Link to Profile Semperoper, Dresden Sieg (auf dem Siegesäule), Berlin Brandenburg Tor, Berlin Skyline, Frankfurt am Main

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hot Dog

I'm so far behind in my blogging ... good thing I don't do this for a living.

There are three reasons why you might end up at Walters, a locally famous hot-dog vendor on Palmer Avenue between Larchmont and Mamaroneck. The first might be that you found yourself stuck on the NY Thruway and decided to cut through town on US-1 to avoid it, or you decided that the $1.25 Thruway toll was just too much. Still, unless you know what you are looking for, you probably would have driven past this somewhat un-assuming building around the 900th block of Palmer.

More likely a local friend would have introduced you to the messy but tasty goodness of dogs split open and fried on the griddle and served on a bun that was also toasted on the griddle (with butter, I beleive). Are your arteries hardening yet?

Worth a visit if you are headed out of NYC for CT, and if you get off the Thru-way at New Rochelle, the $1.25 you save in tolls will cover a bit more than 2/3 the cost of your first dog.

Go there.

Playing Golf & Baking Bread

I mentioned that an old friend in the US decided to float my resume back home. He did this after asking me what I had been up to, to which I replied "Playing golf and baking bread."

His response was something like, "Gee, that's so sad."

To which I snidely commented, "Not really, my handicap is in the low single digits nowadays."

We went golfing on Friday afternoon and I kicked his butt around the course. So you see, he wasn't circulating my resume to be a friend, he was simply looking out for his own self-interests. It's a male competitive thing.

Tick Tock, Tick Tock

Or however you spell it ... one of the annoying things about spreading your life across several time zones is the fact that sometimes you end up living somewhere in the middle of them. It's 2:30 a.m. and I'm still up and wide-awake and blogging and commenting away. Well, and also watching "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" as well, which is really a sad commentary on my life these days.

I had the opening faceoff regarding my visa today, and it was not promising. I have no job, and no current prospects of finding one in Germany ....

In fact, on the job front, today's rejection went along the lines of "You have everything we are looking for, but we are really seeking someone more junior." Which means one of two things:

1) We want world-class talent, but we are only willing to pay the equivalent of an intern; or

2) You are too old.

Both are viable reasons to the average German employer, although both strike me as a blatant waste of human talent. In either case, the employers in question will get exactly what they are asking for ... Cheap, young labor that might cost them more than if they were focused on substance rather than style.

No problem, I have a few euros in the bank, which is what I told the Beamter at the Visa discussion. This might not earn me a renewal of my German visa, but the income and taxes I have generated over the past several years is not lost on other countries. The UK, for example, is quite receptive to granting me a two year visa to explore oppportunities there. As for the US, I can always go there.

I feel for the Partnerin, for all of this means that if I really want to pursue a continuing career, anywhere but Germany seems to be where I will find it. That means I will have already made a hard choice, but it means too that she will also have to make a choice.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Things I Wish Were Easier to Find in Germany #006
Same-Day Dry Cleaning

We buried my father in the middle of Tropical Storm Alberto last week. That was not the worst of it, (Packing up his stuff was the worst of it) , but needless to say, we got somewhat rained upon despite friends with umbrellas and the little tent they put over the grave.

After the funeral and the big packup, we all retreated to our various corners of the US. I went to Connecticut to visit my mother and to take in a little more of life in the US. While there, I got to talking with a friend, who asked where the job search was going these days and asked for my resume.

OK, I'll take help when offered. Well, it was offered on Wednesday, and on Thursday I get a call from a firm asking if I can come in and talk to them on Friday. I had heard from a few firms that they would gladly talk to me when I am back on US soil, but this was taking it to the extreme.

My suit was dry when packed into the garment bag, but it was all wrinkles to start with ... it was no better when I got to New York. No problem. In America you can get same day dry cleaning in most major cities ... even the famed "One Hour Martinizing" in some places. So I walked the suit around the corner and five hours later it was ready.

You can find same-day dry-cleaning in Germany, but it is definitely not easy. I found a place in Sachsenhausen that essentially turns most dry-cleaning around by the next day. I think in a pinch if you get stuff to them early they might be able to do it same day, but I have never asked for that ... I was happy to simply get it the next day. Most dry cleaners in Germany turn things around somewhere between three to five days. In fact, for many "rush" service is three days.

The one in Sachenhause calls itself "Martinizing," sans "one hour," but thankfully quick by German standards. Their prices are competitive with those of their slower competitors, which makes their service all the more a bargain ... and, gasp, they will actually let you pay at pick-up, which most German cleaners seem to abhor.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Leave a Message after the Tone

Flying along roughly at 34,000 feet as I type this somewhere south of Iceland. Very crowded flight … I will undoubtedly be sick after this one, as every cough of my neighbor is landing in my face as he deflects them with his hands. Oh well.

