June 2013

33 Questions About American History

33 Questions About American History You’re Not Supposed to Ask, by Thomas Woods, Jr. ★★★★
This is a nice book that has 33 short chapters covering a broad array of subjects in American history that are generally taught with a mistaken bias in public school. Woods looks at American history from a libertarian perspective and notes that we are generally misled on many issues. These issues all center around the promotion of big government, whether it be the issues of the wars we’ve fought, the taxes we pay, or the ever-increasing laws and regulations imposed on us, all for our supposed good. Woods capably shows that in general, the government has consistently made matters worse for us, rather than better and that we now have far less freedom and security, rather than more of the same. He capably discusses the real issues of the civil war that generally are not mentioned any longer and takes aims at various subjects including Teddy Roosevelt turning the presidency into a Monarchy, Hoover, and FDR creating and maintaining the depression, Clinton creating a far worse racial slaughter in Kosovo than before we entered the Balkans, how unions have killed themselves, immigration issues, Indian issues, affirmative acti0n, and many buzz words of contemporary issues that are not really so contemporary, and have been solved in a manner contrary to the constitution, and essentially to the disadvantage of all parties. It summarizes issues I’ve already been aware of, but provides for some informative, fun reading.

Tchaikovsky Edition

Tchaikovsky Edition, Brilliant Classics ★★★★
This is extensive, though I do not believe, a complete compendium of the existent compositions of Tchaikovsky. It consists of 60 CDs and can be purchased at a very reasonable price from either Amazon.com or Arkivmusic.com. The recordings are quite variable, in that some are superb, while some recordings are generally of very marginal quality, and thus the four rather than five stars. There are repeats, including the 1st piano concerto, which is repeated five times, twice by the same pianist. Others, such as the 1812 overture, are performed without the vocal parts. The performances are for the most part of an exceptionally high standard. For the price, this is a real bargain and a good introduction to the music of Tchaikovsky.

