blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Travelling by train

View from the train window between Bonn and Koblenz
This is the best way to cross Europe (I do like the lake and river boats as well, but they're rather slow). We came up to Frankfurt Flughafen (alighting at the Fernbahnhof) on the ICE trains from Switzerland today. It is so easy and comfortable.

Admittedly, on a brighter day last Thursday, doing this journey in reverse, the views had been more exciting, when we followed the Rhine all the way down its famous valley, through St. Goar, seeing Goarshausen and the Loreley on the far bank, and the vineyards. In last week's notes I have written: Drachenfels, arched bridge at Koblenz, castles on rocks at Rhens, Boppard. Mittelrhein has fast flowing weirs for barges to avoid.

Bingen, Mainz-- crossed river, flatter views ...

We changed trains at Frankfurt on the way down last week (photos below) and at Mannheim on the way back today.

Chris taking a call from a colleague in Ottawa

View of the Hauptbahnhof, Frankfurt
It's no good, there's so much to describe, but I'm too tired to concentrate. I should be lazing in the bath, then sleeping. I shall be smelling river water in my sleep. Today we walked and sat beside the Rhine again under the mottled plane trees in a flower filled park at Mannheim near the city's Ruderklub and Kanuklub. The industrial docks lay just beyond. It was a very summery and enjoyable detour. This evening we happened upon the River Main at Raunheim where tonight's hotel is. Above our roof, large aircraft are coming in to land. Tomorrow we'll be flying on one, once again.

By the Rheinpromenade at Mannheim

Waiting for a drink at the Rheinterrassen Gasthaus, Mannheim

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Umbrellas in Milano

Early Morning View between Bern and Thun
Writing this on the hotel's machine running Internet Explorer may not be a great success, but I'll try. Photos to illustrate these recent posts will be added later, and yes, I know that I still haven't described our memorable train journey from Köln to Bern down the Rhine and up the Aare last Thursday. I'd love to record that experience, shall do so soon.

Yesterday, another tremendous train journey! At 06:20 I was complaining about the early start, but my complaints didn't last long. We were sitting on the train to Milano Centrale an hour later and then riding smoothly along the line to Thun and Spiez, marvelling at the panoramic view of the Voralpen, across the flat, glaciated valley, above the early morning clouds. It was sunny there. Then we turned south into the Kandertal towards the new Lötschberg tunnel through to the upper Rhone valley where the hillsides were close and the skies became darker. Visp and Brig seemed gloomy places. The young Rhone is grey with glacier meltwater. Immediately after Brig comes the entrance to the famous Simplon Tunnel, dated 1921. We emerged at Varzo, in Italy. (This is something that I've wanted to do for years.) The villages in the mountains reminded me of Wales with their old slate roofs held on with heavy stones and little churches with bell towers. I saw a narrow hump backed footbridge that must have been centuries old.

At Milan's central station
Prossima fermata, Domodossola, in the rain. People got out for a connection to Locarno here, sending them back into Switzerland. We stayed on the train and continued beside the wildly rushing River Diverna to Lago Maggiore. Our seats were on the wrong side of the carriage; the views held our attention even so. One day I'd like to alight at Stresa, the platform only a short walk from the lakeside there. There are island villages on the lake, Lombardy cypresses, palm trees and castles. It is as beautiful as I imagined it would be.

The train steward came by, saying buongiourno, and sold me a coffee. I told him in four languages that I'd like some cream with that. Beyond the lake we slowed down for the last part of the ride, through an industrial landscape in the flatlands. Roman roads used to run through this country and the modern roads follow their traces.
Milano Centrale is an imposing piece of architecture, with the Piazza Duca d'Aosta in front of it being renovated. Yellow trams from the 1890s are still in operation in the city, but I prefer walking. If you walk down the Via Torriani you soon get lost in the side streets and have to dodge into a four star hotel to ask for a street map. Then the Via Lazzaretto takes you towards a park, the Giardini Publici, beyond which is the gateway to the old city at Piazza Cavour. From there you can follow the Via Manzoni to La Scala. I pushed the doors open but wasn't allowed to set foot in the foyer, did have a peep at it before they shooed me out. Leonardo da Vinci's statue is in the square opposite.

