Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Rosenmontag

You can get used to almost anything in life, including living in a foreign country. I go about my daily life and do not even think on the U.S. most of the time. There are more important things to be done: buy bread, go to the post office, grade papers, call the tax consultant. Then every now and again . . . Something happens and WHAM you wonder, "What the hell kind of planet did I land on?!"

It happened yesterday. Normal Monday. I dragged myself out of bed and headed to the gym. When I walked in, I noticed the women behind the counter. They were dressed in togas. Dear God. I forgot about Carnival. The interesting thing about living in a very Catholic area is the random holidays and festivals that call for costumes and large amounts of alcohol. I grew up in the Baptist south. I do not recall the beginning of Lent in this manner.

I smiled and laughed. Rosenmontag can be fun. But then there was the music. The God-awful, why do they listen to this stuff music. In German it is called "Schlager." I really need to learn how to post audio feeds, because you have to hear it to understand. Let's just say that Schlager is not exactly what you want to be listening to when lifting weights. Then everybody started to sing along. That was when I had the "moment." "WTF?? Where am I?"

Carnival is really popular in my county and a bit further south in Cologne. I heard on the radio that English tourists (i.e. they come from England) can take a class called "Talk like a Kraut" and then travel to Germany's Carnival. That made me giggle. Mostly because you only need to know like 6 words of German to survive Carnival.

Bier = Beer (same pronunciation, isn't that convenient?)
Noch eine = another one
Bezahlen = to pay
Toilette = toilet
Ubergeben = to throw-up


Other Randomness:

Today I gave a "drive-by" hello to a woman on the street. I was walking back to my car, when I saw a women who looks exactly like someone in my office building. I was trying to be friendly, "Hello!" I chirped with a completely goofy grin on my face. She smiled but had her eyebrows together in that, "Do I know you?" look. That is when I realized that (a) I had no idea who this person was and (b) she is going to go home and tell her family about the crazy lady walking down the street saying hello to random strangers.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Olympic Bobbing, I mean blogging

One good thing about being married to a German sports freak is that he indulges my fascination with the Olympics. I am not a sports freak, but I am very competitive. I also love to get teary eyed about feel-good stories involving fighting adversity and then becoming an Olympic champion. Seriously, smaltz is good and I eat it up. Unfortunately, German smaltz is not as good as NBC smaltz. I miss Bob Costas.

Over the past two weeks the German and I have watched a lot of random sports stuff. Turns out . . . Germans are really good at skiing for long stretches and then shooting at things with an accuracy that makes you wonder why they lost WWII. We sat watching biathlon for HOURS last weekend. Another thing Germans are good at - sliding down the icy side of a mountain.

The Germans have done really well this year. I got this email from dad, who is a Michigan sports freak: "If Germany gets one more medal I will be really mad (smiling)."

Last night the Ladies Figure Skating final was on the tube. I have been watching figure skating since the days of Nancy Karrigan and Tonya Harding. Now, I am not as big a fan as my friend Liz who has been blogging about figure skating for weeks. Her favorites are Torville and Dean. She even has old video tapes. Although I don't have any videos, I did have the book that pairs skater Katerina Gordeeva wrote about her husband, Sergi. I also remember when Michelle Kwan was just a wee thing caught in the middle the 1994 Olympic mess. I was really sad when she pulled out of the Olympics this year. It would have been so great to see her win a gold medal.

When I was watching the final group of ladies in their warm-up I had a funny feeling that Sasha Cohen was going to pull a well . . . Michelle Kwan. I immediately spotted the Japanese girl, Shizuka Arakawa. "Wow! Who's that?"

When Cohen took the ice, she looked like a deer caught in headlights. Uh-oh. This is not going to be good I told the German. And it wasn't. Well the first minute anyway. After Arakawa skated, both the German and I agreed that she was the best and I was really hoping she would win. I have never been a big fan of Irina Slutskaya, and I was not all that surprised when she fell. However, I really felt a stab of sympathy as I saw her cast-fallen face when she realized she would only win bronze.

Who needs soaps and reality TV when you can watch the Olympics? Too bad they are not every year.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

When the chicken started to cough, I knew we had a problem

So, you may know (or may not, which is likely as I have not seen a lot of coverage of this story in the American press) that the Bird Flu arrived in Germany last week. It promptly killed about 100 birds on an island called Ruegen, which is no where near where I live. Although most of the media here has tried to be very matter-of-fact and not blow things out of proportion, there is some "panic."

The latest rumor is that the World Cup Soccer Tournament will be cancelled. This was published in Germany's most read newspaper, the Bild. However, I think that paper loses some credibility because it features a "naked woman of the day" on the front. Anyway, Spiegel thinks that rumor is for the birds (read the article via the link, it is in English and is really good). And I tend to agree.

As I saw on the BBC the other day, you catch the bird flu if you come into direct contact with an infected bird. Frankly I don't see the world's best soccer players running out and rubbing their hands all over dead swans.

I do think the bird flu is something to be taken seriously, but panic and ridiculous speculation do not help. My fear is not that some pandemic that will kill millions of people is going to break out, but instead is focused on the potential damage this could do to the economy of the region that I live in. This is the egg, chicken and turkey producing capital of Germany (you have to be good at something, eh?). If they begin to kill millions of birds preemptively, think of how many people that will put out of work. Right now all the birds are being kept indoors. We will have to wait and see what happens.

As for me, don't worry, mom. I tend to stay away from all dead animals and I have no intention of getting a job at a food processing plant. We have also switched from eating chicken to pork. It is the other white meat, you know.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Point of Entry

I have been thinking about this port take over all day. I first heard about it while drinking my coffee and watching BBC this morning. And here are my thoughts . . .

First, do you want any foreign country controlling your ports? Frankly, I don't care it is Swiss company. A port is a point of entry into your country. Isn't that something governments are supposed to control?

Second, I REALLY hope Bush did not say, "a Great British company." But you never know.

And that is my 2 Euro cents.

This is the country that produced Michael Schumacher

Ladies and gentleman, Smarty.

Today I took a little "Claire Time." Actually my roots were starting to show so I made a much need trip to the hair dresser this morning. My hair dresser is fabulous. And he is 30 minutes away in Oldenburg. So, I had to get up at 7:00 a.m. so that I was awake for my 9:00 a.m. appointment. As I was driving on the highway, I was reminded of the insanity that is the German Autobahn (highway).

Germans are allowed to get their driver's license when they are 18. Before that you either have a bike, a Vespa, or you walk. Getting a driver's license is also no small matter. You have to take hours of driving lessons (which are not cheap!) and then pass a written and driving test. The whole thing can wind up taking up a lot of time and money. Given all this information, you would assume that Germans are better drivers than those in the U.S. You would assume wrong.

As a whole, Germans do not seem to have sense of entitlement like Americans do. However, a German's sense of entitlement is taken out on the highway. "This is my space and I am going somewhere important and I have to be there NOW." This morning two "incidents" are classic example of this German mentality.

There is an important road sign to be aware of. It is a white diamond with a smaller yellow diamond. This sign means that you are on a road that has the right-of-way. When driving in a city/town the standard speed limit is 30 mph. I usually go a little slower because . . . well you never know. I was traveling at about 28 mph on a street where I had the right-of-way (like I said, always look for the yellow diamond). I was going a bit slower because most Germans pull up to the intersections at about 40 mph and you never know what they are going to do. 99% of the time they stop in the nic of time but with engine roaring and nose almost into the intersection. Today, one big jerk turned on in front of me taking the right-of-way. I had to break hard.

This happens to me ALL THE DAMN TIME. Once it happened and I showed the guy a not so nice finger. The German was with me and scolded me! "You could get a ticket for that." "Me!! I was not the ass hole who stole the right-of-way!" In fact my driving has been criticized on several occasions. One guy came up to my window to tell me to turn on my headlights, even though IT WAS NOON ON A SUNNY DAY. In Germany the person on the right has the right-of-way (unless you see the yellow diamond). But I am beginning to think that the person who has the right-of-way is the person who takes it.

Then I got on the interstate this morning. Everything seemed to be completely normal. I was singing very loudly to Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell, when I noticed that a car was merging onto the highway via an on-ramp. I checked my speed. I was doing about 70 mph. Take a look at Smarty. She does not like to go much faster than that. I did not want to break so I looked in my review mirror and noticed a car, but it was further back. So, I switched to the left lane. MISTAKE.

