Sunday, April 30, 2006

Up, Up and Away

Yesterday the German and I took a short flight around Damme with Lufthansa.

Wait . . . Let me back up a bit.

While driving back to Cloppenburg two weeks ago from a new company where I am giving English lessons, I saw that the city of Damme was going to have a trade show. "Damme Introduces Itself" was the title. Interesting. I thought a town fair / trade show would be a great way to find potential new customers.

So off the German and I went to the Damme trade show yesterday. Damme is a city of about 15,500 people and is located about 30 kilometers from Osnabrueck (about 50 kilometers from Cloppenburg, or 40 minutes by car). The unemployment rate in 2000 was 6%. The town is pretty old; the first churches were built around 950, and the earliest documented references about the town are from 1180. The trade show took place at the Damme airport. Yes, there is an airport in Damme. I could not believe it myself.

The trade show was huge! There are some very large companies in Damme. I also got some information about the economic situation in the Oldenburger Munsterland (which is counties Cloppenburg and Vechta). I am telling you - business is booming here! If you are looking to move and/or do business in Germany, this is definitely a place to look into. Just beware of the manure spreaders.

Going to the trade show was a good idea. I stopped by the booth of my new client, just to say hello. He seemed pleased that I dropped by. I also got a few business cards and made some new contacts.

After about 30 minutes of schmoozing, the German and I wanted to have some fun. We walked around outside. There were several flying clubs there, including Classic Wings.

Classic Wings specializes in classic airplanes, which they rent out and fly for private events and parties. Yesterday they had a 1957 Antonov AN 2 on the field. The Antonov can carry 11 people, reach a maximum speed of 180 km per hour and (according to crash statistics) is the "safest airplane in the world." It was pretty cool to look at.

We entered the tent just as they were about to make their first flight of the day. There were two spots free on the plane. Normally, it costs 40 Euro per person for the 15 minute flight around the town. The German and I had a total of 40 Euros between us. The crazy pilot was trying to get us on the plane. I can understand. He just wants to fly, but it is not really efficient to have an empty plane.

I said, "I am sorry. We only have 40 Euro and it would not be fair if only one person could go."

He smiled. "Okay. Two people. 40 Euro. No problem."

I smiled back. "Great, it's a deal." The German had wide eyes and was trying to communicate to me, "What the hell are you doing??"

5 minutes later we were sitting in the plane. The German turned to me. "Are you nuts? I never thought you would go for this."

"Why not, sweetie? Don't we deserve some fun?" He held my hand. "Yes, we do!" The plane we were on looked something like this. (All photos are from the Classic Wings website.)

The flight lasted about 15 minutes. The sky was clear and you could see for forever. Boy, northwest Germany is really . . . flat. It was totally worth the 40 Euros. In fact, I would have paid 80.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

German Translations Gone Wild

Today was a beautiful day in Cloppenburg. It did not rain. The sun came out. The thermometer broke 70, AND my client cancelled his English lesson for the day. I am telling you, it was enough to make a girl giddy.

The German and I went into town and ate our first ice cream of the season. It was a million calories, and I loved every minute of it. We were walking around town and I was cursing that I did not bring my camera. I promise many pictures of Cloppenburg to come.

In an effort to be a good businesswoman, I said, "Schatz, let's go by my office just to see if Nice German Customer faxed me the rest of the placement tests." I should have listened to the voice in my head: "Danger Wil Robinson! Never go to the office when you are enjoying the first nice spring afternoon of the year."

We got to the office and the fax machine was out of paper. I put more in and as it was printing out the last page of the fax, it stopped. The thing was out of ink. (I swear that damn fax machine is quickly replacing the washing machine as the bane of my existence!) I looked at my watch. It was 6:00pm. "Normal" working hours in Germany go until 8:00pm. But this Cloppenburg, and anything but normal. I knew I needed a new ink cartridge that evening in order to make sure I had the entire fax and could speak with my customer in the morning. I gave the German my "Please don't hate me" look. He sighed and he put on his coat. We would have to drive the 30 minutes to Oldenburg to go to Staples.

The drive was actually very pleasant. We kept commenting on how the trees, seemingly over night, sprouted leaves and turned green. To get to Oldenburg from Cloppenburg, you have to take a two lane county road to the main highway. Usually you only have to spend about 10 minutes on the county road. But spring has finally come to Cloppenburg. And that means only one thing . . . shit.

No, seriously, the farmers have dragged out the manure in order to get the fields ready for planting season. (I have heard bickering in town about how the corn should have been in the ground last week. Do not complain to me about this. Your insight is lost on a city girl like me.) Planting season means more tractors on the roads and more Guellemachine. If you get stuck behind one of these things on the county road, your 10 minute trip becomes 20.

"Claire, what's a 'Guellemachine'?" I am glad you asked.

"Guelle" is the German word for manure. A "Guellemachine" looks like a gas transporter. Farmers drive it around their fields to distribute the manure. It looks kind of like this:

I teach English to many companies that make farming equipment. It was inevitable that one day one of my students would ask me, "Claire, what is 'Guellemachine' in English?"