You can find a brief respite from the torrential rain and your sodden feet in the Galleria Vitt. Em. II through one of the four enormously high archways. Good restaurants within the covered area and lots of sheltering tourists, so it was lucky to find a little table. My choice of lunch was tagliatelle alla bolognese with fresh rolls, and stopping at the nearby Cafe Mozart later I also sampled Italian dolci, in this case, an apple flan.

"Closed, today" The Pinacoteca is on the upper level
Trying to find the Milan Pinacoteca after a visit to the Duomo was a wild goose chase. If you make the mistake of following the traffic directions round a one-way traffic system instead of following the quick route down narrow cobbled alleyways, as shown on the map, you have to ask the way four times. Actually the Pinacoteca is on an upper floor of the university buildings, where students were attending lectures. I popped my head round the door of one lecture room and would you believe it? the slide they were looking at was of Louise Bourgeoise' spider sculpture outside the NGC in Ottawa. The steps up to the Pinacoteca were barred. I asked a caretaker yet again ... "Oggi chiusa" she said. Closed on Mondays.

A glimpse of old Milano
The rain began to ease off so walking back was a more leisurely experience. There are wonderful Italian icecreams for sale at the stazzione. The train back to Switzerland (heading for Geneva) was late leaving Milano Centrale, therefore 8 minutes late at Domodossola where the Grenzwache / Garde-frontiere / Guardia di confine in their blue shirts with guns at their waists boarded the train and walked up and down the carriages but didn't bother to inspect our passports (we haven't had our passports checked since Frankfurt). We thought our connecting train at Brig would leave without us, but it didn't. This was a double-decker local train to Basel, on which we sat in the restaurant car over a beer, talking to a young couple who run an hotel at Faulensee next to Spiez, as well as to another fellow at the table opposite, in a mixture of German, Swiss German and English. Both men knew Canada. The young man was a mountain bike enthusiast who'd practised the sport at Whistler. He had also ridden down from the top of the Niesen which looked like a near vertical slope and an impossible feat to me. He said his hands had ached from the braking that day.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A day and an evening in Köln

Last Tuesday, while Chris, Karsten, Bob and Yi were at the TÜV seminars in Köln, I picked my way over some construction sites at the city end of the Severinstrasse, spent over an hour in a bookshop and had my umbrella blown inside out in a thunderstorm before sheltering in a hotel doorway near the Dom. Behind the Dom is the Ludwigsmuseum which interestingly was full of that 1920s and 1930s art that was banned by the Nazis. It seems that present day Germans feel so guilty about that part of their history that they're almost over-compensating in the way they make amends for it.
German expressionist art appeals to me but its exaggerations wouldn't suit every taste-- in the museum were colourful paintings by Kirchner (one of a group of people by Lake Thun!) and Müller from the Dresden / Berlin “Brücke” school and allegorical works by the “Blaue Reiter” group from Munich and the Neue Sachlichkeit movement. A list of names for my future reference: Macke, Marc, Scherer (primitive style, wooden sculptures), Kandinsky, Jawlensky, Barlach, Beckmann, Dix (among the works on show was a self portrait in a painter's smock, with a grim tight-lipped expression on his face), Grosz, Arntz, Max Ernst. Their French / Swiss / Spanish contemporaries were also much featured in the museum: Mondrian, Delaunay, Klee, Braque, Matisse, Magritte, Chagall and several rooms full of Picasso, including a good selection of his ceramic pieces. He produced over 4000 samples of “art you can eat off” (plates, bowls, etc); when Picasso got hold of an idea he worked at it for all it was worth, obsessively.

On my walk back to the Novotel I took a coffee break at the Cafeteria of the Schokoladenmuseum overlooking the Rhine reading a text message from Chris that said, be ready to set off before 6 for the evening boat cruise. This was the conference banquet, a buffet supper on a pleasure boat with very few women present, so the 3-hour conversation with all those male voices, especially after the beers had been liberally served, produced a high decibel level; my ears were ringing. However it was too cold to escape onto the outside decks for very long at a time, romantic though it was to glide past the changing scene on the banks. We sailed slowly upstream half way to Bonn then let the current carry us quickly back. Before we disembarked at about 10:30 p.m. we had a marvellous view of the floodlit Cathedral. Then Karsten competently got our little group back to our lodgings in two taxis.

