May 07

Trip Report — Germany 20April -06May 2017 with Jonathan ★★★★★

I felt it necessary to return at least once more to Germany, and this time, to also do a long bike ride. Jon became very interested in doing that with me. The plan was to ride from Benningen am Neckar to Krefeld am Rhein, then take the train to Berlin, then Würzburg to see Katja and Hannes, and then home from Frankfurt. In Benningen, we would spend time with Heinz and Debbie, and in Krefeld, with Herbert.

After arriving at the Seatac airport, we were informed that the Lufthansa computers were shut down, and taking a while to reboot. Thankfully, they got everything ultimately fixed, and we were checked in. It was quite easy to get the bicycle on. There was a group from Moses Lake on the same plane, headed for Nigeria for a medical/dental project, and I was pleased to see an old acquaintance, the retired surgeon Jim Irwin.   After boarding the plane, a brief moment of panic ensued when we realized that Jon left a bag in the terminal; fortunately it was able to retrieve it right as the plane was closing its doors. The plane was a 747 and fully loaded. I can’t really describe the flight because I slept through it, thanks to a sleeping pill. Our arrival in Frankfurt and getting our bags with Jon’s bike was uneventful.

Arrival in Germany

Friday, day 1 Much of what happened the first day we don’t remember. We were able to get the bike box to the bike shop without a problem, and get it reassembled. On checking with the Deutsche Bahn, we were informed that we could not take the train route that I had planned and used before, but had to go through Karlsruhe. They gave us a schedule with a number of transfers. At first things seemed ok, transferring in Weisbaden and then Mainz, but on the way to Karlsruhe, we were informed that there was a problem with the track, and that the train would go no further. No advice regarding what we should do was offered. Thankfully for a young student with a bike next to us, we caught a train in another direction, then transferred again, and after a bit of hassle, finally made it to Karlsruhe. Even then, the train to Karlsruhe stopped at every stop like a bus, and ended short of the Hauptbahnhof, making us figure out what to do from there. We were late with that connection, the transfer in Stuttgart was again late, and 20 phonecalls later to Debbie Fuchs, we finally had Heinz just get us in Ludwigsburg. It was a delightful evening with Heinz and Debbie, but jetlag had us zoned early. Debbie made us a wonderful meal with Spatzele, and the things she wanted from America were dug out, making our bags lighter.

Debbie and Heinz Fuchs

Jon and I ready to roll

Saturday, after breakfast, I realized that the bike was missing its front rack. Thankfully, Heinz was able to find it in the garage and it easily installed. The Neckar Radweg was quite easy to follow, and we rarely had any problems with feeling lost. It was a beautiful ride, passing mostly through wine country. I did not record this 30+ mile segment on Garmin. The weather was overcast and cool, with only a light rain, atarting just becore we got to Heilbronn. The owners of a hotel Die Grüne Krone were most friendly. We took showers, went out to dinner at Die Barfüßer, were they brewed their own beer. Beer never tasted so good! It was nice having real German food again.

Riding the Neckar, with a light rain.

vineyards along the Neckar

Heilbronn Rathaus. Probably seen by grandfather on his way to America

Wonderful hotel, die Grüne Krone.

Sunday 23April —  Today was fairly uneventfkul. There was no tain, but  it was mostly cloudy and cold. The Neckar valley was broader now, with fewer wineyards. There were plentiful castles and ancient structures along the, most of which  could not be nicely photographed. A moderate amount of the trail was gravel, but still easy to ride on. The bikes worked well without problem. Arrival in Heidelberg brought back old memories, and Jon and I stayed at a hotel where Betsy and I stayed, the Tannhauser. Dinner was delicious, and Jon and I crashed early, ready for another day.

Jon in excellent form

Typical Travel

Castles everywhere

Gutenberg house

Jon loved the Spargel

Monday. 24April —Today was absolutely beautiful, riding through both countryside and industrial areas. Starting in Heidelburg, we crossed over the Neckar and rode though fields that flanked the Neckar. It was sunny all day, and reasonably warm. The trail eventually ran close to the Neckar as we came into Mannheim, coming right to the junction of the Neckar and Rhein. We decided to stay on the right side of the Rhein until we got to Worms. The bridge at Worms was a mix of the old brick Niebelung Brüke and modern construction. After quickly finding a hotel, we toured the Luther Denkmal, as well as the cathedral (Wörmer Dom), probably a site for Luther’s trial. After a Wörmer Diät of Schweinemedallions und Spargel, washed down with sufficient beer, we crashed for a bit, then went out for a beer, engaging in conversation with a very nice German software salesman from Northern Germany. Bedtime was a little more normal today.

