Monthly Archives: October 2003

Communicating in the Digital Age I confess. I’…

Communicating in the Digital Age

I confess. I’m a junkie for things digital. I love “playing with” the technology so I can learn to use it. I often am guilty of using a technology, such as publishing this blog, just to see if I can do it, and then later I have to struggle to find something worth publishing. That’s one reason my blog isn’t as frequently-updated as others that I read regularly. They, it would appear, had something to communicate to begin with and then found the technology that gave them an easy way to communicate it. I, on the other hand, had found the technology to post items and then rarely had anything worth posting. “What I wore to work this morning” type posts don’t attract many readers, and after a while, they become boring even to the poster.

When I first discovered that I could email people I knew, I would often send almost anything I found of interest to almost everyone on my mailing list. Little did I realize how frequently what I found interesting wasn’t necessarily of interest to my friends. Then as others also learned to use email and began to do the same things, I started receiving the same kind of stuff from them, and often it was the same stuff I had sent out earlier to them or others. As soon as the shoe was nicely fitted to the other foot, I realized the burden receiving unsolicited messages can be. Occasionally, something fresh would come my way, but more often what I got was something I had seen earlier. That’s why the Snopes web site became and continues to be so valuable to me, because they provide a valuable resource by cataloging the Internet flotsam and jetsam so that one can separate fact from fiction, fresh from stale. But the Internet is a big place and no one can see everything new that is posted to it, so the idea of sharing what you discover still seems valid in some cases. Passing along what you receive along to others just naturally follows, I guess. So I live with receiving some things again and again, as I suppose other do as well.

Yesterday, I did it again. I began experimenting with an ability my email program, TheBat!, gives me to do a mass mailing. I created a group of about 30 people from my address book, friends and relatives, that I communicate with semi-regularly, and I sent out a message tailored to each of them, announcing that I planned to write them on some regular schedule (I suggested once a week, but in fact it may be less often) so that I’d not overlook writing personal information I wanted to share with them on a more regular basis. Like everyone else, I have a number of people with whom I exchange email regularly, but also like everyone else I suppose, there are some in my address book that I fail to write as frequently as I think I should. In my initial message, I gave them the option of saying they would prefer NOT to receive such messages from me, and so far, only one has asked that I not send him any “mass mailings.” It was the words, mass mailing list, that he rejected I think. I will of course honor his request, but it helped to point out a basic misunderstanding of just what a mass mailing list is, I think. So I wrote him back this message (with his name and identity redacted, of course).

He said: I do not want to be on a mass mailing list, Perry. We have corresponded on a personal basis for so many years, that I would miss that. If your popularity and correspondence lists have grown cumbersome, please relegate me to an occasional personal epistle.

I’ll be glad to remove you from this list if you wish, but since your message implies a misunderstanding, please read on below.

He said: I know it is probably becoming a chore to keep up with everything — and, I feel sure I have grown to be a big, fat thorn in your ass. But, I guess, that’s life. I would miss hearing from you: we have covered so many topics over the years – and it has been most enjoyable. At least, keep me in your thoughts: there is a certain Heimweh that grows with age. You will feel it someday.

I don’t consider you a “thorn in my ass” but rather a dear friend, and being on the list in question would not mean any change in our correspondence otherwise. So you won’t get to “miss” hearing from me, unless you are asking that I remove you from my Address Book (which I don’t think you are, by the way) or all mass mailings I do (which you probably are asking but don’t realize it).

Just to give a parallel, lets say I asked you to remove me from your mass mailings. What, you say, I don’t do any mass mailings! Of course you do. Whenever you send a message to more than one person, that is a mass mailing … just not a personalized one. You do a mass mailing every Christmas with your annual Christmas letter. Every time you receive a joke you like, or a funny picture, or whenever an old mutual friend gets sick and dies and you send your announcement to more than one person, you are doing a mass mailing … just not a personalized one.

