GDPR – Privacy Policy

Finally, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has come into effect, and there is panic all over the continent, as if there hadn’t been any data protection laws in force until now. And it seems like everyone slept through the two-year preparation period.

I shouldn’t really be complaining, because as a lawyer and a translator for German and English, the GDPR is giving me work until late at night. On the other hand, I don’t really like work that much, because it keeps me from more important things. And I do find the whole situation very sad, with everyone lying to everyone else on the internet now: companies pretend that they care about your privacy and will protect your data. And users click on “Yes, I have read and understood the terms and conditions of this website/app”. Nobody has ever read those!

But what would you expect from people who put up gadgets in their bedrooms to record every spoken word (and other sounds) and to transmit these recordings to a company? People even pay for that! Or they buy overpriced watches to not only constantly transfer all of their private data, their current location at any time, but also their blood, pulse and liver scores to a corporation. Actually, it would be wrong to call that spy device a watch, because something that doesn’t work for 24 hours without the battery going dead doesn’t fulfill the most basic function of a watch. And you can’t imagine how many super-important business negotiations I could already listen to and how many Excel spreadsheets I could read on the train, because people with cell phones and laptops don’t ever seem to be able to wait until they get home.

Which of your data do I collect?

None. Why should I?

Of course you may/should post comments and those comments will be saved and displayed. That’s the point of comments. But I bet you already were aware of that before.

Very rarely, somebody has asked me to delete a comment they had previously written. Then, I usually only delete their name, but leave the comment there. Comments are like letters to the editor. If you change your mind after three years, the publisher won’t destroy all old papers.

Statistics

WordPress allows me to see how many people from what countries have clicked on my articles (hence the interesting list of countries/flags on the right). But I cannot attribute this information to certain individuals. Thus, I don’t know who of you is really reading my blog and who is not. (I usually learn that when people cease contact with me.)

In any case, I don’t check the statistics very often because they are rather depressing.

Cookies and Plugins

Oh yes, I probably have cookies and plugins too, because these buggers are all over the internet now. If you want to know what they do, you have to check with WordPress, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

In any case, I recommend to get vaccinated.

Objection

I hereby object to all comments and messages that are stupid, boring or trivial as well as those which disrespect the generally accepted grammar principles.

Noncompliance may lead to blocking, ignoring and loss of respect.

E-Mails

I don’t believe that A sending an e-mail to B puts any obligation unto B to respond to said e-mail.

It’s nothing personal at all (and how could it be, for I often don’t read them), but I simply don’t have the time to read all e-mails, let alone reply to them. But when I do reply, I want to take the time for a well-crafted letter, which is why you may sometimes be waiting for half a year. I recommend that you use the time for books and long walks.

Material for the Blog

Whoever interacts with me by e-mail, in person or otherwise, or walks into my metaphorical field of vision, even if unintentionally, or attracts my curiosity, has to be aware that they may find themselves as the object of an article on this blog or – inshallah, one day – a book.

That’s all?

Yes. Data protection is like buying a car or getting married: if someones hands you a contract of 20 pages at the last moment, you can be sure that they want to rip you off. I actually think that terms and conditions and privacy policies should be limited by law to two pages. Or users should be required to read out loud the whole text (but not on the train, please) in order to confirm that they have really read it.

Schreibtisch voll

A disorderly desk is the best data protection strategy.

(Hier geht es zur deutschen Fassung.)

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Posted in Law, Technology | Tagged | 6 Comments

Spanish B1

Diplom B1 klein

So, it seems I can speak Spanish now. At least at the intermediate B1 level. But considering that you only need A2 to obtain Spanish citizenship, that’s not too bad.

Zertifikat B1.JPG

I was disappointed that I almost failed the written part. Maybe I completely missed the topic and rambled on about something else. But it may also reflect the way I learned Spanish: mostly by speaking and talking, not in any formal setting, although I did use the Assimil book.

That I got higher marks for talking than listening shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has met me. ;-) Maybe I just got the full score because there was no other way to shut me up. Or the Instituo Cervantes recognized that I spoke with a Bolivian accent and thought: “How beautiful to listen to Spanish in its purest and most perfect form!”

But the B1 level is not yet enough to study at a Spanish-speaking university, so I have to continue. If only there were better TV programs in Spanish than those damn telenovelas

(Zur deutschen Fassung.)

Posted in Education, Language | Tagged | 18 Comments

How organized is Germany?

So organized that even ducks stop for a red traffic light. They only cross the road as it turns green.

