can be. It is obviously standing there since quite some time. Someone has written into the grey dirt: “Exists also in blue”.

15 December 2007
After a few more painstaking hours in the dark room I seem to find out more and more about the art of developping pictures. I fear that really only practice makes perfect…

14 December 2007
The discovery of slowness: Despite the ubiquitous hectic times just before Christmas I discovered a person who seems to be immune. Slightly impatient I watched her for about 25 minutes wrapping one (!) gift for me…

13 December 2007
Several hours and the first one hundred sheets of photo paper later I start to see some correlations and light at the end of the tunnel.

11 December 2007
Another nice item in the collection of circular definitions: I think that everybody who has arrived is here now.

10 December 2007
A meeting today was opened by the following kind statement: “I see some new faces around the table and some very old ones.”

9 December 2007
Today was the end of the five day exhibition Selection XXI.

8 December 2007
I spent most of the day at the exhibition venue. The interaction was mostly happening between the artists and not so much between the visitors and the artists.

6 December 2007
I went again to the exhibition venue. It is really interesting to see people watching my pictures, talking intensively about them. As I did not want to move too close I didn’t not get too much of the conversation but there was “amazing”, “incredible” and “impressive” in it.

5 December 2007
The evening of the evenings: Opening of the exhibition Selection XXI in St. Gilles in Brussels. There were several hundred people present, if not one thousand. Many of them had a look at my pictures, some of them asked questions. A few asked whether it was photos or paintings. Others had questions like why this subject, why mannequins, why broken? Recognition and criticism from unknown people is interesting. One lady said that those pictures seem sad. I would say melancholic, but that is a matter of definition. The evening went smoothly, the ambience was nice. There was Champaign and finger food – everything a vernissage requires.

4 December 2007
I had to hang up the pictures for tomorrow’s vernissage early this morning. I totally underestimated the long sharp edges of the aluminum surface and only found out when I felt the blood dripping down. Nevertheless the overall impression was really nice.

3 December 2007
I spoke out and handed over the last invitations for the exhibition opening on Wednesday night.

2 December 2007
I spent again some hours with developing pictures learning a lot. I definitely need to get some practice.

1 December 2007
I guess you must spoil before you spin. With regard to picture development I seem to produce quite some junk for the time being.

30 November 2007
This is fun, just click on the following LINK.

29 November 2007
Today I got the pictures form my exhibition next week. They are mounted on aluminum, perfectly done by my favorite laboratory and in a larger size than ever before.

28 November 2007
I got the invitations for my next exhibition, Selection XXI. They look marvelous!

27 November 2007
The “sandwish” billboard (see Blog entry of June 30, 2007) is back on the street!

26. November 2007
I saw a manual in a conference room today: “The art of setting up a telephone conference.”

23 November 2007
Read in a recipe today: „… and then add half a liter of chicken soup or alternatively guardian angel soup or ginger energy soup. “

22 November 2007
I had another lesson in black and white film development.

21 November 2007
Recently there was a big initiative in Vienna requiring all dog owners to carry little bags with them to collect dog shit on the spot and help keeping the city clean. Graz is even more progressive. Today I saw a dog shit bag dispenser next to a garbage bin.

20 November 2007
Together with a friend of mine who is a great graphic designer I worked on a Broken Muses brochure.

19 November 2007
I heard a sales person in a bookshop in Vienna saying to her colleague that there is this American who regularly comes to their shop and who speaks German very well but has some charming difficulties from time to time. Recently he was very concerned and told them something that would translate like: “I am so worried. My wife will be operated on her turtle”. What he wanted to say was “… will be operated on her thyroid gland”. The words are very similar in German.

18 November 2007
I did a two hours black and white family photo shooting. Enough work for picture development till Christmas…

17 November 2007
A few dozen birthday candles on a Sacher cake are a logistic challenge as well as a source for great heat.

16 November 2007
Flying out from Brussels I sat next to a guy asked me whether we had ever met before. After a little break he added: “If that is not the case, even better, because I need an unbiased pinion. So I found myself smelling at a stranger’s wrists helping to select the ideal perfume.

15 November 2007
I was finally able to develop my first black and white picture. It is a great abstract piece of work that will potentially shape history. It is deeply black, shiny, simply great!

14 November 2007
After various major mistakes in various flight bookings a very big German airline decided to say sorry through upgrading me to business class for one of the many flights where they messed up my bookings. I had great food and great drinks but to my astonishment I was the only one who ate. It seems to be posh to refuse excellent food when you are entitled to. Is this the latest trend in the luxury segment?

12 November 2007
One of the biggest threats nowadays can be put in simple words: “Let’s have an e-mail discussion”.

11 November 2007
After all I wanted to try and develop my first picture only to find out that I had everything but paper. That must have gone lost somewhere.

10 November 2007
Somebody said that it does not make a difference whether a dark room looks nice or not. It’s main aim is supposed to be dark anyway. Well, no sense for aesthetics…

9 November 2007
The neighbor’s dog is called Nero. Whether it is called after the emperor ort he color remains open.

8 November 2007
Is there an art movement in modern art which focuses on aesthetics?

7 November 2007
Can you or do you even have to assume that modern day walking canes with inbuilt compasses are mobile phones with GPS-modules?

6 November 2007
In the bus from the terminal to the aircraft at Munich airport a guy spoke vividly to someone else on the phone. He started the conversation by saying “well I am actually at the Frankfurt airport.” There was a big smile on everybody’s face.

