How to look German

Hamburg sits on the Elbe river, a few kilometers inland. A cunning tax dodge in 1189 propelled it into becoming Europe’s second largest port, and a world class red light district soon followed, surrounded by dive bars and seedy nightclubs. These days the city is keener to present the area through rose-tinted John Lennon glasses, omitting to mention that the Beatles played the Star-Club mostly because they couldn’t get a paying gig anywhere else in 1962.

The Elbe is apparently pretty deep, because the Queen Mary 2 was there. She’s the largest ocean liner in the world, making the Titanic look small in comparison. She takes around 7 days to cross the Atlantic, at a price of $1000+. Mind you, that’s not much more than we paid for our tickets, and if they have broadband on the ship I wouldn’t even need to use up vacation days on the crossing. I bet the food’s nicer than Continental. If they toned down the swanky ballrooms a bit and made it cheaper, they could have a compelling business proposition. But I digress.

Grapefruit

A while back I was talking to someone about fresh fruit, and I said that I couldn’t understand how people can eat grapefruit. The person I was talking to informed me that I had the wrong idea about grapefruit, and that in fact ruby red grapefruit was sweet and delicious. I don’t remember who that person was, but in case he or she is reading, I’d just like to say:

Wallowing in the past

We like to think that we are immune to propaganda. Yes, other feeble-minded individuals may allow their attitudes to be shaped by the media and their surroundings, but we’re sure that we are far too smart for that.

In 1975, John Cleese savagely satirized British attitudes to Germany, in the classic Fawlty Towers episode The Germans. After a blow to the head, hotel proprietor Basil Fawlty loses his ability to self-censor. While taking a dinner order from some German guests, he proceeds to blurt out the names of Nazis; eventually he descends into xenophobic ranting.

The sad thing is that after 30 more years, nothing much has changed.

World famous in Germany

Once it was decided that we were going to Hamburg, I decided to do some research and see if there were any of the famous Germans I knew of were from Hamburg. In particular, I wanted to know if any of the musicians or bands I’m a fan of happened to be from the area. The answer, unsurprisingly, was yes. Holger Hiller was born in Hamburg. He played in various local bands, founded a band called Palais Schaumberg, then went on to a solo career in which he created the first album to be constructed entirely of samples from other albums—and a length of plastic drainpipe.

Jason Fortuny update

Ironic quote: You are sending me direct contact information that is sensitive. I protect your privacy in the following ways: (1) I will never sell, rent, or give away your address to any outside party, ever; (2) I will never send you any unrequested e-mail, besides e-mail in the regular course of business; and (3) Your information is stored behind network address translation and a software firewall. That’s Jason Fortuny’s privacy policy, as stated on his web site before his prank.

Hamburg introduction

I have to admit that Hamburg had never made it to my shortlist of places I wanted to visit. Apparently I’m not alone in that respect, because research soon revealed that there weren’t any English-language guidebooks about Hamburg in print. I started assembling what information I could from online sources, while rothko purchased 2 German guidebooks and started reading those.

The reason for our choice of destination was simple: both sides of rothko’s family can be traced back to Hamburg. It was to be a visit to the ancestral homeland, and a chance to do some genealogical research. We would be staying with some distant relatives who had visited Minnesota many years before.

The shortest air journey from Austin to Hamburg is two hops via Continental. Unfortunately, the timing is less than ideal; the first flight leaves Austin at 06:30, and on arrival in Newark there’s a 6 hour gap before the connecting flight to Hamburg. Factoring in the recommendation that you arrive 2 hours prior to departure, drive time to the aiport, parking, shuttle buses and so on, I realized I was going to have to wake up around 04:00 at the latest.

The asshole bar is raised again

A few days ago a web developer in Seattle called Jason Fortuny posted a personal ad to the Seattle Craigslist. He apparently lifted the text from a personal posted to another city’s Craigslist.

The ad was a sexually explicit one, from a submissive woman seeking BDSM sex. Fortuny posted it using the Craigslist e-mail anonymizing option. He then collected the responses—178 or more, with at least 145 photos.

Then he published everything on the web. Every single response, unedited, including all the personal information and photographs that people had sent him.

You’ll find threads about it all over the place if you do a few searches. I’m not going to link to any of it, and I’m not going to give any clues to where the personal information was posted. Go search if you really feel you must know; I don’t feel the need to make the victims’ problems even worse by increasing Fortuny’s pagerank scores.

There are a few things I find interesting about the reaction I’ve seen.

Oblique things

Being laidback, easygoing types, the spouse and I often end up having long and tedious conversations about where to go eat, along the lines of: “Are you hungry?” “I guess so.” “Let’s go out.” “OK.” “Any ideas?” “Umm… don’t mind, really.” “What kind of food do you feel like?” “I don’t really have any strong preference.” I used to have similar problems with Richard in Cambridge, and came up with an idea I called Oblique Restaurants.

Back

We’re back from Hamburg. I will write lots more later, obviously; I’m still catching up on everything. I have about 250 photos, so watch out for upcoming Flickr action. Right now I’m upgrading our home server’s hard drive so I can add a photo library area. That and some stupid Debian update made the machine unbootable (spurious GRUB errors), so I’m switching it to Ubuntu like my laptop. It seems that since Sarge finally shipped, debian-testing has become debian-unstable, with bleeding edge broken releases of core packages a regular occurrence.