Partly due to some New Year’s resolutions, and partly due to some personal goals related to our upcoming travels, and partly just because it’s good for us, we joined a gym today. Our pals Tammy and Matthias have been members there for a while and they gave us a much better orientation at Fitness Company than the staff there did (thanks guys!). It reminds a heckuva lot of Lifetime Fitness in Troy/Macomb Twp. We figure that, combined with our weekly yoga classes, might actually yield some visible results sometime…if not in time for our big Easter trip, then maybe our formalwear sizes in October will have dropped a number or two.
There are some things here at Fitness Company that differ greatly from my experiences at Lifetime Fitness, though:
The sauna. I don’t have a lot of sauna experience under my belt (for various reasons, not the least of which is that you don’t wear clothes in the sauna), so it was hard for me to judge objectively. But doesn’t 90° C (yes, that’s Celsius, people!) seem a little close to the boiling point of the substance that comprises about 70% of my body by mass?
I figure even in the U.S. most sauna-users take a shower afterwards. But is there a big ol’ waterfall of cold water in which to do it, too? Nothing like that following a session under the conditions mentioned above to shock the system.
Nudity. Even in the somewhat limited envelope of cultural privacy in the U.S., I was pretty much OK with same-sex lockerroom nudity. Having been through a gym class or two in the Michigan public school system and then my membership at Lifetime Fitness prepared me for that. But I’ve never taken a shower with my friends before, especially after spending 15 minutes purging my pores with them as described in point #1 above. Maybe it just worked out alright because they’re from California. Either way, not as big a deal as I’d imagined it.
After all the physical (and for me, somewhat emotional) tension of the above points, Fitness Company offers a Ruheraum — a sort of an indoor deck where you just chill out after that ice water cascade. I gotta remember to bring a book with me tomorrow when we head back.
I can see how you can easily spend a couple hours there every day — circuit training on the weights machines, elliptical/treadmill/recumbent bike cardio stuff, and then a sauna/chill-out session or two can add up quickly. The real bummer versus Lifetime Fitness that I can see immediately is that they’re not open 24 hours, making it harder for us to work a gym date into our schedules. They open at 7:00 a.m. three days a week, but I used to love arriving at Lifetime at 5:15 (both of those times).
This was one of the few sunny days we’ve had this winter on a weekend, so we decided to head out for a cup of coffee with our pal Axel and take some snapshots. We missed most of the sun unfortunately (living this far north means the window for good daylight pictures is pretty tight), so these are the only ones worth showing.
A couple nights ago, on my way home from work, I noticed a banner on a shiny new store front. They were advertising DVD rentals with 24-hour access. 24-hour anything is unheard-of in Regensburg — I mean, you can’t even shop on Sundays or holidays (like today, which is why I’m here, now, writing this). So I had to check it out.
It turned out to be Cinebank. I told Sarah about it and we were both intrigued. Yesterday, after taking the rest of the afternoon off and coming home for a nice nap, we decided to check it out. It’s not only 24-hour and automated, but also pre-paid – like that a lot. Here’s the best part: a DVD rental for 6 hours or less only costs €1. Since the joint is so close to us (20 minute walk, max) and open around the clock for rentals and returns, we have no reason to rent a movie for more than 6 hours.
So to get things rolling, we forked over the measly sign-up fee and put some cash our on our new membership cards and rented Punch-Drunk Love, which we enjoyed immensely. It was an eck sellent feelm. One of the best things about it was the score.
First off: Narg and [Carrie](http://www.amoebastar.net “really cool chick whom we really don’t know very well but instantly agreed is perfect for Ye Olde Nargge”) are getting married! See her blog for details. That is excellent.
Secondly: we know it’s barely January, but maybe we’ll be back in town for a visit to the Detroit area this Fall — possibly in connection with the event mentioned above; possibly in connection with Thanksgiving; possibly in connection with Yours Truly hitting the three-decade mark. We’ll see.
Thirdly (O.K., that’s getting old): I think I’m liking [Flickr](http://www.flickr.com “a photo-sharing site that seems pretty cool, so far”). (http://www.nearlyfreespeech.net “pay for only what you use!”) is hosting my blog (thanks for reading, by the way) and I like their pricing option (they only offer one) and the flexibility they offer. I can squeeze even more mileage out of them if I let Flickr do my image hosting, and that’s working well for me. I am interested in your experiences about other image-hosting sites though. I generally don’t like the ones that make you sign up in order to peruse someone’s vacation album…I like that Flickr doesn’t make browsers join just to look. I also like that static URLs are available for permanent linking and that multiple sizes of the image I uploaded are available constantly. I don’t quite like them enough (yet) to *pay* for their service, but almost. Until then, the free hosting is working just fine, thanks.
