Pirates Taking Over Germany?

Pirate party.

Picture from P2P-Blog

Sounds like the theme of every kids 5th birthday party right? Well to some that may be accurate, but I’m not talking about birthday parties. I’m talking about a growing political movement across Europe, especially in Germany. The Piratenpartei (pirate party) is a political movement that is focused on conserving the civil rights of German citizens. Sounds kind of familiar right? Think back to the 1960’s, America had a civil rights movement. This movement is different however, this isn’t about racial equality, and this is about preserving the safety and secrecy of German citizens.

Since their founding in 2006, the party has quickly grown in power and in membership. In the most recent elections, the Piratenpartei got over 9% of the vote, which in Germany is quite impressive.  The party is very popular amongst younger libertarian people. They all believe in the same thing; the government should be more transparent, they want less surveillance of the citizens, and they generally want more civil rights when it comes to the Internet.

Picture from P2P-Blog

Recently Germany passed a law called the Access impediment act. The act is much like the one proposed in Russia and currently being enforced in several other countries throughout the world. The law limits what people can and cannot access on the Internet, i.e.: child pornography, illegally downloading music/ movies, etc… the Piratenpartei is staunchly against this law.  They are also against the surveillance of citizens and the “wiretapping of telephones”.

I personally believe that this party is a great thing. Although the German government is arguably more transparent then our own government, I still believe that there should be more access to government documents and that wire tapping/ spying on the citizens should be illegal. The Piratenpartei has gained power in other European countries (Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, France), and I believe that it will continue to spread around the world.

To find more information about the pirate party click here and for the P2P-Blog click  here.

Printers Printing Printers ….. The Printers the limit baby!

3d printer introduction ̵̛̮̟̝̩͚͉̻͇̬͓̭̙ͦ̋ͤ͗͌̐ͦͮ̃ͣ̃ͥͣ̂ͣͨͯ̀̀́M̵̞̫̩̫͙̭ͬ̃ͪ̏ͧ̐̄ͬͥ̓̂̊ͭ̿̉ͯ͊͜Ų̶̨̰̰̳̰͈͔͔͍̹̝̙̳̪̓ͬ̐̅̌̐̊ͫ̉ͥ͘͝S͖̖̝̦͇̼̙̥̝̥̟̅ͣͫͣ̾ͥ̋ͨ̍̃̓ͯ̎́͝͞I̡̧̦̲͎̭̭̩͙̯͔̮̞̘͈͙̺̝̳ͨ͐ͬ̈́̒̅ͪ͒̉̓ͮ̉͌̂̆̿̋͆͂́͠͞C̭̞̼̰̘̹͕̟͖͙̱̹͓͐͊ͬ̎͌̅ͮ̽̿ͩ̀̄̇́͝

Printers printing printers. A concept that my friends and I have long toyed with. So in saying that….Welcome to the future where the creation reigns and your only limit to what you can construct would be your printer and your materials. Instead of going out and buying your friend, child, or whoever some present, people all over the world are being offered the opportunity to simply create again.
The prototype 3D printer under development by Artur Tchoukanov and Joris Peels allows people to design figurines and shapes on a computer (possibly the future YOUR PHONE!), and then print them (IN PLASTIC) and out to play with. We must ask ourselves what kind of worldwide implications are at hand when your children can start to make their own toys and adults can start to be more self sufficient in the printing of nails or other tools, maybe even houses.. Instead let us stand up in and chant HUZZAH in the idea that you don’t have to buy things for your children any more (other than a printer which of course could print other printing printers) As Arthur Tchoukanov would say….
Let them make their own!
Origo’s concept video is very basic, but it gives you a good idea of what Tchoukanov and Peels hope to accomplish. A computerized interface allows whoever to digitally construct and design a shape, and then the printer creates it in an hour (+). A machine that takes your thoughts and transfigures them into material objects to be understood by those who only operate in the 5 sense realm..fun for the entire family?
As heard from singularityhub….
“Origo is still in the prototype phase, but its creators have openly discussed some of the ultimate specs on their Twitter feed and Facebook page, as well as on their main site. We should expect the 3D printer to have a USB port, wireless connectivity, a price around $800, and it will use 3Dtin as its design software.
Word on the internet street is that the printer will be able to print out objects between the size of a medium or large jar, which is about the size of its interior space. Of course larger or complex objects will take longer to print than smaller or simpler designs. One of the more difficult things to get around with this wonderful object is its material costs which were quoted at…
$40 to $400 a kilo for plastic!
However it seems as though with time the company will try to find a lower price, however presently they aren’t able to say exactly how.
Probably one of the most exciting aspects of this printer (other than the fact that you are creating and designing things from the ground up…) would be its recyclable nature. The “recycling pod” Origo is coming up with would be able to break down old objects and of course be used in the printing of new objects.
Look for yours soon, because I know that I will be printing printers to print more printers printing printers and have the last one print out nanobots that repair all my other printing printers really, really soon. In fact on the UK side of things To orient ourselves towards the direction of global context we should also examine the UK side of things Dr. Adrian Bowyer, from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath has actually created a 3d printer that will print other 3d printers all for the price of less than £500. Below is an image of the ReRap (Bowyer’s product).
Capable of Printing out other 3d printers