5 November 2007
There is not only publicity for Volkswagen but recently also for a Volksnotebook.

4 November 2007
When using public parking garages, mostly when entering or just before paying, almost everyone has the parking ticket in his mouth. It is interesting that nobody has had the idea of putting some flavor onto these tickets. I think a slight coffee taste would be excellent and would bring good business to the pubs in the surroundings.

3 November 2007
Status report from Amsterdam: 10 people queuing in front of a cash machine.

2 November 2007
A few days ago the neighbors have put up a skeleton in the size of a three year old child right next to their all year Christmas tree.

1 November 2007
From the life of a plumber: On Tuesday I was told that it is too late for the plumbing company to take on any new for this week because first of all it was already Tuesday lunchtime, secondly Wednesday is just the day before the public holiday on Thursday and therefore not ideal and thirdly of course nobody works on a Friday after a public holiday.

31 October 2007
Another example of circular definitions: I’d propose to proceed in the way I’ve just proposed.

30 October 2007
There is a couture designer called Sisi Wasabi. The name reflects on the Austrian emperatrice Sisi and the spicy Japanese horse radish paste.

29 October 2007
My father says the darkroom will be a bright spot.

28 October 2007
I think that the former owner of my darkroom had a certain weakness for development tanks. There is a tremendous variety of these tanks, ranking from stainless steel to plastic specimen.

27 October 2007
Sorting out my belongings and setting up the darkroom is a cumbersome task. Especially recognize pieces of furniture wrapped in bubble wrap is a challenge.

26 October 2007
Thinking of the actual debate on environmental protection: already Kermit from the Muppet show knew that it’s not that easy being green.

25 October 2007
I had an interesting chat today about the adventure of taking hotels. Talking about it I recalled a recent stay in Helsinki where my boss and I found out that our two rooms that had been booked well in advance were simply not available any more. The concierge offered us a free taxi ride to the closest available hotel – 60 km away from downtown Helsinki.

24 October 2007
I learned today that my Internet pages cannot be accessed over the public Internet in China. Probably because the word “censored” appears several times.

23 October 2007
Just after having come back from London and on my way to the metro station “Brussels Midi” I crossed what I had described in my blog entry of July 1st as “brand new ATM”. At the time it was too new to have power supply. Well, meanwhile it isn’t that new anymore and it isn’t a real cash machine I fear; big letters on it’s side announce it as “ash” machine. So again no money, just ashes.

22 October 2007
London has changed pretty much over the last years. I remember that there were bookshops on every corner. Searching for one today made me walk at least 45 minutes in cold drizzle, passing by many clothes shops and bars. Finally they did not even have the book I was searching for.

21 October 2007
The opening of the exhibition in Leuven was very nice. About 60 very interested people were there and I got some really nice feedback!

20 October 2007
Charles Dickens said: “I […] feel the truth, that trifles make the sum of life."

19 October 2007
What remains of a pigeon… that was exactly what I saw today on a zebra crossing. I guess that has been one of those suicidal pigeons that preferred to go that way instead of hitting my office window (see blog entry of September 20, 2007).

18 October 2007
Adorno said in his aesthetic theory (1970) that pieces of art that mean to be images reflecting nothing but reality do that only peripheral; they become reality because they react to (the first) reality.

17 October 2007
I had a diet coke without caffeine yesterday. I wonder what they will come up with next. Probably it will be either coke without color or half full cans.

16 October 2007
Most of my belongings have arrived to Brussels. The moving guys brought box after box and piled them up. I made me feel slightly uncomfortable that I had forgotten about everything I'd ever owned. The movers did not unwrap anything but a statue, Klaus, that was buried in tons of styrofoam flakes. Exactly in the moment when two of the three strong guys lifted Klaus out of his big box in the hallway, my un-beloved neighbor came out of the elevator, gave all of us a weird look and said to her dog “come on darling, that woman does not like dogs”. As if that wouldn’t have been enough, the movers did not find the statue’s supporting stand and instead deposited it in my bed. I was considering sleeping on the couch but tried my best to get hold of that stand. It appeared in the very last box.

15 October 2007
I found out that the town hall in Brussels is only used as tourist attraction. The actual offices are in a building close by, where, after I had finally found it, I had to queue together with 70 other people only to get a number for waiting in line for the actual service.

14 October 2007
The guys in the occupied house had a washing day today. There was wash in all colors on a string that was bent all over the facade in the third floor.

13 October 2007
Since some countries require each driver to have a reflective safety vest, there is an inflation of these orange or yellow uniform vests. You can buy them literally everywhere for something like three Euros. Anyways, they are most popular with bikers where they have a leveling effect on (at lest the bicycling part of) society. No matter whether it’s a man or a woman, old or young, tall or short, slender or less so, well dressed or less so - a reflective safety vest is slipped over all of them.

12 October 2007
At the opposite side of my street a house is occupied by a bunch of people who from time to time bring some sofas to the street where they relax while demonstrating against cars and driving as such.

12 October 2007
A nice example of male argumentation which is perfectly dull but broadly accepted: “It seems that business is good where there are no barriers. And where there are barriers, we have difficulties.”

10 October 2007
Do you know the „sort of kind of“ speeches? There are people who introduce every thought with either “sort of” or “kind of” which makes it impossible to concentrate on what they want to say. But I guess they only sort of want to say something. Which might anyway only be kind of, you know?

