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Archive for the ‘The Meaning of Life’ Category

Tesla S - P85 Only two weeks since my first KITCO blog appeared… feels like ages, and being on a schedule adds just the right amount of pressure to stay on top of things, throw more balls in the air, follow more leads…. a very exciting experience. I noticed that besides of my obvious intentions to build a brand around “technology metals”, there are very personal goals, too. Like meeting certain people who, besides of playing a role in our industry, are entrepreneurs I have admired for a long time. Now I am inching my way closer to them and hope to ask them a couple of questions on technology and the meaning of life one day. My list? For starters, it’s Elon Musk of Tesla and Shai Agassi of SAP / Better Place. The former being celebrated as a modern day rebel who, against all odds, created a car company of a new kind. The latter who, after a charismatic career with SAP, just failed royally with his “Better Place” project despite having all of the world’s wind in his sails. I admire them both and hope to talk to them one day. I seem to have an angle on Elon Musk already (no, I didn’t buy that car – yet) but if any of my readers had a connection that would lead me to interviewing Shai Agassi I’d be very grateful.

That aside, what is it like writing for an actual news organization? I enjoy the services of a lady opening event doors for me which is awesome. There is a page editor who makes my articles look better – I have to get used to that. I mean, how do you improve what’s already perfect?  Just kidding, I learn a lot from him. On top, I get tons of spam e-mail (glad I created a new address for this), random questions from readers who worry about their life’s savings, and a lot of nice feedback from friends, personal and in business. I am looking forward to the next two weeks 🙂

This week’s article is about “Fort Metlock“, a bunker in Frankfurt which Matthias Rueth bought through foreclosure, and turned it into one of the most secure buildings in the world. It turned out I had driven past the building for decades (!) without paying any attention whatsoever…. just an ugly monolith that was completely unremarkable. Since World War 2, the building had served as a music studio and then as the “home” for up to 20 homeless people who were evicted by the City of Frankfurt prior to getting rid of the place. Since you can’t tear it down its uses are limited, and Matthias’ only competition was someone who decided that – since the place was so cheap – he could just seal it, put solar cells on the roof and enjoy the free power.

IMG_0070Matthias told me they removed 100 truck size garbage containers to clean out the place. Putting in flooring, lights, a freight elevator, two 4.6 ton doors and adequate alarm systems was a different matter, and he ended up spending over EUR 900,000 (about USD 1.2M) to convert the building to its present state. On the upside, his insurance company determined that even a direct plane hit would probably not require more than fresh paint (and more garbage containers) to fix the damage, so his premiums are rock bottom. Using modern tools, it takes 24 hours to drill a fist size hole in the wall – the police needs less than four minutes to be on the scene. Matthias has a letter of apology from HILTI, maker of the world’s best drills, because so many of them broke during renovation. So it’s easy to see why he feels good about his investment.

On the inside, despite the beautiful floor and great lighting, the place isn’t for everyone. There is an echo and vibration everywhere, you can feel the 2m walls around you wherever you are, and when the lights are turned off you are in complete and utter darkness – darker than any night is dark. Fascinating and a little scary at the same time.

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From time to time I look back at my blogs. Topics, categories, search strings and statistics provide an image of what I like to write about, what readers want to read about, and the part where both overlap. If you recall, after a brief excursion into the world of “precious metals only” I returned to “Marketing and The Meaning of Life” quickly after realizing that neither I nor my readers enjoyed what I wrote. Ever since my blogs have been hovering around several hundred readers each, plus minus, and I want to thank every one of you for lending me your time and for sending the occasional comment.

Still, life goes on, things progress and I may have changed a little over time. My observations are:

  • While blogging about “current affairs” is incredibly satisfying it is also true that these blogs never seem to change anything. So what’s the point?
  • With the appearance of the electric BMW in my life last year (and its disappearance earlier this year) I discovered how fascinating the world of alternative energy really is. I have since become more involved with the technology and logistics behind these vehicles, learned much about other alternative technologies such as hydrogen, and of course the materials required to enable them. So my blog has turned into a car blog a bit more than anything else last year.
  • Lastly, I find myself not reading as many blogs anymore as I used to. No disrespect to my fellow bloggers, some of which are good friends of mine, but it seems like I am not the only person experiencing “blogging fatigue” after everything of relevance has already been said before by someone else.

