Peder with a D

[plays well with others]

Archive for the ‘Stuff That Gave Me Pause’ Category

June 4, 2009

Posted by Peder on 4 June 2009

What a day.

20th anniversary of the events at Tiananmen (六四事件 / “June 4th Incident”).

Man with tanks at Tiananmen

And, actor David Carradine hanged himself in Thailand.

Grasshopper

Uff da.

Advertisements

Posted in Stuff That Gave Me Pause | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Saga of the Red Truck

Posted by Peder on 3 June 2009

redtruck

Back in January an acquaintance of mine, let’s call her “Kacy,” had a red truck and a boyfriend, and all was right with the world.  The truck was beat up and scruffy looking, but it never broke down and the four-wheel drive got Kacy out of any muddy trouble she could get herself into.

The boyfriend was equally endearing, though significantly easier on the eyes.  He dressed well and always had a snappy compliment for whomever he was speaking with.  Trained as an electrician, he scored major “boyfriend points” by fixing Kacy’s mom’s refrigerator and anything else that would go on the fritz.  And in muggy Belize, there’s no shortage of electrical equipment acting up.

Who's scruffy looking?

Who's scruffy looking?

As was the custom, Kacy and Mr. Right lived together.  Though it’s common for unmarried couples to live together in many parts of the world, the phenomenon reaches new heights here.  Truth is many couples choose to never get married even after years of cohabitation and multiple children together.  It’s hard to say why this happens, but the fondness both genders have for affairs outside of their main relationships certainly must add to the trend.  There’s no shortage of this.  Both women and men will openly talk about new flings they have with people who are not their “baby mama” or “husband.”  More to the point of how loose these relationships are, the words “husband” and “wife” are used loosely and frequently attributed to common law arrangements, or even boyfriends and girlfriends who have been dating for, say, more than six months.  Clearly the laid back indifference of the Caribbean extends to Belizean relationship labels.  But I digress.

Kacy and Mr. Right were living together at her home.  Many of his clothes hung in her closet, his tools were there and his car sat outside next to her truck.  All was right with the world.  But this all changed one April day when Mr. Right borrowed Kacy’s beat up red truck to run an errand that required the 4×4 capability his sedan couldn’t provide.  And he never returned.

No note, no phone call, no nothing.  Mr. Right was Mr. Gone.  He vanished, and he took that reliable pickup truck with him.  Kacy’s reaction was equally amazing/perplexing as she didn’t complain or do anything (substantial) about the disappearance for two months.  Sure, she tried calling him, but he never answered her calls and she never persisted any further.  She simply lived her life and drove his car around town in his absence.  He couldn’t be gone for long if he left his car and belongings at her house, could he?

Fish needing a monger

Fish needing a monger

Well after two months it started looking like he could.  Kacy started to worry so she put in a call to his mother.  She said he had two days to check in with her or she would call the police.  In the meantime she checked with the company he claimed to work for and learned he had been employed there … three years earlier.  A little more investigation found that he had not just the two kids he admitted to, but six.  With three mothers.  Things started stinking worse than the Saturday fish market.

After the two day window, a call to the police provided a lot of clarification.belize-map Turns out Mr. Gone had been previously incarcerated for auto theft in Belize City, and he had a current warrant out for his arrest in Corozal.  (Charges were unspecified.)  He was due in Corozal court this past Monday, so if Kacy put in a formal complaint against him the police would extradite him back to Punta Gorda after his hearing.  And they’d bring the truck too!  Things were starting to look up.  Kacy would get her truck back and get this loser out of her life forever.  She’s been all smiles all week!

Then this morning she found out the police officer driving her truck to her – with Mr. Wrong along for the ride – flipped the vehicle in transit.  Mr. Wrong and the driver are in stable condition, and another cop who was riding in the bed is in critical condition.

The truck was totaled.

Posted in Belize, Stuff That Gave Me Pause | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Stufen (1941), von Hermann Hesse

Posted by Peder on 26 January 2009

Hermann Hesse

Hermann Hesse

Wie jede Blüte welkt und jede Jugend
Dem Alter weicht, blüht jede Lebensstufe,
Blüht jede Weisheit auch und jede Tugend
Zu ihrer Zeit und darf nicht ewig dauern.
Es muß das Herz bei jedem Lebensrufe
Bereit zum Abschied sein und Neubeginne,
Um sich in Tapferkeit und ohne Trauern
In andre, neue Bindungen zu geben.
Und jedem Anfang wohnt ein Zauber inne,
Der uns beschützt und der uns hilft, zu leben.

