The Wisdom of the Dakota Indians – how to Ride a Dead Horse

The Dakota Indians say that when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. However, in business, education, government, and in the home, a range of more advanced strategies are deployed. So, when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to:

  • Buy a stronger whip.
  • Change riders.
  • Threaten to fire the horse.
  • Harness several dead horses together to increase speed.
  • Appoint a committee to study the horse.
  • Throw money at the horse.
  • Develop a training session to improve riding ability.
  • Update the manual.
  • Lower the standards of what defines a living horse, so that dead horses are included.
  • State that the dead horse must remain in the team for “diversity reasons”
  • Reclassify the horse as “living-impaired.”
  • Get more experts to investigate the dead horse. Fire those that claim the horse is dead.
  • Proclaim that others ride exactly this type of horse successfully.
  • Proclaim that riders that refuse to ride the dead horse are lazy, have no ambition and are not “all-in” – then replace them.
  • Reminisce elaborately on all the good times you had while riding that horse.
  • Hire consultants, e.g. from another tribe (like the Sioux… sometimes misspelled Souix)
  • Increase funding to increase the dead horse’s performance.
  • Ride the dead horse “outside the box.”
  • Make the dead horse shareholder.
  • Threaten to cut the horse’s bonus.
  • Get the horse social media visibility.
  • Kill all the other horses so the dead one doesn’t stand out.
  • Pronounce that the dead horse doesn’t need food, water or care, carries lower overhead and is less costly, and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line than other horses.
  • Rewrite the performance requirements for all horses.
  • Name the dead horse, “paradigm shift” and keep riding it.
  • Ride the dead horse “smarter, not harder.”
  • Replace „riding a dead horse“ with “innovation” in all comms.
  • Point out that the dead horse produces less manure and thus fewer climate damaging gasses.
  • Declare “God told us to ride this horse.”

More exiting reading: Books.

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Originally posted 2017-10-14 10:04:38.

Excellent Voice Delivery of my Parable “The Naked Truth and the Dressed-up Lie”

Very honored indeed! Voice actor par excellence DANIEL WARD of SIRIUS VOICES turned one of my short stories into a beautiful narration. You can listen to it here.

I am particularly fond of the tale “The Naked Truth and the Lie Dressed-Up as the Truth”, as it is age-old, yet highly applicable to our times. In addition, as you listen to the story, you can well imagine the parable unfolding before your eyes, in an amazing, mythical forest.

You can find the story in my “Amazing Stories” bundle (eBook).

Daniel Ward, a professional voice-over talent who has been in the audio industry for over three decades, did a magnificent job capturing the spirit of this tale and adding some beautiful sound effects that add a distinctive, almost fairy-tale-like atmosphere.

SHORT STORIES

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Originally posted 2021-08-10 23:16:00.

Strap on Your Seatbelt. Sneak peek of the Prologue of REBOUND.

Exciting news about my new book. In case you have been wondering why I have written only a few blog posts over the last months… first, I was very busy with my fundraisers, which managed to raise more than 2500€ for charity through my paintings and books. Then, I was giving several interviews to newspapers about my books, which took up some time time. And next to that I was working on my new novel.

And now, REBOUND was indeed published in March 2022. Research has been taking up considerable time; I had to study the geography of the areas where the novel is situated (USA, France, Switzerland), as well as new technological developments – the Internet-of-Things/IoT, Artificial Intelligence, space travel, robotics, and more. In 2010, TWO JOURNEYS made a prediction about the danger of pandemics and corona virus. My new novel tackles the risk of artificial intelligence and robotics… but I don’t want to give away too much.

For all of you that can’t wait, below is the first chapter & prologue.

Here we go… strap on your seatbelt.

REBOUND / Prologue

It would be great if somebody could be with me when I kick the bucket, but if I must die alone, so be it.