Niebelung Brücke

Luther Memorial in Worms

Wörmer Dom, possibly where Luther was held for trial

Worms city wall

Tuesday, 25April—Last night, the conversation at the bar strongly advised us to stay in Mainz. Unfortunately, there was a Messe in Mainz (convention) which tied up all the hotel rooms well outside the city. Bike travel went quite well, but it was very cold. We were quite bundled up. When we got about 10 miles past Mainz, we looked for a recommended hotel in Heidesheim but they also fully booked because of the convention in Mainz. The most fascinating thing about Heidesheim was a complex of old historical buildings. A person saw us looking bewildered at the structures, and then came out to explain to us that these buildings were used in 1941-1945 by Hitler to house invalids and Lebensunwertiglebens before they went off to the gas chamber. But, we didn’t (couldn’t) stay there. Therefore, we had to make some hard decisions. It was about 5 pm, and Jon was able to reserve a room on the internet in Bingen. We quickly caught the train from Heidesheim to Bingen. Bingen was a lovely town. We stayed at the Hotel Krone, went out to dinner (no photographs tonight), we had regional dishes and wine, and crashed at a reasonable hour. Jetlag was finally moving behind us.

Real food

One of many castles along the Rhein


Wednesday 26April — Both Jon and I slept well. The weather report said “rain” but it remained mostly sunny with no rain, and not nearly as cold and windy as yesterday. Today gave absolutely no challenges to route finding, and no hills, so travel was smooth. We got to see many castles, as well as the Loreley. I also saw a hint of several Rheinmaidens poking their heads up out of the water. Lunch was in the Roman colony of Boppard, also a part of the Hunsrück region of Germany. Koblenz came soon after. We quickly found a lovely hotel in Koblenz, feeling great about our travels.

Die Loreley

Real food


Thursday 27April — The hotel in Koblenz was a fairly small mom and pop operation of an elderly couple, and very friendly. We found our way back to the Rhein, took note of the Deutsches Eck (where the Mosel flows into the Rhein), and rode on. We stopped for lunch in Remagen, after inspecting the remaining support structures of a famous bridge. Lunch was our first Döner in Germany. After arriving in Bonn, we found our hotel, dumped our stuff, and then hurried to the house where Beethoven was born. It was a small but nice museum, but unfortunately, we were not allowed to have cameras in the museum. We had a late dinner before retreating back to our hotel. Tomorrow means a new phase in our travels, in that we will not be bicycling any more. We had to make a change of plans since Herbert was needing to be in Würzburg on an urgent basis. We will spend two nights in Hamburg and then three nights in Berlin.

Deutsches Eck

Bridge at Remagen

First Döner in Remagen


Friday 28April—today makes it one week in Germany. We woke up a bit late, had breakfast, and then checked out. We had a few hours to spend before the train, so drifted around the downtown area for while before heading to the train station. We got to Hamburg late in the afternoon, it was rainy, and the hotel was a bit removed from the downtown area. It took us about an hour to reach the hotel. It was a Holiday Inn, we were able to stow our bikes in the room, and they upgraded us free to an executive suite room. Nice.

Beethoven birth house in Bonn

Saturday 29th April—Hamburg; the walk back to the train station now took us only 40 minutes, and we spent all day walking the city. We went to the Rathaus, Alster area, and the Brahms museum. Jon was able to actually play on a piano that Brahms played on. We had a Hamburger hamburger in the St. Pauli area, and then went to the Speicherstadt area, hoping to get into the model train museum. The wait would have been over two hours, so we skipped it. We saw the new Elbphilharmonie building, a fairly impressive site. Lastly, we slowly wended our way back to our hotel. All in all, it was a successful day.

