Beginning Year Four in Deutschland
(February 2004)

 
First off: will anyone who is listening to University of Kentucky men's basketball games via Real Player PLEASE send me the address you use within your Real Player? I have visited the proper web site, I have the proper version of Real Player, but no matter what I try, the web site says I don't have the right version, and keeps refusing to connect me. If I can find someone listening to the games via Real Player, he or she would be able to give me the correct address. And, people, I AM DESPERATE.

Anyway...

We rang in the new year at a friend's apartment, where ate enormous amounts of food, watched the fireworks everywhere (at any point in Bonn, you get a show), and played Twister. Yes, we played Twister. Yes, Stefan played Twister. I also partook of a NYE tradition in Germany I'd never heard of -- we heated pieces of lead (and other stuff mixed in, no doubt), then dropped it into the cold water -- the resulting shape indicated something that will happen in 2004. We took the night bus home, and it was PACKED. But even though it was cold, and we had long to wait, it was worth it to not have to drive!

As of February, I entered my fourth year in Germany. I plan on staying in Europe through the summer of 2005, if finances and legalities allow it. I might stay even longer -- it would be wonderful to be here in 2006, during the World Cup. What after Germany? I don't know... I might try to spend a couple of months in Spain, to solidify my Spanish, I might do more traveling to all the places in Europe I haven't been to by then, I might try to find another job over here (my contract with my current employer can't be renewed after February 2005), or try to go on a short-term volunteering gig somewhere. But I will ultimately return to the U.S. I'm just not sure of the exact date.

I've enjoyed sharing my stories and adventures and random thoughts and silliness with you all, and am continually shocked at how many ex-pats write to say something in these ramblings have been helpful to them. I'm not sure how much I will be able to publish in 2004, as my OU courses and Spanish studies take their toll.

It's been that time again -- time to purge photos from my web site. I ran out of space again, plus, I think everyone online who has need to see Erica and Karen buying bread in Germany have done so... so if you were feeling nostalgic and wanting to see something from a couple of years ago and now can't find it, that's why.

So, you know, I'm blogging. This is a blog. What a silly piece of jargon that is -- web log. Blog. It's exactly the same thing as an online journal, but now, we have a new, cool, zippy word for it that makes it much more fun to talk about. Blogging. Blog. Attack of the blogs. Invasion of the blogs. Bride of Blog. Mars Needs Blogs.

 
My Recent Submission to Scott Adams:

Today, I did a presentation for fellow staff members (about 50) regarding a very high profile conference that my unit recently attended. It was a showcase for a great deal of work our unit had done over the last 6 months, and it was very much our moment to "shine." At the end of the presentation, we asked if there were any questions. After we answered two questions from the audience, a co-worker asked if he could make an announcement. We agreed. He then walked up to the front of the room and began clicking on the computer running our display, closing our presentation and opening a file of his own, and then he began his own presentation about a completely different subject, opening with, "Since you are all here, I wanted to give you an update about such-and-such." The whole room stared dumb-founded, but sat quietly while this guy made a 15-minute presentation completely and utterly unrelated to what we had just talked about.
 
The Boob

I am so sick of all the "outrage" about Janet Jackson's breast. What she did was inappropriate, sure, but CRIMINAL?! Come on -- that's insulting, really. It's a breast. A natural part of the body. It's only sexualized to a huge degree in the U.S. and Islamic countries. If you blinked, you missed it. It wasn't someone being killed. IT WAS A BREAST. There IS a boob that needs to be investigated, and it ain't Janet Jackson's.

Richard Blow of TomPaine.com said it best:

"let us not forget that this outrage is all about a half-second of partially nipple ring-covered breast. This in an hour-long game of brutal violence - CBS certainly didn't hesitate to show blood spilling from one player's nose in the first quarter - in a sport with a steroid problem, many of whose players have taken to owning unregistered guns, while other players are encouraged to become so obese that they risk dying on the field. Yes, it's definitely the breast that we should get worked up about."

"At least there wasn't any other female flesh to tempt the God-fearing men of America! No scantily clad, artificially enhanced cheerleaders whom CBS kept using as a segue into and out of commercials, for example. And I'm sure that Visa used the bikini-wearing women's volleyball team to promote the summer Olympics simply because of its athleticism."