9 October 2007
I had a speed exhibition today in the Committee of the Regions in Brussels. It was nice, thou. I had to rush from a meeting to my car and further to the Committee of the Regions to hang up the pictures for an evening cocktail which I could not attend due to other obligations. After 10 p.m. a friend picked the pictures up again. When hanging them up I got some very nice feedback saying that it was amazing how human and fragile those scratched faces look.

8 October 2007
I am playing a funny game with my cleaning lady. Whenever she sees me her face freezes and she brings up the serious topic of my plants. There is nothing wrong with them as such but she has the feeling that I do not water them properly. That is why she has started to water them with enormous quantities of water and several times a week. Whenever I notice that she had been around I secretly pour out liters of water so that my plants’ Amazonas swamp feeling doe not prevail. That of course leads her to think that these poor plants drink all the water she gives them in no time, thus they suffer, ignorant me does not care and the burden to help them survive lies on her shoulders. Something stops me from clearing that up.

7 October 2007
Oscar Wilde said “It is personalities, not principles, that move the age.” I could not agree more.

6 October 2007
The neighbors added carnival balloons and garlands to their all year Christmas tree. We are at the beginning of October and to my knowledge we are neither close to carnival nor to Christmas. I get confused whenever I see their window. Probably that has to do with climate change. I’d advise them to calculate through how many tons of CO2 emission they would save as a family if they got rid of their nasty black dog.

5 October 2007
One conference call is followed by another. I consider that as a real bad habit of our times. Well, after a really long one (over four hours) I dragged myself to a sandwich bar (no sand wishes there any more) from where I have a great view to the favorite cash machine. This time I had a witness for 12 people queuing.

4 October 2007
There is one thing that keeps me thinking since a long time. When driving to the airport in Brussels the closest you can get to the arrival hall is using the express parking which allows you to sprint over to the arrivals in less than a minute. Surprisingly enough the two parking places that are closest to the exit towards the arrival hall stink bestially after urine. I wonder whether that has to do with the inborn attitude of the master hunter who has managed to land the best parking in the area needs to mark that place even when under immense time pressure?

3 October 2007
And another exhibition is planned still fort his year. I won’t give further details, yet!

2 October 2007
I had a look at the exhibition venue which does look very nice. It will be a challenge to deliver, exhibit and put away those pictures in four hours next Tuesday.

1 October 2007
I just learned today that I am required to exhibit some photographs at the Committee of the Regions (Brussels) next Tuesday. It is the so-far shortest exhibition I will be doing; it will only last for four hours. So probably I shouldn’t call it a permanent exhibition.

30 September 2007
I heard an interview with the author Ilija Trojanow today who said that the fork was a only introduced to the Italian royal court around the year 1000. The lady ho brought the new took over was coming from Byzantium, where forks where used since the 4th century. It nevertheless resulted in a scandal in Italy, especially because the arch bishop was reminding everybody that god gave men two hands to eat with and such a tool was to be called profane.

29 September 2007
I had a totally new experience today, which was developing the first three black and white films myself. It was a great feeling to hold the negatives in hand knowing that it was you who had shot and developed them.

28 September 2007
It is not particularly nice to be brought to your plane by bus. It means carrying down heavy hand luggage to the bus and afterwards up to the plane again. Most of all it means being stuck in that bus for longer than you would have expected. People keep pushing you and force you compromise on your originally chosen place and trat it for a a strategically inappropriate position in the middle of the bus. There you the witness a strange spectacle of people holding on to a handle or steel post although the bus is not mobbing at all. They keep holding on so hard that you can even see white bones and finger joints glancing out of their hands. You ask yourself why this is happening although the bus doesn’t move for at least twenty more minutes.

27 September 2007
Lisbon in late summer or early fall is a very nice combination. Blue skies and sunshine, life can be tougher. There are remarkable sidewalks and this tram number 28 that goes up a hill in an unbelievable speed, speeding through breathtaking curves and narrow streets. But what impressed me most was the encounter of an elephant man. A certain layer of swollen dark red cancer-like surface had settled over his whole face, burying mouth, nose and eyes behind it. I was asking myself whether it was appropriate to take a picture or not. For ethical reasons I decided against it. There are more ways to remember that other’s can be so much worse off than yourself than by just taking a picture.

26. September 2007
The last few missing pictures are hanging now, the name tags are fixed right beside them. Now only the invitations must be finalized and printed, then the Leuven exhibition is ready to be opened.

25. September 2007
My neighbors have a big black dog which would be enough pain anyway. In addition to that they have a plastic Christmas tree in their apartment which I can see from a corridor window. The electric candles on that tree are burning every night which is bizarre in summer but mostly anytime except for December.

24 September 2007
Today the piece of clothes I saw was an expensive looking rain jacket with two zip fastened arms, detached but assembled right next to the jacket. My suspicion is that all this clothes in the street has to do with the cash machines or their absence that is. The saying goes that in some places the money is lying on the street. As it is difficult o get money, maybe that’s why the clothes are lying there.

23 September 2007
Today was car-free day in Brussels. It is unbelievable how many people own bikes. And how many seem to have left their cars and their sense for traffic rules home. Tomorrow there will be more cars but this city will also be a safer place for pedestrians again.

22 September 2007
A pink baby anti-adhesion sock crossed my way. Ok, here I admit that this might not have been abandoned out of free will.

