Odds and Ends for Christmas

With two weeks left before Christmas, many of us are scrambling to find the right gift for the right person, let alone find the right time and the right place to celebrate the holidays, let alone find the right time to do the right things at the right place. Most of us are trying to make things right for the holiday season so that the mood is right for everyone.  But if you are in a rut regarding finding the right gift or the right activity for people to do, or planning on finding the right place to meet for Glühwein and all, the Flensburg Files and the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles are here to help.

Online Store:  Check out the latest items including those for Christmas at the Flensburg-Bridgehunter Online Shop. They include the newest calendars coming out for 2015, such as Night Travels and the Bridges of Minnesota and Iowa, which are selling like hotcakes even as the article goes to the press. All of which are courtesy of Cafe Press. Ask them about any holiday deals that are going on before Christmas, as well as shipping options available. You can click here to go to the shop: http://www.cafepress.com/flensburgbridgehunteronlineshop

2014 Ammann Awards: For the fifth year in a row, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles are hosting the Othmar H. Ammann Awards, given to bridges deserving recognition in four categories, as well as people deserving recognition for preserving historic bridges and providing the best photography. The voting process started a week ago and unlike in the past, a polling system was introduced where after reading up on the candidate and looking at the photo, you can click onto the link to Poll Daddy, choose the nominated candidate in each of the categories and and send. You can also view the results if you wish.  A link to the Ammann Awards Voting Process is below. You have until January 6th to vote with the winners to be announced on the 7th.

Link: http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2014/12/04/2014-ammann-awards-voting-now-underway/

And lastly, the Files is on tour of the Christmas markets for the fifth year in a row. As you can see from the first stop on the tour, there will be some different themes for this year’s market tour, some of which will be posted in the coming days and weeks. If you are still looking for a place to visit with your family and friends, a link to the places visited on the tour as well as a guide of the markets in Germany and Switzerland are enclosed below. Note that most of the markets will close after December 23rd, with a handful of them remaining open through the New Year.

Flensburg Files Christmas Tour:   http://flensburgerfiles.areavoices.com/tourism-guide/

German Christmas Market Guide:  http://www.germany-christmas-market.org.uk/

These are some of the things you can do to make your Christmas the best holiday season for you and your family. And even if it is impossible to do these things this year- in particular, visiting the Christmas market, it will give you some ideas for next year as well.

And for that, I’m closing with a quote that has a true meaning of Christmas in itself: Sometimes you don’t need the perfect present, Sometimes you don’t need the perfect place, Sometimes you don’t need the perfect food, Sometimes you don’t need the perfect music, Sometimes you don’t need the perfect Christmas tree and sometimes you don’t need the perfect weather to celebrate a perfect Christmas. You just need the people that love you and make you the perfect man you are to celebrate your perfect Christmas.

The Files and Chronicles would like to wish you safe travels and a wonderful holiday season. Merry Christmas, Happy 2015 and stay tuned- more articles to come. 😀


Flensburg-Bridgehunter Merchandise on Sale through Café Press

If you are looking for the best gift for your loved one and are not sure what to get them, or know someone who loves bridges, photography, landscapes or the like, or you want to surprise them with something you don’t find on the shelves of any supermarket, then perhaps you can try the Flensburg-Bridgehunter Online Shop. Powered by Café Press, this year’s items include new calendars from the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, featuring the historic truss bridges of Iowa as well as the bridges of Minnesota, which are selling like hotcakes even as this goes to the press. In addition, merchandise carrying the Chronicle’ new logo are also for sale, including wall clocks and coffee cups. Some of them feature historic bridges that are the focus of preservation efforts.  The Flensburg Files has a second installment of the Night Travel series for 2015, in addition to part I that was produced in 2012 but is available in the 2015 version. This in addition to a new set of photos and journals to keep track of your travels and thoughts. Sometimes journal entries are best with a cup of coffee with the Files’ logo on there.

If you are interested in purchasing any of the products provided by the Chronicles and the Files, click here. This will take you directly to the store. Hope you find what you are looking for and thank you for shopping.

Guessing Quiz: Industrial History and Infrastructure

Rendsburg High Bridge in Rendsburg, Germany. Spanning the Baltic-North Sea Canal. Photo taken in April 2011

This is a joint article with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles in connection with the article on Pocket Guide to Industrial History and Infrastructure between 1871 and 1914. For more information on this teaching experience, please click here for details. The Guessing Quiz is in connection with the article.


To close off the topic on Industrialization and Infrastructure in Germany and the USA, I decided to provide you with the Files’ Fact-Finder Guessing Quiz Questions for you to research and find answers. The answers will come after May Day in the Files.


1.  In the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, structures made of iron melted like lava, which contributed to the destruction of hundreds of buildings made of iron and wood.  True or False?

2. The Chicago School of Architecture was developed shortly after the Great Fire featuring which architects? Name three and how they contributed to architecture.