Rerap 3d Printer

The idea is that 3d printing works like the current printers we use however, instead of dispensing ink to a page it layers different materials such as plastic alloy which in time will become a solid object.
The raw material for the printer is a cheap plastic, typically from recycled material. Dr. Bowyer said a 1Kg drum cost about £30.
This idea is one that will have a holistic effect worldwide. Wherever these exist a creative outlet exists. The modern consciousness worldwide is one of disease due to seeing people as simply resoureces and a loss of creativity on our basic level. Let’s hope that this allows us to begin again creating and sharing as people were meant to.

Traveling to Turkey… Visa Required.

Image: VBR

Are you wanting to travel to Turkey? Do you know the regulations to enter the country? Being a European can simplify your travel plans, but entering Turkey from non-European countries can be more complicated. A traveler from India, for instance, with a valid passport is also required to purchase a visa before entering the country. Further inquiry as to the details of how to obtain this visa reveals a dizzying array of advice on the best way to acquire the visa. 15 Euro / 20 USD seems to be the current going rate though other Half of the reports say that you must buy the visa in advance, half say that you get it at upon arrival and all have the first-hand experience to back it up. Accounts of the process makes one wonder if Turkish customs is not somehow a satellite office of the DMV. While Turkey’s official Ministry of Foreign Affairs website makes the process seem fairly straightforward it is notoriously outdated (even when it has “just been updated”) and the regulations are in a near constant state of flux, and are subject to change without warning. In reality it can depend on the particular official you get that day.

Fortunately, very few of the instances end in a traveler actually being denied entry into the country. There are a few general guidelines that will help streamline the experience as much as possible:

1. Bring cash! Visa fees are payable in most currencies – GBPs, Euros, and USD$. In true bureaucratic form, they do not accept their own national currency, Turkish Lira.

2. No dirty money – Turkish border officials are notoriously particular about the condition of the money: do not try to pay with torn, dirty, or defaced bills.

3. Most of the Turkish visas are single entry and once you exit the country re-entry is not allowed so plan accordingly.

4. Often tourist visas aren’t checked so whether you buy the visa upon arrival or in advance, if you are not asked to present the visa DO NOT SHOW IT!! This eliminates the process of being held up by any visa-related discrepancies or errors that may be present.

Traveling to Turkey can be very difficult, but some countries do no have it as hard as our above example India.  For instance, countries like Germany, Greece, France, New Zealand, Japan and Singapore, and as well as many other countries, have the right to stay in Turkey for 90 days without obtaining a visa.

But what about the United States?

Many have a false presumption by thinking Americans can travel as they please.  Even though it is not as hard for an American to acquire a visa into turkey, as it is for an individual in India, one should still do some searching before going abroad.  Most likely, if you are a traveler from the United States, you pay for a tourist permit or visa ($20) in order to enter Turkey.  One can do this right before entering the country.  There is an exception to this rule.  If a traveler is “arriving by cruise ship for a day trip to Turkey, you do not require a visa as long as you are not staying on shore overnight.”

Other rules apply to individuals who want to stay longer than a day, or longer than 90 days.  Staying for longer than 90 days requires a visa from a Turkish Embassy or Consulate before arrival.  And if one is planning on working or studying there, one “must also apply for a residence/work permit or Turkish ID card within the first month” of arrival.

