Saturday, July 05, 2008

Aftereffects of a trip to Europe

It's now a lot more fun to watch the Rome and Germany scenes from National Lampoon's European Vacation.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Home

After a wonderful (but long) trip on a huge Lufthansa jumbo jet, we arrive at LAX, where we are greeted by our next plane. This plane is anything but jumbo, holding just slightly over 8.3 passengers. And it is loud. Very loud.

If you look out the back of the plane while you are flying, you can see the red line being painted behind you, to show you whence you have come.

Determining the gender of geese

How can you figure out whether a goose is male or female? The male lifts its leg to pee, right? Well, maybe that only works for dogs.


This picture was taken in the city park in Düsseldorf, in case anyone wants to find this particular goose to know for certain its gender.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fun with family, friends and neighbors

Michelle and I have had a couple of very nice evenings with Christian and Anna and their wonderful neighbors. Great food in large quantities, great beer, and some excellent homemade schnapps. At the start of the evening, I understood perhaps five percent of the German that was spoken around me. After drinking the schnapps, I could understand around twenty percent. Amazing stuff.

The warning label on the back of the homemade schnapps means something like: Please take regularly but in moderation. For risks and side effects, ask your doctor or pharmacist.


We also learned that, in Germany, you're never too young to tend the bar. This young lady knew how to coax the perfect glass of beer from the Biermaschine. She has a real gift.


Everyone has been very kind here and understanding about my woeful lack of skill with the German language. I've had a great time.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

New calendar for 2009

And now, as part of the Catholicism Wow! campaign, a new calendar for 2009, featuring the twelve sexiest priests of Holy Rome.


This just seems wrong to me. I don't even want to know the target demographic.

Piazza di Santa Apollonia

There is a small square in our neighborhood called the Piazza di Santa Apollonia, named for Apollonia, an early Christian martyr from Alexandria in Egypt (died in 249 AD). Among other tortures, she had all of her teeth pulled out (without anesthetic). Because of this, she is now the patron saint of dentistry and those suffering from dental problems. We thought it would be appropriate to get a picture of Michelle here.


So if you hear Michelle mumbling under her breath, listen closely. You may hear, "Santa Apollonia, pray for me ..."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Unexpected hotel amenities

On our way to eat tonight, we noticed a quick advertisement for our hotel's Wellness Center and Spa. On the list of possibilities for our relaxation was one that was unexpected but welcome (highlighted below).


I immediately signed up for my cuddle, and agreed that Michelle would get her chance tomorrow. It's like a little island of home in an ocean of strangeness.

Sistine Chapel

As you wander through the maze that leads you to the Sistine Chapel, you are confronted with room after room filled with infamous sacred imagery; that is, more than famous. Most people know the work of Raphael, Michelangelo, and the other Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But there are some sacred relics that are lesser known, yet still quite important, amidst the acres of better-known pope swag.

Imagine my surprise when I walked through an unassuming little door into The Pope Poncho Room.


Or when I discovered the sacred implement that the Holy Father turns to when he simply must have a slice of that New York Cheesecake: The Sacred Pie Knife of Santa Maria Callenderus.


And, when there is a nail sticking out in the Holy Bedchamber that must be made flush, there is only one tool for the job: The Holy Hammer of San Stanley Burrellus.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

St. Peter's Basilica

Michelle and I visited St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City today. We wandered around taking in all the statues and reliefs until we reached overload. All of these works of art tell a story, and present a moral, from which we can learn and grow. One of these masterpieces that stuck with me is shown in the picture to follow. It shows a man, a skull, and a chubby wingéd child holding a miter. I struggled to understand the scene, until a kind man in a cleric's collar translated the Latin inscription for me:

Seest thou this skull? Upon them that toucheth my hat cometh swift vengeance. And take thou thy grubby hands off of my staff.

An exciting Roman game

Because soccer is just not enough, the people here in Rome have other games for locals (and visitors) to play. This is just one of them, called Get the Poop in the Chute. The way it works is this: Place your feet squarely on the convenient grips, squat, aim, and strain. If you do it right, you win clean shoes.


Other fun games include Find the Entrance to the Sistine Chapel and Now Find Your Way Out and Talk the Gypsies out of Taking Your Wallet.

Monday, June 16, 2008

We arrive in Rome

So, we have arrived in Rome, a trip that involved Michelle's first visit to a two star hotel (at the airport in Frankfurt, which was actually very nice), and her discovery of gelato, which she has found that she prefers to, well, everything else on earth. That may be an exaggeration, but only by a little. She told me that she would like to lay around in the hotel all day, and just go out for gelato. So the pictures that you see in the future on this site may be downloaded from the internet.


Here's a picture that Michelle took from one of the old Roman bridges that was built back in 200-something AD. We're looking northwest toward Vatican City.


