Amazing things visitors to Las Vegas never see!

Zillions of tourists come here every year – but they spend their time on The Strip and they never see some of the wonders that Las Vegas has to offer.

More or less in the center of this sprawling city is a small public park called The Springs Preserve with various hiking trails, and the park tries to re-create the native Las Vegas desert landscape that was here before humans settled the area – or better put, as humans first started to settle this area.

One of the amazing things you’ll see are a few ancient water pumps like this one shown here. This is not a reproduction!  In fact, these pumps are over 100 years old, and WATER was the original reason that Las Vegas got its start.

French influence – or just a good idea?

Saigon is a frustrating place for me in many ways. Knowing the French history, as I walk through Saigon my eyes are drawn towards French-looking things, and I ask myself whether they are coincidences – such as a coffee shop with a French name, named so only because it sounds posh, as this example shows with two such French-named coffee shops next to each other:

or truly part of the French legacy (such as the system of Arondissments used to district the city).

Here is a case in point:

As I’ve written about before, French traffic signals are some of the best design traffic signals in the world. Is this just coincidence, or a vestige of the French legacy? Here is a similarly looking traffic signal in France,

No excuses – just plain ugly

I love Switzerland!  I moved here years ago, and I’ve never looked back. The people – the culture – the various dialects of a language known as Alemannic (a more evolved version of High German) – there are a lot of things to love!

I’ve also tried my best in this blog to showcase Swiss artists, such as this blog of Seven Magic Mountains shows:

Well, some things I’m not going to defend – or even try. Visitors from long haul flights arrival in Qatar tired and cramped and jet-lagged, and as they de-plane the last vestiges of their good spirits and energy are violently exterminated by a hideously ugly monstrosity that awaits them – a work of art so grotesque that it is worse (if you can believe it!) than the many cases of French bubble architecture:

This hideous monstrosity is called the Lamp Bear, and its the creation of a Swiss artist, whose name I will not mention to protect his reputation. After all – perhaps this was the result if his patrons refused to properly remunerate him.

The amazing thing is that this artist’s website is full of truly incredible visual art. Which perhaps goes to show you: unless you are Michaelangelo (and you probably aren’t because he is dead) then if you are a visual artist please don’t dabble in sculpture, much less Statue-of-Liberty scale sculpture.

 

 

Modified Silvester Method

This is something you don’t see everyday!

Well, in fact, a sign like this giving basic instructions in CPR is probably something you do see everyday, such as this sign I saw in a train station in France:

But what you don’t see everyday is the part of the sign giving instructions in the use of the Modified Silvester Method:

I’d never heard about this before – so I looked it up. It is not a version of CPR (which affects the movement of blood) but rather artificial respiration (getting the lungs to inflate and deflate).  I am not sure if this method is actually taught or encouraged anymore, and the date on the sign points to its age:

 

When Pulver is not really pulver

There is a small hamlet in the south of Alsace, France called Pulversheim. It is known for its abandoned potassium mines, which remain scattered across the landscape as this amazing, awe inspiring snap shows:

For a long time I thought the hamlet was probably a case of form after function: Pulversheim (or home to pulver) because of the potassium mine.

But nothing could be further than the truth!

It was not easy to research, but in fact the town was long in existance before the discovery of potassium, and it was named after Mr. Pulver.

Go figure!

The landscape of milk

I’m currently in a project where I am designing and documenting various IT landscapes: organizational, applications, infrastructure.

So while in this very “IT landscape frame of mind” I stumbled across this very interesting diagram on Wikipedia,

I think it’s just brilliant!  I’ve always been interested in the vast number of milk products – even more so after living in Eastern Europe and Western Europe and seeing products (such as quark and saline cheese) that are not available in the U.S.

And it is wonderful that someone could classify all the milk products in this way, to create a very colorful and easy-to-understand visual taxonomy.

