June 30, 2002:
Earlier today I posted a separate photo album of some church photos from our European trip. Part of this is for family (some photos relate to the little town in Germany where the Duntemanns came from) and part for my friends in the Old Catholic movement, but if churches are an interest of yours, take a look. Note that there are some fairly large images in the page, and if you're not broadband it'll take some time to load.
June 29, 2002:

Well, I guess it's a new decade for me: I turn 50 today. I'm not bummed at all, like some people tend to be. Nor am I exhilarated, as I was when I turned 13, 16, 18, and 21. Those were memorable milestones, conferring things like the right to drive, vote, and drink. (And it's interesting that I have always been ambivalent about driving, voting, and drinking, though I do all three.) 50 means less than I thought it would, when I struggled to imagine, twenty years ago, the prospect of turning 50. It was scary then. But hey—50 has brought with it such useful things as knowledge, wisdom, financial security, and the love of a spouse that transcends all human expression. Besides, life is better now. We have cheap computing, the Internet, Delphi, better dental technology (ever seen my teeth? Take a look next chance you get!) close-up photos of the outer planets, and lots of other things that didn't exist when I was young, strong, and stupid. I'd rather live now than at any other time in history, terrorism and intrusive government notwithstanding.

My saintly sister Gretchen is throwing a party for me later this afternoon, and most of my friends in the Chicago area will be there. What do I like about 50? I have love and knowledge in abundance. Anything else I might lack is just engineering.
June 28, 2002:

Something both peculiar and brilliant has emerged in England (mostly around London) in connection with open 802.11 WiFi nodes and the phenomenon I described in my January 3, 2002 entry called "war driving." The meme has mutated yet again, and now we have war walking (that is, walking around an urban area with a wireless PDA or laptop, looking for 802.11 nodes) and from there it was a short cognitive hop to wibos, which are wireless hobos. From the idea of wibos it was obvious that we would eventually need a chalk-symbol language with which to communicate (to other wibos) where the nodes are and what their technical details are. Enter warchalking.

For those of you unfamiliar with American life in the 1920s and 1930s, hobos (wandering workers who took unskilled jobs for short periods of time, back when employment was more a handshake and not so much a massively government-regulated thing) developed a secret symbology for communicating "the lay of the land" for other hobos. These chalk symbols indicated where the vicious dogs were, where the generous people lived, and where police tended to hang out, and other things like that. Warchalking is the marking of physical places in real (not virtual) chalk to indicate where accessible 802.11 wireless networking nodes are.

A Brit named Matt Jones coined the term, and it's still mostly a British phenom. The card shown here is Matt's, and his site hosts a vigorous dicussion of what additional symbols should be. (So far, what I've shown here is mostly what is used.) I myself don't get into urban areas with lots of WiFi nodes very much, but when I do, I'm going to be watching for these symbols. The only open WiFi network I've ever seen was the one I used at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort (see my May 12 entry) and while I paid for the use of the wireless PC card for my laptop, the bandwidth itself was not separately charged for, and the resort said nothing about people who owned their own wireless cards. I don't have one yet, but I may get one just for the fun of it.

There are several unresolved issues here, especially the one of using WiFi nodes that are unintentionally open. (The other is that marking things with chalk is probably close enough to grafitti to get you a ticket or worse in some of the twitchier places in the world.) Still, and even from my parched rural outpost where the houses are far enough apart so that wardriving would take all night between "found" nodes, it's one of those unexpected things that pops up now and then and keeps the world from becoming fatally boring.
June 27, 2002:

Several people have sent me notes describing Daimler-Chrysler's smart Car (the lower-case "s" is deliberate) which is the teeny little thing I photographed in front of the Regency Hyatt Cologne a few days ago. (See my June 25 entry.) For more info on the smart, see here. There is actually a lot of Web activity out there, which I might have found had I the time to look. The vehicle is not currently available in the US, but my friend Pete Albrecht tells me he's seen one zipping around Huntington Beach. It's made in France by a division of Mercedes and isn't really intended for high-speed highway driving. Nonetheless, we saw several in the right lane on the German autobahns, happily going about 100 km/h.

Pete (who is an automotive engineer and an internationally known expert on diesel engines) also sent me the photo at left, which is what happened when the Finns road-tested the smart on a winter-slick highway. Has anybody ever seen a car come to rest on its butt like this in an accident? He doesn't much care for the car for that reason and others; it's underpowered and has a hazardously high center of gravity for its width.

It's probably OK for tooling around places like Deventer, (see my June 21 entry) where you can practically reach out with both hands and touch the buildings on both sides of the street simultaneously, but I don't think it's ever going to make much of a dent in American traffic, and would be mostly a hazard on the Interstates.
June 26, 2002:

Back in Chicago, digging out and catching up. Frank Glover sent me a pointer to XCor Aerospace, a rocketry startup that I consider important for a number of reasons:

  • They have a product called EZ-Rocket, which will eventually be a suborbital, borders-of-space manned vehicle, suitable for research runs, launching microsats, or even suborbital space tourism. EZ-Rocket is significant because it doesn't try to be everything to everybody, or even make orbit. It is thus an achievable dream, and gives the company something to shoot for, and even sell, on their toward the Big Banana of SSTO.
  • They acquired Rotary Rocket's assets after Gary Hudson packed it in. Rotary Rocket is the originator of the Roton SSTO concept, which I worked into my novel, The Cunning Blood. The Roton is one of the finest pieces of completely gonzo out-of-the-box thinking on space access that I've ever seen. I had hoped for better over the past several years.
  • They have already done a touch-and-go maneauver (cut engines, glide to the strip, touch down and roll for a few hundred feet, then reignite and take off again) with EZ-Rocket using nothing but rocket power. This is not easy (for reasons I don't completely understand) but Dick Rutan (Bert's brother) pulled it off, and apparently is the first ever to do so.
  • They are not afraid to pursue two completely gratuitous projects: Creating flying replicas of both the WWII rocket-powered Messerschmitt ME-163 Komet interceptor and the Bell X-1 rocket plane, the first aircraft to travel faster than sound. (It didn't "break the sound barrier." There is no sound barrier.)
I believe powerfully in private access to space. The Shuttle is already going on 25 years old. We need a new bike, gang. I sincerely hope that these guys can eventually pull it off. They're doing it pretty much the same way I'd do it, if that means anything at all.
June 25, 2002:

We're somewhere over the North Atlantic, tucked into our 767 and headed for Chicago again. Before my batteries run out (I have no way to run this thing from the 12VDC outlets under our seats) I just want to summarize a few items from my notes on Europe. Gripes, amazements, miscellaneous observations, in no particular order:

  • First things first: Ice is almost unknown in Europe. In all the time we were on the Continent, we saw ice once—and that was a single cube in a Diet Coke I drank in a small Italian restaurant somewhere near Mainz. I drink a lot of ice; Arizona, it's all part of one's survival strategy. So going without it for two weeks was something like torment.
  • Nobody in Europe drinks much—water, that is. There are no water fountains anywhere. You don't get water at restaurants unless you ask for it...and then you pay for it, and often pay big. I paid more for a bottle of San Pelllegrino last night than I did for my glass of wine. I didn't see people drinking much of anything else, either. I don't know why everybody isn't either dead of dehydration or else writhing on the ground from kidney stones.
  • It costs 50c to take a leak there. Minimum. At McClean™ restrooms, figure 80c. And that's just for a urinal. Don't ask what it cost Carol... (Maybe that's why nobody drinks anything.)
  • There is a cool little two-seater car I saw toodling around a lot in Germany, of a make I've not seen before. The only apellation on it anywhere I could see was "Smart" (in English.) It looks a lot like an ordinary car with both the front and back ends cut off. I have no idea where the engine is, or even what sort of energy it uses. Anybody know who makes it and what its smarts are about?
  • Carol and I discovered a marvelous brand of licorice in Germany, called Katjes. We ate a lot of one variety, called Katzen-Pfötchen (cats' paws) and I'm hoping it can be had in the US. It reminds me a little bit of the salt licorice we buy in Flagstaff, though much softer and with considerably more flavor.
  • European trains are excellent, with one caveat: There is not a great deal of room for baggage. We didn't pack light enough, and there was always a struggle to figure out where to put our suitcases.
  • Perhaps reacting to an American market that prefers drier wines, the Germans are now producing late harvest wines in trocken (dry) versions. This is profoundly odd to me; late harvest wines are supposed to be sweet. That's why the grapes are harvested late. Today it's dry Auslese; are we going to see dry Eiswein next? Will the Chardonnay Curse destroy all that is good in Germany oeniculture?
  • Germany doesn't believe in top sheets. At every single place we slept, the bed configuration consisted of a mattress covered with a bottom sheet, atop which was laid a sort of thin down comforter in a huge pillowcase. No top sheet. So we could either sleep with our butts in the open air, or under a down quilt...even though it cracked 37 degrees (C) one day in Volpriehausen.(Do the math!) Carol and I ended up pulling the quilts out of their quiltcases and sleeping under the quiltcases. Nobody has air conditioning in Germany, either. I guess it really is a foreign country.
  • German women have wide feet. This came out of a short stint of shoe-shopping that Carol did while we strolled the streets of Cologne, in which she found her feet swimming in every pair of shoes she tried on. German men may also have wide feet. Hard to tell; I have all the shoes I can deal with right now and I was mostly desperate to find a copy of Harper's in English.
  • European fashions seem no more bizarre than fashions do in America, though I will say that I haven't seen this many women go braless since the 1970s. Carol cautions me that we do not spend much time in fashionable big cities like New York and San Francisco, so we don't have much good data for comparison. I certainly saw much less pink and blue hair than I expected, and Dr. Scholl's Exercise Sandals hardly seem cutting-edge to me. (The Seventies again!) And while we're at it, am I a bad person for really really not liking piercings?
That's it for now. I have a few larger points to cover, and will so do in coming days, but for now I'm going to shut this thing down before the OS does it for me. We had a completely magnificent time, and hope to make the trek to Europe a little oftener than once every five years.
June 24, 2002:

Mondays are bad days to see things in Germany; most museums (including many of the great churches, sigh) are closed. We wanted to see Grosse ("big") St. Martin's, a fine old church less than a mile from the Dom, but no luck. So Carol and I wandered the Old Town area, picking up last-minute souvenirs before we began the long trek home tonight. Cologne isn't as picturesque as many other old European cities because the Allies mostly leveled it during the last days of WWII, so with only a few isolated exceptions, the buildings are only fifty-odd years old. The Dom was largely spared, but its minor war damage is apparent from almost any angle—including the new stone and new statues that have been carved in the last few decades. We looked over a railing to a little yard where blocks of raw stone and partly-completed restoration components (finials, statues, blocks) rested, awaiting another day's work in a process that has been underway since the end of the War, and will continue for a long time to come. Kölners say that when the Dom is finally and fully repaired, the world will end. We needn't worry...

We saw a lot of buskers in Germany, but the most interesting one was a sad-faced young woman in Cologne who was doing something pretty remarkable: Playing two-part harmony on a large number of glass vessels on a little table. Each of the vessels (wine glasses, water glasses, cordial glasses, of all shapes and sizes) had a quantity of water in it, and she played them by running her fingertips around their edges, like some people (myself included) do at weddings after they've had a little too much to drink. She dipped her fingertips into a little tray of water periodically, but she played very quickly and very well. The glasses were tuned with remarkable precision, and it made me wonder how long it must take her to get them all filled and fine-tuned before beginning to play.

After a nice final dinner in Germany, we hopped the ICE bullet train from Cologne back to the Frankfurt Airport, where we will stay tonight before picking up our flight early tomorrow afternoon. We were on the track on the other side of the Rhine, and the view wasn't as good, since we weren't always right on the water. But for train watching it was terrific: I saw a great variety of locos and rolling stock, and I couldn't stop thinking that the yards looked a great deal like LGB layouts in 1:1 scale. (LGB is Lehmann Grosse Bahn—Lehmann's Big Road—the German equivalent of Lionel for toy trains, only about twice the size. Most LGB stock is modeled after Deutsche Bahn stock. Even the logos are similar.) My favorites were the European-style two-axle light-duty freight cars (which are unknown in the US, where all freight cars use at least a pair of four-wheeled trucks) and the long rows of flatcars we saw in Germany carrying smallish tank-like military vehicles. Just like Christmas morning!
June 23, 2002:

It is an astonishing thing, the Cathedral at Cologne. We entered the designated portal (as they call it) this morning, elevenish, and the tourist traffic had not yet gotten intense. We were prepared for its immensity, in a sense, having seen Salisbury, Bath, St. Paul's, and Westminster Abbey. We were not prepared for its verticalness. Its interior space rises almost incredibly, drawing the eyes upward until I was afraid I would pitch over backwards. There are details at the higher spaces that one can barely make out: stained glass, carved figures, small architectural touches of all sorts. I soon wished I had brought binoculars.

Heartening was what happened about an hour later: Squadrons of red-robed functionaries gently hustled the tourists out the doors. We scuttled into the nearest pew, and remained to hear our first Mass in German. The Dom is still a functioning Roman Catholic church, and whereas we couldn't understand all of the Mass, we had by then learned just enough German to follow the familiar tread of the Novus Ordo liturgy through its unfolding. I was puzzled that the Creed was not said; less puzzled that there was no Peace. (Huggy things don't seem properly German somehow.) Even though I caught only every twentieth word, it was clear that the celebrant was a superb preacher; in fact, I learned a lot about preaching technique simply because I had no idea whatsoever what he was trying to say and instead paid attention to how he said it.

Carol had the insight that there had been value in the Latin Mass; if it were still the 1950s, we would have had no more trouble following the Mass in the Dom than had we been back home at Immaculate Conception parish at the northwestern fringes of Chicago. We knew that Mass; we knew what "sursum corda" and "per omnia saecula saeculorum" meant. It was a prayer language that carried reverence (if not sufficient joy, and certainly an excess of self-recrimination) across every linguistic barrier on Earth. That's all gone now. Is what we have better? I don't know.

After Mass we did the Big One: the 577 steps up through the West Tower. Yikes! I never thought of myself as being afraid of heights, yet once we got to the empty space above the bell chamber containing the immense St. Peter bell (which is larger than some apartments I've lived in) and had to climb a skeletal steel stairway with a good view through tower interstices out over Cologne, I got a serious case of the willies. And standing in the cage outside the tower, who knows how many feet (meters, sorry) above the ground we were, I began to wish I were Spiderman. Even climbing to the Lantern at St. Paul's in London did not affect me quite so much. Maybe it's just a mood. Maybe we lose our nerve as we grow older. But just as glad as I was that I had made the climb, I was glad to be back on the main floor of the church again, marveling.

Cologne is by far the youngest of the Great Cathedrals of Europe. In fact, it sat unfinished for four hundred years, with a wooden crane stuck semipermanently out the top of the east tower. By the time work was resumed in the 1850s, building technology had greatly improved, and the building was completed in only thirty years, to become one of the most vertical (if not the largest) cathedrals in the world.
June 22, 2002:

We did just a little more touring today in Holland before heading back to Germany. My favorite stop today was a Dutch pancake restaurant and museum, all in a converted Dutch farm complex, parts of which dated back to the late 1500s. The pancakes were marvelous and unlike anything I've ever seen in the states. They were thinner, richer, and less risen (in other words, they used less baking powder) than American flapjacks. You can order them with various things cooked right into them; I had ham in mine, and Carol had the "Saxon" variety, with bacon, ham, apples, and raisins, making it something somewhere between a pancake and an omelette. Someone should perfect the recipe and start selling them in the US. It could be the next big rage in ethnic food.

Just for the sake of difference we took a stoptrein (local) train from Holland to Cologne, and got a sense for how the locals used their public transportation system. Dogs and bicycles are both quite welcome; there is a separate car on which you just haul your bike right in with you. I'm not entirely sure why, but dogs seem better behaved here. The ones on the trains just sit quietly beside their owners, and don't have to be sniffing everything and piddling on everything and picking fights with other dogs. A remarkable number of people just jump the train for one or two stops, even though total length of the run was close to a hundred miles. My only gripe is that the trains are warm and kind of stuffy, though I'm sure that in cooler weather that wouldn't be an issue.

We rolled into Koln HBF about 8:00 PM, and when we emerged into the lingering light, we were dumbfounded by the sight of the Cathedral, directly beside the station. To me, the structure seemed to be made of countless fingers pointing directly to heaven. While not the only Gothic cathedral we've seen, it's certainly the tallest and the most imposing. We only gaped at it from the taxi line—we were both pretty tired by then, and besides, the Turkish team had just beat somebody else (Senegal?) in the world cup Soccer tournament, and the local Turks were going nuts in the streets of Cologne. I wanted out of there and into bed as quickly as possible, so our exploration of the Kölner Dom (as they call it here) will have to wait until tomorrow.
June 21, 2002:

I woke up last night at about 2 AM, and had to think for a second to place what I was hearing. Frogs! Well, OK, so frogs don't seem exotic to you...but we've been living in Arizona for thirteen years now, and frogs have become a distant memory. After listening to them for a few minutes, I started giggling: No two of the several frogs beside the stream across from the Bontings' home were making the same sounds, and I kept listening for the "bud," the "wei" and the "ser." The longer I listened, the more I was imposing my expectations on the frogs' songs, and as I drifted off to sleep I was sure they could do the beer song if they only worked at it a little longer and got a little more coordinated. Now, where's Louie the Lizard?

We spent most of the day walking the narrow brick streets of Deventer, a very old city in Holland with some superb architecture and churches. Many of the buildings carry their dates on their facades, often cleverly worked into the iron clamps that hold the two ends of the buildings together. The streets are crowded with people, bikes, and even vehicles, and I took the photo at left mostly because of the miraculous and unexplained (though admittedly very short) lack of traffic.

The churches, while striking, are more than a little sad: Most of them have been converted to museums or concert halls. There is less public worship in Holland than in any other country in Europe, and the bulk of the largest churches are no longer churches at all. Only the smallest churches (like St. Willibrord's in Arnhem; see yesterday's entry) can survive, since they don't require nearly as much heating and repair.

The historic windmill in Goor was closed today, but it's maintained by the miller's guild and still runs, though they don't run it very much. I would post a photo here but it was the end of a long day and my camera battery had conked by then. It looks precisely like a Dutch windmill ought to look.

Touring Europe is hard work. We spent the last part of the day in sleepy conversation with our friends here, and will be off again tomorrow for Cologne, on the last leg of our trip.
June 20, 2002:

We bid Irwin and Maria farewell for this trip and hopped the Deutsche Bahn ICE bullet train from Remagen south of Bonn to Anhem in the Netherlands, where we were met by Prof. Sjoerd Bonting, a medical biochemistry researcher who took ordination later in life and is now an Anglican priest with close ties to the Old Catholic Movement in Holland. Prof. Bonting had arranged a meeting with the Rev. Angela Berlis, one of the first two women ordained to the priesthood by the European Old Catholics. She is married to Peter Feenstra, the pastor of St. Willibrord's Old Catholic parish in Arnhem, where she continues her study of theology. We spoke at length of what has been published on the Old Catholic movement in Europe, and what of the Dutch and German material might be most suitable for translation to the English language market. If at some point I decide to do a book on women in the Old Catholic priesthood, I will definitely be calling on her for an interview.

Professor Bonting then took us around that part of the Eastern Netherlands, and showed us the farms, canals, and forests of the area. We had been to Amsterdam for two days back in 1997 (coincidentally on this very day in June) but had never seen the Dutch countryside. It doesn't get much press, but there is still a Dutch royalty and aristocracy, including some castles and major stately homes, and we strolled through the gardens of Twickel, perhaps the largest and most ambitious of the Dutch castles.

We're going to do a little more touring tomorrow, but Carol and I are exhausted, so on this, the longest night of the year, we are preparing to turn in for the night...with the sun still shining in our window. I don't think it's going to keep us awake. Zzzzzzzzzzz....
June 19, 2002:

Back to Unkelbach today. Not much radical to report, other than the traffic on the autobahn was marvelously light (it was a lot rougher on the way out) and the trip took almost an hour less than did coming out.

We had taken a church bulletin from the little church in Schlarpe, and on the back page was a listing of all the church members from the four small towns (Volpriehausen, Schlarpe and two others) served by the same pastor. Not a single person on the list was less than 70 years old. Not one! In ten years there isn't going to be any church community of any consequence out there. Young people are just not going to church in Germany anymore.

Irwin had an explanation: In Germany they have a government program that sounds startling to Americans: If you profess belief in a religion, you are taxed 10% of your net pay, with the proceeds going to the church you choose. This keeps the churches open and heated, but it doesn't take a Ph.D. in psychology to figure out why working people are opting out in droves. (Atheists pay nothing.)

As usual, a government system intended to save something has ended up destroying it. Let's be glad for the American separation of church and state. State meddling has brought the German churches (all of them) to the edge of ruin.
June 18, 2002:

After offering the church a modest donation, we were graciously allowed to spend an entire day in the church library with the Old Books. One by one, with a doggedness that was humbling to witness, Maria turned page by parchment page, searching for handscript in the form "Duntemann" and then reading the ancient writing with a skill that is becoming ever-rarer and may eventually vanish altogether outside the universities.

I covered sheeet after sheet with notes, and Carol went through the separate index book someone had produced (though it was a little spotty) compiling lists of references to family members. There are a lot of people I had no knowledge of before, and the oldest reference, describing the death (at age 51) of Christoph Duntemann, allowed us to calculate his year of birth to 1686 or 1687. Other parts of the family tree will have to be revised; there are no fewer than three Andreas Duntemanns in the records (one being the son of the other, and a third present in only one reference and linked to no one else) and I had them all confused. The name of a woman I had known as "Hannah" was really "Johanne" and I had her year of birth wrong, and two other women are simply not present in the old records, which raises the question of where and when they were in fact born.

But when the last old book had been scanned, I realized that it was a triumph: I now knew the name of my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, and had birth and death dates for many people I had previously known by name only. Some death records told stories: One man froze to death walking (in February) to Adelebsen; another fell out of a tree and broke his leg, which killed him. (There was basically no medical care in tiny farm villages in central Germany in 1831.) The poor woman who had borne two illigitimate children died in her forties, unmarried, of mutterkrebs (literally, "mother cancer," probably uterine) which some villagers likely considered a sort of divine justice.

Many odd questions remain. Herr Kuhn, who wrote the history of the little Schlarpe church, has a copy of the Schlarpe town register for 1880...and not a single Duntemann resided in the town by then. In 1840 there had been a thriving family there, with three brothers, all married, raising numerous children. The index lists no Duntemanns dying in the town after 1860. Some (my own line, obviously) went to America, but we know that one line remained in Germany, with a Duntemann descendent living in Uslar today. It may have been that the town just could not support all the people who had been born in it, and if they were not landowners there was nothing to keep them from just moving on to another town.

Quests like this are never really completed. There are other little churches in this part of Germany, and all have their own stacks of old record books. I would have to visit them all, and scan them all (without Maria's help...I can only presume so much there!) to find where all the other mysterious Duntemanns came from and ended up. There is another Duntemann line from a small town not terribly far from Schlarpe, and I have never been able to find the link between the two lines. I may have the information I need to do so now, and as soon as I get back to my files in Scottsdale that's the first thing I'm going to investigate.
June 17, 2002:

We only had two hours or so to look at the ancient church records today due to the church office's schedule, but egad! The old books go back to 1722; earlier records were destroyed in a fire. But that's still a lot of temporal ground to cover, especially considering that all the records were written with a quill pen on parchment, in German, in a style of handwriting that has not been taught for over a century and is difficult to decipher, even for modern German readers. Maria, however, has done this before in connection with her own family history research, and as a child before WWII received letters from her grandmother in precisely this sort of handwriting. So we sat down at a library table and began at 1848 (the year my Duntemann ancestors are supposed to have left Schlarpe for the US) working backwards toward the front of the book. We got a good head start, but two hours isn't a great deal of time, and I filled several quad pad pages with birth, death, and wedding records from the first half of the 19th century. I did not expect to find many startling discoveries in the newer books, but we actually discovered something a little odd: An unmarried Duntemann woman in the 1820s gave birth to two illigitimate children by the same local man...and his wife acted as godparent when the poor kids were baptised! Tomorrow we'll have more time and (I hope) will get through the rest of the books.

After lunch, we contacted the caretaker of the little Lutheran church in Schlarpe, and although he was home with his leg up (his knee was giving him problems) his wife went down to the church and opened it for us. It has a lot of charm, and was quite cool inside given the unexpected 90 degree heat. Walls in excess of two feet thick had a lot to do with it, I'm sure. We took photos of the interior, including the stone baptismal font that dates from 1601, and then were allowed to go up into the ancient and dusty stone belltower itself. The bells were once rung by hand but now are turned by an electric motor. There are two, and they are far from being as ancient as the church itself; one is from 1897 and the other, larger one from 1917. The older bell has a complex inscription that I could not make out. The newer bell simply says (in German) "Awaken and pray! The Master is near."

A local man in Schlarpe has written a history of the church, and after supper we called him, and he invited us to visit. He presented me with a copy of his history, and that is one more thing (out of a whole leavy stack) that may require me to learn some middling German to continue the quest. Irwin translated the conversation for us, but not being able to follow it made me restless. Most of the younger people here (especially in the bigger cities) speak pretty tolerable English. In the small towns almost no one does, and certainly not the older folk. I am tremendously glad that Irwin and Maria are along. I could never have pulled all this off on my own.
June 16, 2002:

I stepped out of Irwin's car in front of the old church in Schlarpe, and it was a profoundly weird experience. The weirdness was enhanced by the fact that it was after 9:00 PM, and at this latitude in mid-June, dusk lingers almost endlessly, and there wasn't a wisp of wind beneath a pale overcast sky. It was warm, and quiet, with a few birds calling in the distance, but almost no other sounds. And so I stood in front of the door of the small stone church where my Duntemann ancestors worshipped, were baptised, and blessed before burial. The door says "1771," but that is just the date of the "new" door—the stone building itself is very old, so old that no one knows precisely when it was built. It goes back at least to the year1200 and probably farther than that.

Tomorrow morning we will be calling on the church in Volpriehausen where the records for all the little village churches in this region are kept, and I hope to find names of Duntemanns unknown, and push the horizons of our knowledge back past Georg Andreas Duntemann, my great-great-great-great-great grandfather, born between 1740 and 1760.

A few of my distant cousins have travelled here and stood in front of the old church, but the church is not much used anymore and is open only on Sundays twice a month. However, we know the name of the church caretaker, and tomorrow, with any luck at all, I will be the first Duntemann of my line in over 150 years to actually enter the church and stand where the ancients stood to worship God and give Him thanks.

It's been a long road here, but I am very glad I came.
June 13, 2002:

Our first full day in Germany was intense, and left us with a host of interesting and sometimes incongruous impressions. The country is tremendously clean—there is no litter anywhere—but seems plagued by graffitti (at least around the big cities) to an extent far beyond anything I see in Phoenix or Chicago. I love the trains, but then again, I've rarely met a train I didn't like. (In my view, any train that still moves is a good train, and German trains are nearly all electric and thus doubly good.)

And the food, yikes! We went to lunch at Gasthaus St. Peter in the Ahr Valley (east of Remagen), a restaurant that has been in business continuously since 1246 and is arguably the oldest restaurant in all of Germany. The food was magnificent, and we drank a variety of wine produced from grapes grown on the hillside behind the restaurant and rarely if ever exported. It was a halbtrocken (half-dry) spätburgunder that is nominally a rosé but has a color I can only describe as golden and a taste like nothing else I've tried.

My German vocabulary is exploding, though admittedly German grammar continues to confound me. We visited a publisher friend in Bonn later this afternoon, and he gently corrected (with ample encouragement) my game attempts to communicate in the language. I've learned two German phrases that I particularly like: Geistesblitz and waschbaren. Geistesblitz (literally, ghost lightning) is how the Germans describe a wild, ingenious, and perhaps slightly crazy idea. It's a term that really ought to be dragged into the English language—I'd like to see a better Germanism in common use than the wretched and entirely too common use of schadenfreude. Waschbaren are raccoons—literally, "wash bears" because of their habit of washing their food in streams before eating it.

Perhaps the most startling thing to us is the presence of immense three-bladed wind turbines almost everywhere in the countryside, parked in groups of three and five on the higher hills. Irwin says Germany now generates 8% of its electricity from wind turbines, and is continuing to build them as rapidly as possible. (We saw several under construction.) Oddly, when people complain about them, it's not about any noise they generate (they are engineered to be as nearly silent as possible) but about the shadows cast by the spinning blades. They are situated whenever possible so that they blades will not cast shadows on any dwelling, which (at early morning or late evening) can be a long way away.

Saturday morning we take a longish trip in Irwin's car eastward to central Germany, where we'll explore "Uslarer land," the region of Neidersaschen (Lower Saxony) where the Duntemann family has lived as far back into the past as anyone has probed.
June 12, 2002:

We flew to from O'Hare to Frankfurt on a 767, a 9 1/2 hour flight, which was smooth as glass and somewhat sleepy, though sleep is something that eludes me on airliners. What was novel was the shortness of night on an aircraft travelling 500+ MPH on a far-north great circle track scant days from the summer solstice. After dinner was cleared away, we were given personal DVD players and a book of 20 movies, from Harry Potter to Beach Party, starring Annette and her buddies. Having no stomach for either Annette or Harry, I chose to watch Space Cowboys, and I was surprised at how well it worked on a screen smaller than a laptop's. Well, as the movie began, the western horizon was just losing the last of its ruddy sunset glow. And by the time the credits rolled, dawn had begun to break in the other direction. Great movie, but it took all night...

After landing in Frankfurt, we made our way through that unutterable confusion of an airport, eventually found the ICE high-speed train station, and diiscovered that those nice ICE bullet trains did not serve our route. So we took a slightly less flashy but still tidy Deutsche Bahn train that blasted west to the Rhine, and then north up the Rhine toward Bonn. In that part of the Rhine Valley there's a medieval castle parked on the hillside every kilometer or so for twenty miles, and we watched them roll by with interest. We passed through Bingen (where Hildegard the mystical-musical nun came from) and saw the Mausesturm (Mouse Tower) standing in the middle of the river, where as legend has it some S.O.B. of a bishop (who was said to enjoy murdering beggars, and would off whole groups of them at once for jollies) was eaten alive by mice. Hey, can we build one of those (or a few hundred) in Washington?

Eventually we made our way to the tiny Bonn suburb of Unkelbach, where our hosts, Dr. Irwin Scollar and his wife Maria, have lived since their retirement. Irwin is a Delphi author who has created a spectacular vertical market application for the use of archeologists and government site-preservation agencies. It allows the perfect alignment and overlay of cadastral (plat) maps onto aerial photographs, so that archeological sites can be accurately described in legal documents. So Delphi's a kiddie language, huh?

We're going into Bonn tomorrow to meet with a publisher friend, and then Saturday we're off to central Germany to spend a few days poking around the little towns of Schlarpe and Volpriehausen, the ancestral home of the Duntemann clan. (To find them on a detailed—and I mean detailed!—map of Germany, find Goettingen, which is fifty miles or so south of Hanover, and then go northwest about ten klicks. Schlarpe is between Goettingen and Uslar, though much closer to Uslar.)

More later. Time to pop a Melatonin and battle jet lag. I have no idea how long I've been awake.
June 11, 2002:

Frank Glover sent me a pointer to Infineon, a semiconductor firm researching the use of carbon nanotubes in more-or-less conventional wafer-scale semiconductor manufacturing. A reasonably readable news release explains some of the advantages: Carbon nanotubes can carry enormous currents relative to their size without overheating, (by a factor of 1000 over simple copper) which could allow another couple of orders of magnitude decrease in the trace sizes, with a corresponding increase in the density and speed of the chips. This is a good illustration of where advances in nanotech will come from, at least for the next ten or fifteen years: Not in creating Drexlerian nanoassemblers (which may be problematic in any case) but in the use of nanoscale structures generated by "precision chemistry" rather than individual manipulation of atoms or molecules.

On the same day I filched a pointer from Slashdot to Nantero, which is developing a nonvolatile species of memory using carbon nanotubes as semiconductor switches. They don't offer quite as much technical insight into their program, but they suggest nonvolatile memory on a scale that would give us a 10 GB PDA, with speed comparable to current DRAM. I'm interested in the physical layout of large scale containers (i.e., chips as we know them) containing nanoscale structures. How do you anchor and fix a nanotube in place without disturbing its molecular structure, which (at least in the case of carbon nanotubes) is key to all of its interesting properties?

IBM is also working on nanomemory in its Millipede project, which uses nanomechanical means to create and read data as dents in a pliable substrate (currently a species of polymethylmethacrylate plastic). It's simple, actually: Use a hot poker to make dents to write data, and then read it by dragging a cold poker across the surface and read the position of the poker by monitoring its resistance. (Note: requires real small pokers!) Bits can be erased by heating them just enough to "pop" them back to their original zero state. Cool stuff is clearly happening in nanotech, and very little of it seems to have been foreseen directly by the Foresight people, who seem stuck on the nanoassembler vision. I guess it's good to know when to put your vision in the refrigerator for a few years, so it doesn't blind you to the things waiting a few months up the stream of time.

Finally, in a couple of hours Carol and I will leave on our European adventure. We will be spending some time in Germany, exploring, doing a little business, and visiting the little town of Schlarpe, from which my Duntemann ancestors ran screaming in 1848, to become tomato farmers in Des Plaines IL, on land where O'Hare Field stands today. I hope to push back knowledge of my forbears past Georg Andreas Duntemann, who was born in Schlarpe about 1750. I'll have my laptop with me, and if I can get a Net connection without undue mayhem over there I will keep Contrapositive Diary current. So stay tuned, but if Diary here stays quiet, it's not because I've lost interest. It's probably just a cabling problem.
June 10, 2002:

This morning I ran across (finally!) an implementation of my idea of "permission-based email." Not that it's that brilliant an idea...I'd call it as obvious as anything the world has ever needed and lacked. The company is MailCircuit, and they are an email-hosting company with an interesting technology they call Handshake Verification.

