26 February 2005

Germany is famous for...

So on the last day in Colorado Springs of my recent business trip, I was eating lunch with a gang of my co-workers that I had to say goodbye to once again. Anyway, at the restaurant, I couldn't finish my meal, so the waiter asked if I wanted a box to take it home with me. (This is another difference between the US and Germany. In "the big D", the waiters will not ask and it is rarely possible to get a take home box). I told him that I would I would like to, but I'm going to be getting on a plane soon and I didn't think it would survive the trip. He asked me where I was going, and I told him I was heading back home to Germany. He said, "Germany. Aren't there a lot of trees there?"

True, but not exactly what I think is most notable about this country.

24 February 2005

When 1 = 3

I have been in Colorado Springs this week on a business trip, and I had to stop into Target to pick up some things that we either can't find in Germany or prefer the American alternative. I had several items by the time I reached check-out, and the cashier asked me "Is one bag enough?" I found this interesting, because I often would complain about how so often in America, we woudl come home with approximately one bag for every 2 items, no matter how small the items are. It makes no sense to me, so it was refereshing to be offered to only get one. You know, better for the environment, keep costs down, etc. blah blah blah.

So I was quite surprised when I was walking out of the store, I found that my items were in one bag, but that bag had been placed inside another bag placed inside a third bad. Yes, my items were triple bagged. Nothing was particularly heavy or sharp, so I had 200% more bags that I needed.

I guess it is true what they say about the lousy American educational system, or did someone make one equal to three without telling me.

15 February 2005

Happy Birthday to Me

One thing that I am sure will blow the minds of the Americans reading this, is that apparently in Germany (or at least this part of Germany... or at least my company...) it is the responsibility of the person having the birthday to throw a party, rather than how it is done in America where the family/friends/co-workers throw the party for the birthday person.

So, in the days leading up to my big day, I asked some of the locals what should be done. Invariably, I was told that it is up to me (lots of help that was!). I could invite whoever I wanted to, I could bring whatever I wished, I could do whatever. So, I modeled it after some previous events and opted for the in-office Breakfast approach. So, brought bunches of fresh bread from the bakery, along with various cheeses, meats & condiments, juices & pickles, etc.

It seemed to go over well. We had fun. We made jokes. I even understood a couple of them. My boss covered for me on the one thing I forgot - champagne or wine (another thing that is strange for me, as an American, to just walk into work with) - and found a bottle of (completely unlabeled) wine.

Apparently, I completely overestimated how much food we would need, since there was enough left for everyone that wanted to to have lunch as well. Plus Jeannette and I had enough left after that for dinner.

So, I guess my special birthday dinner will have to wait (yet again) a day. But at least this time, it was my fault, and not due to Valentine's day.

14 February 2005

Why Valentine's Day Bites (But at least there's hope)

Most people who bitch about Valentine's day are people without dates, or people with high-maintenance dates.

I can happily report that I don't fall into either category. I have a great (perfect for me) wife, and she isn't at all high-maintainence.

So why does Valentine's day bite? I am one of those lucky people who was born within a day of Valentine's day. It probably isn't as bad as those people who are born near Christmas, who get one big lump-sum present (cuz hey, to kids, that's what Christmas is about, right!). But on V-day, every restaurant with a modicum of class (which usually means 'takes reservations') is completely booked on the days around my birthday. So, if my wife (or in my earlier years, my girlfriend) wanted to take me out for a nice brithday dinner, that dinner would either be 1) a Valentine's day special menu deal, 2) Be a week before or after my actual birthday or 3) the grand event would happen at someplace on the KFC or Subway caliber.

Of course, since I have a wife that can cook (and she can cook real well!), we don't have to go out for nice food. But sometimes, you just need to hit a nice restaurant, and a birthday is a good excuse to splurge.

As I said earler, there is hope. Since Valentine's day isn't such a big thing here in Germany (and few, if any, relationships here are ruined due to poor Valentine's day performance scores), the nice restaurants are not jam-packed for days before and after this regular, ordinary day. In fact, the only special thing I noticed here was that "google.de" used hearts instead of O's on their web page.

So cool. Maybe I'll actually be able to celebrate my birthday out of the shadow of Valentine's day this year.

05 February 2005


This afternoon the first Fasching parade that Heilbronn has had in 21 years started less than 100 meters from our apartment. See Jeannette's blog for more insight into what Fasching is all about. I have asked many Germans this, and I have never recieved a satisfactory answer. Usually all they say is that it is "the fifth season". Huh? OK. Like Cedar Rapids or something. (Don't get it? Just click the link!). So, while Jeannette was describing it, I was shooting it. Here are some of my favorites from the parade. (Click the picture to see the larger picture at flickr.com)

Heilbronner Faschingsumzug #1
They marched all the way from Basel, Switzerland, yet they were still first in line for the Heilbronn parade.

Heilbronner Faschingsumzug #2
The metallic pirate drummer was one of my favorite costumes of the band from Basel. To his right, is the saxamaphone playing cousin of Buckethead's.

Heilbronner Faschingsumzug #3
Greetings from Owl-boy

Heilbronner Faschingsumzug #4
I got a nice proposition from this witch... (but she wasn't really my type...)

Heilbronner Faschingsumzug #5
A well-dressed tromboner.

Heilbronner Faschingsumzug #6
A trumpet-wielding bug (or something).

Heilbronner Faschingsumzug #7
Bad-ass bass drummer (this is one of my favorite "people" photos)

Heilbronner Faschingsumzug #8
A very happy candy thrower. (And the candy chuckers are the real reason people go to parades). See Jeannette's blog for some of the other things that got thrown instead of candy.

Heilbronner Faschingsumzug #9
Dancin' goat! A good goat'll do that.

Heilbronner Faschingsumzug #10
What this band lacked in costumes, they made up for in music. It was awesome! Check the rig in the back with sinks and other household stuff used as instruments. (My camera decided to act flaky just at that point, so I don't have a better shot of that setup)

Heilbronner Faschingsumzug #11
A nice tree-person, and of course I can't ignore the one member of Heilbronn's clone army. Yes, there were hundreds of these girls that look sweet & innocent (and 100% identical!), but I think they are up to no good...

Heilbronner Faschingsumzug #12
It's Log! It's Log! It's big, it's heavy, it's wood!

Heilbronner Faschingsumzug #13
The jolly pirates abord the "Bläck Pörl".

Heilbronner Faschingsumzug #14
Yet another posing witch, complete with kidnapped baby/late afternoon snack.

Heilbronner Faschingsumzug #15
Some bone-totin' tiger-skin-wearin' primitive savage dude.

Heilbronner Faschingsumzug #16
The offspring of Paul Stanley and some poor court jester????

04 February 2005

Holes in My Socks

I have to be careful about coming to work with holey socks, since a major part of my job function requires me to wear ESD-safe Birkenstocks.

I know you are thinking, "Socks & Sandals - what are you thinking?"

That's not the point. The point is the holes in the socks. Stay on track here!

Fine. Since you aren't paying attention anyway, I'm just going to leave.

03 February 2005

iPods & Microsoft

When I was in London, I was amazed at how many iPods I saw. I loved it. Especially considering my handful of Apple stock is now worth about 5 times what I paid for it, thanks in a large part to the ultra cool iPod. (As a side note, the rest of my stock portfolio is about 1/2 what I paid for it...)

Anyway, it was cool to see all those iPods in London, and it is cool to know so many are out there and this excellent music player is a hit. My wife is even knitting 'iPod Cozies' for them (but that's a different story).

What I want to talk about today is Microsoft and iPods. Apparently, according to a Wired News Story, iPods are very popular at the Microsoft home base, and it is scaring management.

It should. The iPod experience, alone and when connected to a computer (whethee it is a Macintosh or a Windows-based PC) is exactly as it should be - something that just works, and works well. Like plugging in a vacuum cleaner and turning it on. It might take a second to find the thingy that makes the arm swivel, but you don't really worry about it and get to vacuuming - it just works the way it should work. The iPod is the same (except for the sucking part).

You see, the Microsoft managers are scared because they can't do something like that. They can't make software that just works, without a bunch of fiddling and conunterintuitive junk, bugs and security flaws and restrictions. They can't make an interface that anyone can just figure out with a few minutes of experimenting. And they know it.

And until they saw all those iPods on the Microsoft mother ship, they didn't think that they had to get their act in order, because of their monopoly on the computer market. But the huge number of iPods shows that there is a crack in the dam, and eventually it will crumble. I'm not saying Apple will do it. Maybe, but probably not alone.

Anyway, what pisses me off is that apparently there are some managers sending out memos to employees forbidding iPods at Microsoft. These iPod totin' Microsoft employees have voted with their wallets, and it's obvious - they don't want to drink the Microsoft Kool Aid. And why should they, after all, it is America, land of the free, right?

It will be interesting to dee what happens when one of them gets fired for bringing an iPod to work. We'll see then if there is still freedom in America or wether the world's biggest monopoly and richest corporation can buy off the courts like they did the Justice System a few years ago.