When is it acceptable to take a selfie?

March 29, 2014 in Fun things, Random

This is how I feel about selfies:

Selfie flow chart

For source see here.

Book review: ‘The Coming of the Third Reich’

March 1, 2014 in Books

The Coming of the Third ReichThe Coming of the Third Reich by Richard J. Evans

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first of three books on Germany’s Third Reich. This book tells the story of the events that happened in German politics from about 1918 to 1933 when the Nazi’s came to power. Actually the books starts with the Second Reich (or the Bismarckian era). It details German sentiment and politics, making it very clear how Germany eventually entered into WWI.

The tale remains a sad one. After WWI, with treaty of Versailles, Germans felt defeated and betrayed. This sentiment continued to play prominent role in the eventual destruction of German democracy. A process that the Nazi’s didn’t start, but sure finished when Hitler became Chancellor. The Weimar Republic was never very popular with a large part of the German population. In fact, both large corporations and many political parties were frustrated by what they saw as it’s failings towards the German people. Much of the blame for the defeat in 1914 was wrongfully blamed on the Jewish people. Antisemitism was quite common back then, sadly.. This anti-Semitic sentiment was widely used by more than one right wing political party during the 1920-ies, including the Nazi’s.

Evans does a great job detailing the fall of German democracy during the Weimar years. After the Nazi’s failed Putsch in 1923, HItler vowed to come to power by legal means only. And he sort of does, even if he isn’t actually elected Chancellor, but appointed Chancellor after Papen was forced out. Papen (and his predecessor Brüning), who, coincidentally, paved the way for the Nazi’s by eradicating certain aspects of democracy.

The economic circumstances are well woven into the narrative; from the hyper inflation in the early twenties, to the stock market crash in 1929, resulting in hard economic circumstances in the early 1930-ies.

The rise of the Nazi party is explained well. Evan’s shows how their antisemetic ideology went hand in hand with violence and intimidation. The many acts of violence were committed by the paramilitary units of the Nazi’s; the SA and later on the SS as well. Many political parties at the time had such paramilitary parties; the Nationalists were connected with the Steel Helmets for instance. The communist party had it’s paramilitary wing, and so on. Interestingly enough, the communist party was quite popular up to the very end when Hitler rose to power in 1933. They received about 25% of the votes. One of the Nazi’s main goal at this time was to get rid of the Bolsheviks, which they perceived as one of the greatest threats. Or at least, this is what they told the German public. This was certainly true to a degree, but the Jewish threat (as they saw it) was greater still. The Nazi’s used whatever propaganda worked on specific demographics. For one part of the population this might have been anti Bolshevik rhetoric; for another part of the population anti-Semitic rhetoric was more effective.

Interestingly, Hitler was appointed Chancellor with the approval of the other political parties, because they expected him (and the Nazi’s) to fail miserably once in government. This did not occur, and within just a few short months Germany was transformed into a one party dictatorship. The amount of violence and intimidation towards anyone who didn’t see eye to eye with the new regime exploded in those months. Many people were arrested, and because there was a lack of capacity in the prison system for the influx of so many new political prisoners, concentration camps are introduced. Evans describes where the Nazi’s got their inspiration from, namely the English concentration camps which they had set up in it’s colonies. That was new information for me.

This book tells the first part of the story of how Germany became ruled by the Nazi’s and their ideology. It am looking forward to continue reading the next two books in the series (‘The Third Reich in Power’ and ‘The Third Reich at War’).

One thing about the book I do not like very much (albeit a minor thing) is the translation of certain very well known German terms. These include ‘Führer’ and for instance ‘Sieg Heil’. These are translated consistently as (respectively) ‘the Leader’ and ‘Hail Victory’. As these terms are widely known to most people I would think, the translation of such expressions are not required and actually detract from a very well written account of this period in time. Nonetheless, this is only a minor complaint of mine about the book. I very much enjoyed reading it, and liked the great historical context that was used to illustrate how this dark chapter in history came about.

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Book review: ‘Battle Cry of Freedom’

January 27, 2014 in Books

Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States)Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

‘Battle Cry of Freedom’ is the first book I have read on the Civil War. It is described as ‘the best single volume’ about the civil war, and despite my lack of reference material, I am inclined to agree. Reading this book has been an eye opener, since my knowledge of the Civil War was very limited prior to picking up this book. The book starts at the end of the Mexican war and concludes some time after Appomattox.

I used to think the Civil War was all about slavery, but came to understand that that was a gross over-simplification. James McPerson in his epilogue states: “Union victory in the war destroyed the southern vision of America and ensured that the northern vision would become the American vision. Until 1861, however, it was the north that was out of the mainstream, not the South.”

Both sides were fighting for their definition of ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’. The south held on to pre-1860 social conventions, the north was breaking through those conventions, albeit, grudgingly, as Lincoln felt he could not outright announce his ‘Emancipation Proclamation’, but felt he could only do it after a large Union victory (the battle of Antietam), when the people would be in high spirits.

Even if the North did not step into the war with the idea of liberating over four million slaves, this issue became the central one of this bloody war. What surprised me were the huge amounts of people, particularly in the North, that were very much opposed to granting the enslaved black population their freedom, for different kinds of reasons. Especially just before the 1864 elections (when Lincoln feared he would loose to Democratic candidate George McClellan, who would be pushing for peace negotiations with the South had he won), peoples attitudes were very much turning away from Lincoln and his Emancipation Proclamation. The republican party even considered replacing Lincoln with another candidate. Of course, then Sherman captured Atlanta and Lincoln won with a landslide, but what became clear to me is that for many Northern people granting slaves their freedom (and later on equal rights with the white population) was still a touchy subject, over which people weren’t always quite sure. Of course it took another 100 years before the 14th and 15th amendment were finally taken more seriously.

James McPherson did an excellent job bringing the civil war to life, with and exciting narrative and many quotes from the people who lived the Civil War. It was a joy reading its almost 900 pages, and brought me a greater understanding of this important event in US history. An event that shaped the country into what it became, as many foundations were laid during this time, which would have been impossible had the Southern states not seceded from the Union. This gave the Republicans a majority in government, whereby they were able to pass many important bills and legislature that would have been impossible if many Southern representatives had still been there. Many of those acts enabled the United States federal government to become empowered for the first time since its independence from Britain in 1776.

I highly recommend this book to anyone slightly interested in learning more about the Civil War of America. It has wetted my appetite for more. That’s for sure!

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Apple’s custom Font celebrating 30 years of Mac

January 24, 2014 in Apple, Mac

Apple today is celebrating 30 years of Mac, as tweeted by Phil Schiller:

The pages Apple put up on it’s website in honor of this milestone show a set of icons for each of the Mac’s over the past 30 years. The interesting thing is, these icons can be downloaded as a font: http://images.apple.com//v/30-years/a/fonts/mac-icons/mac-icon-standard.ttf …

As you never know how long this link will work, I have also made it available for download here.

Free online cloud storage: Copy

January 22, 2014 in Apps, Cloud

After having used Dropbox for quite some time, I was recently send and invite for Copy, a fairly new online cloud storage, similar to dropbox. What made this interesting for me was the amount of free storage you get when first signing up. When signing up for a free account you receive 15 GB of online storage. Not bad at all, and certainly a lot better then Dropbox, with its meager 2 GB of free storage.

As Copy is a fairly new service they are trying to get as many people as possible to sign up, and they make this very appealing by offering an extra 5 GB of storage  for everyone that signs up through an invite (here is my invite: https://copy.com?r=6qmRnO Feel free to use it to create an account!). This gave me, right from the get go, after signing up through someones referral link, 20 GB of online storage. Considering I only managed to expand my dropbox account up to 4 GB (free), this was quite the improvement. And the best part is, you can just keep referring people (for the time being), and for everyone that signs up you get an extra 5 GB. This way expanding the amount of free storage becomes quite easy. Finally a service offering large amounts of free online (cloud) storage!

Interestingly, only about a week after I signed up for Copy, I noticed Box was offering all new users that signed up through their new iOS app 50 GB of free online storage, which is not bad at all. The biggest problem I have with Box, is the maximum file size limit of 250 MB (for their free accounts).

Only downside I have noticed so far are the upload and download speeds. They seem (for the time being) a little less then for instance Dropbox. I would think this will only improve in time, given they are still growing their user base.

Once you click on the link ( https://copy.com?r=6qmRnO ) you have to sign up for a new account. Afterward there are just a few things to do to claim your extra 5 GB of storage (on top of the standard 15 GB):

  1. Click on the link in the email they send you, to validate your account;
  2. Install the copy app (mac, windows, iOS or android) and sign into the app with your copy credentials

That’s it. Now all that remains is to send all your friends invites to increase the amount of free storage!

AutoCAD for Mac 2014

January 21, 2014 in AutoCAD for Mac

So, I finally got around to upgrading to AutoCad for Mac 2014 (It’s been out since October ’13)! Not too many new features compared with the 2013 version, but overall enhancements and bug fixes, and of course OS X Mavericks support. One of the features I am happy to see included in this release is Package Drawing (known in the Windows version as eTransmit).

Also for everyone with a Retina display macbook, AutoCad for Mac has been updated with retina display support, which will look great no doubt.

For an overview of features and updates see MacAcad blog or Autodesk’s Between the Lines blog.


December 27, 2013 in Fun things, Random

As found on Doghousediaries