Hairy Affair

three different haircutsI’ve been cutting my own hair since 1981. I like the convenience of being self-sufficient. During the COVID-19 pandemic my hairstyle was unaffected by mandatory lockdowns of all kinds of businesses, including hair salons. The comments I got from people about my haircut have varied over the years, depending on how “in style” or “out of style” my personal style was at the time. Some people loved it, some people were indifferent, some people hated it. That’s OK. At one point I even published an instructional video on YouTube, so that people could do their own haircut, if they wanted to. Karin cutting her own hair

While I am personally still very satisfied with my looks, I sometimes envision something a little more “eye-catching”. When I first mentioned my idea to my husband, he simply shook his head and said: “please, don’t”. I love my husband, and I respect his opinion. So, of course, I will not cut my hair into a mohawk, fauxhawk, fade, undercut, or whatever this style would be called.
Since I lately discovered the wonderful world of endless possibilities with A.I., I prompted to generate an image of my avatar sporting a mohawk. I am surprised at how well this computer generated image represents my vision!

As expected my husband still doesn’t like the idea, but I thought my daughter might. She is a tattoo artist and has an eye for art in any form or shape. When I showed Alejandra Heartist the mohawk style, she explained that she didn’t like it because it would accentuate my “high” upper head and make it look even higher. Hm? That was exactly my point, I want to show off this physical feature of mine.
When I asked her for suggestions my daughter said I should show off my thick, now almost completely white, hair with a long bob and straight bangs. A.I. can do that too, of course.

What do you think?

Imagine Yourself

Karin painting a portrait of herself
Artificial Intelligence applications are the currently most hyped new technology. People’s opinions range from fear to concern to anticipation to euphoria – depending on what they hope for or worry about.

So, to be able to form my own opinion, I decided to educate myself and play with A.I.
Here’s my take: A.I. is definitely very artificial, but there is no intelligence involved. Other than, maybe the intelligence of those people who developed it.

I used ChatGPT to generate text, articles, explanations, letters, educational material for myself. As long as you thoroughly fact-check the results, it may be an interesting way to help with writing simple texts faster. A skillful prompt engineer can probably generate some pretty useful material, but be aware that the A.I. behaves like a teenager: if it doesn’t find real facts, it just makes up stuff. Adult supervision is strongly advised.

I also used to create a model of myself that I can now insert into images. The results from it are rarely as impressive as the one up top here, which may also be due to my lack of skills as a prompter. Some of the pictures the A.I. rendered were hilarious. Like a version of me with three arms, or a neck two feet long, or fingers that look like rubber tentacles. In one picture I wanted to paint myself as a shepherd, with my sheepdog laying next to me in the grass. What I got was a funny looking animal with a sheep’s body and a dog’s head.

At the current stage in its existance A.I. is sorely lacking anything like logical thinking, the ability to check its own findings, or basic math skills. It is nothing to worry about – yet. Except, maybe, that too many stupid people fall for some A.I. generated story, or image, or video.

When Farmers hang up their Boots

farmer's boots hanging on the town signLately I’ve seen rubber boots hanging off of town signs in rural areas around my home. This is meant to be a message for our government from our farmers. Agriculture is the wrong place to save money or cut subsidies!

What would happen, if farmers were forced to hang up their boots all over the country? I prefer my food to be produced locally, not somewhere far away and trucked around all over the place. So, if that means local farmers need a break on fuel taxes, or whatever else financial help, I’m all in.

Speed Trap Kirchseeon

Kirchseeon, the quaint little suburban/rural town in Bavaria just about 15 miles East of Munich that I call home, made national headlines because of its newly installed radar speed trap. The approximately 7,000 people currently living in Kirchseeon have been complaining for decades about traffic on the one (and only) main road cutting through town. Federal road B304 is travelled by over 17,000 thousand vehicles daily. Noise, dirt, and congestion are the main concerns. Accidents, luckily, are not a real problem – thanks to the congestion and speed limits of just 30 km/h for most of the side roads in town we only had 11 incidents involving cars in all of 2022. No fatalities from those.

speed trap KirchseeonSo in 2023 our municipal council, lead by a young energetic mayor, devised a plan how to turn the stream of vehicles into a stream of revenue. The radar speed control camera went live on December 20th and paid for itself within the first ten days by taking over 3,000 expensive black-and-white photos of drivers in an awful hurry – both ways, in and out of town.

Kirchseeon and the successful income generator were quickly noticed by media all over Germany. Now, with January in the books, we see a slight downturn – “only” over 4,000 flashes in January – but still a pretty elegant way to augment our struggling budget. Who knows, maybe¬† money from this contraption will some day help to fix the public swimming pool?

In my opinion the most genius part of this project was picking the best location for the trap. The reasons given – “there’s a school nearby” – “we want to improve traffic safety in town” – don’t sound very credible. The school entrance is on a side road, about half a block West of the camera. Traffic safety in town will likely not improve by radar control at a location 300 ft. West of city limits.

The location was picked specifically for topographical reasons. It sits at the bottom of a hill. People driving East, out of town, can see the city limits sign, and the speed limit changing there from 50 km/h to 70km/h on top of the hill. So everybody naturally steps on it right before the speed trap to “race” to the top of the hill. People driving West, coming into town, reach the top of the hill at the permitted 70 km/h (or often higher) and are met with the city limits sign – no chance to slow down to 50 km/h within those 300 ft. remaining.

Kirchseeon Spannleitenberg


Remembering my Father

Today would have been my father’s 94th birthday. He died May 12th, 2022. By now I’ve gained enough emotional distance to think about him with calm, almost happy, feelings.

When your dad has a page on Wikipedia Wilhelm Brenig it can be hard to find your own path in life. There is really no way you can live up to expectations – be it your own, or your family’s, or your friends’, your colleagues’…..

Karin trying to keep up with WilhelmWhen I was just a child, I simply grabbed his hand and tried to keep up with his long, fast-paced strides. A rather futile endeavour, since my father had clear goals for his future and no patience to wait, or slow down, for anybody.

I learned that sitting around waiting doesn’t get you anywhere. I also learned, much later in life, that you’re missing out on a great deal of beautiful moments if you’re always on the run.

Wilhelm Brenig physics lecture Physics was his life. He breathed quantum mechanics. Hundreds, if not thousands, of students listened to his lectures. I admired the clarity of his thoughts and the depth of his knowledge – wondering if there was room for anything other than physics in his mind. I worked hard in school, but never hard enough. Not being an obvious genius in one specific subject, like my father was, I tried out dozens of different things – and ended up knowing a little bit about all of them.

I learned that, to be really good at something, you have to focus on that one thing exclusively. I also learned, much later in life, that you can have a lot of fun doing different things, even if you’re not an expert.

Wilhelm and Karin going for a walk

It took me a long time to realize, that my father had slowed down enough for me to catch up with him. He retired, he didn’t travel as much and as far anymore, he didn’t lecture anyone anymore. He would actually let me walk right besides him, not a step or two behind. I realized that I am more like him than what I’d dare to admit. There are pictures of myself that remind me of dad’s face.

I learned that I can’t escape my genes, no matter how hard I try. I also learned, much later in life, to just accept the hand I’ve been dealt and make the most of it.

Wilhelm says good-bye

When my father left quietly and peacefully, just going to bed one evening and not waking up the next morning, I was grateful for the opportunity that I had been given to support him during the last few years of his long, successful life.

Danke, Papi.