I'm becoming more and more frustrated by networking technology...
Congrats to Carmen of Louisville for her outstanding performance in my brother Barry's NCAA Men's College Basketball pool of 13 people on Yahoo this year. She won it all, and did not brag about it nor trash talk as I totally would have done. As for me, I did the best ever in Barry's Yahoo pool, picking seven of the "Elite 8" and all of the final four -- ofcourse, this was the first time I ever chose all number one seeds for the Final Four, and it's also the first time all the number one seeds have made it to the final four. Yes, I had WKU winning their first game, but not their second; I was very happy to be wrong on that point! Going into the Final Four, I was number one in the group of 13 and Carmen was number two, but by the end, it was all her. Although Yahoo didn't record it for some reason, I had Memphis winning over NC, 98 to 88. The pick and the final score came right out of my... elbow.
I so wish I could have watched games here in Germany... but for some reason, digital cable won't work in our flat, and because of how the house is built into the hill, satellite TV won't work either.
The Upside of Anger has become one of my favorite films of all time. I watch it twice a year, most recently this month. I think you have to be a woman over 40 to get it... although Stefan even liked it. Joan Allen is a goddess. And I can't believe a dude wrote it.
||Yes, that's me! I took a four-hour "Schnupperkurs" ("sniffer course") in Koblenz in May 2008, a special class see if you really want to invest in taking full motorcycle lessons (mandatory in Germany if you want a license here). There were six students, all women. We road a Honda CBF 600 (I think that was the model), and it was the *perfect* size for me. It helped that the weather was perfect -- a bit on the warm side, but shade was easy to find in between turns on the bike.
First, we each walked around the free-standing bike, trying to keep it upright, to get a sense of its weight and balance (I did really well with that; I didn't ever come close to dropping it, which was a huge fear). Then we reviewed the clutch, hand brake, starter, throttle and gears. The instructor was WONDERFUL. He really emphasized getting a feel for the parts and how they worked and how they felt when they worked. He did a great job of switching to English as needed for me. It also really helped that, a couple of days before, Stefan went over all of the same parts of the motorcycle with me, had me sit on his Honda Africa Twin (which is MUCH too big for me) and pretend to try them out, etc. I was one of only two people of our group who made it to changing from first to second gear and accelerating around the track. I LOVED IT.
When we move to the USA, I want to sign up for classes immediately. I wish I could take full lessons now, but I just will never have the language skills to do so. And then, ofcourse, I'll start my motorcycle gang...
With the exception of performances at a few nonprofit theaters, the best nonprofit event I've ever been to is called Air-Austin. In fact, I've been to every one held while I lived in Austin. It's an event where groups of volunteer web designers and people representing nonprofits gather in several rooms of a computer training center donated for the day, and in that one day, make web sites for the nonprofit organizations. The hook is that the web sites are accessible for people using assistive technologies -- someone who is blind, for instance, uses a special tool to help him or her navigate the web, and a web site has to be designed so that such a tool can navigate the site. It's a crazy event, with some teams showing up in matching, customized t-shirts, teams teasing each other, non web design volunteers walking around begging the web designers to please eat some of the massive amounts of food that have been donated, volunteers waving flags, laughter, stress... it's a blast.
The event is put together every year by Knowbility, an Austin-based non-profit run by my dear friend Sharron Rush. And it is through Sharron and Air-Austin that I met John Slatin. I was very sad to learn that John died at the end of March from leukemia. To me, John is part of Austin and what makes it so special. I worked near John's office at the University of Texas at Austin, and frequently saw John and his assistance dog, Dillon, walking on campus -- and a few times, before I could honk and wave, someone else driving by did. Didn't everyone know John? I tried to stop by his office whenever I was in the building, and he was never too busy for a chat. I ran into him a few times at my favorite Austin restaurants, and had to wait for a chance to slip over to his table to say hi amid all the other people slipping over to his table to say hi. When I moved to Germany, I still had the occasional email exchange with John, and it always made me a little homesick.