By the way, apparently Tom Hanks is here in Rome now, filming the movie Angels and Demons. And since he's been banned from filming in any Rome churches, we at least know where he is not.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Overheard in the airport pub

In a pub in the Frankfurt-Hahn airport at dinner tonight, we sat near a table of Irishmen, mid-twenties to mid-thirties, who were drinking and talking about life. They said several quotable things, but all I can remember now is one. But before you read it, try to imagine the words in an Irish accent:

"That's the true measure of a woman: When she can push out a couple of kids and still look fine."

For the children

On our trip to Berlin, we stopped briefly in Potsdam, where we visited the Schloss Sanssouci, the former summer home of Frederick the Great, and current home of many naked statues. Ever the conscientious fathers, Christian and I do our part to protect the children of Potsdam and its many tourists.


Besides, what need do I have of marble goddesses, when I have my own real life goddess here with me?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Back from Berlin

So we're finally back from Berlin. We had a great time with Anna and Christian there, taking in all the sights. We were in a hotel with only one public terminal (that was very slow), so I didn't post anything while we were there. Also, we were very busy.

Anyway, I won't post much tonight, but here's Michelle and a piece of the Berlin wall near Checkpoint Charlie.


If I get a chance, I'll post more about our trip tomorrow. Maybe our hotel in Frankfurt will have an internet connection. We'll see.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Update: Marburg

Apparently, FC United won the match against the Marburg squad, 3-1. When looking on the bright side of life, some days are easier than others (although the next morning may still be quite painful). Thanks to commenter norman brightside for the update.

Michelle arrives

Well, not much to post today. Michelle got here this morning, and we have a month's worth of catching up to do. Have fun, everyone.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Marburg

So I haven't posted for a while. So here's a couple pictures that I took of my visit to Marburg, a German town with a short name that has no umlauts, which makes it a real jewel. Did some window shopping, spent some time looking at postcards in German, with Anna translating some of the more idiomatic phrases, and Christian wishing that we would just hurry up.

Here's a shot up one of the streets. In the picture, there is a group of drunk Englishmen, FC United fans, who all linked arms and sang "Always look on the bright side of life," which perhaps means that FC United lost.


Below is the Marburg mayor's house at the marketplace. We waited for the hour to elapse so that we could see the clock strike the hour with great fanfare.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Haircuts

Today was summer haircut day in the Siegel house, that time of year that thrills little boys' hearts everywhere. You can see the joy on their faces and in their bright eyes the ecstasy of anticipation swells until it could burst. Then the time for the haircut arrives: Oh the joy!


And then the rinse off with cold water. On the high pressure setting by request.


The new haircut. And can't you tell how pleased he is?

Emily (by request)

Apparently, there have been requests for a picture of Emily, since I didn't have a picture of her in my last post. She was napping when I had my camera out, so I didn't get a picture of her then.

So now, by special request, Emily:


Thursday, June 05, 2008

At the Siegel house

Well, I made it to Christian and Anna's house in Kleingladenbach. They have a beautiful house in a beautiful area. It's very nice to be out of the city now for a change, despite all the fun I had there.

I've had a great time so far. I played soccer and read books with Jeremy, held Emily for a bit, went for a walk with Anna and Christian, the kids, and some neighbors, looked at some horses, dropped Jeremy off at a kindergarten event, played with Jason and Jack in the backyard, ate a lovely dinner, cleaned up after dinner, and then had a lovely after dinner chat with Christian and Anna, then Jeremy came home and showed us the 20 gold painted rocks that he had in his pockets, and then shortly after that we wrapped things up.

Some Icelandic breed of horses (with dual citizenship in Germany) that we saw on our walk:


Jeremy out in the grass on our walk.


Jason playing with Jack.


Jason wants to be thrown in the air again, so he's hanging onto my legs here.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Früh Am Dom

Today being my last day of work, my coworkers and I went out to dinner at Früh Am Dom, a brewery down by the cathedral. I wanted to go there because it was recommended by some friends of mine, who had been there once upon a time.

It's a maze of rooms and levels, and we sat in the Brauhauskeller at the lower level. It seems to be a bit of a tourist attraction, but there were a lot of locals there also. By which I mean, you have drunk American men hitting on drunk German girls. (No, not me!). Very warm down there in the cellar, and a bit smoky, but I'm quite used to that these days, and hardly notice anymore.

I had the meat and potatoes with sauce. That's a bit of an in-joke for us here working at DRUPA, because every meal consists of at least those three things. The meat was steak tonight, the potatoes were pan-fried, and the sauce was mushroom. The vast majority of the meals I've had here could be summarized in a spreadsheet with four columns: Meat, Potatoes, Sauce, and Comments. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, I like all of those things. Oh, and tonight the Comments field would contain the word Spargel.


