Monday, December 11, 2006

Where does the time go...?

First, a bit of humor -- compliments of the Onion....
Iraq Now Longer Than WWII

The Onion

Iraq Now Longer Than WWII

The war in Iraq has now lasted longer than the U.S.'s involvement in World War II. What do you think?

And now for a quick round of catch-me-up.

First (foremost) -- I'm on my way back to San Diego. After a lot of deliberation, I've decided to head back to Southern California and leave my job, good friends and interesting life here in Hamburg.

It was not an easy decision -- there is so much more to see, so many more places to explore in Europe. But, love will out in the end: with Tj. and Bill living their lives in San Diego, the need to return to SD grew and grew.

I'm still in Hamburg through the holidays. I will spend Christmas with my family in Niedersachsen, then work the three days "zwischen den Tagen" between Christmas and New Years with my last day at work being the 29th.

I get to spend New Years Eve together with my buddies Maik and Andreas here in Hamburg -- I will miss them very much and hope they'll get a chance to visit SD in the near future.

Then I have just over a week before catching a bus to Frankfurt on the evening of the 8th of January. I fly the morning of the 9th from Frankfurt to Dublin, then from Dublin to Chicago, where my sister and nephew will meet me at O'Hare!

Our plans are to spend the evening and night in Gurnee -- home of Gurnee Mills, where I can get a quick overdose of US shopping before heading to Door County, WI on the 10th. I know my parents will be waiting at the door for me -- I can't wait to get to Sturgeon Bay and spend a few weeks catching up and just generally spending time with them. One of my plans for returning to the US is that I get back to see the family much more often. We're tight-knit, even though I am always far away -- I would like us to be able to spend more time together now that I'll be at least on the same continent.

A few weeks later, Tj. will fly in, we'll spend a few more days with the family and then start a roadtrip back to San Diego! This all depends on my getting a car while I'm in Wisconsin.

One of the great dilemmas I've had living in Hamburg has been not having a car. It meant, of course, that I was dependent on the subway, the DB, other people (thanks Dave and Frank!) and on my feet to get around -- but it also meant I didn't have a car payment, insurance, parking hassles, gas prices, etc to deal with. All in all, though, it is next to impossible to live in the US without a car. Unless you are in a few of the great cities with reliable public transportation (SF, Chicago and New York spring to mind), you are more or less 'required' to reach places by car. So, I'm in the market for something reliable AND fun when I get back -- leaning towards a Jeep Wrangler! (Not so great for Wisconsin or the ride back through the US in the middle of the winter, but GREAT for life in SD!)

I've been lucky enough to secure a position with IKEA SD, the store I worked at before leaving California for Hamburg 1 1/2 years ago.... It will be interesting to see how things have changed, who is there, who has left, who has come back (I understand I'm the 3rd or 4th person to do so!)

OK, I also make a New Year's Resolution here, in print: I vow to update my blog at least once a week -- more during exciting periods, such as my first impressions upon returning to the US and the roadtrip back to San Diego. I want friends back here in Germany (and throughout the "Old World"!) to be able to keep up with news and what's happening in my life. So, stay posted -- there will be more to come! Remember, you can also see the latest pictures I've taken at the link above to my Picasa site.

On a very sad note: one of my dear co-workers here in Hamburg has passed away. On Thursday, December 21st, the head of our office came in unexpectedly while on vacation. He called us together to make a brief announcement -- Kathrin Paulsen had been found dead of natural causes in the seaside rental cottage where she was spending the holidays in Denmark.

Kathrin and I had just been talking during our office Christmas party about the plans she had made for the trip. She was looking forward to reading through a stack of books she was bringing with, was stocking up on groceries and a case of wine. She said she didn't care if it was cold or warm, wet or dry -- she was mostly looking forward to getting away from it all and catching up her reading and relaxing. She was eager to get on the road early the following day and get started on her vacation. My heart goes out to her family, who will undoubtedly find it hard to believe, as I do, that someone so caring and intelligent is no longer with us.

And, finally -- to everyone near, far and unknown but reading this post: A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year to you and to those you hold dear. Einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr!

- T

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Strep (maybe) and Blue States

PART I: The Infection

I've been home sick for a WEEK now -- on and off fever, swollen glands, tonsils the size of ballpark peanuts in the shell, yucky sores that make it next to impossible to swallow.

Last week Monday I had the sniffles. Made some dinner after work, watched some TV and went to bed early. The next two days are a bit of a haze -- up an hour or two, sip some water, sleep another two hours -- basically, a feverish delirium had set in. Watching TV was impossible; my eyes were ultra-sensitive to the light and my mind couldn't really follow the movement on the screen anyway.

