Sunday, May 29, 2022

traffic calming measures

Oxford has a few lovely new low-traffic neighbourhoods, essentially closing down rat runs between main roads with modal filters (see my photos of last year's LTNs on flickr). The furious responses amplified by local media and vandalism from some parts demonstrate that people still don't understand the basic science of traffic management in cities, such as the proven fact that building more roads and more parking spaces will produce more traffic. This is called induced demand, essentially, make it easier to drive and more people will drive more. Conversely, you can make it harder to drive, people will think twice if their trip is necessary or could perhaps be done by walking or cycling.

I learned this more than 30 years ago, back in Germany, in a talk held by Hermann Knoflacher, who was then still active in traffic planning in Vienna, and also widely known as an expert on getting cars out of cities. Another thing I remember from his talk is the concept of desire lines, telling planners where people want to go.

Wikipedia reminded me of another thing he probably showed on his slides, namely his "walkmobile" - a home-built frame the size of a car, with which he sometimes walked around to demonstrate the insane space requirements of drivers. This set me thinking, and I came up with a somewhat more practical version of the idea, using a pedal car to take up space (such as the roadside space outside my house where I really don't want to see horrid huge SUVs), and maybe cycle around to slow down traffic and raise awareness for good causes (such as ban SUVs from cities).

A quick search found a lovely specimen from a company in the US, called International Surrey Company:

Source

Wikipedia calls this vehicle type a quadracycle.

Still have to find something closer to home - stop press here is a list. And figure out how to get a parking permit for something that isn't a car.

An alternative idea which I pondered earlier was converting an old truck into a mini-park, like Adam Tranter did. Just shying away from all the hassle associated with owning the vehicle.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

vaccinated in 1883

As monkeypox and the smallpox vaccine are becoming a bit of an issue these days, I am grateful that I am just about old enough to have received the smallpox vaccine, so hoping the protection lasts, even though the scars have faded a bit.

I can also report that Heinrich the cellist, who would be 140 this year, received his vaccinations, the first one in 1883:

and the second one in 1894:

with the Ts and Cs on the back of each explaining that vaccinated "for the first time" didn't mean the first dose, but that they made up to three attempts in cases when there was no visible reaction. Here's the back of the first certificate, which once was red:

The text on the green one is the same except for the explanation that green is for the second dose.

What I also love about these is that they never mention what disease is targeted by the vaccine. Obvious reason: the one against smallpox was the only vaccine known.

Some background: The vaccination was legally required in Prussia since 1815 and in the German Empire since 1874. Thus, each of the certificates emphasises the fact that the legal requirment has been fulfilled.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

wedding styles

Every picture tells a story No. 39

In this series I am aiming to use real life photos rather than studio portraits, but in some branches of the family there is a shortage of informal photos, so sometimes I have to resort to formal ones. This is the case for the family of Paul Gellrich, the husband of milkmaid Hedwig Geppert. The two married in Dörndorf in 1940, and their wedding photo is one of very few photos we have of him. I feel the dramatic hairstyle makes this more interesting than other wedding photos. (He was serving in the army at the time but I'm not sure that this was exactly the specification required?)

To compare and contrast, here's the wedding photo of his parents, who married before 1905 in Silesia. As I mentioned before, there was a shortage of first names in this family, so both couples were known after their wedding as Paul and Hedwig Gellrich. (In my records, Paul's mother is known as Hedwig Scholz.)

This photo is also on flickr.

Every picture tells a story series so far:

  1. string quartet Wuppertal Elberfeld 1927
  2. greetings from Adamsweiler
  3. Gastwirthschaft Ferd. Weirich
  4. quartet times three
  5. Neumühl 1923
  6. Tangermünde railway station 1889
  7. a singing lesson
  8. bei Wilhelm Geppert
  9. a bakery at Lorsch 1900
  10. Consumgeschäft von Julius Düsselmann
  11. Hanna and Ruth
  12. a young chemist
  13. school's out at Reichenstein, 1886
  14. a patchwork family in East Prussia
  15. the case of the missing grandmother
  16. checkpoint Glaner Brücke 1929(ish)
  17. finding Mimi
  18. five sisters, five decades
  19. happy at home
  20. gone milking
  21. steel workers
  22. field work
  23. what to wear at Porta Westfalica
  24. a classic convertible
  25. at the bottom of the steps
  26. a forester's family
  27. the Kaiser visits Allenburg
  28. teaching the 'deaf-mute'
  29. a guard dog called Schluck
  30. party like it's 1956
  31. the case of the mysterious uncle
  32. three Hedwigs and a baby
  33. a lost generation
  34. lost illusions
  35. pursued by a bear
  36. three daughters
  37. happy 240th birthday
  38. three sisters
  39. wedding styles

