Monthly Digest #2: March & April 2017

When real life intrudes, in my case it usually does so in full force. Too many things had been piling up for too long and when we hit our annual extended exam phase at school on top of all of that, little time was left to update this small corner of mine on the web. A whole bunch of blog posts were started and subsequently shelved as there wasn’t enough time left to complete them in any sensible fashion.

As I have alluded to several times these past months, the time spent online has been so drastically reduced around my household that it actually isn’t funny anymore. If I do spend time online, it is usually only to stay on top of the news, to check Twitter once in a while and, most of all, to research things I am interested in. That’s it. Whereas in the past I used to “surf” around a lot more than I should have, today I do the opposite and “hop” around quickly for a shorter while.

School, school, school.

In short, 92% of the time was spent doing school-related work and making sure my students did well on the various exams facing them. Whenever possible, I also attended many of the school events that have started rolling around for our school’s 50th anniversary, which will have its grand finale this summer. As I have been here for almost 25 years, something I really hadn’t planned on when I first arrived, I feel the events and celebrations taking place also reflect a large part of my own life in this area. These events have also given me the chance to reacquaint myself with many former students and former colleagues, all of whom I hadn’t seen or heard from for ages, especially since I moved off Facebook a few years back. Unfortunately, for many people Facebook seems to be the only way they communicate with the world and because I have consciously removed myself, I’m usually out of the loop in regard to what happened in many people’s lives.

 

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Life, life, life.

Besides that, the past 47 days (yes, I counted them) between the last post and this one were spent …

  • researching a possible new place of residence,
  • traveling back and forth between my hometown and both Stuttgart (better half) in the South and Bonn (parents) in the North,
  • downsizing my household (instead of hawking some furniture and other things I wanted to get rid of on eBay or elsewhere, I spent the time looking for people from work or around my area to give them to because I know they will appreciate the items and give them a comfy new home),
  • giving my apartment a serious spring cleaning work-over (it’s unbelievable how many nooks and crannies this place has),
  • preparing three years of tax declarations (yes, in Germany we don’t have to declare anything for longer periods of time, especially if tax returns are a given, which they are in my case),
  • attempting to reorder more than 100 chock-full folders of school material (= throwing out most of what I have because we seemingly switch to new books  every few weeks),
  • rearranging a ton of digital material I have on external hard drives in preparation for setting up a brand-new PC sometime this summer (bigger, faster, better),
  • trying to get a grip on a seriously large chunk of my digital music collection which I managed to rip without tagging and sorting properly (I just “threw” it onto some huge external drives to be dealt with later),
  • trimming the fat from a large collection of other digital files and freeing several hard drives because I don’t feel like buying any new ones (most new available external USB drives suck and aren’t worth half of what they cost),
  • realigning the various HiFi setups I have around my place (moving speakers, updating cables, rethinking my setup … which involved shifting shelves and furniture),
  • listening to music whenever I had the time (not much new to write home about, but lots of stuff I rediscovered),
  • catching up on a bunch of TV series (btw: I don’t know if I am the only one who really enjoyed the first two seasons, but “Colony” is an excellent series, not because it has any spectacular SciFi effects, but because it is actually an excellent take on how different individuals react to foreign occupation),

All of that takes time.
Lots of it.

So, whenever I actually sat down to write a blog post, after a short while I was too tired to finish it. But, don’t despair, I have three extensive blog posts which are reaching their final stages and two, which are half-way done. They’ll pop up here sooner than later. If it weren’t for WriteMonkey, most of it would probably have been lost. I love the serenity of that program, which allows me to add a few lines here or there, polish some outline or simply collect some thoughts.

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(Eclectic) News, news, news.

Venezuela: It is absolutely frightening to see what is happening in Venezuela, a country I still have fond memories of and have some dear friends in. Europe is talking about everything else (right-wing movements, Turkey, Brexit, and lots of self-referential stuff), but when it comes to Venezuela, I have read nothing but abbreviated news items from news agencies and the media paying lip service to issues which should be on the front pages time and again. If you know people who have to suffer every minute of every damn day (and increasingly so) because of a misguided and inhumane Socialist government (dictatorship is probably a more apt description), you simply get a different perspective and there isn’t a day that goes by without me checking the amount of sh*t hitting the fan in the country. Opposition leaders disappearing in jails, (supreme) courts bowing to pressure and adding on to the misery, global politics ignoring the plight of the population in favor of economic interests. People killed on a regular basis without the world’s leaders really giving a f*ck. Rampant inflation, death squads / government-sanctioned murder, poverty, death by malnutrition and caused by the absence of medical services (and medication), an economy run into the ground by people whose only interest seems to be personal gain. Wide-spread corruption. Sadness. Frustration. Fear. Hopelessness. The global community is failing Venezuela on a frighteningly horrendous scale and – that’s the sad and cynical aspect – none of this ignorance surprises me in the least. 20th century history is ripe with this kind of reaction to a state turning into a failed one and that Donald Trump’s hair, daughter and golfing escapades seem to be more important should not really be news to anyone. Disgusting.

Europe: After The Netherlands narrowly avoided turning into a right-wing infused state, France seemingly decided to opt for a wishy-washy candidate by a narrow margin to keep the right-wing in check. That doesn’t really boost my confidence in a country which has been on the balance for years now.

In Germany, the AFD, a right-wing group camouflaging as one that desperately tries not to be, moved even further to the right by ousting a somewhat “popular” figure (a frustrating nuisance in my book). Much like in France, that might have given democracy a brief reprieve, but one wonders what the next round of elections will bring. Democracy has taken serious hits all around Europe and all that is needed in my home country is a destabilizing attack by someone to bring the house down. Having a grand coalition in power for all too long has once again proven to be the least effective method of keeping anti-democratic sentiment at bay. The question is for how long.

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Moo: If you’re thinking of cows, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Because a frequent reader of this websitesite passed on a gift certificate to me (Thanks!!), I decided to get a business card printed by one of the world’s best on-demand printing services (I don’t really know any other ones that deliver this kind of instant quality every single time), moo.com. Once again (I ordered some of their products in the past for friends of mine), they delivered superior quality and I ordered a deus62.com Letterpress business card to pass on to people I’d like to keep in touch with. In the end, all that counts is if they work, and in my case they did. They ain’t cheap, but they are worth (much) more than they cost!

Rösle: In an attempt to downsize my kitchen utensils, I managed to throw out a cupboard-full of plastic pots and containers when I replaced them with a series of Rösle bowls that cover all my needs. The best thing is that the bowls’ lids fit on cooking pots I have as well. Not cheap, at all, but a great way of cutting down on superfluous stuff cluttering up your cupboards. Rösle is a German company with an excellent reputation, one that they deserve as well … a rare thing nowadays.

Unsplash: I got with the program early on, but if you didn’t know it already, Unsplash has quickly turned into the world’s leading “free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos” repository. It’s got an active community, a sh*tload of high-quality photos to rival anything that’s available commercially and, yes, most of what they have is simply better because it’s more original and comes from “people” instead of faceless (calculating) “companies“. In an age of ever-more commercialized websites trying to squeeze every single cent out of unsuspecting visitors, Unsplash is both a breath of serious fresh air and the greatest thing since sliced bread. If you need quality photos to accompany a project of yours, this is the website to check first! Incidentally, the featured image accompanying this post is one by JJ Thompson that a search for “school” unearthed in half a second (945,245 views, 13210 downloads, 160 likes).

Music: The early Fleetwood Mac material (Kiln House, 1970, Future Games,1971, Bare Trees, 1972, Penguin and Mystery to Me, 1973, as well as Heroes are Hard to Find, 1974) has been made available in the form great-sounding downloads (on HDTracks, for example) a short while ago. I have them all and if you have any interest in the material, these are the new versions to get. Henrik Freischlader, perhaps Germany’s best (blues) guitarist, has released his (blues) tribute to Gary Moore. I’m not (!) a fan of the few guest vocalists on the album, but if you want to hear what this guy can do and how to approach a tribute album, this is perhaps the best thing out there. The 50th anniversary edition of “Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim” was a huge disappointment. It stayed in my household for exactly 24 hours. Crap. Again. Voces8, a vocal group which probably nobody knows how to pronounce, has been releasing excellent recordings these past many years. In the quiet moments, Eventide (2013), Lux (2015) and Winter (2016) have been in constant rotation here these past 8 weeks. Highly recommended, if you happen to be into this (mostly) “a capella” kind of music. Sheryl Crow put out a new album that I had high hopes for, and it’s more than decent, but “Be Myself” (2017) didn’t live up to those expectations. It just didn’t manage to grow on me. Pity.

Weather: Sucks, currently. We had some very nice spring days, but if the past years are anything to go by, global warming will once again provide us with a direct jump from deep winter into blisteringly hot summer. With a rented apartment beneath the roof of the candy-colored house I live in in, I’m not looking forward to the latter.

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There was more and there could have been more here, but some of the things have been cut for future posts which – hopefully – won’t need another 47 days to reach completion.

Stick around.
I ain’t done yet.

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P.S.: Heads up to D.K. for once again reaching out to check if I had died, moved, disappeared or otherwise just been removed off the surface of this depleted planet. Dave is one of the very, very few friends from way back when who can be relied on even if the sun refuses to shine. Much appreciated, Dave! Kudos!

Posted by Volkher Hofmann

Volkher Hofmann (deus62) has been blogging on and off since the 1990s and deus62.com is all that is left. He loves music, literature, drumming and, most of all, real life. He thinks the open web is much more important than social networks, closed-in ecosystems and other severely commercialized online endeavors.

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