By Thursday morning, I actually walked the five or six blocks to my doctor's office. (It took about half an hour. I'm sure, as I shuffled through the park, that I looked like one of the regulars who spend most of their day there. All I was missing was my sailor's hat and a few pint-sized bottles of rotgut. Thanks for not siccing Daphne on me, Dave!

The doctor says it's strep. Penicillin is STILL the preferred remedy -- and it should do the trick in one or two days, although I need to take the full 10-day prescription.

I take all three doses Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I stay home, under the covers, trying my best to let my body recuperate. OK, the fevers do subside, but . . . THE MONSTER IN MY THROAT LIVES!!

I headed back to see doc on Monday morning -- he is shocked and appalled that my throat is not better. He pokes, prods at the tonsils [OUCH!] and then leaves the exam room. He comes back with a new antibiotic, saying THIS will do the trick - - but, just in case it's not strep, come back Tuesday for a full blood test.

The tonsils DO shrink by 50% on Monday night and are almost normal on Tuesday. BUT, the small, painful lesions are still there even today, Wednesday. Swallowing is tough, eating is painful. (I am going to lose my official BEAR card if I don't get back to some REAL eating soon. I actually ate oatmeal and mushed-up bananas a few times this past week. Oh, never mind. I'm cuttin' up the card myself right now....)

What helped me get through, though, was my buddy Dave making a shopping trip for me. Suddenly, I had more juice, veggies, bread, pasta, mini-chicken-cordon-bleus (all the necessities), as well as an hour of much-needed friend-to-friend conversation. Thanks for risking the germs, Dave.

PART II: The Election

Originally, before my throat began its revolution, I'd already planned to take a vacation day Wednesday the 8th. I figured I'd be up late into the night, watching CNN and following the returns on various websites.

Well, thanks to being sick, I was asleep at 10 p.m. last night -- how lame! But, I woke up around 4:00 and watched CNN for about two hours before napping again for a few more hours.

It was no great surprise to see that voters around the country, in both traditionally Democrat and Republican states, had either ousted incumbent Republicans and replaced them with Democrats or had held on to Democrat seats in almost all elections countrywide.

Dems now hold a majority of governorships across the country, have taken the House by a wide margin, and may even take control of the Senate if the final two contested states (Montana and Virginia) show Democrats in the lead after recounts today.

This is seen mainly as a response to Bush's war policies and the many deaths of US service members (almost 3000 to date) and the many more deaths among the Iraqis (by some accounts as high as 60,000), to the corruption between Republicans and lobbyists, to the sex scandals between a male Republican senator and underaged male pages and the multi-year cover-up of his 'escapades' by his Republican senate cohorts -- and to so many other scandals, too numerous to list here....

What I find amazing is NOT that this finally happened and that the US electorate sent a definite sign to the President and his party that they will no longer let them have tyrannical control of the country, BUT that it took so long....

- T

Monday, October 30, 2006


Call For Change
Well, I'm far from the US right now -- but I haven't felt more strongly about an election in a long time. My absentee ballot has already been mailed in.

The US has been heading in a dismal, dangerous direction since the 2000 elections -- and if you feel the same and are in the States, you may want to click on the above link to the website. They are organizing folks across the US to call eligible Democrat voters and encourage them to get out and vote. If you have the time during the next week and a half -- DO IT!

The US government does not run well if only one party has control of the executive and legislative branches -- and has also appointed much of the judicial branch. With no substantial limits to his powers, you can be sure G W B has begun to act and think less like a president and more like a dictator. And a lying, half-witted one at that. If you doubt this is true, check out some of these quotes from him:

"I think -- tide turning -- see, as I remember -- I was raised in the desert, but tides kind of -- it's easy to see a tide turn -- did I say those words?" --George W. Bush, asked if the tide was turning in Iraq, Washington, D.C., June 14, 2006

"I would say the best moment of all was when I caught a 7.5 pound largemouth bass in my lake." --George W. Bush, on his best moment in office, during an interview with the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, May 7, 2006

"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator." -- GWB, December 18, 2000 on CNN

"Wow! Brazil is big." --George W. Bush, after being shown a map of Brazil by Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brasilia, Brazil, Nov. 6, 2005

"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda." --George W. Bush, Greece, N.Y., May 24, 2005

"You work three jobs? -- Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that." --George W. Bush, to a divorced mother of three, Omaha, Nebraska, Feb. 4, 2005

"Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country." --George W. Bush, Poplar Bluff, Mo., Sept. 6, 2004

"I'm honored to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein." --George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., May 25, 2004

"I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family."—Greater Nashua, N.H., Chamber of Commerce, Jan. 27, 2000

"For a century and a half now, America and Japan have formed one of the great and enduring alliances of modern times."—Tokyo, Japan, Feb. 18, 2002

"I hope you leave here and walk out and say, 'What did he say?'" --George W. Bush, Beaverton, Oregon, Aug. 13, 2004

I could go on. I could mention the war in Iraq, the 3000 dead American soldiers, the tens of thousands of dead Iraqis, the lack of WMDs found in that country -- even though they were the basis of his argument to go to war.

Or I could go on about Katrina, the Gulf Coast, the amazing city of New Orleans. Or the millions of Americans without health insurance, or the minimum-wage-earning adults who are under-employed. Or the loss of rights and freedoms.

And I hope you leave my webpage today and say, "How do I get to my polling place? How do I take some of the power AWAY from this deranged man? And just what AM I going to put on my family for dinner tonight?"

- T

Monday, October 16, 2006


On Saturday, Dave and I took a day-trip up to Fehmarn -- an island north of Lübeck in the Baltic Sea.

On one side, the island is now connected to the mainland by a bridge, but ferries and ships leave the far side of the island for Denmark all day long.

Here you see Dave taste-testing wine from a wall of wine boxes. We stopped at two stores (one big, one humongous) that cater to the Danish daytrippers. They can purchase apparently nearly unlimited amounts of alcohol at cheaper German prices and then load up their vehicles and drive back to Denmark with it. Although boxed wine is pretty taboo elsewhere in Germany, Dave and I now know the exact store that must sell more than anywhere else in the country! They had hundreds of types from dozens of lands -- all in handy cardboard boxes with convenient carrying handles. Who would fuss with breakable glass and moldy corks again? :-)

The main town on the island, Burg, is a cute little place with cobblestone streets and a distinctly north German/Scandinavian architecture. The rest of the island seems to be pretty rural -- would be nice to see some of the countryside and the coast next time. But, the drive up and back was relaxing (thanks, Dave!) and we did get to walk around the town and have a late lunch/early dinner, too. Also, Daphne seemed to enjoy herself.

Pix on Picasa!


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Potsdam and Berlin

Took a few extra days off work last weekend and went back to Berlin for four days. Man, I love that city!

My friend and former co-worker Toni was in the Netherlands all week on business. After her week of work, she planned another week of play and we meet for the weekend in Berlin.

I took her to all the usual spots -- Brandenburg Gate, the Parliament and Reichstag/Bundestag, Unter den Linden, Potsdamer Platz, Friedrichstraße and all the shopping there, KaDeWe, Ku'damm, the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche -- but my favorite destination this weekend was a new one for me -- Potsdam.

It is a short S-Bahn trip from Berlin to Potsdam -- and worth the trip. The city grew in importance during the 17th and 18th centuries. It was the location of the summer palace of the Prussian royal family and the majority of the great buildings were built during Frederick the Great's reign 1740-1786.

It has been granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status. I was amazed by the architecture and gardens at Sanssouci, but there is great variety of architecture in the city itself. If you are in Berlin, do not miss Potsdam. (Sorry, Bill and Tj. -- I wish we'd gone there this summer when you were here!)

See my new Berlin and Potsdam pics at the Picasa link.

On the Wednesday before my trip to Berlin, Dave made carrot cake for my birthday (my favorite!) and had us over to their place to celebrate. We had a good time -- although, for the life of me, I'm not sure why I brought champagne. Every time I drink it, I remember why I don't like it. Good champagne, rot-gut champagne -- it all gives me a headache that night and the next day. No other liquor has quite the same effect on me. I can drink beer all night and just have a dry mouth the next morning. But a few glasses of champagne and I'm poppin' Advils like they're M&Ms....


Tuesday, October 03, 2006


This is a photo taken inside the Royal Exchange in Manchester.

I had a great time this past weekend visiting the city with Dave. Friends Hormoz and Rob were the best of hosts and getting to know Macha and Trevor from Dublin rounded out the weekend.

Great restaurants, fun bars, very impressive Victorian architecture, a beautiful and modern downtown (rebuilt after a tragic bombing of the city center in 1996) all make Manchester an impressive and friendly destination.

Want to see more pictures? Click the Picasa link on the right.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Still Summer in Hamburg

Taken Friday afternoon -- the 22nd of September. (Happy Birthday, Tj.! It was warm and sunny -- like you.)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Berlin - East Side Gallery and the Reichstag / Bundestag

I recently took a one-day trip to Berlin. The weather was beautiful -- warm, sunny and very untypical for late September.

Due to the fact that I was showing a visitor around town, I was able to get to some new sights, including the Reichstag building with its glass dome or 'Kuppel' and the East Side Gallery. (Click the post title above to view the pictures.)

Thanks, Rafael, for spending the day racing around Berlin with me and giving me an excuse to see some new things in that exciting city!


Monday, September 04, 2006

Goodbye, Marshall Field's

Anyone with any connection to Chicago knows where this clock is and what store it represents. But not for much longer....

I've been away from Chicago for a LONG time. But, in some ways, I'm still connected to that great city. (Heck, even my name is memorialized in that song written by Fred Fisher in 1922 and made famous by Sinatra.)

A trip into the city when I was a kid meant we'd see the lakefront and skyscrapers -- when I was younger it was the Hancock that towered above all others; then, later, the amazing Sears Tower. It was thrilling to me as a kid to know that it was the tallest building in the WORLD!

Later, after returning to the States from my stint in Germany with the Army, I finally had the opportunity to live in the city. I went to school at UIC and lived off Clark on Wrightwood in North Lincoln Park in a 'garden' apartment. Man, did I love that city! I worked at the Midland Hotel on Adams (now the W Chicago City Center) at the front desk, the concierge desk, driving their old London taxi as chauffeur -- basically keeping the place under control from 3 to 11 p.m. If I had some free time before work, I would shop on State Street, which mostly meant stopping in at Marshall Field's.

Yeah, we'd had a branch of Marshall Field's near my childhood home in the 'burbs. It was at one of the few outdoor malls in Chicagoland -- Oakbrook Center. But, for anyone from Chicago, there was always only one REAL Marshall Field's location.

And now -- in the era of buyouts, sellouts, bigger = better -- Marshall Field's is gone. In just a few days, the last of the awnings, signs, shopping bags and name tags will be changed from the dark forest green with white 1940s-looking script to the garish bright-red Macy*s logo.

I know, it seems silly to get sentimental about a store -- especially one in a city I haven't lived in for many years. But, there are some things you think will always be around -- the Sears Tower, the Art Institute, Marshall Field's....

They say they'll still sell Frango Mints -- I'd better get my hands on some quick before those are a thing of the past, too!


The clock image is licensed via the Creative Commons through Wikipedia

Thursday, August 31, 2006

My New Favorite Bus Company

Apparently, this fine transportation company is owned by the Fücker family of Grevenbroich (southwest of Düsseldorf), and has been in operations since 1962.

Hey, you -- stop snickering! Don't THINK I can't hear you!



Sunday, August 27, 2006

Stolpersteine (Stumble Stones)

Here lived Isidor Rothfels
born 1896
deported 1941
to Minsk
? ? ?

The website Geschichtwerkstatt St. Georg (the St. Georg History Workshop) gives a bit more detail:

Lange Reihe 108
Isidor Rothfels
geb. 5.2.1896 in Bebra [a small city south of Kassel, Germany]
am 8.11.1941 deportiert nach Minsk
verschollen [missing]

This is apparently all that's known about Isidor Rothfels: he was born in Bebra, lived on Lange Reihe in a building where the 1000 Töpfe store now stands -- and he was deported to a concentration camp by the Nazis in 1941.

This Stolperstein is one that I've passed dozens of times -- they're all around the city. If you walk at all here in Hamburg, you can't help but 'stumble' over a few of them.

Take a closer look at the next one you pass. Take a picture of it, post it on your blog, find out what you can about the person named on the stone. And remember -- this was a person, just like you and me. He woke up in the morning, had a bite to eat, went to school or work, talked to friends.... Except the person on your Stolperstein was eventually deemed unfit for 1940s German society -- and was shipped off to a concentration camp somewhere in central or eastern Europe, either to be killed or to go 'missing', like Isidor Rothfels.

The BBC has an article in English about the brass plaques, if you'd like to read more about them.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Black Dog-Women

"A new MTV cartoon depicting black women squatting on all fours tethered to leashes and defecating on the floor is drawing fire from several prominent African Americans who call the episode degrading."

What on earth?! Have I been away from the States so long that this type of TV is now acceptable? Well, I guess it IS cable....

I think anyone would be hard-pressed to describe me as a prude. Really, though -- NO ONE should be depicted as a dog-woman, collared and leashed, on all fours, DEFECATING! Especially not a black woman. (Maybe a hot guy in a collar. That could work.... But definitely not a black woman....)

And another thing -- shouldn't the show be called "Where Are My Dogs?" and not "Where My Dogs At?".

For a country that was all up-in-arms about a little shielded nipple being displayed on TV, I'm highly surprised poopin' dog-women was considered a good programming choice. (OK, after looking at that nipple again, I guess I can't call it little!) Again, though -- it IS cable. And you don't need to subscribe to cable if you don't want to. I really don't think the FCC should have much say about what is shown on cable -- but the viewers, who are paying good money for that programming, should let MTV know that this is really too much.


Thursday, June 15, 2006


[sent by phone on 5 June, but never seemed to make it to the website . . .]

We're right in the middle of our Germany/BeNeLux tour. So far, we've spent a week in Hamburg, four days in Berlin (what a great time!), a day cruising up the Rhine and a night of dinner and wine in Rüdesheim.

