Wednesday, December 15, 2010

German Communication Styles

I just came across an illuminating web page explaining German communication styles (and the proverbial/alleged lack of humour). You can find it here.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Germany's Energy Research Plan

Oct 29, 2010 ©

German Education and Research Minister Annette Schavan recently presented Germany's new energy concept and the research investments that will support it in an editorial that appeared in the renowned international weekly journal Science.

"The 'Energiekonzept' (Energy Concept) foresees an end to the country's dependence on fossil fuels and defines key milestones to achieve by 2050, including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent (compared to 1990 levels), the modernization and insulation of buildings, and a decrease in electricity consumption by 25 percent," Schavan states in the editorial, published in the October 15 edition of Science.

"By spring 2011, the German government will present a detailed new Energy Research Program that outlines important research tasks to support these new goals," she added.

"Renewable energies will play the major role in restructuring Germany's energy supply. These sources already generate about 16 percent of Germany's energy, including wind and hydropower, biomass, geothermal, and photovoltaic power," said Schavan.

Germany's global leadership in Green Tech innovations was based on major ongoing investments in research and the dissemination of technology, Schavan moreover underscored.

"In 2010 alone, the German government will spend approximately 1 billion euros on energy and climate research," she said.

A new 40-year Energy Concept for Germany was presented by Chancellor Angela Merkel on September 6 in Berlin. She hailed it as "a revolution in the field of energy supply" that would create the most efficient and environmentally sound energy system worldwide in Germany.

Related Links:

Germany's Energy Research Plan - read the full editorial by German Research Minister Annette Schavan published in Science (Oct. 15, 2010)

Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Hermann Scheer, Leading Advocate for Solar Energy and "Hero for the Green Century"

Hermann Scheer (1944-2010): German Lawmaker, Leading Advocate for Solar Energy and "Hero for the Green Century" in one of his final interviews

"Was meint eigentlich Halloween" / Bambi-Lüge

Irgendwie habe ich das Gefühl, dass ich auch Opfer der sogenannten Bambi-Lüge war. Näheres in einem bereits etwas älteren aber durchaus aktuellen und wie üblich sehr unterhaltsamen Zwiebelfisch-Artikel.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Another example of environmental vandalism

Was it really necessary for "Sturgess of Leicester" to remove a couple of trees and a nice triangular green area on their site at the junction of Aylestone Road and Saffron Lane, just to gain a few more car parking spaces? And why did the Council give permission?

With a bit of foresight/imagination, they could/should instead have not only retained the trees/green space but improved it by implementing biodiversity/wildlife enhancements for the benefit of both their green credentials and the Aylestone Park area – after all, the high-profile site/location could be regarded as a kind of 'gateway' to Aylestone Park from the City.

The photo below (courtesy of Google Street View) shows the site before the disappointing and insensitive intervention. Photo showing the result of the environmental vandalism to follow.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Judgement" or "Judgment"?

I always assumed that "judgement" is the correct spelling, but when my Word 2003 spellchecker complained about it (with the language flavour set to US English) I looked it up in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary (I have an electronic version, of course) and found this interesting entry:

"In British English the normal spelling in general contexts is judgement. However, the spelling judgment is conventional in legal contexts, and in North American English".

Monday, August 23, 2010

Schnaps or Schnapps?

The German spelling is Schnaps. It's a mystery to me how the second 'p' ended up in the apparently correct (or at least frequently encountered) English schnapps spelling, although the entry in the Duden Herkunftswörterbuch (see below) may give some clues.

Interestingly, the OED lists both version as correct and has this to say on the matter:
"An ardent spirit resembling Hollands gin. 1818 Blackw. Mag. III. 403 Enjoy your schnaps, give sorrow to the wind. 1823 BYRON Juan X. lxxi, Not like slow Germany wherein they muddle Along the road,..and also pause besides, to fuddle, With ‘schnapps’. a1848 O. W. HOLMES On Lend. Punch-bowl 16 He went to Leyden, where he found conventicles and schnaps. 1885 C. LOWE Bismarck II. 488 A General, talking of drinks, had laid down the principle: ‘Red wine for children, Champagne for men, Schnaps for Generals’".