On the Lake

We took the Regionalzug from Bern through the fields and villages to Thun, the mountains growing larger as we approached them, but the higher ones were concealed in cloud. Rainy greyness chased us; we escaped it by buying tickets for a boat to Spiez on Lake Thun. The lake boats are part of the public transport system in the Berner Oberland as they are everywhere in Switzerland. This Saturday the hourly departures offered free rides to children, so our boat was packed with local people: young families and families taking handicapped people for an outing, not a tourist in sight, apart from ourselves. The Schiffstation in Thun is directly opposite the railway station, on a canal that flows from the Lake to the River Aare. The river itself, clear and glacial, bounces along parallel to the canal with white water under the covered wooden bridges. We saw adventurers in little boats playing in those waves, later in the day.

An hour's ride on the Thunersee brought us to Spiez, where the sun began to make itself visible and the clouds over the high mountains (behind the Niesen and the Niederhorn) began to dissipate, teasing us with glimpses of the North Face of the Eiger. We docked by the castle at Spiez, the site of music festivals, by a yachting school, and walked uphill away from the crowds at the lakeside towards the Spiez Bahnhof. We didn't get that far before we found a very nice Konditorei that served not only chocolate truffles and Erdbeertoertli but also beautifully presented, delicious lunches. I had Pfannkuchen mit Pilzen (the mushrooms including chanterelles) and Chris was served Spiessli (skewers) of meat with a “colourful salad.” As we ate, we gazed through the window at flowers, the lake below the town and the near and far mountains. We found it rather more classy here than Saturday brunch at our usual diner in Ottawa.

Since we still had a couple of hours to kill before the return boat came by, we walked up the street to a vantage point from which we could see a path skirting the forest on the edge of Spiez. We found this Wanderweg / Naturpfad well signposted from the town with yellow arrows and had no trouble reaching it. It couldn't have been more attractive, winding in and out of the trees and then emerging above the vineyards, the vines just beginning to bud. I took photos galore. And all the time on the southern horizon, the big mountains were revealing more and more of themselves and the lake below us was becoming more blue. We came down the slope through the vineyards and passed a wedding party at the old church erecting an arch decorated with hearts. It was warm and sunny by the time we reached the shore. We watched the waves lapping and a pair of coots mating on the rocks, then sat by the dock watching the yachts come and go.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Memories come alive

The little train where my children used to play (the Rosengarten)
Since we arrived in Bern last night it's been nothing but a grand nostalgia tour for Chris and me, with the ghosts of our younger selves and of our children's very young selves hovering around the cobbled squares, under the arcades and particularly in the green spaces from which the spectacular chain of snowy Alps (Eiger, Moench, Jungfrau, Bluemlisalp, Finstraahorn, Schreckhorn) can be seen: Bern's world famous Alpenblick. We were up on the Gurten today. It still has the miniature trains and bumper cars at the Kulm. It still has the Jersey cows in the meadows full of wild flowers. This month the cowslips and clover, buttercups, marguerite daisies, scabeous and dock are in bloom. The birds and the crickets were singing lustily (I think that's the right word for it). On a hillside in the distance I saw a yellow postbus making its slow way down an otherwise empty country road. We didn't ride on a postbus today, but we did use the Number 9 tram and the Gurtenseilbahn.

View of some of the Bernese Alps from the cemetery 

This morning we stood on the Muenster-platform looking down on the rapid Aare river, turquoise with glacier water, and from there came wandering down the hill from there to the Nydeggerbruecke and Baerengarten, much nicer and more extensive than it used to be. The bears now have real trees to climb, grass to lounge on and some river water if they want it, not just the concrete bear pit where they used to be confined. The cobbled path up the hill from that corner is steep enough to make you puff and perspire; it leads to the Rosengarten which was the one thing I wanted to visit without fail during my stay here. I'm lucky; as I'd hoped, the azaleas are in full bloom. There's an Alpenblick from here too, and from the city cemetery where Paul Klee is buried, across the Ostermundigenstrasse, opposite the block of flats in Galgenfeld where we used to live.