The car behind me was going a LOT faster than I had judged. In fact when he saw me get over, he got over behind me and flashed his head lights at me, which is German car talk for, "Get the hell out of my way. You are too slow!" Unfortunately, it was too late to switch back into the right hand lane. The car merging was a old green Opel Corsa, which probably has an engine even smaller that Smarty. Switch over would have meant breaking hard, which Smarty also does not like. So the car behind me crawlerightupbehindmycarandwasthisclose. I could see the guy picking his nose. Once I passed the Corsa, I switched. The car, a big, brand new BMW passed me, and the man was shaking his fist at me!

Now it is true that there is no speed limit on the autobahn but I think making way for merging traffic is more important. I was also a little peeved because why should I have to break hard. Because my car is smaller and a little slower? You have the brand new BMW with the better breaks, you can break.

I have more driving commentary (getting my German license and passing), but if I told you it all know, I would have nothing to complain about later.

Monday, February 20, 2006

It was not what he said, but the way he said it.

Before I get to my post, let me just say thanks for the comments. I feel the love and I send it right back! I feel a lot more connected to my friends and family with this blog and that makes it totally worthwhile. I am also a complete idiot and forgot a shout-out to my mom and second-dad in South Carolina. My mom is also a faithful reader and my dad is always encouraging me to write a book.

Claire looks around the room and says: "Everyone, this is my mom and dad. Mom and dad, this is everyone."

The South Carolinians: "Hi ya'll."

Okay, now for some more German/American craziness.

There is a large difference in the behavior of small talk between Americans and Germans. Americans can be friendly to a point that it is almost scary and many Germans are so direct that it is almost mean. Germans view Americans as "superficial." On the other hand, Americans view Germans as cold and distant. It is not that Germans do not want to be your friend, but they will be stand off-ish in the beginning. When they figure that you really are interested in being their friend, then you will have a friend for life who will do ANYTHING for you. However, a German will always be straight with you and not sugar coat anything. Which I suppose is good, but also unnerving. These differences reared their sauerkraut-covered head last week.

I am trying to build a website and I have no idea what html is. So, one two weeks ago (when I really should have been working on something else) I spent the entire day on the internet reading html and CSS tutorials. After a few hours I had built up some confidence and I worked a little on my own site. When I was finished, I had a front page with headings and pictures and different colors and links. In fact, I was pretty proud of myself. I sent two friends, a German and an American, the link. The email was entitled "Look at what I did."

The American wrote back a really nice email. It started out, "That is great, Claire! I am impressed." She then later mentioned a few things that I could improve. I felt good. Thanks, New Yorker. Last week I got a response from my German friend. The first sentence was, "I don't know what it is, but I don't like it." He then went on to list several things that were wrong and mentioned at the end that I should probably get a professional who has more experience. I was devastated and started to cry. Not heaving sobs, just a few tears and trembling lip.

Now, I must interject that the person who wrote this email is a good guy. In fact, I consider him a friend and I value his opinion. He is the one who reserved the domain name for me. Nevertheless, it really hurt to read it. My German tried to sooth me by reminding me that sometimes things just don't translate well. Yeah, I'll say.

Ignoring the rule that you should never respond to an email when you are angry, I sent a reply that I was hurt by his email. The next day he called and emailed me at 9:00 a.m. He was very sorry. We both agreed that it was a misunderstanding. I don't take criticism well (Gasp from my mother, "Tell us something we don't know, Claire."). But Germans . . . the art of criticism, they know not.

This weekend, these differences reappeared. I was visiting some friends for German coffee and cake hour, which by the way, is one of the best things about living here. The children of the hostess were in attendance. Her daughters are in their early 20's and very charming. One daughter started to complain about southern Germans.

"They are so nice when you meet them. They will ask you many questions and suggest a meeting. But then they never call to follow up." I am from the South. This sounded very familiar. I said that I understood how frustrating it is. In fact, I am probably (wait . . .no definitely) guilty of this same thing. I tried to explain that often people are interested in meeting for coffee, but things come up and you forget. This does not mean that you do not think about the person and do not want to talk to them.

The daughter said that she preferred north German coolness to superficial southern hospitality. I prefer the latter.

"But how do you know if someone really likes you?" she asked.

"Oh, honey, in my mind everyone likes me. It makes life more pleasant," I responded.

As Carrie on Sex and the City would say, "I need my relationships with a little milk."

Thursday, February 16, 2006

It's because nobody likes you, Claire.

At one point, every blogger complains about cite traffic. I am going to do that now, but I promise it is just this once and I promise to never to it again. Are you ready? . . .

Last week I started to get a little worried about this whole blogging thing. I noticed that only one person consistently leaves comments, my good friend "E." No, it is not Elvis, but the awesome Elizabeth or Liz. So, I started to wonder, is anybody reading my blog? If they are, are they so unmoved they have nothing to say?

It did not help that I read two hilarious posts about blogging. The first, Top Ten Reasons Why Nobody Reads Your Blog, hit a little close to home. Personally, I think it may be reason number 1: I am not a hot woman posting naked pictures of myself. I'd say, "I'll fix that," but my grandfather is one of my few regular readers, and as he would say, "That is inappropriate."

Then I read the equally funny, Top Ten Blogger Lies. It's funny, because this list could easily be changed to "Top Ten Lies Academics Tell Themselves." I would be lying if I said I don't care if nobody reads my blog. If nobody reads it, then it is kind of like sitting in the middle of the forest and talking to yourself. Very creepy.

So, I installed a site meter. And I check it every day. And guess what. People do read my blog! Okay, so it is like the same 10 or 15 people every day, but I am down with that. So, I decided to use today's blog to give a shout-out to my "people."

Hi ya Liz! Hope you feel better and thanks for all of your comments.

Hi ya Grandpa! (Claire looks around the room and says): Everyone, the is Grandpa. Grandpa, this is everyone. Grandpa says: Yo! My grandpa lives in the land o' cheese, i.e. Wisconsin. He's awesome.

Hi ya Dad! My dad is a faithful reader and often send me emails to make sure that I am mentally stable. He is currently recovering from surgery and at home for the next few weeks. Let's send him some happy thoughts, shall we?

Hi ya Josh! I know you are reading. You are the only person I know in Bakersfield, CA. Say hi why don't cha?

Hi ya Jacob! How is my favorite chemical engineer? Wait . . . you are the only chemical engineer that I know. Jacob is THE ONLY PERSON WHO HAS VISITED ME IN GERMANY, and therefore he is better than everyone else.

Hi ya Chad! Chad is currently in the peace corps and teaching in English in Ukraine. I suppose the internet is his link to the outside world, but I bet he would prefer a hot shower. He is equally awesome.

Hi ya Eimear! The German and I really want to come visit. Do you have a guest room?

Hi ya Mareike! Wish I could see you again soon. I'll keep an eye on Jake Gyllenhaal for you.

Hi ya Nutty!! Your Christmas card is sitting on my desk with my "to do list." It was sweet. Thanks! I guess my resolutions have sort of fallen to the side.

Hi ya Carrie! Cannot wait for September. I am plotting evil things . . . ha, ha, ha.

There are a handful of other people that read the blog, but I don't know who they are. I sometimes think they got lost on their way to a much better blog, but stay because they are curious about what this crazy American is doing in Germany. I wonder the SAME THING EVERYDAY.

Anyway, I also thought to myself yesterday, "What do you want to accomplish with this blog, Claire?" Sure, everyone wants to be rich and famous, but I think I would settle for my friends and family keeping in touch. This blog is my way to vent to the universe and contemplate. It is better than yelling at the German every night. ("Yes it is!!" the German yells from the attic where he is hiding from me.) So if nobody reads, I suppose that is okay. But it would be nice if you would stop by more often and sometimes say hello. Then I won't feel so alone in the woods talking to myself. Are you having trouble leaving a comment? Send me an email and let me know.

I feel better now. I promise never to bring it up again. Are we still friends?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day

The German laughed when he read my post Reason 179 That I Love the German. He asked, "What are the other 178 reasons?" Well, I am not sure that there are all that many, but in the spirit of Valentine's Day, I have decided to give it a shot.

Reasons that I Love the German (in no particular order)

1. Because he makes me laugh
2. Because he laughs at his own jokes, even when they are not funny
3. Because he laughs at MY jokes . . . Even when they are not funny
4. Because he loves and respects his parents
5. Because he loves and respects me
6. Because he looks TOO cute in his soccer uniform
7. Because he fixed my laptop!
8. Because he can cook
9. And bake fresh bread!
10. And I don't have to ask him to do it!
11. Because he mops the kitchen floor every time because he knows that I hate doing it
12. Because he loves being a teacher
13. Because he quit working at the bank to become a teacher in order to make a difference
14. Because he believes in helping other people
15. Because he almost always lets me pick the movie
16. Because although he doesn't buy me flowers very often, every now and again he surprises me with them
17. Because he admits that he is hopeless in the gift giving department, and thus always asks for help
18. Because he thinks I am a good writer
19. And reads my blog every day
20. Because he is a good kisser
21. Because he likes sunflowers
22. Because he always wears button-down shirts
23. Because he wears button-down shirts AND likes punk music (I can never put those two together)
24. Because he loves to travel
25. Because he cannot wait to be a dad
26. Because he wants me to be the mother of his children (somebody should really warn him about that)
27. Because he uses more hair products than I do
28. Because he is "gadget guy"
29. Because he loves my crazy family like it is his own
30. Because he scratches my back every night before I go to bed
31. Because he sits down and ATTEMPTS to watch award shows with me and asks all kinds of questions even though he doesn't know who anyone is and frankly could care less
33. Because he loves to try out new restaurants and food
34. Because he is, all-in-all, a pretty positive guy
35. but he tries to be realistic
36. Because he sings when he is working, even though he really shouldn't
37. Because he is kind
28. Because loves animals (even if he won't let me get a dog . . . we need to work on that)
35. Because he is totally devoted to his favorite soccer team (Werder Bremen)
36. and is depressed all afternoon when they loose
37. Because he has a totally cute nickname for me, which I will never tell
38. Because without me, he is helpless
39. Because without him, I am hopeless

And that's just a few of the reasons.

Happy Valentine's Day, sweetie.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Can you imagine what he is like when he is angry?

I read this today about our vice-president, Dick Cheney. It was a little scary and a little funny . . . and a little sad. This man is one step away from the presidency. Maybe we should keep him away from guns?

UPDATE (Feb. 14, 2006): Then I read this today. Good to know that the vice-president is not above the law. The best part of the article is when they say: "The department found the accident was caused by a 'hunter's judgment factor.'" Yeah, I'll say. Giggle.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Swoon!

So, the German went to soccer practice this evening and my English lessons for tonight and tomorrow morning got cancelled. This means only one thing . . . a glass of wine and mindless hours of surfing the internet.

I was checking out my friend Liz's blog/journal and she had the BEST picture of Joaquin Phoenix posted. Then I realized that this was a picture from the new Vanity Fair. Unfortunately, I cannot get the American version here in Germany, so I have to settle for the internet. Vanity Fair is my current favorite magazine. It has the perfect mix of celebrity, movies, politics, fashion, and just plain interesting stuff. My mother usually sends me a copy each month, but mostly I have to rely on the internet.

Anyway, back to the pictures. I found Joaquin and the other Vanity Fair pic's posted on Oscar Watch. It got so much better when I checked it out. There were all three of my secret celebrity crushes (I promise I only have three): Eric Bana, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jake Gyllenhaal. Swoon! I was so in heaven. After looking at the pics, I realized that I do indeed have a "type:" tall, dark hair, blue or brown eyes, athletic. I don't really go for blondes. Hmm . . . Yesterday's trip down memory lane also made me remember the celebrity crushes of my youth: Brendan Fraser and Christian Slater. Jessica even has proof of this and if she ever reveals it . . . I will kill her . . . just kidding . . . maybe.

In case anyone was wondering, I did find a Jem t-shirt. They have a purple one at Urban Outfitters. It is $28. I am still contemplating. I am hesitant because I spent $50 on two t-shirts yesterday from 80stees. I got the Rainbow Brite and Care Bare tees (LOVED Rainbow Brite and my nic is Claire Bare, so I think they were good choices). What surprised me the most was that I was not at all upset by the price. I have not been that happy to purchase something in a while. The German did not say anything as he was happy to see me with such a stupid grin on my face the whole day. I have been in kind of a pissy mood the past week, so I guess he was happy that is was gone, even if it did cost $50. I also realized why the tees were so expensive and hard to get. Apparently most of them are made by a company called Junk Food, which is tres-in and uber-hip. Tees are now very popular with celebrities. Damn them.

I also found a blog that makes me smile until my cheeks hurt. Click on cuteoverload.com. Click on the link to "Birds" and scroll down to the entry "Fly me to the Mooooon." Then click on the song link just under the picture. It is so cute it hurts. This morning the German and I did not even speak to each other. We just did the chicken song . . . which is also cute . . . or just a little weird.

So, I may not go cuddle up with any of my crushes tonight. But I will go to bed with this. And let's be honest, he is MUCH better and cuter than any crush . . . Except when he snores.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

It is truly outrageous!

During one of my English lessons yesterday, I had my students practice free speaking. They picked different topics from a set of cards and had to talk about that topic for a minute. One of my students picked the card, "A memory from my childhood." He had a really tough time thinking of one. So I helped him out by first sharing one of mine.

When I was about 8 and 9, one of my favorite cartoons was "Jem." I loved Jem. It started out on Saturdays but then moved to weekday mornings at about 7:00 a.m. I used to watch it in the morning while eating cereal, then a little boy who lived at the end of my block would knock on my door. We would walk to school everyday and talk about Jem. It is a nice memory and also a bit funny - this image of a little white girl and a little black boy walking to school and talking about a cartoon rock band.

This memory has been floating around in my head since January. When I was in South Carolina, I went to the mall. And there in the Junior style section, smashed onto a rack of t-shirts was a pink "Jem and the Holograms" t-shirt. I almost died. I snatched it up and raced into the dressing room. It was a medium, but sometimes I can get away with a medium in a t-shirt. But sadly it did not fit. And it was the only one. I almost bought it, thinking perhaps I could wear it around the house, but I could not justify the expense. I was depressed the rest of the day.

Yesterday after teaching, I could not get the t-shirt out of my head. And then I had a thought, why do I have the internet? To shop for unimportant, hard-to-get items (oh . . . and email). This morning I have been desperately searching the internet for a t-shirt.

Would you believe . . . THEY DO NOT HAVE THEM IN MY SIZE! Okay, so I can deal with the fact that the T's only come in junior sizes. But I am going to need a large, if not an extra large. I have found mostly junior smalls. I have not been a junior small since I was like 12. Then I had another thought.

WHO ARE BUYING ALL OF THESE T-SHIRTS?? I mean, truly tiny young people do not have an appreciation of Jem. A 16 year old has never even seen Jem! It was cancelled in 1988. A 16 year old was not even alive then! Why are they taking all of the t-shirts from the truly devoted fans?

Sorry for the rant. Anyway, I was thinking. Can you help me? I am looking for a t-shirt, pink, large. See the picture at the beginning of this blog. I got it from 80's Tees. I may even go for a purple one. I do not like the black background ones, though. If you find one on the internet, please, PLEASE send me the link. 80's Tees has a some things but not what I am looking for in my size. The Care Bare, Rainbow Brite, Strawberry Short Cake, and She-Ra Shirts are pretty awesome, though. I used to also love, LOVE She-Ra. I had the castle. I think it is still in my parents attic somewhere.

During my search, I found out that Amazon now has the first and second season of Jemon DVD. OH MY GOD! If there is a family member out there reading this, these DVD's would be the perfect gift for me. I would be in heaven! If they would only release the Glitter and Gold season.

I miss the 80s. Sniff.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Domestic Goddess I Ain't

My friend Liz, who is very supportive, commented on my post about the laundry. She thinks that it all brings me one step closer to being a domestic Goddess. That is a lovely thought. However, I am sure that most of my family know better and I do not want random strangers thinking things about me that might not be true. So in the spirit of full disclosure, I admit that I am no domestic Goddess. I have proof. Would a domestic Goddess serve the following for lunch:


In case you are wondering, it is frozen sweet and sour chicken which you toss in a frying pan with some water. 8 minutes later - lunch. It was actually surprisingly good.


A Quick Look at the Headlines

When I first started this blog in December 2005, one of my goals was to point out some of the wacky cultural differences between the U.S. and Germany. However, the news headlines in Germany reminded me that that the U.S. and Germany are not that different. In fact, I am not sure I really know the meaning of culture clash.