"What's really going on here? Well, American hypocrisy about sex, of course. We run ads for drugs that help men get erections without ever mentioning the word 'sex'; we grow irate at an exposed breast amidst an orgy of capitalist decadence. We nurse from the breast as children, but we fetishize it as adults, make it an object of lust and taboo - so that showing a breast, a source of human life, becomes worthy of government investigation."

read the whole essay.

So, all you people who were offended by Janet Jackson's boob -- where's your outrage about the Underwear Bowl?

 
Dog Update

When did Buster get old? He will be 15 years old this year, if he's not already, but he only recently really, really started showing his age. Maybe it started sooner, but I was so preoccupied with Wiley's deterioration that I didn't notice.

Buster still runs, though in much shorter sprints, just maybe one or two a day, and then he putters along. He can still walk several kilometers, and with a mid-hike rest, he can walk much more. But in the last six months, on three occasions, he's had a sudden, strange leg problem -- he literally screamed with pain because of his front right leg, which hung limply as he struggled to walk. I don't know if it was because of his leg was asleep -- I think it's happened every time when he's gotten up from sleeping -- or if his leg was out of place, but it takes a tremendous amount of pain for a Beagle-mix to cry out (which is why they are frequently used in lab experiments, I'm sorry to say). About an hour later, all three times, he was fine -- the one time I took him to the vet about it, they could find nothing wrong.

He is still beside himself to go for a walk or a ride in a car, and still prances around at least once a day as though he owns the world. He does, actually, own the world. But he can't see well -- the clouds in his eyes are thicker every day. He can't hear well -- no, really, it's not the "I can't hear you, Mom" game. This is for real. I keep him on a retractable leash when we walk, because he slowly wanders away, from smell to smell, and when he looks up to see where I am, he often can't find me, no matter how much I'm jumping around.

He's mostly happy to meet other dogs, but not the way he used to be. Perhaps all those years of having to avoid other dogs with Wiley has made him skittish, or perhaps he sense how vulnerable he is now. He moves on relatively quickly after meetings -- he's not really interested in playing anymore.

His personality remains larger than life. He still looooves to eat. But he also sometimes walks into the middle of the room and stands there for what seems like too long, as though he's trying to figure out what it was he had wanted to do. Ofcourse, I do that as well myself these days.

I ask again -- when did Buster get old?

But, he continues to amuse: One day, I came home from work, came through the front door, and headed straight for the bedroom, to open the door and let Buster out/Albi in (depending on who is quicker). Without even looking, I walked straight to the back door, picked up the leashes, and turn to put them on the dogs.

But Buster wasn't out of the room, and Albi was acting all excited, running in and out of the bedroom. So I walk over and look in. It's dark and I can't see him.

I turn on the light and figure out he's behind the partially opened door. I peak around and he's completely and utterly tangled up in the comforter cover. How in the HECK did he get INSIDE with the comforter, at the very bottom of the comforter cover? He was so far down in it that he couldn't get back out. He'd fallen off the bed inside the whole thing at some point. I mean, WHY did he even go into there?

I felt bad, because he had been in there a while, and was in a bit of a panic. As soon as I got him out (which took a while -- it was quite a tangle), he ran for the water bowl, and I was laughing so hard and feeling guilty for laughing at him.

Dogs.

Albi is a sugar. She reminds me of Buster in his younger days in so many ways. She loves to snatch whatever you have just put down and run off with it. That includes my homework. She loves to play. She thinks every person and every dog is here to play with her. It snowed one day in January at long last, and Albi went bizerko running around in it. She had every one in the park laughing. She was a complete maniac. And that got Buster in the mood -- so there I am, running behind a 14 year old dog galloping to keep up with his sister. I bet I say, "Who is the world gave this dog up?!" about Albi five times a week.

I know a little more about Albi's past; there's a link on the Tierheim Bonn web site to information about the Animal Shelter in Pecs, Hungary where Albi came from. I've translated it using Freetranslations.com (and worked to smooth out the English -- hope it's still accurate):

"Tapazcs", "Ziporca", "Bac", "Albi" and "Marci"... A visitor to the Bonn animal shelter may ask himself, "Who came up these strange names for dogs and where do these dogs come from?"