Hamburg Rathaus

Entrance to Brahms museum

Jon plays on a piano that Brahms actually played on

Jonny eating a Hamburger hamburger in the Reeperbahn Burger King

Typical train station site

Sunday, 30April—This was a busy day for us. We woke up at 4 am in order to catch the 6 am train to Berlin. This train had almost nobody on it, so were able to catch up on the sleep we lost waking up so early. Berlin was mostly sunny but cold. Even though our bikes were loaded, we were able to work our way around the city, visiting many of the usual sites that are in Berlin, like the Seigesäle, the Gedachniskirke, the Brandenburgertor, Checkpoint Charlie, Alexanderplatz, Hackeschermarkt (where we had lunch), and finally checking into our hotel (Ibis) across from the Hauptbahnhof. I zoned out and hit the sack early. Jon wanted to enjoy a cigar, but it was just a little too cold out for that. We were prepared for a big day tomorrow.

Jon didn’t want this photo with Marx and Engels

Brandenburger Tor

Berliner Dom

Inside the Berliner Dom, the largest Protestant church in Germany. The Beatitudes are displayed in the Dom ceiling.

Jon high on the Dom

Monday 01May—Today was supposed to be museum day. We discovered that only a few of te museums were open owing to today being a holiday. So, we toured the Berliner Dom, an awesome work of reconstruction (see photos above). We walked around town, and then hit on the Naturkunst Museum (natural history museum) which held the worlds tallest dinosaur, a trex recently uncovered in Montana, countless stuffed animals, illustrations on how the animals were prepared, rocks, insects, and slimy creatures in glass bottles of formalin. It was a huge but most fascinating museum. Coming back to the hotel, we discovered the Medicine history museum founded by Virchow, a must to see tomorrow. We did a late dinner at a Bavarian style restaurant, and hit the sack afterwards.

Berlin Döner

Berlin Currywurst

Stuffed Knut in Natural History Museum

Tuesday 02May—This was a little lazier day, but for the best, since the weather was cold and drizzly. Jon and I did some more walking around the city, then visited the Neues museum of Egyptian artifacts, as well as the Pergamon museum, which had some major walls and gates brought back from the mid-east, including the Ishtar gate from Babylon, which Daniel from the Old Testament surely would have frequently walked through. It is incredibly beautiful. We had lunch again in the Hackescher Markt, then hopped the train back to our hotel, freshened up, and ran to the train to meet Marike in the Zoological Garten area. Marike pointed out where the recent terror attack occurred. We had coffee, then all three of us went back to the hotel. I showed her my bike (she really needed a new bike), and she decided to take it. We went out to dinner, and finally had to bid her farewell. It was nice to see Marike again.

Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtnis Kirche

Isar Tor

Schweinehaxe

Marike enjoys her new bike

Wednesday03May—no pressure today. We caught the 8 am train to Magdeburg, and had three transfers, all of which went well. The last was a little strange, since the train was marked differently from what was indicated, and it was packed to the brim… Sort of. By the train doors, a large group of young students aggregated, blocking entry and exit for everybody else. Then, the train poorly indicated next stops, making us think we might have been on the wrong train, or gone past our stop. But, we ended up correctly, and met Hannes. I rode the bike up to their home, while Jon went with Hannes and the bags. It was pouring down rain, so I arrived a bit wet. It was nice to see Katja and Hannes again, but we expected Herbert to be here. He wasn’t. A phone call to Herbert suggested that he had never left Krefeld, but would come tomorrow. So, we spent the evening chatting with Katja and Hannes.

Thursday 04 May—today was another lazy day. Originally, the Wagners wished to take us to Bayreuth, but then we heard that Herbert would be coming, so we laid low. After breakfast, we went to an area that was a walking path up in the vineyards above the Main. Gustav came along for exercise. It was a beautiful site overlooking the river valley, and we could also see the Radweg that Peter and I had done a few years ago. Coming down, we went through the old city of Karlstadt, and then spent a quiet afternoon waiting for Herbert to come. No Herbert. So, we went out to a phenomenal restaurant, where we went when Peter and I were with the Wagners. The food was incredibly good, and the ambiance was an arched cellar. Once we got home, we finally found Herbert waiting for us. The Wagners (and I) were not too happy that he showed up so late. But, it was good to see Herbert again, and to talk with him. He did not appear in the best health though he had not had medical encounters of a serious nature. The time with Herbert was all too brief before we needed to hit the sack.

Walking with Hans-Jurgen and Gustav

View of the Main from above

Marienweg

Wege Wein – well marked routes through the vine yards

Old city street, with Hans-Jurgen

The restaurant Keller

Herbert at last!!!!!