Note the barely visible sign that mentions Spargel. It's Spargel season, and don't you forget it. And if you do, don't worry. You will be reminded. June is Spargel History Month, when we learn about all the influential Spargels of history.

P.S. One of my coworkers (knowingly) told another coworker to order an Altbier, which are brewed in Düsseldorf, rather than a Kölsch, which are brewed in Köln. Apparently, Köln and Düsseldorf are fierce rivals, particularly when it comes to their beers, and ordering Alt was not looked on lightly by the waiter. The coworker who ordered the Alt came close to being thrown out the restaurant. Quite entertaining.

P.P.S. Dumb post, I know. But better than a doodle, eh?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Doodle of the Week

Part one of the Master's Series: The Thinker.


I have been asked what inspired me to turn my prodigious talents to aping the masters, and why I started with this particular subject as a first installment: The answers are clearly boredom, and that this was easy to draw.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Update: Groß Sankt Martin

Got a better picture of the church today from my table at lunch. It was a nice day.

Survival techniques

Found a book today called Das Große Buch Der Überlebenstechniken (the big book of survival techniques), which describes in detail with pictures desperate situations and how to appropriately respond to said situations. One of the situations described is what to do if your rifle runs out of bullets while in a combat situation.

Using pictures almost as good as I can draw them, the author explains the subtleties and nuances of fighting without bullets. No buwwets weft? Handle the situation thusly:


There's no need to translate into English.

Kölner Dom

I got a day off today, so I went down to the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral), and took a few pictures.

This is part of the entrance.

This is just inside.


Another part inside, looking up.


I climbed to the top of the tower and took a couple pictures from the top. This is one of the smaller towers on the Dom with the Rhein in the background.


Looking another direction.


Another note: Up on the one of the towers, there is a bas-relief of an angel holding a chicken. Because everyone's heard of Michael the Archangel and his pet chicken. I couldn't get a good enough angle on it to get a picture, but I thought it was pretty funny.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

What I did today

Got up, went to work on the bus, worked all day, skipped lunch, came home on the bus, skipped dinner.

Wandered about Köln for a good long while this evening, walking approximately 8.04672 kilometers. While I was out, I ran into Freitag coming out of a head shop/tattoo parlor. That explains the smell in my room and his new "Liebe deine Käse" tattoo.

Now he insists that I refer to him as the Dude.

Finished out the evening (well, except for this post) talking to Michelle on the webcam. Of course, the internet access in this hotel is so slow that it was like talking over a very bad connection whilst simultaneously watching a slideshow of very low resolution images. But it worked, and it's better than nothing.

Here's what I see each night before I head off to bed. Well, she doesn't wear the same clothes every day, although she does remain a Packers fan. At this moment, frozen here in time, she is pondering my very poignant comment with respect to certain properties of Weißspargel, and is trying to think of an appropriate and witty rejoinder.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Getting right to the point

Here's a sign that makes very clear what action is being discouraged. No prevaricating about the bush here.


I imagine even a dog could understand this sign, and hurry on to a Grundstück that is less Privat to do his business. I need this sign for our house.

Groß Sankt Martin

I took this picture while we were at dinner. This is Groß Sankt Martin Kirche, from which I gather there is a smaller one somewhere. It was founded in 960, built into its current form in the twelfth century, was bombed in WWII, and is now restored.

The boss took us all out to dinner at the Haxenhaus (specializes in pig knuckles, very good). I had the Augustus, which was a Schweinshaxe (pig knuckle) with a slab of Leberkäse (literally, liver-cheese, but really it's a meatloaf made of corned beef, bacon and onions, no liver or cheese in it, apparently), some potatoes and a sausage.

I've been trying to get out and run in the mornings, to work off all the pounds that the meat, potatoes and beer have surely been adding on, but I haven't figured out how to fit it into my schedule. So I have focused my attention on the more pressing concern of how to fit into my pants.

View from my window

I have moved from Düsseldorf to Köln, as I mentioned before. This is the view from my window, which unfortunately faces away from the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral), which is quite impressive. I'll probably add a picture of that later.


By the way, my hotel has internet access for the moment. Freitag surfs the web while I'm at work, so he's not as crabby when I get back to the hotel, which is a big plus.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Internet access

The network at my hotel is down. I am shipwrecked, marooned on a island, separated from all I love. I have made a hammock out of my bedsheets, fashioned a trebuchet from my ironing board for my defense, and have befriended a local rat I have named Freitag.

I hope they fix it soon. The network at DRUPA is really, really slow. I can literally see the bits march one by one down the wires. Literally.

