Saturday, March 31, 2007


E-mail from Andrew:

It can be done.
Herr Roehmer has set up a way for some people to go skiing on Zugspitze after the gondola ride. but he needs for everyone who wants to go to have parent permission before they can go. [He needs paperwork.]

Essentially, I need you to get an e-mail to Herr Roehmer telling him that you think I'm a good enough skier not to fall down and crack my head open.
You can email him, or maybe call the hotel if need be, but that can get expensive.

Tell everyone that it's absoultely beautiful here. I feel like moving to Garmisch. The mountains are absolutely stunning. I'll show you the picture that I got that left me absolutely speechless. You'll love it.

FYI: A girl on the trip has the same camera as I do and has let me use her battery charger and converter. My camera died before I got to Dachau. Sorry, no pictures. I have taken some 350 pictures and still have over 750 pictures left for Paris. Yay!

That's about all for the moment. I'll tell you everything when I get back. [Or at least as much as I can remember.]


E-mail from Dad:

Herr Roehmer:

You have my permission to let Andrew Ranzenberger ski on Zugspitze after the gondola ride. He has the skills necessary to ski safely.

Get that boy on the mountain!!!!

Mark Ranzenberger

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Across the Atlantic

Katherine, Andrew and Margaret at
Mount Pleasant High School as Andrew, Margaret and 21 other travelers leave for Germany and France.

As I write this, Andrew's plane is approaching the coast of Europe. He's 6 miles above the Atlantic, eating up a mile every six seconds. He'll be on the ground in a couple of hours.
We were up at 3:30 in the morning. The school bus for Detroit Metro left at 5:45. I have never seen Andrew so geeked for anything. The predawn darkness was windy and cold, but he was more ready for this than for anything. He had seen this moment in his mind's eye for months, and he had to be ready for this. It wasn't an adventure. it was a passage.

His flight to Atlanta went off without a hitch; he collected $20 from a cash machine at the airport, and boarded Delta Flight 130 with no apparent problems. The plane left on time.
He'll be dragged out when he lands in a couple of hours, but it's only just the beginning.
Munich, the solemnity of Dachau, the incredible ski resorts of the Alps, the glory that is Paris.
It's his.
I fell in love with Europe. His sister fell in love with the place, as well.
Sending two kids to Europe in less than a year has been a stretch, but for them to know there is more than the lakes and the dirt roads, that they can have the world, is more than worth it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Night Before

Andrew leaves tomorrow for Europe.
It's not like I haven't done this before, but I don't think I'll ever get used to it.
Passports, preparations, making sure everything's in order -- I know he'll be fine.
I will never forget my trip, as a 17-year-old, to Paris. It changed me, and this will change Andrew.
In 28 hours, he will be in Deutschland.
I guess he's excited. On the way home tonight, he said, "I'm leaving for Europe. And everybody else just goes on living."
Bon Voyage, buddy.

Friday, March 23, 2007

So Leno sez to Kissy Missy ...

..."You're looking lovely tonight."
She just beamed. She had managed to win a pair of tickets to the Jay Leno performance at the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort. The prize package included a "meet and greet" before the show with the star.
We were at the front of the line.
"Thank you," Kissy Missy said.
"And who's this with you?" Leno said. "Your father?"
The show was good anyway.


"Dad," Andrew said. "Just stop obsessing about my trip to Europe."
He looked a little bit exasperated with me.
"Am I obsessing?" I asked, fiddling with the new digital camera I bought, and will send to Europe with him. (Note to self: Must buy lithium batteries because the recharger won't work on European current.)
"Yes," he said. "Just stop it."
I denied it. I'm not obsessing.
"Andrew? Look! I found images of the interiors of all the aircraft you'll be flying!" has an amazing catalog of photos of commercial aircaft.
"Dad, you're obsessing."
"I am not." But has a really cool system where you can track, minute by minute, the location, speed and altitude of any commercial flight. Let's see, he'll be on Delta Flight 130 from Atlanta to Munich, and look! Today's flight is 31,000 feet over North Carolina right now, traveling at 519 knots! Wow!
"Dad, stop it."
"Wow! Look at the candid traveler photos of the mountains behind the hotel where you'll be staying!"
"Dad ...."
(Note to self: Must get better daypack for him.)
"Just let it go, Dad."
"Andrew, you know about the quart Ziploc rule, right?"
"Yes. Dad ..."
"You know, I'd really feel more comfortable if I took you to the airport, rather than just putting you on a school bus at 5:30 in the morning."
"You'll live, Dad.
"Now just be quiet."
I'm not obsessing. Where did he ever get that idea?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


We just installed high-speed, all-wireless Internet at the house.
I can't help but recall that the first modem I ever used was a 300 baud device built into a TRS-80.
My first Mac a 14K modem built in. Nine years ago, we moved up to a 56k. In reality, transfer rates were more like 22 to 33 K. There we sat for nine years, until yesterday.

How fast?

Not bad for the boondocks, and very close to the advertised speed.

That's faster than the newspaper, which is connected to an alleged T1. There are other issues at the paper, too.

But compare that to my office at CMU:

Now that's freakin' fast!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Training in the exurbs

The address is 790 Township Line Road, Yardley, Pa.; the headquarters of Journal Register Co., the United States' 10th-largest publicly traded newspaper company. It's in a complex of offices in Bucks County, a far suburban area in what once was farm country between Philadelphia and Trenton. Today, the county has a population of more than 600,000, and has grown by more than 20,000 people in the last five years.

The building itself is identical to two others on either side, and reminds me, for some reason, of the anonymous, utilitarian office buildings that were thrown up around factories during the 1930s and 1940s.

Few of them still stand these days. People preserve beautiful buildings, but the purely functional have a tendency to disappear and be replaced by different architecture. Out there, in the greenfields where metropolitan areas have grown together, function may follow form.

JRC is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, publishes 27 daily newspapers and several hundred weeklies and shoppers, and runs a couple of hundred Web sites.

Yet the world headquarters of this company sits quietly, anonymously in rented space far from the bustle of the media world. The thick, glass doors off the elevator lobby are kept locked, and traffic is minimal. The site has a training room, but it's mostly just tables, a projector, Ethernet connections and a whiteboard. The Mac lab and the PC lab where I teach beginning writers and designers are more sophisticated -- and those are outmoded and need to be replaced.

The office itself seems to be mainly an accounting office; perhaps paying attention to the bottom line is appropriate for a company that's lost half its market value in the last year. The walls contain framed art -- but it's abstract, suburban vanilla office art. The only thing I saw that was specific to the company was the framed certificate that JRC is traded on the NYSE.

In the back room are a couple of stacks of framed images apparently moved from the old headquarters in Trenton. They seem to be images of newspaper plants and other industrial scenes. Putting them up on the walls has not been a high priority, and images of front pages? great journalism? I suspect no one thought of that.

Perhaps I'm just a romantic, but I'd expected life, buzz, excitement, ideas -- it's the media! What emanates from headquarters is ... nothing.