This is what the Duden Herkunftswörterbuch has to say on the matter:
Schnaps: Das ursprünglich nordd. Wort (niederd. Snap[p]s) bezeichnet seit dem 18. Jh. den Branntwein, ursprünglich aber einen Mund voll oder einen schnellen Schluck, wie er gerade beim Branntweintrinken üblich ist. Es ist eine Substantivbildung zu schnappen. Abl.: schnapsen ugs. für »Schnaps trinken« (im 18. Jh. niederd. snappsen). Zus.: Schnapsidee »unsinniger, seltsamer Einfall« (20. Jh.; ein derartiger Einfall kann nur durch zu reichlichen Alkoholgenuss bedingt sein); Schnapszahl »Zahl, die aus mehreren gleichen Ziffern besteht« (20. Jh.; wohl nach der Vorstellung, dass ein Betrunkener beim Lesen einfache Ziffern doppelt oder mehrfach sieht). Duden - Das Herkunftswörterbuch, 3. Aufl. Mannheim 2001 [CD-ROM]

No Need for Nuclear

At last, a "No Need for Nuclear" 'coalition' has been formed.


Britain is at a 'nuclear crossroads', and I believe it is not too late to stop the nuclear renaissance madness.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Babylon currency converter saga

See below for transcript of live chat with Babylon support (as reported earlier today at the IT Help Desk for Translators) for your entertainment.

I have since received an e-mail saying "After talking with my supervisor we reached the conclusion that you cannot change manually the converter" - AAAARRGGGGHHHHH!

The following is a record of your online chat.

General Info
Chat start time Jul 4, 2010 7:43:03 AM EST
Chat end time Jul 4, 2010 8:16:01 AM EST
Duration (actual chatting time) 00:32:58
Operator babylon
Chat Transcript
info: Please wait for a site operator to respond.
info: You are now chatting with 'babylon'
babylon: Welcome to Babylon Support , How can I help you?
you: Thanks for your quick reply. Give me a minute to compose my question please
babylon: Ok!
you: I have several Babylon licences (3 I think). On my old Windows 2000 PC I still have Babylon 7 (Version 7.0.0 r13). I just noticed that it doesn't update the currency information from the currency server. If I try and do it manually by clicking "Update rates now" it connects to the server and says the update was successful but the date is 30 August 2009!
babylon: Can I have your order number please?
you: I have had Babylon for years - I can try an find the order number - do you mean my licence number? You should be able to find me on your database if you look for my surname
babylon: Ok, what is your surname?
you: Sorry - I assumed you would see it in the correspondence - my name is Herbert Eppel
babylon: Ok, I found you.
you: That's good :-)
babylon: Unfortunately at this moment this tool is anavaliable, we are still checking and trying to fix...
babylon: :)
you: Is this a problem in Version 7 or in Version 8 too?
babylon: I believe in both of them.
babylon: Its an actual problem
you: Is it possible to enter a currency conversion rate manually?
babylon: I guess it would make much difference
you: Using date from August last year is very misleading in some cases!
babylon: Give me your e-mail address, I will ask my supervisor about it and I will come back to you asap
you: Babylon currently uses 1 EUR = 0.879 GBP (which is from August last year) - the actual value is more like 0.800, so the conversion is useless as it stands.
you: My e-mail address is ...
info: Your chat transcript will be sent to ... at the end of your chat.
babylon: I think if you download the trial version of the website which is an actual version than yours
babylon: it could work
you: I'm not sure what you mean. I don't need/want a trial version. As I said, I already have 3 licences!
babylon: Yes but then you enter your codes
babylon: And make it yours
babylon: Just for the sake of having a new version
you: I don't want to complicate matters, I just want my existing version 7 to work on this Windows 2000 PC
babylon: Babylon 7 doesnt work in the windows 2000
you: Yes it does. I have it here. I gave you my exact version number earlier. I think you mean Babylon 8?
babylon: I checked again with my supervisor.
you: And?
babylon: Its not compatible.
you: What exactly is not compatible?
babylon: B7 = Win2000
you: Your information is incorrect.Babylon 7 definitely works under Windows 2000, as I said.
babylon: Ok, I will write you asap as we have any news regarding currency convertor
babylon: ok?
you: When do you think I can expect an answer?
babylon: I`m not sure when
you: Can you give me a rough idea, i.e. next week, next month, next year?
babylon: I cannot, I`m sorry. We are working on it
you: Can you let me know whether I can enter a currency conversion rate manually? As I said, the converter is useless as it stands.
babylon: I will check with my supervisor and I will try to return to you asap
you: Thanks - will you respond by e-mail or should we leave this chat session open for now?
babylon: By email
you: OK, thank you.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Argentina in the semi-finals???