What you cannot see in the video, is that the ducks had arranged the walk two weeks in advance and that none of them was late (not even the girls). Also, they elected a group leader for the excursion, and as they are walking into the pedestrian zone, they all locked away their bicycles.

Posted in Germany | Tagged , | 12 Comments

If you are 18, the EU will pay your summer trip

If you are 18 years old this summer (2018), you could be very lucky. The European Union is giving away 15,000 travel passes for individuals or groups of up to five people.

You will have to apply online between 12 and 26 June 2018. The application form will be available on the European Youth Portal. There will be a quiz about European cultural heritage and if you win, you would be asked to include at least one European cultural heritage site in your itinerary. Coincidentally, 2018 is also the Year of European Cultural Heritage, so there will be plenty of events.

In order to apply, you need to be 18 years old on 1 July 2018 and be a citizen of the European Union. British teenagers, this is your last chance! ;-) Note that you need to have EU citizenship, but you don’t need to be living in the EU. That’s another reason to investigate your family tree and find out if you have a German or Spanish grandfather or a Dutch or Irish grandmother, because that could be enough to obtain EU citizenship. (I have written extensively about the paths to German citizenship, but it also works with many other EU member states.)

Winners will be notified in early July 2018 and you can undertake your journey between July and September 2018. You have up to 30 days and I recommend that you use every day of that!

Your itinerary needs to include at least one other country than the one you set out from, and can include up to four countries. My advice is not to go where everyone is going (Berlin, Rome, Paris), but to use this opportunity to explore something completely new, somewhere where none of your friends are going. Belfast instead of Berlin, Romania instead of Rome, Piran instead of Paris.

The EU will pay the train fare (or if necessary ferries or other transport, but there is nothing more relaxing and romantic than the railroad). Accommodation and food won’t be paid, which is another reason why I suggest a route off the beaten track. If you are from Western Europe, you might be surprised how affordable large parts of Eastern Europe are. Also, consider Couchsurfing to find locals to host you for free and to show you their city. It makes for an even better experience! After all, the whole idea of #DiscoverEU is to get to know each other as fellow Europeans.

authentic-experiences-in-romania

(This was also published by Medium. – Und hier gibt es diese Informationen auf Deutsch.)

Posted in Europe, Travel | Tagged , | 8 Comments

New Business Cards

It’s so easy to tell a professional from a non-professional. The former have business cards.

After my first set of photo cards was exhausted – and because I have a new phone number and new URLs for my blogs – it was time to make some new cards.

The choice of photos was not easy, but I narrowed it down to six photos of memorable places that I visited in the last two years.

business cards 2018

Here’s what the photos show:

  • Chapada Diamantina, a national park in Brazil. And yes, I hiked down into that canyon, spent two nights there and hiked back up again.
  • The central square of Cochabamba in Bolivia. Of all the places I lived during my travels, Cochabamba was the friendliest and most welcoming city. And I often sat on Plaza 14 de Septiembre under the shade of the palm trees, reading a book or a newspaper, listening to a storyteller, watching a protest, adoring the beautiful architecture, enjoying the perfectly mild climate of the “City of Eternal Spring” and discussing the constitutional referendum with random strangers.
  • I tried not to include any country twice, but Lake Titicaca is simply the most beautiful place for hikes. The photo shows an old Inca road on the way from Copacabana to Yampupata on the Bolivian side of the lake. Hiking all around Lake Titicaca is still one of my dreams.
  • My selfies don’t get more extrovert than this one from Easter Island. Also, I wanted to include my hat from Romania which has accompanied me around the world and has protected me against sun, rain, falling rocks, snow, hailstorms, lightning, dogs, snakes, gunshots and women.
  • The train station in Sukhumi, the capital of Abkhazia. A beautiful city and the biggest surprise on my first trip to the Caucasus. Also, I wanted to include it because too many people don’t even know of Abkhazia or believe that it’s dangerous. It’s not.
  • Persian architecture in Tbilisi. The capital of Georgia (that in the Caucasus, not the one in the US) offers a mix of different architectural styles.

These cards should be nice conversation-openers. The previous set of cards actually saved my life once. I had gotten terribly lost in Bolivia and was close to dying of thirst, when a young shepherd discovered me and led me down into a canyon where there was some water to drink.

watering hole.JPG

He was very interested in my camera, asked me to take a photo of us together and then wanted to keep the camera. Firm to my belief, I respectfully declined. He picked up a large pebble stone, ready to smash in my head and extended his demands to money. “I don’t carry any money when I walk into the wilderness,” I lied, but took a few business cards from my shirt pocket instead. “I only have some cards with photos from Europe with me. Let me show you where I come from.”

shepherd boy.JPG

As I was showing him photos from Estonia and Macedonia, Lithuania and Italy, he let the stone weapon fall back to the ground. I gave him all the cards I had.

If you also want life-saving business cards, you can get them from MOO.

Posted in Abkhazia, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Easter Island, Georgia, Photography, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 23 Comments

Random Thoughts (22)

  1. In 2017, I seem to have been a bit lazy. I did not run a single half-marathon. But with the risk of war rising, I want to become fitter again. Last weekend, I began by running a half-marathon near Pilsen in the Czech Republic. Laufen im Wald 2
  2. And as I visited the European Capital of Culture of 2015, I decided to stay for a whole week.
  3. If we all stop smoking at the same time, we would gain so much in weight that the Earth would leave its orbit.
  4. In defense of Jeremy Corbyn, who hasn’t been a spy when they were young?
  5. airport without facebook
  6. I hope you didn’t forget to celebrate/commemorate the Day of the Sea on 23 March?
  7. Universities that allow students to carry-out online surveys among self-selecting Facebook friends to collect “data” for research papers should be bombed. – Then, the students could study the statistics of saturation bombing.
  8. Thanks to long-time reader Ana Alves for The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World before the War 1890-1914 by Barbara Tuchman, East West Street by Philippe Sands and Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World by Tim Whitmarsh. 28103039
  9. Looking at the Brexit transition agreement, it seems that the UK will remain in the EU, except that it will lose voting rights and not sit at the table anymore.
    Hmm, great deal, I suppose.
  10. I was really much more impressed by the Paralympics than by the Olympics.
  11. Thanks to Dieter Schuffenhauer for A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby. This classic of travel literature is deservedly one.hindu-kush
  12. In Bhutan, you can only be a candidate for parliament if you have a university degree.
  13. When Bolivians travel to countries like the Netherlands, do they get negative altitude sickness?
  14. Thanks also to Dieter Schuffenhauer for Inglorious Empire: What the British did to India by Shashi Tharoor. I became aware of this book through an interview with Mr Tharoor. I have rarely heard an interviewee speak so eloquently, and it made me curious about his writing.thumb_1o7a5437_1024-800x800
  15. Now that we know that Facebook is somewhere between incompetent and criminal, maybe we can all spend more time writing and reading blogs again. I generally find the level of debate on blogs higher, and it’s also easier to find old articles/comments again and to link to each other. It seems a more durable medium than Facebook, let alone Instagraph.
  16. Thanks to Cindy Lewyn for Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe by Norman Davies and above all for the memoir of her father, Bert Lewyn, On the Run in Nazi Berlin6018763
  17. When friends, from whom you haven’t heard in months, suddenly “want to talk to you”, you can bet that they have a legal question. Seriously, in 100% of the cases, no exception.
  18. For my spring hike, I am considering the idea of walking along the German section of the Roman limes. Have any of you ever done that? romanempire
  19. Some appreciation for my article on suicidesuicide
  20. Expats are immigrants who refuse to learn the language.
  21. I always confuse Valentine’s Day and April Fool’s Day.
  22. This week, there was a sunset here in Bavaria that made me fear that a nuclear power plant had exploded. Feuerhimmel MO_DSC4949.jpeg
  23. The cyclops was cycling in the cyclone.
  24. The final season of the best show on TV just began:

Posted in Bolivia, Books, Education, Elections, Facebook, Germany, Sports, Statistics, Travel, UK | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Video: How to survive in the Wilderness

I had been hiking on the uninhabited side of Easter Island for a half a day already. The northwest coast was not only devoid of people, but also completely barren. I hadn’t found anything to eat or drink. The sun was shining relentlessly.

Along the way, I had come past several cadavers and skeletons. It began to dawn on me that I too might leave my life on that island if I couldn’t muster the strength to keep walking until nightfall. In light of that danger, I had just begun to record something like a good-bye video when I remembered the most important survival tip. Just in time.

Saved and strengthened by the bananas, I did indeed manage to continue the hike until I reached the beautiful bay of Anakena in the north of Easter Island.

Bucht im Norden nach Wanderung.JPG

There, I could finally get the much desired Coca Cola.

(Zur deutschen Fassung dieses Berichts.)

Posted in Chile, Easter Island, Food, Photography, Travel, Video Blog | 7 Comments