3. Who created the first automobile in the world: Ransom Olds, Carl Benz or Henry Ford?

4. The Diesel Motor was created in ______ and is named after this German inventor?

5. List the following canals that were built between 1871 and 1915 in chronological order.

Panama Canal      Dortmund-Ems Canal    Danube Canal    Erie Canal   Elbe-Lübeck Canal   Baltic-North Sea Canal                            Berlin-Havelland Canal


6. Prairie Homes consisted of 1-2 story homes made of geometric shapes resembling circles and triangles.  True or False? Who invented the Prairie Homes (Hint: he was part of the Chicago School of Architecture).


7. Thomas Edison invented the light bulb in 1878, yet Berlin received its first set of electrical lighting in this year?


8.  Which of the following bridge engineers did NOT immigrate to the US?

Seth Hewett, Lawrence Johnson, Gustav Lindenthal, John Roebling, Friedrich Voss, Wendel Bollmann


9. The Minneapolis School of Bridge Builders emerged in the 1890s and later became a counterpart to the American Bridge Company conglomerate after the consolidation of _____ bridge builders in 1901. This School featured which family of bridge builders?

Hewett, Johnson, Bayne, Jones

Hewett, Fink, King, Bayne

Voss, King, Jones, Humboldt

Hewett, Maillard, Lindenthal, Steinmann


10. The Rendsburg High Bridge was the first bridge in the world that used the loop trestly approach. True or False? If false, when and where was the first loop trestle approach used? (See video here)


Happy Guessing! 🙂



The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles SPAMMED!

Shutdown occurs without notice. Investigation and Attempts to Restore the Online Column Underway. Chronicles temporarily running under the Flensburg Files until further notice.
It is a webmaster’s worst nightmare. Many years of work informing people about a topic of concern is flushed down the toilet because of the evil electronic ego by the name of Spam, invades the website and/or blog and is shut down. Or someone had the cutest idea of revenge by reporting the website as spam, just to get the online platform to shut it down without consenting the website administrator.  This has nothing to do with the British version of Spam.

But realistically, this is what happened to sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. The online column has been spammed by WordPress without notice, thus shutting down the online column and denying access to the site laden with valuable information on historic bridges, preservation and tours, just to name a few. The shutdown was discovered by its founder, Jason D. Smith this morning, who has sent a request to restore the website to the online platform. It is unknown whether the contents posted, including photos, articles and the like, can be retrieved or if the website will need to be rebuilt.  If the latter is the case, then it will be a time consuming effort, as articles regarding bridge tours dating back to the 2011 tour in Magdeburg, updates on current preservation projects, book reviews and Mystery Bridges dating back to 2012, interviews, and other important items dating back to 2012 will need to be retrieved and reposted, either through the author or through other readers who may have kept the articles on their computers for future use.
Until further notice, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will be operating under the name The Flensburg Files. Readers receiving RSS should change to that blog and remain there until further notice. It will not affect the Chronicles’ facebook and Twitter pages, as articles coming from the Files will go directly to the Chronicles page, to ensure that followers can continue reading up on the latest from the Chronicles. While the Files will continue its series on schooling in Germany, all articles pertaining to this topic as well as other German-American topics will continue to be posted here on this blog as well, but also to its facebook and Twitter pages as well, as the Files has its own pages.
The Files will keep you informed on the developments involving the Chronicles. Already a complaint has been sent to WordPress and AreaVoices (the latter owns the Chronicles and Files) with hopes that the Chronicles can be restored post haste.  Consideration is being made regarding either upgrading the blog to a WordPress.org site or a normal website, like bridgehunter.com. Should this be the case, then construction season will be a joyride for the Chronicles this year.
Those who have articles dating back to 2012 and are willing to submit a copy, and those willing to help with the reconstruction efforts of the Chronicles blog are asked to contact Jason Smith at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.

Blogging behind the scenes….

From the Classroom:

When you receive this article, I will be soaking in another session of a seminar called “Mind the App,” a class being offered for students and those interested in knowing how to use apps in the classroom, a topic that will be discussed in a later article. Before digging into this topic: how many of you have your own blog or know what a blog is in comparison to the internet? And in your opinion, what is the role of the news media in response to the blogs that are growing in numbers?

I have to admit, I didn’t know about blogs until a friend of mine (who runs a blog herself at Forum Communications) introduced me to it in the Fall of 2010, in response to a series of photos I had posted on facebook that were in connection with my trip to the US and my involvement at the 2nd annual Historic Bridge weekend in Pittsburgh. And it fitted me perfectly, for another friend of mine (a pontist and Pittsburghian) had previously hinted that I should consider starting a website of my own.  But if you want to know in the simplest terms what a blog is, here it is:

A blog is like a column. Think of the columns that had existed, like Dear Abby or Julie and Julie, a blog that dealt with the cooking of Julie Childs by Julie Powell, or the present ones like SidCast, a sportsblog hosted by Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune, Kaitlin O’shea-Healy’s “Preservation in Pink” or “Oh! A Shiny Thing!” written by Kari Lucin of the Jamestown Sun (part of the Forum family). They are all written by one author, who is also the sole administrator, photographer and (if you allow guest columnists/bloggers) editor, and whose content has but one purpose: to inform people of the themes that one normally cannot find in regular streamline news media. And if you construct your blog to your liking, you’ll most likely have some followers that will read your posts.

