Sunday, December 28, 2008

Birds of Two Feathers

Here we are, at the edge of our nest, both.

You: The free spirit. Flapping your wings with eager impatience.
Curious, expectant, full of anticipation towards the unknown ahead.
You'd rather fly today than tomorrow. In fact, you'd rather have stretched out your wings yesterday.
Not that you don't have your share of fear and doubts.
But you see more chance in venturing into the unknown than in circling old familiar paths.

Me: The altricial bird. Anxiously clawing to the nest, attempting to hold on to the familiar.
Craven, doubtful, worried about the unknown ahead.
I'd rather fly tomorrow than today. In fact, why leave this comfy nest at all?
Not that I don't see the limits of holding on, and the chance within change.
But that which is familiar comes with a - however treacherous - sense of security, something to hold on to.
And ...

You kick me off the nest's edge. I shriek and tumble.
Then, much to my own astonishment, I discover my wings and start to fly.
Wobbly at first, but still.
Then your time has come at last. You take off, soaring into the sky.
A leap in the dark. No more limits, no more boundaries.

Photography by magekin

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Winter Sun

Milky light under a blue sky, partially covered by a smear of muddy clouds. The sun's light hits in a shallow angle, dazzling the eye which seems no longer adapted to this sort of brightness. Long shadows cast an erie premonition of long hours of darkness. You can almost see the cold. Short hours of sunshine before the clouds take over again, seamlessly merging into dusk and a night which seems to fall far too early. Coming in comes a lot easier than going out.

And yet ... Inhaling the cool, fresh air, heavy with a whiff of foreshadowed snowfall. Crisp, icy snow crunching under feet. Children laughing and clamouring as they happily skid down even the smallest slopes on sledges in carefree happiness. The warm light of a candle. The sound of Mozart's symphony no. 25. Cookies and a steaming pot of tea. Somehow, I am beginning to realize, there is light and warmth in every moment.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Just thinking of a coffeehouse immediately conjures up a whole array of senses: The smell of freshly ground coffee-beans. The sound of coffee being ground. The sound of milk being steamed. The sense of anticipation, intensified by the combination of alluring smells and sounds. The very antagonisms which create the coffeehouse's uniqueness: The sound of music, discreet, yet stimulating. The hustle-bustle behind the bar contrasting with the laid-back atmosphere at the tables, mirroring the black-white polarity of coffee and milk. An atmosphere of busy, almost hectic activity, which curiously and miraculously complements the effect of virtually meditative calm.

The unique combination awakens and stimulates all senses. Everyone becomes an artist of sorts. Students doing their homework, people talking, laughing, thinking, perhaps even writing or drawing.Guests, as barkeepers, are, in equal parts, spectators and actors, each thriving on and contributing to the coffeehouse's unique feel. Perhaps many of the best ideas were conceived, answers and solutions found, in a coffeehouse.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Here, No Matter Where

When I awoke
you had left
but you were still here.

I saw
your smiling face
and heard
your talk and laughter reverberating.

I felt
the warmth of your skin
and the tenderness
of your touch.

The taste of you
lingered vividly
as did the breeze
of your fragrance.

But most of all
there was the marvellous feeling
of your love
all around me.

I feel you!

Sunday, March 30, 2008


My head is spinning and it seems like there is too much going on to digest, let alone formulate something at least akin to a clear thought.

A couple of personal issues have been keeping my mind in check. Nothing bad, just a lot of petty things piling up seemingly at the same time, so I just was not in the right frame of mind to sit down and sort out my thoughts, not to mention writing anything down which was not completely senseless gobbledygook. Come to think of it, I probably wasn't even in the right mindset for senseless gobbledygook.

But what is going on in my own small world is nothing compared to what is unfolding on a larger scale.

The unfolding and development of events have also left me speechless.

As British and US forces are now drawn into the battle for Basra, the rising daily death count in Iraq is still being sold to the public as ample prove of how successful "the surge" is going. (If the amount of civilian deaths is the measure of success, well, yeah, you can probably subscribe to the Bush administration's claim.)

Never mind the fact that many Americans (although the numbers are steadily declining; yes, there is hope) still seem to believe the fairytale that this shameful war, which was based on bullshitting and lies to begin with and has been going on for five years now, is fought in the name of democracy and freedom, and is part of the global fight agains terrorism.

Hint: There were no WMDs, aka weapons of mass destruction (only the weapons of mass deception used by the honorable administrations in the US of A, and in the UK), and, no, Saddam Hussein had no connections to Al Quaida, and hence had nothing to do with 9/11 - even the Pentagon has recently been forced to acknowledge this.

Pssst! In his "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World", published in September 2007, Alan Greenspan, the former Fed-head, claimed that the Iraq war wasn't about freedom and democracy for the USA, or for Iraq for that matter, but it was really about ... oil! Not that Greenspan had any problem with this; he was mainly "saddened" about the fact that it is politically inconvenient to publicly acknowledge this fact.

