Tuesday, January 30, 2007

From the front lines. . .

of international relationships. Or "Things the German thought he heard".

If you take it from D., a new monster has entered the Sesame Street panoply (drum roll)
Oscar the Crotch.

Monday, January 29, 2007

I do have to say "thank you" again to those who stop by here. I started blogging here, not as so many do, because it simplifies communicating with family and friends, but because I wanted to express a thought or two that I might not necessarily want to share with my family or because they are sick of hearing it.

In the movie "Shadowlands", C.S. Lewis has a conversation with a young teacher where they discuss a saying of the teachers's father, "I read to know I am not alone." I definitely read your blogs to know I am not alone, but writing helps, too. When I got back from my interview lat week, I had two comments (thanks ladies) and instant messages waiting from my sister and a new friend in town. It's moments like that when you know, that 1) you bitch too much about your worries in public and 2) you communicate with some truly decent people, so life can't be that bad.

Last night said new friend with her husband and I had a lovely evening - we ate cookies and picked on our poor Germans a bit, but they seemed to get along as well, which was really nice since D. is shy. Sometimes, it's a blessing to appreciate good moments along the way even when one isn't sure how life's great questions/challenges are going to be sorted out. It isn't the solution - had a mini panic attack last night before going to sleep - but I woke up feeling pretty good this morning so I am going to enjoy it while it lasts.

My German and I enjoyed reading (even while wincing for the author) Megan's account of her housing struggles. Naturally, I wish her the best of luck (important post-related German tip from one who has messed it up - bestechen = bribe, erstechen = stab to death), but I have been pained in recent weeks by the number of "American-friendly" environmental consulting firms there are in the München area and the number of ex-pats, while I am uhhh. . . elsewhere. Her post was a gentle reminder that there are downsides to living at the center of the universe - no offense to all of you Berlin/Frankfurt-dwellers. The post is amusing and extremely informative. If you live outside of Munich, I would encourage you to stop by for your daily dose of Schadenfreude.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Confession time . . . I have become something of a Kommissar Beck fan. The series is anything but an advertisement for Sweden, red houses and all. I find the scenery very depressing and they don't seem to film anything in the summer. Perhaps that's because there isn't much of one to begin with.

I am a huge mystery fan generally, having grown up with BBC rebroadcasts of "Mystery!" on PBS - I still remember hurrying to shower and wash my hair before the show started and watching with my sister and my parents, something of a family ritual.

The German is baking; he is darling (invoking the 6 month rule). My parents did quite a bit to whipe our wedding wish list clean and we now have the super-duper mixer of our dreams that will accomapany us for many years of happy baking. We've had it a little more than a week and we've already had toll house cookies, a cake and now oodles and oodles of German Christmas cookies. This losing weight thing isn't going to procede very far if he keeps this up.+

Tatort on Sunday (almost this evening) will be from our neck of the woods - Karlsruhe/Mannheim/Ludwigshafen!

Friday, January 26, 2007

So . . .How was it?

Not so great, I am afraid. Ich fühlte mich verarscht! (I felt like the fates were out to get me.)

Actually, the interview was fine. They were really freindly, put up with me when I forgot a German word (a technical term) and they very cooly could also only think of the the English for another technical term. The project on which they are interested in working is extremely closely related to my thesis project. Now comes the but. They would prefer to have someone in a location to which I can't get. It's completely depressing, because the fellow in that office has done a bunch of neat projects and I think I would like working for him. I went into the interview knowing that this was a possibility, so it's quite alright.

Apparantly (apparent-LEE for all of you Coupling fans) I also have a mortal enemy among the Thanksgiving Turkey gods.