So in keeping with your wishes, I have removed you from this list, and since you don’t want to be on mass mailing lists, I’ll be sure that when I send out anything to more than one person that you aren’t on those lists either. If I have something to communicate to you alone, of course, I’ll still send you a message. So, upon further review, I guess because of your aversion to being on a “mass mailing list” it may mean that our correspondence will lessen after all, simply because as I’m going through my distribution for some of the things I forward to more than one person I’ll not be including you because that would be putting you on a mass mailing list and breaking my promise.

I can understand your reaction to being on a mass mailing list, but when you think about it, you’ve have been on many, and you even use them yourself. You just don’t think of them as such. Still, unless you tell me otherwise, I’ve removed you from any mass mailings I send. You can let me know (in a personal message of course ) how it affects the volume of mail you receive from me.

And just so I can feel the effect of this choice of yours, please reciprocate by removing me from any mass mailings you do, too. Let’s see how this goes. I fear it won’t help our communication, but we’ll see.

Since I’ve just sent that message to him, I don’t know whether he’ll decide that his understanding of a mass mailing is in error or whether he’ll stick to his guns and retain his wish not to be included. I will of course honor his request if that’s what he wants.

The experience does show, however, that playing with technology, just to learn to use it, is fraught with unforeseen consequences to relationships.

Panoramic views of Berlin If anyone is still foll…

Panoramic views of Berlin

If anyone is still following this weblog and you are interested in more pictures of Berlin (albeit ones that I did not take), here are some wonderful panoramic views of Berlin. The links at the bottom of the page take you to images of specific sites and display those images in the QuickTime viewer. If you don’t have that viewer on your computer, a link is provided where you can get it for free.

I also noted that you can save these images to your hard disk by clicking on the small downward facing triangle at the bottom right corner of the image which will reveal a subset of menus. Choose “Save as source.” The advantage of saving them to your hard disk rather than just viewing them online is that when you view them on your personal copy of QuickTime, you can select the menu item, “Movie,” (in QuickTime) and choose to view them Full Screen. This presents a much larger image that still has all the functionality of the images on the web.

That functionality includes being able to left click inside the picture and drag the image so that it reveals a full 360 degree view of the picture. If you press the Shift key, the image will zoom in, and pressing Ctrl causes the image to zoom out. These images, made available by Studio Kohlmeier, are a wonderful way to “see” Berlin without actually making the trip there or in preparation for doing so.

At home and back into the routine (a.k.a. the rut)…

At home and back into the routine (a.k.a. the rut)

Now that the great Berlin adventure is over, I have fallen back into the routine of going to work, coming home late at night, watching a little television and collapsing into the bed before getting up to repeat the process another day. I must confess that the experience of writing this blog was made more interesting by having something going on in my life worth reporting. The daily routine doesn’t provide that much worth reporting to the world at large.

One of the unexpected pleasures of having written my account of the trip to Berlin is that some unexpected readers have given it more significance that it probably deserved. Ms. Diana Smith’s class got exposed to my account because Alan Kegley chose to take it to school and make them aware of it. In a comment to my October 7th entry, Ms Smith indicated that she had used it to help her class learn about the geography of Germany and that the class had found that study more interesting because of having read of someone’s recent visit there. That comment served to remind me that one never knows, but he should always remember, that what he does is seen by others and may have an influence on them.

For my “fan,” Alan Kegley Tonight I learned tha…

For my “fan,” Alan Kegley

Tonight I learned that the adventures chronicled in this weblog have captured the interest of one, Alan Kegley, the fifteen-year-old son of one of my associates at work, Diane Kegley. Diane tells me that as she was reading the weblog while I was in Germany, Alan asked her what she was reading and she explained that it was something that a friend of hers from work had written about his travel to Germany. The fact that I was in Germany caught Alan’s interest, and he began to look forward to hearing what had happened when he came home from school each day. His interest stemmed, it seems, from the fact that the only familiarity he had with Germany was what he had learned from the war movies he had seen where the Germans were the enemy and someone like John Wayne was the hero. That got me to thinking that Alan’s familiarity with Germany and the Germans probably isn’t too different from that of many Americans. Movies are powerful shapers of perception, after all. But for you, Alan, I’d like to point out a few things.

The Germans of the movies you have seen, the Nazis, though real were a very brief and painfully horrible period in German’s long history, only about 13 years. Even Germans today, and perhaps especially Germans today, shudder at what happened in their country during that time. They take special care to remember the time when they were led by Adolph Hitler into the madness that resulted in World War II, and they vow never to forget or to ever let it happen to them again. They are today, quite simply, like people everywhere else in the world. As often happens, from a distance the people of a country seem to others to be the way the leaders of that country make them seem. But at the personal level, I found the Germans I met to be “normal” everyday, good people. One should never confuse the people of a country with the administration of that country. Sometimes leaders who have the power give the citizens of a country a bad name because of their policies and their own lust for power. The ordinary citizens frequently find themselves at odds with such policies, just as, I would point out, might be true of Americans today. Some in the world might think that everyone in this country advocates the same things that the current administration advocates, and that just is too simple an explanation of the way things are to be true. The great danger we all face is that we permit things to happen, as the Germans did, because we don’t oppose strongly enough policies with which we disagree.

Perhaps your interest in Germany also stems from the fact that your own ancestors came from there. I would encourage you to learn about the Germany that preceded the Third Reich and the Germany that has come after it. The country has a rich and varied history, well worth your study, and I would suggest even your admiration. The world would be a better place if more ordinary citizens from countries in dispute with each other could know each other on a personal level as individuals rather than looking upon each other as members of a foreign group. One to one, we are all human beings who at the same time are capable of error and of great kindness and love.

Alan’s mother, Diane, told me that Alan wanted to print out this weblog and take it with him to school. I’m delighted and honored that you would want to do that, Alan, and you have my permission to share these thoughts with your schoolmates. Maybe you’ll all benefit by learning to appreciate people from different cultures and to see them as human beings, not just as actors in some movie version of reality.

Thank you, my friend, for following my story. Your interest has paid me quite a compliment.

My last few days in Germany Travel sure takes i…

My last few days in Germany

Travel sure takes it out of you. Though I’m beginning to recover, traveling halfway around the world sapped my energy for the last couple of days, so it is only now that I’m getting around to catching up my recollection and thoughts about my trip. And I have yet to write about two trips that Paul and I took during my last few days in Germany. So in the interest of chronological accuracy, I’ll begin first with the trip we made on Tuesday, the 30th, to Quedlinburg. Paul suggested this trip so that I’d have a chance to see “old” Germany in contrast to the inner city of Berlin, that is undoubtedly on the other end of that scale. I’m glad he did because it provided a chance for some pictures of the picturesque old city. Because film costs are not nearly the issue they used to be (because of digital cameras), I made a lot of shots of different buildings that illustrated the architecture of the city, but because they are all so similar I’ve only chosen to put a few of them up at my gallery. It was during this trip that I had the chance to experience the Autobahn for the first time and to see the countryside for the first time.

On Wednesday, October 1, we made the trip from Berlin to the island of Usedom on the Northeastern coast of Germany in the Baltic Sea. The trip of about 220 KM took about three and a half hours, in part because much of it was on the less-than-perfect Autobahn in what used to be East Germany and on narrow roads on the island of Usedom. The promoters of the concert had secured us a room at a very nice hotel in Heringsdorf, a seaside resort town toward the Southeastern end of the island. The concert itself was held in Pennemunde in what used to be an electrical power plant that still, of course, retained the appearance of an industrial facility, but the hall in which the concert was performed was remarkable amenable to that role. After a substantial lunch that included a local delicacy called Soljalke (spelling uncertain), a tomato-based soup with a definite lemon flavor, which is an essential ingredient Paul told me, we took a needed nap. Maxe knew instinctively how to make use of the facilities. (See photo here.)

The concert, as previously noted, was in Pennemunde, a town that during WWII was the site of Werner von Braun and his team of scientists’ development of the V-1 rockets used by the Germans against the Brits. Though I took a picture in the twilight of some vestiges of those times, they are too dark to warrant posting in my web gallery. The old power plant was decorated elaborately for the event and served remarkably well for the occasion.

Paul’s friend, Krystoff Penderecki conducted the concert with the orchestra from Hannover and the Polish Chorus and Boys Choir from Krakow all of whom performed his Credo, a work written originally in 1998. As I said to Paul, it seemed like a musical “Dagwood Sandwich” in that not only the “normal” instruments were used but also such things as chimes, bells, gongs, all manner of precussive instruments. Two choruses, five soloists, and a split orchestra (the brass section was at the back of the auditorium) performed the very interesting piece. It wasn’t tunefully familiar, but it was entertaining and I never lost interest.

Both the visit to Quedlinburg and the one to Usedom gave me the opportunity to experience very different German environments that I’m grateful I had the chance to know. My last full day in Germany was spent with Paul at home attempting to enhance his understanding of using his CD burner to create backups and to capture some of the files from his computer onto CD.

Now, that brings me up to the time on Saturday, the 4th, when I made the trip back to the U.S. But that is a long enough story to leave for another entry, when I have the time. So stay tuned.

Auf Wiedersehen, Berlin This will be my last en…

Auf Wiedersehen, Berlin

This will be my last entry from Berlin. I leave the city for home tomorrow, and as with all vacations, though I’ve had a lot of fun and seen a lot of things, I am looking forward to getting back to familiar surroundings and the comforts of having “my” things around me, in particular to regaining access to my own computer. The trip has been all that I had hoped and more, and my time visiting Paul is a memory that will last a lifetime.

The break in my posting to this weblog has been due to our travels over the last few days, so some catching up is in order. On Tuesday, the 30th, we took a trip to Quedlinburg, an ancient city about 150 km to the southwest of Berlin. I was delighted to see another side of Germany and how much the countryside here looks like the countryside in virtually any state in my own country. And I was also pleased to have had the experience of traveling on one of the many Autobahns, even if the experience did provide a few heart-in-the-throat moments.

The Autobahn, as you no doubt know, has no speed limit in certain sections of its route. It does, however, have speed limits in many parts where the congestion or other conditions warrant it. (At points it is even as low as 60 kmph.) Riding on the Autobahn is pretty much like riding along any divided superhighway in the U.S. except occasionally when you happen to be on one of those stretches where the speed is unlimited. On our trip to Quedlinburg, we were on one such stretch riding along in the center lane at about 130 kmph or 81.25 mph (miles = kilometers/8 and multiply the result by 5) when a shockwave rocked our car as first one and then another Porsche blew by us as if were were standing still. It startled me since I as the passenger hadn’t had the preparation of seeing them approaching through the rearview mirror. Whoosh! went one, then whoosh! the other flew by on our left, and the VW in which we were riding shook as if an earthquake had occurred. With no forewarning of the shockwave, my heart leapt into my throat and almost reflexively I exclaimed “Holy Shit!” as these powerful cars roared past us at speeds that must have been upwards of 200 kmph (125 mph). Our car shook like a parked car would if an 18-wheeler had passed immediately adjacent to it while doing 75 mph. My testosterone-afflicted younger friends would be in hog heaven to have access to the freedom to “open her up” on highways like these, I’m sure, but at my age, I have no need for that kind of speed. Interesting, but not enticing.

Once we left the Autobahn and got onto the two lane highways that led us toward Quedlinburg, I was struck by another uniqueness here in Germany. Everywhere here one sees wind driven electricity generators like the three near Oak Ridge. I have no idea what percentage of Germany’s electrical needs are met by such devices, but it must be substantial because the number of groves of these things that dot the countryside is overwhelming.

The report on both Quedlinburg and Usedom and my last night in Berlin will have to wait until I’m back in the U.S. More to come from the other side of the Atlantic, once I get there. So for now Auf Wiedersehen, Berlin.