Warsaw, Poland, is an amazing place, filled with lots of old stuff.
The lions at the presidential palace, in Warsaw, Poland, date back to the year 1821:
Probably, the telephone in my hotel room dates back even longer:
Interestingly, if you’re like me the sight of an old rotary dialphone immediately brings back the sound I used to hear when I dialed it. If you are interested in more “obsolete sounds” like this, there is a fabulous website called the Museum of Endangered Sounds that tries to record and store sounds like this for posterity.
Specialties of Provence: the white brandade (a paste of salted cod and olive oil) and green tapanade vert (a paste of olives and capers) and pain artisenal (real bread baked by real bakers):
This is NOT cassis:
Technically, it’s “Creme de Cassis” and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Village of Cassis, located on France’s southern coast.
This is now probably one of my favorite snaps, taken as the evening winter sun illuminated the harbor:
And just around the corner I spotted the locals playing pétanque in the town square:
I’ve still never really wrapped my head completely around why people in the south of Europe are more outwardly social in this regard, spending more time outside with their neighbors. A site like this would be strange anywhere in, for example, Alsace.
First things first: this is my WeChat QR code:
If you’re like I was until recently, you’ve probably never heard of WeChat. And that is the AMAZING part – that you’ve never heard of it. Because it is the top social networking service in China, and it is used by around ONE BILLION PEOPLE!
In fact, as I travelled around the southern Chinese island of Hainan, I was impressed that just about every store, and every product in every store, sported a QR code.
This points to the real crux of the situation: a MASSIVE amount of IT in the West, and a MASSIVE amount of IT in the East, and yet despite all this, two huge universes with much little exchange between them than you might think.
I first learned about WeChat on a recent business trip to China. All my Chinese IT colleagues and IT business partners were eager that we connect. In fact, even in formal business meetings, instead of the initial round of swapping business cards, we spent the time scanning each other’s WeChat QR codes.
WeChat is a lot more than just instant messaging: it is online payment, email, and a host of other services rolled into one.
And . . . all content and communication with WeChat is strictly controlled by the Chinese government. All posts and chats are filtered, and any words or topics that do not meet government standards are filtered out.
Final thought: a fabulous website shows the statistics about the number of languages that comprise the Internet:
No, I’m not planning to join the Legion Etrangier, also known as the French Foreign Legion.
But I did visit their recruiting truck, which I thought made an amazing site parked just across from the Roman Coloseum in the French city of Nimes,
Inside the truck, with the music of Bolero playing in the background, I spend a wonderful time practicing my French with two older legionnaire officers who you could tell from their body language that they had seen a lifetime of combat.
Outside, I also chatted in French with some of the younger soldiers, who all told me they were mostly from other countries, not from France itself, although there were some French among them. Sadly, my French is not yet that good to understand when they tried to explain why there were French in the Legion, not just foreigners.
Interestingly, when I returned later in the day, the truck was full of young men – so I guess they were successful in their recruiting efforts.
Well, I read this somewhere, but I don’t know if it is true.
This is a common sight on the A1 Autobahn in Switzerland, and I must have passed by it dozens of times. So I recently left the Autobahn to see how close I could get to this structure. Turns out: you can get as close as you want!
But what is this place? It turns out that Americans do not have a monopoly on toxic waste dumps.
This building is a huge, hermetically sealed hall that covers a toxic waste dump. For years, the Swiss just dumped their toxic waste into the ground here, until they realized it was seeping into the nearby river. So they built a massive hall over the dump, and inside they use airtight bulldozers and other airtight construction equipment to remove the toxic waste and package it up to be sent to a modern facility that can safely burn it. I found these snaps on the Internet,
Unfortunately, the picture I took does not do justice to the size and enormity of this building, so below I am posting an arial snap I downloaded from the internet:
Apparently, the site has now been cleaned up – so I am not quite sure how long the building will be left intact.
I knew all about the famous start of the American Christmas shopping season called Black Friday. It starts on the day after Thanksgiving, also an American holiday.
So I was quite surprised to see how the Black Friday craze has spread to France, a country that does not celebrate Thanksgiving. I took this snap in Toulon, a seaside village on south coast of France:
What’s more: they call it “Black Friday!” (Maybe one day they’ll say “Quarter pounder with cheese” but today it’s still called a Royal Cheese.)
Roundabouts in Europe are amazing things!
But first, what is a roundabout? Depending on where you live they are also known as rotaries, traffic circles, Kreisverkehr (German), Rotonda (Spanish), or Rond-Point (French). So I hope I don’t I need any more explanation than that!
According to Wikipedia, there are examples that date back to the 1700’s. But using the Google NGram viewer, I found the word “roundabout” first came into print around 1576.
But this is not a history lesson – it is a blog post! The key point is that especially in Europe roundabouts are typically places for the villages and communities to install truly breathtaking artwork.
I took this snap of a roundabout just outside of the village of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, buried deep within the Savoie region of France:
This village is famous for Opinel knives, not for bicycles – but many bicycle races do pass through this village every year, so perhaps that was the motivation for this piece?
Büsingen am Hochrhein is an amazing, amazing place.
But you would not know it when you drive into the village:
And you would not know it when you drive out of the village:
It’s really only amazing when you stop to think that it is a GERMAN village, but nestled entirely within the country of SWITZERLAND, as this map shows:
Interestingly, there were a number of villages along the German/Swiss border which, until just a few years ago, did not belong to one country or the other.
This is a view looking south from Germany at the amazing, amazing Swiss village of Stein am Rhein:
And this is the view looking just right to this one:
It’s an old village, as far as villages go. It was transformed from a fishing village into a bastion of the Holy Roman Empire by Heinrich II around the year 1000.
Vauban left an amazing, amazing legacy all over France which you can visit today.
First things first. This is Vauban:
Or, Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauben,who was a military man in the late 17th and early 18th centuries in France, and he directed what at the time would be the equivalent of today’s U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He travelled around the border of France, constructing fortifications that were truly mind-blowing.
Case in point: there is the small village named Brisach Neuf in Alsace, on the border between France and Germany, and he transformed it into an amazing fortified jewel, which unfortunately you can only truly appreciate from the air:
And indeed, you’ll appreciate this even more when you see the original map of the village and fortifications that he created:
In this arial photograph, if you look at the village center just north of the town square, this church he also created is visible:
But the amazing part is the not paved area of the village, but the extremely complicated jewel structure of moats and barriers and fortifications that surround the village,
With dozens upon dozens of underground bunkers like this one.
When you see this, you can’t help but be impressed by this amazing, amazing scene.
The scaffolding on this building, part of a massive real estate development project at Zurich’s main railway station (Zürich Hauptbahnhof, or Zürich HB) is redolent of Switzerland itself: clean, organized, efficient:
PS. The Gare du Nord in France is Europe’s busiest railway station in terms of moved passengers, but Zürich’s Hauptbahnhof is Europe’s busiest in terms of moved trains.
A while ago I published the most recent Garner “Hype Cycle,” which lists buzzwords and tries to give an estimate about how’ll they’ll develop into the market.
So instead of publishing the latest one this year, I thought it would be fun to have a look at a somewhat older Hype Cycle, going back 5 years:
I haven’t done a detailed assessment or comparison, but at a glance it seems like quite a few items from the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” are now in the “Plateau of Productivity.”
This is a view looking south towards Insel Reichenau (in English, Reichenau Island) located in the Bodensee (in English, Lake Constance):
The island is filled with some wonderful Middle Age buildings dating back to the year 700 AD and older.
A while ago, I wrote a blog post about the amazing Thyssen Krupp Test Tower, under construction in Southern Germany. It was slated to become one of Germany’s highest skyscrapers, and inside it housed many shafts so that Thyssen Krupp, a maker of high tech elevators, could test their products.
Well, the tower is now complete:
For a small fee, you can ride an UNBELIEVABLE all glass elevator that whips you to the top in just a few seconds, and your body will feel no acceleration at all. At the top is an observation deck – and even on this overcast day, it provided a stunning high altitude look over the Southern Germany landscape including Germany’s famous Black Forest:
When viewed from the ground, it is hard to believe this building has the needed lateral stability, but apparently the main structure is anchored very deep below the ground:
This is a closeup of the suspension mast of the Autobahnraststätte Würenlos, a shopping mall that spans a major highway in Switzerland:
Interestingly, there are only three such Autobahn-spanning centers like this in Switzerland.
This is an INCREDIBLE book!
There is no shortage of books written by ex-soldiers, trying to apply military tactics to business scenarios. Probably the best known example is Sun Tzu’s Art of War, which dates back nearly 2000 years. So I’m not all that eager to post book reviews on my blog about these books – you can find dozens, all very entertaining, but few giving you real tools you can add to your leadership toolbox.
That is, until now.
Recently a friend of mine recommended I read this book:
It’s filled with real-life anecdotes about Navy SEALs in combat situations, mostly with bad outcomes. And in each case, the authors point out that taking something called “extreme ownership” of a project / task / situation is a critical success factor to ensure success. This means owning the project completely: managing upwards, not just downwards – looking left and right – going far beyond the standard RACI matrix if needed – in short, taking every conceivable action to ensure success.
In their own words,
At the ferry port of the lakeside town of Friedrichshafen sits a well-known observation platform, the Moleturm:
You have to climb many, many steps to get to the top, and yet I’ve never seen it not filled with people. Perhaps my cultural prejudices are too deep, but I have a feeling an observation platform like this in most American cities wouldn’t attract that kind of attention.
Southern Germany is an amazing, amazing place! It is filled with many wondrous examples of Baroque architecture, as this snap of a cloister on the north shore of Germany’s Bodensee shows.
In fact, there are a number of well-known driving tours along the so-called “Baroque Street“
Built in 1702, the Klosterkirche (cloister church) stands in the fog on a small peninsula jutting out into the Bodensee (Lake Constance).
Continuing the series, there is a wonderful little village in Alsace called Kaysersberg, surrounded by a fortified city wall, and surrounding that fields and hills of grapes.
A cloud-obscured full moon over the city of Winterthur.
This is my first night photograph taken with my new Canon G9X Mark 2. I used the out-of-the-box “auto” mode, and I don’t think it’s bad – but I’m still eager to explore the effects I can get when I manually adjust the settings.
Try if you want, but you just can’t take a bad snap of a good cow!
I found this cow grazing on a tiny patch of grass just outside of the Garuda Mall in Bangalore:
Here’s a close-up of the famous St. Jakob’s church near Stauffacher, in Zürich:
Dating back to the late nineteenth century, it’s fairly modern as far as churches go. But the wonderful part are the hands, in which you can see “IIII” instead of the more common “IV.”
Do you like to see people or do you like to see beautiful things?
The reason for this question has to do with the difference between North and South Europe.
In South Europe, you will see neighborhoods filled with people, sitting outside, talking, playing various bowling games or cards. But you aren’t likely to see neighborhoods filled with modern embellishments paid for by the residents.
But in North Europe, particularly in the French Region of Alsace, you will see NO ONE. Not a single person! But what you will see in these empty neighborhoods are some beautiful ornaments, such as this covered wooden pedestrian bridge that I photographed somewhere in Alsace: