Monthly Archives: June 2000

June 30 2000

Homeschooling – Unterricht zu Hause

André pointed me to a link on Upstairs at Dry Creek to this article on World on the Web about homeschooling in Germany.

I know homeschooling is not legal in Germany, but in some states it is tolerated. However, I wasn’t aware that the police actually forces childred to go to school in such a shockingly cruel way.

I’ve been thinking about the article and the issue of homeschooling in the past hour or so. Homeschooling is getting more and more popular in the US, it seems, but very few students are home-schooled in Germany because it is illegal. But why is homeschooling illegal in Germany?

The German constitution says: (Scroll down to Chapter 1, Articles 6 and 7)

Article 6 [Marriage and family, illegitimate children]

(1) Marriage and family are under the special protection of the state.

(2) Care and upbringing of children are the natural right of the parents and primarily their duty. The state supervises the exercise of the same.

(3) Against the will of the persons entitled to their upbringing, children may only be separated from the family, pursuant to a statute, where those so entitled failed or where, for other reasons, the children are endangered to become seriously neglected.


Article 7 [Education]

(1) The entire schooling system stands under the supervision of the state.


This means that parents have a right to raise their children, but the state can take the children from the parents if they fail to care for them. Keeping them away from school is a reason for taking the children from the parents. There is an institution, the Jugendamt, that is dealing with such cases, and if they choose, they can send the police to take the children from the parents if they see no other possibility to take the children away.

Further, the father of the children critizises sex education, acceptance of homosexuality, and “occultism” (in-class meditation sessions) in school. I’d like to comment on these:

  • Sex education: I was able to find out is that sex education is obligatory in Bavaria, and the Federal Constitutional Court decided that sex education is obligatory in 1977. (in German)
  • Acceptance of homosexuality: This is settled in the constitution as well (Scroll down to Chapter 1, Articles 3 and 4):

    Article 3 [Equality]

    (1) All humans are equal before the law.

    (2) Men and women are equal. The state supports the effective realization of equality of women and men and works towards abolishing present disadvantages.

    (3) No one may be disadvantaged or favored because of his sex, his parentage, his race, his language, his homeland and origin, his faith, or his religious or political opinions. No one may be disadvantaged because of his handicap.

    Article 4 [Freedom of faith, of conscience, and of creed]

    (1) Freedom of creed, of conscience, and freedom to profess a religious or non-religious faith are inviolable.

    Read: No one may be disadvanteged or favored because of his sexual orientation.

  • In-class meditation sessions: See

    Article 7 [Education]


    (2) The persons entitled to the upbringing of a child have the right to decide whether the child shall attend religion classes.

    (3) Religion classes form part of the ordinary curriculum in state schools, except for secular schools. Without prejudice to the state’s right of supervision, religious instruction is given in accordance with the tenets of the religious communities. No teacher may be obliged against his will to give religious instruction

    It seems to me the parents can decide whether their children attend these “meditations” or not. By the way, I have no idea what this “”occultism’ (in-class meditation sessions)” is. I certainly didn’t have meditation sessions at school.

It seems that the main reasons the father gives for not sending his children to school are either settled in the German constitution or not reasons at all because he can decide whether his children participate in certain activities or not.

World’s Largest Search Engine

Via BookNotes:

On the 26th Google put out this press release: Google Launches World’s Largest Search Engine. They claim to be able to search over 1 billion urls, 560 million full-text indexed and 500 million partially indexed pages.

Google is my favorite search engine. Recommended!

Men in Black: World Expositions

Yesterday, I asked whether anybody else besides Sheila and us went to any world fair. I got some answers: Like Sheila, Jeff went to the 1986 fair in Vancouver, Canada, and Craig went to th 1964 fair in New York City, USA.

Wasn’t the New York fair the one with the ufo-like buildings that were used as ufos again in Men in Black?

Cool, John and Dave also went to the 1964 world’s fair in New York. It seems Dave practically lived there… clown:

I guess I would visit the Expo in Hanover a lot if I lived in Hanover, since they have evening tickets for only DM 10 (US$ 5) at the moment. Cheaper than going to the movies! I used to live there (for three years) before I moved to Bonn, and my sister is now living there. She’s been to the Expo only once so far, but she’s busy with exams right now.

June 29 2000

The American way of Life

Craig muses about the differences between life in America and Europe. When we went to the US, I didn’t notice that everything is faster than in Europe. But of course we were on vacation, so we probably weren’t able to notice. But compared to other countries, life in Germany can seem fast too. I noticed this when I traveled to Kenya. In Africa, everybody has time. People relax.

A good example is the public transport system in Kenya. It consists mostly of buses for traveling between larger cities (like Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu) and matatus that connect even the smallest villages with one another. These don’t run on schedule. They just wait for passengers, and when the matatu is full, it leaves. They drop off people and pick up new passengers along the way, and nobody complains if it takes a while to get from one village to another. Of course, most people don’t own cars, so it’s the only way to get from one place to another if you don’t want to walk – which would of course take even more time.

You have to keep in mind that the roads in Kenya are a lot worse than they are in the US or Europe. No freeways, no Autobahn – most roads are in bad shape and have more holes than pavement. A trip from Nairobi to Mombasa (250 miles or 400 km) takes eight hours despite the road being in relatively good shape.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not critizising the Kenyan roads or transport system in any way. I totally enjoyed my trip and learned that there is a different way of living, a more relaxed one where people don’t complain if the train is ten minutes late…

Speaking of Craig (above) and adventures (below)…

Craig also mentioned that his wife and son went on vacation, too, while he and his daughter were touring Europe. They hiked down into Grand Canyon! Now that’s what I call an adventure! When André and I visited Grand Canyon, we decided we had to come back one day and hike down. I guess you don’t understand how huge the canyon really is until you walk all the way down and up on the other side.


John said: “I think Andrea and André are always having new adventures, most recently the World Exposition.”

Well, the Expo was not that adventurous… When I hear the word Adventure, I think of climbing high mountains, getting lost in the jungle or something like that, not “civilised” adventures like surviving a day at the Expo whith only a few thousand visitors present. clown:

Craig says he wishes he could see the “well of knowledge” in the Czech pavilion I described yesterday. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of it because I thought it wouldn’t work, but I should have anyway. But since I had a “normal” camera with me and not a digital one, you would have had to wait for the photos to be developed anyway.

Craig, if we get to visit the Expo again, I’ll be sure to take a photo of the “well of knowledge”.

By the way, Sheila (who liked the idea of the “well of knowledge” as well) went to the Expo 1986 in Vancouver, Canada. Has anybody else been to any Expo?


Zur Abwechslung jetzt auch mal wieder was auf Deutsch. Sorry, daß ich den Expo-Bericht von gestern nicht übersetzt habe. Nachdem alle deutschsprachigen Leser in meiner Umfrage zugegeben haben, auch Englisch zu können, hatte ich keine Lust, all die Links nochmal auf Deutsch zu suchen…

Wissenschaftssommer und Jahr der Physik

Die arme Physik scheint so verkannt zu sein, daß es jetzt ein Jahr der Physik gibt!

Im Moment läuft dazu hier in Bonn eine Ausstellung im Zelt auf dem Müsterplatz: Gebändigtes Licht. Da muß ich heute mal vorbeischauen. Heute abend gibt’s dazu auch noch einen Vortrag in der Uni: “Was ist Licht?” von Prof. Dr. Herbert Walther, MPI für Quantenoptik, Garching.

Und morgen findet dann die Internationale Bonner Wissenschaftsnacht statt. Titel: “Global Brain – die Evolution von Wissen und Handeln”. Das Programm ist hier zu finden.


Der Vortrag “Was ist Licht?” war leider eine Enttäuschung. Angekündigt als Vortrag für Laien, hat der Dozent es nicht geschafft, Begriffe wie Resonanz, angeregtes Atom, Photon und vieles andere zu erklären, so daß die Laien wohl im Dunkel blieben… während das Niveau für Physiker und Physikstudenten natürlich zu niedrig war. Mir wurde auch nicht so ganz klar, was genau in dem Vortrag eigentlich ‘rübergebracht werden sollte. Ich hatte mir vorgestellt, daß das Dualitätsprinzip, d.h. die Wellen- und Teilchennatur des Lichts dargestellt wird. Stattdessen erzählt der Prof was von klassischem, nichtklassischem und Laserlicht… schade.

June 28 2000

Al about my photo from yesterday:

“BTW, have you seen the lovely Andrea and her beau Andre modeling the Booklab T-shirts? Very cool.”

Thanks, Al!


Expologo: Two days at the Expo 2000

Last weekend, André and I went to see the World Exposition that is being held in Hanover, Germany.

Hanover is not far from where André’s parents live. We spent the weekend there and went to the Expo twice: on Sunday evening for only DM 10 (US$ 5). The ticket is valid from 7 pm until the Expo closes at midnight. However, most pavilions close at 9:30 pm, so you’ve got two and a half hours for them.

Here’s a map of the Expo.

We entered the Expo in the North-West, next to the pavilion of Venezuela that resembles a large flower. We didn’t visit that one, but started with Iceland instead. Their pavilion looks like a huge blue cube. Water runs down the walls on all four sides. Inside, there’s a large spiral walkway that evolves around a round screen on the floor of the building. They show a film about Iceland there and even have a geysir that erupts at the end of the film. The blue transparent walls create a cool and somewhat mysterious atmosphere inside.

Next, we went to Nepal. (Funny how fast you can travel from country to far-away-country within minutes!) They have a real temple that has been carved from wood in old traditional ways and looks very authentic. Inside, you can watch craftsmen that do pottery etc or just enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.

Then we wanted to see Japan because they built their whole pavilion from paper (!), but there were dozens of people waiting in line to get in, so we skipped it and went on to Sri Lanka instead. The most impressive thing there were the gem cutters and a woman who was weaving a cloth veeery fast.

Our next stop was Australia‘s large pavilion with many interesting exhibits and the obligatory boomerangs and digeridoos.

Then we crossed the street and reached Bhutan. Like Nepal, they have built a temple. Inside, there’s a room for worship (there were two monks there) and a large exhibition with all kinds of things from Bhutan.

By now, it was already past nine, and we went into the African hall which houses the presentations of Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Côte D’Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Rwanda, Togo and Uganda.

There was so much to see in the Africa hall, I could have spent a whole day just in there! But we had only twenty minutes or so left and only were able to have a brief glance.

Every night, there’s a thirty-minute-long fireworks and light and water and whatever show, but it was too cold that day, so we went home at 10 pm.

Expo blau: Expo rot: Expo lila:

The next morning (Monday), we arrived at the Expo around ten and started exploring the eastern part of the Expo which contains most of the European pavilions. Our first stop was France, a large pavilion with mostly technical exhibits. Across the street, we entered the pavilion of Switzerland. They have built their whole “house” from huge wooden beams that are being held by a metal construction. When the Expo ends, they are going to take it apart and use the wood to construct a new building.

Inside this wooden maze, there was no exhibition, just some Swiss musicians and a cafe. How disappointing! But I liked the idea to build something from beams that can be used again afterwards.

Then we briefly visited Turkey on our way to Poland. The latter had constructed part of a salt mine with a somewhat authentic feeling.

On we went to Czech Republic. (This is the western part of what used to be Chechoslovakia. The capital is Prague.) They had a “well of knowledge” there, constructed from 16 tons (a US ton is slightly less that a European ton) of books. They were shaped like a round well, and inside rotating mirrors reflected books and books and books… you weren’t able to tell real books and mirror images apart. Great idea!

There was a queue in front of China, so we continued to the desert fort of the United Arab Emirates. Besides the usual exhibition about the country, they had a restaurant where you could smoke the water pipe – we didn’t try it, though.

From there, back to Europe we went: to Ireland. They had a film that showed the Irish landscape, but the other exhibits were too abstract for my taste.

After lunch, we went to see the Thematic Area, the part of the Expo that is not dedicated to the participating nations, but to the Expo’s motto: man, nature, technology. We saw the exhibitions on energy and knowledge, but were disappointed. It seems the Thematic Area uses lots of space, has (admittedly) great multimedia shows, but almost no information. I didn’t learn one thing there.

The only interesting sight were the swarming robots. (Siehe dazu auch dieser Artikel der ZKM.)

Back to the countries! In the afternoon, we visited two halls with different countries and Canada (sorry, not as impressive as I had expected), which has a hall all to itsself. Among others, we saw the Russian Federation, Iran, Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Cambodia, and the Pacific Island countries.

At 7 pm, after spending 10 hours on the Expo, we took a train home to Bonn. I was totally exhausted, but it was well worth it. You never get the chance to travel to so many countries all around the world in a single day, do you?

I think I want to spend another day at the Expo because we didn’t see all the pavilions I was interested in. For example, I’d like to see the some South American countries, the Netherlands, Japan, China, Hungary, Italy and, of course, the German Pavilion.

June 27 2000

What is a good teacher?

Sheila posted this quote by Dwight Eisenhower:

“A good teacher is one who can understand those who are not very good at explaining, and explain to those who are not very good at understanding.”

When I decided to become a teacher, I asked myself the same questions Sheila is posing. Can I explain well enough, will the students understand me? And am I able to understand them?

The best way to answer the question is to try it out. In Germany, many pupils take extra lessons in the afternoon. (School usually ends around 1 pm.) Older students or teachers-to-be (like me) help them with their homework, work with them on things they didn’t understand at school, prepare them for tests and exams. I’ve been teaching younger pupils since 8th grade, and I hope most of my students would say I was able to help them with Mathematics, Physics, English or Latin. (Yup, that’s right, I even taught Latin to one student. But that was a looong time ago. Sadly, I don’t remember much of my Latin now…)

But there’s a difference between teaching a single student (or two) and teaching a whole group of 20 to 30 students at once, and I won’t be able to find out whether I’m good at teaching before I actually get my first job as a teacher.

Papa Al

Home LifeLOL!

“Megan: “Daddy, why does the ‘fridgerator hum?”

Daddy: “It hasn’t learned the words yet.”

Megan: “What happens when it learns the words?”

Daddy: “Then it’ll turn into a stereo!”

Mommy: “Al! Stop it!”

Not really having a father growing up, I needed a role model when I had my own kids. I decided on Calvin’s Dad. Well, not so much decided as dictated by the nature of the children my side of the family seems to produce…”

Calvin and Hobbes: is my favorite cartoon.

New T-shirts

Craig, here’s a little something for you…

When we we met Craig in Koblenz a couple of days ago, he brought us T-shirts from his company, BookLab. He said they were the last two!

Here’s a picture of André and me wearing them.

Booklab Shirts:

Booklab Craig: Booklab icon:

I also found a photo of Craig wearing the same T-shirt! And here’s a closer look at the BookLab logo. It’s beautiful!

June 26 2000

Okay, we’re back from our weekend in Hetzwege / Hambühren / Hanover. We survived the Expo 2000 and the long trip by train, too. clown:

Just wanted to say hi. By the way, Craig is back! It seems he liked the trip to Europe a lot. I want to visit Prague, too!

I’ll write something about the Expo tomorrow. I’m too tired now because we spent three hours at the exhibition on Sunday and eight today…

Good night, see you tomorrow!


So, das (verlängerte) Wochenende wäre geschafft. Wir hatten ein volles Programm in Hetzwege / Hambühren / Hannover und sind jetzt wieder zu Hause. Der Besuch bei der Expo war interessant, aber die Details hebe ich mir für morgen auf. Wir haben dort, auf gestern und heute verteilt, elf Stunden verbracht, und ich bin entsprechend k.o.