I was headed off to another city for the interview, so I figured that I should check out one of the larger stores in that city in the hope they would have a frozen turkey. We are having trouble drumming one up for our little delayed Thanksgiving celebration. So after the interview, I went to Kaufland. Naturally, I had called the day before and been assured that they had frozen whole turkeys. They did, in fact, have a turkey, but it was too small and the package was open with the contents damaged. So, I left. I was really irritated, but whaddya going to do in Germany? Complaining won't improve anything. I treated myself to a double espresso at the train station instead.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Flugzeuge im Bauch

Today it'll just be a mish-mash folks, because that is the only thing that would accurately reflect the contents of my poor cranium.

The only interview I've managed to drum up in the past few weeks is tomorrow and I am a nervous wreck. I am talking to the mirror a lot today in the hope that my answers to the few questions I know will come up tomorrow come out sounding somewhat reasonable. It's supposed to snow/rain here today and tomorrow and the thought of navigating through that in heels and stockings isn't thrilling me.

The weekend was very busy as we are preparing for our big Thanksgiving smash-up with my former co-workers. I've done T-day for 10, but this time it's 15 and we are distributing the recipes. Unlike the last time I distributed recipes, no one has measuring cups and I won't be around to answer questions, so we've - read D. has - gone to a lot of trouble to translate and measure (thanks to our excellent new Soehnle kitchen scale). I put together a quick and dirty translation. Translating ingredients and prepared a general conversion table, but not D. He is using gorgeous formatting, etc.

The turkey itself has eluded us. In Stuttgart there used to be frozen turkeys, but I don't know if that was just in the Fall. One also can't find a butternut squash here for love or money, so it's going to be pumpkin soup instead.

I found an apple pie recipe that sounds good, though. D. translated the whole thing. Working on a serious translation project at the moment, I was willing to make the pie rather than translate the recipe.

From our irregular wacky word(s) of the day series:
trespassing = hausfriedensbruch
savory = bohnenkraut
emsig = active, assiduous, diligent

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Orkan it?

Well, there's been an Orkan-Warnung (Orkan Kyrill) issued for parts of Austria and Germany, so I finally got of my backside and wandered over to Wikipedia, source of all truthiness, to find out what these things actually are. Ahh, a European Windstorm. Well, that clears that up. Our warning turns out to be for a storm with gusts approaching speeds in the orkan range.

Here in the Black Forest region, any mention of a major bald patch along a ridge that isn't an obvious clear-cut will get people talking about Lothar, as if one should know all about it. Apparantly one should, at least a hundred people were killed and the power was knocked out in large portions of Germany and France.

And it would also appear that I am not the only one interested in weather topics today as I cannot get the web page for Kachelmann's forecast or the one from the German Weather Service (DWD) or from Donnerwetter to load. A quick trip to the Spiegel homepage shows though, that no matter where you are in Germany right now, if you look out the window, it's raining.

The picture to the left would be the current precip map, with the white being the only area where it's not coming down and the little black line runing throught the white area would be the German border. So I stand corrected. It might not be raining if you are in Kempten. Otherwise, get out your umbrellas.

Hang on to your hats everybody!

Interested in more weather-related Ex-pat blogging ?
PapaScott are happy to oblige.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Stories that warm an expat's heart

Ran across a few stories that might be of interest to the long-term expat today while perusing MSNBC.com

Being bilingual can delay onset of dementia

Here's a second one that was interesting for me as a daughter living away from her parents. My parents and I have tried video conferencing a bit, but my parents generally find it taxing to get everything organized, so we only do it the few times a year my sister sets everything up for them.

Virtual dinners join elderly with faraway family

I am grateful that my sisters still live close to my parents - and that my parents are in very good health for their ages. It radically alters the level of guilt I face having chosen to live in Europe. Of course, should the situation change, our geography might change as well.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Strasbourg Impressions

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Christmas Eve in Strasbourg

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Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures from the Indian restaurant where we ate. Positively everything was too full. Yes, I know we should have planned in advance, but we decided we would just play it by ear and we had some cookies in the car if it came to that. We went to see "Scoop" - original with french subtitles. It wa a great way to kill 2 hours and keep warm. We walked and walked and finally came upon a little Indian restaurant that was willing to let us in. We were the very last admitted without a reservation. By the time we were done there, it was 22:30 and time to head to the cathedral where we arrived just in time to get a good spot in line before the doors opened at 23:00.