Alternatively, you can use this twitter thread as an illustrated table of contents.

In a somewhat roundabout way, this series relates to my research for the family history music memoir I have now completed in a first version.

Monday, May 23, 2022

changes at the top

High mountain lakes, streams and glaciers are often seen as the ultimate natural environments untouched by human devastation, but climate change and tourism are already changing that situation. The remoteness of those mountain sites means that we don't see the change when it happens, but there are multiple knock-on effects such as the spread of pathogens and the disruption of freshwater supplies that will fall back on us eventually.

Starting from a hint to a paper about problems with mountain lakes I extended my scope to include mountain streams an glaciers as well and found the overall picture rather worrying.

The resulting feature is out now:

Anthropocene at altitude

Current Biology Volume 32, Issue 10, 23 May 2022, Pages R441-R444

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access again one year after publication)

Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)

See also my twitter thread with all this year's CB features.

Mountain lakes such as this one in the Pyrenees, although remote from cities and industries, are also exposed to chemical pollution. (Photo: Witizia/Pixabay.)

Thursday, May 19, 2022

three sisters

Every picture tells a story No. 38

Let's move on from Peter Eberle's three daughters to his three sisters. They were Anna Barbara, Barbara Katharina (Babette) and Elisabeth Christina (Dina), born 1893, 1895, and 1897 respectively. Peter, born 1900 was the last of the children of the bakery family at Lorsch.

I don't have a picture with all children, so this portrait of Babette and Dina will have to do.

There's one child in the photo of the family house and bakery, which may or may not be Anna. All children had to work for the business at one point, eg making deliveries. The baker died in 1938, his wife in 1934, but the three daughters kept the house in Lorsch for another four decades, so it stayed in the family for more than 80 years.

In her adult life, Anna worked as a nurse at a hospital in Hanau, and when that hospital became Nazi-fied, she moved closer to home to work as a Gemeindeschwester (kind of a peripatetic nurse / health visitor) at Bensheim.

Dina did an apprenticeship complete with Gesellenprüfung as a seamstress / tailor.

I think Babette ran the household. All three of them shared a reputation as the fiercest penny-pinchers that ever lived.

Various reasons have been cited for their persistent singledom. As protestants in the very catholic town of Lorsch, they were facing a barrier (although not an insurmountable one); lack of funds for a dowry; as well as the fact that the young men of their generation were the cannon fodder of WW1, so they would have had to put in some extra effort. Not sure how hard they tried and how much ambition they had in that direction.

And for comparison, let's throw 16-year-old Peter in the mix too.

This photo is also on flickr.

Every picture tells a story series so far:

  1. string quartet Wuppertal Elberfeld 1927
  2. greetings from Adamsweiler
  3. Gastwirthschaft Ferd. Weirich
  4. quartet times three
  5. Neumühl 1923
  6. Tangermünde railway station 1889
  7. a singing lesson
  8. bei Wilhelm Geppert
  9. a bakery at Lorsch 1900
  10. Consumgeschäft von Julius Düsselmann
  11. Hanna and Ruth
  12. a young chemist
  13. school's out at Reichenstein, 1886
  14. a patchwork family in East Prussia
  15. the case of the missing grandmother
  16. checkpoint Glaner Brücke 1929(ish)
  17. finding Mimi
  18. five sisters, five decades
  19. happy at home
  20. gone milking
  21. steel workers
  22. field work
  23. what to wear at Porta Westfalica
  24. a classic convertible
  25. at the bottom of the steps
  26. a forester's family
  27. the Kaiser visits Allenburg
  28. teaching the 'deaf-mute'
  29. a guard dog called Schluck
  30. party like it's 1956
  31. the case of the mysterious uncle
  32. three Hedwigs and a baby
  33. a lost generation
  34. lost illusions
  35. pursued by a bear
  36. three daughters
  37. happy 240th birthday
  38. three sisters

Alternatively, you can use this twitter thread as an illustrated table of contents.