These dogs with such names all come from the animal shelter in Pecs, Hungary. The shelter is maintained by the Hungarian animal protection society, Misina, an alliance against misuse of the animals, and is supported by the Tina and Jürgen Bolz Foundation. Tina and Jürgen Bolz help the animal shelter in Pecs also with advice, and help to get animals to Germany. They go regularly every 14 days to Hungary from Germany to help at the Pecs shelter with animals that have hardly a chance of survival in Hungary, and to get some of these animals to Germany.

The animal home is at the outskirts of Pecs and consists of several buildings, stables, and a new outside enclosure for dogs. At present there are 240 dogs, 20 horses, 30 rabbits, 10 cats, numerous pigs, chickens, and 30 guinea pigs. All these animals are looked after by 4 full-time staff members and 6 half-day staff members, as well as one veterinarian (half-day). It has volunteers only for the 20 horses. Nevertheless this animal home in Hungary is to be looked at as exemplary, compared to the rest of the country. Its increasing settlement numbers are good (600 dogs in 2002).

Animals are brought to the shelter from a vicinity of more than 100 km distances. In far parts of Hungary, it is, unfortunately, the current practice by the dog catcher that stray animals not picked up after 2 weeks at the shelter are killed.

If you would like to support the shelter at Pecs, visit tierheim-pecs.de

As I noted in an earlier essay, dog shelters in Germany don't put stray dogs to sleep; they are amazingly well-equipped and well-staffed with committed volunteers who work to give the dogs a stable, socialized, structured and very loving environment. Albi came out of the Bonn Tierheim much better than she came in, from what I can gather, and this is due to her treatment there during her six months there. I wish more shelters in the U.S. could operate this way... but it will take a LOT more people spaying and neutering their dogs, and a lot more political and financial support for shelters...

And by the way: the Humane Society of the United States has a wonderful and much-needed campaign called "Pets for Life." The campaign features a variety of programs to empower pet caregivers to solve the problems that threaten their relationships with pets. Behavior problems top the list of reasons for sending pets to shelters -- where, in the U.S., millions of adoptable dogs and cats are put to sleep each year. Other dogs and cats are given up because of the owner's lifestyle changes, such as the birth of a child, family members with allergies or a family member with a disability. Still others are given up because their caregivers couldn't find pet-friendly rental housing, or because their owners simply had unrealistic expectations about what it meant to care for a pet. The goal of the Pets for Life campaign is to curtail the numbers of animals relinquished to shelters - or otherwise given up on - by helping people address all of the aforementioned issues, rather than giving up entirely on their pets. These resources can also help those considering the adoption of a dog or cat to better prepare for the LIFETIME experience.

 
Harry Potter dominates my life

I'm now reading the first Harry Potter book in Spanish (Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal ). It's very slow going. One sentence I will understand completely, the next one will have not even one word I recognize. But I press on. I should be done by... well, by the time the sixth book comes out in English. And I believe more than ever that it is shameful that the United States does not encourage and support children learning another language in school. There is NO excuse for this!

Speaking of my little obsession, these are my favorite HP fan sites, which provide much better info than the official site:

 
I Read More than Just Harry Potter...

A while back, I read Kim by Kipling, as part of my ongoing quest to read books that have been made into movies so many times no one reads them anymore; I enjoyed it, though it took some mental adjustments to get the subtleties (TV is ruining us...). Also as part of this quest, I read Alice in Wonderland , which I loved, but did have a nightmare about it later. I read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, which was absolutely outstanding and I highly, highly recommend it. I read The Life of Pi by Yann Martel and was really upset by it; yes, I know it's a parable, and, yes, it was really well-written and clever, but I just can't stand such detailed portrayals of the killing of animals. A long while back, I read "Revenge: A story of hope" by Laura Blumenfeld, which I also highly recommend.

I've read a lot more, but that's all I can remember right now. Yes, even with my development readings and Spanish homework, I still manage to squeeze in some reading for "fun." I am my mother's child.

 
Politics Abroad

I went to the Democrats Abroad caucus in early February, in Frankfurt. I have never participated in a caucus, but I still beat myself up for only voting for Gore, not working to get more support for him. Also, I'm angry at how far to the right the Democratic Party has gone. I want my party back! You all know I supported Howard Dean. He helped the Democratic Party find its spine! I went to Frankfurt to do my best to get a part of a delegate committed to Dean for the national caucus later in February.