I sank back into the abyss of taxes at the beginning of last week, and then, seeing light at the end of the tunnel on Friday morning, went out for the big schnitzel and a little shopping. And when I returned home I learned that the light was an oncoming train. Two messages on the voice mail …. One from my Sister in Law with an ominous “Please call me, I need to tell you something.” Believe me, this is not the way I want bad news broken to me. The first thought to cross my mind is, "Omigod, what happened to my Brother?"

My sister was more to the point in the next voice mail left 14 minutes later, telling me that our father had passed away. Still not the best of news to receive, but at least I now knew that my niece and nephew were not orphaned.

At least my family uses voice mail. Most of my German friends and family won’t think of it. I practically beg the Partnerin to turn on her answering machine so her phone won’t ring 8 or 12 times during the day, but she doesn’t want the pressure of dealing with a message if one is left. She does have an obsessive friend who does leave lengthy messages about her not-so-happy housewife day, so I can empathize. Otherwise, most callers never leave a message.

I noticed this behavior at work as well. My German colleagues would gladly transfer their phone to another human or busy-it-out long before turning on the voice mail. You might think, “Gee at least they tried to have a human answer their line …” but the net effect was that a name and number might be taken, but the colleague had little interest in actually transcribing anything more than that. They would simply take the name and number, put it on a message slip, and leave it on the absent colleague’s desk. Voicemail was to be avoided at all costs, because it actually gave a caller a chance to describe what they were after.

The thinking seems to be, if the problem is not yet described then there is no problem. My sister-in-law seems to subscribe to this idea, even though she is American-born. I used to know a lot of people in New York who were the same way. They too would leave timid “We need to talk” messages on the machine.

Not my family. We do business on the machine. During my New York days a few years ago, I once came back from picking up my deli-sandwich for lunch at my desk to a message waiting light. Since I was using both hands to eat a phenomenally good Reuben, I just let the messages play on speaker-phone …

“Mike, this is Andy. We need your help to chase that open invoice that is now 60 days past due. Can you talk to someone in Accounts Payable and see what you can do to help.” Good friend and vendor getting screwed by the corporate bureaucracy … gotta lean on A/P. Next.

“Hi Mike, it’s me (girlfriend of that time) … we need to talk. Can you give me a call back?” I hate it when she does that, but thus far it has not been anything dire … it’s just the way she does things (it turns out later what she wants to know is whether or not I will go to her parent’s that weekend). Next.

“Mike, this is Dan (the boss). I got your voicemail about your meeting with XYZ Co. I think the alternatives you outlined are good, especially number two … why don’t you go with that.” We don’t really need to see each other to get things done. My colleagues camp outside his door hoping to get a meeting, and are perpetually pissed that they can’t get face time, while I seem to be getting things done without it. Annoys them to hell. Next.

“Mike, it’s Dave (my Brother) … Grandma is dead. Thought you should know.” Two more follow, but I hang up at that point as my desk is surrounded by colleagues who, like it or not, now all share in my personal sorrows. Ah, the joys of open plan office spaces in New York.

Actually, my colleagues were mostly shocked that my Brother would leave this kind of news on voicemail. I, on the other hand, was relieved that I got it on voicemail rather than in person.

And this time around its my sister to tell me about my father ... thank heaven I get that on voice mail as well. It gives one a chance to reflect, collect the thoughts, and compose the official response before dealing with the family and the business that needs to be done.

To probably half the world that will sound cold, impersonal and calculating, but consider what is more cold? Is it not having the right words to say to younger brothers and sister who need comfort because you yourself haven’t fully processed the news in real-time, or is it saying what needs to be heard to get us all through?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

So let's Kick, and Push, and Coast ....

This is what I meant by memorable hook.

Props to Lupe Fiasco.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Frankfurt Dresses up for the World Cup

As Hamish pointed out recently in Foreign in Frankfurt, Frankfurt is dressing up the Riverfront for the World Cup. I missed the projections to which he referred, but they do still have at least one large likeness up on the skyline.

That reddish rectangular structure in the middle of the River is a giant Phillips television display, with a series of bleachers being set up on the north side for viewing.

And all along the banks you will find various vendors, most certainly for beer and wursts.

And yes, as noted here a few weeks ago, they finally unveiled the Dom. Still not the best angle here, but getting there.

Which Comrade is That Up There ?

