Friday, February 29, 2008

"Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit"

What happened during the summer of 2006 was not expected from anybody. Whenever Germany's soccer national team had played in previous World Cups, the German fans were always very shy about showing their patriotism. Too long had the pride for Germany been associated with the Nazis and showing the flag or singing the national anthem was seen as admitting that one was a Nazi. Even the national team would not sing the anthem on the field while it was playing. Knowing the lyrics was seen as so shameful that nobody would even think about it singing the anthem in public.

The beginning of 2006, my husband took me to a movie theatre on the army post he was stationed at in Germany. I hadn't been around too many Americans and knew little about their culture at that point. Before the movie started playing, the American national anthem was played (they do that on military bases) and everybody got up and hold their right hand to their hearts and sang with pride their anthem. I was like paralyzed and couldn't really understand what was going on. I was raised in post WWII Germany with no sense at all for patriotism and even the thought of somebody saying they were proud of being German made me sick to my stomach. Somebody singing so proud the anthem and even standing up, where everybody could see you, was unthinkable to me. My husband could not understand my reaction, neither could I understand his patriotism.

When the summer of 2006 came and with it the Wold Cup, which was hosted in Germany, everything changed. There was such an exictement about our country hosting such a big event. We wanted to represent our country in the best way. There was also some kind of movement in the younger generations, where out of nowhere it became fashionable to wear the colors of the German flag. Everything and everybody was is red, black and gold for months and the exitement grew the longer the national team stayed in the World Cup. Suddenly you could hear people singing the anthem on the streets, with big German flags in their hands. Something that had been unthinkable just a few years ago. I would have been to scared too get arrested (which has literally happened before, people getting arrested for singing the anthem). Their was a relief in the air that everybody could sense. We could finally show our colors again and sing the lyrics of our anthem on the top of our lungs.

I remember when the German national team made it to the semi- finals and Germany was almost bursting of patriotism. We were watching the game on a big screen on a market place in the middle of my town. There must have been at least 10.000 people. And before the game started everybody was cheering when our team entered the stadium and ligned up on the field. When the anthem started playing, and not only the national team but the 10.000 voices around me started singing the German national anthem, I had tears in my eyes.
The video shows the national soccer team singing the anthem with thousands of proud Germans in the audience.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

How the Golden Ratio is rhetorical

Now how can the golden ratio be rhetorical? First of all, it is literally EVERYWHERE. From the Mona Lisa to the Great Pyramid of Giza. We can even find it in music! The french composer Debussy used the golden ratio (which is roughly 1.618) to compose accords for his music.
But the most fascinating thing about the golden ratio is, that we can also find it in nature. The seeds of a sunflower are arranged based on the golden ratio. The nautilus shell looks almost exactly like the golden spirale, which again is based on the golden ratio. The golden ratio even appears in the proportions of the human body. Try it out yourself! Meassure the length of your leg and divide it by the length of your arm. You will see, it commes very very close to 1.618 !
So the golden ratio is one of the best number mankind has found so far to describe nature. Many artists used the golden ratio for the proportions of the face they were painting, to make it as close to reality as possible. Many things that we find aesthetic or beautiful relate to the golden ratio!
By making it possible for us to describe reality (the nature) with the golden ratio, it also creats knowledge. We can understand how things are constructed, why they appear beautiful to us.
Math can be more interesting than you would think, and I will show in my research paper that it is also rhetorical.

Friday, February 15, 2008


Driving home from work today, I was listening to "All Things Considered" on NPR. One of their topics in today's edition was the question whether America is in a recession or not. Recently I have heard and read a lot about America's economy crashing, due to the housing market and the mortage crisis, gasoline prices shyrocketing over the $100 per barrel mark and cost of food rising and rising.
Most of the people who were asked by NPR if they belive America is in a recession, answered yes or that they weren't sure how to answer this question because they are not sure how exaclty a recession is defined. It turns out that a recession is very hard to define and that most of the time a recession is declared after it is already over. For example, in 2001 we had the last recession. It took 7 months until economists from Harvard declared it as a recession. By this time the economy was already doing much better.
But are we really in a recession? Or is all the talk about it causing the recession? Could it be that the fear of a recession is stoping us from buying ends up driving us really into a recession? With the housing market still being a mess, the first loss in jobs in years and gasoline prices continuing to rise it is evident that if we're not in a recession already we are going into one without short cuts.
We will have to see if the lower interst rates and the stimulus plan can save our economy- and how fast...

Friday, February 1, 2008

The star of Africa fades

My heart is breaking when I see the horrifying pictures of Kenya. Having family in Zimbabwe, I was hoping that if things got worse there under the dictatorship of Mugabe my family could flee to what seemed to be one of the most stable and promising countries in Africa: Kenya. As the Newsweek Magazine puts it, the star of Africa is fading and with it my hopes for Africa.

Since the election on Dec 27. two tribes in Kenya , the Kikuyu and the Luo, have been fighting each other bitterly.Homes have been burned, women and children have been burned alive and the death toll has reached 1000 people in the last weeks. The election that made Mwai Kibaki President of Kenya has been called, not only by the oppostion but also by international leader, a flawed election and the outrage over this unfair election has caused the Luos (the ribe of the oppostiotion leader Raila Odinga) to massacre hundreds of Kikuyus (tribe of the elected President Mwai Kibaki).

More than 200.000 have been forced to leave ethnically-mixed areas. Jendayi E. Frazer calls it a "clear ethnical cleasing" and many feel reminded of the horrors that happened in Rwanda, where hundreds of thousands had been killed.

Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general has been brokering political negotiations between Odinga and Kibaki for the last week, but the riots don't seem to quiet down. Two oppostions leaders have been assasinated in the last days and the murdering in the slums of Nairobi and other parts of the country continues.

With the international eyes being on Kenya for the last weeks, and many experienced leaders supporting Mwai and Rodinga on their way to finding a solution, all I can do is hope for things to settle down fast so we don't have to count more deaths in Kenya.