Two Scowls

At an overnight, off-site workshop this week several things annoyed me.

Scowl #1 — don’t blow my cover, jerk.

I get along well with most of my work peeps, but at dinner I got trapped sitting across from someone I already know too well, but in the spirit of cooperation and not reconciliation, I decided to hope for the best. And there was also a loner guy from…Berlin, I think…someone who arrived late and had to sit next to…you guessed it…me. “Swell,” I thought to myself. “Let’s see how long I can ‘pass’ among a fellow non-Bavarian.” As it does among people who don’t really want to talk to each other, the conversation quickly turned to travel. It seemed the jelly donut was lamenting an upcoming business trip to the U.S.A.

Jerkydude across from me:

Oh, hey, make sure you have enough U.S. cash on you so they’ll let you into the country! How much is he going to need, Cliff?

I could tell the jig was up — no chance at going unnoticed now. I decided to bite and draw him out.

Why the heck are you asking me?

And he came back with

Well, you’re the American among us, you should kn…

And I cut him off with

Hallo! I get in for free. You should ask someone they charge!

I am pretty sure he felt like he needed to inform my mark of my nation of origin, thereby blowing my cover. He does stuff like that — calling attention to things that others prefer not to highlight, and not just around me (but we share an office, so I’m a frequent target).

Scowl #2 — don’t belittle me for not knowing your names for imported entertainment

Some Germans at our table decided they wanted to teach our resident Mexican and visting Romanians how to play Watten, a card game. The game requires an old German deck (click this link to see the four suits) and I didn’t know what an Eichel was in German, and they didn’t know in English.


It’s the small fruit of an oak tree, you know, what Ahörnchen and Behörnchen are always trying to collect.




You mean you don’t know Ahörnchen and Behörnchen!? They’re American! Dissnay trick film!

Me, figuring it out:

Oh, OK. I get it. The chipmunks. Right. Their names in English are Chip and Dale.

Jerkydude, pantomiming dance moves:

Woo-hoo! Chippendales! Oh yeah, baby! Can you believe that’s what they’re called in America?


You seem like a big fan. How much have you spent on tickets over the years?

Jerkydude, just realizing he’s stepped in it:

What? I’ve never seen them. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like that.

Jelly Donut to me, perhaps inspired by Herky Jerky:

There was a movie about regular guys who did that, have you seen that one?

Me, unsure where this is going:

Uh, maybe?

Jelly Donut:

Yeah, you know — the miners who needed the money after getting laid off.

Me, relieved:

Oh wait, yeah. That sounds familiar. What was that called? It was set in…uh…[voice-over voice]Sheffield — City on the Move! I thought it was cute. But what was it called? Oh, “The Full Monty.” Yes.

Jelly Donut:

I don’t think so.

OK, never mind.

Burn After Reading [the] Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Sarah and I just watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I know, I know, Welcome to 2004! Well, better late than never. Actually, we bought the movie on a whim at an HMV in Ireland at a drastically reduced price. Shades of Being John Malkovich*and 12 Monkeys make it intriguing and more than a little creepy at times — but in a really emotionally engaging way. So, yeah — don’t ever erase someone who cares about you from your mind; it’s pretty much the cruelest thing I can think of.

Earlier this week, we hit the movie theater for the latest Coen Brothers flick Burn After Reading. Maybe I’m going soft in my old age, but that one didn’t sit nearly as well with me as Fargo or The Big Lebowski.* It just didn’t seem as clever, relying much more on screamed curse words and lame sex and adultery themes for the entertainment. Even the Brad Pitt character was funny but vapid — and mostly just vapid. I don’t know, maybe I’m getting crotchety, but I expected more of them.

Indiana “Goonie” Jones and the Kingdom of Dr Pepper

Good news and bad news.

A colleague visiting from the U.S. brought us two twelve-packs — one each of Dr Pepper and Mug Root Beer. How cool is that? I’m having a cold Dr Pepper right now. It’s the first one in I don’t know how long. And it’s not even a fountain drink from one of the local Subway restaurants (you can get Barq’s there, but the mix is usually off). Given that we even dilute fruit juice with fizzy water to make Schorles, a full-strength cold Dr Pepper is knocking my socks off.

But that’s not the only of my senses to be teased with a twist of Americana this evening. We just got back from an OV* showing of the most recent (last? please?) installment of the Indiana Jones movie series.


There, got that done. OK, ok…it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared, but it wasn’t as good as I’d dared hope. I think I liked it better when it was about pirates, not conquistadors, and the Fratellis were chasing the protagonists instead of the Russians. And yeah, I know both movies were Spielberg vehicles. That’s why there was a smart-aleck kid constantly combing his hair in both.

Oh, and remember that wacked-out Act III of AI? It’s here, too.

Liberal rant, part two

Concerned readers might think me about ready to turn in my passport and apply for citizenship over here, given my post from a couple weeks ago and now this. Rest assured, I’m not even close to that. I’m quite happy to carry U.S. citizenship and nevertheless reap the benefits of Western European residence.

