Exit or desperately needed social reforms

Image

I live right behind a home for the elderly. From my kitchen window, I have a view of the back courtyard and service entrance. All day you can observe the employees of the kitchen and laundry staff enter and exit during the 24 hour shifts. Up until recently a battalion of construction workers, their supplies and machinery were renovating this wing of the facility. 

The main entrance is just around the corner. A sweeping drive way, with a vast parking lot for visitors(it NEVER gets full). Out-door types and smokers with or without mobility supports, converge under the awning in all weather. The entrance is their window to the world. But I suppose that for all those who enter this place, the reality is that the only way out of there is perhaps a walk around the block,  a visit over the holidays with their family but ultimately only death.

Over the course of the past year, this exodus was noted on several occasions. The hearse parking in the back courtyard and the somber undertakers rolling the coffin out from the back entrance, alone and unaccompanied. What is interesting though, is that families of the Muslim faith show up in unison to receive their loved one and escort him or her. Then the back entrance is quiet again. Even if you don’t actually witness this, a person’s passing is always followed by a collection of pieces of furniture that are carried out the backdoor and placed into the courtyard. The favorite easy chairs, side tables, cupboards and lamps are discarded and await being shredded into bits by the special garbage truck. Sometimes this furniture stands in the rain for days , solemn reminders of their owners.

The first time I found an older lady lost and completely scared in the neighborhood, I was shocked( I was not able to gather enough information from this poor old woman, there are several homes in the area, so I decided to start with the one next to my house). Walking into the reception area of the establishment unquestioned or stopped. No sight of any staff! There were several elderly sitting in the lounge, but neither my charge nor the people recognized each other. I got the lady some water and told her I would go to find someone in charge. I spent the next 15 minutes walking the maze of corridors in all directions, without finding anyone resembling a member of the staff!! Passing the open doors of the rooms, the faces of the bedridden elderly, so so many of them. Finally, I found some sort of dining room where some residents were having coffee with their visiting family members and a service employee. She went off to find someone and I returned to the entrance area. Twenty minutes after we entered the building someone in uniform appeared. She did not know the lady either, but checked her name on the computer and lead her away, after thanking me for my help.

As I stepped out into the drizzle, my heart was heavy. What it must be like to live there…

The facts are simple: 

1. Demographically seen the need for nursing homes is increasing at a never before seen speed. Life expectancy has been steadily   rising.

2. The cost of securing a place is staggering and depends on the health of the elderly, but a progression from stage 1-assisted living-to stage 3-complete care *-is certain and forgone only by death. *not noted are stages 4 through 6

3. An acute shortage in nursing staff(statistically seen, during one shift a member of the staff takes care of between 20 and 28       elderly)!

4. Poor salaries and dumping wages for temporary staff

5. Extended shifts, poor working conditions, poor prospects, lack of prestige and recognition

6.  Lacking funds

To name just a few.

With the birthrate in Germany at 1,36 – things are likely not going to improve. More and more women are conscientiously deciding against having children. It is easy to understand,  that the financial aspects and repercussions are not to be taken lightly. On the one hand the German Government does “reimburse” or “motivate” women for having children by offering Kindergeld or child allowance, but that that in the long course of child raising, does not cover the costs incurred. But on the other hand the supposed Social State does not offer free schooling. Starting from kindergarden, the parents are required to pay. For the working mothers (they will have to work for their future pensions) there is always the conflict of finding adequate and after hour care. Many women are forced to pay extra to schools for supervision until they are able to collect their children after they finish work. The cost per hour stands in no relationship to the hourly wages most women receive. 

Of course there are plans and reforms in progress which are supposed to alleviate some of the problems.  Offering a mother or father one hundred Euros a month to keep their child home, instead of sending it into day care. Providing some extra points for children on the pension fund, which amount to so little when it comes to actual numbers – isn’t going to sway a woman to have a child.

Governments and politicians are closing their eyes to the fact, that the fewer children are born, the fewer future tax- and pension/healthcare payers will be available – who will on the one hand, supply the funds necessary to keep the system going and on the other hand who will supply the manpower to look after the rest of us.

That Europe and Germany already has a problem with their aging society is an undeniable fact. How we care for them and treat them is a reflection of our society. But without children there is no chance of a future.

For those of you who like statistics, this is staggering:

http://www.worldometers.info/

 

Birds…

Birds...

…of a feather flock together

Origin
This proverb has been in use since at least the mid 16th century.

In nature, birds of a single species do in fact frequently form flocks. Ornithologists explain this behavior as a ‘safety in numbers’ tactic to reduce the risk of predation.

But it is safe to say, that this applies to humans too.
People who have similar characters or similar interests will often choose to spend time together.

P.S. In British slang, used mainly by men: Birds – refer to girls or women, especially those considered sexually attractive.

Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013

I have camera troubles…so forgive the pixel lacking image, taken with a discarded I phone 3. But rather than not taking any pictures at all, I shall file this under vintage-retro look holiday memories.
High technology is often very frustrating, trying to figure out the manuals and functions, is like assembling a large IKEA kitchen all by yourself with the included allen keys- in the dark. Mission Impossible without professional help.

