Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Photo Blog

Yes, I have started a photo blog, Camera Digitalis. I have been thinking about all the photos I’ve got on my PC, several thousands of them, including some old slides and also scans from old albums. I could have uploaded them to sites like Flickr, but I wanted to do something more with them, so I have selected them in a particular way and organised them in pairs or sometimes threes. On the odd occasion I have borrowed from other sources, but then I always include the source in the file name. I have uploaded 15 posts so far and there are many more in the pipeline. Most of my digital photos enlarge quite well when you click on them, which obviously is the best way to see details, but otherwise it might be more beneficial to look at them together.

You will get the picture (ha ha) when you visit. There’s a thought behind every post, sometimes obvious, other times more obscure, but since I have such intelligent and lateral-thinking readers and visitors, I am sure you will experience brief moments of enjoyment if you take your time to check out my photo blog. Comments are, as always, very welcome!

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Thank you Eric for that honour.

Eric says : Those people I've given this award to are encouraged to post it on their own blogs; list three things they believe are necessary for good, powerful writing; and then pass the award on to the five blogs they want to honour, who in turn pass it on to five others, etc etc. Let's send a roar through the blogosphere! The image above can be copied and pasted onto other blogs. Also, a small size of the award for sidebars can be found over at the writing circle site.

I don’t write my blog with literary ambitions, I just write a personal blog, nothing like a short story or a novel. It was very kind of Eric to award me this roaring lion; I hope I am a worthy recipient. The five blogs I will send this to are also personal bloggers, most of them expats. I always try to visit them regularly to keep up with events.

Good, powerful blog writing would involve:

  1. A catchy post title and/or an interesting, attention-grabbing first paragraph.
  2. Good descriptive writing which engages the reader.
  3. The ability to be non-offensive when using expressions of strong emotion or opinion.
  4. Extra – Remembering to use the spell-check function! ;-)

So, here are my five (OK, six then):


I have to begin with Christina, who was the first blogger I visited after having read an article about expat bloggers. She writes lovingly about her family and she writes a lot about recipes and cooking. I always enjoy visiting her blog.

Northwest Ladybug

It’s fascinating to read Carol’s blog. She writes mainly about her family with four children, and she has a very good sense of humour. I find myself laughing quite often.

Ham Life

Matthew is a very busy blogger. Ham is in south-west London, my part of the world for 17 years. His work takes him to interesting parts of the world and his travel writing is compelling. Otherwise I keep myself updated about what’s going on in my old habitat through Matthew’s writing about music, theatre, local politics, local education etc. Always a good read!

Green Haddock

Haddock is an English family man living in Germany. He writes about family life and much more. We can follow his daughter’s achievement on the football pitch and in the swimming pool for instance. I always try to keep up with events in the Haddock household.

The Canadian Swiss Blog

CanadianSwiss writes about life in general, travels, friends, OrangeX (visit to find out!) and what it is like living in Switzerland. I keep coming back for a read and always enjoy it.

An American Expat in Germany

Christina G lives in Regensburg with her German husband and baby Oliver. She is an advanced blogger who newly moved away from Blogger and started a site on her own. This caused some stir in the blogger community; go there to see why. Otherwise Christina writes about life as an expat in general, and of course little Oliver.

If you don’t know these people already, pay them a visit and see if you agree.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Visit Stats

All bloggers like visitors to their blogs, unless they are just letting off steam in an online diary and don’t care about anybody but themselves. Some are desperate to get as many visitors as possible because they are advertising stuff for themselves or for others, eager to make money out of their blog. Fair enough, but sometimes the content of the blog is very dubious. Take all these mock-blogs for instance; you know, the ones that are set up just to display links to p**n sites (don’t want to write the word in full to avoid hits by googlers!). They put up a blog with an innocent-looking title and blaaadi…blaaah posts. Every time I click on the “Next Blog” button, I seem to find one of those, more and more often. I suppose they are very difficult to police. But I have also found some good, genuine blogs that way. Otherwise it is much safer and rewarding to find interesting blogs through online friends and contacts. Some of us even sign up to MyBlogLog and show our face, part of it or just a dummy picture. This makes it a little more personal, as personal as it can get on the net. You know who has visited recently.

Most of us, if not all, have some stats provider. I have signed up to Sitemeter, but only the basic version, not wanting to part with money unnecessarily. So I have to accept the limitations in the stats provided. Sometimes I can tell who it actually is from the information. For instance some employers, big companies, institutions etc display their name, making it obvious to you who the visitor is. Then of course there are the ones who keep coming back to your blog, with the company name and location revealed, and you still cannot figure out who it is. Very frustrating! I am intrigued and puzzled sometimes; who is that? And they never leave a comment; it is like being teased!

