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Monthly Archives: January 2014

Dial 0 for Operator

Visited my old office yesterday and read excerpts from “The Ironwood Poacher” to a small gathering of friends and well-wishers in the Library. Later, wandering through the hallowed halls of this Habsburg castle, I found an impressive red phone sitting on the desk of a former colleague. I wonder who waits at the other end of the line to receive her calls? Was this phone once used by Kruschev to call  Kennedy?

DSC_0267I hope to find an answer to this mystery one day. I will be sure to share it with you once I do.

Green China

Positive news about renewables is not often published in the popular news media, which gets more mileage from disasters and doom, hence the posting below, copied from Dave Elliott’s blog on Environmental Research Web. Here is a link to the entire article, excerpt below.


China will sharply boost renewable energy, the National Development and Reform Commission said in a 2013 report. It plans to increase hydropower generating capacity by 21 GW, wind by 18 GW and solar energy by 10GW. These figures are all higher than the annual average increase over the past five years of 20GW , 11.6 GW and 1.4 GW respectively, according to official data. See: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130305/china-boost-renewable-energy-2013 andwww.spiegel.de/international/business/chinese-leadership-announces-new-focus-on-green-energy-a-917389.html

At the end of 2012, hydro reached 249 GW, a 7.2% rise on 2011, on-grid wind 61.4 GW, a 33% rise, on-grid solar 3.4 GW, up 61%. Nuclear stayed at 12.6 GW. Non-fossil capacity including nukes was 29% of the total, 4.2% up on 2005, and it supplied 21.4% of grid electricity.http://en.ndrc.gov.cn/newsrelease/P020131108611533042884.pdf

Although there are major grid challenges and other bottlenecks, according to China’s 12th Five-Year Renewable Energy Development Plan 2011-15, China’s installed wind capacity connected to the grid is on track to reach 100 GW by 2015, including installed offshore wind power capacity of 5 GW, while annual electricity generation is projected to exceed 190 TWh. By 2020, the country’s combined installed grid-connected wind power capacity is expected to reach 200 GW, including installed offshore wind power capacity of 30 GW, while annual electricity generation is forecasted to surpass 390 TWh.

What a Nice Idea! Public Bookcases

Seen today in Vienna’s 9th district. Glass-fronted concrete bookcases that are protected from the weather but open for any passerby to use.

DSC_0274Another place to hand in books that have been read but one no longer wishes to keep is the Library of the thermal baths in Oberlaa. But no junk please.

DSC_0275The sign on the second photograph says: take or deposit books here; no registration, no cost. Unfortunately I can’t read the small print on the pillar, but it seems to be a private initiative of one or two individuals. More details at the following website (text in German)


Stories to Go: Flash Fiction

Flash fiction is, like speed chess, something I’ve never been really interested in trying although I’ve come across several good ones among the blogs I read. I recently submitted a short story to an online competition and on the organisers’ website found an additional category for flash fiction, with a length limit of 250 words. Here’s a first attempt.

The Sad Demise of George Gorgonzola

He awoke with a start and quickly shrugged into a dressing gown. Knotting the belt tight, he padded to the living room. Someone was picking his front door lock. It was a Snead and Baker burglar-proof model, so he knew he had three minutes to get away. He slipped on a pair of loafers, grabbed a shoulder bag kept packed and ready beside the bed and retreated to the back door of his third floor flat.

He stood on the narrow fire escape landing and locked the door, another minute gained, and scurried down the metal ladder as fast as his stubby legs would take him. He ran down the street, keeping to the shadows. He ran a long time, heading for the garconniere registered under his mother’s maiden name. They would never find him there. He shook off two staggering drunks, entered a nondescript building, and ran swiftly up three flights of stairs. He stopped at the door in dismay. The lock was broken. No safety here! He scurried down the stairs again and ran into the night.