They asked ME . . . the city girl . . . the girl who is amazed by the size of sheep's balls . . . the girl who studied political science.

"I have no idea. "Shit machine" maybe? "The Shitter?""

Yup. That is probably why I never became an official UN translator.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Ode to Maggie, Part Zwei

About a month ago, I told you about the joy that is Maggi Mix. Grandpa was not too enthusiastic about Maggi Mix. He says it sounds like Hamburger Helper. It is soooo much better than Hamburger Helper, and I consider it my saving grace when it comes to cooking. No healthy or original meals here. If you want that, go see Christina.

In order to demonstrate the vast variety of Maggi, I took a picture of the Maggie aisle at our local Familia (think Wal-Mart, but less evil). As you can see, it has a lot to offer. Today I made a pasta, cheese, ham casserole with Maggie. I was really bummed because we went to the bigger Familia in Oldenburg about a week later and their Maggie aisle had a huge neon sign! Maggi's main competitor is Knorr, which is also very good. At our Familia, Knorr also has its own aisle.

Taking this picture was a stressful endeavor.

(The German is pushing the cart, and Claire stops to take the camera out of her purse.)

German: What are you doing??

Claire: I am going to take a picture of the Maggi aisle.

German: (looking at me like I am totally insane) WHY?

Claire: For my blog. Some of my readers have never seen a Maggi isle.

(This seems like an acceptable answer to the German. Clear looks up with sudden panic in her eyes.)

Claire: Do you think I could get in trouble?

German: (with sudden panic in his voice) I am not sure!

Claire: Well go look around the corner and make sure no one is looking.

(The German cranes his neck. He steps into the aisle).

German: All clear!

(Claire takes the picture and shoves the camera back into her purse.)

We live on the edge out here in ol' Cloppenburg. I think we may be ready for a bank robbery next.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

If the FBI, CIA or some other criminal investigating unit just read this blog, I SWEAR on my new sandals that we are not planning a bank robbery.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Claire's Tip of the Day

The following is a public service announcement from Claire.

When you and your spouse are cutting back on caffeine for health reasons, do not decide to drink a cup of coffee on Sunday night at 7:30pm.

You will wind-up lying awake all night long, and periodically wake-up your spouse by asking, "Honey, are you asleep? I cannot sleep."

You will almost break your alarm clock when it goes off at 7:30am and cry, "Dear God, just five more minutes!" You will then remember that you have to leave for your aerobics class in one hour, at which point you begin to debate with yourself: sleep vs. Aerobics. Only after remembering that glimpse of thigh you caught in the mirror yesterday while trying on your black suit to see if it fits, will you drag your sorry butt out of bed. Your spouse, who you kept up all night, will have no sympathy.

In your rush to get out the door and actually make it to your aerobics class, you will put on this t-shirt:

Then you will not notice as you put on this hoodie:

When you get to the gym you will be horrified and embarrassed about wearing a Notre Dame t-shirt with a Michigan hoodie, which is some circles is considered a sin that WILL SEND YOU STRAIGHT TO HELL. You will refuse to take off your hoodie during your workout because you are afraid that someone will realize your offense. Only after sweating profusely will you realize that NOBODY IN GERMANY KNOWS WHAT THE HELL THE BIG 10 IS, and you will begin to relax.

However, you will then return home sweaty and exhausted from so much self-created drama before 10:00am on a Monday morning and curse the coffee you drank Sunday night.

Thank you for your attention. Have a nice day.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

In memoriam

After a long and hard fight with cancer, the German's uncle (who was also his Godfather), Siegfried Juergens, passed away early Friday morning.

Over the past few days, I noticed how very differently people deal with death. Some get very quiet and don't say much. Some are hysterical and cannot stop crying. Others still get angry. The German was quiet and reflective on Friday. There were a few tears, but my mother-in-law was very calm. Siegfried's passing was not unexpected and the family was prepared, but I still find it sad.

In some cultures it is not appropriate to speak of the dead. However, my personal philosophy is that as long as we talk about our loved ones and remember who they were, then they never really leave us. So, let me tell you a bit about my uncle-in-law.

Siegfried Juergens was born on April 15, 1944 in Bohlenbergerfeld. Because he was mentally handicapped, he was a little slower in school than the other children. He never complained, though. He did the best that he could. After eight years in school, he was sent to work on his uncle's farm. Many years of hard farm work followed. In the 1970s Siegfried began working at Bockhorner Klinker, making bricks. He would work there for 25 years.

Siegfried had many hobbies. He liked to travel. He and a friend often traveled to the German and Austrian Alps, which were his favorite. In the 1980s Siegfried even went on a cruise to Norway and was excited to see whales. Just last spring he took his last trip, which was to the Gardasee in Italy. Siegfried highly recommended this tourist destination.

Siegfried enjoyed "Bosseln." Bosseln is an odd game popular in northwest Germany. Basically you roll a ball down the street and two teams take turns chasing it for miles. (If you ever drive through the back roads of northwest Germany, be careful of these people. I almost ran somone over once!) Although he never had a driver's license, he was very proud of his moped, which he kept in top condition his entire life.

His family remembers him as a hard worker, beloved brother, and faithful friend. He never complained about his life and was content with what he had. He would eat almost anything, but did prefer dark beer served at room temperature.

He bravely fought cancer for several years. The German and I last saw him on April 1. We told him about our plans to build a house. He insisted that we use bricks from Bockhorner Klinker. He was very proud of his old company. We will do our best to honor his request.

Siegfried Juergens was 62 years old. He is survived by his sisters (Anita, Lisa, Enne, Irmgard, and Gertraud) and many nieces and nephews, including his beloved Godson, Matthias.

He will be missed.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Go Go Gadget Multi-tasking Powers

There are so many things that happened last week, and many of them got lost in all of my Lost Bloging. The following is what I like to call an example of "Classic Claire." But before the anecdote, I told the German last night that we will no longer be making a decision about the house without first consulting the internet. You guys are great with the comments!

I think that we are going to go with the bigger lot. Also, the bank said they would give us some money to buy a house. Yeah! Now, be sure to give good, sound advice . . . because if anything goes wrong, I will be blaming you.

Now, back to the moment when Claire wished she had super powers.

Flashback: Wednesday, last week, a rainy day in Cloppenburg (what else!)

I went to the post office to pick up the mail for the office. Inside was a big envelop full of placement tests for the new company where the New Yorker (my business partner) and I will be teaching. When I got to the office, I opened the envelope and realized that it had been sitting there since Saturday (hidden lesson: check your mail everyday). Furthermore, my contact person had left two messages on the machine. Without hesitating I picked up the phone to give the company a call. (Please remember that the following conversation took place in German.)

Claire: I am sorry that I missed your call. I just received the placement tests.

Nice German Customer: Great. Did you get the fax I sent this morning?

(Claire eyes the fax machine, which by the way, she has no idea how to operate because IT IS IN GERMAN.)

Claire: No, I am afraid not.

Nice German Customer: Hmm. That is strange I thought it went through. Since I have you on the phone, let me try to send it now . . . And how about the trial lesson? Should we schedule that for next week?

Claire: Sure. Let me just go to my desk and look at my calendar.

(The fax machine begins to ring. Claire trys to look at her calendar and the fax machine at the same time. Claire notices that the mode of the fax machine is set to "manual." Hmm, she thinks, I bet I have to press a switch to receive the fax. Claire randomly begins to press buttons.)

Nice German Customer: Thursday is good. How about the morning?

Claire: Mmmm. . . yes (fax machine beeps and stops working). I think Thursday is good . . . Um, do you think you could try the fax one more time?

Nice German Customer: Sure . . . And how many groups will there be? How did they do on the placement tests?

(The fax machine begins to ring again. Claire drops the calendar and reaches in the desk for the fax instructions. She is still listening to the customer and has one eye on the fax machine. She is still speaking German, but in her mind, in English, she is thinking: HOW THE F*** DOES THIS THING WORK?!)

Nice German Customer: Yes, I think they are looking forward to the lessons. Did they do okay on the tests? How many did I send? I think it was about 30.

(Claire, who had been standing and pacing, stops in the middle of the room. All at once she realizes that she needs to listen to the customer, count the number of tests, make the appointment, figure out the f****** fax machine, all at the same time and IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE! I was a little overwhelmed you see.)

Claire takes a deep breath.

Claire: I am sorry, customer, but I am a little overwhelmed at the moment. Could you try that fax again in an hour? I am having difficulty with my fax machine. Thursday sounds great. Let's say 9:00 a.m.? I think you sent about 30 tests. I will grade them tonight and send you the results and the number of groups per email.

Nice German Customer: Great! I look forward to hearing from you. Bye!

After hanging up the phone, I just . . . well . . . sat there. In that one moment I completely understood how some of the office clerks I teach feel when they are confronted with such situations. I don't normally talk about myself in the third person. But it was almost like an out-of-body experience.

Do ever have the feeling that you are pretending? When I first got married, I felt like a kid playing house. I still do a lot of the time. Planning meals, cleaning house, fighting with the laundry; I used to do these all the time, but now I am in my house with my husband and it is all weird.

Running my own business is something I never expected to do. I have no training and I often find myself making it up as I go along. I often tell people that I am not a business woman. I am a teacher. I feel like I am a "pretend" business woman. On the outside I may look pretty well put together, but on the inside I feel like the same insecure 16 year old just trying to figure out what is going on.

After my moment with the fax machine (which by the way I figured out in 2 minutes and works fine now), I met with our tax consultant. Time for more pretend playtime. We chatted. I told him about our new customers and we went over the receipts. I had prepared some coffee and I made the "I am not a business woman comment." He took a cookie from the bowl that I had placed in the middle of the table. He munched thoughtfully.

Nice Tax Consultant: I would not say that. I think you are doing just fine. You may have hidden business talents that you never new about.

It was the nicest compliment I have gotten in a while, and it could not have come at a better time. I really don't think Inspector Gadget could have done any better.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


On Good Friday the German and I took the in-laws to Wildeshausen, the town where we would like to build a house. We got information on two possible lots.

The first one, as you can see, is located in a neighborhood that is basically finished. The plus side of this lot: it is fairly cheap. The down side: the houses are practically on top of each other. We would basically have to drive through the neighbor's front yard to get to our house.

The second one is . . . well, right now it is a field. The city is developing this land and they think that we could get a lot and start building in the beginning of September. This lot is a little more expensive. However, the lots are larger. Also, we could get a lot that boarders a small forest, which means now neighbors in the back. The down side: we can count on continuous building in the neighborhood for several years.

Wildeshausen is a really nice town. I would not call it a city. It is also pretty old. Below is the local church. Yes, just about every town in Germany has a church like this. This one comes from the middle ages. Man, and I thought I was getting old. As an American, I find it mind blowing that I could live near something with such a long history. The church is near the river Hunte. Across the street from the church is an old police station that now has a beer garden. Although I am not a big fan of beer, I am a lover of beer gardens. Yes, this may be the town for us.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter in Germany (Or: Return to our Regularly Scheduled Programming)

Yesterday was Easter. One week ago, during Holy Week, I saw a television report that only 1 in 4 Germans knows why Easter is celebrated. The lovely Lisa queried her readers about Easter traditions in Germany. The report and Lisa made me put on my thinking cap . . . which never leads to any good. What do Germans know about Easter? How is Easter different in Germany?

First, let's address the knowledge gap. I went into my English classes last week with an Easter lesson. Each student received a worksheet, and they had to locate the hidden eggs in the picture. Then they had to write a sentence describing the location of each egg using the correct preposition of location. I gave a big chocolate bunny to the person who was the fastest. Then I tried to generate discussion about the holiday.

Claire: "Why do we celebrate Easter?"

Silence . . . Crickets chirping.

Claire: "Um . . . what happened on Easter Sunday?"

More silence.

Intimidated Student 1: "I think Jesus stood up at Easter Sunday."

When I am teaching, I generally take what I can get. At least no one gave the same answer as the idiot on TV, "Um , Easter is when Jesus was born." What makes these responses unbelievable is that Germans have religion classes in school! On the other hand, no one knew why a rabbit brings eggs on Easter either. This is amusing, as the myth of the Easter Bunny is GERMAN. I tried to talk more about Easter traditions in Germany.

Claire: "What do you do in Germany on Easter?"

Even more painful silence.

For the life of me, I cannot figure out why this topic did not spark more discussion. I told my students, "Imagine an alien comes to Germany and you have to explain this holiday to them. What would you say?" After a lot of coaxing, I did get a few responses.

In Germany, you get Good Friday and Easter Monday off from work. Seriously, all of the stores are closed and I am out of toilet paper. (Sometimes I really miss Wal-mart.) In the week before Easter, children dye eggs with their parents. Germans also decorate the house with bunnies and eggs and hang plastic eggs on the trees outside. Osterglocken, i.e. daffodils, are a popular motif. On Easter Sunday, children get baskets and go search for Easter eggs. On Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, Germans visit family and eat a lot of cake and drink a lot of coffee. As you can see, Easter in Germany is not all that different from Easter in the U.S. Also notice that almost no one I talked to mentioned going to church.

There is another important tradition, which is especially popular here in the north, the Osterfeuer, i.e. the Easter Fire. Depending on where you live, the Easter Fire takes place on either Holy Saturday or Easter Sunday. The town gathers together old trees and things and builds a huge pile. Then everyone gets together, the town sets the pile on fire and everyone stands around and watches it burn. During the evening the participants also eat Bratwurst and get totally hammered. I really dig this tradition.

The fire is not always sponsored by the town. Some farmers and groups (like the local soccer club) have their own fires. Actually, for 25 Euro, you could have your very own fire. This tradition comes from an old Germanic celebration marking the beginning of spring. The fire is supposed to drive away bad spirits. Unfortunately, the German and I did not get to go to a fire this year.

Yesterday, the German and I went to my in-laws for brunch. We then took the traditional Easter walk in Varrel. During our walk we saw a lot of sheep on the dikes, such as the one below. The German told me that because they spend the entire day standing on the side of a hill, the sheep have uneven legs (one side is longer than the other). I looked at him, "Seriously?" He grinned. "No. Not really?"

Here is a picture of me starring at the sheep. I grew up in the suburbs. The sight of actual live animals still amazes me. There were only male sheep on the dike. I was disturbed by their very big balls. I know that this may be a bit inappropriate, but dude, they freaked me out!!

We returned to the in-laws house, and I took the traditional "falling asleep on the couch while watching CNN" Easter nap. After dinner and one too many shots with my father-in-law, the German and I got home around midnight. It was a good day.

For any German readers, I pose my question to you. What makes Easter in Germany special?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Putting Alexander Hamilton to Rest

Wow! I am so glad the past week is over. The Lost Blogs Campaign was great, but a little stressful. For the first time since starting this blog, I felt performance anxiety. I did not want to disappoint or be boring. But the writing process was actually a lot of fun.

First, let me address what will forever be known as "the mistake." The first day, I was "the other guy" in the interview at Weehawken. A few weeks ago, when I started thinking about this process, I wanted to pick someone from the time of the American founding. It is a period of time that I know a lot about and I read some of the letters of the participants while in grad school.

I looked through Joseph J. Ellis's book Founding Brothers for a little inspiration. "The Duel" is discussed in chapter 2. I liked the idea of a duel. Also, the Hamiltonian version of the duel is the most accepted version (i.e. "the other guy" was the bad guy and Hamilton never meant to shoot) because most of "the other guy's" private papers were lost at sea. So, as you can see, he would have been perfect. LOL! Which is why Paul wants him! That Paul is very clever.

There I was, very discouraged after day 1. Kevin suggested that I be "the other guy" in the duel. At first I was hesitant. I thought it may be too difficult. Then I realized . . . Alexander Hamilton would so totally ridicule "the other guy" for being forced to take down his website!! So, as Chumbawamba sing, "I get knocked down, but I get up again."

Mr. Hamilton I was. A few clues in the posts:

Day 1:
Hamilton is writing about the Compromise of 1790.
Ridiculing "the other guy": You would only have gotten this is you had seen my first post
Big-Man: (aka George Washington) was a big influence in Hamilton's life
Self-promoter: Hamilton was very self-conscious about his humble origins (he was illegitimate) and many people from his time called him a social climber
Tom (aka Thomas Jefferson) invited Jim (aka James Madison) and Alex over to dinner in 1790, in an event sometimes called the compromise of 1790. Madison agreed not to stand in the way of Alex's budget reforms if Alex would agree to move the capital to what is now Washington, DC.

Day 2:
Hamilton is writing about his resignation from his post as treasury secretary after admitting to an affair with Maria Reynolds.
Betsy: his wife Elizabeth
Balancing the public debt (refers back to the previous post): Hamilton would have been the first to emphasize fiscal responsibility
Founding a party: Hamilton was the founder of the Federalist Party, the first in the U.S.
John: Adams, 2nd president
Subversive Jokes / Links: Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, George Bush

Day 3:
Hamilton is writing about the Election of 1800.
He abandoned John Adams and supported Charles Pickney.
Catiline: was the name that Hamilton used when he talked about "the other guy"
Subversive Jokes / Links: Anne Coulter and Bill O'Reily (the two evils), Silvio Berlusconi (laughing in the face of election results), Election of 2000 (losing popular vote, but winning election)

Day 4:
"I supported our new constitution:" Co-authored the Federalist Papers
"I established the national bank:" He did
"For a "bastard," I have done well:" Was born illegitimately
"Put me on currency:" He is on the $10 bill

I participated in this campaign because I liked the idea. I am intrigued by Paul's book and cannot wait to read it. Also, I wanted the writing challenge. Silly me.

I think my regular readers (even my parents) got a bit more insight into me:
1. I am my own worst critic.
2. I consider myself very ethical.
3. I really am a polisci geek. (LOL!)
4. I do not like to quit.
5. I can over react sometimes.

I never considered myself a "writer." I do however have A LOT of opinions and talk WAY TOO MUCH. That is why I started this blog. Perhaps there is a little writer in all of us, who is just waiting to get out. Hmm, I wonder where my "inner writer" will take me next.

Thanks to everyone for reading and for all the supportive comments. As Groove Bunny would say, "You all are pretty groovy!"

Tomorrow I promise more reporting on general German wackiness, house hunting, Maggie Mix, and other random things from the front lines of an international marriage.

Bis dann!

Friday, April 14, 2006

The End (Lost Blogs: Part IV)

In a few hours I head out to the interview and I am on my way to meet my destiny. These are truly my last words! Catiline has challenged my honor, and now I must face the consequences of my actions.

I do not regret my remarks. Catiline is not to be trusted. Ever since he refused to step down during the election, it was clear to me that he would attempt to hold on to power at any cost. I could not let him win the governorship. And frankly, if someone asks me my opinion, why should I lie!

I have written that I will not shoot. However, I am not sure anymore. If I do not shoot then I will look like a coward. Also, it my tarnish my honor. I have worked to hard for my position in society. I will not let that position slip because of Catiline! Perhaps I will throw away my shot and only shoot at the trees. I have no doubt that Catiline will shoot. But I do not think I will be harmed. He is too clever. He knows that if I am harmed, then his career is truly over. Although he has no love for me, I know that he would protect his career at all costs.

But what if something should happen . . .

My life has taken so many turns since leaving the island. I climbed the heights of power and witnessed history. I saw battles and blood. I supported our new constitution. I handled the national debt wisely. I established the national bank. I founded the first party. For a "bastard," I have done well.

If I do not return, then I hope history will remember me. Perhaps my country will honor me by putting me on the currency. I hope that when young school children open their books and look up at their teachers, that they too will learn my name . . . Alexander Hamilton.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Congratulations to Expat , who figured it out first. So, now you know who it is. But do you know what events he was talking about? It may have been a bit obvious, but I hope you had fun reading anyway. Tomorrow I will tell you why I did this and about the clues that I left.

Now go visit the rest of the Lost Bloggers and read how you do it right! Most are going to be revealing themselves on Saturday and will tell you about their person. My fellow Lost Bloggers, I am looking forward to spending tomorrow catching up on all your posts.

Don't forget to check out Paul's Book!

The in-laws are about to come over, so now I need to go pretend that I can cook. Pretending to be Alexander Hamilton was easier!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Lesser of Two Evils (LB: Part III)

The Election is finally over. After 35 ballots a decision was made. Our party received a stunning blow. I do feel partially to blame. I should not have abandoned John, despite our differences. But I knew Charley to be more loyal to the party. Perhaps next time we should choose the stronger candidate rather than a party hack. Well, live and learn I suppose.

It was a bit satisfying to know that my influence still has some sway. After 30 ballots I knew that something had to be done. It is imperative for our little experiment to succeed, that there be a smooth transition in power. I could not let the election go on much longer. But who to support? It is like trying to pick the lesser of two evils.

I am not exactly Tom's biggest fan. However, he does realize the importance of compromise and at least you can believe him. Catiline, on the other hand, well . . . I trust him about as far as I can throw him! He angles himself into position and switches sides in the bat of an eye. I may not believe in Tom's principles, but at least he has them. The only way Catiline will get my support is over my dead body!

So, I rode over to Jim's. I told him that Catiline cannot come to power and we need to bring this election to an end. He was my voice, and helped the last ballot come through. Catiline could have stepped down, but would not. Who else has an ego large enough to laugh in the face of election results?

This election was very trying and highlighted the flaws in the electoral system. It may be possible to win the popular vote but not win the election. However, I do not think this will happen again.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Remember, this is not "Claire." It is part of the Lost Blog that she found in her office. Be sure to click on the links in the blog. They are there for emphsis. Now go visit the rest of the Lost Bloggers and read how you do it right! Don't forget to check out Paul's Book!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Learning About Discretion the Hard Way (LB: Part II)

I wish that I could say that I did not have sexual relations with that woman, but I did. It is, I think, the biggest regret of my life (to date). I deeply lament the pain that I have caused Betsy. When she found out, she slapped me across the face.

“How could you!?”

“Baby, I am so sorry. She meant nothing to me!”

“No you idiot! How could you get caught!? Your place in history will now forever be linked to that harlot. Don’t you ever think about your legacy!?”

She is such a wonderful wife. She stood by me through the entire scandal. It is a good thing that she is a woman; otherwise she might become a senator and not me!

Resigning my post is painful because I truly believe that I am helping. There is so much work to do! If only I could stay . . .

My biggest triumph . . . there are so many . . . I have to say that my handling of the public debt was best. Although Tom is my most formidable competition, I am grateful for his invitation to dinner with Jim. That night we saved my program and our little experiment! Of course, the ideas were all mine.

I hope my successor realizes the importance of managing the debt. Yes, credit is necessary at war time. But paying your debts is the price of Liberty. If we do not honor our debts then we will lose face with our creditors and in the world. It will make getting credit even more difficult later, when we really need it. Some people never learn the lessons of history. Seriously, who would be dumb enough to carry such a high public debt!

The debt was certainly important, but on the other hand, I ALSO brought together a formidable group of individuals to form a “party.” I could tell that my supporters and I were not going to be able to pass our proposals individually. No, we would have to work together as a group. The word faction has such a terrible connotation. What should we call ourselves? One night when were all relaxing after dinner and enjoying our port, John said, “Let’s call ourselves a ‘party’!” Intriguing. No one ever had anything against a party. It could be an idea that catches on.

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Remember, this is not "Claire." It is part of the Lost Blog that she found in her office. Now go visit the rest of the Lost Bloggers and read how you do it right! Don't forget to check out Paul's Book!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Going Global

Warning: This is a non-Lost Blogs Post!

Claire here.

Guess what? Some how USAToday found out about Kevin's little experiment. They posted it on their webpage. Something I am participating in made national news. And it did not involve me doing anything illegal (I hope!).

Fellow Lost Bloggers, I say global, because I hope my fellow Expats will be reading along. Mike is even participating! For my anyone who reads this blog regularly, you should visit some of the other 40-odd bloggers (which I assume means more than 40 and not that we are somehow strange . . . which we are . . . but is a whole other post!). I must admit that I am a polisci, history and movie junkie, and I still cannot figure out the majority of the posts. There are many talented people out there.

For the like 2 people who find this blog via USAToday, welcome. Enjoy the posts.

This will be my last post as "Claire" for the week. My history blogger is taking over. See you Saturday!


I Told You So (Also known as the Lost Blogs Do Over)

Below is my attempt at redemption. I am starting the Lost Blog again. This time as someone different and NOT on Paul's list. If you caught the first post that was up for a few hours yesterday, you should be able to figure it out.

Thanks to the rest of the Lost Bloggers for their support. You guys are awesome, and also give me the feeling that I slept too much during history class!

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Did you see!? He had to take down his blog! I warned him not to go after the Big Man. But he never listens to me. What an idiot! Catiline should have learned from Dooce not to talk about work in his blog. And if you do, then you must have more finesse. Only the lovely Wonkette and Arianna can get away with open claws, and that is because they are so beautiful . . . and a lot smarter than Catiline. He had best watch that pen of his. One of these days it is going to get him into trouble.

I saw the Big Man's face when he read the other blog. Not happy! He turned to me, "He is a self-promoter, and self-promoters come to no good. He was not thinking of the cause. Only his own glory."

I cringed away a bit. It was as if the Big Man could smell my own self-promotion. But, I am the who discovered this medium and will master it. Also, never piss-off the Big Man.

On a more serious note, I am going to Tom's tonight for dinner. He invited Jim. I know that Tom has never been my biggest advocate, but I am sure that he can help Jim and I through our impasse. I know that my plan will work! If they would just listen and give me a chance. It really is the only way to save this little experiment. I hope that not all is lost!

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Now go visit the rest of the Lost Bloggersand read how you do it right! Don't forget to check out Paul's Book!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Proving to the World that I am Indeed an Idiot

Dear Readers,

Claire here. You may or may not have noticed that I deleted my post from this morning (Monday). I was to participate in the Lost Blogs campaign this weekend. I did some research and had all of my posts lined up in my head. But then this afternoon / evening I realized that I violated the ONE most IMPORTANT RULE of this whole thing:

Don't "be" someone from Paul's book!!

After some positive feedback (thanks Kilax, Peterman, Lynne, Kevin, Karl, Groove Bunny, Nicole and Mikey), I began to think, "Wow. I had a good idea." I am not that confident in my writing sometimes, so I decided to back-track. Then I went back to Kevin's email. That is when I realized WHY it was a good idea.

Paul already used that person!!

I am so EMBARRASSED. I deleted my post and took myself out of the running.

I would also like to make a few apologies.

1. Kevin, I am so sorry! I support the campaign and will continue to have the links up all week. I thought I was okay with my choice until I looked more closely at the list this afternoon.

2. Paul, I hope I did not do something illegal! I am cannot wait to read your book as I am sure you did a better job with this "person" than I did.

3. To my fellow participants, I hang my head in shame. Seriously, I am doing that as I type this. You all worked hard on coming up with your own people, and I . . . well, I feel like I cheated. And that is wrong. I apologize to all of you.

I will continue to read everyone's posts in the Lost Blog campaign. If I work up the nerve, I will pick a new person and start again tomorrow or Wednesday, but clearly I am no longer in the running.

Finally, I am really BUMMED! I really thought I was onto something. I had my clues all laid out in my head and my cute "inside" jokes, and I was already writing "why I choose this person." I am my worst critic, and I feel like such a moron. I also imagine 40 other bloggers going, "That Claire is an idiot!" and sending bad vibes to Germany.

Hope you all are not too disappointed with me. My other "regular" readers (mom, dad, grandpa), don't worry I am not going crazy. I do think it was the stress of the past week.


PS I will not tell you who I "was." You will have to wait for Paul's book.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

An Interruption in our Regularly Scheduled Programming

First, let me thank you guys who sent some good vibes to north Germany. Yes, it was a rough week, but I am sure next week will be better. I only have 5 lessons to teach next week and on Thursday I am going to sit my but on the sofa and not move all day!

I wanted to bring to your attention that my blog is going to be . . . different next week.

I am participating in a "Grassroots Blogger Book Marketing Campaign." Paul Davidson's book "The Lost Blogs: From Jesus to Jim Morrison" is coming out this week. Paul takes some pretty famous people and publishes "their blogs," if they had had one.

My mission, which I accepted against my better judgment, is to choose a historical figure and blog as that historical figure for one week. I cannot choose any of the individuals in Paul's book. I cannot reveal who I am. You have to guess. There are 38 other way more talented than me bloggers participating, including Belinda (aka Ninja Poodles). She is awseome. Go read her stuff. Seriously, do it now. I will wait.

Kevin organized this in order to promote Paul's book and I think to "challenge" the rest of us. Thanks, Kevin.

I have picked someone, but I am 90% sure someone else will "be" the same person. I am also sure you will figure it out on the first day. I decided to do this because I love anything grassroots. (Well maybe not grassroots movements to encourage people to wear orange pants). Also, I thought it might be an interesting writing challenge . . . damn, there I go thinking again! It always gets me into trouble.

Anyway, check out Kevin's post and go read the other blogs. Like I said, there are some good people out there! Also, check-out Paul's book at Amazon.

Friday, April 07, 2006

I have had better weeks

Have you ever had one of those weeks, where you think, "Man, I think I will just stay under the covers and not come out until it is over?" Yeah, me too. It was one of those weeks. I think the problem is that I have so many balls in the air, that I am bound to have a few land on my head.

My business is doing well, but the New Yorker (my business partner) is in New York visiting family. So the past few weeks I have been left with the delightful task of sending out and paying bills, talking to the tax accountant, building an Ikea Book Shelf (not as bad as B's schrankenstein, and the German did the work!), meeting with the graphic artist about the brochure, and . . . and . . . and . . . oh yeah and teaching 20 hours of English lessons a week.

University is about to start back up and that headache is coming back. My students send me Emails demanding appointments and wanting to sign up for oral presentations. Of coarse it must all happen RIGHT NOW. I remember what is like to be a student so I try to be patient. However, the University pays me 100 Euro a month. Yes, you read that right. If Germans wonder what is happening to their Universities, then they should take a look at those numbers and then it is not so shocking why people like me are fleeing. So I had my first office hours and had my first (male) student challenge me on the validity of my syllabus. This happens all the time as I am 1) young, 2) a woman and 3) an American. Why am I doing this again? . . . Right, so I don't waste that PhD that I got.

The German and I also did more house hunting and went to look at land. The good news - there is plenty of land, and we may be able to get a lot by the beginning of September. We are trying another bank on Monday. Let's see what they say about my income. I will not be telling them about the 100 Euro from the University.

So, the stress of all this has thrown my back into a tizzy. I have a sharp knot between my shoulders and when I lay down to go to sleep it gets enraged and I almost cry myself to sleep. I could go to the gym, but I usually opt to go home and sleep.

The German's vacation has been also thrown for a loop. Oma is not doing well.

Oma was diagnosed with colon cancer two years ago. She had surgery and they took it out, but did not follow it up with radiation or chemo. The cancer came back two weeks ago. Since then she has been in the hospital and the doctors are trying to figure out what to do. She finally had her surgery yesterday and they could not take it out. The cancer has wrapped itself around an artery. Because she is diabetic, they doctors are not optimistic about what chemo would do to her body. My mother-in-law called this morning to say that the doctors don't think they can do anything for her.

So, Opa is not talking to anyone and Oma doesn't want to see anyone. My father-in-law has disappeared into the garage and the poor German has no clue what to do.

Cancer sucks. My own grandmother (Phyllis Smith) passed away three years ago from cancer. My father had surgery in January to remove some cancer. And the poor German . . .

His uncle on his mother's side, his Godfather, Siegfried, has been battling cancer for several years. It has spread to his lungs and his brain. They put him into the hospital to make him "comfortable" this week.

Yeah, it has been one of those weeks.

BUT I TOTALLY forgot to mention that a crappy week is even worse when you have no heat. The German brought this to my attention after reading my post and making his usual sweet comment (I'm tellin' ya, I married me a good man). Spring is popping up all over the blogosphere, but it has some how it has missed C-burg. This week is actually froze several nights. And for three days we had no heat and no hot water. My landlord decided to install a new heating system. The appointment was in the calendar for weeks. Naturally, mother nature had to pull a "Don't forget me!" and remind us that she controls the temperature.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The bigger they are, the harder they fall

You did not think that Delay would resign and that I would have nothing to say, did you?

I will not resort to name calling. It does no good to call the man the son of Satan. A) There are people a lot worse. 2) It does not make my argument better.

However, I will say that I am not surprised. One of the reasons that he is retiring is because he "is afraid that his re-election could get ugly." Am I the only person surprised by THAT? The man's nickname is the "Hammer." He has never backed down from a fight in his life. I can only imagine that his real fear is that he is going to get caught . . . and won't be able to get out of something.

I wrote my dissertation about campaign and party finance. It is the one thing in this world that I know a little something about. I know that Delay invented ways around campaign finance rules. He is a master of PACs and soft money. In fact, he is so good at it, that he wants to spend his "retirement" on organizations and helping politics get closer to religion. The organizations part does not surprise me. I told you that he is a master at manipulation and fundraising. As far as the church and state thing . . . well, ol' Tom would never let something like the constitution get in his way.

USAToday says: "He said the voters of his Houston-area district "deserve a campaign about the vital national issues that they care most about ... and not a campaign focused solely as a referendum on me."

Damn, Tom. I thought that was what elections are. Do I want to keep you in office or do I want to go with the other guy?

I am sure that we have not heard the last from dear ol' Tom. But here is hoping that he shuts up for awhile.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Shingles and windows and bricks, oh my!

This weekend the German and I made steps toward building a house. Mind you, we did not actually move forward or accomplish anything, but there was much time wasted. We went to two house / building trade shows (one Saturday and one Sunday). I am currently on information overload.

We looked at roofing materials.

We looked at bricks.

We looked pissed.

What amazed me was the sheer number of exhibitors and people that were there. Most Germans love to complain about the financial situation of the country, but that pessimism was no where to be found this weekend. The show on Sunday was so full, that there was no parking and you had to walk five minutes in the pouring rain from the field to the trade show building.

We also went and saw the model house of the one we are in love with. As you can see below, the kitchen is to die for. We can in no way afford this house (even if my income did count!), as it is over 250,000 Euro. However it was nice to dream.

This particular builder does have several smaller, more affordable homes. We talked to the sales manager for about 2 hours yesterday. In order to make us an offer, he asked us all kinds of questions about fireplaces and bathtubs and flooring. I was not prepared for these questions. All I could think is, "Do I have to decide this RIGHT NOW?" After about twenty minutes, my eyes glazed over and all I heard was:

Salesman: "Blah, blah, aber Blauhks, blah, und BLAH!"

German: "Wank, Blah, und you know it BLAH!"

The sounded like the parents and teachers in the old Peanuts cartoons. I hope I did not sign over my first born child.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


In my never ending search for randomness, I present you the skateboarding dog.

Click on

Scroll down to the "Amazing skateboarding Pupitude"

If this is an indication of evolution, humans should be afraid. Very afraid.