Deutschland 2013

Germany with Jonny

My first trip to Germany was in 2003, with Rachel and Diane. Now, I am here with Jonny.  We spent the last few months organizing this trip, intending it at first to be oriented around bicycles. That became logistically challenging, and so I needed to change the trip to focus on what I felt to be important. Our focus was on friends, the Reformation, and music, especially JS Bach.
25MAY-26MAY – the plane left fairly early from Seattle, stopping in Chicago for a five hour lay-over. We arrived in Dùsseldorf at 10 am on 26 MAY. We dropped off our luggage at the Schließfach in the Hauptbahnhof, found our way to the Altstadt and Rhein, had a Döner, picked up our bags, and headed to our hotel. We immediately crashed. Later, we walked back to the Altstadt for dinner. Herbert, unfortunately, had recent doggie problems as well as internet problems, and so we were unable to connect with him.
27MAY- Kõln – After having breakfast at the hotel, we wandered down to the train station, and hopped the train to Köln. It was a 1/2 hour ride, with the train leaving us right beside the Köln cathedral (Kölner Dom). After touring the church, we tried to go up into the towers, but that was no longer permitted. We spent much time walking the streets of Köln, going to the Minoritenkirche, where the grave of Johannes Duns Scotus lies. Jonny and I had a bier at the Früh Brauerei, and then walked across the Rhein on the rail and foot bridge, After eating, having a bretzen and Berliner, we headed back to Dūsseldorf. We again went for a walk to the Altstadt, stopping for a bier, and later a Döner. It was a full day!
Kölner Dom
28MAY-Heidelberg- We arrived at 10 am in Heidelberg. The hotel was immediately next to the train station, so I thought we could try to drop our bags off, since it would be a long walk to the city center. They ended checking us in right then. Jon and I then took off to the city. The main street was about 1.5 km from the train station, and is several km long, lined with touristy shops and restaurants. We visited the Heilig Geist Kirche, where Olivianis and Ursinis preached.  After crossing the Alte Brüche, we ascended a steep winding path called the Schlangen Weg, to come to the Philosophen Weg. We sat there for a bit, watching the clouds all disappear into a gorgeous day, philosophized, appreciated gorgeous views of the city, and then returned. The Heidelberg Castle was next on our list, a short climb from the Altstadt, and noting the moderate number of walls destroyed in the numerous wars that the town had to suffer through. After a bit more beer (Heidelberg beer of course), we retreated back to the hotel for a snooze.
Schloss Heidelberg
29MAY- Leinach/Würzburg. Today was a busy day. After waking up early and hurrying to the train station, Jonny and I got on the train to Würzburg, transferring in Frankfurt. Hannes picked us up in Retzbach-Zellingen, and took us immediately to Festung Marienburg, the large fortress in Würzburg. Würzburg was uniquely controlled by an archbishop that was also a prince, called an Fürst-Erzbischoff. The fortress was immense and quite spectacular, one of the many homes in the Würzburg area for the archbishop. One of the chambers was a prison cell where the famous artist Reimenschneider was incarcerated for nine months for assisting in the peasants’ war. We returned to Leinach, and moaned over the absence of Herbert.  We then took off to dinner. This was at a hospital in Würzburg started in the 16th century by one of the rulers of Würzburg, the hospital being called Juliusspital. It was an amalgam of part of a medical school, the Röntgen institute (where x-rays were discovered, a hospital, and, to fund the entire venture, a massive (and I really mean massive) winery. After dinner, we toured the winery and then had a long wine-tasting session. The wines were completely superb. Arriving back home, we discovered with great delight that Herbert had arrived and was waiting for us. This ended up being a late night, chatting with Herbert and catching up on matters. The day was quite cold and rainy, and my only regret was that I did not bring my camera for the tour of the Juliusspital. It was like nothing you’d ever find in America, a large winery connected to a famous medical institution. Interestingly, the hospital was largely destroyed in WWII, and so the hospital moved down into the wine cellar until the hospital could be rebuilt. It was a most fascinating day.
Festung Marienburg in Würzburg
Large Riemenschneider carving
Katja, Hannes, Herbert
30MAY- Today, we first took Gustav for a walk among the wheat and raps fields out in the countryside. We then took a long drive to Rothenburg, an old medieval city that is still fully operational, though entirely for tourists. On the way to Rothenburg, we stopped in a small church that housed one of the spectacular Riemenschneider carvings. We had dinner at Hannes and Katja’s, and enjoyed the Gemütlichkeit of good friends.
31MAY- Jonny and I took off early to the train depot, And had a comfortable ride from Retzbach to Würzburg to Fulda and finally to Leipzig. Here we met Carsten at the Bahnhof, checked into our hotel, re-connected for coffee, and then spent several hours at the Bach museum. Finally, we went to Carsten and Annett’s house for a barbecue. It was most wonderful, meeting up with the family again. While waiting for Carsten before coffee, we visited the Thomaskirche, where we were able to see a portion of a practice performance of Wachet Auf.
Jonny and I with Carsten
Rabea lights the bbq
01JUN- Today was very busy with Carsten and Annett. We started out at a museum that documented the DDR years in East Germany. It was well done, and portrayed much of both politics and daily life in the DDR. We then went to Carsten’s parents for lunch and had rabbitt. It was very good. A mad dash to the church allowed us to enjoy a service with the Thomanerchor. They performed Jesu meine Freude, as well as Wachet auf. I got to chat briefly with the cantor Georg Christoph Biller afterwards; he is a very kindly humble man. We visited a large artificial lake outside of Leipzig, and then watched some football (FC Munchen v Stuttgart), and finally took a long walk downtown in the rain. It was hard to say goodby.
Thomanerchor in the Thomas Kirche
Jonny at the top of the Thomas Kirche
02JUN- Eisenach… Boarding the train early from Leipzig, we headed off to Eisenach. On arrival, we first headed to the church where Luther did many of his first sermons, located right at the city gate. We then headed off to the church where Luther also preached, but where JS Bach was baptized. There was a service going on, so we we unable to go into the church. We dashed off to the Bach Haus, where Bach was probably born. They had turned it into a museum, that had an excellent exhibit of his life and compositions. We then strolled on a forest path up to the Wartburg, where we experienced a tour in English. One of the first stops was the Elizabeth Kaminate, where the Saint Elizabeth from Hungary lived, and who Betsy was named after. It was the most beautiful room of the castle. The last stop on the tour was the Lutherstube where Luther translated the New Testament into the German language. We then headed back the forest path to the train station to Erfurt.
Bachhaus Eisenach
Festung Wartburg
03JUN- Erfurt and Weimar. After waking up, we headed into the old town where we crossed the Krämer Brucke, the oldest bridge in recorded history in which shops lined the sides of the bridge. We went to the Augustiner Kloster where Luther became a monk, and saw rooms where he lived and prayed. This was a guided tour, though in German, and a little more extensive than the last time I visited with Herbert and Betsy. We then headed to the Erfurter Dom, a huge church, now Catholic again, on the edge of town. This was the largest church in town, though it only seats a few people. Next to it is the smaller but roomier St. Severus church. After having a Thüringer Bratwurst mit Brötchen, and Budweiser beer (the real Budweiser), we headed back to the train station, and went to Weimar. Weimar was a little more relaxed, with lots of Shiller and Goethe sites, the giant Palace that became the headquarters of the Weimar Republic, and a stroll in the park took us to the house where Liszt lived for a few years. We were ultimately exhausted, and headed back to the hotel, stopping for dinner on the way.
Erfurt – the oldest ever built up bridge over a river
Jonny sitting in Luther’s spot in church
Luther’s Schlafzimmer
Erfurter Dom
Jonny enjoys a brat and Budweiser outside the Erfurter Dom
Liszt Haus in Weimar
04JUN- Lutherstadt Wittemburg. Today predominated in train travel. We got up early, hopped the train to Leipzig, and then transferred to go to Lutherstadt Wittemburg. A long walk into town gave us a nice glimpse at the historical sights of Wittemburg. Lunch was at a potato restaurant, that was surprisingly good. Our only great disappointment was that the castle church was under heavy reconstruction and thus not open. A long trainride into München put us into town fairly late in the evening. We checked into our hotel, did a quick dash into town, and crashed.
City square in Lutherstadt Wittemburg with Luther Denkmal
05JUN- Today centered on Schloss Nymphenburg. We walked into town in the morning, saw the Hofbrauhaus and Viktualenmarkt, and then headed on a very long walk to Schloss Nymphenburg. It remained a very impressive palace, after the style of Versailles, incredibly decorated and with massive gardens and elaborate grden houses. There is also a museum in the castle with sleds and carriages, that were stunning in their elaborate detail and artistry.
Carraiges in Schloss Nymphenburg
Schloss Nymphenburg
Grounds surrounding Schloss Nymphenburg
One of the buildings in the Schloss Nymphenburg estate, intentionally designed to look like a ruined building
Inside of above
06JUN- Salzburg is not in Germany, but right on the border, and I was able to use the Rail Pass to get us to this city. Going there was problematic in that a small portion of the track was under water, requiring a short interlude on the bus. Salzburg was as awesome as ever, with nice sunny weather. We walked by the Mozart Geburtshaus, but did not go in. We then went to the Festung Salzburg, the large castle that was inhabited by the Fürst-Erzbischoff of Salzburg. This gave incredible views of the city and surrounding mountains. We were back in München by 4 pm, and had dinner at the Hofbrauhaus.
Mozart’s Geburtshaus
Salzburg from the castle
Jonny finds a friend
07JUN- Our last day in Germany was a relatively lazy day, with much walking but little strenuous exercise. Our first destination was the Alte Pinakotec museum, which held paintings of many of the old Dutch painters, including Rembrandt and a large Rubens collections, as well as many German painters, including Cranich and Dürer. The collection was quite awesome, and this museum is well worth a visit. We then went to the Englische Garten for lunch as the Biergarten close to the Chinesische Turm. It was a lazy walk home. That evening, we hopped the city trains to Rob and Jordan Rayburn’s house, and went out to dinner. It was nice seeing these two again, and glad that all is going well, though he is being deployed to Kuwait and she is due to have a baby in September.
Rembrandt painting in the Alte Pinakotek
08JUN- Home… unfortunately, we have to come home, and I was sorely missing Betsy. She happens to remain my favorite person in life. We had to wake up at 3:30 am, and then catch the S8 train to the airport. We flew first to Frankfurt, and then home, leaving Frankfurt at 10 am and arriving in Seattle at 11 am.
Next trip… hopefully it will be a bicycle ride. We should spend far less time in München, since it is the most expensive city in Germany. I’d like to explore more Southern Germany, the far North (Bremen, Nordsee, Ostsee), and Southeast, including the Schwarzwald, Trier, and areas around there. Hopefully, next time we can connect with the Fuch’s.