This is what showed up on the FIFA website shortly after the Germany v. Argentina match.
Note: ARG listed for the semi-finals!The FIFA at has since been corrected.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Leicester Mercury

I just discovered that the Leicester Mercury recently enhanced the functionality of its online article archive by adding a facility to display overviews of articles/letters in which named individuals appear. To view the archive of my recent contributions click here

Monday, April 26, 2010

Blinkered walkers stealing beauty

"Best-selling author Will Self argues that urban-fleeing walkers’ tunnel vision of the countryside is both damaging and self-defeating…"

This thought-provoking article was published in the Spring 2010 edition of the Ramblers' magazine. The online blog version is followed by several equally thought-provoking comments

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Some time ago I was asked what attracted me to come back (after my six-month placement with Arup in London in 1984/85) and live in the UK. One of the things I said in response was:

"I was glad to leave behind the proverbial German bureaucracy, although somewhat alarmingly I sometimes feel that Britain is well on the way of overtaking Germany in this respect, and the attractive concept of ‘reasonableness’ seems to have been lost in many cases."

A current silly argument relating to the replacement of traffic signs with more modern versions (in some cases it appears to be a case of "spot the difference") restores my 'faith' in German bureaucracy.

Zehn gute Gründe, Deutsch zu lernen

Die Kulturwächter schlagen Alarm: Das weltweite Interesse an der deutschen Sprache geht zurück! Und nicht erst, seit Guido Westerwelle Außenminister ist. 2005 lernten noch 17 Millionen Menschen Deutsch als Fremdsprache, heute sind es zwei Millionen weniger. Dabei gibt es viele gute Gründe für Deutsch.
Spiegel Zwiebelfisch, 14.4.2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Der Diplom-Ingenieur: Eine Marke mit international anerkannter Qualität

Die deutsche Ingenieurausbildung genieße auch zehn Jahre nach Einführung der Hochschulreform hohes Ansehen. Im Titel werde dies aber nicht deutlich, beklagt VDI-Präsident Bruno O. Braun im Gespräch mit den VDI nachrichten. Der VDI fordert daher, den „Dipl.-Ing.“ im Zeugnis zu berücksichtigen. „Wir wollen die Abschlüsse im internationalen Vergleich durch das Renommee des Diplom-Ingenieurs aufwerten.“
VDI nachrichten, Düsseldorf, 19. 3. 10

VDI fordert Erhalt der Marke „Diplom-Ingenieur“

Der VDI fordert die Kultusministerkonferenz auf, die Marke Ingenieur neben den neuen Abschlüssen Bachelor und Master kenntlich zu machen. Dies sei wichtig, damit die international anerkannte Marke Diplom- Ingenieur nicht verloren gehe.
VDI nachrichten, Düsseldorf, 19. 3. 10

Großbritannien: „Ingenieur“ soll geschützt werden

Berufsschutz: In Großbritannien dürfen sich auch Heizungstechniker Ingenieur nennen. Konzerne wie der Rüstungskonzern British Aerospace wollen jetzt, dass sich das ändert.
VDI nachrichten, London, 12. 3. 10

