how did I get so grumpy?

As previously noted (and probably experienced by anyone with a job), coming back to work after a week of vacation can be pretty miserable. Wednesday through Friday of this week has just been awful. I’ve done my best to work through my pile of crap in my inbox, but it seems like if I’m not there to immediately shoo away those colleagues who think I can/should do their jobs for them, they’ll happily wait for me to get back or try to get someone else in my group to do it for them.

The consequence of this is that I have been extremely bitchy this week at work. I have been snappish and cyncial to those I share an office and boss with, and I downright exploded at my internal customers in an email when it appeared they lost all concept of what is their job and what is my job.

I don’t like being that way. I enjoy my job as long as no one is fighting about whose job it is to do what — but too often my daily time at work is spent playing referee between different departments who are both trying desperately to make sure that they are not doing one ounce of effort more than the minimum and push their tasks off onto anyone else but themselves.

But even while my dad was I here it seemed like I was crabbier than necessary. Do I have a chemical imbalance, or was that maybe the cumulative effect of working continuously from the beginning of December (barring Christmas week) through to the middle of March?* Will I ever be able to return to a non-European working environment? And how do I (re-)gain any ability to buck up, take work crap in stride, and not let it alter my personality? Or (and this is even worse) *is* this my personality (now)?

Yikes.

couple random thoughts to share

Man, coming back to work after taking more than a week off is painful. I’ve got lots of interesting stuff to do, but honestly, there’s too much of it. I can already see I’ll be spending much of my weekend working from home. But it’ll be for a pet project of mine, and one that is long overdue and finally getting the attention that it deserves.

For those of you have visited us and had the pleasure of a dinner at Exil, we’ve been working on this little project for you…ok, and for us. After several attempts, we’ve gotten pretty good at replicating their awesome feta-and-spinach side dish. Sarah did all the work on this one. Here’s our best guess at it:

Spinach and Feta sidedish

Hey Kraig and Margo: thanks for the emails out of the blue this week on the same day!

Assorted stuff I/we got (back) this week:

1. My replacement driver’s license from when I lost it.

2. Blue pants from when that little ankle biter…well, you know.* Thanks to my parents for those and all the other things Dad brought with him on his trip.

3. My bike from a new (to me) repair shop, which is not Stadler, after I somehow managed to blow out an axle a couple of weeks ago.

4. Permission for me and Sarah to stay and live here another year. Good thing we got some extra pages inserted into our passports. We really needed them.

Too bad it’s not already Friday night. I could use one of those famous Friday Night Naps of mine.

Spinach and Feta sidedish

I finally did it! Everyone that’s come to visit us has eaten with us at Exil, our favorite restaurant. They serve a fabulous spinach as a side or as a filling for little turkey rolls. I think I’ve finally come close enough to recreating it to post it here. If you don’t like feta, you might be able to substitute yogurt cheese.

1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 T olive oil
2 pounds fresh spinach, rinsed and chopped
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground mace
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 c crumbled feta cheese

In a deep skillet over medium-low heat, sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil for about 7-9 minutes (or until tender). Don’t burn the garlic! If it starts to brown, turn down the heat.

Next, add the spinach by handfuls. There will be a lot of spinach, but if you only add 2-3 handfuls at a time and cook it with a lid on for 1-2 minutes, it will wilt significantly.

After you’ve added all the spinach and it has all wilted, add the salt, pepper, mace and pepper flakes and stir thoroughly. The spinach will start to give off a fair amount of liquid. Turn the heat up to medium-high to cook away the liquid. When you’ve cooked off as much liquid as you choose, stir in the feta and turn off the heat.

Serves 4

Got our Alps on

My dad left this morning from Munich on his way back home via Amsterdam. We had a swell time showing him around Regensburg and Munich (particularly the Deutsches Museum, where he got to see close up some aerial warfare stuff he’d never seen or heard of before) and then taking him skiing in Austria. We thought the weather would prevent any decent skiing, given the high temperatures both in the lowlands and high lands, but boy were we wrong. The pictures speak for themselves.

Below are my favorite pictures from his trip. You can click any of these for a bigger view and/or to browse around the rest of the images from this trip.

Regensburg


Munich


Zell am See / Kaprun

Dad’s here, so are some bigwigs (soon)

Picked my dad up from the airport this morning. He got in just fine, and I found him right away at the airport and we managed to be right on time for the bus to Freising to catch our train back to Regensburg.

He’s taking a short nap right now before we head out for a stroll in some glorious Spring weather. I wonder if this Spring weather is really a good thing or a bad thing though (and I’m not just talking about our ski trip to the Vital-Family-Landgasthof Stadt Wien later this week). I’m talking about “climate change” which seems to be the new euphemism for “global warming” which was perhaps the euphemism for “we’ve been shooting ourselves and everything around us in the foot.”

Petition To World Leaders: Climate change is the greatest threat facing our world today – and we are almost out of time to stop it. You must tackle this problem now, decisively and together. Start working toward a new global agreement this year. Set binding global targets for emissions to avert catastrophic climate change. Take bold action immediately – and we will join our efforts with yours.

I signed a petition today asking for the G8 participants later this week in Germany to take the actions noted above. You can do so too, just by clicking this link and filling out a very short form. It sounded like a good idea to me. We’re not asking for drastic changes to each and every consumer’s lifestyle on the planet — we’re just asking for cooperation between major economic powers to get started on making a difference.

Firm dates for December 2007

Just got off the phone with cheaptickets.com after spending half an evening trying to get tickets booked through their website (which kept promising fares we’d seen on kayak.com but always threw an error at us every time we tried to commit and purchase…hate that), and getting frustrated, and taking their suggestion and calling them. It was still a 45-minute phone call. And we ended up paying more than what we’d been led to believe was the best possible price. Hate that too.

That’s going to be a lot of self-bubbled water I’m going to have to drink to compensate.

Anyhoo, here’s the agenda:

– Nov. 30: fly into Detroit
– Dec. 1: Bribe my dad to take us back to the airport a mere 10 hours after flying in and depart for Puerto Vallarta, meet up with Brian and Mikey who amazingly, after a very annoying trip to Italy, are still up for travel with us!
– Dec. 9: Head back to Detroit
– Dec. 15: Carolyn and Max get married
– Dec. 17: Head back to Regensburg to catch the end of the Christmas market season

Check out our calendar if you need to see it graphically to make sense of it.

Follow-up to the Sprudler post

I’d rather fizzle out than just go flatTammy wanted to see my math on the Sprudler we bought yesterday. Really saving money on fizzy water will definitely keep me in the clear, if you know what I mean: I’ll have to consume 5300 L of water bubbled with my Sprudler before it starts to become cheaper than buying bottled fizzy water. Click on the image at the left to see the results in graph form. There are some basic assumptions at work here:

– When I’m bubbling my own water, I assume my employer will pay for it. If I had to pay for my own water costs as well, it would take **much** longer for the Sprudler to pay for itself.

– The cost of schlepping 1½ L bottles on my bike to work (filled) and from work (empty) is not factored in here at all. Nor is the the cost of time spent shopping for the water or returning the empties for the whopping 0,25 € deposit per bottle.

– I **am** factoring in the cost of purchasing the device and one cylinder of CO2 good for 60 L of moderate carbonation, and refilling that cylinder every 60 L of water consumed. But all this math is based on the assumption that my Sprudler is going to bubble me up 5300 L (or more) of water without incurring any further equipment costs (i.e., replacement, because the whole thing does seem rather flimsily constructed). However, I have not counted the costs of replacing the Sprudel containers — the instructions state that they are to be replaced by April 2009 (probably because they’ll eventually weaken after years of containing carbonated water).

I drink by my estimates about 18¾ L of water per week at the office (between 3 and 4½ L per business day depending on whether I go to the gym in the morning before work and/or how much I lose through my pores during my morning commute in).

5300 / 18¾ = 282⅔ weeks

…or about 6½ years (remember, I only work 44 weeks a year!). So, if this were an exercise in cheapness, I’d call it a long-term cost reduction measure at best.

you know it’s Spring time in Regensburg…

…when you’re greeted by street musicians at every turn.

Last night, on my way home from work, I got two accordion virtuosos within a half a block of each other and there was a special aural treat this morning after a leisurely breakfast with Tammy and Matthias at Kaminski . First we bought a Sprudler (check out step 4, “how to get busy with the fizzy“) to prevent thirst at work (now that my office is no longer near a supermarket) and then we came home to play with it. Then we got an earful of this:

[audio:spreadinthenews.mp3]

Fortunately, I had Sarah’s MD recorder handy to record some local brass band’s first outdoor concert out on Gutenbergplatz.

I am on vacation — why doesn’t my brain know this?

It’s about 5:30 on a Saturday morning, which is the first day of my first vacation since Carolyn and Max came to visit around Thanksgiving. I just woke up from a bad dream about work.

I was explaining to my boss that what he wanted from me was not practical or feasible. But he wanted it anyway. By Monday. And then he said

Also tun Sie es.

In other words, “Just do it.

But here’s the worst part — I lost the “Du!” I am the only one in my group of 6 employees with the informal address privilege with my boss. I “won” it before I transferred into his group. I have mixed feelings about it. I don’t mind being on a “Du-basis” with anyone, really, but I do think it’s rude to just assume someone is duzen*-worthy. I like an explicit agreement between parties before we drop the pretention* and resort to first names and informal address. It’s a little weird to be the only one singled-out for the Du-privilege in my group. It makes me special. Some might think “great, special, like someone with a closer relationship with the boss,” but more often I feel it’s more like “special needs” special. Given that all children and housepets get the Du-privilege automatically, it doesn’t feel to me like I’ve won anything.

I have been under a fair amount of stress lately. My guys in Romania are working out quite well and I am confident in their abilities to handle their daily business while I am on vacation over the next 8 days or so. But suddenly, where I had one or two lower-priority side projects on back burners last year, I now have 4 projects of varying priority, some of which I am leading and others where I am the special guest star.

They are starting to pile up right as I head into vacation. I have a feeling that, should we find snow in Austria (and it looks more promising than we’d thought), I’ll be writing code in my head on the lifts. Or maybe doing a conference call on that wicked new phone the company got me.