everyone else is doing it, and may I interest you in some replica watches?

Anyone know who Liz Allen is? I don’t. She, or the nefarious spammer robot hackery person behind her programming wants me to be her friend on Facebook, I guess.* But I think Facebook really wants me to be her friend — and others’ — on Facebook.

facebook_peer_pressureThere are a few names on the peer pressure org chart shown here I know well, a few I recognize but have only had limited contact with via email, and a few that are complete mysteries to me. I guess it’s not a problem that these people all have my email address. I mean, I gave it to them (at least the ones I recognize). I don’t even really have a problem with people letting services like Facebook and flickr and dopplr and many others mine their contacts from other services. Indeed, I have done that on occasion as well (like when I finally caved and joined LinkedIn a few months ago — still scratching my head on that one).

But what’s the result of that? Through replication, eventually my email address and relationship to users allowing this sort of contact mining is known to organizations with which I (at least initially) wanted nothing to do, all over the big cloud of replicated contact lists. And if these services become vulnerable to manipulation, as apparently was the case here, is that a problem? I keep looking for the harm here, because something seems extra creepy about a spammy email message with pictures of people I know in it, but I can’t find anything more harmful than yet another kind of spam to watch for in my email.

Besides, were I to cave in and become a Facebook user, what is the risk of becoming Liz Allen’s friend? Or what does the hackery person get out of me becoming Liz Allen’s friend, anyway? Is there a hope that I will become her friend and then lend “her” money for her uncle, the deposed West African nobleman? Visit “her” website and get tricked into divulging my bank details or downloading a trojan horse? I guess if just a handful of the thousands of Liz Allen’s potential new friends fall prey to that sort of thing, it’s a big payoff to “her.”

*Liz, if you are a real person, drop me more than a line via my email address, which you obviously already know, and remind me why I should recognize your name and/or picture. I assume, however, from your terse “personal message” as part of the Facebook invitation you sent me, that this plea will fall on deactivated audio sensors.


Travel Deals 29.04.2010

The financial crisis seems to be easing its chokehold on the travel industry, but there are still opportunities to save a little.

Starwood Properties in Europe on Sale
Starwood Hotels include Westin, Sheraton and Le Meridien (and several others), in addition to several one-off properties. CheapTickets is offering a variety of savings on hotels in large European cities. CheapTickets can be a little tricky to navigate, so take some time to fiddle around with it. Book by May 23, 2010, or until supplies last. Seriously, some of the properties have already sold out.

New Routes on Air Berlin for Summer
Air Berlin has added a handful of new destinations to their already shockingly comprehensive European coverage. Oddly enough, this includes a route to San Francisco! As per usual with Air Berlin, you have to search a little for the best fares and each leg of the journey is priced separately.

That’s all I’ve got this time. If you know of any interesting offers, please leave them in the comments!

Not Eating Out in New York » Win the How To Cook Everything iPhone App (and a conversation with Mark Bittman)

How to Cook Everything appHow to Cook Everything appHow to Cook Everything app

Not Eating Out in New York » Win the How To Cook Everything iPhone App (and a conversation with Mark Bittman).

I read this blog (linked above) mostly for a little inspiration — a lot of the stuff is hard for us to get/make, or involves ingredients I don’t particularly like (think squash). But today I saw an entry from the author referencing another foodie dude I read — Mark Bittman — and a new iPhone/iPod Touch app he’s published in the store.

This app, entitled (like his book) “How to Cook Everything,” is awesome. For an app from a “minimalist,” it sure is feature- and content-rich. You get the entire contents of the book, which has been on my Wish List for a long time (but no more), plus swell search options, built in timers (when you hit that part of the recipe instructions to let something sit for x minutes, there’s a built-in timer right there for you to use and modify if necessary), and a really nifty grocery shopping list.

All this for a measly €1,59 — so I snapped it up immediately.

WEBMU 2010 Location Discussion Closing Soon!

Thinking about attending the Meetup this year? Did you want to propose your city or region as a site or yourself as a host? Better get on the stick, then! The thread discussing proposals for locations will close this weekend and go to polling.

Not a member of the board? If you have an English-language blog and live in Germany, you’re eligible for membership. Follow the link and apply for a login – an administrator will grant you access soon (provided you’re not a robot).

Pass the Peas, like we used to say

Last night, our Budapest travel buddy Monet accompanied us to the Alte Mälzerei for the Fred Wesley and the New JBs show there. This was our first time in the Alte Mälzerei, but I daresay it won’t be our last. Nice little venue; we chose some standing room space across the room from the stage for the night and it felt pretty intimate.

The band came in one member at time, starting with the bassist, pretty much on time at just before or after nine o’clock, to the bass line of Herbie Hancock’s Chameleon and built up from there. They played most of the stuff I’d hoped for, plus some I hadn’t. A couple times they got a little too experimentally jazzy for our tastes, but I think they had a sense that the audience was there for the funk, so they brought it back around to groovy stuff right after that each time. It was a good show.

Here’s about six minutes of awesome music in crappy quality:

WEBMU 2010: Phase 1 Complete

The planning for our annual Whiny Expat Blogger Meetup (a.k.a. the Whiny Expat Blogger Unmissable Meetup) is coming along nicely. We have democratically decided to choose a venue for this year’s event before nailing down a weekend. The next step is to discuss amongst ourselves the pros and cons of meetup city candidates. This is all happening on our discussion board at http://www.expatbloggersingermany.com/meetup/ — so if you’re an expatriate English-language blogger located in Germany,

  1. sign up on our board, and
  2. participate in the discussion and planning, and
  3. have fun putting faces and voices to the words you read on the screen once the meetup season is upon us.

Two administrative things to note:

  1. New user signups are processed manually by real people (of which I am one). Before approving your membership on the discussion board, we need to look at your blog and make a subjective snap decision whether you appear to be psychotic, robotic, or otherwise unacceptable. So you have to tell us your blog’s internet address. Also, you have to state your location in Germany. If something’s unclear in your membership request, I’ll email you about it. If you look like a robot or don’t respond to my emailed requests for clarification, you don’t get membership on the board. Just so you know.
  2. This second bit applies more to existing members. I am rolling out two enhancements to the code behind the polls on the board tomorrow, Sunday, April 11th, around noon.
    1. Poll results will show your username and how you voted. Note well: past polls will show your username and how you voted, too.
    2. You will be able to change your vote up until the poll closes.

    Why is this important? Sometimes your opinion or situation changes. Or you forget how you voted. Since polls were more or less anonymous, and changing your vote was impossible, these polls were less than ideal for event medium-sized group planning purposes.

Read you on the board, and see you later this year at WEBMU 2010!

Dutch Adventure

It’s been quiet around here for over ten days, but we’ve been busy exploring new places. Namely, the Netherlands. I’d been there with my host family more than a few weekends during my exchange year 1992-93, but this was my first trip since then and Sarah’s very first.

The itinerary in brief:

  1. Depart Regensburg via rental car, arrive Heidelberg ≤ 3 hours later, eat and sleep there, pick up pals
  2. P4021031Stroll around the Heidelberg castle grounds in anticipation of a long car trip
  3. P4031052 SDC10229Take every opportunity to marvel at Dutch language starting around Venlo
  4. Arrive in the Hague, mistake a random Dutch pedestrian for our rental apartment contact person, check in
  5. Seek out exotic cuisine thanks to Dutch colonialism, then crash out
  6. P4031058 P4031096Delve into Delft, get a good look at Gouda
  7. P4041102 P4041190Do the spring ritual thing on Easter Sunday at the Keukenhof gardens, get Pannekoeken by the sea in Noordwijk, look a big pile of Balkan meats right in the eye
  8. Drive down to Antwerpen for a local’s tour and perspective (thanks Marie and Neil!) and scrounge at the apartment that evening for dinner
  9. P4061206 P4061233Last chance before departure day: Kinderdijk windmill site, Rotterdam for lunch, Zoutelande for the evening coffee break, drive back to Hague before the grocery stores all close to stock up on Stroopwafels
  10. SDC10230Head back to Heidelberg (down the other side of the Rhine this time) with a lunch stop in Maastricht (check out that weird red tower!), drop off the Heidelbergers in the town named for them, return home to Regensburg, unload, tank up, drop off, walk home

It was a great trip. Here’s the route we took, more or less.

View Larger Map

Here are the slideshows:
Gouda & Delft:

Keukenhof flower gardens:

Kinderdijk Windmills:

Chicken Salad Wraps

I love wrap sandwiches. When we’re anywhere with a Marks & Spencer food hall, I live on the things (mostly because those happen to be in England and it’s hella expensive there). So I wanted to try making my own. Here’s my first iteration – we enjoyed the results!

1 lb cooled poached chicken, chopped or shredded
2 large heads romaine lettuce, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, finely diced
1 large bunch cilantro, chopped (about 1/3 c)
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 small tomatoes, chopped
1/2 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped

1/2 c olive oil
1/3 c lime juice (I used red wine vinegar instead)
2 small cloves garlic, pressed
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp chile powder

Large tortillas or lahvosh bread

Combine all salad ingredients in a bowl. Whisk together dressing and toss with salad. Spread desired toppings in a thin layer on a tortilla (sour cream, cheese, sliced avocado, etc.) and top with salad. This should be enough for 6 large wraps.