We're now in Munich - the picture above is of Tj. and Bill.

The weather has been less than cooperative, but we have dealt with the cold and rain and have been seeing as much as we can.

More later!


Friday, May 19, 2006

"I don't want to hug the tar baby..." - Tony Snow, May 2006

It seems the White House has made a colorful choice in Tony Snow. He peppers his speech with very interesting turns of phrase.

For example, check out a review of his first appearance in his new position on May 16th.

Hey, Tony.... A public speaking suggestion: Engage brain before putting mouth into gear!


Wonderful new words

... my personal favorites are #s 2 and 9!


The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

This year's winners:

1. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

2. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

3. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near

4. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for any purpose.

5. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

6. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

7. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

8. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

9. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.

10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

11. Karmageddon: It's, like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's, like, a serious bummer.

12. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

13. Glibido: All talk and no action.

14. Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

15. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, which gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

17. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.

And the pick of the literature:

18. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.


Most of my childhood was spent in Downers Grove, Illinois. We moved there from Lemont, Illinois between my 3rd and 4th grade of school.

The house on Prairie Avenue had a huge back yard, a giant willow tree, a pool, a goldfish pond -- and lots of old trees and bushes. The area had been a nursery in earlier years and, although the area had been split up into residential one-acre parcels, there were plenty of trees and bushes that still made it seem like a big garden.

My favorite were the lilacs. We had some large, old lilac bushes along the shaded side and back of the house. They didn't flower long, but it was great when mom would bring in some bunches of flowers and put them in a vase on our big dining room table. It meant that we were well into spring, real summer weather was just around the corner, we would soon be on vacation and swimming in the pool again all summer long.

My parents now live in Door County, Wisconsin. A few years ago, after visiting the folks in Wisconsin, I had a few spare hours before catching a plane out of O'Hare back to San Diego. I decided to take a drive out and see the old neighborhood.

Even though I had been forwarned by family members who had seen the new place, it was disturbing to see that the house on Prairie Avenue had been ripped down and replaced with a faux-French chateau. And most of the trees, including the lilacs, were gone -- I guess they hadn't fit in with the new owners' landcaping plans.

Lilacs don't seem to grow in the year-round warmth of San Diego, so it was nice to see them all over Hamburg this past week -- in full bloom and giving off that pleasant early summer fragrance.

And, I start my "summer vacation" shortly! So, it seems lilacs are a sign of summer and vacation once again.


Saturday, May 13, 2006

Polar Bears Are Endangered . . . SHOOT 'IM!

So, a hybrid polar/grizzly bear was found in northern Canada, as reported here by BBC. Canadian wildlife officials are now coming up with names for this unusual creature, never before verified in nature -- "pizzly", "grolar bear" or "nanulak", after the Inuit names for polar bear (nanuk) and grizzly bear (aklak). Cute.

But, what no one seems to be mentioning is that the polar bear is an endangered species! So, what was this "American big game hunter" doing up in northern Canada, running around the snow with a guide and a high-powered rifle, shooting and killing what sure as hell looks like a polar bear to me!

Yeah, I like a good steak as much as the next guy. Seafood and chicken and pork are all parts of my balanced diet. And there is a part of my psyche that is disturbed when I think about how the delicious meat ends up on my plate. BUT, there is a real leap between ordering the Grillteller at the next restaurant I visit and flying up to Canada with my guide and entourage to tromp through the snow and fire my rifle at endangered polar bears.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

50 Questions

Earlier this week, I received this as an e-mail from Mike (a buddy of mine in San Diego), Tj. and my sister. Both my sister and Tj. said I was the least likely person to answer this -- and they are completely right!

But, I decided I WOULD answer -- AND post it on my blog. So, here goes.

  1. What time did you get up this morning? 6:45
  2. Diamonds or pearls? Not usually the jewelry type -- diamonds for their cash value?
  3. What is the last movie you saw in the theatre? Brokeback Mountain
  4. What are your favorite TV shows? Sopranos, Amazing Race, Survivor, Tatort, Schillerstraße
  5. What did you have for breakfast? Sonnenblumenvollkornbrot, Cervelatwurst, Tilsiter Schnittkäse
  6. What is your middle name? Robert
  7. What is your favorite cuisine? Thai and Vietnamese
  8. What foods do you dislike? Did you know they sell horsemeat here in Germany?
  9. Your favorite potato chip? paprika
  10. What is your favorite CD at the moment? Massive Attack - "Mezzanine"
  11. What kind of car do you drive? Deutsche Bahn and the HVV
  12. Favorite sandwich? reuben
  13. What characteristics do you despise? arrogance
  14. What are your favorite clothes? jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts
  15. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? hmm, lots of Europe left to see
  16. What color is your bathroom? white
  17. Favorite brand of clothing? Carhartt, Dickies
  18. Where would you want to retire to? anywhere warm, on the beach or poolside
  19. Favorite time of day? after work
  20. Where were you born? Silver Cross Hospital
  21. Favorite sport to watch? rugby
  22. Who do you least expect to send this back? (not applicable)
  23. Person you expect to send it back first? (likewise)
  24. Coke or Pepsi? Coke
  25. Are you a morning person or night owl? night owl -- I'm writing this after midnight!
  26. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with everyone? Tj. and Bill arrive in 9 days!
  27. When you were young what did you want to be when you grew up? a garbage man (really!)
  28. What is your best childhood memory? summers at Lakeshore Campground in Cross Village, MI
  29. What are the different jobs you have had in your life? Busy Bee Bakery, Arboretum View Animal Hospital, US Army, Midland Hotel, Executive House Hotel, Warehouse Liquor Mart, Le Meridien, King George Hotel, ANA Hotel, Bristol Hotel, San Diego Convention Center, IKEA
  30. Nicknames: today, none really. as a kid, some horrible ones!
  31. Do you have any piercings? nope
  32. Ever been to Africa? Yes, Morocco
  33. Pizza toppings? S M O P
  34. Ever been toilet papering? nope, I left that kinda stuff to my sister
  35. Been in a car accident? No
  36. Favorite day of the week? Saturday
  37. Favorite restaurant? just one? lately, Diodos
  38. Favorite flower? lilac (in bloom here right now!)
  39. Favorite ice cream? anything chocolate
  40. Favorite fast food restaurant? here -- any good Döner place; stateside -- In-N-Out
  41. How many times did you fail your driver's test? hated my driver's ed teacher, but never failed the test
  42. Before this one, from whom did you get your last e-mail? Wes in Iraq
  43. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card? somewhere that sold Loewe and Bang & Olufsen
  44. Bedtime? whenever. . . tonight, 1 a.m.
  45. Who are you most curious about their responses to this questionnaire? everyone
  46. Last person you went to dinner with? Dave - tonight - Döner Kebap
  47. What are you listening to right now? Randi Rhodes Show podcast
  48. What is your favorite color? red
  49. How many tattoos do you have? none -- but carry the design for one in my wallet
  50. How many people are you sending this e-mail to? (not applicable)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Oddly Enough

My Google home page is host to news headlines from the New York Times, BBC, CNET -- to name a few.

(It's actually getting pretty cluttered, what with the other boxes showing updated weather in Hamburg, San Diego and Sturgeon Bay, a box that shows recently received Gmail, another listing the recent "How To" Of The Day from, Word of the Day, Quote of the Day, etc. Hmmm, it might be time for a spring cleaning...?)

But, even though there are important headlines from around the world right in front of me, I always seem to look at the Reuters Oddly Enough headlines first!

Check out two of my favorites from today.

The first one is about the apparent penchant the Chinese have for spitting in public places and how the government in China is tryint to dissuade them from continuing this practice, in light of the upcoming Olympics in Beijing in 2008.

The next one is from Reuters' Berlin bureau. Apparently a brothel in Berlin has found a lucrative niche market, catering to men who are either new to brothels or new to the product they offer.

Yes, we have to keep track of the serious goings-on in the world today -- but sometimes you've just got to relax and laugh!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

English Theatre

Got an invite this week from my buddy Dave to attend the opening performance of Bad Blood at Hamburg's English Theatre with him. The show was tonight, and I'm very glad we went.

I've been battling a little cold since returning from Berlin, and I was afraid my coughing would disturb the other theatergoers, so I had a fresh pack of Fisherman's Friends in my pocket (went through half of the lozenges) -- I don't think my coughing was THAT annoying, was it, Dave? (I only got one nasty look from a blue-hair in front of me -- and I felt an evil sense of joy in the second act when the friend sitting next to her also began coughing!)

The play was interesting. A definite thriller with a lot of emotional tension. There were some plot twists, some violence, some difficult relationship issues. Very interesting -- and very well acted by the cast. I have to admit, I expected something more along the lines of community theater -- a la the Blaine, Missouri residents in Waiting for Guffman. But I couldn't have been more wrong -- these five actors did a wonderful, professional job!

So, hats off to: Julian Agnew, Venetia Deane, Michael Garland, Holly Weston and Ben Wigzell. Thanks for a great performance and I look forward to your next production.


Friday, April 14, 2006

Bavaria North

Six of us are traveling to Berlin Friday morning for the four-day Easter
weekend. So, in order to get us all in a road-trip mood, our buddies
Andreas and Maik had us over for a 'Berlin-Starter' evening.