Wir sollen heiter Raum um Raum durchschreiten,
An keinem wie an einer Heimat hängen,
Der Weltgeist will night fesseln uns und engen,
Er will uns Stuf’ um Stufe heben, weiten.
Kaum sind wir heimisch einem Lebenskreise
Und traulich eingewohnt, so droht Erschlaffen,
Nur wer bereit zu Aufbruch ist und Reise,
Mag lähmender Gewöhnung sich entraffen.

Es wird vielleicht auch noch die Todesstunde
Uns neuen Räumen jung entgegen senden,
Des Lebens Ruf an uns wird niemals enden …
Wohlan denn, Herz, nimm Abschied und gesunde!

Like ev’ry flower wilts, like youth is fading
and turns to age, so also one’s achieving:
Each virtue and each wisdom needs parading
in one’s own time, and must not last forever.
The heart must be, at each new call for leaving,
prepared to part and start without the tragic,
without the grief – with courage to endeavor
a novel bond, a disparate connection:
for each beginning bears a special magic
that nurtures living and bestows protection.

We’ll walk from space to space in glad progression
and should not cling to one as homestead for us.
The cosmic spirit will not bind nor bore us;
it lifts and widens us in ev’ry session:
for hardly set in one of life’s expanses
we make it home, and apathy commences.
But only he, who travels and takes chances,
can break the habits’ paralyzing stances.

It even may be that the last of hours
will make us once again a youthful lover:
The call of life to us forever flowers…
Anon, my heart! Do part and do recover!

This poem hung on the wall of the teacher’s lounge at the Germanic-American Institute. While I had read over it before, I hadn’t really read it until yesterday, my last day of work there. It really spoke to me as I prep to leave … again.

Translation provided by Walter A. Aue and Bertram Kottmann.

Posted in Communication, Internationalism, Stuff That Gave Me Pause | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

What the Obama presidency represents to an expat

Posted by Peder on 25 January 2009

Pragmatism

Pragmatism a la 2004

I was 20 and in Germany during the 2000 presidential election. The night of November 7th, I sat up in my apartment until 4:00 am wondering what was going on with the numbers from Florida. By the time I returned from Europe, George W. Bush had been sworn in as the 43rd POTUS. During his first term I traveled to or lived in eight other nations, and as time wore on the questions about my President became more and more difficult. He was viewed as arrogant and ignorant — a horrible combination in leadership — and his unilateral approach to foreign policy was not well-received abroad, especially in its stark contrast to the approach of the previous administration. Suffice to say, George W. Bush made it more difficult to be an American overseas.

This morning I read an opinion article posted from an American living in Indonesia. Feel free to read the full text here, but I just wanted to republish an excerpt:

“A headline in one [Indonesian] paper summed it up: Welcome Back to the World, America. From Americans living overseas, this is the sentiment I most often hear. We’re not expecting miracles, but to have our leading spokesman again as interested in the rest of the world as we are, and as interested as the rest of the world is in him — this is a source of hope. And yes, that’s a change.”

It continues …

“In America, the big hope is that Obama can take care of some of the pressing domestic misfortunes — job loss, foreclosures, financial oversight. For the rest of the world, the bigger hope is that America is opening its eyes again, seeing itself as a partner in a broader future. For that latter group, [inauguration day was] a chance to say, yes, we’re watching too, and we’re celebrating.”

Photo credit: 10092007309.jpg posted by Yamica

Posted in Internationalism, Stuff That Gave Me Pause | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Too Cold to Snow

Posted by Peder on 5 January 2009

Growing up in the upper Midwest, there was a little piece of household wisdom that seemed to always ring true.  When the temps were down in the single digits or colder (Fahrenheit scale, here) it would never snow.  It was too cold to snow. This was pretty much the worst that winter had to offer because the snow was often replaced by wind, and Cold + Wind = Stay Indoors. Stupid Alberta clippers.