I stare at the sheets of paper in front of me, my handwriting black against white. A tear, which has dropped from my remaining eye, has deformed a word, like a lens enlarging some long-forgotten sorrow. Just five pages completed. If I continue at this speed, I will be long dead before I manage to put the entire story to paper. I have often toyed with the idea of writing down this story, my story. It’s exciting by any man’s standards. My life, however, left little time for scholarly work. I was too busy surviving. And an author needs an audience, but is there any audience left?

The darkness surrounds me like a cloak, only disturbed by the candle’s flicker. I adjust the blankets around my shoulders. A fire roars in the potbelly, but I still feel cold. Outside, a snowstorm tears at the roof and walls of the cabin. The shutters are closed yet rattle with the wind. I have selected this hide-out with great care, far away from any marauder’s path. I’ve had enough unhappy encounters with two- or four-legged predators to last a lifetime.

I tilt my head to listen for any sound that might be able to rise above the storm’s shriek – yes, it almost sounds like a human, tortured and full of hate. It is deep in the night, early morning almost, hardly the time for any creature to be about. Nevertheless, did I hear something, a distant shout perhaps? A growl or a cry for help?

I look at my dogs, but they seem unalarmed. I shrug off my fears and retrace the thoughts that passed through my head just a few moments ago. Why did I survive so long when so many died? All my friends and many of my enemies are long gone. The hand that holds my pen is crooked and covered with spots of age. I have lost weight, muscle, the hair on my scalp, my sense of humor, and bits and pieces of hope. My joints hurt when I get up in the morning. Yet, I am still here, going like a clock, a machine, yes, almost like one of those damned robots.

The pandemic that struck Earth devoured humanity; the fallout sterilized the planet, but they didn’t manage to kill me. Was I chosen… or was I punished? I am neither religious nor superstitious and I know that no god, no miracle, I need no lucky star to explain my survival. It is simply a freak coincidence. I am like the single surviving bacterium that has developed resistance against an antibiotic, the last tree standing after a forest fire.

My thoughts continue to wander until they inevitably home in on the events of that singular period, so many years ago. They always do. With all the past drama in my life, these events stick out like a sore thumb. Impatiently, I stand up from my chair, shedding the blankets from my shoulders and the depressing thoughts from my mind. The hounds raise their heads towards my face, their eyes gleaming in the dark. Although I feel the need to write down my story, in the hope of finally expelling the bad taste from my mouth, I simply cannot continue. Restlessly, I pace the cabin and only slowly my nervousness subsides.

I stop moving and tilt my head again. This time, the dogs follow my example. Together we listen to the night. There is some sound out there. Something is on the move. After a second of hesitation, I grab the loaded rifle and step to the door, remove the bar, and pull it open.

The storm is astonishingly violent, much stronger than I had expected, and snow immediately starts blowing in. Can this hut withstand this gale? Visibility is low, at the most a few yards; I cannot even sense the valley that lies beneath us. The freezing air hurts my face. The candle is blown out, and in the semi-darkness, I see how the papers from the desk are picked up by the wind, carried past me, and disappear into the night. I laugh madly. The dogs, baring their teeth and growling, cower close to me, their tails between their legs. Together we try to recognize some pattern in the whirling darkness. The sound of the storm is overpowering, yet I am convinced that I can hear a sound, far off, irregular, and organic. Friend or foe, I cannot tell.

I remain in the doorframe, waiting. Closing the door and putting the bar back is not an option; it never is. The enemy doesn’t rest; they never give up the chase. They continuously circle, pounce, bite and kill, without mercy. Likewise, the innocents are always in need of help; as they falter hopelessly, they lose themselves in the darkness. Fear or compassion, I am forced to confront any obstacle, to deal with any challenge, swiftly and if need be mercilessly.