Thanks to many of you for asking, but Sarah’s German test results haven’t come back yet. They predicted a 6-8 week delay between taking the final segment of the test and receiving the results by mail. It would be great if she got positive results back and those allowed her to get a sweet gig here locally somewhere, but on the other hand, we have a hard time using all of my vacation time up as it is. [Sound the segue alarm!]
Check this out: I get 30 days off per year. Yes, that’s *six* five-day work weeks off per year, **in addition** to the *twelve* [Bavarian state holidays](http://www.stmi.bayern.de/buerger/staat/feiertage/ “official holiday listing for Bavaria”) on which the building I work in is locked, preventing me from working. They are:
January 1 — New Year’s Day
January 6 — Epiphany
May 1 — Labor Day
October 3 — Reunification Day
November 1 — All Saints’ Day
December 25 — First Day of Christmas
December 26 — Second Day of Christmas
That is a whopping **42** days off per year. I get paid *more* for the time I’m not at work. And If I do really well in my job and get recognized for it I may end up with *less* time off, not more. And if my paygrade shift lands exactly the wrong way, I might end up making less money, not more with the promotion. Kinda motivates me to stay right here, right where I am in snuggly ol’ Regensburg. No sirree, let’s not promote ol’ Cliff.
The seriously wacky part of this whole equation is that with every plant closing up shop in Western Europe, every business shifting eastward, every facet of day-to-day business off-shored, the Germans I know seem surprised and indignant that this is happening to them. Some of them are still blaming foreigners — inside Germany and outside — for making Germany work “so hard” at carrying the rest of the EU on its back (“Hello, EU membership is voluntary, unlike the plans some of your Opas had…and besides, what did you think was going to happen? Do you really consider Germany and its [fellow EU member nations](http://europa.eu.int/abc/governments/index_en.htm#members) like oh, I don’t know, *Cypress* economic equals?”). I suppose their vacations on the beaches of Spain, Greece, the Dominican Republic and elsewhere are spent thinking up ways of keeping their jobs in the country they prefer to live in. But it doesn’t seem like that strategy is working well, either.
So, we’re thinking about doing something new and different (for us, anyway) with some of that time this year. Sarah found [this deal](http://static.flickr.com/38/82239952_6e848de034_o.png “Is it too good to be true?”) online which is looking pretty enticing. I am interested in feedback from everyone who has been on a cruise for us first-timers. Big bonus points for those who have been on a cruise outside the Caribbean and have experiences to share.
I only worked a half-day today, but it was a duesy.
This morning the weather was not very conducive to easy commuting by bike into work. There had been substantial snowfall overnight. This wasn’t the stuff that melted as soon as it hit the streets like [the previous snowfall I reported](http://www.regensblog.com/2005/11/21/criminy-its-not-even-thanksgiving-yet/ “first snowfall of the season”), but rather the kind that stays in the form of real snow if it’s on grass or sludgy slush if too many cars run over it. Like a trooper, I stuck it out and left early and made it there a lot faster than most people who tried to arrive at work today in their cars. Traffic problems, accidents, and yes, even German drivers also appear to forget how to drive as soon as those soft, fluffy flakes start gently floating down from above.
I had to bawl out one of the guys on my team at work (let’s call him Mr. X) — whom I consider a service-provider — for (repeated) sloppy workmanship and an especially bad follow-up on root cause tracking yesterday, so I was already feeling a little gunshy when I got into work. However, I thought it couldn’t get worse today than it was yesterday, at the very least because today Sarah and I started our yoga course at the [*Volkshochschule*](http://dict.leo.org/se?lp=ende&p=/Ue0E.&search=Volkshochschule “what does that mean?”) with our good pal and esteemed doctoral physicist [Tammy](http://www7.nationalacademies.org/policyfellows/Fall_2005_Fellows.html “who’s that?”). Yeah, you read right. Our yoga instructor is an astrophysicist — how cool is that? Anyway, I’d asked my boss for the next 9 Friday afternoons or so off so that I could get make at least an honest attempt at keeping my overtime hours in check. That’s when Tammy’s course is offered, so it works out perfectly with my schedule.
Long story made short with regard to the office: one of the guys I work with, let’s call him Mr. W — whom I consider an internal customer of mine — has had it up to here with Mr. X. He dropped a nastygram on the whole team, but we really all knew for whom it was intended. The thing with my job is, I’m the glue that holds together the fragile relationship between my department and the IT department. My department hates to have to talk to IT (and indeed, when they do, stuff invariably goes wrong), and IT doesn’t really like to talk to everyone and their cousin from my department. They’d rather have one contact person (i.e., me). Mr. X and Mr. W have a rocky history between them, and it’s never been good, and every now and then it blows up completely, and they never really heal. Who has to play referee? Who has to go hold everyone’s hand and say “there, there, I know how you feel, with the big, bad, mean Mr. \[X|W\]. He’s just got to learn how to deal with people…” Yeah, that’s right — I get to do that. Whoopitydoo. Now I have meetings with Mr. X’s direct supervisor and that guy’s supervisor to try and do a post-mortem on the whole situation, although the whole situation is relatively clear. If Mr. X and Mr. W refuse to work together, that means we have to have a go-between who takes the specification from the customer and gives it to the engineer. Yeah, I’ve become that paranoid guy from Office Space.
