at home in... w| Gerald Zhang-Schmidt

Look Closer, Learn More, #GetAtHome In This World

Tag: world knowledge

#GetAtHome Work: Unwillingly Discovering the Fascination of Biology in Marchegg


The area around it, the Marchfeld, may be important for Austria’s vegetable growing.
We may have been enjoying the asparagus from there, but I didn’t want to have to go there.

I’m still, aside from current freelance work, pursuing a teaching qualification, though.
This semester, want it or not, this study program finally had me taking the outdoors / field didactics course.

I was just in the middle of a nicely creative – and nicely paying – freelance project (analyzing whether a new technical bureau in a larger city could help a company entice more technical staff to join them, and if so, where the best location for that would be).
So, it was with hesitation that I went out there.

Almost Home, Way Out There

Out, that is, to a former train support staff’s house on the border between Austria and Slovakia.

Again, out with a train to Bratislava… this time, the other line from Vienna, not the one I (finally) took to get to the Bratislava Marathon. But still, a train line to a place within visible distance from the mountain that hides Bratislava from where I live, just to the north of it.

Where I (usually) live, Parndorf (Southwest of Bratislava) and where Marchegg is (Northwest of Bratislava). [Map: Google, via screenshot because I don’t want to save this as a “My Map”]

Not exactly much of a journey, and not a place likely to be of interest to too many travelers.

Especially when it comes to the biological station that this house was turned into.

Marchegg Biological Station

Marchegg Biological Station (Smartphone photo + Google Photos’ interpretation makes for quite the fittingly old-timey look ;) )

It used to be a place where steam trains changed their water, because only here in all of the east of Austria could they get calcium-poor water that wouldn’t settle in their tanks as badly.

Which is to say that the house is a little bit old.

With only wood stoves.
No electricity.
No running water.

Very basic.

Not exactly good while feeling that a well-paying freelance project, which requires online research, needed continuing…

Then again, in the middle of way too much time in front of a computer, increasingly suffering neck pain from it, maybe just the time-out needed?

Well, it was.

Thinking Makes It So…

The universe won’t care about anything at all that you wish, but there is one way it bends to your will:

When you decide to see something as a worthy adventure rather than a drag, there is a chance you can make it so.

I decided to see this course as a bit of an adventure, and so it became.

We all worked together pretty well, all the students who went there.
We got a bit more experience teaching; carried, cut and chopped wood; cooked for the group over small gas flames; spent time around an open fire; got to know more about this landscape.

It amazes me.

I don’t know why anyone would still be reading this, but imagine:

You have an area here that mainly looks just like fields.

It is mainly just fields; this area of the Marchfeld is a major vegetable, and especially asparagus, growing one.

… and Knowing Helps a Lot

The Marchfeld is also, at least in part (with dams regulating the river and such), a place where the March river flows and regularly floods quite an area.

Therefore, one finds an alluvial forest here, which are places that are quite interesting to biologists in their species richness and as ecosystems that are quite wild.

March Alluvial Forest in Early Sunlight

… and yes, very basic conditions still didn’t mean we could do without smartphones ;)

Here, something is added:
This is an area where Triops and other crustaceans which have existed since paleontological times still occur.

And to imagine that these fields, those little depressions, contain eggs of ancient species, just waiting for a flooding to let them hatch and reproduce yet again…

That is something.

If you take the time to think about it, at least.

If you don’t have to have the greatest and most extreme of excitement alone to stir your emotions.

Stirring Primal Emotions

If that kind of biological (species) survival isn’t your thing… We also got our thrills learning to handle the snakes that live there.

They aren’t poisonous and hardly bite, but snakes certainly do stir something primal in us human monkeys.

We quickly visited the area around Marchegg Castle, which is interesting to see, too.

Marchegg Castle

There, white storks still breed the way they originally did, with immense woodstick nests built into great dead trees.

Marchegg: White Stork Nesting in Trees

Marchegg: White Stork Nesting in Trees

(Mainly, the area where I live is known for the storks which build their nests on village chimneys, which is how most of them now breed.)

To keep the meadows there intact as the meadows that the storks need, and that used to be quite common, horses related to the wild Przewalski horses are kept there.

With them, a certain call of the wild is added. Especially as there were some battles over the proper hierarchy between the herd and an upstart stallion… and we had to pass right through that group of horses.

