Travel Plans: Capitals of Europe

With my upcoming trip to Luxembourg for the second time this year I will be able to cross off a city from the list of European capitals I want to visit.

Country City Last Visited
Austria Vienna  
Belgium Brussels 2001
Czech Republic Prague 2002
Denmark Copenhagen  
Finland Helsinki  
France Paris 2009
Germany Berlin 2003
Greece Athens  
Hungary Budapest 2007
Iceland Reykjavik 2014
Ireland Dublin  
Italy Rome  
Luxembourg Luxembourg 2014
Netherlands Amsterdam 2013
Norway Oslo 2012
Poland Warsaw  
Portugal Lisbon  
Spain Madrid  
Sweden Stockholm  
Switzerland Bern  
UK London 2007

Over time I will be putting links behind the years as I visit them. I also noticed that I never got around to posting pictures from last year’s trip to Amsterdam. I will do that in due time as well.

It’s Nice to Have Options

When I originally bought my Surface Pro, I got it with a Touch Cover. The Touch Cover was thin, light and I had heard good things about the typing experience.

It's Nice to Have Options 2

And for the first couple of months that was true. But over time, I got the feeling that the sensitivity of the touch keyboard was deteriorating. More and more often, I had to hit keys multiple times until they were recognized. As a somewhat fast typist, this was getting annoying.

Therefore I got myself a Type Cover 2 as well. Contrary to what I had expected based on the specs alone, it doesn’t actually feel that much thicker or heavier. But it does provide a much better typing experience than the Touch Cover. Though, of course it cannot beat the regular sized keyboard and mouse I use when the Surface Pro is docked at home.

Nonetheless, I think each kind of these keyboards has it’s own use-case. So I use a

  • Touch Cover when I use the Surface Pro on the road in tablet-mode and I just want a cover to protect the screen.
  • Type Cover when I use the Surface Pro on the road in tablet-mode but expect to do some typing, e.g. taking notes in a meeting.
  • Regular keyboard and mouse at home or on the road for heavy duty typing when the extra baggage is not an issue.

An Idea

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.

An Idea

And who knows, maybe I’ll built something like this some day.

Bring More Culture Into My Life: Check

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”.

Theater

Before that article in May I had already

  • seen all 14 plays at the Maskerade student drama group festival,
  • been to the Theaterwoche Korbach festival with our production Ingrimm seeing some of the plays there
  • and seen two performances at the FFT.

Since then I have

Tickets bw

Art

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.

Blocks

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.

Reading

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:

Do More Good 2013

As has become (sort of) a tradition at the end of the year, I would like to take a moment to review my charitable giving over the past year. Here’s the chart I started last year, continued for 2013.

Giving over the years

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:

  • Deutsches Rotes Kreuz (German Red Cross)
  • Fifty Fifty (a newspaper written by and sold to benefit the homeless in Düsseldorf)
  • Förderverein Löbbecke-Museum + Aquazoo (natural science museum in Düsseldorf)
  • Förderverein Wildpark (wildlife park in Düsseldorf)
  • Matthäikirche (a local church)
  • Theatergruppe am Goethe (drama group at my old school)
  • Theaterwoche Korbach (amateur drama group festival)
  • Unicef
  • Vereinigung ehemaliger Schüler des Rethel- und Goethe-Gymnasiums (alumni organization of my old school)
  • Welthungerhilfe
  • Wikimedia Foundation

A new focus

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.

Selecting a charity

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).

On a personal note

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 :-)