So that whole thing had me in a crappy mood as I flew out of the office in a mad rush to make it all the way across town to get my our yoga class on time. The weather had improved, but the street conditions were actually worse than on the morning trip. But you know what? An hour and a half of controlled breathing and interesting stretches and a little meditation (or at least some quiet time alone with your thoughts) near the end of it really makes a big difference.
That, and [*Glühwein*](http://dict.leo.org/se?lp=ende&p=/Ue0E.&search=Gl%FChwein “what’s that?”). The *Glühwein* (of which there are several interesting varieties) really help the mood a lot. Yesterday, the *Weihnachtsmarkt* (OK, I know you’re getting sick of looking up all those words — it’s the Christmas Market) got going into full swing. At night, the bigger town squares in Regensburg are positively packed with people until about 8 pm when most of the food/*Glühwein* stalls shut down. Here’s what it looks like when empty:
After that, you go find a bar to hang out in. In our case, we met up with Tommy and Natasha and a couple other friends from the VHS (that’s the abbreviation for *Volkshochschule*, for future reference) and had a 1/2-meter sausage (mmm, in a nice crusty baguette with all the condiments you can think of on it, include horseradish), and a couple of mugs of *Glühwein*, before heading off to a little courtyard at [Haus Heuport](http://www.heuport.de/ “fancy-schmancy restaurant right across from the Regensburg Cathedral”) to continue the drinking and snacking. I had a crepe filled with Bailey’s Irish Cream. That was weird, but very good. Sarah described it as sort of a boozy pancake.
Right now, she’s snoring next to me pretty loudly. The poor thing is all worn out from speaking German all day today. That was part of her warm-up phase for the big test tomorrow. Ideally she should be speaking German all day to everyone everyday, but in most cases we’re just too lazy to do it at home, too.
I’m sure she’ll do fine on her test, but I know there is a fair amount of stress involved in it for her. Let’s all wish her [*viel Glück!*](http://dict.leo.org/se?lp=ende&p=/Ue0E.&search=viel+Gl%FCck “what does that mean?”)
Last week on Friday we had some freaky weather — it was sunny, first of all (which was very weird since it feels like we haven’t seen the sun since October), and then dark and cloudy, then rainy, then came big fluffy snowflakes, and then rain again. Just my luck, I was on my bike headed to/from work during both rain sessions.
But I still wasn’t expecting full-on snowy rooves this weekend. I snapped these pictures a couple of minutes ago. I’m hopeful that all this stuff on the tops of the buildings isn’t indicative of the street conditions below. Slush makes for an unpleasant bike ride.
Sarah and I were chowing down in our favorite Kurdish restaurant Exil this evening, where they always seem to have music playing that I like, or at least can tolerate. Tonight, our favorite waitress was working. She’s our favorite because she memorized our drinks and Sarah’s preference for *den Salat [ohne](http://dict.leo.org/se?lp=ende&p=/Ue0E.&search=ohne) [Zwiebeln](http://dict.leo.org/se?lp=ende&p=/Ue0E.&search=Zwiebel), bitte* pretty early, and she occasionally hooks up with free coffee-drinks (*espressi*, *cappucini*, lattés, that sort of thing) — tonight was one of those nights.
Anyhoo, the other dude working tonight, who actually took our order, is the one who asks if we want garlic with our meals, as if it were optional or something. We always say “*na klar!*” to properly convey that we are [*profis*](http://dict.leo.org/se?lp=ende&p=/Ue0E.&search=Profi) when it comes to Exil and garlic in general (the food has been extra tasty every time this happens). This guy seems to have a thing for soul. He was jamming out behind the bar to the likes of Barry White, Aretha Franklin, the Dramatics. And then James Brown’s the Payback came on. That reminded me of the movie of the same name (starring Mel Gibson). My favorite in the movie is when the older, white-haired gangster dude says something along the lines of “$70,000? Is that all? I’ve got *suits* that cost more than that.” I couldn’t remember his name. Fortunately, I’m married to an [imdb.com](http://imdb.com) in human form and she promptly recognized who I was talking about without having seen the movie.
It was James Coburn — one third of the fabled Three Lees (along with more obvious Lees like Lee Marvin and Lee Majors). How could I have forgotten who that was?