Important! – Be sure to check the stamps on your passport, because you do not want to overstay.  Overstaying can cause serious problems, like a fine or being deported.

For more information, contact a US Embassy and check with specifics including the laws that may be foreign to you.

Safe travels!

Co-Written with Josh Cochran

The wedding of the año

Dancing Dutchess of Alba on her wedding day

(co-written by Melissa Gall)

Step aside, Princess Kate, your royal wedding wasn’t the only one this year. Looks fade, but nobility lasts forever, and the Duchess of Alba proved that on her wedding day, Oct. 5. This matrimony was between one of Spain’s richest, most famous aristocrats and civil servant Alfonso Diez Carabantes.

And speaking of charm, the Duchess has plenty of it. Known for her wildly colorful fashion sense, the 85-year-old has a white afro and knows how to tango. And as if her name was not enough – María del Rosario Cayetana Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Francisca Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva (say that five times fast) – she holds the Guinness World Record for most noble titles.

But despite her bluest of blue blood, the wedding was a modest affair. It took place in the chapel of one of her residences, a 16th-century palace in Seville, with just 30 friends and family members as witnesses. In true Alba spirit, her dress was a salmon-colored, ruffled frock rather than a billowing white gown with a train as long as driveway, and the only after-party was a small luncheon following the ceremony.

It’s not that she couldn’t afford a royal wedding. With an estimated worth of $4.6 billion, the Duchess holds one of Spain’s most valuable art collections, which casually includes Christopher Columbus’ first map of the Americas among the rest of the pieces by Goya, Valaquez, and the like. Her first wedding, in 1947, was described by the New York Times as “the most expensive wedding in the world.”  So this raises the question: why did she marry a civil servant, a commoner?

Well, her six children asked the question too. Many were displeased by the engagement of the Duchess and Diez, but she allotted each of her children’s inheritances prior to the wedding day, and this seemed to qualm their woes. Two of her children couldn’t make it to the wedding – one was hospitalized with chicken pox and the other was still unsupportive – but the rest were happily by her side on her big day. She says that “they realized what kind of man he is.”

This was neither her first nor her second wedding; the devout Catholic has twice been widowed. But you know what they say: third time’s the charm. Ring on, wedding bells!

Fall Brews – From East to West

All good beer drinkers (Euro and Yank alike) know, with the crispness of fall comes the excitement of both classic and innovative autumnal beer.

The tradition is the classic pale lager, originating in Munich, Germany.  Pale Lager is a lean, stable beer and is most widely drank as what people consider “regular” beer around the world today.  They tend to be dry, lean, and like Autumn itself, crisp.  Traditionally, during Germany’s biggest fall festival, Oktoberfest, a type of Pale Lager dubbed “Märzen” is the drink of preference and has been since 1818.  Oktoberfestbier is supplied heavily in Germany by what is known as “The Big Six” breweries.  (Spaten, Löwenbräu, Augustiner-BräuHofbräuhaus München, Paulaner, and Hacker-Pschorr. (All conveniently located in Germany’s southern half and beer haven, Bayern)  If you’re looking for your typical, traditional Autumnal beer, look no further.  Each of these breweries offers their own specific versions of Oktoberfestbier and many offer international ordering and shipping.

To step up from the pale lager, Fall beers also often come in the form of a Bokbier, or “Bock.”  Bock beers are dark, sweet, lightly hopped, malty ales traditionally associated with holidays and festivals.  In areas like Austria, Bokbier is drank particularly around Christmas time, but places like the Netherlands and Belgium like to get things started off in Fall with strictly seasonal Autumn Bock Beers. Brouwerij ‘t IJ, a brewery in Amsterdam, Netherlands, brews a specialty fall beer called “eco-beer biobok.”  The IJ Bok is, “Dark and Robust, but not too sweet.”  It is available every year from September through November.