You may have heard about the ragging protests in the middle east regarding the publication of some cartoons of the prophet Mohammad. If not, you can read an up-date here. In September 2005 a Danish newspaper published a cartoon of the prophet Mohammad and in his turban was a ticking time bomb. The images have made their way to the middle east and have pissed a lot of people off. In Islam, pictures of Mohammad are considered idolatry. So, there are many reasons that the cartoons are upsetting.

Unfortunately, this anger has led to violence, including the destruction of many European embassies. The Danish prime minister has said that he does not condone derogatory religious images, but he cannot apologize for the actions of a free press. Now THAT is culture clash. Two German newspapers published the images as well in order to demonstrate the importance of a free press, and as a result have now made German embassies a target.

I am so torn. I understand how upsetting these images could be. On the other hand, I am such a product of my Western culture, that I could not imagine banning the images. I thought to myself, "How would you feel if someone made a cartoon mocking and degrading the things you find most important?" Wait, I think someone has! But I accept these things because in my mind, freedom of speech and the press are two things that I hold most dear.

So the question is, can you promote religious tolerance and acceptance AND have a free press which may sometimes go again these values? Something to think about over your morning coffee.

I did a quick scan of U.S. headlines today. I was wondering if any of my American friends and family were contemplating these things. There was not much reporting of the matter. A lot about the Bush budget and the Super Bowl, though.

I went from contemplating freedom of speech to the Bush budget. Cut taxes and spend money. Good job, George. If my bank account looked like George´s budget, the bank would cut me off. In order to spend money, you have to make money. You cannot have one without the other. At least, that is how my checkbook works. Does anyone remember the catch-phrase "fuzzy math." Fuzzy indeed.

Well, I have to go to work . . . So that I can make some money . . . So that I can spend it.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Bane of my Existence

It goes from here:




To Here:


EVERY DAY! The machine is running RIGHT NOW! Do not be fooled by the picture. My washing machine is tiny. I think that they are made small in order to conserve water. Unfortunately, I am not sure that it saves anything as I constantly am having to do laundry. Why do you ask? Well, the German and I both have our "work clothes," our "comfortable clothes," and out soccer / sports clothes, throw in kitchen towels, towels, and other linens, and that makes for a lot of smelly-ness. God, think of what it will be like when we have kids. The horror! Perhaps you understand now why I complain so much.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Smarter than your average bear

Instead of lecturing today at university, two of my students gave presentations in my "Voting and Participation" class. They did okay. It was mostly a review day because the final exam is next week. So I asked my students to present two sides of a debate. One the one hand, low voter turnout and decreasing participation are of concern and we must do things to correct it. On the other hand, low voter turnout is not a concern.

The student discussing the second point did a good job. He made an excellent point that sometimes not voting can be a sign that the polis is happy with their democracy. Voter turnout is not the most important thing, but rather making sure that everyone agrees on democratic values and the rule of law. Yes, I know that there are MANY arguments against this, and I am not sure that I believe it myself, but I was trying to get the students to argue for things that they might not believe.

Unfortunately, the student stepped into a bit of doggy do. He said, "Amerikaner sind nicht besonders klug." That is, "Americans are not especially clever." The whole class laughed. I said, "Be careful!" He laughed. And then HE SAID IT AGAIN! Okay, so some Americans cannot find Europe on a map, but how smart is it to insult THE AMERICAN WHO IS GIVING YOU YOUR FINAL GRADE. I actually think the situation was funny, and I will not hold it against him.

Anyway, I like to think of my self as a little bit "klug," and perhaps even a little bit smarter than the average bear. I have been able to figure out this whole blogging thing myself. I am doing a little research on html by myself so that I can make my site more personal. I have also added the links and my pictures with no prior help. Did you see my new personal pic?

The German is very supportive of my blog. He even got me a neato new gift - a digital camera. Okay, so it is not "mine." We do share things in our marriage. But I realized that "all the cool kids" (as my cool friend Liz would say) post pics on their blogs and use something strange called "Flickr." I want to do that to. I want to be able to show you all of the crazy things going on over here. The camera came in the mail today. It is a Fuji FinePix E550. We got it off eBay. We are big fans of eBay. Below you will find some pictures of my living room. It is not always this clean! In fact, I cleaned it before taking the pictures! Tomorrow I want to post a pic of my beloved Smarty. But I need to take her to the car wash first - and you know how much I hate that. Have I mentioned that I am a bit neurotic?