Needless to say that the disclaimers are never touted with quite as much fanfare as the false claims. But then the latter are part and parcel of the marketing package to sell this entire mess to the public as a justified war, whereas the former would, perhaps, raise questions rather left unasked.

Closer to home, the subprime mess, aka credit crunch, aka credit crisis, seems to be reaching a new climax - or should I say nadir? - every week.

And it has lead to a - perhaps not entirely new, but nevertheless weird - kind of socialism, where profits are privatized, whereas losses are socialized. As in the Bailout of the Month, aka Operation Enduring Moneypress, or "Save the Bear" (Stearns, that is):

"The Fed spent the weekend [of March 15-16] putting together a plan to be announced Sunday evening, regardless of the outcome of Bear's negotiations, that would enable all Wall Street banks to borrow from the central bank. Mr. Bernanke called the Fed's five governors together for a vote Sunday afternoon. All five voted in favor, using for the second time since Friday the Fed's authority to lend to nonbanks.

The steps were announced at the same time the Fed agreed to lend $30 billion to J.P. Morgan to complete its acquisition of Bear Stearns. The loans will be secured solely by difficult-to-value assets inherited from Bear Stearns. If the assets decline in value, the Fed -- and therefore the U.S. taxpayer -- will bear the cost." (Wall Street Journal).

The initial JPMorgan Chase offer of 0.054-and-then-some shares in exchange for a share of Bear Stearns, which at that time amounted to about 2$ per Bear Stearns share (the closing price on March 14 had been 30$; one week earlier, Bear Stearns had traded for around 70$), was raised some days later, to amount to around 10$ a share. This was, perhaps, JPM's easter egg.

N.B.: On Tuesday, March 25, former Bear Stearns CEO Cayne "cashed out", selling his entire stake (5.6 million shares) for 10.84 apiece. This became known to the public on Thursday -- after market close. At which BSC shares took another plunge; but, as a small consolace for the possibly-soon-to-be-ex-Bear-Stearns employees who had their entire retirement money cut to around a tenth to what it was worth at the end of last year, BSC are still trading above 10$. For now. As of market close on March 28, 2008.

Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic, federal banks are also rushing to the rescue of beleaguered financial institutions. Take, for instance, last year's attempt by the Bank of England to rescue Northern Rock.

It turns out that the rescue attempt failed due to the sheer scale of Northern Rock's troubles -- it had to borrow 25 billion pounds from the bank of England --, and the bank now has had to be nationalized. Which, in essence, amounts to the taxpayer picking up the bill.

By 2011, Northern Rock will throw out about 2000 employees -- excuse me: It will cut about a third of its jobs, "as part of a restructuring program aimed at eventually returning the bank to the private sector." Read: After the taxpayer has payed the bill (=socializing the costs), the bank will then, after returning to profitability with the aid of "We, the people", happily privatize the profits.

The German version of "Save Our Souls", er, banks, runs along a similar vein. Different stage, part of the same drama, similar outcome (i.e., "We, the people" are left to pay the bill). And it is not only the IKB, but all of Germany's Landesbanken, who find themselves deep in the sh--er, swamps. Heaven forbid that anyone discusses the political implications of state-owned banks running into trouble, whose bill has to be picked up by the -- you guessed it! -- taxpayer.

And in a new twist in the story of Compassionate Capitalism (no state intervention, please! Unless, of course, things are starting to go awry -- for corporations), Deutsche Bank chief Josef Ackermann had the incredible chuzpe -- again something to leave me speechless -- to go screaming "State! Please! Help!", when he suddenly realized that "the natural market behavior wouldn't be enough to correct the unfolding global crisis."

A week and a half after this touching cry for help, Deutsche Bank revealed that it might not meet its profit goal, due to challenging market conditions which might/could/will "adversely affect our ability to chieve our pretax profitability objective."

Looks like Ackermann's earlier statement was a kind of pre-warning to the profitwarning. (Darn! Had I only interpreted the signs correctly and bought put-options on Deutsche Bank! Then again, on March 17th, DB had just hit a new multi-year low, and has since been rising steadily, so perhaps going short at that point was not such a great idea, after all.)

But lo and behold, before you are shedding too many tears for Mr. Ackermann: Despite the challenging conditions, he was able to collect 13.98 million Euros in compensation for 2007. Unless he spent it all at once (or invested all of it in one of those troubled SIVs, which I am pretty sure he didn't), he should be able to make ends meet for a while. After all, this amount represented a rise of 5.8 percent from his 2006 compensation of 13.2 million Euros.

"Why," my sweetheart asked after summing up our discussion, "isn't everyone up on the barricades, storming the bastilles?"

His question, of course, was of merely rhetorical character.

Top graphic: speechless, by maximatic

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Moody Blues

Picture (adapted) from DeviantArt Laetyboy


DON´T touch me, I´m feeling touchy!


Ok ...

(A little later)


Hey! Why Don´t you touch me? Don´t You love me anymore???

Uhm ... yes, this, more or less, sums up these very female emotional swings.

These fits of moodiness that women have the questionable pleasure to experience are a total bitch, honestly!

