Transitory Things – 1

This morning I was impressed when I caught a glimpse of the traffic gates closing due to an oncoming tram. And it caused me to start wondering: are there many “transitory things” that I can capture, as they fleetingly move between one stable state and the next?  Just like these barricades – no longer up, but not yet down.

I’ll keep thinking about this, and if I find some more examples, I’ll show them in my blog.

Terrifying, intimidating, threatening stork

Ok, maybe it is not so terrifying, intimidating, and threatening, but nevertheless a stork walking around a highway rest area in Eastern France is really something to see.

You can try all you want to tempt this fellow with potato chips, but unless you have a bag of fresh frogs or live mice, you’ll hardly be able to get his attention.

I am not sure why, but I find storks quite interesting, and you can find a number of examples of them on my blog in different countries.

(Trivia: scientists have recently learned that these European storks learn their flying skills from their social group.  If a baby stork is taught by an expert flyer, then each winter he/she will travel to and overwinter in North Africa. But if a baby stork learns from a stork with lessor flying skills, he/she will overwinter in Spain. Apparently – and this is the amazing bit – if a scientist attaches an accelerometer to a stork to measure their flight, then in the first 10 seconds of flight the scientists can recognize to which category of flyer the stork belongs: African super-flyer or more relaxing Spanish-flyer.  I am not sure if the scientists understand which storks are happier.)

The Real Galleria

Most all Americans have heard about shopping malls called The Galleria.  I don’t know a large city in the U.S. that doesn’t have one. But what hardly any Americans know is that this concept dates back to an original Galleria, in the north Italian city of Milano.  If you go there, you will not just be impressed – if you are an American and not accustomed to sights like this, there is a danger your eyeballs might explode:

Officially it’s known as the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and it is actually quite a recent building, dating back to around 1867. Inside, its filled with very high priced boutiques. But the real tourist attraction is a tile inlay of the Bull of Turin in the middle of the mall, shown here:

It is widely believed that if you spin around the bull with your heel three times, you’ll receive good luck.

 

 

IT – Does anything ever change?

Around 20 years ago, when struggling to decide if I should shift from a career as a research physicist to a career in IT, I was impressed with the idea that IT changed faster than physics – so I expected a more dynamic, exciting field. What little did I know!

In 1973 my father was editor of the world’s first IT magazine, and he wrote an article entitled “To rollout successful systems, first debug the people problem.”  I’m still trying to find a copy to post. It was all about management of change when introducing new IT systems, and the article is 100% valid today.

A few years later in 1975 an IBM engineer, Fred Brooks, wrote a fabulous book entitled “The Mythical Man Month” containing his wisdom and advice for software engineering projects:

After nearly 45 years, hardly any of the most important core principles has changed. The author himself writes in his newest addition:

In preparing my update, I was struck by how few of the propositions have been critiqued, proven, or disproven by ongoing software research and experience.

So I guess IT has the best of both worlds: new technologies are cool (I was impressed how my Apple MacBook actually logged into my FitBit scale – not the other way around!), new methodologies are exciting (even Agile is now ancient!), but just like in physics, the core principles don’t change.

 

Bodensee Skink

This little fellow is not an unusual sight in Southern Germany; I took this snap in the tiny hamlet of Hegne next to the village of Allensbach:

There are some people who would refer to this little guy incorrectly as a Blindschleich, or blind worm – but you can see from his fine peeper’s that he’s anything but blind.

Thirty Years’ War

At least I suspect it is, painted here on the inside of a small wooden hut for hikers nestled deep within the Schwabian Alb:

The Thirty Years’ War (Dreissigjähriger Krieg, in German) lasted from 1618 to 1648.  If you look closely at the coats of arms, you’ll see Baden on the left, and Württemberg on the right:

But to be honest, this is just a semi-educated guess.  If you have any better info, do let me know!

Germany’s highest bridge

This is it, from a close-up viewpoint:

And this is it, from an artistic viewpoint:

And this is it, from a viewpoint where you can really appreciate how tall it is:

 

Finished in 1979, this is the Kochertalbrücke (Kocher Valley Bridge),  and at 178 m (or 574 feet) it was, until 2004, the highest bridge in Europe. Remember that the Golden Gate Bridge, in comparison, is only  220 feet, so this bridge is just over double the height.

If you like photographs of bridges, you’ll find a number of them that I’ve tried to capture in my blog.

What I find totally amazing about this bridge is the complete silence underneath it.  The traffic deck is so high in the air, none of the sounds of the passing vehicles can be heard from the ground.

High tech Hainan watertower

Thomas Friedman wrote, if you haven’t visited a megacity in the last year, then you really haven’t seen it.

Hainan, an island off the southern coast of China is certainly not a megacity. Nevertheless, the exceptionally high tech nature of Chinese cities slaps you in the face when you step outside the airport and see this watertower, sporting a huge and bright digital display:

Milan Tram

Nothing special, no interesting story behind it, no mind-boggling trivia. Just wanted to show off one of my favorite snaps that I took when my Dad and I were visiting Milan in Italy:

 

Unbelievable bridge in Southern Germany

I’ve driven across this bridge hundreds of times, but recently I stopped underneath to take some pictures.

This is the Neckar Viaduct up close:

And this is the Neckar Viaduct, somewhat further away:

What’s just amazing is that this viaduct has a height of 125 meters, or just over 400 feet.  In comparison, the more famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco has a height of only 67 meters or around 200 feet. That means the Neckar Viaduct is almost twice as high as the Golden Gate Bridge!

A different face of Switzerland

Most non-Swiss people I know – including many who have made Switzerland their home – think of Switzerland as exclusively land of the rich.  And indeed, it tops the charts as one of the world’s most expensive countries.

But people often overlook the fact that not everyone in Switzerland is as affluent as your typical Zürich resident or Geneve resident. In particular, there are still many rural areas, often isolated in tiny villages and hamlets in the Swiss Alps, where the income and standard of living is somewhat less.

In order to help these regions, the Swiss grocery store Coop operates a collection of donation stations, where people can donate old clothes and shoes, like this one:

Additionally, they have a terrific website that gives full details about the various projects they support to improve the lives of many people in these remote mountain villages.

Where did Punjabi go?

I came across the following image, which (if true) is quite an interesting way to display the data:

I am no language expert, but it surprised me that I didn’t see Punjabi, which appears in most lists as part of the Top 10, such as the current list from Wikipedia:

Interestingly, I’d never heard of Lahnda before, and when I looked it up I learned it is a dialect of Punjabi.

The Mythical Man Month

I rarely do book reviews, but in this case I couldn’t help.

Back in 1975 I was 10 years old, and an IBM engineer, Fred Brooks, wrote a fabulous book entitled “The Mythical Man Month” containing his wisdom and advice for software engineering projects:

The title of the book comes from an important observation he made about software engineering: if you add more people to a late software project, you’re like to make it even later!  But in addition there fabulous observations about other topics, like prototyping, the different between software development for projects and software development for products, and the like.

It’s just amazing: after nearly 45 years, hardly any of the most important core principles has changed. The author himself writes in his newest addition:

In preparing my update, I was struck by how few of the propositions have been critiqued, proven, or disproven by ongoing software research and experience.