In a somewhat roundabout way, this series relates to my research for the family history music memoir I have now completed in a first version.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

happy 240th birthday

Every picture tells a story No. 37

Some time last week I came across a photo on twitter claiming to show the earliest born human to have had their photo taken while alive. While I have since found out that there are several claims to this record, the person in question was Conrad Heyer, born in 1749, who had his Daguerrotype portrait taken in 1852 a the age of 103. (He was born in the New World, but his parents hailed from the Rhineland, so I really should find his family tree to compare notes.)

You can kind of see how you achieve this record: get ridiculously old and be around at the time when photography is still a newfangled thing. Logically, any assiduous practicioner of the new technology would consider documenting for future generations things and people that might not be around much longer, so a centenarian fits just fine. The younger people will still be around in a few years time when the prices for the equipment and consumables have settled down a bit (Old Conrad did live to 106 though, so no desperate hurry).

Which then begs the question, do I have any ancestors who were ridiculously old in the mid 19th century and had their photo taken? Well, we can't quite compete with dear old Conrad Heyer, but there is one senior citizen who misses Heyer's record by just three decades.

Christian Gottlieb Weiß, maternal grandfather of the station master of Adamsweiler, was born 12.5.1782. When I looked him up his birthday was just a week away, and falling on a Thursday, so I pushed back the queued entries to celebrate this occasion today. He became a teacher at Hellenthal, Raversbeuren, and finally the village school in Simmern u. Dhaun (not to be confused with the town and former capital city of Simmern, which perished in the Palatinate Succession War and never really recovered after that).

He married Anna Gertrude Keuert from Hellenthal at Kirschseiffen in 1806. They had eight children and more than 16 grandchildren (one of whom married the inn keeper Ferdinand Weirich). One of the daughters emigrated to North America with her husband Friedrich Dick and "a stable full of children" as the 19th century chronicles of the Weiss family note.

In 1852, when he was 70 and getting a bit forgetful, the Prussian government put it to him that he should perhaps retire, and he did in November 1853. He received a decent pension and was able to celebrate his golden wedding anniversary in 1856. His wife died in 1858. So when his portrait was taken in 1866, he was retired, widowed, and a little bit forgetful, but otherwise fine, I guess. He died in December 1867, aged 85.

In the same album (curated by his great-granddaughter Johanna Kauer, oldest of the five daughters of the station master), we find photos from the same sort of time, showing his son in law, Mathias Kauer (* 1813), and his grandson Christoph Gottlieb Kauer. So this may have been a concerted effort, but at this point there is no trace of the women in the family.

Mathias Kauer may well be in second place for the ranking of earliest born person of whom we have a photo. He was the firstborn in his family, so even if there were more photos taken of his siblings, they wouldn't affect his result. Which is why I'm showing him too (although I have used his photo before as I just realised):

Bronze medal may go to Carl Düsselmann from the Krefeld Clan, although he and his twin sister are only 6th/7th in the sibling sequence, so there is every possibility that photos exist of his older siblings. Doesn't matter too much, as for the generation born in the 1840s, it becomes quite commonplace to have portrait photos taken on all sorts of occasions, so no records to be chased there, and by this point the women are also well represented in the photographic archives.

This photo is also on flickr.

