Firebird and Thunderfox

I did it. It did not hurt (much). I downloaded Firefox and Thunderbird after spending hours pruning my email inbox in order to get the back up to fit on a CD. I still messed up and killed my private inbox. Oh well. No backup here, unfortunately. Maybe the one in the office is still alive.

It will take a bit of getting used to, as some of my favorite short cuts are missing. I switch between the browser, the letter I am writing and the Inbox all the time when I am correcting exercise reports. I miss the little icons at the bottom that helped me switch applications when I had finished reading a page. I can't seem to find a customize button for the bottom, but that, too, will surely be available soon.

Did have one blue screen since the download, no idea if it is conneted to Firefox. And Firefox once crashed on a PDF file. But Netscape used to do that all the time if I forgot to start Acrobat first. Picky, picky. So we shall see - I can work with it. The RSS feeds are not as comfortable as AWASU, I may end up going back there, even if AWASU bugged my by screaming every minute or so when not online. I probably just missed an option somewhere.

But at least it is working, haven't hit too many pages that I couldn't read. We'll see next week if the Firefox survives a week of real work.


The Counting of the Votes

In the aftermath of the US American election there have been many questions raised about the validity of the vote totals. Not only did they vary widely from the exit polls, but they also are significantly different, depending on whether a county used a computer-aided voting mechanism or not. See the inconsistant error poll analysis done by eRiposte.

After a friend pointed me to Chuck Herrin's Hack the Vote page, I began to doubt the results of the election. If it is this easy to hack a Diebold machine (I mean, even a middle-aged computer science professor understands every detail of what one needs to do - open up Access, find the file, change the data, save it. Okay, hacking into the Intranet takes a little bit more effort, but it is easy to do), then I do not believe any results that are not independantely verifiable.

Bev Harris at BlackBoxVoting.org has filed suit against some of the counties in Florida. Rebecca Mercuri spells out some simple steps for making an electronic vote verifiable in her Statement on Electronic Voting. To make a long story short - the machines should print a slip with the votes that can be independently verified to match the machine totals.

Why is the American public not taking to the streets like the Ukrainians and demanding accountable voting machines? Why are they not protesting the results of the election? Are they too brainwashed with entertainment TV to care?

My friend Lilian Friedberg hat just posted her observations on all of this, chock full of good links: I Love the Smell of Cold Turkey in the Morning: A Week in the Life of America.


A Woman Without a Country

I went to the American Consulate last Tuesday to give up my citizenship. I stood outside in the drizzle as only the Germans are allowed through security early to stand in line indoors, since there are soldiers guarding their line. Citizens get to go upstairs without a soldier, so they are only let in on the dot of 8.30. Fit my mood.

I had left my computer and PDA at home, but they didn't like my mobile phone, so I had to lock that into a little locker before going through the "security" area. Strangely enough, I had been observing the people working at the embassy go through the same thing without a bell or whistle sounding, and they don't have to take off their coats or empty their pockets. So maybe the whole thing is just a fake, and the bell sounds randomly. Everyone always has some sort of metal left on them - keys, belt buckle, necklace - so there is always something else to take off.

I got upstairs to the hushed atmosphere of the consulate, and there was a guy there before me. Hmm, how did he get in? I spoke with a consular officer - a German (!) who couldn't pronounce English properly - who spent 10 minutes rustling together papers. Then he quizzed me on whethere I was doing this for tax purposes. I said no, I want to be a German. He harangued me for about 15 minutes telling me how irrevokable this all is, gave me the papers (I will have to sign 5 times in the presence of witnesses) and then said that I couldn't do it today, as only a consul or vice consul can take the oath an they are on holiday.


Then he told me that I will have to surrender my passport immediately, but the paper confirming my revocation will take about 6 months. So I called the German office to ask if just the submission paper will be enough for me to get the German citizenship. No, it will not be. I have to have the revocation papers. *And* they will re-check if I am still an upstanding citizen, not on welfare, not in jail, still living in my apartment and getting paid every month. I mean, with Hartz IV, lots of people will not meet the criteria!