I slip into my heavy coat and put on my leather gloves. I stuff a flashlight into my pocket. The storm picks up speed and roars with increased bitterness. The darkness is complete, with no sign of a rising sun, only snowflakes moving in an icy tornado. The snow stings in my eyes as I step into the wild, my gun raised and loaded, the dogs barking, but following. I feel my teeth baring themselves in a menacing grin. This is the life I have chosen, and this is the life that has chosen me. No matter how much these old bones hurt, by everything holy and unholy, throw it at me. I am ready.


More info about my books.

Originally posted 2021-01-30 20:56:00.

Oumuamua the cool comet that passed through our solar system in 2017. Where is it now?

I was intrigued by the news about Oumuamua, the first known interstellar body passing through our solar system. Flying at a tremendous speed, Oumuamua’s trajectory was hyperbolic, and it took it out of our solar system within just a few weeks. As the object doesn’t seem to have had any gravitational encounters with our planets, and as it entered the plain of our solar system from above, Oumuamua most likely came from interstellar space, and may have been traveling for several billion years before reaching our solar system. Our civilization was caught by surprise as this asteroid visited us, the very first object known to arrive from deep space and do a loop around the sun; the sun’s gravity field altered its course. It appears to come from another star, I suspect a giant explosion may have expelled it from another stellar system. The name Oumuamua is Hawaiian for “scout”, yet this object didn’t transmit any signals, so, most likely, this isn’t an extraterrestrial rocket filled with little spacemen. Originally, it was thought that the object had an unusually elongated shape, but now we know that it actually looked more like a disk. The core seems to be icy, but the surface consists of red grey dust that has collected over millions of years and which has turned into a hard layer under the merciless radiation levels of interstellar space. Also read this blogpost “Why humanity may never be able to conquer space.”

Our Universe continues to surprise: billions and billions of stars and billions of exoplanets fill this huge (and ever-growing) space. With a visitor such Oumuamua passing by, the overwhelming size of the Universe and the insignificance of our little planet is suddenly pulled into perspective. On the grand scale of things, all our worries or our (mis-)fortunes do not matter much. This thought is humbling, and with Oumuamua having left our solar system and continuing its journey into the vastness of space, we must thank this intriguing object for giving us pause to remind us of our smallness.

Read more like this here.

Originally posted 2017-12-23 22:18:31.

Top 5 impressions from Cairo

I had about two hours off, so I grabbed the opportunity for a walk through the city center of Cairo. Very few tourists about, but many Egyptians who used the day for shopping – this was a religious holiday, and most Egyptians had a day off.

Below: a beautiful old mosque hidden deep in the narrow streets drew many local visitors. I tried to enter as well, but the doorman shouted “tomorrow!” And banged the door shut in my face. I presume they were just calling it a day. I checked my watch and it was almost five.

Below: in the absence of a guide or guidebook, neither purpose, name or history of the sites that I passed could easily be determined – yet their beauty was unchallenged. There is satisfaction in letting a town work on you, without constantly studying facts or staring into a smartphone.

Below: a boy selling bread in the street. He had a devastatingly loud whistle to get attention – this didn’t work too well, as he wasn’t selling much.

People out for a stroll and shopping. Merchants of the same trade share the same street: one street is full with dealers of carpets, another street for electric appliances, and yet another alley for shops that focus on metal pots and pans.
The city is overflowing with people, millions and millions. The pictures do not bring this across, but Cairo is all about people, people and people.

Originally posted 2017-10-07 06:35:26.

Dull Doha. Qatar – three days immersed in the Middle East.

I reported before on intriguing capital. Below the lobby of the hotel where I was staying. The room was freezing cold, air ongoing full blast, but the hotel was pleasant enough. Although: the breakfast buffet had a price tag of $30 – but how much can a man eat for breakfast? I discovered that Qatari cheese is very salty and rubbery, it is regarded as a delicacy but it takes getting used to.
I learned a lot from my colleagues how the state of Qatar ticks and functions. It is intriguing how this society differs so much from ours, with strict Islam rule implemented. This in intriguing and interesting for the first few days, but stay longer than that and it will become challenging.