It works like this: You begin by creating a list of "trusted senders" whose email is allowed to reach your inbox.When an email arrives at MailCircuit's POP server that is not from one of your trusted senders, the server replies with a verification request, for which the "reply-to" address is at MailCircuit's server farm rather than your own email address. If the sender responds to this address, the sender is then added to your list of trusted senders. The list is easily editable, so when (rather than if, sigh) a spammer figures out how to subvert the system, you can block him quickly.

I just discovered this site and I relate the above description without any experience, but it sounds like it should work, at least for the vast majority of spam operators out there, and especially for the marginally talented chickenboner set who use "spam and run" accounts on broadband connections, through AOL, Hotmail, MSN, etc. (These, ironically, are sometimes very hard to filter out.) As time allows I may give it a try, but if any of you try it first, I'd appreciate a report.
June 9, 2002:

Apparently the motherboard containing a built-in vacuum-tube audio preamp (see my entry for June 4) is really and truly real, in that somebody is manufacturing it and selling it. I'm familiar with the tube audio guys (and I have three beer boxes full of tubes in my garage) but at some point, sheesh, you draw the line. Tube audio is supposed to be "warmer" somehow, and several sincere but clueless engineers have pointed out (don't have the references) that this is because tubes are inherently a little off, and round the corners of the waveforms of razor-sharp modern (especially digital) audio. In fact, a Japanese chip maker put an IC on the market seven or eight years ago that deliberately distorted digital audio waveforms so as to have this same vacuum-tube sound. (I received the news release for some reason at PC Techniques.) The poor chip did not get a lot of play, because as most of us could guess, it's the legend and not the reality that really matters here. Only tubes can produce tube audio, and only tube audio is better. It's their legend, and I'll freely grant them their delusions.

On the other hand, putting a tube right there on the motherboard is just nuts. People like me who have struggled against power line hum in two-tube regenerative receivers know that you have to be spectacularly anal about shielding low-level audio devices against hum and stray signal pickup. If you're going to amplify audio from a PC sound card with tubes, put the tube amp in a completely hum-tight metal box with 100% braid coax for the input line, and ideally put the audio box across the room from the PC. It's far from clear to me that it's even possible to keep those buzzsaw switching transients out of a low-level tube amp that's parked on the motherboard...so it wasn't exactly me who was being had by the 12AX7-on-the-motherboard device, heh.

Also, for those who care about such things, note that I've recently expanded my article on Hi-Flier paper kites, and added some new photos sent to me by readers of two relatively rare kites: The Hi-Flier box kite and barn door flat kite.
June 8, 2002:
I've posted an updated copy of my text file of known spammer domains. (Known to me, at least.) The file has almost doubled in size since my original posting on April 19. Note well that it takes two or three spams from a domain to warrant a place on the list, and that I've omitted the domains that are clearly used for things other than spam. That leaves a whole lot of domains, and the ones here probably generate 90% of the spam that I get, the remainder coming from chickenboners using AOL, MSN, Eudoramail, and other mail services. I've also omitted a few oddball soapbox domains, like stopsellingcannabis.com, which sent me a handful of goofy jeremiads about reefer before vanishing. If they had persisted (or if they return) they'd be on the list too.
June 7, 2002:

I have not yet read Stephen Wolfram's monumental book A New Kind of Science, though I promise you, I will. (I have some homework to do first.) I've read numerous commentaries, though, the most recent of which was in the June 2002 print edition of Wired. Wolfram's primary thesis cooks down to the following: Complex things emerge from simple rules, and ultimately, the entire body of physical laws governing all physical processes in the universe will cook down to a mere handful of as yet undiscovered algorithms that govern the cosmos as a species of cellular automata. How big a handful? Wolfram hazards a guess: Four lines of Mathematica code. Wired's author (the famous Steven Levy) made much of how such a discovery (which Wolfram hopes to make himself) would be terribly disappointing to us humans, who somehow (Levy thinks) expect the universe to be much more complex than that.

I flashed back to a fantasy novel concept I had more than twenty years ago, about magic as a system, and not Harry Potter-style anything-goes miraculousness. Larry Niven had done some (very) simplistic work in that area in the early 1970s with his engaging story "The Magic Goes Away," but he didn't take it very far. My notion was that complex magic is easy, and simple magic is hard. Any two-bit magician can create Byzantine interwoven spells, but it takes a genius conjuror to create a simple spell that does only one thing in an obvious way. I never wrote Spellbender (fantasy leaves a sour taste in my mouth, kind of like C++) but I'm a little surprised that a mind as acute as Levy's would somehow miss the sublime mystery of simplicity. If in fact the universe can be completely described in four lines of Mathematica code, to me that would be not only awe-inspiring, but heavy evidence of a Designer in the origins of things.

Set that aside, though. Can Wolfram's mystical statement of universal algorithms ever be discovered? That in itself is an interesting question. Complex systems seem to be "trap doors," in that the results can be generated from simple algorithms, but the algorithms are not generally discernable by inspection of the results. (Imagine staring at a deep level of the Mandelbrot Set and attempting to derive its almost trivial equation.) Our universe may be the ultimate trap door. Short of being able to start with our own hypothetical set of equations and "running the simulation" in realtime, with realstuff, we will probably never know.
June 6, 2002:

I get about ten or twelve copies of the Klez email worm in here every week. Norton catches it without any trouble. I was amused this morning, however, to get an email with the following text:

Klez.E is the most common world-wide spreading worm.It's very dangerous by corrupting your files. Because of its very smart stealth and anti-anti-virus technic,most common AV software can't detect or clean it. We developed this free immunity tool to defeat the malicious virus. You only need to run this tool once,and then Klez will never come into your PC. NOTE: Because this tool acts as a fake Klez to fool the real worm,some AV monitor maybe cry when you run it. If so,Ignore the warning,and select 'continue'. If you have any question,please mail to me.

