24 November 2005

Thanksgiving Traditions

I have a couple more words for you about Thanksgiving. In the years after graduating and entering "the real world", I lived in Texas, and the weather stayed so hot that Thanksgiving snuck up on me and I almost missed it. Being from Iowa, I was used to Thanksgiving being a pretty chilly time of year. Heck, it was usually cold by Halloween!

The next year, a co-worker had their first baby right before Thanksgiving, and their kitchen was stuffed to the gills with Thanksgiving day food. They were getting out of the hospital the afternoon of Thanksgiving day, and a couple co-worker friends & I decided it would be a great gift for the new parents to cook up that meal for them so that it doesn't go to waste. Image three enginerds in a kitchen making a giant meal. I think I called my mom at least once for advice on the turkey... Anyway, it turned out great, and the proud new parents were so happy and thankful. Unfortunately several months later they had to move away, and I have since lost touch with them. But not a Thanksgiving goes by for me without remembering that wonderful day. And I still wonder about Steve and Rosann and their baby. If you guys happen to read this, drop me a line! I miss you!

The next comuple of Thanksgivings were uneventful. I lived too far away from family to visit, with Christmas barely a month away. I usually ended up going to Katz' Diner for my holiday dinner, since it was one of the few places actually open. ("Katz' Never Closes" was their motto) They always had a nice Thanksgiving special...

Then something happened that rocked my Thanksgiving world. The first Thanksgiving after I started dating Jeannette ended up being a major landmark in the story of my life. She found tickets for $250 per person to Amsterdam -- if we flew on Thanksgiving day. We scooped them up and prepared for our first trip togeher. By that time I knew that Jeannette was something special, and decided that this trip would be the perfect time to propose to her. The first several days of the trip was agony for me, since I was carrying this engagement ring, nervous about her answer (though I was very certain it would be yes), and just a bit concerned about going to countries where I didn't know a single word of the native language. I had been to France many years ago, and I was "prepared" by 4 years of French lessons in Jr. High & High School, but this was different. I guess I also felt intimiated by "international traveler" Jeannette. She had been to every country in Europe except Portugul, or something. Was I going to be a complete "American Idiot" in Europe? Looking back at some of my high school escapaes in France, I was even more worried. (Maybe some day I will tell you about that, too).

Well, it turned out OK. I didn't lose the ring. She said yes. She didn't lose the ring. Her German family didn't disapprove. I even managed to ask where the bathroom was, though in a way that implied I needed a shower. I learned that I was a pretty good navigator on those windy European roads, as long as Jeannette was driving and we were both not too uptight about mistakes or, even, where we were going. Oh, and Thanksgiving dinner was at Jeannette's parents' German restaurant. Almost an eat-and-run, because we had just a few hours to get to Minneapolis and catch our plane.

So, that turned out to be the beginning of a Thanksgiving tradition of sorts. The next year for Thanksgiving we were in Egypt, on our Honeymoon. Thanksgiving dinner that year was at a very nice Indian restaurant in Cairo. Multi-cultrural, huh? The year after that, I was in Finland on a business trip for Thanksgiving, and Jeannette joined me. Thanksging dinner was moose and beetroot hash. I wanted bear, but it was a bit spendy. Tip: Finland is cold at the end of November. And it gets dark early.

The next year, we were in Italy, and our Thanksgiving dinner was swordfish in a beautiful Italian restaurant in Paestum, where some beautiful Greek temples are standing.

The year after that, we were with family, which was the first time in a long time. Sure, it wasn't some crazy trip to an exotic destination, but it was a trip, and we got to do and see some wonderful stuff. Part of the reason was because my brother would shortly embark on a several month tour of South America. So it was an exotic destination milestone for someone, just not me.

Then we moved to Germany, and by the time Thanksgiving rolled around, we were barely moved in, we had no kitchen so making a dinner was out of the question. So we went to the Weihnachtsmarkt in Heilbronn. Thanksgiving ended up being pickled herring sandwiches and glühwein (hot, spiced wine).

So, that's a long way of saying that Thanksgiving has become one of my favorite holidays, and thought it is not celebrated here in Germany, it is still something I look forward to.

Who knows what will happen this year, but I am sure it will be very exciting. If the last 6 years is any indication, it will be memorable.

23 November 2005


It is Thanksgiving week in the USA. It should be obvious to everyone, but it is not a holiday in Germany, but I think I will still write a line or two about what I am thankful for, since I am sure that is what all my family and friends back in the US are thinking this week.

First, I am thankful for my wife. I could go on for days about her, but to narrow it down to a few words, she is the perfect companion for me, and my best friend. Without her, my life would be very different right now. I am thankful that she has opened my world to so many new adventures.

I am thankful to have the opportunity to live & work in a foreign country. This last year+ has been so incredibly educational, exciting, scary, interesting, difficult, fascinating, and a whole bunch of other adjectives I can't think of right now. I like my job and my co-workers, my new friends, my new home, and everything. In order to make this move, I had to give up a lot of things, and many of those I miss, but I think the reward far exceeds those comforts that I had to give up. I am enjoying this chapter in my life so much, and I know it was the right choice. It isn't perfect, but what is? I am thankful that I had & have the support from all those involved to do this.

I am thankful that I have an interesting job, an employer that pays me to do something I enjoy, and that my employer gives me enough vacation time that will allow me to travel around Germany, Europe & beyond. On a related note, I am thankful that much of Europe is using the Euro, which makes going from place to place and experiencing new things so much easier.

I am thankful that I have spent the last year without a car. We have been getting by on our fee, bikes or public transportation. There has been the occasional rental car, ride from a friend or a loaner car from a friend (for which I am thankful!), but in general, I get around by my feet. I am thankful that I live in a place that this is possible and easy to do, and I am thankful that I am getting excercise every day just by living life. I am thankful that I don't have to pay for cars, parking the car, insuring the car, maintaining the car, etc. I am especially thankful that my personal finances are not impacted directly by the whims of the price of gasoline.

I am thankful that I am no longer paying for the war in Iraq. Since my income comes from Germany, and it is lower than the arbitrary number set by the US government, I don't need to pay any money to the IRS. Therefore, I am not paying for this war that I don't agree with, a war that I consider unjust and illegal.

And finally, I am thankful for all the emails, phone calls, Skype calls, blog comments, Flickr comments & faves and letters from family and friends that are too far away to just drop by. I am thankful that we can keep in touch from half-way around the world.

16 November 2005


I'm not up to writing anything, so I am just going to post pictures. See Jeannette's Blog and/or click the pictures for more info.




Church in Arch

Strapped Church

Metal Gate

Jeannette Spinnt


14 November 2005

Men vs. Women

Why is it that I understand women speaking German much better than men speaking German?

12 November 2005

Geotagged Images

This is so cool.
All of my geotagged images on flickr can be seen superimposed on satellite imagery of the world. (Google, yahoo, etc. don't have maps of Germany yet, so satellite is all you get.) Fun!

Check it Out!, but only if you are using Firefox.

Strange World

Spider Web

Since it has been just a little over a year since I moved to Germany, I have been thinking a lot about how this big move has changed things in my life. Today's thought is mostly about people. In the last year, it goes without saying that I have seen much less of my family and friends back in the US. The interesting thing I realized today is that I probably have seen my good German friend Alex less this year that I have been in Germany than I did when I lived in Colorado. Really! You see, I made frequent business trips to Duisburg because I was working on the same project as Alex. Alex was also working on a different project for a group in Colorado, so he came there often, sometimes for several weeks at a time. During those times, we each made sure the other wasn't bored in a hotel room somewhere and a strong friendship developed. Now that I've moved to Germany, and we're both working on other projects, our paths rarely cross in work-related ways anymore. I'm living in a city >4 hours by train away from him, so it is closer than the 10+ travel hours from the US, but still not close enough to just drop by. So, that's kind of strange, but we still keep in touch. On the other hand, I have built up other relationships that I never would have anticipated. For example, thanks to modern internet-based communication tools (blogs, Flickr, ???), and an interesting intertwining of my friends and Jeannette's family and friends, I am now communicating with a friend that I haven't heard from since high school.

OK, since I have nearly bordered on waxing philosophical about this strange web of acquaintances, I hope you can understand why I chose the spider web photo for my first one to share today. Let me explain a little more about this picture. Recently I got it in my head that it would be interesting to take pictures of the bridges in Heilbronn, of which there are many. Yeah, I am easily entertained.

Bridge & Tower

Many of these bridges are named after people, like so many things in places I have lived. Why is that? Who are they? (I know who Phoebe Sudlow was, but I never looked up Ben White.) And I have this weird fascination with taking pictures of signs, so my task mutated into taking pictures of the signs naming the bridges. Really! And this morning I was up early and started this task. I am not joking, see:


OK, it isn't just the sign I am interested in, but the interesting stuff behind it as well. That's the nice thing about bridges, they tend to have interesting stuff to photograph around them. The hard part is trying not to get hit by cars and trains while getting the shot.

If you are interested in more of these bridge pictures, take a look of the whole set on Flickr.

As you can see from the photo above, it was a beautiful, misty morning. As I was standing on the Neue Böckinger Brücke, I noticed there were spiderwebs everywhere, and they were all covered with dew, which made them quite beautiful. And, to make that spiderweb even more interesting, when I shifted the focus of my camera from it to the activity behind it, this is what I saw.


Really! The small orange blob in the spiderweb picture is the orange buoy behind the Excelsior. Strange world, isn't it?

08 November 2005


So today I went to the dentist for the first time since moving to Germany. Yeah, I should have gone sooner, but well, it just didn't happen. (It didn't help that the appointment was 3 months after making it. So put me down for trying after only 9 months).

The day before, I thought about the vocabulary.
Teeth? Gums? Check.
Toothbrush? Toothpaste? Check.
Open your mouth? Check.
*gasp* Cavity? Crown? Bridge? Root Canal? Check. (Well, not that last one, but I was pretty certain it wasn't going to come up).
I was prepared for whatever the dentist was going to say. Or so I thought...

When the time finally came, and I sat down in that chair, the nice Assistantin asked me "Do you have tooth stones?"
I was very confused and asked "What?"
"Tooth stones."
She and the other assistantin gave me a mirror and showed me my teeth. "There. Tooth stones."
"Huh? I have no idea what tooth stones are."
"Well, I'm just going to clean it then."

That's all translated of course. Not that it would have helped if she would have been speaking English.

After a rather uneventful cleaning, the dentist proper arrived and asked if he could take a look.

Everything was OK, except for a minor gum inflammation caused by the edge of one of my crowns. He squirted some anti-bacterial goop in there and told me to come back in 6 months. I guess it wasn't anything serious...

I have learned two things from this.
1) I guess I need to bone up more on the vocab when I go to the "whole-body" doctor. Who knows what crazy thing they might ask me. "Do you have an elbow nipple?"
2) I have always liked how so many German words are so simply obvious. A desk, for example is merely the combination of "write" and "table". Makes perfect sense, and easy too. An airplane is just a "flight thingy" (well, I translate "zeug" as "thingy", which probably isn't 100% correct, but close enough). Very understandable. I think it makes this difficult language a little but easier. But apparently my brain wants to fight this "just say what it is" aspect of the German language, like when I was asked about
Zahnstein. The "tooth" part I got. I know the other part, which is "stone". Makes perfect sense to me now, but when I was nervously sitting in the dentist's chair, my mind drew a blank. It didn't help that I wasn't expecting the dental assistantin (read: the dental expert) to ask me (read: the dental non-expert) whether or not I have tartar.

06 November 2005


Jeannette has a nasty cold this weekend, so it hasn't really been an eventful weekend for us.

I took some pictures, but I'm not really happy with them.

A couple years ago on a vacation to Germany, we found these candies (from the makers of the famous Gummi Bear) that are kind of like Good & Plenty, but more colorful and with slightly larger piece size. Since moving here, however, we haven't seen them in the stores. Well, yesterday I did find the Haribo Stafetten in a department store, of all places.

Oh yeah, we were at this department store because we finally bought an iron. The travel iron just wasn't cutting it anymore. Of course, if I wasn't so stupid, I wouldn't have bought all those shirts that need ironing... I think I spent more time checking out the new advances in Lego technology than I did looking at irons. And this is saying a lot, since there was this annoying gaggle of women discussing every minute detail of every iron and they did it in such a way that they always happened to be standing in front of at least one of the two irons I was trying to compare.

Anyway, so it wasn't nearly as exciting as biking out to the Weibertreu ruins, which was the original, pre-cold plan for this weekend. Maybe next weekend.

04 November 2005

Kickin' the Blog.

So, maybe you noticed, but I was in a bad mood last night, for some reason, and came home and took it out on my blog.

Better than kicking the dog, but still not cool. Sorry about that.

I am glad you like the photos and the little updates. I'll keep it going.

See, I'm smiling now.
Atop the Heuchelbergwache

03 November 2005


Heuchelberg Vineyards

Apparently, you are all interested in what this Heuchelberg thing is. I base this statement on the vast array of comments from a recent post, and the pages and pages of comments my friends and family leave for me on other posts of this blog that indicate to me how interested you all are in my life. The resounding theme of the comments in the one year and a couple days that this blog has existed is that everyone wants to know what the heck Heuchelberg is.

Heuchelberg Vineyards

If you haven't gathered by now, Heilbronn is pretty much completely surrounded by vineyards. And wine is pretty important stuff, so people built towers and walls around them.


The walls are pretty much all taken down now, replaced with lots of roads criss-crossing through the vineyards and other fields, which makes for a great autumn bike ride to see the great colors in the fields. Luckily the towers are still there and often climbable. Which makes for good photos.

Heuchelberg Vineyards

There are tons more on my Flickr photostream, so you should check them out if you like them.

But I still haven't explained this whole Heuchelberg thing. But really, I have no idea if anyone cares about it or anything else on this blog. So... let me know if I should bother keeping up with this, because it is kind of depressing to think that I am just writing it for myself.

01 November 2005

Still Here

Blue Sky, Orange Leaves

The computer is still in the shop, so I am just limping along. It took me 2 days to get it up, but here is an example of the nice fall we're having over here.