More on German Humor

Found and Lost*** A few days ago, I found a link to a "letter" Stoiber had sent his wife. It was a satire piece from a German newspaper. It was written as he speaks, i.e. unintelligably. It was amusing, but now I can't find the page anymore. Anyone know where it is?

Germany is getting a Commedy Central
Für 2007 bietet Comedy Central nach Angaben einer Sprecherin über 30 "exklusive Showpremieren", das heißt Formate aus den USA oder Großbritannien, sowie neue Eigenproduktionen. Auf dem Programm stehen heimische Formate wie die Stand-Up-Comedy "NightWash" mit dem Team um Knacki Deuser sowie Shows mit Badesalz oder Mundstuhl. In der "Para-Comedy" treiben körperlich behinderte Comedians nach dem Prinzip der "versteckten Kamera" Schabernack mit Passanten.

Aus Großbritannien zeigt der Sender unter anderem als deutsche Free-TV-Premiere das preisgekrönte BBC-Format "Little Britain" und "Extras", dessen Schauplatz Filmsets sind. Als US-Produktionen kündigte Comedy Central unter anderem "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart", "Arrested Development", "Pamela Anderson in: Stacked" sowie "Modern Men" an.

This won't mean all to much for us because we can watch Jon Stewart online. I would love to see the fourth season of "Coupling", though.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Weight 9 st. 12 (v.v. bad)

Having a difficult day. Got my first official rejection, although it was a kindly written email, and I am not sure that I have all that many more companies to write to. Perhaps a handfull more that I know about. One can't honestly expect anything to come of a first interview, so I am worried. I am one of those people who need to have a back-up plan in order to manage the stress involved with "Plan A", and right, now, I don't have much of a back-up plan.

I also don't quite know what is up with the map to the right. Googleanalytics shows hits (from real people I know, i.e. sister, highschool friend, etc) that don't show up on the map.
**Update** upon posting, map at right iproved. No, I have no explanation.

It has also required some effort not to write "in style of Bridget Jones-type person" during the past few days because I have re-read the novels, having found copies of them in English at my in-laws' house. Ok, re-read is exaggerated. Listened to the first one before the film came out on tape, saw second film. Both books much much better than films. I must say that the experience of listening to the unabridged book-on-tape was probably superior to reading the book because I "lurve" the accent. How did they come up with that ridiculous title for the German film "Chocolate for Breakfast"? Where do they come up with the ridiculous translations for every film title, or more accurately, why are the titles so seldom translated and so often transmuted?

Cruel Intentions = Eiskalte Engel

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Yes, you!

Lurking. Reading blogs, visiting fora without commenting.

This week is (Inter)National De-lurking week, which means that all of you are supposed to feel guilted into commenting.

Confession time - I lurk all the time and didn't start commenting much at other people's blogs til I was eager to direct some traffic my own way. And yes, I can see where some folks are popping in from, *whiny voice* but the Germany map is way too small and all the dots cover eachother, making it hard to make any sense of it *end whiny voice*. If there's an odd hit from Alejuela or Desert Hot Springs or Tokyo - I have a sneaking suspicion who was there, but otherwise, it's pretty much open.

So please say hi - and now I'll say "Later". Here's hoping the next 24 hours are productive.

Yes, you can comment anonymously - if it's fair for me, it's fair for you. But please at least make up a silly name to clue me in or at least distinguish you from others.

Not so alone as one might think . . .

There are actually oodles of foreigners in Germany, and the number of German citizens with a "immigrant background" are another ca. 10% of the total population.

LandBevölkerungAusländische Bevölkerung
insgesamtdav. % Anteil

Darstellung der Ergebnisse entsprechend der Quelle: Bevölkerung nur mit Daten aus der BF.