This means that I will be a woman without a country or a passport for about 6 months. What fun, our son went through this for 3 years until the adoption was final. You apply for a "Reisedocument" at the Friedrich-Krause-Ufer (takes all day). Then you have to apply for a visa for every country you want to visit. I currently plan on visiting Sweden, Italy and Austria during the next 6 months, there may be more to come. For each visa you spend a day at the consulate. Getting on planes is tough, becuase the border guards have only ever seen a document like this in their education and are so thrilled to finally see one that they take it into their little rooms to examine every page while the lines behind me get more impatient with every passing minute.

Why does it have to be so difficult? Why can't people be memebers of two countries - there are many people with two passports out there, what's the problem? And why, in the name of avoiding double citizenship, do these two countries force me to be the member of no country for so long a period?

Stay tuned for further installments.....


What hit us?

Spent election night in Berlin at the "Tränenpalast", the palace of tears. The name of the place seemed fitting. I tried to get into the American party at the CineStar (I had actually tried to register voters with the AVA group that was celebrating inside) but the goons at the door didn't speak either English nor German and would not let anyone in. I waited half an hour and then decided to go to the Tränenpalast.

Had to wait there, too, but at least for every 10 or so that came out, they let 3 in. Sort of like the exchange rate of former Eastern German marks to Western German marks..... see, the Tränenpalast was the border between West and East Berlin, way back when.

When the boring MC asked if there were any Americans in the crowd, there were maybe 5-6 people. Since I am giving up my American citizenship now, I guess I landed in the right place, I'm a German now.

The "show" was stupefyingly boring (a wonderful review to be found in the Berliner Zeitung: Chicken Wings und Gähnen) and the educational comments both on the TV shows and from commentators were so wrong at times that I got agitated. Eva Quistorp thought the Amish in Pennsylvania were part of the Pilgrims. No, dear, that was a few years earlier. The Amish are also not the same as the Quakers (who did found PA), even though both are pacifist in nature. On screen Michael Friedmann (didn't he get the boot somehow for being a bad boy?) was droning on with more wrong things which I have now forgotten.

The real information I wanted to have - how is the Electoral College going as compared with a) previous years and b) the polls was not broadcast on German TV. Instead we were treated to boring interviews with boring people. At least there were some nice people sitting next to me, I rather enjoyed speaking with them. One young American and I spoke briefly about past presidents. She remarked: I'm not interested in presidents that were around before I was born. She starts with Jimmy Carter. I feel old. I got married the year he became president.

Shortly before 5 am I couldn't take it any longer and went home to sleep. Spent the afternoon (dressed in mourning) in a faculty meeting. When I heard on the way to pick up my son that Kerry had conceeded, the tears just came. Damn. What went wrong?

A friend sent me a link to Arianna's Blog : Anatomy of a Crushing Political Defeat. Thanks, Arianna, I feel better now!


Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness

I'm a volunteer for RAOGK - Random acts of genealogical kindness (http://www.raogk.org). There are lots of people, especially in the States, who are interested in researching their family's past. They come up blank, though, when they hit a German-language family bible or other materials. And since very few people in the States speak a "foreign" language and when they do, they speak Spanish, they can't read their treasures. So I volunteer to decipher Sutterlin handwriting and translate it into English.

I have people photocopy the bibles or whatever and mail them to me, I translate when I have time. It's rather interesting getting a feeling for all these immigrants. My own family emigrated from Hessen and from Baden-Baden to the States in the early 1800's. It was exciting for me to actually find some ancestors listed on church books on microfilm. The Lutheran Church in Hessen has a remarkable church book archives, anyone can use it for a small fee.

RAOGK could use some more volunteers in Germany - if you read Sutterlin, consider signing up!


The traditional first blog

Gosh, now I have my very own blog. What should I be including in here traditionally? In the future there will be lots of rants and raves, but tonight: what should I give the world?

How did I live without RSS? I just installed Awasu (www.awasu.com), set up my favorite spots (amazing, all the places with RSS feeds), and it is not all in one place! Now I just have to get all the online bill people to set up RSS feeds so I can collect my online bills in one fell swoop.