Monthly Archives: January 2011

125 Years of Automobiles

(This is an article in simple English for my students.)

Cars have been around for 125 years.
It all started with one woman’s journey.

Nothing has changed daily life like the automobile. It changed modern society and is part of Germany’s industry.
It was not easy, in the beginning. People laughed at the first car. It had three wheels and a stinking, noisy one-cylinder engine. It was a horseless coach. Carl Benz made a patent for his invention on January 25, 1886. He did not know what to use the car for.

Then, one August morning in 1888, his wife Bertha secretly took their 13- and 15-year-old sons and drove from Mannheim to Pforzheim to visit her mother. The trip is 106 km.

After 45 km they ran out of fuel which was a cleaning fluid. She bought some at a pharmacy.
Also, the motor overheated, so they had to refill water at every roadside inn they found. On uphill slopes they had to push the car. Berta fixed the brakes with leather pads and repaired the ignition cable. She cleaned the fuel duct with a pin from her hat.
When Berta later returned to Mannheim, people were more interested in cars and inventors started having ideas on how to make cars better. Berta had proven that the horseless coach was absolutely suitable for daily use.
Without this brave woman’s trip we might not have cars today.
In May 2008 a sculpture was placed in Pforzheim to remember Bertha Benz’ first car journey.

Read the full article here.


Synthesising Happiness

Dan Gilbert did this famous TED talk about ‘Why we are happy?’ Why? Because happiness can be synthesized. It’s not a thing to be found. There are mind artists who – under the most adverse circumstances – make the best of their situation to the point that they are convinced that it’s the best thing that could have happened to them.

I am one of those people. The less I have, the simpler the circumstances, the narrower the options, the happier I am. It’s weird, but consistent. Synthesised happiness for me is much more fulfilling than experienced happiness – for several reasons:

It’s reproducible. It’s cheap. It’s instant. It’s self-sufficient. It’s mine.

Wanting spells unhappiness.¬†Submerged deep in my mind are the memories of wishing, delighting, wanting and desiring the things a little girl’s world holds: a new doll, a game, lace and ribbons, diaries and jewellery boxes with secret compartments. When these wishes bubbled to the surface of my mind, they were met with sternness: “You don’t really need it.” Or worse, litanies of supposed misbehavior and attitudes showed up how undeserving I was.

I quickly learned that the real treasures were in my mind.

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