But thanks to this presentation of snowflakes (via TYWKIWDBI) I now know it is not quite that simple.  Different kinds of snow are produced by different weather conditions, as depicted by the final slide:

Kind of interesting how they cycle between plate-like and tube-shaped flakes as you go down the temperature scale. If I’m reading this correctly the curved line titled “Water saturation” represents the amount of water molecules in each flake. That is, the big dendrites and sectored plates made around 0-10F contain the most water molecules per flake. And if there’s not enough water vapor in the atmosphere, smaller plates would be made at those temps. When you consider that colder air doesn’t hold as much water vapor as (comparatively) warmer air, it makes sense why so little snow is produced below 15F.  But if we had lots of moisture and cooled it to that level, we’d make the biggest snowflakes possible — as the scientists that made this graph did. That’s how I’m reading this, anyway. I found some more information on the topic here and here.

Generally when snow falls around here and the weather is over 20F, well, that’s the best.  Big flakes, lots of them, and you can stand being outside to enjoy them.  If the weather is down in the teens you get whispy, trace amounts of snow.  The snow looks smaller because it is smaller; the needles, columns and prisms are a lot smaller than the plates and dendrites formed at warmer temps.  Much colder than that and the air doesn’t have the carrying capacity for any real precipitation.  Hence, too cold to snow.  At least in practice, if not in principle.

Posted in Around Minnesota, Stuff That Gave Me Pause | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

ShoreBank and Van Jones

Posted by Peder on 1 January 2009

A little while ago I wrote about national spending priorities and the need for investment in “green collar” jobs and infrastructure designed around energy efficiencies.  That post garnered me some attention in the blogosphere and I was contacted by a representative from the ShoreBank Corporation.

greencollareconomyIt’s good that more and more people are talking about these ideas (like me), and more and more are taking action on them (ShoreBank).  And this bank has been at it a long time.  ShoreBank is a community development bank out of Chicago with branches and subsidiaries around the country.  It invests in activities designed to spur economic development in low-income areas, and serve communities oft inadequately served by traditional banks.  You may have heard of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh whose founder, Muhammad Yunus, was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for the bank’s activities.  Same idea.

The representative that contacted me and I shared a few emails discussing their efforts and their partnership with Van Jones.  The bank has recently committed to donating to Jones’ foundation, Green For All, for every new online high-yield savings account that is opened.  I don’t know if you’ve looked into online banking and high-yield savings accounts, but I’ve found their interest rates are often better than what brick and mortar banks offer.  I also shared my alma mater’s program in environmental policy, many of whose graduates are doing similar good works.  I was also excited to sign up for my first electronic press kit through the bank and receive a complimentary copy of Van Jones’ book, The Green Collar Economy, which I am very much looking forward to read!  (Goodreads listing)

I’m very pleased that this is my first blog post of the new year.  It’s the types of business opportunities that these organizations support that we need to look toward as we rebuild our economies and industries in 2009. According to their website, “ShoreBank Corp. is America’s first community development and environmental bank holding company.  Their tagline is, “Let’s Change the World.”  Sounds good to me.

Here’s Van Jones again:

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1538611&dest=-1]

Posted in Environmentalism, Stuff That Gave Me Pause | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Tsunami Reveals Bizarre Marine Life

Posted by Peder on 29 December 2008

YouTube is fantastic, so is this video. After the tsunami ravaged Asia in December 2004 a cacophony of odd sea specimens washed up on shore. Dredged from the bottom of the ocean, some look truly alien. My favorite is whatever comes up at the 0:30 mark. What is that?

(Anyway, text is in German, translation after the video.)

Video text translation:

  • December 26, 2004
  • A tsunami wave was triggered by a submarine earthquake in the Indian Ocean off the island of Sumatra
  • A minimum of 231,000 people died in eight Asian nations
  • These marine animals were found days on land days after the catastrophe, after the water had receded …

Posted in Stuff That Gave Me Pause | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Online Holiday Fun

Posted by Peder on 23 December 2008

Xmas in Frisko

Xmas in Frisko

Happy holidays everyone.  We got another dusting of snow overnight in the MSP metro area, bringing the monthly total to something around 14″, making it one of the top 10 snowiest Decembers since they started recording that stuff.  Quite a reintroduction for me, as I’ve spent a lot of recent winters not in the Midwest, but it’s been fun re-learning winter driving techniques (think of a boat over the waves) and who could argue with a white Christmas?