Below: the skyline of Doha. Skyscrapers are being built at rocket speed (like all over the world, the new pastime) but the country itself is mainly desert. With 300,000 Qataris and 2.5 million expats, the demographics are exceptional. There are a few additional cities, but they are in the desert, close to the natural gas fields and intended for the laborers. Here’s a tourist secret: Doha is the most mind-numbing boring city that I have visited (and I have visited a few). My impression is that the Qataris hide and party with their families behind the walls of their country estates; the migrants forlornly wander the boring streets trying not to think about alcohol: there isn’t any. I neither drink nor miss alcohol, but even for me Doha offered a new perspective on boredom.

Below: to defy the Saudi boycott, which was omnipresent, the Qataris have put up portraits of their Emir to show their solidarity. The Arabs had hoped that the Qataris would topple their Emir, but that turned into a “no way, Jose.”

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Do you like books about travel? See here.

Originally posted 2017-10-03 16:06:57.

The Best Five Adventure Novels with Highly Courageous Heroes

Need a new book to read? Shepherd.com is a site that provides excellent reviews of top literature to help readers find the right books to read. They invite authors to provide those reviews, and I am very pleased to provide my top five of the best adventure stories. Perhaps a chance for you to meet your next hero?

Across the Empty Quarter” by Wilfred Thesiger.

The 39 Steps” by John Buchan.

Planet of Adventure” by Jack Vance.

The Mysterious Island” by Jules Verne.

“Rogue Male” by Geoffrey Household.

Why did I choose these two books? Read my reviews here at Shepherd.com. You can also find many other excellent reviews by fellow authors on that site.

You can find many more of my book reviews on my Goodreads site.

“The diver” – oil on canvas. Clemens P. Suter

Originally posted 2022-02-05 18:19:00.

Impressions from Cairo, a surprising city.

With more than 25 million inhabitants, Cairo is considered to be one of the most densely populated cities in the world. it also seen by many as the cultural center of Islam. I had visited Cairo many years ago, and was curious to visit it after such a long time. In between work, I had a chance for two brief walks. It was pretty hot, so I tried to stay in the shade as much as possible, the intensity of the sun was pretty merciless.
Above: a long hot street in a new urban area, close to my hotel. Many of the houses were not ready, it looked as if work was progressing at a slow pace, many buildings in a half-finished state. Architecturally they looked very impressive. This view does have a certain postapocalyptic touch.
You don’t want to be a dog in Egypt. The dogs that I saw were very skinny and obviously living on waste. There were actually only few animals in the streets, very few birds.
Close to Al Moaz street. It was an official  day-off, but that didn’t stop the merchants from doing business. The Caironeans (?) are extremely hardworking. This was a national holiday, which was apparently organized spontaneously by the government.

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Above: a beautiful arcade; the sights are pretty and exotic; I really enjoyed to walk the streets. But I think that many people may find the town quite overwhelming; it is very noisy. Big surprise: the Egyptians ignored me for the most part; even though there aren’t that many tourists about, and I must have stuck out like a sore thumb. Naturally I got lured into some shops and was expected to enter into longer pricing negotiations.

Cairo has changed over the years. Progress hasn’t passed by unnoticed. But the city has managed to keep a lot of its deeply oriental atmosphere.

Originally posted 2017-09-30 16:34:50.

Hellabeem Fundraiser Result: 1400€ raised to support physically disabled people in Sri Lanka

The count is in! I am very grateful to the people that donated money to Hellabeem and got one of my paintings for free in exchange! In addition, dozens of paperbacks and eBooks were bought between the start on November 1 and the end on December 31st – and these book revenues have also been donated to Hellabeem.

Hellabeem is an organization that is doing fantastic work in Sri Lanka: it champions the disabled and disadvantaged by offering them a chance to participate fully in society. The years these young people spend on the Hellabeem campus prepare them in many positive ways for an independent existence. More on the Hellabeem website.