Friday 05 May—it was an early wake-up and breakfast, and a quick goodby with Herbert. I rode the bicycle down to the train station, and Jon came with the Wagners. The train ride was smooth, but the bicycle car was loaded with young school students, apparently on an overnight field trip. We didn’t get to sit down for most of the trip to Frankfurt. On arrival in Frankfurt, we first had our last Döner, took the bike again to the bike shop, and then went for a walk around Frankfurt. We were able to check in early to the hotel, leaving us free to roam without luggage. We had a very small dinner, repacked al of our goods, picked up the boxed bike to bring back to the Ramada Inn hotel. Bedtime was early.

Saturday 06May—last day in Germany! Neither Jon or I slept well, as there was too much noise outside. We got up by 6 am, completed packing, and headed to the train station. We decided to make two trips to the airport, since we both had heavy luggage, plus a large bike box. That was successful, though we probably didn’t need to get up quite as early as we did. We were able get checked in very easily, and got some duty free shopping done before boarding the plane. We slept on the plane. The only strange event was the transfer in Chicago. I knew that we only had a little over an hour to accomplish the transfer, so ran like mad, dashing through customs, collecting our bags and bike, re-loading our bags and bike, then dashing through security again, and finally making it to the terminal about 2 minutes before the plane was supposed to leave. At the counter, the man told me that I had an hour to go. I had NO idea where that hour came from, regardless of how many times I rechecked our schedule and timing. Anyway, we got home, lovely Betsy was able to pick us up, and was able to get unpacked that evening. Of course, with jet lag, I couldn’t sleep all night, but that’s another story.

Germany was great and it was so nice seeing wonderful friends. My only regrets were being unable to ride the bike more, see the Kretschmars, and spend more time with Heinz and Debbie and Herbert. I would maybe do it more in the summer or fall with a foldable bike, and spend a month or two again at the Goethe Institute.

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May 07

Twilight Forever; the complete saga, starting Kristin Stewart and Robert Pattison ★

My son Jon and I spent a night in Forks on a week-long bicycle ride looping around the Olympics, and there was much talk in Forks about this film series. I had no great interest in watching this series, but then, curiosity killed the cat. It is a series of three episodes, the last episode dived into two parts. The movie is based on a series of books, written by Stephanie Meyer. The plot is easy to summarize. A girl (Bella Swan) moves from her mother in AZ to her father, who is a town sheriff in Forks, Washington. She is in her last year of high school, and needs to find friends. She first encounters a native Indian (Jacob Black), who is quite attracted to her. She also encounters another dude (Edward Cullen) who looks and acts more like a creep than anything else. The creep also has other family members attending the school who are just as creepy. Through a variety of events, Bella becomes attracted to the creep Edward as well as the Indian boy Jacob. Eventually, she discovers that Edward is actually a vampire with remarkable talents and doesn’t age with time, and that Jacob is a werewolf, but worse, that the vampires and werewolves really don’t get along too well together. Eventually, she totally falls in love with Eddie the vampire, partially because she fears growing old and thus would like to become a vampire herself. After many sub-events, she eventually marries Edward, has a baby from him which almost kills her, but is saved by becoming a vampire herself. Her baby though becomes imprinted to Jacob, making a crazy threesome.

There is just too many things wrong with this movie series to know where to start. First, this movie really doesn’t have good acting, and how Kristin actually became famous by playing the lead role testifies to the desperation of the Hollywood audience. None of the acting was remarkable. The visuals were good, but not outstanding. Secondly, the storyline was just plain stupid. Too many things were inexplainable, or inconsistent. Why would a 107 year old vampire wish to place himself in a high school situation? Why would the vampire father masquerade as a doctor? Why would the vampire family move away in order to keep their identity concealed, only to return later for no good reason? Similar questions could be asked of the werewolves. Why would the lead female fall in love with a creep? Why didn’t the female experience the problems of becoming a vampire and losing her soul, as she was warned? In both the vampire camps and the werewolf camps, there were bad vampires and “good” vampires, bad werewolves and “good” werewolves. What’s going on there?

My only explanation to this story is that the author really wrote with flight of thought, not even giving thought to what she previously wrote. Perhaps the books offer a better explanation? The mindset of the entire tale is with teenagers living in a solipsistic world of their all important selves. After all, high school is so great, and even 107 year old vampires would eagerly love to re-experience high school. So, my advice to anybody curious about this series—don’t waste your time. It isn’t even good entertainment. There are too many other reasonable movies to watch to waste your time on the stupidity and poor acting of this series.