I’ve been spending some more time with Soma FM and their new holiday stations. Xmas in Frisko has been great, with Christmas Lounge on the side for more traditional sounds.

I’ve also been spending some time with Google’s Book Search, which has been expanded and now includes an archive of old magazines on top of the archive of photos from Life magazine.  Very cool stuff.  I decided to look back at what was going on during my first Christmas on earth and found Larry Hagman smiling at me from the cover of a New York Magazine that boasted gift ideas for everyone on your list.  Being from the future, I was naturally drawn to gifts for “The Futurist,” where the Sony Walkman TCS-300 was going for $220. Of course, the ultimate winter outfit would’ve been nice: A reversible fuchsia and turquoise snowsuit that came in one size.  No doubt the $30 lighting rod was the epitome of class, but the four-function calculator and triangle vases would’ve still been pretty trendy in a world yet to experience New Coke, or would they?

Other highlights from that December 1980 issue include a story of a bunch of thirteen-year-olds who hacked Pepsi’s computer system to get cases of cola delivered to their school, questions as to whether President-elect Reagan will give cities the business (no, not the same business [0:39]), and a lot of liquor ads.

So Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Feliz Navidad and Happy Kwanzaa.  May Santa bring you everything you secretly hope for!

picture-21

picture-13

Posted in General Tech-ishness, Music, Stuff That Gave Me Pause | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Military Corruption: A Feel-Good Story

Posted by Peder on 16 December 2008

Though I generally want to refrain from republishing news reported by others in this blog, I just had to share this very disturbing story of corruption in the Defense Department.  Published in Wired Magazine’s Danger Room blog, the story articulates how friends of then-Secretary of Defense benefited to the tune of $9.2 million through a program intended to show overseas troops that the American public supports them.

(Original Story, via Boing Boing)

Superheroes of the Defense Department (Photo from Wired)

The idea behind America Supports You was simple.  “If you’re serving overseas, and you watch the mainstream media coverage, sometimes you can’t tell if America knows you’re there,” said a program official.  The problem was that the troops were not the only ones benefiting.  Soon monies started funneling into “questionable and unregulated actions.”  Then directors of PR firm Susan Davis International started receiving salaries ranging $300k-600k from the fund.  Then Mitch Semel was given a half million dollars for web work.  Most of the money was laundered through the Pentagon-run Stars & Stripes newspaper.  Absolutely horrible.

In light of everything happening with the corruption surrounding Illinois Gov. Blogojevich and the general concern over the mishandling of the wars in Afghanistan, and particularly, Iraq, this story is really disheartening.  Problem is, with some of the other stories regarding no-bid contracts and general abuses as a result of the wars, this really feels like small potatos.

Posted in Stuff That Gave Me Pause | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Real Life: Berlin

Posted by Peder on 14 December 2008

Looking through some old stuff I found this photo I took about eight years ago in Berlin:

real life close-up

Real Life-Instructions (Jan 2001), originally uploaded by Peder with a D.

It reads:

REAL LIFE … Instructions

You should / not

  1. Burn your passport
  2. Destroy geography
  3. Accept statelessness
  4. Reject citizenship
  5. Jump national borders
  6. Abolish nations
  7. Ignore continents
  8. Dissolve cities
  9. Abandon republics
  10. Separate yourself !
I assume it’s a list of things not do do, or maybe it’s being ironic with the whole “should / not” thing.  Do I have a choice?  Also, notice it’s right outside a bus stop, imagine reading that everyday you head into work.  Heavy.
In random unrelated news, I was talking to my buddy last night as we were listening to the new Kings of Leon album.  I like it, but he says he misses the more guitar-centric riffs of they’re first albums.  “This album is a lot more polished than their previous efforts,” I offered.  “More singer-centric.”  He agreed, but like many indie rock purists, claimed the polished sound wasn’t what he wanted to hear.  Then, when the chorus started to hit on “Use Somebody” I had to pause and kind of laugh, “I guess the guitar build up is pretty cliched by this point,” I said.  “Yeah,” he says, “it really hit it’s peak with ‘Sister Christian.'”
That was the song I was listening to when writing this post.  “We’re lucky to bring them back, and please welcome right now, Night Ranger, with their new single … all right!”

Posted in Music, Stuff That Gave Me Pause | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »