Social Distancing

Sir Isaac Newton

For those of us privileged to live in one of the world’s great cities, one of the advantages is the sheer number of activities that are available to engage in. Of course there is also the opposite side of the coin, living in a big city can create an amount of social isolation. “Social distancing” is exactly what Connect was designed to combat.

Perhaps a bit “Last Days of Pompeii,” I went out four days out of five last week. Numbers were sparse for our normal Stammtisch, but with fewer people you also have a chance to get to know people better. I had sad news Friday. One of the people at one of the events I went to now has some “symptoms”. Just to pre-answer – it was not Connect and I don’t think I was exposed.

I have already been social distancing – not shaking hands, not touching my face (Oh this itch is killing me but it is right at my eye!), washing my hands whenever I go anywhere, keeping my distance on the U-Bahn and taking a shower when I get home. I hope that you are all taking measures to keep healthy.

In 1665, Isaac Newton studied at home in Woolsthorpe because his university in Cambridge had closed as a precaution against the Great Plague. During this time, he began to work out some of the mathematical foundations of what would become Calculus. He would have probably done it anyway. And Leibniz also helped develop Calculus, but I am looking for silver linings.

If bars and restaurants are closed, we probably will need to resort to more “online” ways of getting together. One advantage here could be that we don’t need to be separated by physical distance. I’ll try to post an update when I have any news about any plans we have.

Update: I think restaurants are still open, bars are not. Another restriction on activities (Paragraph III) was added last night that might apply to us. I think, actually, that it applies more to private clubs and meeting rooms and not to friends getting together in public restaurants. But I have cleared the calendar of future meetings. Nothing to stop you from still showing up, but you are on your own. Use your own judgement. Stay safe!

Vote from Abroad

Are you going to the Berlinale? What are your favourite movies? Who are your favourite actors? Why has English taken the (originally) male only name for a profession to now apply to both sexes whilst German has gone overboard making obligate two versions of each. This was one of the topics of our last Stammtisch.

For me, Stammtisch was always a wonderful word for people getting together and making friends. There isn’t really a good English equivalent.

But someone mentioned that in German the word also has negative connotations — a bunch of loud alcoholics, probably right wingers. In the past, the alcohol part may not have been so wrong for our group. But last night more than half of us had none. I guess we all get a bit older.

Are you celebrating Fasching? It is celebrated differently in different parts of Germany. And it is celebrated more by Catholics than by Protestants. I guess you don’t need any particular religion to celebrate.

For Altweiberfasching on Fat Thursday, women may dress as witches and if they see a man wearing a tie, they take out their scissors and cut it off.

R. shared some wonderful cooking tips for parsnips. This delicious vegetable has unfortunately gone out of fashion. Somehow from there we also got to talking about ferry trips, but I’ve forgotten the connection.

Are you an American living in Germany? You know you can vote in federal elections (President, Congress) by requesting an absentee ballot. See Vote From Abroad for information.

Would you like to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate? You are in luck! Democrats living abroad count as an extra state for the Global Presidential Primary. There will be in-person voting in Berlin March 3rd and 8th (more information).

Paul’s Bog Adventure

Everyone who knows Paul appreciates his sense of humour and his engaging stories. Since moving to Ireland he has been honing himself to the peak of physical perfection by going to the gym three days a week. He also quite enjoys a nice long walk in the countryside.

Bog Man – Not an actual photograph of Paul

One evening on one of these walk abouts he managed to get himself turned around in the bogs and wasn’t sure which direction was home. It started raining and he had no “brolly” with him. On top of this he began sinking into the mire up to his knees. He managed to pull his foot out sans boot. So he narrowly avoided ending up as a future “bog man”. But thousands of years from now when the area is excavated by alien archaeologists and the boot is discovered, they will be scratching their heads wondering which kind of strange creatures these were that hopped around on only one foot.

Paul managed to come across a fence. Where there’s a fence, there must eventually be civilization. He followed it along and ultimately came upon a lone farm house. The occupant there took pity on him and offered him a “cuppa” tea. At this point it was already daylight.