21 September 2007
There seems to be a trend towards leaving your clothes and shoes behind when coming to a city. Not too long ago I came across a pair of lonely pumps in Naples and a single dotted one in Munich. Just a few days ago I passed a pair of crumpled jeans alongside a parking lot. Not far from that there was a pair of abandoned climbing boots, nicely aligned on next to the other. Today seven or eight black used socks crossed my way or vice versa – they were scattered along some twenty meters of a sidewalk. In the gutter there was a pair of white gloves.

20 September 2007
There are some trees in front of my office windows which grow against them and create strange noises in the wind. But this does not bother me as much as the pigeons that crash into the windows on a regular basis. They fly against these windows and probably drop dead in the second when the bounce. I fear that I have kind of a pigeon cemetery somewhere down there. Probably it even started smelling. I guess I should never open these windows again.

19 September 2007
100 days after the elections Belgium still does not have a government which you barely notice as a foreigner. Nevertheless there are many critical voices that try to suggest that this is the end of the Belgian state. As a very funny reaction, a Belgian tried to sell Belgium over Ebay "For Sale: Belgium, a Kingdom in three parts ... free premium: the king and his court (costs not included)." The oddest thing was that there was even interest from someone to buy it! Ebay took it off their website.

18 September 2007
How to define division of labor: After an initial attempt and mutual acceptance, labor is divided which is followed by the comforting feeling of “a problem shared is a problem halved”. That is then abruptly ended by the horror vision of the other parties not fulfilling their duties because they spent all their energy in inventing creative excuses.

17 September 2007
I counted 18 people queuing in front of a Brussels city center ATM …

16 September 2007
There will be a new Brokenmuses exhibition soon in Leuven/Belgium!

15 September 2007
A very tiny extra packed cheese (a “Babybel”) lays right next to my door, in fact next to the elevator there. It is wrapped in dark red plastic and gives me reproachful looks whenever I pass by.

14 September 2007
I was inspired recently to think about those products that are left right in front of supermarket cash desks. Some people seem to spontaneously decide against a product that they have thoroughly chosen and brought with them all the way through the supermarket. Does that make a reference for exactly buying these products? And isn’t it also interesting that those products were even found before?

13 September 2007
It’s Thursday the 13th and there were five people and a guide dog queuing in front of my favorite ATM. I ask myself how guide dogs are trained for finding the rare ATM in Brussels.

12 September 2007
Further on gender issues: A male colleague on a contentious issue arguing for his view: “My proposal to solve the issue would be to write something that I’ve just said!”

11 September 2007
Why women will never make it: I just heard this statement from a woman speaking to another woman today: “I’ll get going and get it done. Because after all it needs to be done and if it’s done it’s done, right?”

10 September 2007
My officially employed me got vaccinated today. After a slightly absurd dialogue, certain earlier vaccinations of my private me were recognized. The exception being hepatitis was then shot in such a clumsy way that I could not use my right arm all day long.

9 September 2007
It’s not only me alone who experiences weird situations at work. I was told about a recent security training for employees which had to be done using a standardized slide set. The first slide showed a site map where all those doors that were only 3.10 meters high were specifically marked. All employees who are taller than that have to be alert and need to pay special attention. To underline that, the bottom line read: “The event of an accident is highly likely”.

8 September 2007
On my vaccinations that I still need to receive before going to Belgium again (see Aug. 31) the question is now whether other vaccinations I got in the past (e.g. against hepatitis or tetanus) were given to me for work reasons. If not, which is unfortunately the case, they do not count and I will get them again.

7 September 2007
I had a meeting today in a room called “Cheesecake” (in Helsinki). Help the help of several locals I would have never found the room. What made it worse was that I had to make my way back alone. While stumbling through myriads of hallways I asked myself – should I pass away without having seen daylight again - whether legally spoken your death certificate replaces your birth certificate.

6 September 2007
Why do men in general get away with statements like: “We will get an answer because we have to get an answer although people do not have an answer, yet.” or “We are in September now and we have to be aware what is going to happen in February because after all February is only five months away…”

5 September 2007

An airport toilet announcement I saw today read: “Help us saving water. Press the flush button twice.”

4 September 2007
In my Istanbul conference hotel, a quite good hotel superficially spoken, showed the weirdest comportment of employees I have ever seen. The other day a Turkish speaking room maid entered my room, without prior knocking. Gesticulating she explained that she is in charge of controlling whether my single room is used by more than one person. I was rather surprised as I had never thought of smuggling in a battalion of “blind overnight passengers” in my hotel room. On the next day the same lady met me in the bathroom asking me whether she should start cleaning the room. As if that would not have been enough anyway about an hour later – the room has still not been cleaned – she came again requesting whether there were more people besides me sleeping in my room. Shortly after that a guy showed up who wanted to control the status of the mini bar. Probably he found it rather impolite that I kicked him out.

3 September 2007
The saying goes that the eyes are the mirror of your soul. I wonder whether you can say that the camera bans on film what is reflected over that mirror?

2 September 2007
I saw the Istanbul Pera Palace hotel, where Agatha Christie wrote the Murder in the Orient Express. It is closed for renovation, but I managed to sneak in and got a little private tour. In the evening I went to a 500 year old Hammam. The guy at the entrance wore a T-Shirt saying “sexually deprived for your comfort” and told me that the massages will be done by men. I sort of fund that weird but in the end it was just a great and harmless experience.