So, Christmas 2013 will go down in my personal history as the year, the camera wasn’t working but that is not to say that it wasn’t a good Christmas!
Our second Christmas celebrated here in Germany, much much better than last year’s. My aunt, uncle, my Mom and two of my three boys! As my aunt so perfectly put it while we sat sipping champagne: Who would have believed a few years back that we would ever spend Christmas together?
We had a wonderful afternoon. So what that the roast beef from the Turkish butcher around the corner appeared to have walked all the way from Turkey before it landed on the Christmas table? Christmas isn’t about perfect. Christmas is about sitting together deep in good conversation, stories of the past, remembering those not with us any more and perhaps creating some unforgettable new stories…

After everyone had gone home, the two blonds of the house – my Mom and I – did the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen. Fittingly for this celebration of lights in this dark season, as I stepped into the living room, the advent wreath was ever so gently smoldering and filling the room with thick smoke, reminiscent of Greek summer fires! No harm done, that airing out the rooms could not resolve and a lesson learnt…do not leave candles burning unobserved!

One

One

One – definition
1. the lowest cardinal number; half of two; 1.

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.
Thomas A. Edison, 1847 – 1931 – American inventor and businessman

http://www.one.org/
The ONE Campaign is an international, nonpartisan, non-profit, advocacy and campaigning organisation that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa, by raising public awareness and pressuring political leaders to support effective policies and programmes that are saving lives and improving futures.

December 21, 2013 Shortest Day of the Year and the first day of Winter

December 21, 2013  Shortest Day of the Year and the first day of Winter

Oh yes, the days have been getting shorter…such few daylight hours in the day but today it is official. I actually only notice this cause when I leave the house at 7:30 and return at 6:30 p.m. it is still or already dark.
Since yesterday, I am officially on holiday. For the next two weeks, I am free of time tables and can plan my days as I please. I had been counting down the days and never expected to feel so happy, as I stepped out of our office building. What a rush, after 10 months of work to have 2 weeks off!
Life has been so busy, that I barely noticed Christmas time was coming. For years and years, our Christmas tree was up from the 1rst of December till the 6th of January. This year I haphazardly pulled out and put up a few decorations at the beginning of the month and left it at that. (Maybe I will take my youngest today to get a tree).
But the tree is not the only thing missing. Up until yesterday, I had not even thought about presents or food. I find it strange today, that for years I crafted, baked and prepared in advance. But then again, I always had more time. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining – far from it. Change is good too and maybe now I will appreciate the time I get to spend with my family and friends much more than before. Time is precious and time spent well with the ones you love is always a gift. Sometimes we forget to be grateful for the little things!
Life is good!
With a little music, it is even better:

Big Money aka Organized Rip Off

Big Money aka Organized Rip Off

(Picture not my own, credit where due)

While I was minding my own business, going to work and making do with what life’s hand has dealt me recently, a fat envelope landed in my post-box.
Quelle surprise!
A law firm from Hamburg had selected me as a presumed perpetrator of downloading a movie illegally. 5 pages of legal mumbo jumbo, all intended to intimidate and scare the recipient of the notification – with the account details of said firm, in fat black double spaced and font size – as the solution for the offense.
Having lived most of my life in a country, which last week received place 80 in the Transparency List and last place in the European Community, I had never until then known anyone let alone personally been involved in such “legal notifications”.
What I felt was not fright, but outrage as similar stories I collected from colleagues and friends mounted. Of course, I did my homework and researched the authenticity of the firm. I also found out some amazing things.
-What we are looking at is really Big Business.
-That the offense of “illegal download” stands in no relationship to the fines
-That all energy is concentrated on going after the little fish
-The real perpetrators remain anonymous and seem to be of no interest

In short a whole new industry has been created with enormous revenues and as is usually the case where big money is involved, lobbying the law follows.

The year 2007 saw 16 companies with 62 pieces of copyright ownership and just 5 law firms pursuing said works. In 2012 there were already 422 copyright owners and 65 firms. The volume of legal notifications mailed off in 2012 was about half of what it was in 2011. The top ten law firms sent out between 5,000 and 24,000 letters in just one year! Lets say for the year 2012 there were a total of 250 working days, then you come to an average of between 20 and 96 legal notifications sent out per day!!! Now take into consideration the range of the demanded sums from 330 to 1,565 Euros, you come to an average of 819 Euros per letter. Gross earnings for the law firms? 87,000.000 Euros in 2012. These numbers have been provided by the firms themselves and there is no telling how accurate they are. It is speculated that the actual numbers are much higher(reference under http://abmahnwahn-dreipage.de)

So, this is one side of the coin. The other side is that you as the recipient, will either pay up, find your own lawyer or do nothing and hope for the best. Paying up and signing the enclosed declaration to cease and desist, which usually gets you into even more trouble cause it paves the road for more and future demands. If you decide to lawyer up and stand up against this rip off, well you still have to pay the attorney you hired and in some cases you will have to come to some financial agreement with the other party. A lucrative business model: Minimal effort and maximum benefits, in which once again the rights of the few are disproportionally represented and the real culprits get away or as in the most notorious case Kim Dotcom – remains under house arrest in a huge estate in New Zealand.

