More about Ostheim.
It's an old town even by European standards. How old? Well, the first record is from 804 AD. Twelve hundred years. Probably more, but nobody was writing stuff down back in the Dark Ages.
That first record, BTW, is of a noble donating the village to the Church -- the Bishop of Fulda, to be precise. Ostheim would spend the next thousand years bouncing from one bishopric to another. (The last move was in 1975, so it may not be over yet.)
Another year bites the dust! Woo-hoo! And so it's time for another end of the year round-up reading list. It's a shorter list than last year's, partly because of my move (from Brooklyn to Brooklyn, by way of Brooklyn), and partly because journal articles have cut into my book reading. Still, some good stuff out there. (Here's last year's list, if you're at all interested.)
Bloggy goodnessJulie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen, Julie Powell
Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper, Diablo Cody
Fellow New Yorker Julie Powell decided to work her way through Julia Child's The Art of French Cooking in a year while writing about it on the Internet. Fellow Midwesterner Diablo Cody decided to work as a stripper and peep-show girl for a year while writing about it on the Internet. Both women cuss a lot. A lot a lot. Both, alas, are married. And both have written extremely entertaining books.
(Yes, the Diablo Cody just came out. I got mine early. I heart NYC.)
FoodMythology & Meatballs: A Greek Island Diary/Cookbook, Daniel Spoerri
A Mediterranean Feast, Clifford Wright
Maize and Grace: Africa's Encounter with a New World Crop, 1500-2000, James C. McCann
Daniel Spoerri, the Romanian-born artist now resident in Italy, wrote about his year on the Greek island of Symi. The Internet not having been invented yet, his diary was first published in French, then in English as part of an avant-garde art project in 1970. But today it reads like a charming and digressive weblog, right down to Spoerri's anecdotes about cats and his insane landlord.
Because you demanded it.
Last post, I mentioned that the little town of Ostheim had an interesting history. Here, we'll briefly glance at the what and why.
First, the map. (Warning: not for the faint of heart.)
So we're back in Ostheim for Christmas.
Long-time readers of this blog will know that Ostheim is a small town in northern Bavaria. It's where Claudia's parents live. Claudia is an important person there: her mother is the Deputy Mayor, her father was principal of the local high school. So, I am "Claudia's Mann" for the duration.
Ostheim is on a little river -- a creek, really -- called the Streu (pron. "Shtroy"). It would be thematically consistent if the Streu eventually emptied into the Danube. Alas, we're just a bit too far north; the Streu flows into Saale, which flows into the Main, which flows into the Rhine.
This is not widely known, but back in 1976, Robert Feinerman proved the following theorem about the dreidel:
Let X_n be the payoff on the nth spin of the dreidel and let p be the number of players. Then, the expected value of X_n, E(X_n), is:
(p / 4) + ((5 / 8) ^ (n - 1)) * ((p - 2) / 8)
That is, if there are more than two people playing a game of dreidel, there is a noticeable first player advantage in gelt. (I suspect at least one regular commenter knows this through empirical study.)
However, in 1996, Felicia Moss Trachtenberg came up with a simple way to tweak dreidel to give fair payoffs: adjust the penalty to ante ratio so that it is equal to the number of players divided by 2. Thus, if there are three players, the penalty should be three chocolate coins and the ante two chocolate coins (or six and four, or thirty to twenty, et cetera). If there are four players, the penalty could be two chocolate coins to an ante of one, since 2 / 1 = 4 / 2 .
More recently, Doron Zeilberger of Rutgers University conjectured that the length of a game of dreidel was of the order of the number of nuts (chocolate coins, whatever) squared. This was proved by his Rutgers colleagues Thomas Robinson and Sujith Vijay last year.
Y'all know what to do.
Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle is celebrating Festivus this year. An aluminum fixture company in Milwaukee provided the Festivus pole. No word on who has won the Feats of Strength yet.
Back in New York, I saw these cool Eid stamps for sale at the local post office. According to Snopes, some people in the US think this is part of a plot. Santa is bringing them coal this year.
And finally, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there happened a great miracle.
Been busy lately. But here's a seasonal poem that y'all might like that I found recently:
To Jesus: Moon
Since you receive light from another source
Since you rise into the high skies,
while many people watch
Since you receive light again,
even though your body dies
Since you remove the darkness of the world
by your light
Since you conceal your large form
in a round white disk
Since you carry a blemish
Since those who look at stars
Since you give light for everyone,
being appropriate for supplicants
Since the hero of my poem, the Lord who was born of a virgin girl
who conceived through the Holy Spirit
is like you,
moon of the beautiful sky,
it is right that you immediately agree
to rejoice and happily play.
With him who is united with Tamil
that flows like a waterfall,
O moon, come to play.
With the son of God seated
on the right side of gracious God,
O moon, come to play.
Everybody got sick this weekend.
Intestinal bug: vomiting, headache, chills. We got it from the boys, who picked it up at school. They raced through it in a day or two. We grownups seem to take a bit longer.
Normal blogging will resume at some point.
I was going to do that second post on independent Kosovo.
But I discovered that you can't understand internal Kosovar politics without understanding UCK. (UCK is the Albanian name for the KLA, the Kosovo Liberation Army.) And UCK is complicated and interesting enough to deserve a post of its own.
But it's longish, and all history, so I'm putting it below the flip. Skip it if this stuff doesn't interest you.
Or, we still don't know who tried to kill Radovan Papovic.
Here's a really obscure bit of Balkan history. On January 16, 1997, at about 8:00 in the morning, Radovan Papovic was driving to his job as rector of the Serb University of Pristina. The Serb University was what Pristina University turned into after the Serbs took over in 1990. Pristina University had been an Albanian school with no Serbs; SUP was -- you guessed it -- a Serb school with no Albanians.
(Of course, since the province was 90% Albanian, there weren't enough Serbs to fill the classrooms. So most of the Serbian students were from elsewhere in Serbia, brought in by free housing and other subsidies. But that's another story.)
Papovic seems to have been a pretty obnoxious character. He was a Member of Parliament for the right-wing nationalist Serbian Radical Party. He saw his job as cleansing the University of the Albanian taint and re-colonising Kosovo with eager young Serbs. He seems to have loathed and disliked Albanians -- he referred to them as "enemies" and "monsters" -- and to have gone out of his way to antagonize them. It was his administration that donated the university quad for the "church built in anger".
Needless to say, the Albanians returned the sentiment. Papovic was one of the most hated Serbs in Kosovo. Which, in 1997, was saying something.
So, he's driving to work one morning, and -- kaBOOM! -- a bomb goes off in a car nearby. A big one: an estimated 10 kilos of dynamite, detonated by remote control. Both the bomb car and Papovic's sedan were totally destroyed. By a fluke, both Papovic and his driver just barely managed to survive, though both men were badly injured.
But who had planted the bomb?
I'm drinking one cup of coffee per day.
Some of you may recall that I went off coffee altogether back in July. This was not a great success. So, after forty days, I went back on it again -- but only allowed myself a single cup per day.
This has been a success. Sort of.
So I have a new twist on insomnia: waking up in the middle of the night with songs running through my head and a headache. The top three:
Convoy, C.W. McCall
Der Kommissar, After the Fire
Peach, Plum, Pear, Joanna Newsom
You tell me.
Because we do still live here, and not in Kosovo or Albania.
Things that are going on here:
-- It was National Day yesterday, and we managed to miss the big parade for the third year in a row. Boooo.
In our defense, it was miserable weather again... chilly rain falling in sheets from a steely sky. Not to ring the American bell, but there is something to be said for having the national patriotic holiday in the summer.
There are a lot of ruined churches in and around Pristina.
(Ruined Orthodox churches, that is. About 50,000 Kosovar Albanians are Catholic, so there are a couple of nice little Catholic churches. Nobody bothered them.)
Short version: when the Serbian armed forces pulled out of Kosovo in 1999, the Albanians rose up in wrath and attacked the Orthodox churches and monasteries. Many of the churches they attacked were hundreds of years old. Some were treasure houses of art... medieval frescoes, Byzantine mosaics, beautiful carved icons going back hundreds of years. The Albanians attacked them all, damaging most and destroying many, smashing, burning and spraying the interior with bullets.
Then, in March 2004, they did it again. About a dozen more churches were attacked, and several were effectively destroyed.
The list of damaged churches is long, and it makes for depressing reading. Few of them have been repaired or rebuilt. Drive in from Pristina Airport, and you can see one just off the road; it's surrounded by barbed wire. Even the churches that survived -- like the magnificent Italo-Byzantine monastery at Gracanica -- have stayed intact only because they're surrounded by heavily armed soldiers from KFOR.
That's the short version, and it's accurate as far as it goes. But -- this being the Balkans, where truth is fractal -- it's more complicated than that.