For those of you who are confused, in Germany, "." is a thousands seperator and "," is the decimal point. You'll see that the city states have higher % of foreigners than the "surface states". BW has a relatively high percentage of foreigners (I am doing my part!). In Stuttgart, 1 in every 4 residents doesn't have a German passport.

More fun German statistics here.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

If you know the Gonoud. . .you sing that

My readership, small though it is, is pretty diverse because I am something of a freak of nature, which means that although some of you might be reading some of the blogs I occaisionally read, most of you are not and therefore, with apologies to P., I am posting this youtube flick that Mark Shea put up last week.

It just makes me happy (no, not in the "Don't Worry, Be Happy" way). There is another clip of the same routine at a 24 hours of Bach peformance in Leipzig up at YouTube (to keep this Germany centered) but that was open air and in the rain, and it didn't work quite as well as in the clip I am posting here.

Lost in Translation

Ooooh nooo! I have apparently been away from home (i.e. the States) too long. I don't understand the language anymore.

'Plutoed' chosen as '06 Word of the Year
Word based on demoted former planet beat out 'murse,' 'flog' and 'macaca'

"Plutoed" won in a runoff against "climate canary," defined as "an organism or species whose poor health or declining numbers hint at a larger environmental catastrophe on the horizon."

Other words considered: murse (man's purse), flog (a fake blog that promotes products) and macaca (an American citizen treated as an alien)

I understood "plutoed" and the word is kinda cool, and I had heard "macaca" before, but I had forgotten the context and I certainly wouldn't use it myself. I worry a bit that my view of the States will be forever frozen in 2003, as my mother's picture of Germany is strongly influenced by her time in Germany in the late 60's. New companies move into the area, are well known, and I am clueless.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

from our formerly moldy kitchen

Is mold a big problem in homes in the States? We only ever had problems in the bathroom, where there are obviously moisture problems which my parents have worked to overcome - this in a climate where the average humidity is very high. And my parents don't heat the house that much, so it doesn't necessarily have to do with heating. Are American houses just that poorly insulated?* **

Here in Germany, the fight against mold seems to be a never-ending battle. We had our first run-in months ago in the bedroom, where we had accidentally stored a bag leaning against the wall. It was a bit icky back there, but we treated the small area with bleach and oxy-clean and scrubbing and a more environmentally friendly mold spray and we appear to have had luck that as unpleasant as it may have initially appeared that it didn't make it's way into the wall. It hasn't returned. (yippee)

So I did some reading online. One must take care that the walls don't get too cold and one should ventilate the rooms at least 3x a day! I have taken to heating the rooms more and ventilating more often (particularly when doing laundry) and was feeling pretty good about myself only to discover a major problem in the kitchen. I had noticed that my salt was wet. This is a bad, bad sign.

We removed the cabinets from the wall, and sure enough, there was mold in the back panneling. We made some initial attempts to clean the pannels, to no avail. We were able to buy new panneling at bauhaus and throw out the old panneling. I cleaned the wall with all the suggested appropriate chemicals, then painted over the area once the wall was dry again. We now have spacer blocks behind the cabinets so that there is more room for air flow. With any luck that, and opening the window every time I cook should resolve that problem.

* In the States, we don't dry the laundry inside. That may also play a role, but my mom doesn't turn on the kitchen vent to boil water for her tea and my parents run a humidifier all winter in the living room.

** My parents run a dehumidifier in the basement all year.

Back in town

So we are back in our apartment with our new rug. We cleaned til until about 2:00 Saturday night and we up early to be ready for D. parents' call from the airport. Then we lugged all our oodles of things back into our overly full apartment, which is only fractionally less full now that we have seperated ourselves from some empty boxes in the basement. (I so wanted to keep them for our move, which I hope will come someday.)