Other visitors have somehow suppressed the information almost completely. Domain Name and Location display “Unknown”. What have they got to hide, I wonder? But the IP address is always there. Maybe there is a way of tracing that? Who knows.

Then of course there is the issue of the location of the service provider. If the visitor lives in a certain place, it is not necessarily the same place as where the service provider is located, so you cannot tell. Do I sound like an obsessed control freak? I would just like to know; I am inquisitive.

With my basic version of Sitemeter I don’t seem to be able to trust the Visit Length either. In the past I have spoken about a specific visit with a relative and asked how long it was, where Sitemeter told me “0 seconds”. Oh no, it had lasted several minutes. There must be some technical issue here, because even if you get a hit from somebody searching for certain words, surely they must spend a few seconds reading before they realise that you are for instance not an “Old Vinyl Dealer”. How does that work? I have no idea.

Anyway, it is good fun trying to keep up with who is visiting, but I do not spend sleepless nights over it!

Friday, November 16, 2007


I have been tagged by Greenhaddock for the 7 Random Things meme. I will endeavour to mirror his 7 randoms, find something as close as possible to his. Is that a bit too cheeky?

1. My parents put my first name in the middle, because it flowed better when you said my full name. Consequently I get a lot of “official” mail looking like it was meant for my 86-year-old uncle!

2. I happen to think that grey/white is a perfectly beautiful, distinguished-looking hair colour. ;-)

3. I like driving, anything you can drive. I am not interested in the vehicle itself; it’s the controlling of them in traffic that I’ve always loved, from hunting with the wolf pack in the fast lane of a German motorway to negotiating a shopping trolley in the supermarket. I just can’t get enough of it, and I have never caused an accident in over forty years!

4. My pituitary gland has been killed off by a benign tumour, so I am on HRT for the rest of my life. Some cheating athletes would envy my stash of steroids!

5. One winter night in my teens I had been to a Hungarian restaurant (in Sweden) and had Goulasch Suppe and some sickly, sweet wine. When I got home I noticed that the alcohol did not go well with my Suppe, so I had to open my window on the first floor and “let the food out again”. The following morning I had to explain to my parents why the otherwise beautiful, snow-covered shrubs outside the living-room windows had an added orange colour. Embarrassing!

6. My favourite bird has to be the Kingfisher. When I proposed to my wife by the river Thames at Marlow, we saw a surface-skimming fly-by by a Kingfisher, twice. How’s that for romantic?

7. My grandfather never had to do anything like fighting a war, just dressing up in a funny uniform. Check out that triangular hat from ca 1910.

Here are the rules which you must abide by if you are tagged.
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself: some random, some weird.
3. Tag 3 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs.

I am tagging Scattered Chatter, An American Expat in Deutschland and Lulu’s Bay.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Life Goes On

I have been away from my blogging desk for a little while because I had to make a trip to Sweden. The reason was yet another sad occasion, a dear old friend’s funeral; so the hours on the German motorway felt extra long, especially since I travelled on my own. The positive side of it was that I would see other people that I hold dear. The weather was not very pleasant on the day of the funeral, but my thoughts were elsewhere anyway, among all the lovely memories of the deceased.

The downside of living abroad is obviously not being able to see loved ones more frequently, but on the other hand, when you do, it is the more intense and wonderful. It is like a concentrate of feelings that you have to hold on to and treasure until the next opportunity. Christmas is really just around the corner, so it won’t be that long, which makes it time to get into some serious shopping!

The icing on the cake is, as always, seeing my granddaughter, to follow her development, experiencing everything new that she is capable of. It all happens so fast in a little person’s life. She represents life, promise, the future, and does a very good job of compensating for the loss of an old life. What a sweet smile she’s got.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Garden Bird Watch

All year round we have the privilege of watching birds feeding from the feeder right outside our glass patio doors. I am not a proper ornithologist, I just enjoy watching them and learning a little about them, their behaviour most of all. Sitting at the dining table I have learned about the pecking order for instance.

When a Nuthatch approaches, every other bird takes off instantly. He or she picks a few seeds and then disappears into the woods at the back of our garden. The next species down in the order is the Greenfinch, and they are generally quite aggressive, in particular a certain male (I believe). I call him the Big Bully. He does not approve of anybody sitting down on any of the other three pegs. Not even the one opposite, which is more or less hidden by the seed container itself. He just “shows his muscles” and looks extremely aggressive; when other minor Greenfinches act out proper aerial battles around the feeder, they hover much like Hummingbirds, nearly coming to a standstill in the air. They normally accept other Greenfinches sitting opposite, or possibly a Great Tit or Blue Tit.