Finally, and most typically American, we have the specialty Autumn “flavored” beer.  These beers are generally ales brewed to include typical Fall tastes, such as pumpkin, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and other thanksgiving-style flavors.  Quite generally, these beers are sweet and full flavor.  In fact, as this next beer exemplifies, they can be a bit of a dessert beer, so to say.  A typical and delicious fall beer brewed in the States is The Bruery’s “Autumn Maple.”  Brewed in Orange County, California, this belgian-style brown ale is reminiscent of the sweetness of Halloween and Thanksgiving combined.  It is a bold and spicy blend of  traditional Belgian yeast strains, sweet potatos, maple syrup, allspice, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg and not only smells, but also tastes uncannily like a pumpkin pie.

Yo Kanye, I’m Really Happy for You and Imma Let You Finish But…

For years, Kanye West has been the center of attention for his explosive language, offensive gestures and his sometimes pervasive yet amazing musical talent. Last week, however, West was recognized not for his musical genius or his arrogance (that most of the time is warranted) but for the premiere of his clothing line during Paris Fashion Week.

Since blowing up in the late 00’s, West has become one of the most sought after style icons in the music community. From Louis Vutton to Marc Jacobs, West has been featured not only as a spokesman for numerous fashion houses around the globe but is synonymously known has the pretty boy of the rap industry– turning both cultural stereotypes and gender roles upside down. Quite honestly, West is the Prince of our time (yes I said it) if for no other reason than his ability to generate fans not strictly on the basis of his musical talent (which he clearly possesses) but also,  because he’s so ridiculously stylish and daring.

So after years of being the self proclaimed “flyest rapper alive” and launching several small projects (Air Yeezys with Nike, retail line Past Tell and small projects with major designers like Louis Viutton ) Kanye West decided to leap off of his spaceship and launch his very own major line. And with the support of several industry big wigs, he successfully graced Paris Fashion Week–one of the biggest fashion shows in the entire world that some designers will never see–his first year out of the gate.

(Drum roll please) Welcome DW Kanye West.

*Perhaps the acronyms are for his late mother, Dr. Donda West

But does being stylish automatically mean you can design an entire line?

For those who don’t know, designers do not get to show EVERYTHING that they design during these events. The process of elimination when deciding what “looks” to showcase during fashion week is detrimental. They must first assess what looks will be the most trendy and fit into the shows theme. They then spend months evaluating the fluidity of the pieces with one another and those lucky few make it to the runway. Not only are these planned seasons in advance (right now, designers are working on   Fall/Winter 2012), but they are not ‘mock ups’–these outfits and looks must be complete and functional. This averages somewhere between 20-30 looks and they MUST BE POLISHED. This is what buyers, editors, advertisers and most important retail consumers base their purchasing decisions off of.

That being said, Kanye West may have come up a little short. Mainly because the expectations were SO high for him, Paris was expecting more. And because West has deemed himself an international trendsetting extrordinaire, perhaps they should have been.

Haute or Hot Mess?

Wests’ looks were seasonally appropriate and mildly eccentric, showing off what I assume he most admires about the female form. In some ways,  they lacked follow through and appeared poorly tailored.  Plus, even though most designers aren’t afraid to put a few “haute” looks on the runway, the kind you make visually appealing but would never expect anyone to wear, most garments are usually…wearable. Throughout his pairings, there were hints of some his favorite companies and fashion houses–most notably, American Apparel and Marc Jacobs–with nearly nude cuts and metallic fabric.

Here’s a little footage from the show

Many of the harsher criticisms a buzz in both the US and Paris blogosphere noted that West was a beginner and that his looks resembled an amueter, premature attempt at high fashion (not quoting any one source particularly). My response to that is….well he IS a newbie. Everyone has to start somewhere. It’s rumored that he worked with graduate students from  Central Saint Martins in London, which may also be a contributing factor to the rather amateur feeling of the line.Whatever the case, he was given HEAVY media attention (as usual) and left a rather large impact on the fashion community. His biggest supporters were among some of the biggest, best selling names in the industry, including the Olsen Twins who won their first CDFA award earlier this year for their luxury label, The Rowe. Others included DSquared2’s Dean and Dan Caten and Adidas loyalist, Jeremy Scott.

I just wonder if anyone will buy it….

Check out these blogs for more coverage of PFW (#ParisFashionWeek):





(Shades of) Grün -The Bike-Friendly Country Getting Less Friendly?

