One cannot resist an idea whose time has come. Victor Hugo
Stay tuned for more.
One cannot resist an idea whose time has come. Victor Hugo
Stay tuned for more.
As I wrote the other day, I’ve been to the Alexander Calder exhibit at Düsseldorf’s K20 twice. One of the things on exhibit was a work of Hans Arp. I don’t remember exactly which one it was, but it sort of looked like this one called Konstellation.
For some reason it triggered a memory of Stalin’s Rope Roads, a photo set on The Atlantic’s In Focus. I was wondering what it might look like, if the elevated pieces in Arps work where “hills”. Instead of being of the same height, there would be several of different heights, connected by a network of twine. Here’s a very rough sketch of what I have in mind.
And who knows, maybe I’ll built something like this some day.
One of the items in this year’s amendment to my 2011 roadmap for self-improvement was to bring more culture into my life. Today, seven months later, I can say that 2013 has probably been the most “cultural year of my life”.
Before that article in May I had already
Since then I have
But it’s not only theater that’s playing a bigger role in my life now. On 7th November I got the Düsseldorf art:card which grants me free admittance to a large number of Düsseldorf’s museums for one year. Using this card I’ve already been to the following museums:
|14 November 2013||K20|
|14 November 2013||K21|
|14 November 2013||Stadtmuseum|
|20 November 2013||Goethe-Museum|
|11 December 2013||KIT|
|15 December 2013||Filmmuseum|
|15 December 2013||Theatermuseum|
|20 December 2013||K20|
|20 December 2013||Hetjens-Museum|
With the entrance fees saved, I’ve already recouped the original cost of the art:card. But this card is about more than saving money. It also means that I can walk into a museum whenever I feel like it. I don’t have to worry about whether I can see everything in one visit and thus get the most for the price of one ticket.
Like the other day, I had an hour to kill between two appointments downtown, so I went to the K20 and saw the Alexander Calder exhibit a second time, checking out some of the things I had missed on my first visit.
I usually went to these museums when there were few other people there, so the ratio of museum staff to visitors is very high then (often I was the only visitor). What I like to do in these situations is play a little “game”:
Slowly walk through the halls and watch out for the staff watching out for you. They will keep their distance as to not interfere with your experience of the art but position themselves in strategic places from where can overlook large areas. But as you move around in their sector and you’re leaving their field of vision, they will move up to reestablish a line of sight. Observe how they will speed up until they can see you again. Here’s the fun part: as you approach a corner pick up your speed and sharply turn the corner so they lose sight of you in an instant. If you wait right around the corner, you can see them race around the corner, be surprised to almost run into you and then immediately back off. Works every time.
Furthermore, I’ve also been reading a lot more fiction this year than I had in previous years. Here are in no particular order some of the books that I can recommend:
As you can see, the total given has gone up according to the plan I had set last year. However, there hasn’t been a lot of changes in the list of organizations/causes I supported:
Most of these causes, were ones that I myself had benefited from earlier in my life and that I wanted to give back to. Unfortunately, this meant that a lot of my giving was going towards activities in Germany, one of the richest countries in the world. While I believe that these organization do a lot of good, there is a point to be made that my money would be better spent on causes in places that were less well off to begin with.
Hence, I’ve directed about a fourth of my 2013 budget towards Welthungerhilfe, a German organization focused on eradicating poverty and famine, by means of “helping people helping themselves” through emergency relief and education programs. I’ve researched the news about this organization thoroughly and couldn’t find anything but praise for their work.
For 2014 I also wanted to support something in the human rights fields. The two organization that immediately came to mind were Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW). Initially, they seemed pretty much the same and it was hard to pick one over the other. Wikipedia has a section comparing HRW to AI, but it’s not really that helpful.
What I did find helpful was Charity Navigator’s pages about HRW and AI. According to the information there, HRW seems to be the more efficient fund-raiser and also scores better on its financials in general. Furthermore, HRW is supported by George Soros, a man I really respect and who also supports my alma mater, Central European University in Budapest, Hungary (fun fact: if I hadn’t been out of the country at the time and thus unable to attend our graduation ceremony, I would have received my diploma from him personally).
In addition to all this, I’ve also earmarked a certain amount for next year to go towards Be Fund! Germany. This is the German arm (still in the process of being set up) of a charity that M is personally involved with: Be Fund India. You can read more about that on her blog. I think she is doing some tremendous work, which I’m really proud of and love to support. It also gave her an opportunity to spend some time in India. So jealous :-)
I’ve lately been reading a bunch of great books about cities that I would like to share.