So our week own our own draws to close - it was lovely, but once again, we must rejoin the real world. Application writing resumes and now, I will be preparing for an interview in two weeks. It was nicer when the invterview was still a ways off. From here on out, I will be increasingly nervous.

I would very much like to avoid the errors posted over at Eurotrippen, so I will avoid gushing about D., despite the fact that we still fall into the newlywed 6 mo. exception category (as far as my parents are concerned - legally, we have passed the 6 month point).

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Wondering about Wordpress

I've been struggling so much to post in the last week, that I can't imagine wanting to go through this hastle, and I certainly don't want to change my address, but I am giving some thought to moving to another format. Logging in and out of my realname google account is a royal pain in the tookus. I use the GoogleReader as well, so the loging in and out is a on-going annoyance.

I ran accross this post at Is there no Sin in it? where the author expresses a lot of my concerns about potential mistakes and resulting loss of annonymity etc.

Unlike many people who have been at this for a while, I am the customer that the new blogger was designed for (i.e. completely incompetent). I can't even figure out how to get the darn spellchecker from German into English. You will not find me whinging that there are too many widgets and wouldn't the world be a better place if we could all just program everything in assemlby language or whatever. *Scarred by years of dating programmers*

I have a lot more to learn before I would consider starting all over again. Apparantly, new blogger accounts, which this is, don't transfer well either, and there are some fees involved in some uses of wordpress, but I can't seem to find much information on those either.

A project for another day - today, we are going to bring our brandy new carpet to the apartment!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

An Explanation and A Bleg

What I didn't explain in the post below is that we are still enjoying life in the burbs with my in-laws big kitchen. (The chicken in the Römer-topf is coming along nicely at the moment.)

We have only one computer with internet access here, and I have been using most of my internet time recently for job-hunty things, and don't want to hog it too much, because my husband is home on vacation. D. is content with his coffee and the paper at the moment, though, so I thought I might indulge. Blogging might continue to be sparse for a while.

We are going to be buying pots and a knife set with wedding/Christmas money. If anyone has any comments or advice on brand names/series, we would definitiely appreciate it. We are looking to go middle of the road in our purchases. I drool over the Fissler "profi collection" pots - but at 389 eur, they are a bit too steep (and we really only need 3 pots and a casserole). Re: knives - I've read a few places that Zwilling and Wuesthof knives aren't worth the money, and I have to say that I found the handles for some of the Zwilling kives to be less than I ideal. I don't know how they can charge 100 eur for a knife where the molding mark in the handle is prominent. But I am eager to hear what other people have to say, particularly since I have seen some really beautiful dishes prepared by some north american expat bloggers *wink*.

Comma Comma Comma-Chameleon

Well, if you are still stopping by, you are a patient soul, indeed. Thank you.

Today, a random thought about German grammar. The comma rules in German are entirely different than in English, where, complicated though they may be, you can generally get away with putting a comma where you would pause. I tend prefer a bit of comma-overkill, but perhaps I pause too much while speaking. In German, commas belong only 1) in lists of things (as in English)

Maria kaufte einen Rock, ein Sofa und einen Hund. (Hey, did I say the example was going to be reasonable?)

and 2) at the break between subordinate clauses and the (What is the non-subordinate clause called again? I can still diagram the heck out of any sentence you through in front of me, thank you Catholic grammar school, but I no longer remember the names of some parts of speach) main clause. Woe betide you, however, should you put a comma between a prepositional phrase, no matter how long, and the main clause.

Nach einem Spaziergang in der Dämmerung dieses noch so schönen Abends im Frühling (and here you can keep going as long as you would like, as long as you don't use a verb) NO COMMA kaufte Maria einen Rock, ein Sofa und einen Hund.

My German, D., (to somehow distinguish him from everyone else's Germans, lovey human beings in their own right, no doubt) reads through and corrects my "initiativbewerbungen" and other German correspondance before it goes out and of late has had less to change in the text and still a great deal to do with the commas. Ich bin unverbesserlich.