The amazing electric fishermen of Mỹ Tho at the Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta has a magical name. Say it to any American, and it invokes powerful images from erstwhile conflicts.  But the reality today is much different, as this snap shows:

Here we have an electric fisherman plying the waters with an electric fishing pole. He simply sweeps the electrically charged pole along the bottom and stuns any fish he might encounter. Unfortunately I was a tad late with my camera, but while I was there he pulled a huge one-meter-long eel from the Mekong River:

Basel Badischer Bahnhof

The Swiss city of Basel is something of an international enigma, since it sits within walking distance to no less than two countries (France and Germany) and a confederation (Switzerland).  Here you will find not one train station, but two: the Swiss main train station operated by my former employer, the Swiss Federal Railways; and the Basel Badischer Bahnhof, opened in 1855 and operated by the German Federal Railways.

Mystery tower in Alsace

When you drive into this small Alsacian hamlet you can’t help but be overwhelmed by this stunning site – but upon closer inspection, there’s nary a sign in sight to tell you its history or what it does or when it was built:

But if you take a little walk around it you come to a an interesting work of art:

Ask Mr. Tradecraft – 3

Dear Mr. Tradecraft,

I landed an upcoming assignment beginning 6 weeks from today, but for reasons I can‘t mention, I‘ll need to disguise myself. Any advice? – Disguised Operator Needs Good Lessons from Experts.

MrTradecraft

Dear DONGLE, Cancel the contract. I won‘t operate with a different persona without a minimum 4 months solid prep time, 24×7.  The hair, the clothes, the look, the speech – that‘s the easy bit. But the walk is the key. We all have our own natural walk, and learning to walk differently – to carry yourself differently – that‘s the hard bit. You’ll need a minimum of 4 months living the persona full time to develop the muscle memory, and to keep it throughout any stress situation.

Dear Mr. Tradecraft,

Ken has mentioned in his blog all the different areas you’ve worked in. What is the hardest and most challenging?– Secret Person Yearning

Dear SPY, The clandestine world has many specialties and sub-disciplines, but one stands far, far apart from the others: Cut-Out: getting a physical “thing” from Place A to Place B with absolutely, positively no trace-ability. Oh, I’ve dabbled in this from time to time, and I rarely turn down a straightforward contract. But for the big stuff – the political dossiers, the nuclear plans, the CD of videos showing CIA torture scenes – nothing less than a purebred, died-in-the-wool CU master will do. A top earner in this discipline easily earns fifty times what I bring down. But it takes decades of hard work and experience to get to this level. Today, there are only three well-known international, freelancing CU masters at this level. Four, if you count one in the Mossad.


Note from Ken: I’ve known him for years, but I never know when I’ll hear from him. Gladly, he’s back, not sure for how long, and I hope he has time to start emptying his mailbox.

After many decades, Mr. Tradecraft remains a much-sought-after operator for the most demanding contracts with governments, corporations, and private parties alike. He has over 30 years of international field experience that span the whole spectrum of clandestine services, from cut-outs, snatch-and-grabs, bag jobs, surveillance, to wet work — much of it spent in red zones. His retirement increasingly near, Ask Mr. Tradecraft is the pro bono way he gives back to the community. If you’d like to ask him a question, please submit it to Ken – but due to obvious reasons there may be a wait of many months before he can respond to your question.

 

Lake Geneva

To me, Lake Geneva is the most spectacular and breathtaking of all the Swiss lakes. It’s truly massive in size, and at least looking south into France from Switzerland it’s backstopped by some of the most awe inspiring Alps you can imagine.

Here is a panoramic shot of Lake Geneva, just north of Montreux and looking south:

The amazing Arondissments of Parin and Quận of Saigon

Saigon and Paris are very similar in one regard: the cities themselves are organized into numbered districts.