There are many advantages to blogging:  It is easy and cheap to open a blog. In addition, you can design your own template without having a web provider do it for you. Speaking from experience of other websites, opening a website may be expensive, even if you have someone build it for you, which may be to your disliking. In addition to that, you can add some apps by yourself for little or no costs incurred on you. For this online column, together with sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, they have the most commonly-used apps you can add on for free, but the others that are available can be added for a small fee.  But most importantly, after finding the template to your liking and adding the headers on your dashboard and widgets on the sidebars for people to easily access, you can go ahead and start blogging, keeping in mind that you are not only the sole writer, but also the sole editor. That means if a mistake is noticed by you or the reader, you have the right to correct it without having to publish a correction for the next edition of a newspaper or magazine.  And if you have the right touch, the right agenda, and the right audience, you may end up having thousands of followers in no time.

If I was to look at the two online columns I’ve had for almost three years, the Flensburg Files has focused on topics that deal with German culture and German-American issues, which includes topics like German-named villages in the USA, the Christmas markets, and places to visit, which have been well-received by the readers. This includes articles extending from a Christmas market in Halle (Saale) to the future of Round Lake in Minnesota after Sather’s Candy Company left town.  As for the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, many topics on historic bridges and ways to preserve them have spawned conversations and comments, most of which have supported alternatives to wasteful demolition for modernized structures and scrap metal, as seen in the last Chronicles’ article on Bellaire Bridge in Ohio. But we also have seen some interest in tours of the bridges in the regions, whether it was in Magdeburg (Germany) or Booneville, New York.  If you find a theme that is of your interest and can attract people, then you can create it.

The downside to online column can be divided up into two segments: the internal aspects and the external aspects. Internally, you need to be aware of the amount of space available for you to post your comments, graphics and photos. That means you cannot post a 3MB pic onto your article or your space will be full before you know it. Without having to shrink your photo size to a point where it’s unreadable, between 200gB and 400gB is sufficient enough for you to post a pic that is readable.  An alternative to this is to try photo websites, like flickr, panaramio or even Pininterest and link your photos there to your article you post on your blog.  I have done this since last year for both online columns for that sole reason and has worked out well.  The other problem is you need to keep up with your blog for two reasons: 1. It will increase your chances to being popular and open doors to opportunities you never dreamed of before if you post on a regular basis and with high quality articles and 2. At least a thousand blogs spring up every day and there are over 160 million blogs in use today, which means your blog is like your “Hour of Fame” flower– it is only popular for a short period of time and if not maintained on a regular basis, it becomes a thing of the past in a short time, to a point where no one really reads it.  The other problem with blogging is what critic Andrew Keen calls the Amateur Effect and is in connection with a theory conducted by T.H. Huxley with a group of monkeys. There, the monkeys were presented with a typewriter and one in seven used it to create their own form of artwork. Keen considers the use of social networks and other mechanisms, like the blog as one that is operated by millions of monkeys as they can present something that can either blur the credibility of mainstream media or create dangers to themselves and others because of the lack of experience they have with them. Many people have lost their jobs or were forced to destroy their blogs by their employers for their content was considered inappropriate to them, even though the writers have considered them innocent. This has lead to many people to create a code of conduct for people with online blogs to abide by. This includes not having online debates but to talk directly with the people involved, restraining themselves with regard to language, reporting people who abuse their blogs or try to insult your blog in any way, and lastly take responsibility for your articles you post- change somethings that are deemed inappropriate or leave them out altogether, and always TELL THE TRUTH. This is something that mainstream news media has to do everyday and it is also expected from a blogger.

In the almost three years I’ve been a columnist for both Flensburg and Bridgehunter, I’ve never had to put up with that, but have put up with numerous SPAM (a topic to be discussed leter) and a couple comments deemed inappropriate. Yet as I have full control over the two, I also have the power to delete them before even considering adding them in the comment section. But for the most part, both columns have picked up a substantial amount of readers resulting in the addition of groups on facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and most recently, Pininterest, with additional apps to come thanks to some that came to my attention most recently and I’m playing around with even as I write this. Already, Bridgehunter was one of the first blogs that was launched in connection with historic bridges and has been taking the lead in news and discussions involving this topic. Flensburg serves as a tool for people wanting to know more about German-American topics in the English language, encouraging more and more people to embrace the respective cultures with more topics to come.

This leads to the last question: If anyone asked me for advice about blogging, I would ask them the following questions: 1. What theme would you use your blog for?  2. Who is your target audience? and 3. How would you design it to make it attractive and what apps would you use to capture the readers’ attention?  These were the questions I had when I started Bridgehunter and Flensburg, but if you can answer these questions and structure it to make it reader friendly, then you are all set. Just keep the blog clean to keep yourself and others out of trouble, maintain it regularly, and market it to attract your followers and in the end, you will have a successful blog, or online-column, as I call mine. Who knows? You may open the doors to new opportunities you never dreamed of….

Author’s Note: Both the Files and the Chronicles may receive some guest columnists in the coming weeks who have never tried blogging before but would like to give it a try. Stay tuned in that department.