On his blog, which has been taken over by his family, several people have been offering their favorite memories of John. One is from a woman who had been in high school with John in Buffalo, and I so loved this story: They skipped school one day, she says, spending the morning at a university campus "writing poetry (his better than mine), listening to music, smoking cigarettes, acting cool. In the afternoon, we went to a poetry reading. We looked up to see John's father standing right next to us." Busted. As the friend was serving her punishment (grounded), a letter arrived in the mail from John. "It was written in brown ink on cream-colored paper. No caps. Spaced on the paper like a poem. He assured me that I would outlive my sentence. He assured me that my friends weren't going to forget me. He suggested that this was character building, and that I would be stronger for it. It was dramatic in the way that teenagers are dramatic. It was sweet, caring, and eloquent."
And that's John. Sweet, caring and eloquent. And many, many, many people will miss him.
We went for a long motorcycle ride in late April (yes, I was on the back of the bike, NOT riding on my own -- I'm a long way away from that), in an attempt to get into the Moto-FERNREISE-Treffen (literally, "motorcycle distance trip encounter"), an annual gathering for people who travel internationally by motorcycle. You might recall that we went to this in 2006 and had a very memorable time. This year was the 50th anniversary, and the restaurant where the presentations was held was absolutely full. So we put some flyers on the African Twin motorcycles in the parking lot for a metal dashboard that Stefan designed, then headed out to see a bit of Belgium and Luxembourg before heading home. Gorgeous drive. The Moto-FERNREISE-Treffen organizer, Bernd Tesch, is QUITE a character. He even wrote me when I was in Afghanistan -- he and Stefan ran into each other somewhere and he was so intrigued that I was there. This year, we didn't get to see him -- the presentations were already underway, and there was no way we could get through the crowd in the restaurant to say hi.
With that many people there, I hope Bernd rented at least one extra "portapotty" at the campsite this year...
I am trying, for the second time of my life, to give up Coca Cola. I was successful for two years once upon a time (about 12 years ago, actually). And if you don't know it: I love Coca Cola. I adore it. I love the sound of Coke pouring into a glass. I take a drink and feel like all is right with the world. Nothing except chocolate or a new episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer makes me as happy. I love Coca Cola
I've been Coke-free for four weeks as of the weekend after Derby. Have I lost any weight? Nope. In fact, I've gained two pounds. Which really, really ticks me off -- weight loss was the primary reason I gave it up. The other reason is the company's horrific labor practices.
My Coke substitute? Holunder (elderberry) and Cranberry Bio Drink, from Aldi. Half the calories of Coke. I limit myself to one liter a day... which is the amount of coke I was drinking a day... It's the only thing that kills my Coke craving... for a bit...
Speaking of my ballooning weight, I discovered once again that the USA government isn't all bad; I've been using these sites, funded by my tax dollars, and they've been very helpful regarding figuring out that I'm a glutton:
I was beyond disillusioned over the sexist slurs by Randi Rhodes regarding Geraldine Ferraro and Hilary Clinton. I've listened to Ms. Rhodes since Air America was launched, and while I haven't always agreed with her, I have always been impressed with her arguments, and listened to her often. I've told so many people about her show. I thought her criticisms of Ms. Ferraro and Ms. Clinton were often right on the money. But now I'm ashamed of her. She crossed a line when she made those misogynist slurs, just as public people cross a line when they use racial slurs. I feel completely betrayed by her, not only by the comments, but the fact that she would not own up to her grievous insult to all women by her choice of words.
As you may have noticed in my last blawg entry, I read The Koran -- it took three months. I had re-read The Bible (Old Testament & New Testament, New American Standard Version) back in 2006, and read a book of 366 sayings attributed to Buddha/Siddhartha Gautama last year while in Afghanistan (the Kabul Museum is filled with beautiful Buddhist statues). So The Koran seemed like the logical next choice for my ongoing amateur religious studies...
As for thoughts on The Koran:
Actually, I think this news story is all you really need to know about Jesus (I'm talking to YOU, Mel Gibson).
The atheist amateur religious studies student hath spoken.
Reminder: we're planning on moving in APRIL 2009 to the USA. We really need advice regarding moving companies FROM Germany to the USA. For the first three months, we will probably be in Louisville, Kentucky, though we have no firm plans yet. Once we get a car and handle some other things, we'll be heading to the Portland, Oregon area, unless some fabulous job offer from some other wonderful place drops in my lap.
Books I was reading during this blawg:
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