For those of you familiar with the state flags of Germany, you'll notice
that the table is bedecked not with the flag of Berlin, but rather with
Bavarian colors. I am glad that the guys decided to have a Bavarian themed
dinner -- can't imagine a Berlin-themed meal. (How much currywurst and
jelly-filled donuts can you really eat before you get ill!)

So, thanks to Andreas and Maik for the festive start to a great weekend!!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones . . .

I've fallen a bit behind on my blogging. Hope to have a few more entries here before heading to Berlin for the coming Easter weekend.

In the meantime, take a look at these links and judge Judge Farris for yourself....

Underneath Their Robes

"I think marriage is a bundle of sticks and sticks include procreation." -- Judge Jerome Farris

[whhhhhhaaa -- huh???!??? "Sticks include procreation." Hey, Jerome. You've really got a way with words. Do you mind if I borrow that line?]

So, what is it with this guy and sticks, branches and other woody stalks?

And I guess we should contact all the elderly couples in the world. If these loving couples are just enjoying their final years together and no longer having sex, then they need to know that Judge Farris frowns upon this type of wood-free relationship.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

København Hovedbanegård (Copenhagen Main Station)

Well, the trip to Sweden was basically a loss.... Our database programmer
from Munich fell ill, no one called/e-mailed/SMSed me, and I ended up in
Sweden with no meeting to attend!

I did use the time to meet with our corporate IT coordinator. We're working
on a new Service Level Agreement and we spent the time discussing some of
the details.

After work on Tuesday, I hiked around the woods north of town. There's a
big lake and I seemed to have the entire shore all to myself. It was very

So, instead of staying in Sweden until Thursday or Friday, I left Wednesday
morning. I caught the early train and rode through southern Sweden as a
spring snowfall hit the forests and towns along the route. The birches and
pines were beautiful covered with a heavy dusting of snow.

I arrived in Copenhagen at about 09:00. Since this was a travel day anyway,
I decided to spend a few hours in Copenhagen -- one of my favorite cities.

This wasn't the best day to wander around, as the weather was all over the
place. Rain, sleet, hail, snow, wind -- and even a few minutes of sunshine.
Temps hovered around freezing all day -- and still I enjoyed my few hours
in CPH.

Tonight, after arriving in HH (Hansestadt Hamburg), I'll be meeting my
buddy Dave at Cafe Uhrlaub for a bite to eat and some good conversation.
Then, back to work tomorrow morning.

So, click the Travel Photos link on the right and see some of the things I
saw -- I should have some new pix up before bed tonight!


Sunday, April 02, 2006

Off to Sweden

I'm catching the train to Sweden in the morning -- just one of the perks of working for a Swedish company. So, there may or may not be much blogging from afar. I can now blog and send pictures from my phone. But, on my first trip to Sweden last year (before I knew better), I was hit with a massive data access charge on my phone bill. So, unless I find a few minutes to send a message or two, you won't hear from me before Friday.

It's my fourth trip now to the company headquarters, so I've got it down to a routine. Catch the train to Copenhagen. Bring snacks and reading material -- and my iPod filled with podcasts and music.

Here's where it gets weird. Just when you get settled in and the train seems to be moving along just fine on rails, it decides it's had enough and boards the ferry. Seriously. The train rolls out of the station in Puttgarden, the ferry opens up a wide hatch and the train just rolls on into the ferry.

The ferry ride takes about 30-40 minutes. Just enough time to get out for a breath of fresh air and enjoy the view of the Baltic Sea. We dock on the Denmark side and continue, again on rails, to Copenhagen.

Arrive at Copenhagen and find where your connecting train is leaving from (usually Track 5.) Then off to the land of squirrel and moose. (Again, seriously. Lots of squirrel and I saw not one but TWO moose on my very first trip up to Sweden.)

Not much to do in the town I'm heading to. It's small and definitely a company town. But, it's beautiful and peaceful. Although I will have some busy days filled with meetings, I'm guaranteed to come back well-rested.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Praise Be to the Noodly Appendage

While browsing YouTube (a video sharing site) and looking for travel videos of Hamburg, I came across this small gem. (You have to sign up for the site, but it is free and there really are some interesting videos linked at YouTube.)

Now, I had just seen a reference earlier in the week to a Noodly Appendage on the Leo German<>English dictionary site. I wasn't quite sure what was being referred to. Sometimes, later in the Leo entries (after someone's obscure question about split infinitives or the correct use of the genitive after some archaic preposition has been answered) -- well, sometimes people tend to get a bit . . . off track . . . on Leo. I enjoy reading the Leo forums -- and even participate sometimes -- because the people active on that site speak German and English, are interested in languages, share cultural experiences with each other, etc. But, like any group of eggheads, they (we?) can go off on tangents occasionally.

So, when someone mentioned "FSM" and "Noodly Appendages" in his post, I just breezed over it, chalked it up to someone enjoying too much coffee (or some stronger beverage), and continued to read more about the dative being the death of the German genitive, or some such topic.

Now, I find this video.... Still, didn't have a clue what it was about -- but, now I had seen two references to spaghetti in one week -- and each from a very different source. My curiosity was piqued. (And I was getting hungry.)

A bit of googling and I find that it all leads back to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Wikipedia says: "The Flying Spaghetti Monster is the subject of a satirical religion created by Bobby Henderson in 2005 to protest the decision by the Kansas State Board of Education to require the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to biological evolution."

Reading through the site, I see Bobby Henderson and I have a bit in common. He's not a fan of ID. (ID in this case being the theory of "Intelligent Design/Bearded Man Created Everything", not the product available in Juicy, Millenium, Pleasure, Sensation, Cream and Glide). And he has a sense of humor about religion that may upset younger viewers.

Two of my favorite parts of the site:


  • Flimsy moral standards.
  • Every friday is a relgious holiday. If your work/school objects to that, demand your religious beliefs are respected and threaten to call the ACLU.
  • Our heaven is WAY better. We've got a Stripper Factory AND a Beer Volcano.
  • You may be interested to know that global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of Pirates since the 1800s. For your interest, I have included a graph of the approximate number of pirates versus the average global temperature over the last 200 years. As you can see, there is a statistically significant inverse relationship between pirates and global temperature.
Bobby's point being: if you feel compelled to present ID to the country's schoolchildren, alongside (or, FSM forbid, instead of) the rational, scientific theory of evolution, then you MUST also include the Pastafarians' view of the world.

AMEN -- and pass the Parmesan (or my new favorite, Grana Padano)!


Thursday, March 30, 2006

76er-Denkmal am Dammtor

Turns out I took this picture March 12, 2006 -- just three days before the 70th anniversary of the 76er-Denkmal am Dammtor.

This is a very large, very militaristic sculpture near the Dammtor train station. It was unveiled on the 15th of March, 1936 with much nationalistic fanfare. Remember, about this time, the Nazis were building up their military in a big way -- and this was the perfect symbol to rally around.

I believe the artist, Richard Kuöhl, had some real issues -- here is a collage showing some of his other works in and around Hamburg.

Since the war, there has been much controversy about what to do with the sculpture. Destroy it? Remove the nationalistic poem chiseled in relief on its surface? One step that was agreed upon was to erect a "counter-sculpture" just a few feet away. It shows, in very modern abstract style, the horrors of war. This sculpture is by Alfred Hrdlicka.

One hardly notices Mr. Hrdlicka's piece, as it is very much overshadowed by this impressive, disturbing relic from the 1930s....


["Hello, Herr Schlender? This is the Office of Tourism. Is that snow in your picture of the monument...?"]

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

False Impression

I realized my first post might make this city seem dark, cold and eternally snow-covered. This is simply not true.

Hamburg is a beautiful city. One of its most appealing features is the waterfront. The Elbe allows Hamburg to be 120 kilometers (about 75 miles) inland and still be Germany's largest port. In the photo you see the Michel, officially known as Sankt Michaelis, as well as the bright green of the Rickmer Rickmers, the museum ship, built in 1896 in Bremerhaven.

Anyone who visits Hamburg should take one of the many available tours of the harbor and see the city from a different point of view.


["Ouch! OK, I wrote the upbeat blog entry just like you asked! Now take the thumbscrews off, get out of my apartment and take the U-Bahn back to the Office of Tourism. And, yes, I promise not to post any more pictures of Hamburg in the snow, rain, or with ice anywhere in the foreground!"]

Monday, March 27, 2006

Winter to Spring

This was Hamburg, two weeks ago. Yes, it was rare (they say) for Hamburg to have so much snow from one storm. And rare (they also say) for Hamburg to have such a rough winter in general. But, this being my first winter in Hamburg, I have nothing to judge the Hamburg weather against except fading memories of Chicago winters as a kid (more snow, colder) and very recent memories of San Diego (where there's not usually much weather to speak of at all.)

The one thing I can say is -- spring has now sprung here. It's said you can tell it's spring in Hamburg because the snow changes to rain.... Which is exactly what happened. We had a brief few hours of warmth and sunshine Sunday evening, but now it's Monday and it's raining. I'm hoping for some signs of spring that will be a bit more pleasant than the downpour we had this evening! Someone said they saw crocus buds this weekend. I looked and saw mud.

I know this isn't the most informative first posting I could have written. And, you won't learn much about me from my spartan profile here. But, if you decide to check back in now and then, I promise to tell more about myself, my travels, my friends, my interests -- and I'll probably rant now and then about things that piss me off.

I'll try to keep it "fair and balanced" -- how about a ratio of one rant to one pretty crocus picture?