There was a road nearby so he started to walk back towards town. Would you ever stop to pick up a dishevelled hitch-hiker wearing a single boot? But the Irish are very “sympathisch” and eventually a kind woman pulled over and offered him a lift. His absence had not gone unnoticed. They were already announcing that a man was missing on the radio. So he has become somewhat of a local celebrity.

I’m sure I haven’t done justice to Paul’s story. And I have probably committed errors of omission and commission. Paul would love to hear from Connect-ers and I am authorized to pass along his contact details to those in our group. You should hear the story first-hand.

Paul still enjoys a nice walk through the bogs but he knows his way around better now.

I want to add a small reminder for those interested in Brunch to check out our events page. Hope you enjoy your weekend.

Brexit Flash Mob

On the eve of Brexit, a little birdie informs me there will be a flash mob at midnight in front of the British Embassy to sing “An die Freude” / Ode to Joy. It was good to see U. last night, whom I haven’t seen for quite a while. I think an interesting topic for this column would be to catch up with old Connect-ers who moved away, or even those who are still around. But I will ask permission before I post about them here so I can use a first name instead of just an initial.

One topic last night was vegans / vegetarians. This seems to have become very popular in Berlin, especially within the last few years. K. offered some book recommendations. We talked a bit about changes in Germany since “Die Wende”, some places in the East, a bit of history about the “Ostsiedlung”, living in Czechia, Holocaust Remembrance, Polish politics and several other topics.

Anyone interested in a trip to a museum, please get in touch. The Brunch is planned for the 16th of February so let Katja know if you plan to come so she can adjust the reservation.

I have reworked many of the pages on our web site. It has been planned to integrate the book club software into WordPress. Testing for the next phase is complete so book club members at some point will see a link on their profile page to create WP accounts.

I hope next time to have some news from Ireland.

Happy 2020

We hope you all “slid” into the new year without too many bruises. Last night we had good attendance and good “Laune” at the “Stammtisch“. We discussed how we could increase engagement. Is anyone up to be a model as in “Calendar Girls“?

More seriously, Katya is organising another Connect Breakfast at the Cana Restaurant some Sunday in March Sunday the 16th of February. They have an enormous buffet with delicious Lebanese dishes. Keep an eye on the Events Page and send Katya an e-mail if you are interested.

I am hoping to revamp the web page, select a better theme, etc. The book club will also be more integrated into WordPress with new and better features. There should be more frequent announcements. So in the spirit of a New Years resolution I plan to blog about once a week to keep you informed about what is going on.

Hope you all have a great weekend.

Plans for the summer party are in full swing

Hi folks!

By popular demand, there shall be another summer party this year. Take out your calendars and mark Sunday August 26th (for several reasons we decided that the 18th was not the most suitable date, and Saturday 25th was already taken). So I guess we shall start a bit earlier – firing up the grills around noon? How does that sound?

However, we still need volunteers. And donations.

There was also a suggestion to make it pot luck only – without BBQ. Let Paul know what you think of that.

We need helpers to go shopping beforehand, to lug the stuff to the island, to set up things, so man the grills, to stand inside at the beer tap, and to stay on later and do the cleaning up.

Talk to Paul.

Hello world!

Hi folks. As many of you know, on 25th, May 2018 new laws come into effect (see Wikipedia General Data Protection Regulation). We are happy that Europe takes serious steps to protect our privacy. But of course, these laws apply to all creatures great and small. Big companies have the resources to pay people to fix all the problems. We don’t.

How does this apply to us? The main points I am aware of at the moment are cookies and protection of user data. As far as cookies are concerned, we mostly weren’t using any – but we did have the forum and that uses cookies. We can’t really fix this quickly so at least for the moment we will shut the forum down. I know this sucks but we weren’t using it that much. We might bring it back in the future.

In the past, we sent out a newsletter. People had to sign up for this. But this is very old software and it was not written with GDPR in mind. And we haven’t sent out any newsletters for a long time. So this is gone too.

There are some other points we are looking at but I don’t want to bore you with details. The short message of this is that we are updating our web site. We will now use WordPress. So that uses cookies, but there is a plug-in to tell you this. There are all kinds of plug-ins and maybe we will be able to bring back some of the things we are removing. It is much easier for people to edit the web site and I hope people are happy with the changes.