Bolligenstr. 26B, "our" flat
We found Bolligenstrasse 26B without any trouble at all, but someone had put lace curtains in our windows and the garden plants were bigger than they used to be 30 years ago. The block of flats looks smaller than we remembered; so does most of Bern, actually. Places we used to frequent with two small children seem to be much less far apart now. There are  more residential and industrial buildings between Galgenfeld and the Ostermundigen Hochhaus, these days, and the PTT has become SwissCom. The high hill called the Bantiger and the Gurten, and all the peaks of the Bernese Oberland, still look the same. Mountains are not absolutely immortal, but they're a lot more durable than us and the things we make.

We had lunch at a quaint little pub near the river under the Nydeggerbruecke, called the Muelirad. I had Bratwurst mit Roesti.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Going to see Beethoven in Bonn

Köln dock, from the ship
The KD (Köln-Duesseldorf) fleet of ships has a 180 year history; they belong to the oldest continuously traded stock company in Germany. I learned that when sitting on the Rhein Fantasie, this morning, waiting to set sail from the Pegel dock in Koeln for Bonn, 37 km upstream.

Bows of my ship, in Bonn
I was on my own this time, the other people on board being mostly seniors (mine was a Senioren-Ticket too) on a joy ride up the famous Rhine valley. At one point a table of 8 started singing Zum Geburtstag viel Glueck! to the Happy Birthday tune, supplementing their late breakfast with glasses of champagne. I ordered the cheaper, Zweites Fruehstueck, myself, having already had a first, hasty one at the Novotel. We sailed under the bridges and out of the city, past willows and poplars on sandy shores, past swans and rowing parties and barges, some of which could be ranked with ocean going freight ships, so big they were, from Holland and Switzerland (Maastricht, Vierwaldstaettersee) as well as from Germany, flying their flags, some of them loaded with Hapag Lloyd containers.

TÜV, east of the river, where Chris was working that day
We stopped at Porz, the Köln suburb where you'd find the airport and the TÜV headquarters, and at Wesseling, which was the big petrol port with cranes, docks and oil refineries. We'd got this far the night before, about half way between Koeln and Bonn, on the dinner cruise that I've not yet mentioned in this blog. The Wesseling quayside was being beautified, under the large romanesque church that stands there, with newly planted rows of pollarded trees. This morning the sun came out between heavy showers at this point and I caught a first glimpse of the Sieben Gebirge, the 7 hills across the river from Bonn, as we went around a bend.

Heavy industry at Wesseling

Siebengebirge ahead
Vendor in Bonn, advertising her asparagus in a loud voice
On deck they had wicker basket deck-chairs such as you'd see on the beaches of the Baltic Sea, but not enough for more than a few people to sit in. They shelter you from the wind. I sat in one for a short while, but soon had to get up to disembark by the Opera House in Bonn. It's a very attractive city to walk around, the central squares full of market stalls selling flowers and stalks of asparagus: "Spargel, frische Spargel, deutsche Spargel!" chanted the vendors. For lunch I had a bowl of potato soup with strips of smoked salmon in it, one of the Traditionsrezepte at the Müller-Langhardt Kaffeehaus that has been a Treffpunkt since 1913; this is the place where Adenauer used to sit, apparently, over his postwar coffees. Genscher and Kohl frequented it too.

In the Müller-Langhardt Kaffeehaus, Bonn, on a quiet day

Beethoven outside the post office in Bonn
My goal was Beethoven's birthplace, the Beethoven-Haus, although I think it's misnamed because he only ever lived there for a few days. Most of his childhood and youth was spent at a house in the Rheingasse. I'd already been in that part of town on my way up the hill from the boat, but went back to look. Needless to say it had all been flattened by 1940s bombs so Beethoven's parents' house no longer exists, not even as a reconstruction. All the same, my Beethoven pilgrimage touched me. I saw the tiny Christening cap he had worn; I saw the viola he had played. In the room displaying his hearing aids was the last grand piano he'd owned (after he went deaf). Its keys were like worn-down teeth. Imagine! A letter written by the composer to his doctor in 1801 was on display. It read:
...meine Ohren, die sausen und Brausen tag und Nacht fort; ich kann sagen, ich bringe mein Leben elend zu, seit zwei Jahren fast meide ich alle gesellschaften, weils mir nun nicht moeglich ist, den Leuten zu sagen, ich bin Taub, haette ich irgend ein anderes Fach, so giengs noch eher, aber in meinem Fach ist das ein schrecklicher Zustand ...
Roughly translated, that means: "my ears hum and roar away day and night. I can tell you, I'm living a miserable kind of life. For the last two years I've been avoiding all society because it's not possible for me now to tell people I'm deaf. If only I had another job it would not be so bad, but with my job this is a terrible state of affairs."

