It were two wonderful paragliding days in Zillertal, Austria. Sunny and warm, with temperatures of up to 14 degrees: fantastic weather that does not fit in Alps in this time of the year. The climate is definitely changing.
I made 6 flights in very calm air, and tried for the first time the spiral dives. Wow! The speed and the sounds made my heart pumping. On my last flight I dived 140 meters in 14 seconds, which makes around 10 m/s sink speed.
Here is the panorama photo of the start site “Melchboden” in 2000m above the sea level. The photo was made 2 years ago, but the weather conditions were the same like the this weekend. Hope you will get a bit of impression how beautiful it was
I suggest to use the fullscreen mode, and to try out some of the view options available on the right mouseclick.
“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”
Attributed to Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor 161-180.
Few days ago I discovered the only gay graffiti I’ve ever seen. It is written on a building wall in my hometown Pancevo, directly in the neighborhood where I grew up. Good to see it in a pretty much homophobic society.
Regensburg county (“Landkreis Regensburg”) is one of Bavaria’s counties. Beside Regensburg as its administrative centre, it comprises 41 local communities, with a total of 180.000 inhabitants. Each of the local communities has its own coat of arms.
The gif begins with the coat of arms of Regensburg (two keys, crossed) and is followed by others in alphabetical order. Although I live here for 10 years now, I didn’t notice these interesting designs before. Googling for something else I accidentally discovered them.
Thanks to Kiklop for supporting the idea of making a “gif” out of it.
Stanovnici priobalnog mesta Fudai na severoistoku Japana prezziveli su cunami od 11og marta ove godine zahvaljujuchi zidu visine 15,5 metara. Zid je izdrzzao nalet ogromnog talasa i samo je jedan mali deo vode uspeo da ga predje i pokvasi kuchne pragove naselja sa tri hiljade stanovnika.
Svoje zzivote i occuvanje svoje imovine zzitelji Fudaija duguju prethodnom gradonaccelniku g. Kotaku Wamuri, koji je sedamdesetih godina prosslog veka uprkos snazznoj opoziciji i kritikama da je projekat rasipniccki i nepotreban uspeo da sprovede u delo ideju o podizanju zasstitnog zida visseg od uobiccajenih mera. Danas, dok se malobrojni prezziveli mnogih potpuno unisstenih pribalnih naselja ovog dela Japana bore sa nesagledivim materijalnim i emotivnim posledicama tragedije, stanovnici Fudaija u znak zahvalnosti posechuju grob svog bivsseg gradonaccelnika.
Kao svedok tragiccnih posledica cunamija iz 1933 godine g. Wamura je insistirao da se tako nessto ne sme ponoviti. Podizanje zida u vrednosti od 30 miliona americckih dolara mnogi su ipak osudjivali kao megalomanski poduhvat. I kada je najzad uspeo da ubedi cclanove gradskog vecha da je takva gradjevina jedini naccin da se saccuvaju zzivoti, tokom izgradnje bedema duzzine preko 200 metara vechina stanovnika je sumnjala u ispravnost odluke, a vlasnici u tu svrhu eksproprisanog zemljissta su se i osstro protivili.
G. Wamura, koji je bio gradonaccelnik Fudaija tokom 10 mandata – od kraja II. svetskog rata pa do 1987 godine – upornim zalaganjem uspeo je da od malog ribarskog naselja napravi prosperitetnu i turisticcki atraktivnu zajednicu. Preminuo je 1997 godine, u svojoj 88 godini. Na ceremoniji odlaska u penziju okupljenim sugradjanima je poruccio da “ccak i ako se suocciss sa protivljenjem, sledi svoja ubedjenja i dovrssi zapocceto. Ljudi che na kraju razumeti.”
Last week I flew to Zagreb with Croatia Airlines. The small propeller aircraft of the type “Bombardier” bore the name “Istra”. It arrived late from Zagreb, so we boarded with almost one hour delay. The next one and half hours we waited in the plane because there were some technical problems at first. Then they solved the technical problems, but had to wait for the documentation about technical problems. At last the documentation arrived, but in the meantime the snow started and the wings froze, so we had to wait more, for wings to be “defrosted”. A special service truck arrived and sprayed some shampoo-like liquid all over the aircraft. Finally we were ready.