1 September 2007
After arriving from Munich to Istanbul, I thought my luggage was lost. For whatever mysterious reason I found it on my way to the lost and found counter at the other side of the arrival hall: it stood lonely next to a belt that stood still and said “Rome”.

31 August 2007
I had a conversation with the HR department. They advised me to get some vaccinations for Brussels. Probably to protect me against the EU virus.

29 August 2007
No matter where I want to go to in Munich, I always have to drive 8 kilometers to get there. I type in a random place and the navigation system tells me 8 kilometers. Sometimes I get the feeling that this is deliberate. Even if the distance is 5 kilometers only it secretly guides me on sidetracks and calculates an 8 kilometer route.

28 August 2007
The UN building in Bonn hosts inter alia EUROBATS, the secretariat in charge for the Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats.

27 August 2007
A Munich supermarket chain is selling “Tsunami Sushi” – not the best name you can chose I guess.

26 August 2007
A person working for the personnel department, human resources that is, sent me an automatic response saying: “Dear sender, I am in the process of being switched to a new data base system…”. How can a person be switched to another data base system?

25 August 2007
An advertisement for toothpaste advertises a “smile for eternity” showing Marilyn Monroe’s lips on a huge poster. Right next to it the pope advertises automated blessings - to be sent to your mobile phone via short messages.

24 August 2007
Again a short piece on cash machines. Not only that Austria has them on every corner, you can also re-load your prepaid mobile phones there.

23 August 2007
Is it really true that not the world but the pictures taken of that world are the scale of beauty?

22 August 2007
A restaurant in Munich offers a 4 course menu and calls the dinner “enjoy dinner in darkness – there is little to see but loads to experience”.

21 August 2007
After telling a colleague about a non-paper I was working on she said: “I would not want to do your job.” I replied “Me neither.”

20 August 2007
Subway graffiti in Munich: I’ll be with you forever. Yours Aids.

19 August 2007
I ask myself how the art market functions. How are pieces of art evaluated and estimated? Who judges that an artist has created something really great and outstanding, or that he has the potential to do so? And on which criteria is that done?

17 August 2007
Do politically correct toilets have a hand shower? More than that it keeps me thinking that a Japanese coupe asked me the way to their hotel in Helsinki and I could give them the right advice. Moreover, all cash machines in Helsinki are called Otto, but nobody has asked me for that.

16 August 2007
The world hasn’t stopped turning – which I sometimes doubt. But still: the shop specialized in wheels for trolleys and the like in Helsinki is still where it used to be when I took a picture back in 2002.

15 August 2007
Schopenhauer said: “With people of limited ability modesty is merely honesty. But with those who possess great talent it is hypocrisy.”

14 August 2007
In my personal hell I will screw and unscrew picture frames with a non-fitting screwdriver.

12 August 2007
In August, Paris is really dead. There are hardy any people in the streets and most shops and galleries are closed. The atmosphere is weird.
I had dinner in Le Procope, which used to be the first coffee shop ever. Nowadays it is a fine restaurant.

11 August 2007
On one of the islands of the Seine there is a replica of the statue of liberty. That is kind of odd, especially because from a certain angle you can see the Eiffel tower in the far distance.

10 August 2007
I went to the opening of a gallery in Düsseldorf. I guess the best thing about it was a cinema fort two people with two red velvet seats. The film was the credits of a spanish movie – in an infinite loop.

9 August 2007
When browsing through the index of Brussels’ galleries in a weekly magazine I found one that’s called “Sorry, we’re closed”. I am sure it is in the neighborhood of the restaurant “And who is going to walk the dog?”

8. August 2007
I had dinner with a colleague. Hat was kind of odd was the waiter’s „Bon Appetite Gentlemen!“.

7. August 2007
Target and objectives setting are time consuming habits. A colleague of mine thinks that only if you have a target you can actually reach it. On the other hand having a target is also the prerequisite of missing it.

6 August 2007
Today’s insight: Modern laws are made by people that show a certain lack of logic reasoning and miss the sense for simplicity. Instead of thinking about short, concise and lasting rules, detailed over regulation seems to be en vogue.

5. August 2007
A sign on the terrace of a small restaurant in south west Styria read: “Please do not feed the cats. They belong to the neighbor”.

3 August 2007
I am always curiously interested to keep track of new trends. One of the latest trends seems to be the concept of so called cuddle parties where strangers meet to cuddle with each other - under the surveillance of a “cuddling trainer”.

2 August 2007
From the long list of communication killers: One particular example that can be used in almost all circumstances in which one does not want or simply cannot answer a question. “You may remember that I had already sent you some slides regarding that issue.”

1 August 2007
I am thinking of a new picture series: “Dirty fingers of man at work.” In a way, dirty fingers have something comforting. Something like: I can do it, repair it, help you, make anything better. The natural borderline for these people with the dirty fingers is electronics, particularly car electronics.

31 July 2007
My car refused to recognize the key today. Two hours and about 200 tries later the touring service showed up. They towed away the car and brought it to a garage in an (to me unknown) part of town. We’ll see whether and if so how I will get it back again.

30 July 2007
Just recently I read in a nice e-mail that one should never let someone else's stupidity interfere with his own joy. That is easier said than done if confronted with it way too often.

29 July 2007
Why is it always raining after my car has just been washed (and polished)?

28 July 2007
Why can I not refill gas without participating in the gas station chain’s lottery which means putting lousy star or dot shaped stickers onto a post card with several rows for an endless number of stickers that – if ever filled completely – would give me the chance to win a coupon which would entitle me to buy something that I never wanted or needed but definitely cheaper than for the regular price?

