• Expedition – maybe no expedition

    The ongoing financial trouble in Iceland has forced us to review our plans. If there is no solution by 1st March, the expedition will have to be postponed until such a time when our funds are unfrozen.

    Sinking Ship

  • I am not a Christian – but this prayer I want to put down here

    God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far along the way, thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand may we forever stand — true to thee, O God, and true to our native land.We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we’ve shared this day. We pray now, O Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant, Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration. He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national and, indeed, the global fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hand, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations. Our faith does not shrink, though pressed by the flood of mortal ills.For we know that, Lord, you’re able and you’re willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor or the least of these and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that, yes, we can work together to achieve a more perfect union. And while we have sown the seeds of greed — the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.And as we leave this mountaintop, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.

    Bless President Barack, First Lady Michelle. Look over our little, angelic Sasha and Malia.

    We go now to walk together, children, pledging that we won’t get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone, with your hands of power and your heart of love.

    Help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

    Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around — (laughter) — when yellow will be mellow — (laughter) — when the red man can get ahead, man — (laughter) — and when white will embrace what is right.

    Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.

    Audience: Amen!

    Lowery: Say amen

    Audience:: Amen!

    Lowery: and amen.

    Audience: Amen! (Cheers, applause.)

  • Hope over Fear

    The whole speech:
    My fellow citizens:I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

    Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often, the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebearers, and true to our founding documents.

    So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

    That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

    These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.
    Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met.

    On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

    On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

    We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

    In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the fainthearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor — who have carried us up the long, rugged path toward prosperity and freedom.

    For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

    For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

    For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

    Time and again, these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

    This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

    For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

    Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

    What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

    Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

    As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

    Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

    We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

    For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

    To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West: Know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

    To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

    As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

    For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

    Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world; duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

    This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

    This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

    This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

    So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

    „Let it be told to the future world … that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive… that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].“

    America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested, we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back, nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

    May Obamas presidency be as prosperous as G.W. Bush was damaging.

  • More on the Transhumanism issue (sort of)

    I only recently discovered the video below on youtube. I agree with many things Dr. Michio Kaku has to say, especially concerning his statement that the next 100 years or so are the most dangerous time in human history, as well as the time with the most potential. Please watch this video and form your own opinion. What he has to say is important and this is my opinion.

  • Preparing for the Expedition – Base camp location chosen

    We have finished another step in our preparations for our expedition to the Land of the Rising Sun. Base camp will be established in 名古屋市 (Nagoya) from there, we will travel to (Kyoto) where we shall stay a few days and marvel at the sights of the old capital. Next we will take the Shinkansen to the modern capital  東京 (Tokyo), where we will stay almost a week. A dear fiend has kindled our interest for the 秋葉原 district, which is the main hang-out for おたく and we will most certainly visit one of the コスプレ系飲食店. I might even go there in full gear, though I strongly doubt that I will be able to get my steampunk gear to Japan, but we shall see. I can take my goggles with me, sure enough, but for the rest, I do not know so far. There are rather heavy limitations on this journey when it comes to baggage.

    Oh, I long for the glorious days of the Zeppelin, when yo could travel in style and need not mind the weight or size of your gear.

    None the less, I am looking foreward to this trip. The longest and farest reaching so far. We still have a few days to fill after our stay in Tokyo and we might go and tackle Fuji-San.


  • Review of a Steampunk tale: The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello

    The video/ movie project I want to talk about is this one, take a look, it’s a great piece of work:

    Rather obviously, this entry is going to be a review of sorts. The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello is a Steampunk tale, which explores the darker side of the setting. Areas in which I seldom venture, since the adventures and tales I like to tell are on the lighter side. In short: This tale is a masterpiece and here is why: Where to start?

    The story: Dark and mysterious, we do not get much background info, other than there’s a war on, the city of Gothia is under siege and there’s a mysterious plague spreading.
    Jasper joins Dr. Bellegonne on an expedition to… but just watch the video, I shall not spoil the fun!

    Technique and effects: Brilliant! I’m not sure if the characters and monsters were actually done using real papercut animations or whether it was done by a program immitating the technique but this does not matter. The papercut-style combined with the orange-glow-bubble effects representing the plague give the whole animated tale a dark, brooding and somewhat desolated atmosphere which suits the whole mood of the tale very well. The atmosphere is eery, tense and a perpetual sense of impending doom lingers just somewhere off-screen. Excelently done, in deed!

    Narration: The tone Jaspe uses in his first person narration/comentary is downcast, bordering on depressed, one more element stressing the dark atmosphere of the video.

    Sequel/Prequel? I have many questions regarding the setting, the backstory and the outcome of the tale. There is enough room for at least three more videos (What about the war? How did the plague arrive? What is the final fate of Jasper and his beloved?), aso I hope that in due time we shall see a prequel or sequel.

  • A few things: Off topic but important

    So, my final entry into my Steampunk blog for 2008 and it’s two more videos. Something I consider rather important and it shows clearely where I stand concerning certain issues.

    And something else:

    I may or may not diverge into the whole religion/science debate on a few more occasions, whenever I feel it’s prudent, necessary or the mood strikes me. But for now, all I have left to say:
    A happy 2009 one and all! May there always be enough steam in your boiler!

  • Steampunk – Dieselpunk Part II

    OK, to pick up where I  left yesterday:

    Zeppelins are one of the connecting elements of Steampunk and Dieselpunk and both use weird science coupled with the actual technology of the relevant era. For Steampunk this is roughly the time of Queen Victoria’s reign plus the years leading up to the Great War. Dieselpunk is the next era as is amply demonstrated in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. More advanced weird science but also still a lot of clockwork and a few steamy elements. The backstory of Hellboy, too, is actually quite steamy and diesely, come to think of it. More Dieselpunk Noir but there’s enough weird stuff going on in the name of science to fit the bill.

    I am not really sure if cyberpunk flows neatly from Dieselpunk and as far as I am aware Steampunk has a lot more in common with Cyberpunk than Dieselpunk has. In a sense the background weirdness in Cyberpunk and Steampunk is a lot higher than in Dieselpunk.

    But I digress… And these are all just ramblings anyway.

    To sum up in a way: Dieselpunk is a lot more normal (whatever that means) and the gear is far less extravagant than Steampunk and Steampunk gear is. So for casual use and influences into your style you can do a lot more with diesel than with steam, but: The  inzersection between both genres is big enough to give you a lot of room to play.

  • Steampunk – Dieselpunk Part I

    When you skim the forums concerning Steampunk you will sooner or later come across the topic Dieselpunk. Dieselpunk and Steampunk are not actually very precisely destinguishable. Take for example two of my favourite movies: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Both movies show elements both of Steampunk and Dieselpunk, TLoEG is more on the steam-, SCatWoT more on the diesel side, at least that’s my personal impression.

    Dieselpunk has one definite advantage compared to Steampunk: You can dress up in full gear Dieselpunk and still attend a „normal“ party and don’t stand out too much. OK, this also means that if you want to stand out, you go for the Steampunk look.

    But as I said, Steampunk and Dieselpunk have much in common as can be demonstrated by this image:


    This is me and I went to work like this a few weeks ago. The outfit is perfectly suitable for work and I could have gone to a Steampunk or Dieselpunk event afterwards, just add monocle, walking cane and aviators cap.

    Zeppelins fit equally well into a Steampunk and Dieselpunk setting, as you can see in the opening scene of SCatWoT. Actually, the Golden Age of Zeppelins is in the two decades immideately after the end of The Great War and therefore well after the end of La Belle Epoche, which is the real-earth equivalent timeline of High Steampunk (as far as I’m concerned).

    Oh my… This entry is drifting into the realm of Stream of Consciousness. I think shall continue later when the effect of this wonderful cup of Sake has faded…

    For now: Oyasuminasai!

  • Steampunked Transhumanism

    For those who do not know: Transhumanism is a philosophy/mindset which basically, in short and too much abreviation means: Improving the human condition by more or less any means necessary. For more details, See the Transhumanism article in the Wikipedia and another one on Orions Arm.

    This has actually quite a bit in common with Steampunk. Where Transhumanism employs genetic engeneering, nanotechnology, cybernetics and the like to improve the human condition (it is a little bit of sci-fi combined with medical discovery and stuff which may be possible in the foreseeable future), Steampunk uses Victorian Age tech and weird science.

    In Steampunk settings mad scientists and crazed inventorers are hard at work to help their fellow men by any means necessary.  You get weird science chimeras, people with electrically/steam/clockwork-powered limbs, weapons as limbs, weird potions with strange side effects (e.g. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) and lots of other more or less weird things are going on to make life, more or less, easier. All with a little bit of polished (or greasy) brass and a touch of Art Deco.

    So, as a Steampunk living in the present I am all in favor of transhumanism, not only because it is the logical projection of Steampunk-style weird science into the present and future but because I am all in favor of artificial improvements for the human condition. I already have a gold tooth, fillings (some of them high-end plastic) and wear glasses. An artificial leg, or better yet a vat-grown one, with all the attributes of a real one, is just the logical further development. An artificial eye and nanites in the blood stream is still in the future but one day we will be their (not necessarily us but maybe our children) and they will be faster, stronger and better than we are. I do not believe in Creation, I am all for evolution and when we have the chance to help evolution along, we should grab the opportunity.