So here are a couple of questions that formed in my head:
How is it possible that the IP addresses of the average people can be “found out” and the original work placed on the web, CAN NOT be traced to its source? It makes me wonder, that since this is such easy money to be made from absolutely nothing – it is also very possible that said owners of copy rights place them on the net in the first place.

How legal is it to hire investigative firms, that most likely employ some sort of spying program to find these IP addresses and then obtain court orders en masse to receive the actual addresses through their telephone and internet providers? We are talking 440 (for the year 2012)court orders alone per day? Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? (which makes me wonder, if they can do that- what else are they capable of doing or doing already, that we do not know about)?

Why are there so many different views on P2P copyright issues in Germany? Making it even more profitable to “threaten” to sue in some cities, than others? Should there not be a standard ruling which holds true everywhere? And what does that say about the courts or the judges credibility?

How is it possible that the justice system has not woken up to the fact that this is indeed a grand scale rip off scam going on right under their noses? The fact that these legal notifications are mass produced and the number of rightful owners, lawyers and immense sums of money are rising steadily, clearly shows that something is amiss.

How can it be that the rights of the average citizens, faithful taxpayers(most of them) and pillars of our society become culprits in a scheme which spells money for the few? Are bullied, terrorized, intimidated and then forced to pay amounts which stand in no relationship to the actual damages done. While record and movie companies and their lawyers (who chased ambulances 10 years ago), jumped on the band wagon of a much more profitable business.: The law stands idle.

And just for the record, I do whole heartedly agree that downloading from the internet is damaging for the artists and companies. But I also think that fines should be considered in the range of the actual purchase price of the item at stake. Most P2P users haven’t got a real clue as to how things work anyway and punishing them for gainfully and illegally obtaining and distributing material, just isn’t the case.

In this age, where we can be and are observed via satellite, CCTV and the doings of the NSA or others, we the average world citizens, are the targets. All in the name of making the world a safer place for us? We do not benefit from it directly. Our rights are being trampled, revoked and reduced. And not just that, our governments cut our health, educational and social programs in favor of big industry, military and space. While big Banks scam and scheme, no one is responsible. While the 1% hide their money in off shore accounts, Switzerland or Luxembourg, no one is at fault. While generals and soldiers slaughter the innocent and unsuspecting, their trials are held in private. While members of the church molest, no one is held responsible. While Multi-National companies exploit labour world wide and blackmail their governments into paying less taxes than an average citizen, they are not liable. While criminal activities of presidents and members of parliament are protected by immunity, no one is ever held accountable.
They are invisible, but we are not!

P.S. And while I was writing this another letter landed in my mail box.
Happy Holidays!

Step into December

Step into December

Hard to believe that we have just entered the last month of 2013.
The Advent season has started here and for the past two weeks the Christmas markets in the town centers have been open. On the weekends hundreds upon hundreds of people- old and young- braving the weather fill the pedestrian zones, in search of presents for their loved ones.

Trying times for people who do not like huge crowds.
It is not just the streets that are over-run with shoppers and strollers, shops and shopping centers are jam packed with people, to such an extent, that it feels like one giant human traffic jam, from which there is no escape.
I ask myself if this is a pleasurable experience for my fellow man. How can you even think about choosing a present for a beloved person in your life?
Inside and out, Christmas music is playing in the background, I suppose, just to get people into the spirit of buying. Those ear-worms are an added torture to the surge.

In synch with the mood of giving and generosity, beggars of all kinds fill the city-center landscape. While trying not to crash into people who randomly stop right in front of you, or avoid running over toddlers (who can’t be seen in the mob), you also have to dodge cups thrust in your face.
Some people connect the smells of the Christmas markets with the true spirit of Christmas…how that works for them is beyond me! Mulled wine, candied peanuts, Brat-and Currywurst, waffles, Lebkuchen and beer combined with the sounds and sights of their consumers provoke a complete sensory assault in me.
Statistically seen, it is said that the average German will spend roughly 288 Euros a person on Christmas presents…
Is there a statistic for how appreciated the given gifts were? Right after Christmas the city swells again with throngs of people, trying to return what they received… OMG, that means the town centers will not be safe till mid January. Not to mention the corners of closets and basements which will harbor those preciously chosen presents, never to see the light of day again!
We live in a materialistic world, where we equal the amount spent on someone with the love and tenderness we feel for them.
I am not just saying this because I will not be one of the average people who will spend the statistically calculated median amount(cause I don’t have the means), but because I truly believe that we should all learn to be satisfied and appreciate what we already have.
Little gestures and time spent with the ones we love, create lasting memories which we will all cherish for years to come. Much more than anything bought in a store.

Pay tribute to the ones you love!