Friday, March 19, 2010

1970: Willy Brandt in Erfurt - Geschichte einer deutsch-deutschen Annäherung

Vor 40 Jahren trafen sich Bundeskanzler Willy Brandt und der Vorsitzende des DDR-Ministerrates Willi Stoph in Erfurt. Ein historisches Gipfeltreffen im Kalten Krieg.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Der denglische Patient

Der denglische Patient

von Ageliki Ikonomidis

Die Anglomanie ist eine Krankheit. Einst kam sie über den großen Teich, unter anderem eingeschleppt von ITlern und Global Playern. Seitdem verbreiten sich fremdländische Erreger bevorzugt dort, wo unsere Abwehr geschwächt und die Anfälligkeit hoch ist, zum Beispiel in Branchen mit entsprechender Disposition. Die Anglomanie ist polymorph, weshalb sie oft unerkannt bleibt, was wiederum die Therapie erschwert. Sie begnügt sich nicht mit englischen Infiltraten, sondern äußert sich auch in pathologischen Einzelsymptomen und Be­gleiterscheinungen, die im Deutschen zuweilen schwere Störungen hervorrufen. Über erste Anzeichen, mittelgradige Beeinträchtigungen und den manifesten Morbus Denglisch berichtet dieser Beitrag.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Sehr witziges YouTube-Video unter dem Titel Rhabarberbarbara

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Coalition Infighting Leads Merkel to Flirt with the Greens

A very interesting article in today's Spiegel International suggests that "Angela Merkel's coalition of conservatives and the pro-business FDP is looking unhappy and brittle after three months of infighting. Merkel is responding by sounding out future alliances with the Greens. A major state election in May could provide the chance for a major new experiment in German politics".

Read the whole article here.

It neatly brings me back to one of my favourite subjects: proportional representation.

Proportional representation

A Leicester Mercury reader submitted a letter outlining the benefits of proportional representation. I'm taking the liberty of quoting it here, in case the link 'dies' at some point in the future:

Virtues of PR voting system
Posted: February 17, 2010

JT Bingham (Mailbox, February 11) makes the case for the alternative vote system which the Government has promised to introduce as an option in a referendum, if it wins the election.

He admits, however, that it is not a proportional system, as promised by New Labour as an option before the 1997 election. AV perpetuates the distortions of our present voting system, which can give huge unearned majorities and does not accord the same value to every vote.

JT Bingham clearly does not understand that proportional voting systems, such as STV and AVplus, also involve ranking candidates in order of preference, a virtue which he claims only for AV.

Contrary to his claims, these systems do give a fair chance to smaller parties and individual candidates. Unlike AV, they really do make tactical voting unnecessary.

JT Bingham says proportional voting systems are "contrived". What does he mean? They are designed to give the same value to every vote and a fair chance to every candidate. AV and the present voting system have a built-in bias toward certain large parties (at present toward Labour). Are they not "contrived"?

JT Bingham also opposes proportional voting systems because he claims they would lead to coalition government. This is ironic when our present system seems likely to lead to a coalition this year!

Coalitions can force parties to look for common ground with other parties, thus satisfying the wishes of more of the voters, and to try to work together. It was a coalition Government which presided over winning the war in 1939-43! And coalitions in the Scottish Parliament have in my opinion done a good job for the people.

It is deplorable that after 12 years of inaction, the Government is now only offering us a single choice of a new voting system – one which is no fairer that the present one. However, I would support it as the first step, which would then need only a further adjustment to make it truly proportional.

C Johnson, Leicester.

I couldn't resist leaving a comment, pointing to my previous blog entry on the subject, although in the meantime my comment seems to have disappeared from the Mercury website. Oh well.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Know your garden bird song

Today's online Guardian contains the best garden bird identification facility I have come across so far.
You simply move the mouse over the small bird pictures and a corresponding bigger picture appears together with the relevant sound.