Instead, I find myself drawn more towards topical news, information and industry insider commentaries on discoveries, technologies and trends. Which lead me to combine the two: with my unique exposure to the precious metals and specialty metals / rare earths industries combined with my passion for everything that moves fast I am confident to be in the right spot to pick up topics at the intersection of both areas, report and interpret on developments, and hopefully manage to insert the occasional interview with interesting people from participating industries. And I promise my sentences will be shorter.

Bodo 2013So here is the plan: my blog will go passive for a little bit and relaunch in September this year with a new focus, and a new design. Anyone sharing my passion or wanting to contribute is invited to do so. I hope you will like the new “Eniqma”. Of course my other website pages will remain in place. Where else in the world do you find information on Albert Schweitzer, Taekwondo and Deaf Cats on the same website? I am conscious of my responsibilities. 😉  Also, some of my older blogs are still getting hits on a regular basis so I’ll leave the archive in place.

Again, thanks for tuning in, and I hope you’ll be giving the new “Eniqma” a shot.

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“Not for grown-ups” says Antoine de Saint Exupery’s dedication to “Le Petit Prince”. More than 30 years ago, the book was the centerpiece of  religion/ethics classes held by my teacher (and Lutheran priest) Gernot Kalk back at Justus-von-Liebig Gymnasium in Frankfurt, Germany. Indeed, the story of the Little Prince teaches all about love there is to know. It teaches the selfish love of one thing, and the universal love of all things. And everything in between. And it really is key to this book to read it through the eyes of a curious child rather than the “mature” adult’s to comprehend its metaphorical meaning, and to see the elephant in the snake’s belly.

While Germany defines itself as a Christian country adolescent students are permitted to opt out of “religion” as a subject. Which leaves the respective teachers with both the need to advertise their classes and the privilege to only deal with students who have chosen to attend out of interest.

Gernot managed not only to fill his classes, he also started what I later labeled the “Dead Poet’s Society” – a weekly evening meeting at his surreally large flat in a downtown Frankfurt townhouse, most walls covered from bottom to the high stucco ceiling with book shelves, the living room featuring a grand piano, always with a vase of fresh red roses on top. A small group of his most dedicated students would discuss philosophical texts until late at night, for which some of us (not me) got into frequent trouble with their parents because few of us were 18 yet. (And none of us even mentioned the red wine Gernot served).

It was this connection, it was Saint Ex’s view of love, and it was Gernot’s motto that raising a child means “opening the doors of life” that has  since guided me through life like nothing else.

I was happy to reconnect with Gernot 25 years later at an event at the Justus-von-Liebig Gymnasium in Frankfurt. We had since been in contact again. Gernot did not hesitate a moment when, a few years later, I asked him if he would do the Eulogy for my mother who had passed away. Preparing for the memorial service with Gernot lead to a few long nights which taught me things about my parents and me that helped me tremendously deal with their passing.

Gernot was never afraid of standing up for his beliefs; he helped young men make their case to be accepted for social service rather than military duty; he helped anyone with a problem, including young criminals and drug addicts, to show them a path to a better life. Not all of them took it. Actually, few did, but that didn’t stop Gernot from continuing to offer help, even though he was repeatedly robbed and stolen from.

Gernot never stopped learning in the firm belief that the brain is a muscle requiring exercise as much as the rest of the body. We actually had plans for him to show me his unique method of teaching young people latin-based languages on which he had been working.

I was very sad to learn that Gernot passed away last night after a long struggle with cancer. I will not forget him, and his memory will live on in how I see the world and how I deal with life and death, forever NOT a grown-up.

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Perhaps the word of the year? “App”, short for application because we have not enough time in our lives for long words. There are apps for anything, including remote activation of your coffee maker, instructions on how to tie your shoes (you still have to tie them yourself)  and an app to find your phone with all the cool apps on it in case you lose it somewhere.

So what’s left that can not be converted into an app outside of app programming? Can your job be done by an app? Can an app manage your relationships without anyone noticing? Is there a Siri to give the answers you are giving?

And what if the answer is: yes ?

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Alice Miller

Alice Miller, Swiss psychologist and author of the groundbreaking book “Drama of the gifted Child” died on April 14 this year at the age of 87, according to a press release by her publisher. Assuming that you’ve never heard of her, here is why her work was so important back in the early ’80s.

The late ’70s and early ’80s were the era of a discipline named psychoanalysis. Up to this point psychology had more or less favored the idea that children were born either “good” or “bad”. If a child was “bad” it wasn’t the parent’s fault, it was just one of those bad eggs we always hear about.

Psychoanalysis claimed the opposite: children are born as “white sheets of paper”, they are conditioned to be who they are during the first few years of their lives. This belief manifested itself in “anti-authoritarian” upbringing of children meaning that no limitations whatsoever were set to hinder the child’s creative and personal development. The idea was dropped quickly as most parents were intolerant to smashed furniture and drawings on the ceiling.  Important research discovered, however, that the early years of childhood are indeed crucial for who we will become, and how we view the world. In my opinion, the most important book written in this era was “I’m ok, you’re ok” by Thomas Harris which, 40 years after it’s first publication, remains a must-read for anyone searching for answers on why we act like we act.

Psychoanalysis lead to the conclusion that actually none of someone’s actions are their own “fault” – it’s the parents or, more broadly, the environment, that is to blame. Alice Miller sent me into a deep depression for a while before I realized she was wrong by claiming that not only are we “programmed” by our environment to do what we do after birth but we are also unable to reverse it in our lifetimes, leaving us with a margin of perhaps 20 – 30% room for individuality and 70 – 80% of induced behavior. A horrible thought and simply unacceptable to me.

Luckily, further studies carried out on twins who were separated at birth (by circumstance, not experimental design) showed a surprising amount of similarities despite of the completely different environments they grew up in, effectively refuting psychoanalysis altogether, which was the end of it.

What remains is the realization of human beings as hybrids of a mix of things:

  1. We aren’t born as white sheets of paper. We are born with a “pre-existing” personality of which we aren’t quite sure where it’s coming from.
  2. We are also born with specific physical and psychological conditions resulting from the time we were in our mother’s wombs. Stress, drugs, alcohol, traumatic situations or the opposite of those affect who we are.
  3. We are then filled to the top with our parent’s values, views of the world and behavioral patterns until the age of 5 or 6 at which we start discovering the outside world, thereby benchmarking what we learned from our parents against the reality we perceive.
  4. The really good news is: there is a LOT of room to change who we are after comprehending who we are. It’s hard and painful for most but doable.

Which is why, despite of her fundamental errors, I think Alice Miller’s work was so important: it helped spread an invalid theory far enough to prompt research to the contrary. Without the migraines she gave me as a teenager I wouldn’t have set off so persistently to prove her wrong. Thank you.

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About eight weeks ago I gave my blog a makeover. As you know I deal with metals a lot, and the idea of turning lead into gold has been an obsession of mankind for millenia. At the time I had discovered some amazing images created by an artist named “Gard”. He kindly allowed me to use one of his pictures titled “The Alchemist’s Dream – The Transformation of Lead to Gold” as a title bar of The Eniqma blog.

Check out all of his pictures at http://www.gardgallery.com – if you, like I, are into fantasy stories and imaginary worlds I am sure you will like them too. Most of his images are for sale as prints through the website, by the way, and they really aren’t expensive so check out GARD’s store as well.

Dear GARD, whoever you are, many thanks for letting me use this great image. I hope you will be very successful with your work.

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