And the email address, of course, is some poor slob who got infected along the way. The message was accompanied by a copy of Klez that is the same size as all the others, though I haven't tried comparing it byte-for-byte to an earlier arrival. Most people who read this diary aren't so dumb as to believe something like this, but a lot of people out there (I still hear from people who "just got my first computer!" and believe anything that arrives in their inboxes) will probably fall for it.
June 5, 2002:
I'm not entirely sure how to take this, but I just ran across a Web site giving a (long) list of passwords that aspiring hackers could try using in brute force attacks. Nothing particularly weird about that...except that my name is in the list. Go see for yourself. The posting site is all in German, so my understanding of it is thin at best. About all I can figure (given how vanishingly rare the name "Duntemann" is, both here and in Germany) is that some German hackers have my assembly language book (which is very popular with hackers for some reason) and figured my (odd) name would make a great password. This is a species of fame I never contemplated, though I guess it's better than being accosted for autographs in drug stores.
June 4, 2002:
People, I wonder sometimes if I'm being had. Usually I can tell. Sometimes I can't. This is one of them. If you can figure it out, do let me know. Thanks.
June 3, 2002:

Evidence is accumulating that there is something to Thomas Gold's theory: That there is an immense amount of hydrocarbon fuel (both methane and heavier hydrocarbons) deep within the Earth's crust, left over from primordial methane that has been with the earth since the planet's formation. See this article at the National Center for Policy Analysis. (Yes, I know it's a conservative think tank. In this case, they're just reporting research done by others.) Scientists at Texas A&M have determined that light oil and natural gas are "leaking up" into fields previously thought to be depleted. Gold predicted that oil fields and gas fields might "recharge" naturally, but didn't have good research to back him up. This may be it.

I mentioned Gold's book The Deep Hot Biosphere in my entry for June 7, 2001. I don't buy everything he says, but he did some research and got some results that cannot be casually brushed off. He drilled five kilometers down into a granite rock formation in Scandinavia, and brought up 84 barrels of crude oil. Geology as we know it would hold that fossil fuels could not be found there, and quantities like that cannot be leakage from the machinery. I challenge Gold's detractors to explain how this can be so—otherwise, I see no reason to take them seriously. When a scientist presents evidence, you either accept the evidence or explain why it should not be accepted. I was amused by a couple of notes I got from people, insisting that Gold must be wrong—and I could tell they really wanted Gold to be wrong, but had nothing intelligent to say about Gold's research.

At the bottom of it all, I smell ideology here. Greens hate Gold, because if he's right, his research gives the lie to decades of Green howling that we're rapidly running out of fossil fuels. Ironically, Gold's vindication could bolster the underlying fear of the Green faction: That carbon dioxide's warming effects are damaging the self-regulating mechanisms of the atmosphere, with unpredictable but predictably bad effects. However, as best I can tell, the Greens aren't rational. They've staked down their position (We're running out of oil! Ban SUV's NOW!) and aren't listening to any competing ideas. Certainly, if Earth contains an essentially unlimited supply of hydrocarbons, global warming has no natural limiting factor like eventual depletion of hydrocarbon stocks, and there's real danger there. But like a lot of ideological movements (and the Greens bear an uncanny resemblance to religious fundamentalists) there's no room for research that contradicts the Holy Writ.
June 2, 2002:

One of the economic concepts that I've been screatching my head about for over a year is the question of interest rates. Juxtapose: Investment interest rates are close to zero and We're in a recession. I remember twenty years ago when we were in a recession and interest rates were over 10%. We all thought back then that we were in a recession because interest rates were over 10%. Sure enough, when interest rates came down, the economy went up.

So what's going on now? I'm getting crosseyed reading economists on the Web, and, having digested entirely too much bad writing, I have come to the following conclusion: There is way too much stuff in the world, and people have most all of the stuff that they need. Hence demand is down, but we continue to churn out stuff. We've become remarkably productive in making stuff, too, and it's even good stuff. Stuff is piling up, less of it is selling, and the prices for that stuff are falling. People are being put out of work, hence buying less stuff, and there's your classing deflationary feedback loop.

Now, this all makes sense in terms of elementary economic terms. So the real question becomes: What the hell happened in the 70's? We had both high inflation and deep recession at the same time. I can't figure it.
June 1, 2002:

After the collapse of Visual Developer a couple years ago, I had intended to develop a second career in public speaking, but the gigs never materialized somehow. Admittedly, I didn't go after it in any organized manner, and that was a big mistake. So I've gone back to thinking about what I could speak on that would draw an audience and make money. I know a little about a lot, a lot about a little, and something about almost everything, but with something like this it's probably best to start out with a topic that's genuinely in your blood. So I'm scoping out something I'm calling Jeff Duntemann's Tech Writing Boot Camp. It'll be an intensive three-day seminar in doing what I do, using those techniques that I've found useful over the years.

Most people who have a genuine desire to write can do so successfully. I'm not talking SF novels here (sigh) but documentation, magazine articles, and technical books. I've taken great satisfaction in coaching a number of writers to a modicum of fame during my 18 years in the editorial field: Michael Abrash, Jim Mischel, Ray Konopka, Peter Aitken, Eric Harmon, and numerous others. Although by this time I write so automatically that it's not immediately obvious to me how I do it anymore, I definitely remember how I learned, and it would be an interesting exercise to reverse-engineer my own skill set in the cause of teaching what I do to others.

Whaddaya think? Would you pay $300 for such a course? $500? $250? Should it be three days or two? I promise that it'll be fun, and nothing like your archetypal nod-off-to-sleep PowerPoint dronefest. Should I invite one of my cohorts to co-present? I'll be in the design stages of this for some time, and it may not happen at all—but if my spreadsheets tell me it'll work, it could be a marvelous good time. Let me know your thoughts.