Maybe I'm still conditioned (brainwashed) to see Communistas everywhere, but there does seem to be someting both in the angle as well as the stylization of the shot that just screams back to good old days ... remember the old posters of various party functionaries? Hmmm.

And Commerzbank and Communist start with the same four letters. Hmmm.

Signs that International Socialist Revolution is nigh? And this on 6-6-6. Hmmm!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Meet Your Dinner (Meat)

Our butcher invited us to a party. Well, they actually invited all of Frankfurt and the surrounding area, and quite a few of us showed up for the Open Hof. When the Partnerin saw the flyer they had given me, she said, "You can go see how they raise the animals .... Maybe they will even show you how they are slaughtered."

When I first met the Partnerin, her english was a bit rusty in some sections. She described living on the farm of her Grandmother during the occasional summer break, and once told me she was no stranger to farm life, having even helped "Murder the animals." In one of the rare moments of me correcting her english, I gently suggested that the word "slaughter" might come across better if she were to tell the story to other english speakers in the future. And it seems to have stuck.

They did show us a number of pens full of our future schnitzel and bratwurst. They did not show us any being slaughtered, murdered, etc. I guess if I had really taken the behind the scenes tour, I might have seen some butchering, but we didn't go that far into the Hof (I'm not sure that was really an option).

We did get to see some of these cute guys, which I will probably be eating for lunch in a year or so if I am still here.

We both had a bratwurst on brotchen, although you might be able to see from the photo that plates with Haxe, Mashed Potatoes and Sauerkraut were also on offer.

There was plenty of Beer on hand to wash that down, as you can see from this shot of the locals. We stuck to Coke since we were driving, not that that seemed to stop many others.

They even had the town's band-club on hand to play live music, much of which the Partnerin said was the music her grandmother loved. Some of it was even loved by my grandparents, as the band slipped from Oom-Pah-Pah-whatever to "Que Sera Sera."

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Wonder Dog

This little guy got some serious altitude (more than you see here) on a couple of his jumps as he was trying to check out the meat wagon. Yes, he did get rewarded for the show.

How Long Will it Take ...
To figure out what is going on here

Yep, insert gratuitous video here.

How long will it take for you to figure out what is really happening here?

There is another video floating around that is similar in camera angle, but more provacative in what is not seen ... maybe some other time.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

Do enough quirky posts and you are bound to get some interesting search engine hits. I still think my favorite is "Cyanide Robbers Die," although the story was bizarre enough that I can understand someone looking for it. But today brought this gem from Google ...

"What does it mean is the glass half full or half empty?"

Yep, someone in the United States is not clear on what that means. So, I gladly send you and anyone else interested in the topic of Motivation over to, where you can find the lovely "Pessimist's Mug" pictured above and a variety of other things like de-motivational posters, calendars and books.

I would ordinarily tell you that "The glass is half-empty, now deal with it!" But with a treasure trove like this, I'm not so sure myself that things are so bad. As the company head says in his book, The Art of Demotivation, "it really could be worse."

Really, you've got to check it out, especially if you have been down-sized, outsourced, etc. You'll want to send a few items along to the poor schmucks who are still toiling away at your old company.

And if you have pesky employees of your own, check out the video on addressing employee complaints.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

German Hip-Hop ... Yo, Mikey-B is in da House

The homework assignment for German class last week was to write a song about Women. The idea was to build upon the in-class work, which was deciphering the lyrics of a Herber Grönemeyer song about Men, and I guess the intent was for us to write a few lines about women to the same tune, which is what everyone else in class did.

I decided to have a little fun with the assignment ... so I decided to compose a hip-hop number that I called "Schöne Frau." Putting together a hip-hop tune is not so hard, if you've watched enough MTV-Base or the 87 other music channels that play hip-hop around the clock ... hear enough of it and you can fake it, especially since a lot of it consists of a few samples, loops and a memorable hook. Spend another hour or so working out a plausible set of German lyrics, and you are in business.

Well, it helps to also have a keyboard and midi-sequencer, and it doesn't hurt to have a guitar, base, etc. on hand ... well those and a few other toys. Plus recording, editing, and mastering hardware/software. You get the idea.

Yep, I have too much time on my hands for things like this, which is why I have let the "important things" like taxes fall by the wayside.

The girls in class were not so mesmerized by the hip-hop tune ... they are not really into Hip-Hop at all, but at least they got a laugh from the lyrics.

I also put a few Techno tracks on the CD primarily for the amusement of Russian #2, but these were also well received by the other girls ... and I thought they only liked me 'cos I have cash.

Into the Abyss

I've been paying for my very relaxed record-keeping the past year or so ... yep, it's tax time, and I've spent the last three days re-constructing 2005.