28 February 2006

Politicians & Cheap Beer

What is it with politicians with the same names as cheap beer?
OK, yeah, W isn't really spelled the same as Busch beer. (Though there is this Bush beer, but it isn't what I would call a cheap beer.)

And Pete Coors, who was running for office in Colorado about the time we left for Germany, is actually from the Coors beer family. I have no idea if he won or not.

Well, there's two examples from US politics. Here in Germany, the cheapest beer in our local grocery store is Oettinger. To help explain how cheap it is, Jeannette tells me that carbonated water is actually in the ingredients list. This is the beer that, when we pop in at 8 am before work to get water, there is inevitably someone buying a couple bottles. This is the beer that, nearly ever day, a crate of which is consumed by the group of homeless guys that hang out (and pee!) near the grocery store (which makes it convienent to resupply, I guess)

Well, it turns out that the "Minister President" of Baden-Württemberg (the German state we live in) is named Günther Oettinger.

So what is it with politicians with cheap beer names? Is it me, or is it difficult to take them seriously?

Oh, and one more thing. The former Chancellor of Germany has the same name as a beer (but I have no clue about its quality). There's even a picture of them together that I lifted from somewhere on the web.

Can you think of any other examples? Please share!

20 February 2006

Kinda Fun

I have always wanted to have a giant map of the world with push pins indicating where I have visited, with the goal of eventually having a pin everywhere.

Here is something similar, that I suppose I can live with until I find something with a little bit finer resolution (I haven't seen that much of Canada, for example). Maybe I need to code it myself...

create your own visited countries map
or vertaling Duits Nederlands

create your own visited states map
or check out these Google Hacks.


It is really interesting to see/hear/read Olympic coverage from Germany.

When I think about Olympic coverage that I recieved in the USA, the impression I got was that the USA was a contender in EVERY sport, or at least every sport worth paying attention to. I got used to hearing about the sports that athletes from the USA excellend in and hearing little or nothing about thost other events. What the heck is a "15km Gunderson" anyway? I got used to the medal reports: "today we have +300 gold medals, +140 silver medals and +14 bronze medals". During "the cold war" it was always tallied against the Soviet Union. "Their medal count, at 867, is 2 higher than ours, but we have 6 more gold!"

Here in Germany, as I would expect, I hear all about the German success in the Olympics. I hear about the gold in the 3-horse schlitterbahn event (OK, I made that one up), the one time I watched on TV, they were showing an event where Germany was winning (and did win the gold) and the USA was something like #17. I hear on the radio that today Germany's only (and very slight) hope for a medal, a bronze at that, is in ski jumping, behind Norway and Austria.

I never did pay much attention to sports events, but it was hard NOT to hear about the olympics. Obviously the reports coming back to the people are of what the people want to hear. Few people in the USA care about an event where Germany upset the Finnish favorite and the best USA athlete came in at #17. But the feeling I always got, and maybe that is my problem and nobody else felt that way, was that the Olympic coverage I got in the USA is really the important stuff and who cares about the rest. This message has been repeated to me for 30+ years, so of course I am surprised (but not really surprised) to find out that people in other countries have different priorities.

I don't even know if the USA has won any medals during this Olympics, and if there are any star/darling athletes from the USA. Who will be on the Wheaties box?

It is just another example of how interesting the media is. No matter how objective you think they are, they really aren't telling you everything. Not always in a nefarious way, because there is just too much to tell. But it just reminds me that there is more out there than what they are telling me and that the slant of the story may be completely different depending on where you are looking from.

19 February 2006

My New Favorite Candy

I haven't tried them yet, but from the makers of the famous Gummi Bears, there are gummi "Asses with Ears".

What will they think of next? (I am sure that the Simpsons are not far off with the Gummi "Venus de Milo".)

From Haribo's press release: Haribo "A... mit Ohren" are amusing 'mallow' [Allanimal's note: candy kind of like circus peanuts] behinds with funny colored fruit gummi ears in red, green & orange. ... As opposed to other products [this] is characterized by its extravagant appearance [Allanimal's note: does that mean they look good but taste like... hmmm ... maybe ass & earwax?].

18 February 2006

Last Week's Mixed Bag

Here's a couple of odds and ends that happened last week.

1) I finally got a corner office with a window. Last fall, one of the engineers in my department retired. I was offered his old place not long after, but we waited until it was convienent to move, and that happened to be last friday (which also coincides with #2). This last week I (and other people in the department) have been recycling tons of old paper, moving desks, scrapping old product (unsellable engineering samples), and generally getting things straightened out in our 4 rooms (the title of a great movie, by the way). So now, I have that corner office with a window, which is everyone's dream, right? I do share it with another engineer and our breakfast break area, so it isn't what you are thinking, but it is still quite nice.

2) My manager is taking a different job. That's sad, because I like him a lot as a manager and as a friend, so it will be hard to see him go. Of course, we don't have that "two weeks notice" thing that they have in the US. He will be here for a while, at least until April, if not longer, depending on how things go with management. His replacement is also a nice guy and a friend, so I am not worried about having to work for a bad manager, which is a relief.

3) The bird flu finally reached Germany. So I have to stop playing with dead birds. Bummer.

4) The weather is no longer constantly below zero. In fact, we had a nice rainbow out the window today.

5) Last sunday we saw a Fasching parade in Ellhofen. (See last year's Fasching report, if you aren't familiar with it). It was quite a bit of fun. There are some great pictures of the event on Flickr. If you are too lazy to click the link, here are 3 random pics. Just keep hitting reload on your browser, and eventually you'll see them all.


17 February 2006


A week ago, I introduced some of my German friends to the movie This is Spinal Tap. I was worried that the humor wouldn't translate well, but I am happy to say that they all enjoyed it a lot. After watching it again, after all these years, it is amazing to me how unaffected by time this movie is. After over 20 years, it is still feels very fresh, with a couple small exceptions (like, albums vs. CDs/internet downloads, or the fact that it probably wouldn't be too smart to try to get thru airport security with a foil-wrapped cucumber in your pants these days).

A couple days ago, we saw Walk the Line, that movie about Johnny Cash. Not sure how big this was in the states, but I had never heard of it until a co-worker of Jeannette's suggested we go. It was quite a good movie. They made it look like Johnny Cash had a hard life. I think that should be blatantly obvious considering he had one of those Liquid Metal T-1000 Terminators for a father.

Thanks to these movies, I have been listening to several Spinal Tap songs (Sex Farm, Big Bottom, Stonehenge, etc.) and a couple Johnny Cash cover songs a lot in the last few days. Firewater's cover of Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" and Cash's cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt". Both are excellent songs.

04 February 2006

What a way to start a Saturday.

The Music of 2005

Last year, I made a list of my favorite music from 2004. This year, I will continue the tradition and talk about the music of 2005. For various reasons, I decided not to create a "playlist" that happens to be as long as an integer multiple of the length of a CD. Instead, here are what I think are the best albums of the year, and anyone who doesn't have them in their collection should re-evaluate their priorities and scoot over to the nearest library and take a listen-hear (kind alike a look-see but with ears) to these.

1) The year started off unquestionably great. The wonderful German band "Wir sind Helden" (We are Heroes) released their 2nd album, "Von hier an blind". I was quite impressed with their 1st album (see last year's list), I was afraid they might not be able to continue the greatness. The fact that there was a 2-year gap between albums was a good sign (meaning they had time to really create good music, rather than churn something out to make a record company happy), and sure enough, they pulled off a winner. There is not a track that I dislike on the album, and in the last several months "Nur ein Wort" has been played on the radio, as background music for various things on MTV, etc. and it still has not become annoying to me (which is probably a first). "Gekommen um zu bleiben" and "Wütend genug" are also amazing tracks on a 100% wonderful album.

2) I got the second solo album of Farin Urlaub (of Die Ärzte), "Am Ende der Sonne" the same day I got the above album, and I was also quite pleased. Herr Urlaub has been making excellent music for 20 years, and he didn't stop in 2005. I really like the song "Dusche" (no, really, it means shower), and I don't think it is because it starts with a nice rhythmic whacking on a piece of not-normally-considered-a-musical-insrument metal, ala Einstürzende Neubauten. I am a real sucker for that. And the song "Wie ich den Marilyn-Manson-Ähnlichkeitswettbewerb verlor" (How I Lost the Marilyn Manson Look-Alike Contest) makes me laugh. Every song is good on this album, too.

3) "Shinola (vol.1)" by Ween. Considering this album is actually a bunch of outtakes, I am quite blown away by it. It is very addictive. Word of warning, however, if you listen to this album, you will never get the song "Big Fat Fuck" out of your head. But just about every song is a winner. If you want to have a song stuck in your head without the naughty word in the title, try "Gabrielle" or "Monique the Freak".

4) "You and Me Against the World" by Apoptygma Bezerk. I am not sure what to say about this one other than it is really good. And that I can't stop singing "Shine On" or "Into the Unknown", which is pissing off a lot of people, since I have a horrible singing voice.

5) I first heard The Chemical Brothers 10+ years ago on the "WipeoutXL" videogame, and thought the music made a great background for racing levitating rocket sleds (or whatever they were), and every once in a while I would see the name pop up in music stores. So I am not sure why I picked up their latest work, "Push the Button" at the library, but I am glad I paid the €1.50 (our library charges to check out new-release CDs) to hear this. The Chemical Brothers seem to have evolved quite a bit from that video game soundtrack, and somehow they remind me of what the Beastie Boys with less rap & more electronic stuff. The tracks "Left Right" and "Marvo Ging" are my favorites, and all but one of the remaining tracks are really good too. (For some reason, the song "Close Your Eyes" just doesn't work for me).

These were in the running (by nature of being from 2005 and heard by me)

* Franz Ferdinand's "You Could Have it So Much Better"
* Seeed "Next!"
* Rammstein "Rosenrot"
* Funker Vogt "Navigator"
* Project Pitchfork "Kaskade"
* They Might Be Giants "The Spine" (OK, maybe this was 2004)
* Bloodhound Gang "Hefty Fine"
* Juliana Hatfiled "Made in China"
* 311 "Don't Tread on Me"
* Bob Mould "Body of Song"
* Liz Phair "Somebody's Miracle"
* Westernhagen "Nahaufnahme"

Worth Noting:
Not long after "Debil" was first released by Die Ärzte in 1986, the Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Schriften (Germany's Federal Inspection Authority for Youth-Endangering Writing) banned it saying it was "Socio-ethically disorienting". In October 2004, nearly 20 years later, they realized that the objectionable songs were satirical and removed the album from the banned list. This year, die Ärzte re-released it as "Devil" with some bonus material. One of the objectionable songs, "Schlaflied" (sleep song) is my favorite. It is a lullaby, basically saying "go to sleep little child, go to sleep. but once you are asleep, a monster will come and kill you in nasty & gruesome ways". The rest of the album is good too, but some of the references are from German society & politics of 20 years ago, so I don't always get the full meanings. But still a great punk album.

So there you have it. 5 Really good albums, and several pretty good ones. Like always, it is best to try before you buy, because I know my tastes can be out there sometimes. But really, you can't go wrong with the first 5.

03 February 2006

Old Pictures (again)

I have been looking at my old(er) digital pictures and re-discovering my old favorites. This is one of my first (mostly successful) attempts at a macro shot. The wind was working against me that day, but I think it wasn't too bad.