Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 14

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Tuesday February 26, 2008 (bio, Grotie's birthday, war, Wismar, Martinshof, Regien, Tante Saar)

Grotie's Birthday Party, '54

I remember it was towards the end of February but unsure of the exact date. I check in the family tree documents my father put together many years ago. They are stored in my lockup. There it is : Grotie's birthday is on February 23.
My Grandmother (Grotie) really held the family (her children and grandchildren) together throughout her life. The main event each year was her birthday party. She would hire a private function room in a hotel in Den Haag and have an elaborate dinner. Us grandchildren would at the intervals between the various courses perform circus acts, dances, etc. and I usually played a piece on the piano accordion.

One year (I must have been 13 or 14) I composed a waltz (Grootje och...) for her, but as I was hopeless at reading music I had to play it bit by bit while my mother wrote it down. Together we also wrote some lyrics for it, which at the party we all sang together. The song was a very simple 3 chord melody, and quite amazingly I can still recall it note for note today (of the lyrics I can only recall the Chorus). The Chorus in fact reminds me of the earthy broad sentimental choruses of many of the popular Dutch songs of those days ("Daar bij die Molen", "Op de Sluizen van IJmuiden", etc.). They still play them these days, and with as much passion as ever.

Atelier Martinshof : Het Haantje I was close to my Grandmother. In 1944, when the Germans feared an Allied landing possibly on the Dutch coast Grotie was evacuated from Scheveningen and came to live with us at Martinshof, 150 km inland. She remained there with my father, while my mother and us children soon after moved to Wismar (Germany) where my mother's parents lived.
My parents had felt that we would be safer there, but as it turned out, we had jumped from the frying pan into the fire as we were almost caught by the Russians. We returned to Martinshof in the summer of '45. My father (who during the final days of the war rode on his bicycle to Wismar to rescue us) was picked up at the border as we reentered Holland. My mother managed to get us kids back in Grotie's care at Martinshof, before she too was arrested.
So for 18 months we lived with Grotie, plus an assortment of other people who had been placed under our roof. They included Annie (my parent's Jewelry shop assistant and future wife of the goldsmith Archibald Dumbar), an also young and rather mysterious Mevrouw Maas, Grotie's housekeeper Regien and maid Nel, as well as the architect who had designed Martinshof Gustaaf Jansen and his family. Their son Albert Jansen was a nerd type of a boy, and turned out a genius in astronomy, becoming already in his 20s the Director of the Planetarium in The Hague.

Regien, me and Tante Saar Grotie looked very well after us kids, but I had constant fights with Regien, her housekeeper. Why I can't remember, but I was an enormously nervous child then, I am sure at least partly through the fearful anxiety of the war experience. After a fight with her I would run away, crying uncontrollably, and sit outside in the woods somewhere until I had quietened down. I firmly decided then that I would learn to get myself under control, and I did. I became cool as ice after a few years. But keeping my nerves under control often caused inwardly painful stomach aches during stress times. These gradually disappeared as I grew into my 20s. Later Regien and I became the best of friends. In due course she received a Queen's medal for 35 years of faithful service to Grotie.

My mother returned home after 18 months and gradually the various temporary occupants of Martinshof returned to their own homes. Grotie too in due course returned with Regien and Nel to Scheveningen.
Looking at the photograph above, my thoughts return to Tante Saar a most remarkable woman. I liked her immensely. Can't remember exactly what the story was. I believe she lost her own parents early and Grotie became her (emotionally only, not legal) adopted mother. The Mima, she called Grotie. Tante Saar was very successful in her nursing career and became the Directrice (Director) of the Children Hospital in Den Haag. An unheard of high position for a woman in those days. After her retirement she sat on several medical and Government boards and committees.

When I returned to Holland in the 80s Tante Saar had moved into a nice retirement home in Wassenaar (just outside Den Haag). I took her out to dinner from there once to her favourite Restaurant right on the Scheveningen beach.
"You can't drive to it, there is no proper road there Michael," she objected "and my legs are useless for walking these days.". But we went. There was only a foot path in front of the Restaurant entrance and I drove with my red Mercedes onto it and right up to the restaurant's front door. She loved it. We had a table right at the window and kept looking out for a policeman to turn up. To both our disappointment one never showed up. But it did not spoil our meal together.
On my last visit to her in Wassenaar she was ready to move on. "Tante Saar you can't do that yet. You can't disappoint Grotie." I said "Grotie just missed out at reaching 90. You must do it for her." She bloody well did too, and I would not be surprised at all if it was only just to please me.