Not that they happen that often, but once in a while is enough to be a real mood-killer for my most precious surroundings. And myself.

Out of the blue, my mind is darkened by horrible clouds of I´m-not-even-sure-what, and I start to be irritable, to say the very least. As I am watching myself bitching at my sweetheart (of course, it´s gotta be the beloved one who is invariably the victim of these fits), I know exactly that I am being unfair at that particular point, and I know that it´s not a discussion which promises a fruitful outcome.

So why on earth can´t I just stop? Or, more to the point, why do I have to start quibbling to begin with?

This weekend was a perfect example. It started so promising: The weather and feeling were almost spring-like: sunshine, twittering birds, a good cuddle (a VERY good one!) with my sweetheart to begin the day, an extended breakfast, and no tidbit stuff to do. In short, it started in a great, almost euphoric mood, and everything could have worked out perfect.

Could. If it hadn´t been for one of those ... fits.

So all of this changed as we set out for our long-expected walk. For no apparent reason, I started snapping and bitching at my love and managed to ruin the mood in no time.

OK, I was slightly hung-over from the night before (I had been out drinking with a friend who just passed his test to obtain his driver´s license), but the worst symptoms (i.e., a major headache) had long since receded. My head was not entirely clear (but when is it ever?), but there was really no particular reason to be moody, let alone leash out at someone who I care for.

I may also have been experiencing a slight hint of PMS. Not that that should be any excuse, because I think that as civilized beings with a couple of years of evolution behind us (not to mention the age of enlightenment and psychoanalysis), we cannot blame everything on animalic instincts. For a reasonable being (yes, I consider myself as such, despite being a woman), these primal traits should be controllable.

They are not. Come to think of it, I am not quite sure that these sudden mood swings are something limited to women. However, from what my male friends are telling me, I certainly do get that impression. And what they are telling me reassures me that I am not alone with these inexplicable emotional roller-coaster rides, and that, therefore, I am not a total psycho. (Phew! At least there´s some relief in that!)

Most of the men I know (and that includes my swetheart - never mind that we have been together for almost two decades) are just baffled and left wondering at these abrupt mood changes. I mean, all can be fluffy-flurry sunshine one moment, only to turn into tears the next, and back again to smiles and laughter, as if nothing had happened.

It might not be much of a consolace, but be assured, my male friends, we are just as confused as you are when we´re back to normal.

Which leaves me to conclude that as long as we XX-s don´t get a grip on what´s going on inside of us, how can we ever expect a man to understand us?

Perhaps testosterone would be a solution. But then we´d have to shave our faces, too.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


There is a certain beauty to chaos, and very likely a system behind it that fails to meet the eye at first glance. The construction of the trabucci , found around the Italian Gargano, are a case in point: They look like a mixture of planks, nets and ropes, which seem to have been assembled totally at random.

Which, perhaps, they are.

In any case, they are very well working devices for catching fish. (Unlike my own random system of non-order, which does not always work when it comes to deliver the catch of the day.)

For as long as I can think, I have been suffering from various types of disorder. Not disorders in the sense of some bodily or emotional or mental function which might be described as disorder.

I do, however, experience serious attacks of stupidity intolerance, authority intolerance, bigotry intolerance, not to mention very regular attacks of racism intolerance. Most of them might, in fact, be called chronic conditions.

But then these intolerances are nothing I would call "disorders". In fact, I think they are totally healthy, necessary, and in order. Which, in turn, is probably an expression of my state of mind, and a propensity to refuse certain types of order.

In any case, "suffering" is probably the wrong word, so I shall reformulate: I am a very disorderly person. Not only when it comes to authorities, but also in a more basic sense.

The other day, I had to sort some stuff for our tax advisor. Needless to say, due to my cardbox-filing (un)systematic, I had hours of fun getting all the documents into some kind of decent order. It was as if some evil ghost had taken them prior to my going through them and shuffled them like a deck of cards, so there were practically no two documents that were filed (or thrown into the box) in a (chrono)logical order. But of course, there was no ghost I could blame other than my own disorder spirit.

On second thought, "suffering" might be the right word after all, because this lack of order sometimes is a source of stress. Or at least one of inconvenience.

But I am getting better. Today, my sweetheart was looking for some tool. Now, we don´t have a toolbox in the classical sense, since none of us is very much of a homeworker/handicraft type of person. But we do have a cardbord box (yes!) where we collect most of our tools. So I dug through it and - tata! - much to my own surprise, I found the tool in question.

"There seems to be," I said, "some systematic developing in our system of disorderliness. We might throw everything into cardbord boxes, but increasingly, there seems to be some sort of logic behind it. We actually start finding things we are looking for, without having to plow everything under."

"Should I start getting worried now?" my sweetheart asked.

"About what - our imminent gentrification?" I asked back.

"Yes, exactly," he replied.

Personally, I think it is to early to start worrying, as long as questions beginning with "Do you have any idea where I might find ....?", followed by shoulder-shrugging, swearing, and, ultimately, giggling, are part of our daily experience.

And the day when above intolerances recede or stop ... that would be the day to start worrying.