The Endgame

The Endgame

The most important thing about Chess is to keep the king safe. It gets castled behind its pawns and is protected by all pieces. A comfy life, no worries, and no ventures onto the board. It remains inactive. In fact, it remains rather lifeless.

Until the endgame approaches and things start to change: Pieces have fallen left and right, the board is a vast and empty plain, pawns gain importance as they may promote, and – finally – the king abandons its safe place to become more active. To get involved in the game. To get involved in life.

Not every game of chess reaches its endgame.

Fruit flies exist for ten days, sparrows for two years, snails for eight years, and bowhead whale over 200 years. Every ten years our chance of death doubles. We have an awful lot of time to think about what happens afterwards. Until we don’t.

Aimless Volition

Aimless Volition

[…]
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

‘What My Lips Have Kissed, And Where And Why’ by Edna St. Vincent Millay;
Musical interpretation: Thus in the Winter, by Christopher Tin

Trees are wise and tenacious. They endure at the most inhospitable places and cling onto earth as if their life depends on it – because it does. Trees are deeply ingrained and reach high. They depend on the light of stars and the nutrients of soil. Trees are manifold and and full of character which allows them to oppose changing climates. Trees have volition.

The other day I went out for some photography, motivated to exploit the snow that was still lingering around and covered the landscape like a gentle blanket. Just a few days earlier I had finished my thesis and, thus, I felt a freedom I hadn’t felt in a long time: Not a single appointment for the whole day, no deadlines, no waiting E-Mails, no social obligations, no time constraints. Simply a whole day for myself – is this what retirement feels like? I was standing on a hill overlooking villages, fields, and forests as far the hazy conditions allowed. And as I was pondering about my day, I simply picked a distant tree and started walking. No GPS, no directions how to get there, I simply started walking until I reached this lonely, very distant tree. And it felt good.

Changing Seasons

Changing Seasons

One season passes, the next approaches. One life phase transitions into another one. Snow covers clutter of the past, a fresh canvas onto which new ideas may be painted. Which shall remain unchanged? What must be adjusted? The past is frozen in place, but now and again color persists and defies the whiteout. Lonely figures reach high, rooted deep, yet fragile and delicate. Preparations for a period of hibernation begin, with the aspiration of a fresh awakening.

City Life

Cite Life

Noisy nights, deep yellow lights
tint the streets, hint at outcasts
that did outlast the grim cold winters of the past;
splinters in society.
Meanwhile, the crowd does join the Christmas fair –
snow in the air – to buy cheap wine,
to dine, to whine about the great decline
of their homeland that is quite fine.
And they move on and buy their beer
at Assal's shop, shoes from Amir,
on which they stumble home each year
to disappear, to leave the fear
beneath the starlit sky behind.

A Barcode of Life

A Barcode of Life

Barcodes are commonly used for the identification of items. Many standards exist but, in general, barcodes must be universal, unique, and easy to process. The standardization of barcodes grants great benefits, not only for everyday shopping: A unique identifier facilitates and simplifies the ordering and processing of goods all over the world.

Similarly, the distinct identification of organisms and their relationships is one of the major goals in the life sciences. What would be more suited than a barcode – a barcode of life?

Many genetic regions have been proposed for the use of being such a barcode. For eukaryotic species, the 18S gene is most commonly used today; a rather short fragment of ribosomal RNA that is evolving slowly and allows the reliable identification of most species. It is surrounded by highly conserved sequence regions that simplify the sequencing process. By this, the analysis of 18S RNA from the environment delivers a comprehensive overview of all present species, equivalent to scanning a barcode of all organisms.

Harztouren

Harztouren

Irregularities give rise to normality. I’ll be back to English in the next post.

Im Juni 2020 ging es für uns in den Urlaub. Damals frisch verliebt, stimmte ich gerne der angestrebten Urlaubsplanung zu: Also, ab ins Gebirge. Das Richtige. Also zumindest das Richtigste was wir einfach so erreichen können, die Alpen. Quasi am Alpenrand geboren, war ich das erste Viertel meines Lebens (wobei diese Rechnung nur ohne einen voreiligen Tod aufgeht) eigentlich nie so richtig dort. Ein großer Fehler, denn auch die Berge haben anscheinend ein Plätzchen in meinem Herzen reserviert. Sobald wir dort waren, zwischen den erhabenen Gipfeln und tiefen Tälern, fühlte ich eine große Zufriedenheit. Und die Gipfel ziehen mich an. Ich sehe einen Gipfel und plötzlich will ich nur noch hinauf. Steiler Anstieg? – Egal. Wetter? – Egal. Hauptsache hoch, und zwar so hoch es geht.

Falls man mal nicht in den Alpen ist, gestaltet sich das Ganze etwas anders: Hier im flachen Norden ist das höchste der Gefühle schon bei 1141 Metern über Null erreicht und man steht mit 84 prozentiger Wahrscheinlichkeit in den Wolken. Aber wen interessiert schon Statistik – gefühlt sind es mindestens 93 Prozent. An den anderen Tagen bietet der Brocken dagegen wunderbare Ausblicke und ein echtes ‘Oben-Gefühl’, das meinen Gipfeldrang kurzfristig bändigt. Ebenfalls seit 2020 sind wir daher auch eifrig am Stempel sammeln, zumindest mit periodischer Eifrigkeit: Der Herbst und Winter hat es uns besonders zugesagt im Harz; wenn Nebel die Seen umschließt und Laubwälder der tieferen Lagen Farbspektakel bieten.

Dennoch, ich freue mich auch schon wieder auf den nächsten Urlaub in dem wieder zwei- und dreitausend Meter bewältigt werden können. Der Kopf so frei, wie die Alpendohle im Auftrieb und das Herz so voll, wie der Bauch in der Adventszeit.

Fading Vibrance

Fading Vibrance

Haze deprives the vibrance,
as days are getting short,
snow does glaze the rooftops,
wood ovens blaze in homes.
A lonely great white egret
delays his voyage south,
stays in the fading colors,
sun rays are lost in clouds.