In the past, when I've arrived in Berlin at the Tegel Airport, I've always taken the TXL Express bus to my hotel. It's only about $3 and lets me off on Unter der Linden, a wide, tree-lined boulevard whose exit is about 500 yard from the Brandenburg Gate and only about 1 mile and a quarter from the hotel. It's a pleasant an easy walk, and I've done it three times.
Yesterday, I went to the TXL Express check-in area at the airport and told the ticket taker that that's what I wanted a ticket for. And when the bus came, I double-checked, "Is this the TXL Express?" Yes, he said, it was. So, I got on.
One problem. It wasn't. It stopped at the Park of the Invalides, and I was the last person on board. And the driver was a rarity in Berlin, not speaking English. He told me in great detail how to take the U-Bahn (subway) to where I wanted to go, "Brandenburg Tor," I told him, since it was the biggest landmark. And I'm sure his directions were great. I just did't understand them. So, I took off walking.
Fortunately, I had a map, and checking the street signs, I had a pretty good idea where I was. It seemed about three miles away -- not exactly a walk I wanted to take after 15 hours traveling, but I walk a half-hour every so this wouldn't be too terrible. Probably about an hour or so.
Yes, I know I could have found a cab. But this became a guy-thing. Sort of a challenge, not to give in to having been put on the wrong bus. And knowing I could have taken a cab in the first place. But the TXL Express -- when you get on the correct bus -- is easy and convention.
The walk wasn't terrible. It certainly allowed me to see more of Berlin close up, which I don't get all that much to do on the trip. And once I made it to Unter der Linden, I was halfway done, and the rest of the trip was sort of nice. The weather was good, it's a nice boulevard, as I said, I passed the Russian Embassy and the U.S. Embassy, I walk through the Brandenburg Gate, one of my favorite spots in Berlin, and walked past the lovely and very evocative Holocaust Memorial and Museum.
So, all in all, the walk was very interesting. Just a whole lot longer than what I was hoping for. As you might imagine, when I told the elves back at the homestead, they found it hilarious.
By the time I got to the hotel and checked in, I only had about 45 minutes before our group went out for the evening to a press event organized for us. I wrote yesterday about how I'd tracked down a Clinton-Kaine button to wearing here in Berlin because I wanted a shortcut to conversation in case anyone saw a Americans and thought "Trump." As it turned out, my planning for this worked out where.
During the evening, a couple of local Germans saw the button and got into conversation with me specifically because of the button. Relieved that I was not for "that Trump." Needless-to-say, they were aghast by him and the whole process. I was able to use the line I had prepared, in case this came up...which I was sure it would. "No, America is not supporting Donald Trump. The conservative Republican Party supports him, and the polls show he is losing, and badly." They were fascinated, but very concerned about it all, and wanted to know if he actually had a chance. (With only two people seriously in the race, yes, I said, he had a chance. But no, given how far behind he was, and likely to have more blow-ups, and likely to do poorly in the debates, I said I didn't think his chances were substantive.)
We talked a lot more. One of the fellows had earlier worked for the Council of Economic Advisers in Berlin, and had helped organize the famous event when Barack Obama came to Berlin as a first-time candidate, and there was a crowd out 100,000 people. "It was amazing," the fellow said. And explained how much people here love Obama. What was fascinating too was how much and the other woman I spoke to knew about the U.S. election. Even to the point when I told the story of Trump and Khizir Khan at the DNC, they knew mostly what I was talking about, even if not all the details. They knew a lot. And cared a lot. I would imagine that most Americans don't care one whit about any foreign election, let alone something as simple as who the candidates are. But these people knew about the U.S. And cared. A lot.
And then there's even an update on this. Tonight, a bunch of left the Lenovo event early and went back to that great, tiny back-alley pub that I accidentally found five years ago -- and which we accidentally went to the next year, and people loved. There are only two guys I've ever seen working there, so I suspect they own it. And they're a joy and a hoot. Neither speak English well, though we can communicate. And they seem to have gotten a bit better. And almost everyone I've ever seen eating there is German. Anyway, when I walked in, the one fellow who tends to be more the waiter saw my button and went wild. "Hillary. I love Hillary. Are you for Hillary?? Good, good. I love Hillary. I love her. Can I have the button? Hillary and Kanye. Hillary and Kanye." (I corrected him that it was pronounced "Cane.") Great, great. I love Hillary. Hillary and Bill. I love Bill."
Normally, I'd have given him the button, but I really did go out of my way to get it so that I could specifically wear it throughout the show. But I did pick up a few other Hillary buttons that aren't all that wonderful, but they have a picture of her, and I brought them along, just in case. I think there's an okay chance I'll be able to make it back there, and I'll bring a button for him.
One of the women in our group for dinner looks a little, sort of, kind of, somewhat like Hillary Clinton, and the guy was so excited that she did, and so he kept calling her Hillary. And tell her husband who was there (obviously) how lucky he was. And at the end of the meal, he gave her a kiss on the check. He loves Hillary
As I said, people around the world follow American politics. And it has meaning around the world.
All the more reason to understand why the election is so important. Because a U.S. presidential election is not just about the U.S.
September is on us, and so again is the IFA tech trade show in Berlin, Germany. IFA is a massive undertaking, though not well-known in the U.S. Think of it like the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but based in Europe. There are differences, of course. One is that CES tends to deal a bit more with products that will be on your shelves during the coming year, while IFA is slightly more focused on innovation. Also, what has struck me is that CES seems to veer more to the computer end of technology, while IFA has a greater interest in home appliances.
This is my fourth year at IFA. The plane has landed at Tegel Airport – perhaps my least favorite airport in the world, that seems to have been inspired by a bus depot, which is okay for handling random flight traffic of puddle jumpers, but far less-so for an international facility. I’m reasonably up to speed with only a minimal jet lag, so hopefully all should precede well. (Because IFA only lasts five days, so you can’t afford much down-time, I start adjusting my bedtime/wake-up schedule each night the week before. It’s certainly odd going to sleep the last night home at 7 PM and rising at 2 AM. But it actually helps…)
It took a few years to get a full grasp on the show. At first, I tended to avoid the home appliance end. But then when I realized it not only was such a vast part of the show, but also how hugely fascinating it was, I began to embrace it. Home appliances are not what I generally write about – or care all that much about. But that doesn’t keep me from being dazzled by so much of the advances and innovation in the field that is here. So, I write about it more, at least this one time of the year.
It does indeed take a few years to figure out IFA. The show is an odd fish. Some of it is wonderful – sprawling, involving, beguiling, and at times remarkable.
And some of it is…well, not. IFA has a dichotomy. Half the organization is split on the side of its history, founded in 1931 when it was a local trade show focused on radio, and so the German language predominates. (IFA stands for Internationale Funkausstellung, which trips off the tongue. Funk being radio, and ausstellung is an exhibition.) Many press conferences are in German only (though some provide translation devices), and a great many press releases are in German, some German-only. And that’s understandably fine – we’re in Germany, after all. The thing is, the show has expanded vastly in the last 20 years, and if you want to be a tech trade show to the world (which IFA does) – the world doesn’t speak German. This isn’t xenophobic, it’s reality. The common language they speak in China, Spain, Denmark, Mexico, Israel, France, Japan, India, South Korea and on and on is English. And so, that’s where IFA’s battle is with its other half, that part which wants to push into this “all the rest of the world.”
Another oddity is that, according to German law, if you use public facilities – as IFA does, situated on the Messe Fairgrounds – then your event must be opened to the public. And so, after three days of pre-show press conferences and events, when the show officially begins, it is opened not just to the industry professionals and press who are there for the trade show (and make no mistake, that’s what this is, an industrial trade show), which is the case with most every other trade show in existence…but opened to the general public, as well. And so the place becomes like Macy’s on the day after Thanksgiving. Only worse and more maniacal. The additional thing is, because all the companies know this, they understand that very little professional work will get done at this point, and so send their press representatives home. That immediately and drastically diminishes the trade show’s effectiveness as a…well, trade show. The result is that IFA is somewhat an event in reverse – it’s not that you can’t do work at IFA, you just realize that you do as much of your work as possible before IFA actually begins, during the pre-show events.
By the way, being a “show in reverse” turns out to be a fine description of IFA – as is the reality of it being on the Messe Fairgrounds, which is appropriately pronounced “messy.” Thoroughly enjoyable as IFA truly is…it’s a convoluted circus. And construction and design is at the heart of that. Buildings are so spread out it can take 25 minutes to walk from one end to the other. But much more than simple distance, which is a basic Einsteinian concept to surmount, it once took me 15 minutes to (I swear this is true) figure out how to get from the second floor of one building to the third floor. Another time, a group of us went to a Samsung press conference, but we couldn’t find which was the right building, or then (once we’d resolved that with the clock running out) how to get to the right room – nor could the Samsung executives we passed who were also desperately trying to find it. On another occasion, I went to a press event, and there were a dozen other journalists outside the building, scratching their heads, trying literally to find the door to get in. (There was a door, but it was only for vendors.) That’s IFA. It’s a pleasure, but it’s a mess. As such, this photo below remains one of my favorite pictures I’ve taken at the show. If you can figure out the rationality for how these buildings are ordered, you’re a better whiz than me. It’s not numerical. It’s not odd or even. It’s not…well, anything that anyone I’ve ever spoken to can grasp. The closest someone has come is to note that if you spell out the numbers in English (okay, never mind that this is in Germany), the words on the left have an even number of letters, and those on the right have an odd number of letters…
But still, for all the mess, it’s a very good trade show, filled with great innovation, very rambunctious, and in the tech world important.
One wouldn’t think cappuccino makers would be all that fascinating, but at IFA it’s like entering a magical world. Any given company may have a lineup of so many different cappuccino makers which each are so incredibly high-tech that you might think you’re on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. Pushing this button might seem like it will send out a phaser to blast a Romulun attack, but no, it just adjusts the amount of foam. Simple clothes irons aren’t simple at all at IFA, but advanced futuristic technology. Vacuum cleaners seem like they might require a PhD to operate. Absolutely wonderful kühlschranks (sorry, refrigerators) and washing machines have so many techie-options that you risk getting lost playing with them as if they were video games for adults and forgetting why you’re using the appliance in the first place.
There’s one odd downside for Americans here. Some of the most advanced products aren’t available for the U.S. market yet, which can get frustrating to write about. Not to mention as a consumer. One of my favorite products I’ve seen there for the past three years is an incredibly stylish electric stovetop, such as one from Bosch, that has no knobs or dials, just touch pads on the top. And though you might think that this design would get in the way of safety, in fact the inductive burners only conduct heat when they are touching metal, so your fingers are safe. You could literally cook and eat on your stove. It’s great technology – but for the past three years, I keep looking for it at CES for sale in the U.S. and…nope, not yet.
Still, most of what’s there is or will be for sale most everywhere. And what is there this year? Well, I’m about to dive in and found out. Hopefully, I’ll be able to find where I want to go. And make my way around before the door open officially
If I’m not back by tonight, send a search party…
How are you doing, as we say here. Well, the journey is over, and I've reached Berlin, made it to the hotel and checked in, where it's now about 5 PM as I write this -- or eight in the morning back in Los Angeles, where the elves taking care of the homestead should be rising in about two hours... I only have a short time throw some water on my face, since the group I'll be joining has an IFA tech show event we leave for at 5:30, It's odd to have things go so slowly and so long on the one-stop flight over, and then rush once you hit your destination. I'll post this a bit later, though, when we get back, to gave have something for the afternoon rush hour...
The airport here is Tegel, and I think it would be fair to say it is my least-favorite airport in the world. It basically has the aura of a bus depot. And that's fine for a bus depot (sort of), or even a small regional airport with random flights during the day. But Tegel is an international airport in Berlin, the largest city in Germany with 3.4 million people, twice the number of the second largest, Hamburg.
(One possible reason for this maaaay be that for many years Berlin was, of course, dropped in the middle of East Germany and surrounded, so they didn't have a lot of land for building a big and normal international airport. And there's no room for expansion, even today. Who knows, maybe not, but it sounds like a reasonable theory. Still, it feels old and musty, and that could at least be upgraded. Maybe for years they didn't want to put money into it because of the planned second airport. Which brings us to this story. )
When I made my first trip to Berlin for the IFA tech trade show five years ago, the travel books I got at the time talked about a new airport under construction at the south part of the city. Tegel is to the north. I keep checking before each trip, but Tegel remains the only airport here.
A few months ago, I was at an event where it turned out a older couple was seated at my table who were from Germany. As the conversation went on, it turned out further that they were from Berlin. We had a very pleasant talk -- and then later, a question occurred to me. I had mentioned my previous trips and said how I had read about this new airport that was supposed to be built in Berlin, but so far, after all that time, there still was only Tegel. What was the status of that other airport, I asked.
It was as if I had asked a question about the ne'er-do-well black sheep child who is never spoken of. This previously charming couple suddenly went silent, and their faces dropped. "Don't ask," they said. And when I sort of thought they might be joking or exaggerating, followed up. "Don't ask," they repeated. "It's terrible."
Though they didn't literally mean "Don't ask," it was pretty close. They did explain a bit, but it was clearly something they hated talking about. The best I could make out is that this other airport turned out to be a massive boondoggle. I couldn't tell if any construction had ever started, though I got the sense it had, but they were pretty adamant in saying that it would never open. Never. No, it will never open. And they were pretty darn sullen about it.
(My experience over the years, which I've had confirmed to me by people who've spent a great deal of time in Germany, is that it's not that Germans are so efficient, as is their reputation, but rather that they are brilliant at following directions. If the directions are great, then the results are great. But when the directions go awry, then what follows is a total muddles disaster. I sense that this, in part, colored the couple's reaction. To have such plans go so far off the runway, as it was, was just too painful.)
Later in the evening, this couple's daughter came over to the table -- she'd been seated elsewhere with her American husband. We chatted for a while, and then I brought up my question about the proposed airport and her parent's reaction. Though she wasn't as dour about it, she too rolled her eyes...and repeated, "It will never open." And I explained the reason I brought it up was because I wasn't crazy about Tegel.
Without missing a beat she rolled her eyes and said "It's a bus station."
No, not the football version. I've landed in Frankfurt, Germany -- or as we in the semi-know refer to it fully, Frankfurt am Main (the Main River running through it, at least so I've been told since in my few times at the Frankfurt Airport, I've yet to see the river in here..) Now, why they include the river in their name, I have no idea. The Chicago River runs through its home city, yet they don't refer to it as Chicago on the Chicago. Fine, that would be a bit redundant, but you get the point. Perhaps it's an Old World thing. Though it's not London on the Thames or Paris on the Seine. Well, I'm sure they have their reasons. Anyway, this is only the first leg of the journey, though of course the longest by far. I next have a puddle-jump to Berlin coming up soon.
I learned my lesson after my first trip to the IFA tech show. I took KLM for that, and it was a very good flight. With one hiccup.
When I booked my reservation, there was about an hour and fifteen minutes or so between flights, after landing in Amsterdam. I called the airline to check that that would be enough time to make the connection to Berlin. I was assured it was. "We wouldn't schedule the flight if there wasn't time," she told me. And me, I believed her. Well, okay, in fairness she was "right," but that's where the caveat comes in.
I landed, went through Customs, had their version of TSA check me through again and then...looked at my watch. I don't recall exactly how much time was left for me to catch my flight to Berlin...I just know it wasn't much, and I had not idea where that gate was in the large Amsterdam airport, but after asking around, I was told it was pretty far away. And so it was.
I didn't watch fast to get to it. I ran. Literally. Full speed. With two bags in hand, I tore off through the corridors, checking the gate numbers and directions, turning corners and racing on. And on. It probably took me about 10 minutes running that hard and fast -- but I made it. Sweating and out of breath, but with about three minutes to spare as they were finishing up the last passengers in the boarding process.
So, yes, there was time to make the connecting flight. So long as you are okay about attempting to qualify for the Olympic sprint team.
On this trip -- and all with an international layover that followed that first one -- I've done my best to leave at least 2-1/2 hours between flights
I find it's a wee bit less rushed...
So, onward to Berlin. I got an email from the elves back taking care of the homestead, and happily they haven't changed the locks yet.
Okay, I've made it out of the homestead, and the elves have happily ensconced themselves there as if they own the place instead of being temporary, albeit welcome squatters. And as it turns out, I do have some time -- fine, a lot of time -- at the International Terminal of LAX, and a WiFi connection, so I figured I'd wile some of it away with a tale. Ostensibly it's about a button, but it's really to show how little the Clinton campaign is worried about winning California.
As I mentioned earlier this morning, I'm on my way to the IFA tech trade show. And it's not only in Europe, but Germany. And not only Germany, but Berlin. So, I've been a bit wary about the reaction there -- of all places -- to the fact that someone like Donald Trump is one of two candidates running for President of the United States. With this outlandish, at times ghastly, intolerant, racist, bullying tactics that have lead to violence. I've even spent some time figuring out what my response should be if, or perhaps better, when I'm asked about it by some aghast Germans, or anyone there. What I've come up with is, "No, no, Donald Trump is not supported by America, he was nominated by the far right conservative Republican Party. Pretty much the rest of America is appalled by him, and right now he's losing by 8-10 points in the polls."
I figured that was a good start, but I also figured that there would still be a lot of people who would see those Americans at the show and not even bother to ask. But walk by, equally aghast. So, I needed something for that, as well as to create a shortcut for those who do decide to start a conversation. And so, for that, I decided I'd go on the Hillary for America website and buy a button to wear. "I'm With Her" should get the point across. I actually ended up buy two buttons, so I could switch to created some variety. Or maybe someone else in the group would want to borrow one. So, I ordered an "I'm With Her" and "Clinton/Kaine" button. And I waited.
And waited. A month had passed, and I was leaving in a few days. So, I called up to ask if there was anything about the shipment. Oh, yes, I was told, the buttons just came in, and you'll get yours next week. Alas, no good, I'll be leaving before that. So, I was out of luck.
(Question. How in the world could they be out of buttons? This isn't like a seasonal thing where you check your stock every once in a while. It's a presidential campaign with a four-month lifespan. Okay, buttons aren't the most important thing in the campaign. Buttons are out there in the world, and they have bumper stickers and all's fine.)
Except I wouldn't have my buttons for Berlin. What to do? And this is where that larger point kicks in.
Aha, I thought, I'll call a local Hillary for California office. Surely they'll have buttons there. There are about three offices in Los Angeles -- but none have a phone number listed! And searching the web, I couldn't find a phone number in any news stories. There was a Facebook page, so I left a question there. And waited. A few days passed with no answer, so I gave up and tried something else.
The Democratic Party of Los Angeles, yes, that's where to look! And they actually even have a phone number. So, I called. What they don't have are buttons. (How could the Democratic Party of Los Angeles not have Clinton for President buttons?? Well, okay, so they don't...) But at least I could get a phone number to Clinton for California office, and that would be resolved. But -- no, they don't have a phone number for any of the local Clinton campaign offices. So, yes, you know the question now: how in the WORLD can the local Democratic Party in Los Angeles not have a phone number for any of the Hillary Clinton offices in Los Angeles?? But, they don't. So be it.
I had one last option. Don't rely on the telephone. The closet Clinton campaign office to me is near the Los Angeles Airport in Westchester. It's not that bad a drive, about 25 minutes. I could head over there and hope for the best. Surely, though, they would have campaign buttons.
I hope you've figured out by this point that I really did want a Clinton button to wear in Berlin. I don't usually wear political buttons. Or buttons of any kind. But I really want to wear one there. I don't even expect to wear it when I get back. (Though who knows?)
So, I got down to Westchester, found the Clinton campaign office, and went in. It was a pretty big space, lots of desks, and paper and posters everywhere. And two people. One girl was on her laptop, the other guy was wandering around. In fairness, this was around 12:45 PM, so I suspect some people were out to lunch.
Anyway, I explained my mournful story and asked if they had any buttons. And...well, no, they really didn't. They should be getting some in soon, but none there other. Except for those. He pointed to a fishbowl full of buttons. They weren't great, they were a lot larger than something I'd like to wear, and they didn't even say "Clinton" on them. Just a small-ish full-length picture of here and some odd touchy-feeling slogans.
It was clear that I was disappointed by this, but at least it was better than nothing. Not much, but a little. But -- to the guy's great credit, he said "Wait a minute." And he went searching through his backpack and...and he found one of his own Clinton campaign buttons which he gave me!! That's a good guy. No charge, when I offered to pay. He'd be getting more in soon. And take some of those other buttons, too, if you want.
I did, in case others in the group wanted to wear one, as I said. But mainly...I had mine real one!!
And so, I will wear my "Clinton-Kaine" button as I wander around Berlin. And if anyone asks me how could America possibly support...Donald Trump??? -- I'll just point to my beloved button and say that, no, America does not. The far-right Republican Party does. Not America. He's losing by 8-10 points.
Which brings us back to the larger point.
I am absolutely certain that in Battleground States, in even the tiniest nook, there is no problem in the world finding a Clinton for President button. Or finding a nearby Clinton for President campaign office. Or finding a phone number for reading the Clinton for President office. Or finding a packed room of people scurrying around a Clinton for President office. But in Los Angeles, California -- the second largest city in the United States -- finding a button...finding a phone number a campaign office...was one of the more challenging adventures I've been on for a while.
Because I don't think the Clinton campaign is really very concerned about carrying the state...
Well, it's that time of year. I'm off today to attend the IFA tech trade show in Berlin for about a week. I leave this afternoon, and get back soon-ish. The elves will be watching over the homestead in their leiderhosen and have promised to have sauerbraten for dinner at least once.
IFA, in that mellifluous way of the German language, stands for Internationale Funkausstellung. (Funk being radio, and ausstellung being an exhibition. It began in 1931 a radio trade show.) IFA is sort of the European equivalent of the Consumer Electronics Show. In some ways it's better, in some not so much. It's definitely an experience, though, somewhat a convoluted mess. I'll write more about that later on. The short version is that from my limited experience (this will be my fourth time at IFA, but I've confirmed my theory with others who know Germany FAR better) is that the German culture isn't nearly as efficient as the reputation. Rather, Germans are incredibly skilled at following directions. If the directions are good, then things will be immaculately run and organized. But when the starting point is not well-planned, then what results will be a chaotic jumble.
I actually sense this on not only my very first IFA trip, but within minutes of getting off the bus. (That would be the Tegel Xpress bus from the airport, that dropped me off walking distance from my hotel.) As I was strolling along, I saw a restaurant that looked nice, and (like so many European restaurants) had the menu out front. I stopped to look at it, and as I was reading, I could hear a person coming along the sidewalk from my left and stopping, and waiting. As I kept reading, I could tell that the person was still there, and figured he wanted to look at the menu, too, so I finished sooner than I planned, and started to leave. To my surprise, it turned out that this person was not waiting to read the menu, but rather -- I was in his path, and so he stopped. And rather than just walking around me to the other part of the sidewalk, he instead waited, until I was no long "blocking" him. As soon as I was gone, he move forward, and walked on. It was bizarre -- and I'm sure not typical. But it gave me the thought that a lot of people here like doing things in proper order.
There was another similar experience on that first trip. The group that organizes my trip, ShowStoppers, has a big event there every year. A lot of people get invited, and many of them showed up early and lined up. And up and up and up and up -- creating an incredibly long line, one person after another, snaking out of the large waiting area, along the hall, down the escalator, and through the foyer. All the while, the waiting area was left completely empty. The ShowStoppers executive had the most difficult time trying to convince the Germans in line that they didn't have to stand in line, but could just mingle randomly in that large -- and empty -- waiting area. But they couldn't seem to grasp the concept. He kept pleading and imploring them to get out of the line, and just...stand around in the room. Finally, after about five minutes of effort, they finally caught on and, a bit awkwardly at first, broke the line and mingled. Order seems to be everything.
There's much more. The design of the fairgrounds where IFA is held, for instance, is otherworldly. I've literally spent 10-15 minutes on occasion just trying to find the right door to enter one of the buildings. And it wasn't just me -- I've run into others looking for a door, as well. (It's so common that I've learned the phrase, "Wo ist der eingang?" Where is the entrance?)
To be clear, much of what I'm seen is meticulous and beautifully organized and done. As I said, if the original directions are good, the results will be wonderful.
Anyway, I'll still be posting daily during the week -- about what I've come across at IFA mostly, though anything else if I have the time. Just know that the posting schedule will be off for a while. The time difference between Berlin and Los Angeles is nine hours. So, when I have a break at lunch and time to finally sit down at the computer. it'll 3 AM back in L.A.
(Though I'll try to post regularly, just know that the next post may not be for a while because of the long travel. I'll probably be checking into my hotel room in the mid-afternoon on Tuesday, which is 7 AM tomorrow L.A. time, though I don't know if I'll be up to writing anything then, perhaps not until the next day -- which will be very early morning Wednesday in Los Angeles. We'll see. But, hey, who knows, it's quite possible I'll be able to write something en route. We'll find out. I should have plenty of waiting time at the Los Angeles Airport, so the question is if I can get a WiFi connection. If so, maybe I'll even have something new this afternoon. And if I can get Wi-Fi in Frankfurt early tomorrow when I land after the first leg and have a long layover, who knows?, perhaps even then. So, keep checking back -- I will resurface soon-ish. Wednesday at the latest)
By the way, I must toss in something here. I like going to IFA -- as I said, it's my fourth time, and if I didn't enjoy the show so much, I wouldn't make the effort. It's a very long trip from Los Angeles, that has no direct flight, around 15 hours or so, depending on the layover, and then dealing with the dismal Tegel airport in Berlin that's like a bus station. But as much as I like the show...I absolutely love the morning buffet at the Grand Hyatt hotel where our group is put up. Seriously. It's not that it's remotely the most extensive buffet I've had -- not even close. It's just a breakfast buffet, after all, but everything is such high quality, with such great breads and amazing cheeses that we don't get in the U.S., and herrings and meats that it's a joy (along with normal things like waffles, eggs, fresh juices and champagne.) I tend not to eat cheese much anymore, and not all that much meat either, especially for breakfast, but here -- it's near-impossible to pass up. It's all just great. Seriously. I had to miss IFA last year, so I was without the buffet, as well, and I can't wait to be back for the spread. This below doesn't do it justice, but it's a start...
So, that's the deal. I'll be back on these pages soon. Perhaps sooner than later, if the Wi-Fi gods do their part. Auf widersehen.
This week on the "Not My Job" segment of NPR's Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me!" with host Peter Sagal, the quiz contest is Katie Couric, with whom host Peter Sagal has a charming interview. Among other things, it turns out that in her very first internship job, her boss was...Carl Castle, who (as listeners of this show well-know) was the long-time announcer of Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! I was also pleased not only that Peter Sagal brings up her famous interview with Sarah Palin, but how he properly describes the interview, about the "terribly unfair 'Gotcha' question of what newspapers do you read?" (Which Couric talks about.)
Longtime reader of these pages and occasional scientist, Greg Van Buskirk, has often written me about one of his favorite musicians, if not his fave, an Australian Tommy Emmanuel. Calling him a guitarist is accurate, though perhaps doesn't do him justice. Emmanuel himself says he's probably a one-man band. This TedEx Melbourne lecture (and performance) he gives, which the eminent Dr. Van Buskirk passed along to me, goes a long way to explaining why "one-man band" is pretty apt.
This week we return to the archives. Here's what I wrote before: "This week's contestant is Andrew Smith from El Paso, Texas -- making his second appearance on the show, going for redemption. At first I couldn't hear the hidden song, then thought I heard a theme, but the music starting getting overlapped and I couldn't be sure...but the theme came through more clearly, and I stuck with original thought. And was right. The composer style though I didn't get. Though I thought I had a reasonable guess. But hearing the right answer, I probably should have gotten it."
The Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully is retiring at the end of this year after a remarkable 67 years behind the microphone. And we're coming down to the wire, not much more than a month to go. As a result, many of the tributes and booth-visits have started in full-force -- though, of course, they've been going on all year.
This is a charming video of one that took place yesterday, when the Chicago Cubs made their final roadtrip to L.A. The Cubs catcher David Ross -- who is also retiring at the end of the year -- made the trek up to the booth before the game, having started his career with the Dodgers. And Cubs manager Joe Maddon came along, as well (because it's just the kind of guy he is, and also because as a young man he lived in Los Angeles briefly and spent a lot of time listening to Scully, not to mention that he was a coach with the Angels who play in nearby Anaheim). Together, they brought some gifts from the Cubs organization.
Often, these sort of visits can be awkward and a bit stiff. But in large part because of the people involved, this is quite lovely and more than just a cursory "hello." One added note: at the beginning, Scully brings up to Maddon the name of "Beanie." That's Maddon's 83-year-old mother who works in the family restaurant back in Pennsylvania, who Maddon had discussed with Scully a year earlier.
Unfortunately, I can't embed the 5-minute video, but you can watch it here.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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