Monthly Archives: September 2018

Three’s a crowd in Munich museums during Oktoberfest.

Hallo folks!

Munich has lots of excellent museums. But when’s the best time of year to go check them out? Turns out: late September/early October. Why? Because that’s when Oktoberfest takes place! Yes, while practically the whole population of the city and surrounding areas, plus millions of tourists from around the world are at the city’s famous Volkfest (the largest Volkfest in the world, no less), the museums are practically empty! Yeh! It’s like having a whole museum to yourself. Weh!

The first museum we checked out was the Pinakothek der Moderne. And just look at all the crowds we had to elbow our way through:

Read on: A lengthy line for entry tickets…

Cyber-tales from the dark – and light – sides.

Hi folks!

Today I’ve got some fresh, surprising cybersecurity news items for you. The first few are worrying stories about threats stemming from a certain ubiquitous small device, which many folks simply can’t be without just for one minute – including in bed and in the bathroom. The last few are positive, encouraging stories – about women on the up in IT. Ok, let’s dive in with those worrying ones first…

Don’t join the Asacub victim club

These days, folks tend to entrust their (trusty?) smartphones with all sorts of stuff – banking, important work and personal documents, messaging (often with very personal details strictly for a few eyes only), and more. But, hey, you’ll know all this perfectly well already, and may be one of these folks to this or that extent yourself; and if you are – you really do need to read this one carefully…

At the end of August a sharp increase was detected in the proliferation of the Android Trojan Asacub, which exploits that peculiarly human weakness called curiosity. The Trojan sends a text message with words like: ‘Hey John: You should be ashamed of yourself! [link]’, or ‘John – you’ve been sent an MMS from Pete: [link]’. So John scratches his head, becomes as curious as a cat, wonders what’s in the photo, clicks on the link, and (willingly!) downloads an application… which then proceeds to stealthily access his full contact list and start sending out similar messages to all his peers.

But this crafty malware doesn’t stop there. It can also, for example, read incoming texts and send their contents to the hackers running the malware, or send messages with a given text to a given number. And the ability to intercept and send texts gives the authors of the Trojan the ability to, among other things, transfer to themselves funds from the bank card of the victim if the card is digitally connected to the phone number. And as if that weren’t bad enough – there’s a bonus for the victim: a huge bill from his mobile provider for sending all those messages to everybody.

So how can you protect yourself from such fearsome mobile malware? Here’s how:

  • Don’t click on suspicious links;
  • Carefully check which rights are being requested by the downloaded application (e.g., microphone, camera, location…);
  • And last and most: the simplest step – install reliable protection on your Android smartphone.

Android? Hmmm. I can hear all the sighs of relief just now: ‘Aaaaahhhh, thank goodness I’ve got an iPhone!’!

Hold your horses all you Apple lovers; here’s a couple of links for you too (don’t worry: you can click these – honest!):

Read on…

Kamchatka-2018: Kam-route, Kam-vids, Kam from outer space.

Hi Folks!

Herewith, the LAST post in the series on our Kamchatka-2018 expedition! No, really. “What? No meandering 30-post extended-version travelogue with several hundred pics?” Nope. Not this year. Don’t worry though: I’ll make up for this year’s scant reportage after the next Kamchatka mission.

But back to this year’s trip…

So. What have I got for you today?

First, of course, there’s the full route taken this year in on the peninsula, with a few assorted pics inserted at different points along the way:

I do hope that this route – plus the few travel-tales in the earlier Kamchatka-2018 posts, or indeed all my Kamchatka notes (and there are a lot of them!) – might make the seemingly daunting destination of Kamchatka a bit less intimidating for some of the more adventurous among you, dear readers. If we can do it – average folks with average fitness levels – so can you! Just follow our route and you’ll be fine ).

Now what else?

As it’s Tuesday, and you’ve probably got enough reading on your plate already, I’ve got for you today a series of videos on this year’s expedition:

1) Expedition highlights:

Read on: Bears in action!…

There’s North; then there’s Norilsk.

I’d been planning on getting myself in early September to the Far North industrial city of Norilsk. I’d a chock-full itinerary planned, including giving speeches, business meetings with the management of our highly esteemed customer, plus of course a spot of tourism: checking out the main natural must-see of the region: Putorana Plateau.

At least, like I say: that was the plan. But then Kamchatka-2018 put paid to all that – six weeks with a leg in plaster. So I had to put the trip off. But only I had to postpone it: all the others in our delegation still went. And they had a whale of a time, by all accounts.

Well one of those accounts I’ll give you here: that of D.Z., one of my most-regular travel companions. Herewith, his short essay,plus photos.

(Note (from me): Unfortunately there are no pics of Putorana. Much like what happened most of the time this summer in Kamchatka, the weather turned real bad – not fit for flying. So there was to be no helicopter flight to the Siberian Traps, which incidentally came about around 250 million years ago as the result of a mega volcanic eruption. Btw: that eruption was one of the most global geo-catastrophes this planet of ours has ever seen: it changed its climate, and brought the Paleozoic Era to a close while ushering in that of the Mesozoic and its all its dinosaurs. Remnants of that prehistoric cataclysm can today be found around 100 kilometers from Norilsk, but are rarely accessible to tourists due to the habitually terrible weather conditions above the Arctic Circle. Oh well: next time…

—8<—

For someone who’s never been to Norilsk, the place is a mere city in the Far North of Russia. However, a taxi ride from its airport around the territory and to its downtown changes this visualization: Norilsk is a more than a mere city; it’s a whole industrial district (one of its official titles is the ‘Norilsk Industrial District’), which covers the wide expanse of land from the Yenisei River to the Putorana Plateau. And its residential neighborhoods – with a population totaling nearly 200,000 – dot this industrial landscape to almost resemble oases.

Read on…

Leaden sky.

My definition of happiness: In excellent company; in nice weather (under a warm sun and clear blue skies); with oh-my-gorgeous views all around (and no other tourists getting in the way!); not counting the great many kilometers trekked, or the number of rivers waded or zip-lined across, or the masses of mosquitoes and innumerable insects (which mysteriously disappear all of a sudden); having ones mind, body and soul filled with the rejuvenating tonic of exotic expedition; with a fresh wind blowing; with a spirit that is tranquil, contemplative and meditative… where?… – you guessed it: in KAMCHATKA!!

Along wild meadows, dry tundra, and sometimes swampy stretches; across volcanic rubble… – it all equals contentedness.

Read on…

Geothermal-gastronomical.

There are just two ways to get to the white waterfalls I told you about in a recent post post. You can either walk from the village Pauzhetka (en route to the peaks of Koshelev volcano), or – just the opposite – walk from the same volcano en route to Pauzhetka. So you see: all roads lead to and from Pauzhetka. Accordingly, this post is dedicated to the small yet significant – and most curious – village of Pauzhetka…

Pauzhetka is a village of extremes:

First: It’s probably one of the remotest settlements on the whole of the peninsula. To get there in a regular road car is probably impossible. To get there in a 4×4 or off-road vehicle from nearest town of Ust-Bolsheretsk takes up to two days (including a long stretch along the shore of the Sea of Okhotsk, and probably entailing a few ferry crossings). On the other hand, getting to the village by air isn’t too much trouble: there are scheduled flights once a week (from Petropavlovsk) to Ozernaya airport, which isn’t far from the nearest village on the coast – a mere 30 kilometers from the Pauzhetka. The only other means of transport that can be used to get there is chartered helicopter.

Second: It’s tiny. Locals put the population at a mere 42 folks ((co)incidentally, a magical number:).

Third: Still – as of summer 2018 (!), there’s no cellphone coverage – at all!

Fourth: Though the village is tiny and very inaccessible, it nevertheless has its own… geothermal power plant – Pauzhetskaya (the first power plant of its kind in Russia (or maybe even the USSR – I’m not sure)! As a result, the local area is supplied with free electricity and hot water! Free, as in – zero rubles! And it comes in seemingly unlimited supply: no electricity meters… nothing: as much as you want to use, whenever. Leave the TV on – fine! Never turn the iron off (if that’s what really floats your boat) ok! And it’s not as if the local authorities discourage such wanton waste of energy supplies: they don’t bother turning off every home’s central heating… ever! See – told you the place is one of extremes ).

(Btw: I’ve written about Pauzhetka before.)

AAAnnnyway, that’s all beside the point (yes, I do like to digress).

What makes Pauzhetka so significant to me is that you need to go through it to get to the nearby OMG-stratovolcanoes – Koshelev and Kambalny. Now, since Pauzhetka is located in such a touristic paradise, you might think that it’d be all… Davos-like: nothing but hotels and guesthouses and restaurants to cater for the tourists. Alas – nope. Pauzhetka doesn’t do tourism – for a few reasons.

First, this place is inaccessible, literally middle-of-nowhere, and literally unheard of (almost). Just try Google photos of Koshelev Volcano: my photos are the first to be shown!

Second, getting here ain’t cheap (in part because it’s so hard to get to), which reduces its average-tourist magnetism to around zero. And for the serious explorer-expeditioner-climber, the volcanoes are just too easy to conquer:

– What were you climbing this summer?
– I did a couple volcanoes in Kamchatka.
– Cool. I hear Kamchatka’s the bomb when it comes to serious volcanism. What altitudes did you get up to then?
– Ah. Er… 1800 and 2200 meters.
– Oh…

Accordingly, every tourist passing through Pauzhetka fits easily in this here ‘tourist base’ made up of two buildings with sleeping quarters, the inevitable pool filled with hot thermal water, and lots of vegetable patches and greenhouses:

But these aren’t just regular, common-or-vegetable-garden greenhouses…

First, these are greenhouses supplied with as much free hot water as needed all year round. Second, the soil here is super fertile volcanic soil packed with mega-doses of the minerals fruit and veg love. Third, there’s the industriousness of the locals who tend the greenhouses…

Read on…

The kings of Kamchatka.

It’s high time I said a few words about the kings of Kamchatka. Brown, self-powered mammoths with all-wheel drive, which you need to treat with the utmost caution should you ever meet any…

To the inevitable question upon returning home – ‘Did you see any bears?’ – we answered in the positive. The bears saw us too, but since bears don’t do cameras – and were anyway far more interested in the masses of fish in the rivers – they took little notice of us: a quick, sated glance over in our direction and off they shuffled. We, on the other hand, took lots of notice of them – with our Kamchatka newbies doing most of the photography.

You might think it’d be a bit risky taking pics of bears out in the wilds – no matter how satiated they are. And you’d be right. But from where we were observing them the dangers had been taken fully into account: low-current electric fences separate the beasts from the humans; in fact, they surround the living/observing areas completely, like this:

Read on: some awesome close-up shots…

White water.

When you climb up or descend down the very orange Koshelev volcano, it’s practically impossible to miss the white waterfalls. Which is just as well as missing these fine cascades of H2O would be most regrettable; for these are truly unique phenomena.

I mean, the water in these falls isn’t just seemingly white, much like waves coming in off the ocean (all the bubbles/froth). This water is actually really white – like milk! How so? Well, due to the local volcanism there’s an unusually high concentration of aluminum (and other similar natural elements) in the water here, not only making the water milky, but also leaving deposits of whiteness on the bedrock underneath and along the waterways. The milky water also seals up the walls of underground natural streams, forming tubes – along which water flows invisibly to the eye. And since here there are sharp changes in altitude, at the exits of the underground well springs it’s no mere bubble-fest, it’s a full-on whitewater splashing frenzy as it spurts out of the ground! Not quite geysers, but equally fascinating – and more unusual and unique.

Read on…