Global Bike Production

Credit: Der Spiegel

Do you know that the global production of bicycles is over 120 million and almost three times the car production?

As biking becomes one of the main steps toward an environmentally sustainable society, Germany stands in the forefront of the movement. In addition to the environmental gain, Germans are also having fun with bikes. Entertainment vehicles known as Bierbikes appeared on the streets of German cities. Beer is served on the Bierbikes, which have four wheels and can take about 16 beer-bikers on it.

When the world tends to recognize Germany as a bike-friendly country, Germans seem to be getting less friendly on the city streets. Germans find problems coming along with its growing biking population. Bikers, drivers and pedestrians are competing for space on streets, with the intensity of the competition increasing.

Some bikers go the wrong direction or ride on the wrong side of the street. Some collide with trashcans that residents push onto the sidewalk. Other bikers don’t see people stepping off buses.

Obstacles are inevitable in any revolution, and the one on the wheels is no exception. My friend in Philadelphia was on her bike when a car door suddenly opened in front of her. It was just too late for her to brake. I saw her the week after the accident, and the bruise she got was the worst that I have ever seen.

bicycles and cars compete for space

Credit: Der Spiegel

In September, Germany rejected the carbon dioxide underground storage plans. Though largely generated in fossil fuel power stations, carbon dioxide emissions is always one of the dark side of driving cars. The rejection of the plan demanded the continuation of the bicycle revolution. The question left is, for a better environment and lifestyle, how people should deal with growing aggressiveness on the streets.

The New York City Police Department announced its support for biking in the Greenpoint-Williamsburg area, which has increasing “bicycle ridership.” It states that motorists must yield to bicyclists when making a left turn to side streets, and watch out for bicyclists when opening car doors. To promote safer streets for biking, walking, and driving in the area, flyers were also handed out to bicyclists.

As we are on biking, here is the MU bike rack map that can make your biking experience on campus better.

“I’ve never met a Chocolate I didn’t like”

Image: BzzAgent

Reading RITTER SPORT, MEINE LIEBLINGSSCHOKOLADE by Chen Chen, made me wonder why individuals turn to Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany for their chocolate needs.  These chocolates are known for their high quality, delicious taste and luxury.  Some are also made by hand, and many consider it a form of art.

Some of Belgian chocolate brands that are well known are Godiva and Kirkland Signature.  Switzerland gets its chocolate reputation from its famous Toblerone.

I have always been a lover of chocolate, but my favorite is Milka.  The chocolate is known for its purple cow and the name comes from Milch and Kakao  which translated means Milk and Cocoa.  The chocolate comes in many varieties and holiday shapes, such as the Easter Rabbit, Santa Claus, hearts, and clovers.

Being in Germany all summer helped me get my hands on chocolate products that I have not seen in the United States, like Milka Daim, Milka Riegel Leo, and my favorite Milka Yoghurt.

After doing some research, I actually found out that Milka is owned by Kraft Foods, an American confectionery. Their headquarters are in Illinois and also abroad in Switzerland.  I found this interesting, because my friends in the United States and in Germany thought it was a German owned product.

Even though it is now owned by an American company, it wasn’t always this way.  The product was created by the Suchard Company, which eventually came together with Tobler.  In 1982, the company joined with Jacobs Coffee Company- which was eventually bought by Kraft Foods in 1990.

Wanting to find more information on the chocolate, I came across a blog that talks about various candy around the world.  The author, Cybele May, points out the interesting marketing line that is on the label of Milka.  It states,

“Treat your senses to a smooth, rich flavor. Delight in MILKA – the tender, chocolaty pleasure of Alpine Milk.”

The author of that blog mentions that they have “never heard of chocolate described as tender before!”  So, for those of you who understand German, here is a commercial from 2011- dare to be tender.

Milka Kuh Werbung 2011

Doesn’t this make you want to eat some chocolate?

You’ll never get hungry in Poland

I remember that I was never hungry while I was staying with my Polish friend’s family. Actually, I was always full because I had 4 meals everyday. Many countries have 3 meals a day. However, in Poland, having 4 meals is usual.

They have an early breakfast early in the morning, late breakfast around 10, big lunch around 2 and a small dinner before going to bed.

Polish early breakfast is usually pretty big, and their breakfast items are quite similar to American ones such as scrambled eggs and sausages.

Their second breakfast is as light as a snack such as a piece of toast.

Typical Polish lunch, image from luuux.com

Their lunch, obiadi,  is the biggest and the most important meal of the day. Their obiadi is just like dinner in the States. They serve fish, meat, tomatoes, a lot of vegetables and desserts.

Before going to bed, they usually have a small amount of soup. In Poland, there are many kinds of soup. Some even say that Poland is a country of soups. Famous soups are botwinka (beetroot soup), kapu niak (cabbage and sauerkraut soup), ros(meat soup) and zacierka(noodle soup).

4 meals a day might not be so unfamiliar with even some people in the United States. Some people have 4 or 5 meals a day to lose weight. They say frequently having small snacks will make you never get hungry. And, I’m telling you based on my experience in Poland, that’s really true.

Back to the Polish food culture, one more important thing for Polish people is tea. Polish people love tea. They enjoy many cups of tea throughout the day.

For those of you who go to Poland, it’s great that you can enjoy great Polish foods 4 times a day. I can guarantee you that you’ll never get hungry in Poland. 🙂

From Abba to In Flames – the diversity of swedish music

© altoent @www.wallpaperbase.com

Speaking of Sweden, the first thing I think of is Volvo, the famous but low-key car brand. But the Swedish people can make not only cars but also great pop music. And one music band we can’t ignore is the worldwide well-known band ABBA. If you have no idea about ABBA, you must have heard songs such as “Dancing Queen” or “I Have A Dream” or “Gimme Gimme Gimme”. At least you should have some impression about “MAMA MIA”.

Maybe you’ll say ABBA was famous but it’s too old and it is from the 70s of the last century. But Swedish pop music doesn’t just have ABBA but also Roxette in the 80s, whose most famous songs are “Listen To Your Heart”, “Joyride” and “It Must Have Been Love”. Those songs are so classic that they were reproduced repeatedly by many singers. Although these songs are still popular there are lots of people who have no idea about the origin of the band and thought Roxette is an American band.

Next to ABBA and Roxette, we also can’t forget “Ace of Base” in the 90s. “The Sign”, “All That She Wants”, “Lucky Love”, and “Beautiful Morning” are unforgettable hits from them. I can hardly imagine that such a small northern European country is the birthplace of so many great music bands. But the Swedish people never stop making wonderful pop music. Here is a post, 21 Swedish artists making wonderful 21st century pop music.

©RetroLand U.S.A. @ flickr

ABBA, Roxette and Ace of Base are more likely doing dancing Music. But dancing music is not the only music that the Swedes are good at. The great music Band “the cardigans” whose most well-known song is “Lovefool” from the movie “Romeo + Juliet” in 1996 featuring by Leonardo Dicaprio and Claire Danes. Unlike the dancing music, the cardigans songs are clean, bold, warm and edgy.

© In flames official website @ www.inflames.com

But is that all about Swedish music? You can’t judge a book by its cover; neither can you judge a country by its size. Besides the music mentioned above, the Swedish people are also famous for their gothic metal, even death metal bands such as “lake of tears” and “in flames”. This is really bizarre. According to me, the Swedes live in ice cold northern Europe and have a peaceful life. Because it’s so cold they want to have a little movement, so they have created much dance music to get warm. But, death metal, hardcore metal, gothic metal music? Is that because they have polar days and nights which are so difficult to cope with so they become angry and sad and produce this kind of music? Well, it’s just my hypothesis.

Prost! It’s Oktoberfest.

The tradition of Oktoberfest just finished wrapping up in Germany. The 200 year old tradition is a several week long festival. It was originally held to celebrate Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese, but today it is largely a celebration of German culture and beer.

The festival began September 17th and goes until Oct. 3. Around six million people are expected at the festival this year. It has become the largest carnival in the world and it is held in Munich along with several other locations in Germany. Over 7 million liters of beer from German breweries are consumed during the festival. Other German food is also celebrate including German sausage, gingerbread cookies, and roast chickens. Most people wear traditional German clothing including leather pants or a checkered skirt with lederhosen (socks pulled up to the knee) for men and and a dirndl or apron for women.

Women at Oktoberfest (Image courtesy of ABC News)

The festival is held in large tents, each one capable of holding almost 10,000 people. The tents are decorated and all of the Munich beer houses has its own tent. Bands can be heard at the fair and the song “Ein Prosit,” a sing-along song that everyone drinks to is played quite frequently. It’s usually every third song.

Oktoberfest at night. (Courtesy of Google Images)

Entry to the festival is free, but the beer isn’t! A liter of beer is about 9 Euros and you’ll probably need to book your hotel over a year in advance.

Even if you don’t like beer or have children coming to Oktoberfest, there’s plenty to do. The tents take up about 1/3 of the fair grounds. The rest of the fair is filled with carnival rides, games, attractions, and food. There’s even haunted houses, a ferris wheel, and roller-coasters.

If you go to Oktoberfest, here’s a few tips. Cheers in German is “Prost.” Also, make sure you make eye contact during a toast. If you don’t, you are condemned to seven years of unsatisfying sex. Another tip: the beer is probably stronger than beer in the U.S. so pace yourself.

If you’re interested in reading about Oktoberfest from a German perspective, check out this live blog of the festival.

But you don’t have to go to Germany to celebrate Oktoberfest. Fortunately, there are many other Oktoberfest celebrations in the U.S. Some of the largest festivals are in  St. Louis, Chicago, and Milwaukee. In Chicago, the festival goes until Oct. 10 at Navy Pier. There’s also a celebration outside St. Louis in St. Charles, Mo. There are several throughout October in the Midwest.

All About Mysterious Gypsies

The entrance to gypsy colony at Dale Farm

Travelers and Roma are two groups of people with completely different origins.  Roma’s roots are unknown although many think that these people descend from India; however, Traveler’s can be traced back to Ireland.   What these people do share is their lifestyle: they are gypsies who travel through Europe and have no permanent home, although, they tend to make “homes” in Spain, Britain and Ireland.

Lately, they have seemed to come under the spotlight.  They have attempted to let people into their world with pop culture sensation television show, “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.” The show follows Traveler and Roma brides as they prepare for their wedding and as I’ve learned from watching the show, there is no party like a gypsy party.  The bride’s dress can weigh up to 70 pounds (because of lace and gaudy jewels) and the guest’s outfits tend to be a bit outrageous.  Despite their somewhat outlandish behavior, I found that their sense of family and community is incredible.

“My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding” has been incredibly popular in Europe, commanding millions of viewer’s attention and drawing further notice of their movements and actions.  Some bloggers think this is a similar concept with the United State’s show “Jersey Shore,” which is not the most positive portrayal of Americans. There have been mixed reviews about the gypsy show from gypsy communities.  One gypsy who appeared on “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding” claimed that he was assaulted because of his involvement with the show. Often, Gypsies do not welcome the public into their communities because of a history (and current happenings) of discrimination.

Recently, in England there is a large scale eviction of gypsies from an area called Dale Farm.  The gypsy community has been inhabiting this area for nearly 10 years, but, residents have taken them to court in an attempt to rid their community of Travelers.  The case’s decision has been pushed back, but, the likely outcome does not seem to be a ruling in favor of the gypsies, which is not completely surprising, given the gypsies history.

Networking Creativity: Social Media Links Artists in Berlin

Art Connect Berlin

Image Logo from ArtConnect Berlin

Berlin’s hip scene inspires artists from around the world to travel to Germany’s capital where art and creativity flourish. But when Spanish-born artist Julia Mari Bernaus set up in the city ready to mingle and collaborate with the many other creative souls that she knew were there, she had no idea where to find them. “I realized that we’re not connected in any way,” Julia said, “There’s no central point for the creative scene and I wondered how I could find all these people and put them all together.” (Click here to read a Q&A interview with creator Julia Bernaus.)

Thus ArtConnect Berlin was born.

The social networking site is free and allows users to post portfolios, make and respond to job postings, and tag themselves with specific skills. The vision is to make social connection and collaboration between artists in Berlin possible in an easy, fast, centralized way. And critics seem to think it will do just that.

A writer for the blog Finding Berlin affirms from his own experience that the big, wild city of Berlin is difficult to fit into. He thinks that ArtConnect Berlin will be an invaluable tool for artists trying to make a place for themselves in the chaos of such a fast-paced and possibly foreign place.

Image screenshot of Mele De La Yglesia's user profile from ArtConnect Berlin

Member profiles show an artists’ listed skills, website, contact info, a personal description, and of course a profile picture–the standard for any social networking tool. The larger space on the artist’s page is reserved for showing off the artist’s “projects,” often pictures of traditional artwork like drawings and paintings or photography.

Unique to ArtConnect Berlin’s creative networking ambitions are the site’s “Opportunities” and “Marketplace” sections. “Opportunities” acts as a sort of classified ad forum where users can post and perusepostings calling for models, partners, and participants for a plethora of different creative projects ranging from literature to performance and anything else you could think of. The Marketplace allows artists to post to seek or solicit material items or services such as music tutoring, paintbrushes, or studio space.

Germany’s online creative community is buzzing about the new service; many German- and art-themed blogs and websites, such as Coax Magazine and Central Station, have informed their readers about ArtConnect Berlin and offered praise and speculation about what it is and will be.

Scottish-born Robin Thompson even created a short film documenting an ArtConnect Berlin promotional event on Linienstrasse where ArtConnect promoters passed out bright-colored baloons with “free ideas” encapsulated inside.

ON THE STREET #1 from artconnect berlin on Vimeo.

Russia’s first lady, again

Russian Flag

photo courtesy of www.flagspot.net

He has returned! Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was announced on Sept. 24 that he will again be President of Russia, and the President Dmitri Medvedev will step into the role of Prime Minister (and you thought Russia was too cold for flip-flops). The Russians took it calmly, no big fuss was made, all’s well that ends well; and, hopefully, all’s well that begins well too.

But lest you forget, behind every great man there’s a great woman. The return of Putin to the presidency means the return of his wife, Lyudmila Putina (Людмила Александровна Путина), to the First Ladyship. Huzzah! She’s smart, driven and runs a strong house. But unlike Michelle Obama or Carla Bruni, she likes to keep her profile low. Not much is known about this power-wife, but let’s see what we can scrounge up…

Born in Kaliningrad in the Soviet Union, Lyudmila had a brief stint as a flight attendant before taking up a more academic lifestyle. She studied Spanish and classical philology (the study of historical languages, such as ancient Greek and Latin) at the University of Leningrad, so though she may be a woman of few words, she knows all about them. She stayed at the university for four years after her studies and taught German. And along the line of language, here’s a fun fact: in Russian, surnames are possessive adjectives, so when they are describing a woman, they have to be made feminine by adding an ‘A’. Putin + a = Putina. You can thank me after your next trivia night.

Moving right along. Lyudmila’s life picked up when she met Vladimir. Then an intelligence officer, Vladimir was relocated to Germany briefly for his job and she went too, undoubtedly impressing him with all of her perfect German grammar. As he rose in the ranks, appointed as director of the FSB (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation), she stuck by his side, and low and behold she wound up as the female figurehead of the largest country in the world.

Lyudmila Putina

Putina with Laura Bush in 2006, photo courtesy of BBC News

She was nervous at first. Being such a public figure was never part of her life plan, but lucky for her, Russia is known for its leading ladies standing away from the spotlight rather than soaking up the attention, and she assumed this role well. And as first ladies often do, Lyudmila began occupying herself with charitable doings, using her knack for language to better her country. She curated the Center for Development of Russian Language and worked with leaders of other nations – notably Germany and France – to set up language study programs that brought students from around the world. Globally minded? Check. Passionate for a cause? Check. Positive change accounts for her known lack of fashion sense? Check.

Enough about her resume. She and Vladimir raised two daughters, Maria and Yekaterina, who are kept in enormous secrecy; the girls are rumored to be able to go unguarded in the street because their immensely private lives have kept their identities unrecognizable. And in Lyudmila’s free time, she enjoys going to the theater, skiing, playing tennis and is an avid traveler. Not too shabby.

Perhaps with this reelection, she will come out and play a little bit more. There’s no dirt to be found on the lady, which could be in thanks to her intentional lack of publicity. Or, maybe she is just a stellar First Lady, the likes of which the world could use more.

Lyudmila Putina in her younger years, photo courtesy of cs.wikipedia.org