Oklahoma 2013

Oklahoma 11-14 APRIL 2013
This is a terribly late posting of a trip we did in April to Oklahoma. Since then, central Oklahoma, where we visited, has gone through some terrible tornadoes. Fortunately, it did not hit our friends. Our main purpose was to visit some old friends, Mark and Penny H. It was a wonderful trip, and always good to see friends that have been gone for a while. The flight was dreadfully long, needing to go through Houston, and thus us not arriving until late Thursday evening, and needing to leave early Sunday morning in order to get home in time for work on Monday. Our time was entirely focused on Mark and Penny. The first day was spent roaming their land, and going on walks.
The dog
Lindsey in the kitchen
The next day was spent with Mark and Penny downtown. We went out to dinner, and then toured downtown Oklahoma City. It was wonderful, as we did it in a horse and buggy. We even went to where the Oklahoma City bombing occurred. Nothing was left, as they removed the building and turned the square into a large park.
The buggy
The horse
Place of the Oklahoma City bombing, with memorials to those who died
The presence of big oil in the city
It was really nice seeing Mark and Penny again, and they will remain dear in our hearts. It’s nice to see their children growing up well, and maturing into young adults. Thank you, Mark and Penny, for the good time.

Debussy Edition

The Debussy Edition, published by Deutsche Grammophon ★★★★★
Debussy was a brutally nationalistic composer, enraged by the German tradition, and wishing to knock German music off its feet. In the end, Debussy’s gift to the world was the invention of elevator music, soft, impressionistic, flowing music, which provides moods more than statements. I’ll prefer the Germans. I like music at least to say something, in addition to providing a mood. This set is rated highly for several reasons. 1. It’s a bargain. From Amazon.com, it’s slightly more than $2/disc. 2. The performances are superlative, very well expressed, with flawless recording. It’s enjoyable music but is best suited for the background of an elevator.