Right now I’m in the middle of reading Walkable City by Jeff Speck. I still have some pages to go, but I’m already really impressed by this book. There are so many ideas for making American cities more livable in a more environmentally friendly and sustainable way. Many times, he points to European cities as good examples, even though there are still so many things we could and I think have to do better.
WalkScore.com is also mentioned as a nice tool to help you assess how walkable neighborhoods are, for instance when picking a new place to move to. There’s also TED Talk by the author presenting the main points from the book if you are short on time.
One of the things Speck argues against the most in Walkable City is suburbia and the sprawl it begets. So it’s interesting to contrast this book with Building Suburbia by Dolores Hayden. Before reading this book, I had no idea there was a time when people would mail-order their houses , receive a kit and then with the help of family, friends and neighbors to built their home from parts. Or how trams/street cars where built by developers, not the city or another government agency, to allow new home owners to reach the suburbs and thus increase the value of their plots.
Another great book on how to improve neighborhoods and cities is Smart Growth Manual that Jeff Speck was also involved in. In short, snappy chapters, it contains a number of great tips what planners can do to improve many details of city life. Even though European cities such as the one I’m living in are already doing a lot of these things, some of these tips could still be applied here. The FastCompany blog, which I read regularly, has a list of the 10 Smartest Cities in North America. Boston ranks pretty high on that list, thanks to many features that also make it my favorite city in America.
And of course no list of books on cities would be complete without a mention of Jane Jacobs’ classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities. I have to admit that I did not read this book all the way through. It is pretty lengthy. Nonetheless, the points it is making are now just as valid as they were when the book was originally published: such as the importance of an active street life on sidewalks, parks that are safe, because they are used throughout the day – by different types of people at different times.
I am living in Düsseldorf, a city that regularly ranks among the best in the world on Mercer’s quality of living index. Reading these books showed me that city planners here have done a lot of things well over the years and I am very lucky to be benefiting from their foresight. The way my neighborhood and city is set up also makes it easy to live relatively environmentally friendly: Everything I need for my day-to-day shopping is within walking distance. As are more than half a dozen bus, tram and light-rail stops. To get to my place of work, I can pick from one of four tram lines for a ten minute ride.
Still, there are things that could be done better around here. For instance, the network of bicycle lanes is rather lacking, making it inconvenient and/or unsafe to ride a bike in some parts of town. Places such as Münster and Amsterdam are doing much better in this regard and I think it would be wise to learn from them.
Ever since upgrading to Firefox 25 I have been getting this error message randomly when starting a new instance of the browser:
Apparently, Firefox hadn’t shut down properly the last time I exited it, as I could still see the old process hanging around.
Originally, I had figured I would wait, maybe there was a fix under way. But since a few weeks have passed since the update, and we are now on version 25.0.1 already, I figured there was no point waiting anymore. So instead of starting Firefox directly, I now use this small batch file:
taskkill /IM firefox.exe /T /F start "" "C:\Program Files (x86)\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe" -p default
I saved it as a cmd-file and redirected the pinned shortcut I had previously used to start Firefox directly, to point to this batch file instead.
To do that, just
Now, the batch file kills any existing instance of Firefox before starting a new one. Unfortunately, this does not help when opening links from other applications such as your email program.
Hence I’m still interested in fixing this problem for good. If anybody knows how to do that, please leave a comment.
[2013-12-21 Update] I was upgraded to Firefox 26.0 yesterday and I haven’t had the problem since.
Like last year and the years before, I want to use the anniversary of my first post as an opportunity to recap what has happened on my blog over the past year. And, of course, show off some statistics. Overall it’s been a good year, although I have been somewhat irregular with posting new stuff. What I did post, though, seems to get me some visitors, as these pictures show.
The most surprising thing about these visitors to me was that so many came here looking for information on the Canon N1240U scanner and Windows 8. Since I wrote about it six months ago, that post has become the most requested post on this blog.
As of this writing, it has been viewed 624 times, just surpassing the former #1 post A Generic Object Factory in C# which has had 609 views but has been on the site for more than three years.
Another fun fact about my blog and search engines: I sometimes get visitors that have searched for the weirdest things. Such as this one person, apparently looking for something on both Price and Prejudice and the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN).