elementary particles

We saw a very weird movie last night at Cinemaxx with our pals the physicists and Natasha and Michael. The movie was called “Elementarteilchen” which translates to “elementary particles”. It was about passion, I think — both sexual and non-sexual. Oh yeah, and about how screwed up people can be as adults after having goofy parents…and how sometimes they turn out OK anyway. Pretty intense stuff. It was good — just weird. Here‘s its IMDB entry. The main actors from Run Lola Run were in this one, too (Franka Potente and Moritz Bleibtreu) among other very good performers.

The more important aspect of this was that it was our first German-language movie seen in German at a German theater, and Sarah did very well with her Hörverständnis. I hope this will open the door to more German language movies (cinema or made-for-TV) we’ve been interested in, but weren’t sure we’d *get*:

I used to do that about 30 years ago with dried vegetables and grains

…and I daresay my work was more evocative, but much less refined.

But still, thanks are due to our pal and ships’s purser Rach for pointing this link out to us. If you think “www.sandfantasy.com” sounds dirty, well, it kind of is. But not like that. Don’t think like that. Just click that link or visit the one below and you’ll see what I mean. It’s perfectly work-safe. Might even up your productivity if you’ve been tuning queries or poring over presentations or fighting with your conference room reservation robots for hours on end like I’ve been doing on the clock lately.

Seriously, I recommend this video — it’s the one that Rach pointed out to us. The music kind of reminds me of something you’d probably not even notice in a therapist’s waiting room, but the visuals are neat.

“perception is reality”

I dislike clichés like the one in the title of this post; I like them even less when they’re used to stereotype people. I hate them when they’re use to stereotype me. The week before last, an external consulting company started involving itself in my daily work. I am hopeful that this is not a Office Space visit-with-the-Bobs kind of external consultation; so far at least, they’re much more interested in my databases than my daily business.

Anyhoo, I was on a conference call with my ol’ pal H. and one of these H&Z consultant clowns. I don’t mind giving them a bit of free negative publicity — you’ll find out why if you keep reading. Herr Doktor Klown was asking for some relatively tricky queries from my baby the database. Or rather, they were the kind of simple-sounding queries that I could see myself doing over and over again because the Clownspeak was vague and ill-suited for the actual situation at hand. So I asked a couple of clarifying questions. Ol’ pal H. joked, “our American friend here is making it complicated” and Herr Doktor Klown — our service provider, the guy who needs cooperation from me — chimes in with “if he’s an American, he should be making it simpler, not more complicated, right?”

At first I didn’t understand his comment. Then he apologized, and I realized I’d just been insulted based on my nationality. He tried to explain that he meant it in good fun, and I told him my interpretation of his comment was more important than how he meant it. That’s when he pulled out the “perception is reality” (in English) comment to show me he knew what I meant, and presumably that he knew how to say it my native language, too. Congratulations, Herr Doktor — you’re a multi-lingual clown!

Then just a couple days ago, my boss called up Mrs. K. to settle the score with regard to my job description and ultimately for our residence permits. He had her on speakerphone and she didn’t know that I was in the room listening at first. He’d just gotten back from a business trip to my home town. She inquired politely how things are going in Detroit — specifically how the “gas guzzlers” are doing. I know I work in an automotive company; but is that really the first thing my colleagues think of when they hear “Detroit”? It made me mad; almost mad enough to get indignant about the kind of energy consumption Americans are famous here for…but not quite that mad. Again, I thought “perception is reality.” Even though all she knows about me is that I’m an American and I expect her to know what I do at work, Mrs. K probably wouldn’t be surprised that I am overweight if she were ever to meet me, because I spend all that time in my big ol’ truck consuming every day.

And then I thought “but I *am* overweight! I *did* used to spend a lot of time in my rather small and cute truck *consuming*. How far off was she really?”

I guess the worst kind of cliché is the one you *used* to embody and still get blamed for.

more Red Tape Annals

As you probably know, neither of is a German citizen (nor do we plan to give up our U.S. citizenship, no matter whom the vice-president shoots…except maybe us). As such, we require documentation to live and work in this country — much like legal immigrants to the U.S. This documentation has to be renewed every year. Since our residence permit (think of it as a visa, even though they’re not the same thing) is closely linked to our (my) work permit, they both have to be renewed at the same time. This clever system helps make sure that Germany’s legal immigrants stay employed.

OK, so since the German government wants proof of my employment, I need to submit paperwork to the local Einwohnermeldeamt* signed and authorized by my HR department. I still thought this would be no big deal, since we managed to get it done hassle-free last year.

  1. I emailed my local HR contact (Mrs. K.) on 09.02.2006 asking for help. She said “you gotta call/write to the corporate HR hotline, I can’t help you” — so I did that.
  2. I never heard back from them, which annoyed me. Not even a “thanks for writing to our automated service; your message has been received and your request is in progress” or similar. So, despite my preference for written communication whenever possible (for various reasons), I called them yesterday morning. A very pleasant lady said “yeah, we filled out as much as we could and sent what we had to someone in your local HR department for completion.” I asked who their contact person was, and she said “hmm, let’s see…Mrs. K, yeah, that’s it.”
  3. I then called Mrs. K. to say that the rep at Corporate HR told me they’d sent her everything they could do themselves, and she confirmed that by saying “that’s right, we’ve got it right here, but we need some more info from you in order to complete it. Do you have a job description?” And I said, “I was actually expecting HR to have an idea of the job description.” She didn’t seem to like that. She said “we need to get a job description from your boss.” I said, “he’s on a business trip out of the country, and I’m not sure when he’ll be back. Can I do it myself? Am I allowed to do that?” And she said “sure, that should be no problem.” And I tried to ask helpful questions so that I would know exactly what was expected and not waste anymore of anyone else’s time: “OK, what does it have to look like? How long should be? Are we talking about 3 sentences or 3 pages? What kind of content are we talking about here? Can you send me a template or something?” (I didn’t pepper her with these questions; it just appears that way in this transcript from my head). She said, “no, we don’t have any of that information…let’s just wait for your boss to send it to us, so we can finish off our end of it, and send it to you, and you can take it to the Einwohnermeldeamt.”

I don’t need the extra stress of trying to keep all of these other ducks in a row; I’ve got enough trouble with my own ducks. It’s times like these that I really hate working for a conglomerate. I know there are all sorts of benefits associated with that too, but the little things like this get to me sometime.

In other news, we borrowed a movie from our gym yesterday — they have a small DVD/VHS library with movies available for loan for free for a couple days as part of your membership. It’s a nice perk (our pal Birgit would call it “Schnickschnack” and it would annoy her). It was The Cooler. Sarah liked it. I didn’t, though I did give it a chance when I saw the names on the opening credits. I saw William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin, Paul Sorvino, and Ron Livingston were appearing in the same movie, so I expected it to be pretty good. I was laboring under a pretty severe misconception there. On an ironic side note, I have now seen *two* movies featuring Alec Baldwin and Shawn Hatosy, and they both annoyed me. If a third one comes on, I’m not going to see it.

An Einwohnermeldeamt is an office in every municipal subunit where you, as a resident (citizen or otherwise) of Germany are required to report your residence. Meaning, whenever you move, you have to report it to the government. I can’t think of a corresponding institution in the U.S. Usually, when you move, you have to tell someone, in order for your whole life to keep working properly, but I don’t think it’s a *law*. Or is it? Does the Secretary of State (for example in Michigan) require notification? I know you’re *supposed* to keep your driver’s license up-to-date, but what if you don’t have one? As far as I know, you aren’t breaking any laws if you move to a new home with different address and just don’t tell anyone. I can just picture left- and right-wingers alike bristling at the notion that they have to tell the government where they live. back up to the top

lost in translation

Thanks to my dad for sending this video file to us. That’s kind of the way I feel when I have to use my Spanish — the other day I was having a conversation at work in German with a guy from Spain, and he closed the conversation with “¡Muchas Gracias!” I was in a German mindset and that totally bewildered me, though I did manage to recognize that he said something in Spanish. I replied with “¿Cómo?” and he laughed at me before repeating his expression of thanks. Boy, did I feel like a schmuck.

Lucía’s Paella

This recipe came from our mutual friend Lucía, who is from Toledo. Normally, paella is made with seafood. Because Sarah hates seafood, we use chicken. If you want to try the seafood version, get some frozen cooked seafood mix and/or shrimp to use in place of the chicken. Serves 4.

2-3 Tbs. olive oil
2 red peppers, diced small
1 one whole onion, diced small
2 medium tomatoes, diced small
1 small can yellow corn, drained
2 skinless boneless chicken breasts in bite size chunks
1/2 lb. arborio rice
salt to taste
1/8 tsp. saffron

  1. In large, deep skillet, sauté diced red peppers in 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat until very tender.
  2. Add onions and tomatoes, sauté until tender and some juice has leached out of tomatoes. Add corn and sauté 1-2 more minutes. Add chicken and sauté until cooked through.
  3. Add rice and stir into pan mixture. Let rice cook in pan uncovered until most of the liquid from the tomatoes has been absorbed.
  4. Pour enough water into pan to almost completely cover the mixture. Add salt to taste and saffron and stir in well. Turn up heat to high and bring mixture to a boil. Allow mixture to boil for 2 minutes, then place lid on pan and turn heat down to low. Simmer on low, stirring frequently, until all liquid is absorbed and rice is firm, yet tender.
  5. Remove lid and cover pan with a dishtowel. Allow paella to stand for 5 minutes, then serve.

mashups at our very own Konditorei

After a rousing 2½ hour session at our gym this morning, Sarah and I decided we wanted some Konditorei action, but instead of going somewhere and spending the money, we just came home and I whipped up some of my very own coffee and we munched on some cherry “Mohammedans” I’d bought while out shopping last night.

Then I made Sarah listen to this track.

Be warned, you’re downloading that hour-long track from my personal computer — it’ll take about 20 minutes to download, because it’s through my crummy residential DSL service and it’s like 60MB. You’ll be prompted for a username and password. The username is “music” (no quotes) and the password is the all-lower case last name of my high school German teacher. Just ask us via email/IM if you don’t know who that was.

Check this track out and listen to how many different songs/artists you can detect in there. This has got to be the mother of all mashups. We’ll be working on a list of the songs/artists that we can detect and the ones that we need your help on. There are a number of samples that are just on the tips of our respective tongues. No apologies for wrong song titles or artists’ names — we’re doing the best we can here. Please correct us and if you’ve downloaded the file, help us to fill in the gaps.

  • The Imperial March/Darth Vader’s Theme (dance remix…whoopitydoo)
  • Tainted Love (Soft Cell)
  • Carmina Burana (Carl Orff)
  • Bolero (Maurice Ravel)
  • Jump Around (House of Pain)
  • Insane in the Membrane (Cypress Hill)
  • Walk on the Wild Side (Lou Reed)
  • Love Cats (the Cure)
  • Informer (Snow)
  • Bongo Bong (Manu Chau)
  • Come As You Are (Nirvana)
  • Don’t Worry Be Happy (Bobby McFerrin)
  • Personal Jesus (Depeche Mode?)
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)
  • Riders on the Storm (the Doors)
  • Take Me Out (Franz Ferdinand)
  • Another Brick in the Wall (Pink Floyd)
  • Clocks (Coldplay)
  • Relax (Frankie Goes to Hollywood)
  • Crazy (Seal)
  • Eleanor Rigby (the Beatles)
  • Boogie Nights (Heatwave)
  • Bust A Move (cover version, not Young MC)
  • Light My Fire (the Doors)
  • Driving In My Car (the Specials)
  • Oh Yeah (Yello) — made famous by the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  • Sweet Child o’ Mine (Guns N’ Roses)
  • House of Fun (the Specials)
  • 99 Luftballons (Nena)
  • Black Betty (Ram Jam)
  • Sweet Dreams (Eurythmics)
  • All That She Wants (Ace of Base)
  • Back To Life (Soul II Soul)
  • Smooth Criminal (Michael Jackson)
  • Solitary Brother (George Michael)
  • Don’t Go (Yaz)
  • Some Vanilla Ice Crap
  • Everybody Dance Now (C+C Music Factory)
  • Check It Out (Beastie Boys)
  • Rush (Big Audio Dynamite)
  • Jailhouse Rock (cover version of the Elvis classic)
  • Rock n’ Roll (Led Zeppelin)
  • C’est La Vie (Chuck Berry)
  • Papa Loves Mambo (Dean Martin)
  • Enter Sandman (Metallica)
  • Smooth Criminal (again, MJ)
  • Peace Frog (the Doors)
  • Bring Down the Birds (Herbie Hancock, made famous again by Deee-Lite)
  • Blue Moon (the Marcels?)
  • Bad (more MJ)
  • Pump Up the Jam (Technotronic)
  • Louie Louie (the Kingsmen)
  • Wild Thing (the Troggs)
  • Sesame Street theme
  • Ghost Busters (Ray Parker Jr.)
  • Insane in the Membrane (Cypress Hill again)
  • Power of Love (Huey Lewis and the News)
  • Ice Ice Baby (more freakin’ Vanilla Ice)
  • Everybody Needs Somebody to Love (Blues Brothers)
  • Oye Como Va (Santana)
  • Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough (even more MJ)
  • Check It Out (Beastie Boys again)
  • What’s the banjo stuff in there?
  • Purple Haze (cover of the Jimi Hendrix version)
  • Foxy Lady (Jimi Hendrix)
  • Walking in Memphis (Mark Cohen)
  • Manamana (fuzzy, shaggy muppet and backup muppet cows)

We’ll be adding to this list as we make our way through this song.

Curried Lentil Stew

Found this one here. I’m calling it stew instead of soup because almost ALL the liquid cooked off. I also made a couple of small adjustments.

1 tablespoon oil
1 cup chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons curry powder
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 can stewed chopped tomatoes
2 cups lentils, uncooked and well rinsed
11/2 cup carrots, finely chopped
1/2 cup red wine (optional – we didn’t use it and it still tastes great)
1 cup parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste (I don’t think you need to add the salt if you’re using prepared broth)

In large saucepan, heat oil; sauté onion and garlic until soft. Stir in curry powder; sauté 1 minute. Add broth, water, tomatoes, lentils, carrots and wine. Simmer, uncovered until lentils are cooked, about 45 minutes.

Stir in parsley; simmer 5 minutes.