Moving hotels

So, yesterday I moved from a hotel in Düsseldorf to a hotel in Köln. In the morning, we dropped off our baggage in the hotel lobby in Düsseldorf and went to work. Our luggage was to be routed to our respective hotels in Köln while we were at work. In the evening, I left work and headed for Köln. When I got to the hotel, I had a reservation, but no bags. So, I called around to the different hotels that I knew HP was using, and tried to get them to look for my bag, all in very poor German and decent English. No luck. So I then called one of the logistics people for HP, and she called around as well, with better results.

One hotel found my bags and told me that they would send a taxi over to me with the bags in 10 to 20 minutes, and I would just have to pay the driver. So I headed downstairs to wait for the taxi. After 40 minutes, I was sure that the taxi wasn't coming. A lot of taxis did come without my bags, each of which I talked to, only to discover that we shared no common language other than mime.

I decided that I would head back up to my room to try to call the other hotel. I stopped by the front desk to ask if they could get me the number of the other hotel, which they did, but when I mentioned my name, he told me that the bags had already arrived and were in my room. Apparently, the driver came in, and a porter brought the bags up while I was on my way down. My hotel put the taxi bill on my tab.

So I ended up with my bags after all. But it was stressful, knowing that I only had one set of clothes. But, alas, Schmidt, my red soccer ball, was lost. It was in a white plastic bag, so if you see it, let me know.

But, hey, I'm pretty happy considering.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Hobbits

There are several hypotheses as to why hobbits are no longer seen in our time. One is that they have died off. Or possibly, that they are very, very sneaky, indeed to the point that we underestimate their sneakiness. Or that they intermarried with the Nephilim and produced average-sized descendants. Another, that they live in caves under Sean Astin's house in Los Angeles.

Despite all the data that the Sean Astin theory has going for it, I'm here to tell you that all of these hypotheses are wrong.

I made a horrible discovery today. The reason that hobbits are no longer seen is that Germans eat them.


I was sick, I tell you, sick.

P.S. It's a lame post, I know, but how many other bloggers out there have a category exclusively for hobbits?

P.P.S. If you came to this blog just for the hobbits, welcome.

Local Wildlife

Shopkeeper: I've got a slug.
Customer: Does it talk?
Shopkeeper: Not really, no.
Customer: Well, it's scarcely a replacement, then, is it?


More wildlife. Bigger than people. Actually, not really.


I ate a couple of these this week. With sauce and butter. Interesting texture.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

BierBike Part Deux

So the BierBike was mentioned to one of our logistics personnel, who decided to arrange an outing with said BierBike. So we embarked upon our epic journey down the Rhein on the BierBike.


Things went quite well for a while, going slowly, upsetting the Mercedes drivers who longed to be trapped behind a herd of camels, because at least they would be going schneller than us. Once we got into the Altstadt, the streets were much narrower. Everyone around laughed at us, or with us, and asked for rides. Eventually, we reached a point where we could no longer go any further, stuck between a wall and a pole.


So then, go backwards we must. Rather than help, of course, I picked up the camera and snapped a few shots of the others working.


At the end of two hours of pedaling, the beer was gone, and the snacks well-pillaged, and we were tired, at least those of us who were actually pedaling.

All in all, it was a lot of fun.

Dä Spiegel

I didn't post anything yesterday because I didn't have access to my laptop. What I did have access to was a bar with live music called Dä Spiegel. As the night wore on, you couldn't stand without touching four or five other people. The band was actually pretty good, so I videotaped a part of the performance, which I have posted here for you to watch, if you so desire.

video

Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I also heard Smoke On The Water (Deep Purple) and Cocaine (Eric Clapton). When the band was taking a break, they piped in music as well. There was a group of girls in front of me who, when they started playing Livin' on a Prayer by Bon Jovi, really got into it, singing all the lyrics at the top of their lungs. I taped some of that too, but the audio quality was much worse.

I did hear one German song: Westerland by the Die Ärzte.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lantern Waste

Thany (if no one else) will probably understand this: Walking through dark woods, and seeing a lantern in the distance, and walking towards it to find the path. Felt a bit like one is at Lantern Waste. Like the White Stag should be flying from the trees at any moment.

(If you look hard you can see the lantern burning there.)


It was actually a bit darker under the canopy than this picture makes it seem, but I'm using a little point and shoot camera, so you get what you pay for.

At another part of the park:


I wanted to stay longer in the quiet, and just forget about work, but it was starting to get dark, so I headed for the Altstadt.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Champions League Final

Had an experience tonight unlike any that I'm likely to have again. Watching Chelsea play Manchester United in the Champions League Final for football (not American football) on German TV with a bunch of drunken Israelis and Germans. Man U ended up winning the game with a penalty kick (hope no one reading this taped the game and planned on watching it). This is not a sport I usually watch, but the mixture of unlimited beer and snacks and rabid fans made it very interesting.

Hewlett-Packard New Product Offering

A new crate just arrived, filled with Hewlett-Packard's new line of wet underwear, at least judging from the label on the crate.