During the flight I made a few photos of the engine with my mobile phone. Although the blades were almost invisible to the naked eye, on the photos they look very interesting
SMS dialogue with my brother from Serbia (few minutes ago):
Brother: “What do you say about tennis. Brother Nikola”
Me: “Brother Nikola, I did not try it yet. I play squash, it is similar to tennis, but in a closed space and against the wall. Nevertheless both sports are good because you have to move fast in all directions, which is very good for overall condition.”
Brother: “Brother Peter thank you for the information Here is one for you: Serbia has just won the Davis Cup in tennis, and became the world’s champion, and this all in Belgrade :)”
After more than a year since I asked for it I finally received the official release from Serbian citizenship. On 29th September 2010 in Serbian Consulate in Munich they gave me a peace of paper stating that my request was positively decided. The State of Serbia personalized in a kind young woman asked me to sign the receipt, took away my identity card, punched holes in my passport and stamped the first page of it with a big “ANNULIERT” seal.
As I was driving back to Regensburg it was raining. I felt sad. I was seating comfortably in my car, the broad highway in front of me, all around one of the world’s best countries to live in. I have just received the document that I was waiting for more than a year now, and I was just a step away from becoming a German citizenship. And still, I felt almost like crying. Have I underestimated the power of homeland idea? Since I have started the whole process of becoming German citizen in May last year I never really thought about it. It was for me a “no question” decision: I was living in Germany and was planning to stay here. The decision of taking its citizenship was just a logical step towards acquiring full rights and responsibilities in a country where I saw my future.
And now I felt how this light peace of paper was pressing heavy on my heart. I thought of my friends and small family that I still have left, of my dead mother and grandparents. Have I betrayed them? Have I lost them? Will I be left alone now in this country of prosperity where I can never have a â€œfriend from childhoodâ€, although I do have some wonderful friends? Is this the beginning, but also an end?
Thy sky was gray, the clouds low. I let the feelings flow through me, observed all these strange ideas that were running through my head in wonder. I drove fast but the time was passing slowly. As Regensburg was nearing I begun to realize that it was not leaving Serbia that bothered me: it was the fear of loosing the love of people a cared about. It was actually of no importance if I was the citizen of Serbia or not. What mattered were only some people that I knew and loved, the people whose existences reflected my own, the people whose lives were important to me and mine to them.
As the TV tower of Regensburg became visible on the horizon the clouds started to melt away; the rain has already stopped before. As I drove in the city the first sun rays fell on my face. I liked them: they were good and warm. I felt some joy in the deep of my heart and thought that, after all, there is actually no end. The life just goes on. As long as I am alive I will share myself with the people I know. There is nothing else; that is just life. We will meet again
And Abraham awoke in the middle of the night and said to his only son, Isaac, “I have had a dream where the voice of the Lord sayeth that I must sacrifice my only son, so put your pants on.”
And Isaac trembled and said, “So what did you say? I mean when He brought this whole thing up?”
“What am I going to say?” Abraham said. “I’m standing there at two A.M. I’m in my underwear with the Creator of the Universe. Should I argue?”
“Well, did he say why he wants me sacrificed?” Isaac asked his father.
But Abraham said, “The faithful do not question. Now let’s go because I have a heavy day tomorrow.”
And Sarah who heard Abraham’s plan grew vexed and said, “How doth thou know it was the Lord and not, say, thy friend who loveth practical jokes, for the Lord hateth practical jokes and whosoever shall pull one shall be delivered into the hands of his enemies whether they pay the delivery charge or not.”
And Abraham answered, “Because I know it was the Lord. It was a deep, resonant voice, well modulated, and nobody in the desert can get a rumble in it like that.”
And Sarah said, “And thou art willing to carry out this senseless act?” But Abraham told her, “Frankly yes, for to question the Lord’s word is one of the worst things a person can do, particularly with the economy in the state it’s in.”
And so he took Isaac to a certain place and prepared to sacrifice him but at the last minute the Lord stayed Abraham’s hand and said, “How could thou doest such a thing?”
And Abraham said, “But thou said —”
“Never mind what I said,” the Lord spake. “Doth thou listen to every crazy idea that comes thy way?” And Abraham grew ashamed. “Er – not really â€¦ no.”
“I jokingly suggest thou sacrifice Isaac and thou immediately runs out to do it.”
And Abraham fell to his knees, “See, I never know when you’re kidding.”
And the Lord thundered, “No sense of humor. I can’t believe it.”
“But doth this not prove I love thee, that I was willing to donate mine only son on thy whim?”
And the Lord said, “It proves that some men will follow any order no matter how asinine as long as it comes from a resonant, well-modulated voice.”
And with that, the Lord bid Abraham get some rest and check with him tomorrow.
Last saturday Michael & me made a bike tour near Regensburg. We drove through the woods, across the fields, up and down the hills. A few times Michael led us through the fileds full of nettle. It burnt a little, but the day was beautiful, sunny, the air in the woods was as fresh as it only can be, and nothing could spoil our happiness. Simply fantastic. Finally we reached the point some 200m over the Danube wih a nice view. From there we started our descend
There was a steep narrow path leading down, on the very edge of the woods. On one side there were trees, on the other side the abyss. Between the path and the abys some thoughtfull people have put a wire fence. But, for whatever reasons, they used barbed wire.
The rest is clear, isn’t it? At one point I lost my bike under me and flew over the barbed wire, cut myself on the leg, shoulder and arm, hooked to the wire with my pants and held to it with my left hand, not to fall down. Quickly I jumped back, checked the bike, and continued (slowly…) to ride down.
At the end we sat in a nice beer garden on the bank of the Danube and drank weizen beer. Michael made a few photos. Afterwards I took a shower and drove to the University Clinic to receive antitetanus vaccine. They were very kind and gave me two, for I have never received any in my life.
Yesterday I told Daniel that our cat Mietzi had a rage attack and scratched me, so that I had to throw her out. At first he believed.
Child abuse does not happen only in catholic church, of course. It happens everywhere, every time. But some naive people are surprised that it is also practiced by priests. As more and more cases emerge and more and more victims start to talk about their experiences from the youth, a big picture assembles itself. And it is becoming apparent that catholic church was systematically trying to hide this cases from the public, as much as possible, and to pretend that nothing was happening:
“Very much more serious is the role of Joseph Ratzinger, before the church decided to make him supreme leader, in obstructing justice on a global scale. After his promotion to cardinal, he was put in charge of the so-called “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” (formerly known as the Inquisition). In 2001, Pope John Paul II placed this department in charge of the investigation of child rape and torture by Catholic priests. In May of that year, Ratzinger issued a confidential letter to every bishop. In it, he reminded them of the extreme gravity of a certain crime. But that crime was the reporting of the rape and torture. The accusations, intoned Ratzinger, were only treatable within the church’s own exclusive jurisdiction. Any sharing of the evidence with legal authorities or the press was utterly forbidden. Charges were to be investigated “in the most secretive way … restrained by a perpetual silence … and everyone … is to observe the strictest secret which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office â€¦ under the penalty of excommunication.” (my italics). Nobody has yet been excommunicated for the rape and torture of children, but exposing the offense could get you into serious trouble. And this is the church that warns us against moral relativism! (See, for more on this appalling document, two reports in the London Observer of April 24, 2005, by Jamie Doward.)”
I grew up with COSMOS series; I loved Carl Sagan, with his calm voice and eloquent but simple way of expressing the truths of science and the power of genuine curiosity about the world. His work has had a profound influence on me. What for some was the bible, or Snowwhite fairytale, for me was the Cosmos book. I still can vividly remember the day when I got it as present from my grandmother: she took me to the book store and bought the book for me, knowing how much I liked the series. I was around 10 years old.
It is rather astonishing today, with all the scientific advances and evidence amassed since the release of Cosmos series, that the creationists, religious leaders and charlatans seem to gain upper hand against scientific approach and logical view of the world. It is frightening how many Americans, for example, are ready to dismiss evolution and require that creationism be taught in schools, alongside, or instead of, scientifically proofed theories. Is the science today reaching its zenith but in the same time loosing battle against simple and comforting explanations offered first-hand by pseudo-scientists? How can it be that even some college educated friends I have are not able to distinguish the difference between faith and science, and are seriously discussing about putting equation sign between the two?! It can not be just lack of knowledge, although it certainly can play a part in it; it seems to me that there is a serious flaw in the education systems around the world. The scientific method, based on endless and arduous “experiment-theory-proofs” cycles is not properly taught. The most exciting voyage of Homo Sapiens, the adventurous quest for truth based on reason and observation of the world as it really is and not as we would want it to be, the long way of how we came to the knowledge of today and how much more there lies ahead to be discovered, is per default not taught in schools at all. What we learn in school are only the names of the scientists and their laws, rules and results, endless equations and discovery dates, but nothing more. More often than not we are taught not to reason, but to adopt. Not to ask questions, but to believe in answers. Not to experiment, but to accept. Who was trained in this way may naturally have difficulties in distinguishing science from faith.
For most people science is becoming similar to shamanism, something that “common” people can not understand, due to its supposed complexity and distance from life. Math is literally THE Horror for almost each pupil and his parents; many will even question its necessity for everyday life. Some of the most significant scientific theories of today, theories of Evolution and Relativism, for example, are considered “just another theories”, although firmly confirmed by strong evidence. Many people are afraid of science, because of its potentials to destroy our world, forgetting how much it already improved our lives and longevity. It seems that science is becoming a monster who has to be tamed and put away, the frightening oracle who is unrelentlessly revealing the astonishing complexity of life and the world around us. The simple answers and “truths” of religion, the rules of superstition, the astrology revelations and transcendental swindling seem much more attractive in respect.
But science is no monster. It is one of the most beautiful achievements of free human spirit and persistence. Its basic principles can be understood by everybody, its methods we unconsciously apply to our surroundings every day, and its countless results we wear, use and live with, without ever thinking about it. When properly taught, math, physics, astronomy, linguistics, history and philosophy, to name just some faces of science, can be deeply thought provoking and influential. It is our duty as intelligent beings to use our most powerful evolutionary tool to examine and understand the world around us. It is in our nature to ask questions, to be curious, to look for interconnections in the reality we live in. Everyone of us can be a scientist. The only requirement is to have the courage to wide open the eyes and see the world as it is, and not as we would like it to be.
It makes me sad to see that the tidal wave of faith is raising, seriously threatening to drown the remarkable achievements of human curiosity for knowledge. Furthermore, it is deeply disturbing that the people who despise science, its methods and its results, may come in the possession of its powers; by this I am not only thinking of Middle East dictators thirsty of nuclear power, but also about leaders of westerns democracies who consult fortune-tellers before making decisions, or whose most important book is the bible. If the majority in one society dismisses reasoning in favour of faith, the basic principle of democracy will bring the most eloquent faith-based populists in power. The change they would be able to enforce, using democratic means, could have had immense consequences not only for us but also for generations to come.
I want to believe that such scenario is not really possible. Against all previous challenges in history, some of which had thrown us back for hundreds of years, human curiosity, courage, and the quest for logical explanations brought us here today, to the best of all previous worlds, and it is highly unlikely that we will all choose another way now. Although there is still unbearably much suffering in our contemporary world it can not be argued that human beings in general never enjoyed the better quality of life than now. Using science and our compassion to improve the life of all people on this planet will not only save lives but also disseminate the power of reason. But we have a lot to work on it, and we have to teach scientific approach, encourage discussion, ask questions, exchange knowledge, and firmly defend our convictions in every situation. And we must never stop discovering the beauties of the universe around us revealed through science.
When I was in India last year I really enjoyed Indian cuisine. It is mainly vegetarian, but they also make delicious meat based meals, all of them consisting of small chops of meat cooked and served in diverse thick sauces, sometimes very spicey. You can eat it with rice or with Indian bread, a crÃªpe-like pastry. The meals offered were mainly of chicken meat, but also of goat, fish, and pig. No cows, of course.
During one lunch I praised to my hosts the meal I was eating. Content to hear it they hurried to explain me that I will not find cow meat in Indian menus: “We Hindu do not eat cows, you know. Cow is our holy animal.” I knew it – who doesn’t? – but I just nodded politely. Then it occurred to me that Muslims do not eat pigs: “And your neighbours, Muslims…? Isn’t it so that they do not eat pigs?” – “Right”, my host nodded in approval, “in their religion the pig is holy animal!”
Now that was not the way I knew about it! Pig is supposed to be a dirty animal in Islam, and therefore prohibited. I have never heard that it was regarded as a holy animal. Nevertheless I was not in the mood of correcting my kind host in theological matters, so I just said what was obvious: “So it means that you are eating their Holy Animal, and they are eating yours, right?” – “Well, yes…” he answered reluctantly, with an unsure expression: “now when you put it that way, yes… we eat holy animals of one another.”
For the rest of the lunch no more words were spoken.
The photos I posted on 20th December last year were all shot in the immediate vicinity of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Central Railway Station in Mumbai. Inside the station photographing was prohibited, as my guide cautiously indicated to me, so we went inside through a dirty understreet passage and just strolled around. It was Sunday morning and I was on a day trip to Mumbai down-town. My guide was a kind young doctor, born and living in Mumbai, whose name I unfortunately can not remember anymore. The day was sunny and hot, and the humid air on the streets was sweet and heavy, polluted by exhaust gases; but inside the station I immediately sensed the smell of tracks and trains, the smell that I liked since my childhood and which for a brief moment filled me with joy. The station was pretty much empty, an unusual situation comparing to other days of the week. This was one of the busiest railway stations in India; on all other days it was always full of people. When Ajmal Kasab and Ismail Khan walked in the station on the evening of 26th November 2008 and opened fire from their kalashnikovs, the place was packed full. They fired at the crowd of unarmed people, threw grenades on police officers and killed and severely injured more than 150 persons. When they left the building the platform I was standing on was covered with dead and dying people.
After the attacks Mumbai police prohibited unauthorised photographing inside the station and increased the security measures. I noticed two police officers sitting at the table in one corner near the main gate and stepped closer, curious to see what they were doing. Maybe they will somehow allow me to take photos anyway? As I neared them I saw that they were inspecting their automatic rifles. One weapon lay on the table, and the officer was checking the leather belt. They seemed not to be paying any attention to me. I stood there watching them for some time, until I realized that the muzzle of the weapon was pointed directly to my belly. I stepped aside.
As I was looking around it occurred to me that I was unconsciously looking for blood stains on the floor. I was standing in the middle of a broad platform surrounded by several people waiting for their trains. In front of me there were old trains with bars on the windows and special wagons reserved only for women (always the first ones – was it the sign of respect in one apparently segregating act?). Few fishermen from the suburbs passed by carrying fresh fish in bowls above their heads, children were chasing each other, sun rays were streaking through the ceiling windows high above. In my conciousness I noticed all this, but in the same time I knew that it was not what I was looking for, the present was like a curtain that I tried whole time to pull away, to see behind it. I was actually looking for blood and dead bodies, searching for bullet holes in the walls, imagining the moment when shootings started, trying to hear the explosions and screams of the victims. I was standing in a slaughter field amidst tens of dead bodies. I felt a tension in my belly, right there where the muzzle of that police officer’s rifle was pointed to just a few moments ago. All of a sudden my desire to make photos seemed deeply inappropriate. I desperately wanted to come back to reality, to forget the horror that happened here one year ago, but it was impossible. My guide asked me if I want him to try to get a permission to make some photos, but I refused. I had enough.
As we were hurrying towards one of the exits on the other end I was thinking that there actually must be many places on the face of the Earth where people died violently. Millions of years of evolution of genus Homo are immensely long time. Thousands and thousands of places were soaked in blood and covered with dead human bodies. So many of our predecessors lived and died without a trace, decayed and forever disappeared everywhere on this planet. Had I believed in ghosts I would have to accept that they were “living” with us now everywhere, in every corner of the only world we know, inhabiting every house and every home in hundreds. But I do not believe in ghosts, and neither in God. I do not think that one continues to live after death in some other form, and that a life has a purpose not revealed to us. I am convinced that we all have only this one life, and that life itself is the highest value. And when I stand in the place where I KNOW that many people lost their lives in a violent way, killed in the name of “higher” purpose, I feel frightened. Murdering a human being is like destroying a world. Our duty is to preserve life and minimise suffering. Nothing else. We are all brothers and sisters, and we do not need any religion to see it, if we just bother to think.
There was an old-fashioned scale short before the exit from the station. It bore the text “EASTERN SCALES” on it, a platform to stand on, and an opening for inserting coins. My guide urged me with a smile to step on it and measure my weight. I complied absently. After a short while the machine spat out a small yellowish card. On one side it read “HEALTH CARD – KILOGRAMS 92 – KEEP FIT – EASTERN SCALES – 49434″. It was wrong. My weight was 82. I turned the other side and read the personal message under the title “BUY YOUR OWN TICKET”: “You will emerge triumphant from your most serious reverses. A happy and comfortable old age”. As we emerged from the station to the sunny street I wondered how many nameless victims of Kasab and Khan got that very same message on the day they were murdered.
At this age I see no purpose in celebrating own birthdays anymore. Actually there is no real reason at all to celebrate the number of full earth’s evolutions around the sun since one left mother’s uterus, but we desperately need this kind of events to socialize with our surroundings; if I remember how many more sinless rituals fulfill our everyday life I could not imagine what would we actually do in our lives without them
For my 37th birthday I present you with this cool BBC documentary about our nearest relatives