When the Greenfinches feed, they remain sitting on the peg, obstructing others from feeding, whereas the Great Tits and the Blue Tits take their seed off to a branch, which they use to hammer the seed against to open it. These two species are number three and four in the pecking order, and they are much friendlier towards other species.

Quite a few seeds end up on the grass below the feeder, and all the birds above sometimes go down there when the feeder is crowded or they have been out-muscled by the Big Bully for instance. Many other species visit our garden regularly, like Long-tailed Tits, Robins, Black Caps, Crested Tits, Wrens and Woodpeckers. The list is long. But yesterday there was a first. I only recognised it thanks to the many times I have flicked through the bird book looking to identify newcomers.

Two metres away from the dining table, right by the glass doors, there is a shrub. All of a sudden there were two minute birds, jumping frenetically between branches, looking for food by the looks of it. They were not much bigger than a big insect, and I immediately thought “Goldcrest”! But after having consulted the bird book, I realised they were most likely (juvenile) Firecrests, because of the white stripe above their eye. I had seen Europe’s smallest bird.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Memory Lane – Frankfurt Trip Continued

You might remember from an earlier post that I and my friend R went to surprise my sisters who were meeting up in Frankfurt in the late sixties. (My older sister flew with Pan Am based in Washington D.C.). R had this old Ford Anglia with a souped-up Ford Cortina GT engine in it, which he managed to get into pole position on the ferry, as you can see in the picture. I had never noticed (or possibly forgotten about) the number plate on the little Fiat on the right until I started organising the old slides, turned jpg:s. “Stau” in German means traffic jam, which has always been a dreaded word in German motorway traffic reports. I don’t know if the owner was just lucky, lived in the right area or had to pay for what looks like a personalised number plate. But would an owner of such a small car be likely to be able to cough up extortion money for some letters? Maybe the registration number was worth ten times the value of the car itself, who knows? (Click on photo to enlarge)

After disembarking we sped down the Autobahn (via a stop-over in Hamburg which I mentioned in an earlier post) to Frankfurt am Main where we put up our tent on a camp site by the river Main. This beautiful view greeted us when we unzipped the tent in the morning. (Sorry, but I have not had time to clean it up.)

Then it was time to surprise my sisters, so we found their rather posh hotel and boy did their jaws drop! All crew members posed very willingly and thought it was all a wonderfully crazy idea. Here they are with my younger sister and friend R. Not only was R a good car mechanic, he had also sewn the trousers he is wearing in this picture. He has since made a good life for himself, starting out as a plumber and ending up owning more than one company, mostly based on his clever hands, but most of all he was what George Bush did not think the French had a word for, an entrepreneur.

In the next picture my sister can be seen on the right and her Swedish flat mate on the left. Pretty young women in uniform seem to have a certain attraction and influence on young men’s hormones. Just look at the smooth operator on the right in the suit! Does he look interested or what!

We had a lovely reunion after many months of not seeing each other, and then it was time to wear out the tyres on the German motorway again. All went well until all of a sudden we started losing speed, and my friend uttered a few words not suitable for children’s ears or this blog. Mechanical problem! The car came to a stand-still on the hard shoulder and I started going over my German vocabulary from school in anticipation of having to deal with a rescue situation. But oh no, R knew instinctively what the problem was and quickly figured out how to sort it out himself. It turned out that the accelerator wire (Sorry, but I don’t have the correct vocab here) had got disconnected from the engine. Does that make sense? So, a little stopper thing with a screw in it had come off and disappeared on the motorway. He needed to attach the wire again somehow.

R goes to the boot, opens his case, finds his toiletry bag, gets his electrical shaver out and I just look on perplexed. Next he gets a screwdriver out from the toolbox and starts disassembling the electrical plug. I am none the wiser. He takes one of the two pins from the shaver plug, disappears under the bonnet, puts the wire through the accelerator lever, attaches the little shiny pin on the end of the metal wire, thus securing it to the lever, which makes the engine go vroom, vroom, revs the engine up.

And rev it up he did, and off we went. We got home safely without any more adventures of the unforeseen kind, but I always knew that R’s clever hands would always rescue us if needed. I have heard of green fingers, but I can only think of “clever” hands for somebody who is so versatile. What if he had used razor blades for shaving? I am confident he would have come up with another smart idea, Mr Clever Hands.