27 July 2007
Sitting alone or at least having the attempt to sit in peace in a train or subway seems to be socially unacceptable in Munich. Or otherwise maybe people just like it cozier. Anyways I get slightly nervous whenever somebody approaches the empty or not so empty (bags, suitcase) seat next to mine (while there are many more free elsewhere close to my place), does not even bother to ask permission but just puts himself or herself right next to me. Most often there is not even enough time to get the bags onto a safe place on the lap.

26 July 2007
Sometimes I really suffer from not having my camera with me. Yesterday I saw a tall black guy with a v-shaped body in a white underwear type of shirt and a straw hat which left an impression.
Today at the airport I saw a less impressive guy with that tried to step on the escalators but to the wrong direction. The back of his t-shirts read: „best time to make friends“. I really wonder whether going against the main stream of an escalator provides fort he right opportunity to make friends

25 July 2007
It’s not always me who witnesses strange forms of argumentation. Somebody told me yesterday that in a recent meeting he had heard the following: “Only because 99% of all customers are happy with the service that does not mean we do not have any problems!” And, even better and a follow-up argument to the same discussion: “At the moment we really do not have any problem. But just assume we had one: how would you solve it?”

24 July 2007
Lunchtime in a little restaurant: A British lady sat next to my table, wearing a bright green shirt and an even brighter yellow blouse was served pizza. She cut it with scissors (!) into very small pieces. The scissors’ handles were in the same yellow as her blouse. And yes, the restaurant also offered knifes.

23 July 2007
More clarity to the story of the national holidays in 2008: May 1st will be a Thursday and Ascension. Therefore it was planned to “shift” May 1st to May 2nd which was heavily opposed by some business people who did not want to close their shops two days in a row (Thursday and Friday). Consequently a Commission then decided to shift May 1st to August 17 (a Sunday) which is a day where most shops are closed anyway. Employees can choose whatever date for compensating the lost 1st of May. Most of them will probably chose May 2nd.

22 July 2007
What I like about Belgium is the absurd snapshots. Amongst the leftovers of the national holiday parties today I saw half a hover. I really wonder from where it has been falling down onto the street.

21 July 2007
Today Belgium is celebrating their national holiday. It is Saturday and there is a rule that the population is entitled to a certain number of public holidays during the year. Next year one of the holidays in May will be on a weekend. Therefore a special Commission has decided that this (lost) holiday will be made up on August 17, 2008. August 17 is a Sunday in 2008. Most probably another rule applies then which is that public holidays that fall on Sundays will be made up on Mondays.

20 July 2007
During my last absence the landlord has changed the lock at the entrance of the building I am living in. In spite of a key you now need a code in order to open the door. For safety reasons, the code was safely deposited in my apartment (and not in the post box). The answer to my question, how on earth I should have gotten hold of the code while I already get stuck at the entrance of the building was answered by a “well, yes, you’ve got a point here…”.

19 July 2007
Where have the times gone when traveling needed to involve a travel agency and scheduling was a matter of long term planning? I have the feeling that one can spend hours and hours comparing schedules and tariffs via different web sites. In the need the result is always the same: Schedules involve spending private time and are still impossible and prices are arbitrary.

18 July 2007
No sand wishes anymore: The sand wish restaurant has a new owner and sells sandwiches now.

16 July 2007
A new item fort the collection of circular definitions: We need to get into that market, because when you are in, you’re in and when you are not in, you’re out!

15 July 2007
During breakfast in a small coffee shop and elderly woman sat next to us and started talking. She was 81 years old but the way she was telling her stories and interacting with us I thought she was barely 60. She had a huge black and blue mark on her right upper arm. Without any bitterness she explained that there are some gangs that are digging out the cobblestones on the square next to where she lives in order to throw them after each other. Sometimes an elderly lady like her is in their way.

14 July 2007
Besides a shop specialized in “church requisition and special electronics” the most stunning discovery was that there are surfers in Munich city center. There is a small river in the English Garden and at one particular spot there is a constant wave of about a meter where surfers are showing their most precise movements.

13 July 2007
I thought of starting a collection of communication killers. The most recent example was the nice introduction of a topic with the words “for sure you have read in this morning’s financial times…”.

12 July 2007
Just yesterday I was reading a story about the Czech Foreign Minister, Graf von Schwarzenberg, who obviously cares for good manners and is kissing hands of his female counterparts on a regular basis. The whole interview was really good and I was particularly smiling when I read about that. Well, today I attended a meeting in London - and was welcomed with a hand kiss. Well, needless to say: that made my day!

11 July 2007
I was calling a colleague in order to get some information I needed. I introduced myself politely, told him from whom I got his name and started to introduce the issue I was calling about. But soon enough I was interrupted by the question who I was. Calmly I repeated my name and department. I was interrupted again. My phone number was unknown. I said mildly that the internal directory might not be functioning fully, yet. He requested an e-mail identification. Kind of puzzled I tried that while at the same time he was asking my name again which I gave in a frostier way than before. He found me in the directory, but with a different number. I thought my unwanted disguise has vanished and started to tell my story again when I was interrupted for third time. I could be anybody. From the press or from a competitor. He would call me back under the other, the only “real” number. My destiny was merciful. The other number was my mobile.

10 July 2007
A hilarious reaction to my blog entries on sand wishes:
“Food for thought and your blog - a follow-up to your Sand Wish story: The European Commission restaurants propose sandwiches of the week. This week’s sandwich is the so-called “Provencette” (bread from the provence) with Maredsous cheese and Jambon Braisé (cooked ham).
But ...now comes the but and what is written under it: The Jambon Braise has been replaced by Jambon d'Ardenne, which is smoked ham and the Maredsous has been replaced by Mozzarella. To my obvious question: "Why don't you call your sandwich than: Provencette with Mozzarella and Jambon d'Ardenne?" I never got an answer.”

9 July 2007
Friday night on my way to Austria I had to refill gas right at the outskirts of Munich. When I was almost done, a guy in odd clothes came over to ask me whether would go to Vienna and whether I could take him and a friend of his with me to Salzburg. In the beginning I was kind of skeptical but then I had a look at both again and thought that two guys in traditional clothes with a very weird baggage can be trusted.
And what can I say about this journey to Salzburg? It was great! They were craftsmen (carpenters) on the waltz. When I heard that, I first thought that this can simply not be true and that I would definitely appear in candid camera. But they reassured me and said that this is by far not something that died out some hundred years ago but a tradition that is still there. After the apprenticeship and before being able to become a master one has the opportunity to go on the waltz for three years and one day. During this period, he (or she) is not allowed to come closer than 50 km to his hometown. The wanderer needs to be decent and reputable and will earn his living by offering services according to the apprenticeship. Whenever the means earned allow for it, he travels the world. It is mandatory to wear the traditional clothes and the walking stick but besides that and a small bundle with personal belongings that is all to be carried around. Most often these craftsman travel alone.

8 July 2007
I do not like to refill gas. Since I have spoken to a filling station attendant a few years ago who said he would find it disgusting to control oil for his clients, my aversion has slightly decreased. By the way, meanwhile the gas station he owned has closed down. So sometimes people are courageous enough to change jobs they are obviously not made for.

7 July 2007
Through a reaction to my blog I came to think that it is in fact true that I have been locked up in the office several times recently. A few months ago I could not leave the office toilet anymore as the lock was blocked and just a few weeks ago a colleague locked me in the office.

6 July 2007
Munich is a weird place. On a little vegetable market I saw a big, overdimensioned plaster model of a half grilled chicken on a kiosk. A sign close to it said “take me”.

5 July 2007
Germany is he Dorado for bargain hunters. Six wine glasses from a fine brand for 10 Euros, three towels for 4 Euro 50, three for the price of two, everything promises to be cheaper and cheaper, better and better. What does not change are the rental prices for apartments. No 60 square meters for the price of 30. So if you spend a good part of your income on all these incredibly cheap goods, there is one problem that remains: where to put all these things.

4 July 2007
I talked to the concierge again who rescued me a few days ago (see June 25). He still gives me these pitiful looks that seem to say “you would not be where you are right now without me” and “how come they let you commute without guard”.

3 July 2007
Forgot to mention that besides sand wishes they advertise also more profane things like pizza and salads.

2 July 2007
There are rumors that Belgium has increased the price (or tax) for aluminium foil threefold in order to contribute to the government’s environmental protection targets. I somehow fail to understand the deeper meaning of that. Maybe that has to do with the sand wishes (see blog entry from June 30). No sand wishes in aluminium foil anymore in this country!

1 July 2007
On my way to Brussels south station and its Sunday flower and vegetables market I thought it might be wise to have more than 15 Euros in cash at hand. So I went to the one and only ATM at the railway station. 14 people were queuing up there. So I went all over to the other end of the huge market to another ATM with only one person waiting and three more standing around. One of them said it might be better to go to another cash machine on the other side of the road because the one we were at was out of money, another one close by had a huge queue and the other one on the other side of the road just had “better” money. A little astonished I did what he advised me to do and crossed the street - just to find 12 people queuing there. I gave up and used the 15 Euros I had for shopping. On the way back to the metro station I saw a brand new ATM – too new and now power supply, yet. I got off the metro at my favorite ATM and saw nobody there. I felt kind of worried – and right so because a sign said “temporarily out of service”. In a way one could build a conspiracy theory around that.

30 June 2007
A bar close to my office advertises sandwishes - on a sandwich board. I ask myself since quite some time what such a sand wish must be like. Does one have sand wishes close to a beach and if yes, is a sand wish then the wish for a cold drink? Is that lousy bar then the closest thing to a beach bar you can get in downtown Brussels and if yes isn’t the only sand wish you can have there a sea view?

29 June 2007
My father writes in an SMS that the readings on board were a great success. When I called them today also Margit said she was pleasantly surprised about all the nice feedback she got.

28 June 2007
Today is the second day of the two readings on board. They are in Murter in a bigger harbor. I was asked how it is possible to have a library on a 6 meter 60 boat. Well, my father obviously has his priorities in life. For the rest of the season he will keep the “literature suitcase” on board.

27 June 2007
I am just missing my best friend’s and my father’s great evening on board of Dr. Putzi. In the library of my father’s boat in the Marina Nikola in Tisno/Croatia, Margit Kuchler-D’Aiello is reading out of her recent work.

26 June 2007
Why do I get e-mails with sentences like “I think it is important because it is already important and it will become even more important in the future”? After a rough analysis I think this is because we all are getting older and with age the issue of aging does not become better.