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Wednesday February 27, 2008 (idea, awareness, universe, e = mc2, matter, vibrations, String theory)

Awareness 2 continues from Jan. 7
Babette has flown to Sydney for a few days, so I am in dogs baby sitting mode. I am also following through with my lunchtime reading of The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene, great. Today I have entered the realm of the String theory and I must say it is most enlightening.
A strange thought first : Brian Green entered College in 1984, the same year I started at the Jazz College in Adelaide. I can strongly identify with the enormous grasp and eloquence with which he presents his thoughts and materials. Within the far less intelligence intense environment of music I feel exactly the same. It is the result of a long and sustained period of material absorption combined with a very creative, sometimes intuitive insight. It is reflected in my written lessons but also in the ever improving effortless flow of my keyboard improvisations. It is a quite wonderful experience.

But now some serious stuff.
Here is Albert Einstein's famous equation : Energy equals Matter times the squared Speed of Light.
What can you get out of this in an everyday practical sense ?
Take a single unit of Mass. How much Energy do you need to make it ? The formula on the right gives you the answer : a hell of a lot. To produce just one single unit of Mass you need 1,000 million times 1,000 million comparable units of Energy !   No wonder that when you achieve the reverse, transforming Matter back into Energy you produce a heck of a big bang, a huge release of Energy, an atomic bomb.
Einstein's famous equation
What does this mean ? It means that in our everyday lives we usually think the wrong way around. To us energy is precious, to drive our cars, light, cool or heat our house, run our washing machine. It all costs money. Matter, dirt, rock, it is all around us, plenty of it, so we tread it with disdain. So here on Earth to us Matter does not matter.

Symphony Orchestra But from the perspective of the Universe we live in it is exactly the opposite. There is oodles of Energy around, planets, burning stars, galaxies all moving like the clappers. The Universe itself is expanding at an ever increasing rate. Energy galore, everywhere you look in the Universe.
Matter however is scarce, it is the most precious commodity there is. It has been created by numerous life cycles of burning stars birth - growth - decay - death (more about this later) over a period of 15 billion years, converting enormous amounts of energy into small quantities of Matter.
So the next time you kick a stone, pick a flower, or look at yourself think about that. Every single atom of your body is very very precious and you should feel enormously privileged to have it !

Electrons and Quarks are Strings What about this String theory I mentioned. What has that got to do with it ? The answer is "everything".
For most of the 20th Century scientists actually believed, and worked on the thesis that Energy did convert into Matter and that the tiniest particles they were discovering like electrons, quarks and a heap of others (and considered to be the fundamental building blocks of all Matter) were real particles.
In 1984, just when Brian Green entered his College, all that suddenly changed. String theory was born. It had taken 14 years of relentless research by two lone scientists (John Schwarz and Michael Green), ignoring the general opinion of most scientists around the world, to come up with this enormous breakthrough.

Those tiniest Matter building blocks like electrons, quarks and all the others are not particles at all ! They are tiny tiny vibrating strings. And the beauty of it is that all the strings for the various different (presumed) particles are exactly the same. The difference between one type of particle and another is that the strings vibrate differently.
Think of a string of a violin, guitar or bass for example. You can produce different sound pitches on the same string by simply tightening or loosening its tension. Simple isn't it. A good theory is simple and elegant and the String theory certainly features both.

In terms of this String theory therefore think of yourself as a huge symphony orchestra of trillions and trillions of tiny strings. And you are the conductor who creates, through your actions, thoughts, feelings, your own vibrating music. Is that not wonderful ?   But let me leave you with a thought. When finally the musicians pack up their instruments and go away, the music stops !   I invite you to think that one through to its ultimate consequence.
Awareness continues on Feb. 29

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Thursday February 28, 2008 (diary, bio, public opinion, scientists, food, car accident)

Back to the present day today.
Shirley Pink, my friend in Adelaide, rings to tell me the tax forms for her mother have arrived from Holland. Her mother Irene is a war widow from WW2. Her Dutch husband was a pathfinder pilot, shot down somewhere over Russia 14 days before the war ended. I am immensely proud of the fact that Irene (now 96) still receives a most generous pension from the Dutch Government. The Tax forms are in Dutch so I do them for her each year as I have done for the past 20 odd years.

At the Surf Club, while doing my scheduled science reading, my son Jeroen phones from Alice Springs (NT, in the center of Australia). We discuss my forthcoming trip up North and I hear some good news (private). He is a loss assessor and working very hard. They have had lots of rain and storms in Darwin these last few months. He also tells me, in response to my question, that the Panorama in Alice Springs burned down a few years ago. What a shame, there are at the most only a dozen or so left in the World and this one was the only one in Australia.

It is one of those days that the Furstner family is spread all over the place. Jeroen in Alice Springs for a few days, his wife Lisa in Darwin, Babette is in Sydney, her partner Doug somewhere in India. My ex wife Antien is on Kangaroo Island (South of the Australian Continent) and my sister Wivica of course in South Germany's Black Forest. The only two close together are my brother Claus and I here on the Sunshine Coast, and he is not speaking to me. It sure is a funny world.

I am reflecting on the long struggle Schwarz and Green had to overcome public opinion to accept their String theory. This happens all the time. It happened to me too. Back in 1970 at an International Conference (in Perth, WA) I presented a new model of how the ultramafic rocks and their associated nickel ore deposits had formed in Western Australia. No, this was not possible, everybody said. The conditions would not allow it, etc. etc. Discussions, discussions. Ten years later at a repeat of the same Conference, it is crystal clear that my ideas now are accepted worldwide (without acknowledgement of course).   But these two examples are, in terms of their time lag, only small fry.

The Greek scientist Pythagoras constructed the first 7-tone scale, but it took 500 years before the Greeks started to use it with their modes. Their ears took so long to adjust to the arrival of the semitone in music.

Another Greek scientist first proposed the atom as the smallest building block (which could not be divided into smaller pieces) of matter. The idea was rejected and the science of chemistry became bogged down in the earth - fire - water - air concept for over 2000 years.

Yet another Greek philosopher stated that "If an ox could paint a picture, his God would look like an ox". But only now "has atheism become quite fashionable", as I read on the back cover of a book last week. Not so much "fashionable" I would suggest, as acceptable by the public. And that only in the more liberal minded Western world of course.

Despite all this, how good is it to have an independent mind, make your own discoveries, your own decisions in total freedom. Sure you make mistakes, are wrong sometimes. You accept that as part of the deal. But you are and remain uniquely yourself, not smothered by the grey faceless mediocre world of the majority.

Fried Cuttlefish balls In the evening I drive to Nambour for dinner at the Thai Parnit Restaurant. Stephen the owner, even shows clear signs that he actually remembers me, a huge step forward. I have as usual the fried cuttlefish balls as entree and this time the Thai noodles as main.
The car park behind the Restaurant is inclined and as I back out I slide onto another parked car. The other car looks undamaged and I drive away. Back home I check and notice that my plastic right rear light cover is broken. I watch TV for a while but don't feel happy about the situation. I ring Stephen at the Restaurant, tell him what happened and give him my name and phone number in case the other car was damaged. I don't believe so, but now feel much better. I have done the right thing.   A few years ago someone else drove into the back of my car. The dent is still there and annoys me every day. I don't want to do this to somebody else.

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Friday February 29, 2008 (bio, Darwin, camping, freedom, awareness, idea : tropics, equator, space time)

Freedom 6 continues from February 25
Upon arrival in Darwin in 2001 I first stayed with my son Jeroen. After about 3 months some tenants moved into my house in Nambour so I too could afford to rent somewhere. I found a lovely 1 bedroom unit in Elsey street, Parap. The street name was the same as my mother's, the famous Parap markets (every Saturday morning) where just around the corner and the Darwin Sailing Club too was only 500 meters away. So the location was ideal.

Rescue 1 and Sandy I soon became involved with the Darwin Sailing Club as a volunteer rescue crew member, helping out on the start boat (Sandy), operating the flag signals for starts and finishes for the yacht races every weekend. In due course I switched to the onshore Command Tower to process all race results on the computer, and the last few years I became OOD on occasions when Donnie the Sailing Manager was unable to run the races himself.

I loved Darwin, but found the "build up" period, usually starting in October, very hard to take. It consists of several months of high humidity, but without the relief of rain. This period can last for 2 to 3 months, and some years even to 4. I copped one of the bad ones and decided this was not for me.
My camp set up So I bought a new Mercedes Vito van, had it fitted out with some full width shelves by a cabinet maker and left Elsey Street to tour around Australia.
The purchase of my new Kyocera mobile phone with in built CDMA modem, allowed me to pick up my online orders and service my web site wherever I was in Australia. A new step forward in my never ending quest for greater freedom.
I left Darwin late October 2002, traveled Westward and in anti clockwise direction, arriving at the Sunshine Coast late January 2003. On the way I had extended stays in Broome, Kalbari, Busselton, all on the West Coast of WA, and also in Tumby Bay on the East Coast of the Eyre Peninsula, SA (50km N of Pt.Lincoln). These are the small places I liked best.

I started out on my travel just sleeping on the bed in my car and during day time sitting under the rear door of the van. Gradually this set up was extended with various tarpaulins and finally a tent. These days I sleep in the tent on a field bed and also have a small fridge and my keyboard in there. A microwave oven and TV are in the van. All quite comfortable.
Mango geese in flight I now mainly commute between Darwin and the Sunshine Coast. In Darwin I camp on a small mango farm owned by the previous managers of a caravan park I used to stay (Kim and Andrew). A few of the "regulars" from the former park stay there during the dry season each year. It is a small community of people I like and get on with very well. We all love it there.   When the build up season starts we all move South again, and I always stay with my daughter Babette and Doug at ThreePonds on the Sunshine Coast. Come March, and I am off again back up North.

Awareness 3 continues from Feb. 27   and   Freedom continues
It is no accident that I keep gravitating towards Darwin every year. It is a very special place. I feel a greater sense of freedom there than anywhere else in Australia. Most of all it are of course the attitude of the people there and the free lifestyle of the Northern Territory generally. But also one feels closer to the rest of the world. Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, even Singapore are nearer than Sydney. Here my mind easily reaches out across the seas to all of Asia and even in the far distance, Europe. Darwin is for Australia the natural gateway to the rest of the World.

When I look back at all the places I lived during my life there are three places that stand out from the rest, Yonki in the PNG Highlands, Bougainville Island (also PNG) and Darwin. At these three places in the Tropics, nearest to the Equator I have felt most exhilarated, excited, experienced every day as an adventure. And every time I moved away, down South to Australia, there was this sense of disappointment, of boredom.
Darwin and the Tropic of Capricorn Don't get me wrong, Australia is a great place to live, with a freedom and a relaxed lifestyle that beats Europe hands down. But it can't match the feelings I (and everybody else who lives there) have in the Tropics.
Why is it ? Partly I believe because of the remoteness of all three places. And perhaps partly too because of the tough climate. Caucasians are out of their comfort zone in this regard, and perhaps just because of that it is an adventure to be there, life in the tropics feels almost surreal.

And perhaps there is something else too, rather quirky.
Imagine two men, one standing right on the South Pole and the other one on the Equator, both standing there motionless, not moving an inch for 24 hours. The man on the South Pole, as a result of the Earth's rotation, slowly, slowly is turned around on his axis until after 24 hours he is back in the same position.
But what happens to the other guy on the Equator ? He too keeps standing on the same spot, but unknowingly is moving at a speed of over 1,600 kilometers per hour, while the Earth makes a complete rotation around its access.

Because the atmosphere around us is moving too, we don't feel a thing of this rotational speed near the Equator, but it is there.   Do we therefore somehow, subconsciously, experience this in a minute way ? Just so that we feel different here, more excited ? Does this differential movement between Pole and Equator produce a slowing down or speeding up of time in space time when we are nearer to the equator ???
(I am not sure about this, as the man on the Pole and the one on the Equator do not move with respect to one another over the 24 hours. But each do move quite differently with regard to the rest of the Universe. Definitely an interesting topic for more thought.)

Awareness continues on March 1
Freedom continues on November 25

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