Wild Horses in Marchegg

Wild Horses in Marchegg

With them, also, the meadows have a certain look which is unlike that of meadows cultivated by machine…

Horse-Grazed Meadow in Marchegg

Horse-Grazed Meadow in Marchegg

And then, some of us students also spent way too much time socializing into the night, around the fire.

Which is primal, too, if ever there was something primal to us humans… as is the sight of the stars above:

Stars above the Campfire #adventuring

#adventuring, After All

In the end, though I could have done without it, it was a nice little adventuring, a good time-out from just working in front of a computer, indoors.

You don’t have to go all primitive for days, but…

  • How often do you still satisfy such primal emotions as sitting around a fire?
  • Do you know such an “eternal skill” as how to make a fire?
  • Are you aware of the hidden species around you and the life history they hold?
  • Do you get out at night, and to looking into the starry sky?
  • Is the night sky even visible where you are anymore?

Questions over questions, and themes on which much more could be written. Has been. And still needs to be.

Better yet, not to be written.

To be pursued.

Screenshot from "When Knowledge Conquered Fear" episode of COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY

Testing the Power of ‘Our’ Knowledge

We are constantly hearing that we, as humanity, know so much, have become so powerful – but what is the state of *your* power and knowledge, really?

Education nowadays is, for a larger proportion of people than ever before, a much less restricted endeavor than it has ever been.

There may be (functionally) illiterate people even in developed, industrial, “rich” societies with compulsory schooling, and there are those who would like to keep women or the young in general – or everyone – from learning those “dangerous” ideas that don’t agree with their (oftentimes religious) convictions.

Yet, there is more learning, and it is more widespread, than ever before. You don’t need to be a monk or a member of a high class to study and practice your reading and writing, you are expected to acquire that skill anyways. And it doesn’t end with the reading of religious scriptures, either, but many more areas of knowledge are usually being taught.

Access to information and potential knowledge is much easier, too, whether in the form of books or in the shape of the various tools offered online.

But, what do we really know, let alone are capable of explaining or doing with that knowledge, as individuals?

The thought had struck me as I was watching (the new) “Cosmos. A Spacetime Odyssey.

Screenshot from "When Knowledge Conquered Fear" episode of COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY

Screenshot from “When Knowledge Conquered Fear” episode of COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY

Imagine yourself thrown into one of the scenes of the past that they present in animated drawings. If your schooling wasn’t half bad, you’ll have heard about the things they talk about before.

From the heliocentric universe and the Newtonian Laws of Motion to the basic tenets of biological evolution and the quantum character of the subatomic world, at least something of it is usually taught. It feels somewhat familiar.

What, however, if you were there, thrown back in time?

It’s easy to watch what’s being presented on the screen and shake one’s head, be that in puzzlement or in agreement over things heard before, wondering about a time when such (often basic) ideas where hotly debated questions – but how much of it do you understand; to what extent would you even be able to point Newton in the right direction in which his answers lie, for example?

The issue only becomes all the more puzzling when we look at how the technological future of mankind is often presented as our saving grace.
We certainly have come a long way. From the very first generation of electricity and the first telephone and wireless transmissions to wireless access to high-speed optical-fiber-transmitted internet and smartphones, it’s been quite a rush.

But what of it could we repair and rebuild if push comes to shove, given how few people know anything much about the way these things work and are built, as well as how specialized (and geographically spread out, but at the same time, concentrated) their production has become?

It’s a good thought for realizing how (inter)dependent we are, how powerless we are alone – and at the same time, considering how much small local communities have been able to do and how much more we would (or should we say, could?!) now know.

It’s an observation by which to get motivated to actually learn more of what we think we know, develop some of the skills that have always been a part of life but are oftentimes lost as consumer society encourages us to forget about them in favor of the convenience – if that’s what it really is – of just buying everything.

Suunto Ambit. Navigation in Action.

Navigate Me – GPS Tech, Tools, and the Suunto Ambit @FW1.5

GPS is a technology, along with heart rate analysis, that fascinates me.

As argued before, I think that what it offers us are great tools to use as symbols of our place(s) in this world and tools for their further exploration.

Suunto’s Ambit (see earlier review here) has recently been updated

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