April 2017

IG Hochhaus

I am shocked that President Trump did not overrule his Secret Service when it banned the bearing of arms in the NRA convention hall where he denounced Obama’s War on Guns.


In the 1960’s Frankfurters called the IG Farben Building the “IG Hochhaus”, and i knew all about it because i had an office there.  What an amazing building!  Click on that link above to learn all about it.  Well, almost all.  I’ll add some details from my own experience.

The most memorable aspect of the IG Hochhaus for many people was the paternosters.  That link tells us that they got their name because the string of cars resembled the beads on a rosary, the telling of which alternated Pater Nosters and Ave Marias, but in 1964 i was told that the name came from your natural inclination to utter an Our Father before you stepped onto one of these frightening things for the first time…and perhaps a Hail Mary after you successfully exited.

When i was reading links about paternosters i noticed that many of them had a reference to the thrill of riding one around the top.  Well, of course.  Young men are adventuresome, and curious, and you didn’t have to ride on one many times before you wondered what would happen if you failed to exit your car at the top floor.  Would the thing somehow fold up and squash you flat?  Would it turn upside down?  Would you be dumped into a bin that was emptied every Sunday?

So quite naturally the uncertainty preyed on you until finally, you were in a car by yourself as it approached the top floor, noticed that nobody was in sight on that floor, and just stayed onboard.

And then were relieved that you came to no harm but moderately disappointed that the biggest thrill was being plunged into darkness for the fifteen or twenty seconds it took to transit over the top.

In addition to the paternosters on every wing to move people from floor to floor, there were freight elevators large enough to move a Volkswagen.

A high-tech (for 1930) feature was the central clock system in which a master mechanism regulated the time displayed in the clocks found in every office.

There was also a central heating system with radiators in every office as well as a central trash chute on every floor through which trash fell to an incinerator in the basement.

The windows provided excellent natural light to minimize the need for interior lighting.  They did so because they filled the outer wall from side to side and from about a meter off the floor all the way to the very high ceiling. They were cleverly designed, suspended by cables that attached at the midpoint so that they could be easily flipped over to clean the outside.  I’d never seen anything like this and was fascinated by them.  The down side was that you had no excuse not to keep the damn things clean.

The building now houses the Goethe University Frankfurt, but it had been “borrowed” by the Americans after the war and until 1995 was used to accommodate American entities, mostly military although there were CIA and other clandestine agencies in it, as well as all kinds of military intelligence and security agencies.  You knew when you got to one of those areas because when you stepped off the paternoster you were met by gated steel bars and a guard with a .45 and a profound need to see the correct badge.

A final stunning aspect of this building is its size.  The damn thing is 250 meters long, which is approaching three football fields.  I lived in a BOQ across Bremerstraße from the eastern end of it, and my office was at the very western end overlooking the botanical garden.  It was a ten minute walk door to door, and six of those minutes were inside the building.

What a wonderful experience to have worked in it.  Ahhhh, the memories, one of ’em being having returned to Frankfurt as a civilian in 1988 and, wanting another paternoster ride, going to the building and finding a fence around it.  The guard at the gate was entirely unconvinced when i brandished my passport, saying that from my office there in the sixties i’d help save the world from the Communists.


Meanwhile, since i don’t have a recent architecture pic, here’s some six foot tall kale blooming its heart out in JoAnn’s garden.  The bonus is that the flowers are delicious.

Blooming kale





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They’re Back

I wrote last spring about my delight in watching a couple of barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) build a nest and raise a family on the eaves of my patio.  Well, they’re back.

And when i say “they” i don’t mean just any barn swallow couple but rather the couple who were here last spring.  So how do i know it’s the same ones?

Well, last spring when they arrived and started building their nest, they were quite shy.  The male provided some help in building the nest, but mainly he just perched on the light fixture right outside my door and supervised.  He’d fly away when i moved up close to the door.

So i started trying to get him accustomed to me by moving to a point ten feet inside my door and standing there uttering a melodious little warble while he sat and watched.  Then i started moving from side to side while i warbled.  And then gradually moved closer to the door as he got accustomed to seeing me inside it.  Finally i was able to get right up to the door without scaring him off.

The next step was to gradually slide the door open while singing my reassuring song.  Then i stood there photographing him, all the while warbling away.  Next, one foot at a time, i stepped outside.  This one was harder because at that point he was barely more than an arm’s length away.

By that time, she was focused on sitting on her eggs, and finally both of them could tolerate my walking slowly out onto the patio and tending my plants, she on the nest and him perched on the light fixture.

Then the eggs hatched, and they were both way too occupied feeding the babies to even care what i was doing.

This year i’ve begun wondering.  Is it possible that with a brain the size of a green pea they could remember me?  Sure seems like it because at first last year they’d fly as soon as i approached the door from inside, and it was quite a while before i got them accustomed to me.

The second question is whether uttering my melodious little two-note call does any good in reassuring them.  The only thing i know for sure is that it entertains my human visitors who hear me singing it.  I just tell ’em they’re jealous of my ability to speak barn swallow.

So why do i think that the ones who are on my patio now are the same couple? Because from their very first appearance this year they just perched there when i walked out onto the patio.  The other bit of evidence is that swallows have also started  hanging out on my second patio off my bedroom, and they fly away as soon as i put one foot out the door.  Obviously a different couple, ones who are unaccustomed to me.

I’m thinking of giving the ones who know me names.  Should it be the trendy Noah and Emma or the totally traditional Adam and Eve?  Or better yet, let my readers make the choices.  Click on Contact Me and submit your candidates now.

Meanwhile, it’s not just the birds but also the bees.





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A Bridge Too Far

There was a front-page article in this morning’s San Francisco Chronicle celebrating the beginning of construction of a suicide barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Alas, the vociferous anti-suiciders finally managed to push the pusillanimous bridge directors into approving a barrier, so now the clean lines of the bridge will be sullied by posts and nets and fences, squandering millions of dollars of public funds.  Or, as it is usually phrased in screeds like this, wasting zillions of taxpayer dollars.

Oh please.  I’m in a bit of a depression right now and having trouble coming up with posts for this site, but i promise you that if i were to End It All, it for damn sure would not be by jumping off that bridge.  Hell, if i just walked up to the rail and looked over, i’d expire on the spot of fright, so i don’t need no expensive steenkeng barrier, being scared to death of heights.

Why oh why couldn’t we have come to our senses and found a more cost-effective way of reducing the number of suicides off that bridge?

Of course nobody listened to me when i offered the perfect solution.  All we have to do is follow the practice used on rural bridges all over the state, a $25 sign at each end.   And OK, since it’s a larger bridge, we’d need a larger sign, so let’s estimate it at $250 to allow for the usual cost overruns.  The sign would read, “NO DIVING”.

Balshaw Bridge



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Evidence that global warming is a Chinese hoax:  They make all our thermometers.


In my youth i had goals.  No no, not to Make Something of Myself, since i was realistic enough to abstain from aspirations of any real success.  Even so, i never attained any goal i’d set, and it was pure accident that i blundered into the employee stock purchase program at Oracle that was the only good investment i ever made.

So at some point along there i stopped setting goals.  How foolish, i’ve realized.

So i’ve come up with a reasonable compromise: attainable goals.  I now have two.

The first is to see a total eclipse of the sun.  This is doable because for the first time in my life one will occur within a reasonable distance.  I’ve made motel reservations in Springfield, Oregon for the night of 20 August and will get up the next morning, drive 60 miles north to the exact center of the eclipse path, and sit there taking photos and wallowing in the experience.  Why down in Springfield?  Because by the time i got around to reserving a room, every hotel for some distance along the middle of the eclipse path on either side of I-5 had been booked solid.

Better yet, on the way up to Oregon i’ll make stops in northern California to get photos of the bridges over the Sacramento River that i missed on my last expedition up there.

And finally, since i’ll be in Oregon, i’ll photograph as many as possible of the bridges over the Willamette River between Eugene and just south of Portland.  I already have those in Portland and a handful in Eugene.

My second goal is to hang around until October so i can see Ridley Scott’s sequel to Blade Runner, it being perhaps my favorite movie.

How’s that for achievable goals?

Meanwhile, i wrote last month about getting little starts of Euphorbia obesa and determining when the second bloomed that i had, as hoped, a male and a female.  Well, they’re just teenagers, but they’re old enough that he was able to fertilize her.  Check out the two babies.

Euphorbia obesa seed pods


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