Beethoven died at the age of 57 but a sketch of him on his deathbed makes him look far older. He must have lived with his teeth permanently clenched because the life mask shows the tight muscles round his jaw, his mouth and his chin. His death mask made him seem like a different man, younger, those muscles finally having relaxed.

I returned to Koeln in 20 minutes, by train.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Koeln am Rhein

All the following pictures were taken today (Monday, May 14th):

Here is Chris with his colleague, Yi. We'd walked from the hotel along the east bank of the Rhein to the cathedral (Dom), without encountering any traffic beyond bikes, once we'd crossed the main river road. The building below the cathedral is a museum. All architecture in this area is either modern or reconstructed in amedieval style. Koeln was flattened by bombs at the end of the 2nd world war; the cathedral alone was spared. It had taken some 15 centuries to build it and the famous spires that make it the second highest church in Europe (Ulm is the highest) were a 19th century addition.

Next to the cathedral is the railway station, a wonderful conjunction, because travellers emerging at the end of their journey, as we did on Sunday, walk out to a breathtaking view. This is the sort of high speed train we arrived on from Frankfurt airport, less than an hour away by this means of transport:

Inside the Dom is a huge statue of St. Christopher (Chris' namesake) carrying the Christ child across a mythical torrent. It's mentioned in the poem by Heinrich Heine, famously set to music by Schumann at the end of the Dichterliebe song cycle that my husband sings.
Und holt mir auch zwölf Riesen,
die müssen noch stärker sein
als wie der
starke Christoph
im Dom zu Köln am Rhein.
Another artwork in the cathedral, a painting that shows the Virgin Mary (this one, I think) is mentioned in another of those Schumann songs.

After our visit to the Dom, Chris went back to the hotel and thence to Eindhoven in the Netherlands for a business meeting, and Yi, who was free till later in the day, came to the Zoo with me, where we saw a bear who reminded me of someone I know well.

Other animals and birds in the zoo ...

At the Zoo station, on the other side of the platform, is the entrance to Koeln's Seilbahn across the Rhein. Yi and I took a ride on it, which gave us some fantastic views of the river and the city.

This is the park on the west bank where we walked after getting out of our cable car.

The banks of the Rhein were liberally decorated with flowers. Yi said I matched these:

When Yi had joined the other colleagues and gone to work with them, I had the rest of the afternoon to myself, which I spent wandering around the "Neu-Altstadt" in the network of streets behind our hotel, a most attractive area:

One of the churches in this district is St. Gregory's, with a 17th century graveyard for the "destitute" of those days, and an appropriate relief on the church wall.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cultura ecuatoriana

Ecuador may be on the equator, but in its mountainous regions it doesn't have a particularly hot climate.

One morning last month a small group of us met at Maria-Rosa's apartment to learn a little (in Spanish) about her country, to see some pictures of its landscape and have a taste of its food. We read about Ecuador's cultural heritage as we sat around her table sampling quinoa fritters with blueberries and whipped cream. Quinoa, said Maria-Rosa, is an ancient staple food from the Andes, better for you than gluten rich wheat.

We found out about the very mixed races of Maria-Rosa's homeland:
Sigún el censo poblacional del 2010, el Ecuador tiene una población con la siguiente mezcla étnica: 71,9% mestizos (indígenas / caucásicos), 7% indígenas, 6,1% caucásicos, 7,2% afroecuatorianos y 7,4% montubios.
In the old days, many Spaniards intermarried with the Quechua people, who still have an identity of their own:

El mayor grupo étnico de Ecuador, estimados en aproximadament 2 milliones, es el de los Quechuas andinos ... La peculiar música de la flauta andina, actualmente conocida en todo el mundo; alimentos como la quinua [= quinoa] y el cuy [=guinea pig]; los coloridos ponchos de lana y las elaboradas blusas bordadas son todos elementos inconfundibles de la cultura Quechua.

In the province of Esmeraldas, by the coast, live a people of African descent (originally African slaves brought to this part of the world by the conquistadors): población afroecuatoriana ejerce una fuerte influencia cultural sobre gran parte de la sociedad ecuatoriana, especialmente con su ritmo de marimba, su música salsa, sus festivales de danza ...

Maria-Rosa confessed to us that she likes to dance the salsa. "Would you like me to teach you?" So she put rhythmic music on, and we danced back and forth beside the Ecuadorian flag, swaying our hips. I was wearing flat and clumpy walking shoes, not the right style for this at all. Maria-Rosa looked more the part in her sandals with the high heels.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Maps and measurements

I wonder if my daughter and son-in-law and their fellow metrologists at the NPL in London, know this: if you click on the measurement tool for Google Earth, it can not only show you a distance between two points on the surface of our planet in conventional units like kilometres and miles, but can also give the answer in more unusual units (rods, poles, perches, furlongs), in ancient units, such as cubits, or in humorous units, such as attoparsecs and Smoots.

We came across this entertaining distraction while my husband was looking up his cycling distance to work, last night. The long, straight section of Ottawa's Greenbelt Trail that passes the Nepean National Equestrian Park, for example, is 20 American football fields in length. What fun.

Anyhow Chris has done the long ride (for the first time) this morning. It took him an hour and 10 minutes and he reports that his legs are feeling the distance.

I love all kinds of maps. Last night, at a friends' house, we also had the chance to study navigation charts for the lakes on the Rideau River system, and I've been packing my old maps and relevant Stadtpläne from Germany and Switzerland to take on our imminent travels so that we'll be able to see where we are. We decided not to book seats on the Köln-Bern flight after all. We now have tickets to go by train instead, which will take us for a half-day ride, mostly up the valley of the Rhine.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Awful English

My computer gave me some advice the other day, but it left me baffled:
If you do not use Java applets, it is recommended that you disable the Java web plug-in in your web browser.
I don't think my lack of comprehension is my fault. I think it is due to a lack of imagination in the person who came up with the message, who can't fathom or doesn't want to remember what it's like to be a newcomer to this jargon. Tonight I got a memo about disabling my active cookies as well; I don't suppose everyone user knows what that means, either, let alone how to set about all this disabling.

I can always ask my husband, but there plenty of people not married to techies, who must feel very irked by such messages. What they need is a translation. The trouble is, the sort of linguist who might be able to find a way of conveying the requisite information more clearly (me?) is not the sort of person who would ever want a job of that kind.

A similar problem arises in the scientific community to which my daughter belongs.

She recently received a notice saying, “Don’t be waitlisted. Book Exhibit Space now. 70% of expo floor sold!” and commented, "Now that’s the first time I’ve heard waitlist rather than waiting list, let alone having it used as a verb!"

My daughter is involved in the processing of observations made from spacecraft that orbit and monitor our planet. In the European Long Term Data Preservation Common Guidelines, with which she has to comply, the stated aim is:
To preserve the European (including Canada) Earth Observation space data set for an unlimited time-span ensuring and facilitating its accessibility and useability. EO Space Data are fundamental for the future of science and are a humankind asset.*
Emma says that "people even talk like this. I think they read so many documents like it that they think this is the only way to get the correct register. But I struggle – and I’m a native English speaker."

Bad writing comes from laziness and sloppy thinking and makes me angry, especially when the subject is so important.  The "correct register" to these people is an exclusion zone for everyone else. Emma ought to point out that bad writing causes confusion, I suggested, and for ammunition I recommended John Humphrys' acclaimed book, Lost for Words;-- The Mangling and Manipulating of the English Language, published by Hodder and Stoughton in 2004. (She bought it and read it! Now she'll need the nerve to confront the culprits with their shortcomings.)

*  Couldn't this have been better phrased? I thought so. I gave it a try:
We aim to preserve European / Canadian data on earth observations from space indefinitely, making sure the data are easily accessible. Observations of the earth from space are fundamental to the future of science and to humankind.

Humphrys wrote:
The great skill of management-speak is its ability to state the obvious in such a way that normal human beings won't have a clue what it means [...]  It puts the author on a pedestal and the rest of us in our place.
On the last page of his book he quotes a Roman rhetorician, 2000 years ago:
One should not aim at being possible to understand, but at being impossible to misunderstand.