Every picture tells a story series so far:

  1. string quartet Wuppertal Elberfeld 1927
  2. greetings from Adamsweiler
  3. Gastwirthschaft Ferd. Weirich
  4. quartet times three
  5. Neumühl 1923
  6. Tangermünde railway station 1889
  7. a singing lesson
  8. bei Wilhelm Geppert
  9. a bakery at Lorsch 1900
  10. Consumgeschäft von Julius Düsselmann
  11. Hanna and Ruth
  12. a young chemist
  13. school's out at Reichenstein, 1886
  14. a patchwork family in East Prussia
  15. the case of the missing grandmother
  16. checkpoint Glaner Brücke 1929(ish)
  17. finding Mimi
  18. five sisters, five decades
  19. happy at home
  20. gone milking
  21. steel workers
  22. field work
  23. what to wear at Porta Westfalica
  24. a classic convertible
  25. at the bottom of the steps
  26. a forester's family
  27. the Kaiser visits Allenburg
  28. teaching the 'deaf-mute'
  29. a guard dog called Schluck
  30. party like it's 1956
  31. the case of the mysterious uncle
  32. three Hedwigs and a baby
  33. a lost generation
  34. lost illusions
  35. pursued by a bear
  36. three daughters
  37. happy 240th birthday

Alternatively, you can use this twitter thread as an illustrated table of contents.

In a somewhat roundabout way, this series relates to my research for the family history music memoir I have now completed in a first version.

Monday, May 09, 2022

oryx, ibex et al.

It is always nice to have a charismatic species with a memorable name as a mascot for a feature, so the Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx), the first animal species to come back after having been extinct in the wild, was too good to be missed. Looking at other ungulate conservation efforts on the Arabian Peninsula and beyond, I also took the Nubian ibex on board (are there any other four-letter animals ending on "x" that I missed?), along with some gazelles.

The resulting feature is out now:

Desert revival

Current Biology Volume 32, Issue 9, 9 May 2022, Pages R399-R401

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access again one year after publication)

Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)

See also my twitter thread with all this year's CB features.

The Arabian oryx is the first animal species that has recovered to Vulnerable status after having been Extinct in the Wild. It is also remarkable for its specific adaptations to survival in the desert.

Saturday, May 07, 2022

stew and cello

some thoughts on

Cocido y violonchelo

Mercedes Cebrián
Penguin Random House Literatura 2022
available from Blackwells, not sure why they add an English title, as the book is definitely in Spanish!

As some of you may have noticed I’m a sucker for music memoirs, especially if they involve an instrument that I try to play myself, so when I came across a brand-new memoir about the author learning the cello in her forties, that was enough reason for me to order a copy and read it immediately. I was only very slightly worried about the cookery aspect covered in the same tome.

So to summarise her story briefly, Mercedes Cebrián studied piano and singing as a youngster, had some experience of baroque summer schools (as a harpsichord player) then started cello lessons in her late 40s. She spends too much time watching internet videos of child prodigies and at one point spends 600 euros on a good bow. Oh, and she’s a foodie but I won’t count that against her.

The memoir falls into two halves, the first is set in that strangely distant world before Covid and has exactly the right mix of cello and rest of the world for my taste with some musical memories of her childhood and travels. The second half deals with the first Covid year, but strangely a travel to Italy takes up much of the space, and the cello somehow becomes less important. This is also where the foodie things come to the fore.

I found this is really surprising as to me, the times of repeated lockdowns meant I had a lot more time to spend with the cello and play unaccompanied Bach. Maybe that should have been included in the government advice around the world. Stay home and play Bach. (Privilege check: yes I do know that this doesn’t work in a block of flats, our cello would be heard five floors up and five floors down, and in this range there is bound to be somebody who doesn’t like the suites - or my interpretation of them.) So I found the second half slightly less engaging and may have skipped one or two paragraphs that appeared to be only about soup (she styles herself as the anti-Mafalda here).

The scary bit comes near the end [spoiler alert] where she suggests she might be terminating the cello adventure, citing Amundsen who didn’t spend the rest of his life in Antarctica either. Now any room with a cello in it tends to be a lot warmer and welcoming than Antarctica, usually, if only because it would be very bad for the cello if it was exposed to the elements. Also, this kind of thing hurts me because I feel the collective guilt about our family cello (memoir to be finalised soon) which spent more than 40 years not being played at all, and another 30 until it came to be played properly and regularly. That, and the fact that it is such a huge privilege to have a cello and be able to converse with it that I really can’t comprehend why anyone would stop (other than for medical reasons such as arm amputation). It just doesn’t compute. There are definitely more cello pieces that I want to learn than I could conceivably master by the age of 100.