Our pal Sara in KC got me a copy of the Michael Moore movie “Sicko” as a get-well-soon present dating back to my gall bladder removal in November. This weekend, we finally got around to watching it. It was quite thought-provoking.

I’m realizing I’ve had it pretty easy so far:

  1. a hernia shortly after birth (early heavy lifting?)
  2. another one around age 12 or 13
  3. an appendectomy at 13 or 14
  4. a pretty serious (for the car, not for its contents) car accident as a young driver
  5. a couple of stitches-causing lacerations (only one of which involved a chain saw)
  6. the aforementioned gall bladder removal with apparently no lasting side effects
  7. and, knock on wood, no firearms accidents to date

I chalk this good fortune up to

  • parents who insured the family
  • a little prudence on my part (I try to eat balanced meals, be careful with my shotgun, and not drive like a jerk)
  • a huge amount of luck

What’s luck got to do with it? Well, the country I was born in was a first world country. That ups my odds of living a long and healthy life a fair amount right there — and I definitely had nothing to do with that.

But what about people who don’t have insurance? You can’t really attribute that to bad luck — unless they can’t get health insurance due to pre-existing conditions beyond their control (bad genes? flowerpot fell on your head from 10 stories up?). Or worse, pre-existing conditions they developed in the service of others. I’m thinking here specifically about the 9/11 rescue workers featured in “Sicko.”

I know the movie is intended to manipulate the viewer’s emotions (I got misty more than once) and hey, it’s coming from Michael Moore, so it’s probably at least as “fair and balanced” as Fox News is, but still…some points in the movie really hit home with me. I jotted down some quotes from the movie for those who haven’t seen it.

A random young-looking woman in a Canadian hospital waiting-room:

“We know in America people pay for their healthcare, but I guess we don’t undrestand that, ’cause we don’t have to deal with that. We don’t understand that concept.”

Michael Moore, on the phenomenon of socialized-this but not socialized-that:

“I kind of like having a police department and fire department and the library. And I got to wondering, why don’t we have more of these free, socialized things, like health care?”Jennifer Government

Note: if you think you could live with privatized law-enforcement, et cetera, read Max Barry’s Jennifer Government.

A lot stuff this codgy old British guy was saying in the movie was resonating with me — especially the bits in the special features section of the DVD. So we looked him up; he’s a total pinko-socialist-commie type.

Tony Benn, former member of British Parliament on his government’s enlightenment in the face of pre- and post-war economic conditions in Britain:

“If you can have full employment by killing Germans, why can’t you have it by building hospitals, schools, recruiting nurses and teachers? If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people.”

More Tony Benn:

“Because if you have power, you use it to meet the needs of your community. And this idea of choice, which capital talks about, “you’ve got to have a choice,” choice depends on the freedom to choose. If you’re shackled with debt, you don’t have a freedom to choose. People in debt become hopeless, and hopeless people don’t vote. They always say, everyone should vote, but I think if the poor in Britain or the United States voted for the people who represented their interests, it would be a real democratic revolution. So they don’t want it to happen. So keeping people hopeless and pessimistic. See, I think there are two ways in which people are controlled. First of all, frighten them, and secondly, demoralize them. An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern.”

Maybe a little commie-pinko-socialism wouldn’t be so bad; at least for the bottom 92% (by income) of the U.S. population. And for the top 8%? I bet they’d still do just fine, don’t you?

Local peeps: let us know if you want to borrow our copy of the DVD so we can discuss.


Last night we saw Ocean’s 13 at the Cinemaxx movie theater here in Regensburg with Rainer and Christina and Matthias. It was not as good as I’d hoped, but better than I’d feared.

As noted on Tammy’s blog, X-Men III was a big let-down.

So far, I’ve seen only 1.5 movies this summer that were not sequels (out of the roughly four total — that’s a lot of movies for me), and they were either so weird or bad that it was painful to watch:

+ die Legende von Paul und Paula
+ The Brothers Grimm

“Die Legende” was a suggestion from Rainer and Christina…sorry guys — I just couldn’t get behind that one. Maybe I am just lacking a certain *je ne sais quoi*. “Grimm” was just dumb.

Tomorrow begins Part V of my continuing saga of voyages to Iasi, Romania. I’m taking my camera with me; it’ll be the first time it travels with us. Maybe (but I doubt it) I’ll be able to get some shots of Iasi by daylight.

U.S.A.: Monarch-free for 231 years and counting…at least on paper. Happy 4th of July!

you all have probably already seen this movie…

…but if you haven’t, go see Dream Girls. Sarah and Matthias and I saw it tonight in English at the Cinemaxx (no, not Skinnamax) here in town, since on Monday nights they sometimes show original language movies. Great performances by Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy, more or less as we expected, but we were really wowed by Anika Nomi Rose and Jennifer Hudson. Fantastic show — really moving storyline. The Detroitiness was kind of touching, too.

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 “” 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.

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