Originally posted 2021-01-23 22:27:00.

More about Europe and the EU.

In a previous blogpost I expressed my frustration about a conversation that I had with a taxi driver in Kansas City. I received many reactions to this blogpost, which truly pleases me; it seems that I hit the right sentiment with many Europeans.

First, I was contacted by Göran Hansson from Sweden, who expressed his enthusiasm for the Union in a direct comment beneath the blogpost. Göran emphasized the tremendous achievements that the EU has made; in the areas of peace and prosperity, but he also expressed frustration at how indifferent fellow Europeans sometimes are towards the EU. In his posts (link above) Göran is also a vocal proponent of the Europe of Regions, which I find a thrilling idea. In my reply to Göran, I expressed my believe that his efforts (as an example) are crucial to drive the discussion about the EU forward:

The EU is not just about voting every four years and, from the sidelines, watch the thing develop. We need more people to talk and exchange ideas about the EU.

And this must be done NOW: in the UK, democrats waited too long to start this conversation and left the playing field to the populists… and now the lower and middle class can feed the bill of the referendum disaster.

You are the EU. The EU is what you make out of it.

In my original blogpost (which I also cross-posted to several EU groups on facebook, e.g. #EUsolidarity Now), I compared the EU to the USA. Several readers pointed out that this is not valid, as the USA was founded by emigrants that could start a brand new state, whereas the EU is a federation of states, each with unique cultural traditions and independent histories. I agree with that view. In fact, I believe that one of the major strengths of the EU is its diversity. However, the original point that I wanted to make is that many people are critical of the EU, because the EU makes decisions that seem to be the result of a malfunctioning EU – but which are not, on closer inspection. I want to illustrate this with a few examples.

During the Corona crisis, many nations within the EU closed their borders (by the way, the Schengen agreement which allows free travel within the EU is just celebrating its 35th birthday). Within 24 hours I received an email from a friend in the US, asking whether this was “The End Of The EU?” Interestingly, the borders between individual states in the USA cannot be closed that easily; I would venture that this may actually have increased the momentum of the pandemic (China, on the other hand, had no issue with closing down the Wuhan region – no questions asked in a dictatorship). But what few people know is that on the other side of the spectrum, the border between Bavaria and Baden-Würrtemberg in Germany was de facto also closed – and although some local residents (or “pandemic deniers”) may have disagreed with that decision, nobody would consider for a second that Germany was falling apart or that Germany was failing as a nation. I truly believe that putting free travel on hold along the national borders partially and temporarily was the right decision to slow the spread of the virus. Note: my two sons and I live in three separate European countries, and visiting each other was thus not possible (by the way, we can easily live in three separate countries as a direct result of the many advantages that the EU provides.There is no need for visas, or other unnecessary bureaucracy bullshit – now who said that the EU was overtly bureaucratic?).

There was also a call that the pandemic response should have been an EU-wide- and not a national-response, e.g. the same social distancing rules in Italy, Spain, Estland or Ireland. But why, I wonder, is this a must-have? The EU has a size of 4,233,255.3 km2 and an estimated total population of 447 million! Regions within this huge area are going to be affected in different ways by a pandemic. Again, even within Germany, individual Bundesländer (~states) had individual pandemic guidelines.

Several commentators on my original blogpost agreed that calling the EU a fascist state (as the Kansas City taxi driver did) was way over the top. Sure, as one person pointed out:

it is crucial that a federal Europe must have a sound balance in power distribution; otherwise the fascism argument will continue, or the EU may be incapable of making decisions.

The role of the parliament must be strengthened (and not just in the Brexit negotiations with the UK). But people should also know how to use phrases such as Fascism, which is a clearly defined term and should not be used in a inflationary manner (as, for that matter, socialism, which many Trump voters do not seem to be able to grasp the meaning of).

Find my novels here.

Originally posted 2020-06-20 23:10:00.