Last election, Frankfurt had 8 people show up. This time, they had 27 registered voters, plus even more observers (like Stefan!). In all of Germany last election, they had 40 people total show up for meetings. They had 40 people in just Heidelberg this time around. Paris was expecting under 200-300 people. They had more than 600.

The caucus was an exciting, though confusing, process. I was thrilled to present Dean's message to Democrats Abroad to the caucus (which totally rocked). By the end of our caucus, Kerry had 16 people, but we had six, making us a viable group and so, we did, indeed, send two delegates, each with a 1/3 vote, to the Germany national convention. From there, delegates are selected for the European convention. And then the international convention. In all, just seven delegates from Democrats abroad go to the national convention, so I'd say we count for 1/1000 of a vote or something. But I say, Keep Voting for Dean! No, he can't win the primary; but a vote for Dean keeps Kerry inline with the anti-Bush stance and pro-Democratic Party stance he should have adopted long, long ago. Thanks to Dean, the Democratic Party FINALLY found its spine; votes for Dean in the primaries and caucuses assures us that the Demos stay inline.

 
Movies and Such

Finally saw Goldmember and I almost wet myself. I knew nothing about it, hadn't seen any trailers, and had only heard it wasn't that good. Well, I thought it was hilarious. The first 10 minutes were the best part -- but I won't say why, as I HATE spoilers.

In the early part of 2003, I watched Pride and Prejudice (the one with Colin Firth) waaaaaaaaaay too much. And now I'm watching Sense and Sensibility waaaaaaaaaay too much. I watched it yet again on my birthday (and converted yet another person into an Alan Rickman fan -- in fact, I think Alexandra may become a stalker, all because of that red uniform...). Anyway, why do I keep wanting to watch these movies again and again?! Tolkien and Jane Austin -- what a strange combination of obsessions to have of late. Oh, and how happy I was to learn that there is indeed a Darcy Paper Doll.

Speaking of Tolkien, in December we went to see Return of the King , and it was excellent, so well worth the wait.. I cried a couple of times. I just love Sam and his loyalty and devotion so much. But I have to say that I wasn't thrilled with the ending, and that the relationship between Eowyn and Faramir had to be left out. Eowyn is my favorite character in the book, and her story is, to me, so important to the overall story. But I'm nitpicking, really. And I was a MESS during the spider scene. A complete an absolute mess. Ask poor Stefan, who is probably still sporting bruises on his arm from my fingers dug into them. That scene was way, way too much for me. I don't think I've seen a more terrifying scene in a movie. I don't know if I can see the movie again because of that scene. I think I might need therapy now.

All sorts of people are saying, "Hey, Jayne, aren't you beside yourself with joy that the first three Star Wars movies are coming out on DVD?" And I say "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Why? Because George Lucas has stated that he has no plans to release the original theatrical cuts of Star Wars Episodes IV, V, and VI on DVD. To be replaced by completed versions of the Special Editions released in 1997, these classic pieces of science fiction and film history will be allowed to fade away into obscurity. See, the point is: HAN SHOOTS FIRST!! There is a group that is working to persuade Mr. Lucas to reconsider his decision. If you want the original and FAR SUPERIOUR theatrical cuts of the Star Wars trilogy on DVD, visit this web site and sign the petition.

A friend loaned me The Producers . I watched it by myself and laughed myself silly. Then friends at work said they really wanted to see it. One of them is Jewish, and is a huge fan of the movie already. And Stefan said he was interested as well. I debated for weeks over showing it to him. I was terrified he would be offended. I understand why people might be offended. I don't begrudge anyone being offended by it. It hits too close to home for many people. But, for me, it's the best revenge possible against the Nazis.

So, four of us all watched it. And we were all *howling* by the time the performance of the musical rolls around during the movie. It was great. I think I'm the only person in the world who has watched "The Producers" in Germany, sitting in between a German and a Jew, all of us crying with laughter. Isn't that what world peace is all about?

 
Random Thoughts

Speaking of offending people... before I do so with the following, I want to say that I love Germany. I really do.

There was an article in the New York Times on Nov. 23, 2003 called "When Nations Need a Little Marketing." It was about how many countries are employing marketing experts to help them develop and communicate strong brand identities. Here's an excerpt:

"Changing the image of a country is no easier than changing the image of a company or an individual. While branding may be able to help a country improve its communication with the world, it won't work if the country sends out lies or hype, said Erich Joachimsthaler, chief executive of Vivaldi Partners, a four-year-old agency that specializes in branding. Mr. Joachimsthaler said that when working with Germany, he had run into a perception gap that is common in such work. His German clients wanted to portray themselves as a passionate, emotional, flexible people, an image that he said was 'a whole bunch of baloney.'"

Anyway...

There is a comedian in Germany called Michael Herbig, who has a television show called "Bully Parade." I swear, he and Mike Meyers were separated at birth. Just rent and watch 10 minutes of "Der Schuh des Manitu" or "Die Bademeister - Weiber, saufen, Leben retten" and you will know what I mean. It's okay if you don't speak German -- I don't either.

My friends back in the USA continue to make me laugh. This from one of my friends named Betsy (yes, I have more than one friend named such) in Austin.

by the way, if one of these days I seem to drop off the face of the earth suddenly, it's because John Ashcroft didn't appreciate my Christmas gift to him: I made a donation to People for the American Way in his name. At least I made PFAW's membership director very happy -- she sent me an e-mail to say how much she'd love sending that gift notice. Heeheeheehee....

Actually, the same Betsy made me miss Austin with this:

Here's a story for ya: Last night, heading home from my Ten Thousand Villages volunteer gig in my Volvo, I stopped off to pick up a few things at Whole Foods (have I established my character yet? ;-) and decided to go next door to Book People and cash in a gift certificate on Al Franken's latest book. As the clerk handed it to me, I pointed to the sign for that night's autographing with Dick Armey (which had started an hour before) and mockingly said, "Oh, darn, I am soooooo disappointed that I missed my chance to stick out my tongue at him." The clerk said, "Oh, I think he's still up there." Handing me Franken's book, the clerk continued, "Why don't you have him autograph this?"

Heeeheeeheeeheee....

And when Erica heard that an ethics panel ordered Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore removed from office for refusing to move his very own much-worshipped Ten Commandments monument which he illegally placed on public property in the first place (hello, isn't there one about not making an graven image?!), she said:

Yay...there is a God and he don't tolerate no fool who can't see that there's a time and a place for everything and the Courthouse ain't the place for the 10 Commandments!

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Don't forget! Stefan is planning for his motorbike trip in the USA for May 2005 and he is still in need of some key information! Please read about the info he is looking for, and any advice you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

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What's Been Interesting to Me Lately

Well... A LOT!!! And a reminder: I don't re-check these links or update them. If a link doesn't work and Google doesn't lead you to the new web site, try using the old URL at archive.org

Clinton's Last Days
It's still funny

Erica has landed a job with Catholics for a Free Choice, and they've just launched a great new campaign.

Check out this funky cool car. We wants one, we does.

Han Solo in Carbonite (in legos, actually)

a REALLY cheap camera

I've had great fun for quite a while looking at the regular earthquake activity USA. And now Stefan finds there's a site for Germany as well.

Please, please, listen to the man on the Soap Box!!

LedZep Viking Kittens can are back

Jim Varney movies never made
It may take several minutes for it all to download (even up to 10 minutes if you have a particularly slow connection), but it is SO worth it.

The Bush Administration Lexicon

The WILHELM Scream, a fascinating bit of movie trivia.

"Memorials in her honor can be made to any organization working for the removal of President Bush."

It is very, very important not to have any liquid in your mouth when you watch and listen to this online presentation (Es muy, muy importante que no tenga líquido en la boca cuando mira y escucha esta presentación).

I totally picked the right Presidental candidate. Oh, have you seen hot Howard?

Daily Kos is a must read every day.

Talk Like Ali G. Keepin it real, respect!

419Eater is a site wherein people counter scam the so- called "Nigerian 419" scammers that have been plaguing the Internet (and before the Net, fax machines) for many years ("419" refers to the section of the Nigerian criminal code under which such scams fall; ofcourse, many, many scammers are NOT from Nigeria). The 419Eater site author, and several other contributors, have taken to responding to the scammers, using obviously fake names and so forth, and then string the scammer along for as long as possible. It's awesome.

real life x files

Hope you will consider becoming an online volunteer and providing your time and expertise to help organizations working in and for the developing world. This terrific free service is brought to you and the world by the United Nations, about which I have many feelings.

More soon...

If you have read this blog, PLEASE let me know. Comments are welcomed, and motivate me to keep writing.


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