25 June 2007
I managed to get locked uo in the office together with two visitors. While we had our meeting, the cleaning personnel locked my office where I had my suitcase, home- and office keys and my notebook. This office is a very safe zone. You cannot leave it without key a, you cannot leave the building without key b and you cannot get into the garage without key c. The only option was to call the concierge, to abase myself and beg him to come, feeding the guests peanuts and diet coke in the meantime and live through nasty remarks and a grand hero appearance of the concierge.

24 June 2007
Is the GPS system providing the ordinary driver with more freedom or is it just a system that has a life of its own which gives the user a feeling of quasi-democracy? As if you could ever choose!
In the not so distant past I used to smile pitiful at the owners of GPS systems, accousing them of not being able to read any maps anymore and secretly even blaming them for laziness of severe sort. Since I own one of these devices myself that attitude has somehow changed. Although I know about all the relaxing effects I am also quite aware of its drawbacks. For instance it has a tendency to distract you and make your way to the next slip road to the motorway´ which leads to the traffic jam of the century. With an almost Buddhist calmness it then announces “enter the motorway after 300 meters” whereby the voice calms down at “300 meters” knowing exactly that these 300 meters will cost you the next 30 minutes of your time.

23 June 2007
Is there a deeper meaning that some places sell some very specific things? In Brussels it is a shop specialized in glass eyes, in Munich it is one that sells tailor made toupees.

19 June 2007
Every once in a while I spot these lonely and pitiable people, sitting on the ground, their jackets, computer bags and other belongings scattered around them while having a PC on their knees that catches all their attention. Most often these sceneries occur next to toilets, obviously a fertile place for power sockets.

16 June 2007
I visited the surrealism exhibition of the Museum of Fine Arts in Mons. The pictures, collages and sculptures of Magritte and the group of artists around him are fascinating. Their humor is sometimes very plastic and then again subtle. The Belgian surrealist Louis Scutenaire pointed it out in the following way: “Humor is a form of melancholia.”

15 June 2007

I got a call from a (female) colleague from a nordic country far away. After a brief discussion (over a very good land line) she asked me whether she had noted my name correctly as she intended to send some more information. Everything was correct and I thought we were done when she finally asked me whether I was male or female.

13 June 2007
A short update on my favorite ATM: This morning there was a lonely police car – but most likely they just had a routine stopover and not a spectacular operation. At lunch break we were back to normal and had six people queuing up in front assumingly having a real good time.

10 June 2007
Together with a friend I went for a walk in Mariazell, one of Austria’s number one places of pilgrimage. The basilica has been freshly renovated for the pope’s upcoming visit in early September. In a small corner of the church there is a booth for all sorts of images and rosaries in all sizes. It was exactly there where I saw a priest arranging tiny little mini-rosaries, one after the other, meditative, in great patience, engrossed in thought.

8 June 2007
The new car is a bit scary. It has no key and uses a card which has to be put into a slot instead. It needs to be started and stopped by pushing a start button, the handbrake disappeared from its normal place and works on its own whenever it feels for it and most worrying: I found a little bag with some big screws in the glove compartment and have no idea where they should be mounted.

6 June 2007
I had a little car accident today. While I was waiting at the red light of an intersection an elderly lady hit my car in a slow but persistent movement. She did not stop when she realized it. She just went further and further. I felt steadily displaced, a weird feeling. The result was a really long dark green line and a profound bump in the beige passenger door of the lady’s car. My bumper lost all its color. Well, I never really liked the hunter’s green anyway. But still. I did not plan to lose it that way.

4 June 2007

There are obviously variations and differences in Europe, especially when it comes to ATMs. The problem is that there are hardly any in Belgium. The rare spots where you can finally find one can be described as nice gathering points for people. I have hardly ever seen one where there would not be a queue of at least 3 to 12 people waiting. Most likely they are seen as speed dating spots or are somewhere recommended hot spots in small talk beginner’s lessons.

2 June 2007
In contrast to my normal preference of non-arranged photographs, I was trying out something new today. Running around with my camera and a huge beach ball with an imprinted world map in a rather poor area of Brussels city center, I think I made my self rather ridiculous. People were looking at me like I were the eighth world wonder.

1 June 2007
This evening I went to a photo Vernissage in Brussels. The most interesting thing there was a note saying that one may respect that this is an artist’s environment where other people are also living. Visitors may respect these neighbors and be at the same time kind enough as not to urinate (!) onto the street (the exhibition took place in the second floor…).

31 May 2007
About two months ago parts of my Istanbul pictures got lost at the laboratory. The person in charge in Brussels has done a lot in order to find them. Meanwhile she almost became a friend and I am allowed to call her Barbara…

29 May 2007
Nowadays eye doctors seem to divide their patients into two groups: Those whose cornea is thick enough and those whose cornea isn’t. Only if the cornea has a certain thickness, a laser correction of the eye and with that substantial additional income for the eye doctor is possible. There is sort of a positive discrimination for those with the “right” sized cornea.
Another weird detail of the day in Munich: People from Ukraine seem to favor Italian supermarkets that specialize in fruits and vegetables. And it seems that they think I am the only person in Munich to help them find their way to this particular supermarket. For those who know me I think it is quite obvious that Italian supermarkets have so far been of an obscure nature to me. This led to a rather ungentle encounter with at least theoutskirts of the supermarket. You never know, there may be a point in time where I can use that valuable information…

Update: 2014-02-02