So, well, that may just be my problem but I really enjoyed the first half and got some interesting celloing hints out of it. For instance, I had completely forgotten that a cello adaptation of the famous Boccherini minuet is included in book 3 of Suzuki's cello school. After reading the page where she mentioned the piece, I actually dug it out and played a part of it. Also, there were some performers (eg Anastasia Kobekina) and some works mentioned that I need to check up on.

See also my twitter thread listing books I read in 2022.

The book comes with a short bibliography of works mentioned in the text, but there aren’t any of the other cello memoirs in it that I’ve read, so here’s my list:

Thursday, May 05, 2022

three daughters

Every picture tells a story No. 36

Frieda the pianist had a bit of a struggle bringing up three daughters on her own during WW2 and thereafter, as her husband Peter didn't come back. They all manage to put up a brave face in this rare family portrait from 1944:

I'm loving the middle child's perpetual grumpy teenager expression. She did grow out of that eventually.

This photo is also on flickr.

Every picture tells a story series so far:

  1. string quartet Wuppertal Elberfeld 1927
  2. greetings from Adamsweiler
  3. Gastwirthschaft Ferd. Weirich
  4. quartet times three
  5. Neumühl 1923
  6. Tangermünde railway station 1889
  7. a singing lesson
  8. bei Wilhelm Geppert
  9. a bakery at Lorsch 1900
  10. Consumgeschäft von Julius Düsselmann
  11. Hanna and Ruth
  12. a young chemist
  13. school's out at Reichenstein, 1886
  14. a patchwork family in East Prussia
  15. the case of the missing grandmother
  16. checkpoint Glaner Brücke 1929(ish)
  17. finding Mimi
  18. five sisters, five decades
  19. happy at home
  20. gone milking
  21. steel workers
  22. field work
  23. what to wear at Porta Westfalica
  24. a classic convertible
  25. at the bottom of the steps
  26. a forester's family
  27. the Kaiser visits Allenburg
  28. teaching the 'deaf-mute'
  29. a guard dog called Schluck
  30. party like it's 1956
  31. the case of the mysterious uncle
  32. three Hedwigs and a baby
  33. a lost generation
  34. lost illusions
  35. pursued by a bear
  36. three daughters

Alternatively, you can use this twitter thread as an illustrated table of contents.

In a somewhat roundabout way, this series relates to my research for the family history music memoir I have now completed in a first version.

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

carry on courante

Plague Year(s) Bach Project, 18th month

I'm back in the swing of daily Bach practice, and have recovered the five performance-ready movements listed under 4) and 5) below. Still need to work on the other five listed under 2) and 3). So far I've managed to recover the memory of the second minuet of the second suite, which is a lovely piece but only a small step towards remembering all I had memorised by the end of June last year.

Progress with the Courante from the fourth suite is also slow, so I'll just keep trundling on with that this month as well, hoping that by the end of the month I can at least memorise the majority of it.

1) movements I've studied for a month, then put aside for now (still true)
1.1. Prelude
1.2 Allemande

2) movements memorised in a significant part
3.4 Sarabande (1/3)
4.3. Courante (work in progress)

3) movements memorised in their entirety (once upon a time, but now mostly forgotten)
2.4 Sarabande
2.5 Minuet I&II
2.6 Gigue
3.6. Gigue

4) movements memorised and synchronised with metronome
1.3 Courante

5) movements recorded on video and also performed in public
1.4 Sarabande
1.5 Minuet I&II- VIDEO
1.6 Gigue(ooops, need to upload the video, watch this space!)
3.5 Bourree I&II - VIDEO

The five movements listed under 4) and 5) are currently my performance practice list - I play a set of three on one day and a set of two on the other, and I normally manage not to get lost.

I like to sit on one instrument when I play the other ...

Oh, and in cello-related book news, I'm currently reading Mercedes Cebrian's excellent memoir Cocido y violonchelo. Here's my review (accompanied by a cello reading list).

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