The picture appeared on the front page of the tabloids next morning. George Gorgonzola, a thief and extortionist with a long criminal record, was found dead in a London alleyway early today.  His green and white striped silk dressing gown was torn and bloody. He had been shot twice in the head at close range. Mr. Gorgonzola was a well-known underworld figure and went by the nickname of Wee Willie Winkie.

Sacher Cake in Vienna, etc.

Justification, or Apology

There is Verse and Worse, the cliche goes
Don’t say, please bring back your prose.
This is a New Year gift and,
I hope, no cause for rift
Between me and you

Sacher Cake in Vienna

Untasted I always equated Sacher Torte
With chocolate surfeit, and Nirvanesque
Whipped-cream-topped coffee of heaven
Strong, and water glass brimful cold
Served by patient unattached waiters in
Parody of Paradise Lost they also serve
And wait.

To the attic of memory banished old
Desires fade till we nuzzle kakao
The frictional delights of our skins
Burnt to Mocca rapture the smoky taste
Mocking really of any other torte but
After the meal I wake to its loss
And wait.

Meanwhile the angry traffic snarls
The streets outside and pays homage
Base to that celestial hole ozonic
(heavenliest orifice known to man except
In the stratosphere of my dreams)
Fuming waiting for the lights to change
And wait.

This then is my ode to joy of life
The myriad facets of it all revealed
In wondrous encounters with the minds
Or spinning bodies in a path ordained
Ignoring what the popular censure shuns
There is but one right choice to make
And wait.

Revolutionary Progress

Some blood was spilt in the wadi
The night the warlord fled.

He left behind joyous slaves, a hundred asses,
Sixty-six horses, forty goats, numerous sheep,
Palaces and princely dwellings,
Liberated concubines,
A jewelled sword, and one grieving wife.

The usurper freed the slaves, watered the asses,
Rode the horses and the concubines,
Princely feasted in the palace,
Presenting the grieving wife the jewelled sword
With which to prove her undying love.

Humpty-Dumpty Paraphrased

On high wall fragile perched
Breeched, well-shod rotundity.
Smooth-surfaced, bland, white, and searched
The heedless throng for serendipity
Scurrying by, egg-blind and unaware of terminal
Sentiment that raged above their heads.

Gravity caught hold of gravitas
And splattered golden yolk
Among the common folk
An unfulfilled embryo
Dreams of chickenhood dashed
On unforgiving flagstones crashed.

He was a right good egg the princess thought
And she the king besought:
Father, use your divine right
To raise the fallen from their plight,
And restore to me this faithful vassal
So he may abide forever in my castle.

At this the king his men despatched
With steed, buckle and armour all attached
They toiled for hours and hours in vain
To make the noble egg whole again
Failing, they fetched a monk, a Benedictine,
A devout man, a Florentine.

The monk determined the egg was truly dead
And made a dish of it, immortal, instead.

Tropical Vienna in January

Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar rang our doorbell on the evening of the fourth January, were invited in to sing their Epiphany songs and collected some money for a good cause. The Three Kings were children dressed as the Magi, and were accompanied by a smiling adult chaperone who was there to answer questions about the purpose of the collection if explanation were needed. The weather became progressively warmer and today, the 6th January was sparkling with cloudless blue skies and clear views of  distant mountains, precursors of the Alps, in the distance.

DSC_0261In the Palmengarten inside the Schoenbrunn Park, it was tropically humid and warm with stands of Chinese bamboo, several varieties of giant ferns and blooming displays of orchids, poinsettias and other tropical flowers. The Palmengarten was Emperor Franz Josef’s tropical garden built in the 1880s and consists of three wrought iron and glass pavilions connected by tunnel-like passages. There are three different climate zones, one in each pavilion, ranging from nordic cool to temperate to tropical moist and warm.

DSC_0263DSC_0262 Wandering through the park to the top of the Gloriette, one has a stunning view of the city from this relatively low vantage point on a clear day.

DSC_0264Time to start working again after the pleasantest of Christmas/New Year interludes!