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May 07

Bad Science

By Kenneth Feucht books No Comments »

Bad Science, Quacks, Hacks and Big Pharma Flacks, by Ben Goldacre ★★★★

This book was recommended to me by Dr. Tate, and is an enjoyable read. It is not about science, per se, but about research and science in health care. It is a book that I wish most people (who choose to be opinionated about health care problems) would read. The slightly less than excellent rating is not because it was a mediocre book, but for reasons to be explained below. The book is good because he hits at many of the issues that is encountered by popular medicine, whether it be conventional or alternative. So many people are deeply opinionated in things they know little about, and health care ranks at the top of the list. The book has 12 chapters, which I’ll briefly review.

Chapter 1, Matter, is an attack on a potpourri of crazy alternative health options, focusing on detoxification methods. Sadly, these treatments suggest that they are based on “science”, though worthwhile studies are virtually non-existent. Chapter 2, Brain Gym, attacks a ritual that I guess is quite popular in the British school system, but was exported from the US. In it, students go through a number of silly rituals to improve their “brain power”. Such a concept needs minimal argument as the method is so ad hoc and untested. Chapter 3 Homeopathy, is explored in a bit more depth. Goldacre’s biggest rant is against the extremely shoddy nature of their studies, as he begins to explore with the reader what it takes to engage in a legitimate clinical study. As a side comment, these were issues that were even of serious concern to the bench scientist. He spends some time introducing the issue of the Cochrane collaboration, and organization of scientist/statisticians which will take a given topic, research as many studies as possible that addressed the given topic, combine the studies through fancy statistical analysis, and then come to a conclusion. Chapter 4 is about the placebo effect, clarifying in many ways the power of a placebo. Chapter 5, titled The nonsense du jour, explores more about issues of bad science, how studies are poorly controlled, etc., but then focuses on nutritional studies and and anti-oxidants. Chapter 7, Nutritionists, develops an all out attack on people making ridiculous food claims, which are most plentiful. Chapter 8, The doctor will sue you now, goes into a personal story of Dr. Goldacre being sued by Dr. Matthias Rath for libel regarding Rath’s claims for the benefit of high dose vitamins, but lacking any substantial research to support that claim. Of course, the claim is so typical, that physicians and Bid Medicine are in collusion against alternative treatments, yet alternative treatment practitioners do not repel those claims by offering a legitimate scientific study. Which leads to chapter 9, Is mainstream medicine evil? Here, Goldacre takes a hard look at big Pharma, and instances where they have twisted or concealed data. The example used was of Vioxx, whose problem would never had been found if sloppy science was being used. But, Goldacre makes a claim that big Pharma has gone wrong in the past, and how pressures on the pharmaceutical industry will continue to manifest serious problems. In this chapter, I think that Goldacre was a little too kind to big Pharma. Yet, he also published an entire book attacking Big Pharma, so, perhaps he is leaving much to another book. Chapter 10, Why clever people believe stupid things, summarizes why very intelligent people, including those who have had scientific training, can be so wrong with healthcare studies. Not understanding randomization and statistics, preformed bias, drawing conclusions after the fact of the study all lead to wrong conclusions. This is probably the best chapter in the book. Chapter 11, Bad Stats, hits even harder on how study design, randomization, abuse of data, lack of critical thinking, etc., has led to so many false conclusions, and even major lawsuits, where the uncritical mind (especially lawyers) can draw conclusions from data that just isn’t there. Chapter 12, The MMR hoax, is a rant about the bad science used to suggest that the MMR vaccine is bad for you, causes autism, etc., etc.. His case is strong. I’m glad he didn’t attack the fight against the flu vaccine, whose science is pathetic. So, the book is good about detailing how bad science, bad statistics, and bad thinking can lead so many people (including very bright people, scientists, doctors) to wrong conclusions regarding issues related to health.

So, what did I not like about the book? I felt that Goldacre was completely lacking in humility, and his assumption that science can avoid issues of investigator bias are wrong. His assumption that with “good” science, all truth will be fore coming is fitting of a positivist mindset, which has been otherwise been thoroughly destroyed as a philosophic construct. Science depends on paradigms which so often are just plain wrong. It’s been shown that predictably, paradigms will change every 20-40 years, whether it be in health care, or in the hard sciences. He remains hyper-critical about everybody but himself. This is the greatest failure of this book, and Ben could use a dose of humility.

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