In Paris a district is called an Arondissment, there are a total of 20 of them, and the districts appear clockwise starting at the center:

In Saigon a district is called a Quận, there are a total of 19 of them, and although the districts start at the center, they are not as neatly clockwise as in Paris:

Why is Saigon similar to Paris? Does this have to do with the history of the French in Saigon? I suppose it does, but I don’t know the details.

Super Moon Trifecta! Wolf, snow, and worm

Many people don’t know this, but each full moon in a year has a unique name.  The full moons in January, February, and March are known as the Wolf Full Moon, Snow Full Moon, and Worm Full Moon, respectively.

Well, for the last time in zillions of years the first three full moon’s of 2019 are also so-called super full moons, when the moon approaches so close to the earth that even the International Space Station is in danger of a collision!

I was privileged to have the accident of catching all three Super Full Moons on film for 2019. This is the January Super Wolf Full Moon,

This is the February Super Snow Full Moon, snapped from my apartment:

And this is the March Super Worm Full Moon, snapped from downtown Winterthur:

Fall of Saigon – Then and Now

On April 29, 1975 Hugh Van Es of United Press International at Gia Long Street took what became the iconic photograph of the U.S. evacuation of the Vietnamese city of Saigon,

Being in Saigon, and 44 years and one day later, I decided to hunt for this place. It’s not easy to find! First, the street has been re-named. Second, it’s not on any tour maps. Third, it’s almost entirely surrounded by modern shopping centers and high rise skyscrapers.  But after about two hours of exploring in the hot, humid, healthy Saigon sun I found it!

Here is the top of the building, right across the street from a modern indoor shopping mall:

And here is a blow-up so you can see the detail on the top.

Interestingly, I spotted a large number of American tourists walking in and out of the shopping mall, all of them unaware that they were standing underneath a true historical landmark. It’s a shame that the city of Saigon does not do more to recognize this location.

Is the slashed zero now dead?

Things change, and in the field of Information Science they change faster than most.  A delightful story of change is provided on the homepage of perhaps the world’s most famous computer scientist, Donald Knuth:

A note on email versus e-mail

Newly coined nonce words of English are often spelled with a hyphen, but the hyphen disappears when the words become widely used. For example, people used to write “non-zero” and “soft-ware” instead of “nonzero” and “software”; the same trend has occurred for hundreds of other words. Thus it’s high time for everybody to stop using the archaic spelling “e-mail”. Think of how many keystrokes you will save in your lifetime if you stop now! The form “email” has been well established in England for several years, so I am amazed to see Americans being overly conservative in this regard. (Of course, “email” has been a familiar word in France, Germany, and the Netherlands much longer than in England — but for an entirely different reason.)

I’d like to single out something similar, probably only known to those of us (like me!) whose history of Information Technology and computers pre-dated with the development of computer monitors: the first application I used was on a teletype machine at a laboratory at U.C. Berkeley.

Slashed O

When programmers started programming in the days even before punched cards, zero’s and one’s were so important  – and in those days, numbers were far more important and frequently used than letters. Therefore, programmers and also typesetters most frequently wrote “slashed o” instead of the letter O, in order to distinguish the uncommonly used letter from the very commonly used number.

If you look on Google you can find many examples of this, usually images of very old computer manuals, like this:

 

Slashed Zero

At some point after the introduction of high level computer languages, the letter O became more important than the number zero, so programmers use “slashed 0” instead of the number zero, in order to distinguish the uncommonly used number from the very commonly used letter.

Here is a good example of what that looks like:

 

0 = O: Leave it to the fonts, high resolution displays, and good eyes

Today, it seems rare to see the slashed zero anymore. The computer fonts used in many editors make it very difficult to distinguish between “oh” and “zero” – usually relying on highlighting the entire word or variable when the programmers application developers get it wrong.

I don’t know when the slashed zero fell out of use, but it would be nice if some language scholars have studied and document this before it disappears from human memory.

FYI, most programmers application developers I know not only do not use this convention, but also have never heard of it – so it goes to show you how quickly things change and the past is forgotten!