Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Vaccuumed sealed for quality freshness

"Getraude said that I have a very young and fresh wife."

"Young and fresh?"

"Yes. Wasn´t that lovely?"

"I don´t know. Am I particularly young and fresh?"

"Don´t take it badly - it was meant as a compliment. If somebody told you you had a young and sexy husband, I wouldn´t assume that I was being reduced to just my perfect body."

Is your name not Bruce? That´s going to cause a little confusion. Mind if we call you Bruce to keep it clear?

For the last two years I´ve had to justify again and again why I didn´t change my name when I got married. Very few people seem to really accept the fact that I consider my name an extremely important part of my identity and, damn it, I´ve been called it for thirty years, I´m not about to start answering to somthing else now. Actually, the primary reason was that watching my mother receive letters addressed to Mrs B.G. Blog which was my father´s name with an S thrown in made me see red everytime.

What, her own identity wasn´t important- she´d been reduced to a pronoun?

Bollocks to that. No way was that all I was going to become.

So it surprises me how often people disagree with my point of view on this, especially when it´s women who do. I mean, I´m not a bra-burning, man-hating, short-haired, living in a women-only commune stereotype of a feminist here. I don´t think my view on the world as particularily extreme. But it really is strange how few people seem to understand this idea.

In the two years I´ve had to justify my decision (and I have had to often as it is something EVERYONE asks) there have really only been two reasons that people have found acceptable, and neither of them has anything to do with the losing of my own identity into the man´s with whom I happened to decide to spend large amounts of time with.

First, I worked damn hard to be called DrJ and I am not going to give that up and be DrSomeoneElse.

Second, DrH has a doctorate in chemistry, his mother is a medical doctor, his father a doctor in social sciences and one brother is finishing a doctorate in law. THAT´s JUST WAY TOO MANY DRH´S IN ONE ROOM.

That, THAT, people understand.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

When you get the most perfect present that so TOTALLY BLOWS YOU AWAY that you voluntarily give up rights to any celebratory gifts for the next 5 years

I was wayyyy ahead in the planning of important christmas gifts, ie. the one for DrH this year. Unfortunately, also way behind in planning those for siblings, to which I´m deeply sorry, but it´s in the mail, kay?

I was down to three items, and just had to choose which one would make it to our Christmas celebration this year, and which would have to wait for our anniversary in February. Last week I made my final decision, wandered into the specialist shop and bought it, having it beautifully wrapped on the way out.

Gotta love wrapping services, I didn´t have to buy any wrapping paper AT ALL this year. And they put cute little bows on everything.

Anyway, so there we were on Friday packing the Bulli AGAIN from the dissolution of yet another DrJ temporary accomadation. I had just brought down the last armload, including DrH´s wonderfully wrapped present. He was eyeing greedily, stripping it with his eyes to work out what it was. I smiled saucily (ok, I´m not so good at that, but in training). Then I froze.

"Oh shit. You already have a Hammer drill don´t you."

DrH stopped visually undressing his present and looked at me in surprise. "Is that what it is?" His eyes flicked back to the present and then to me. His mouth twisted as he swallowed his disappointment.

"Ummm," I said," I´m pretty sure we can change it Berlin..ummm...I´m sorry...you aren´t to angry at me?"

He smiled bravely, pulled me to him and said "I love you no matter what, and I´m thrilled you thought of buying me a Hammer drill."

Saturday, we sat with his family around the tree, handing out presents. I passed his beautifully wrapped gift to him, whispered Merry Christmas and let him open it.

The biggest damn Atlas you´ve ever seen.

He loved it. And I´d manged to muddy the waters nough that he had no idea it was coming.

But then I got to my present. Also one that I had no idea what it could be and the shape was certainly the bizarrest under the tree.

It was a fruit bowl.

A fruit bowl I had seen 8 months ago in a designers studio in East Berlin. An Israeli designer who creates Open Source designs, where anybody can reproduce his stuff. That is just so cool.

So this is the fruit bowl (the one named Flat Knot- stainless, towards the bottom of the page). It´s from a single piece of steel that´s been bent. It´s beautiful. It´s perfect.

How can anyone know me so well?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Well here I go again

Another month, another job. So it feels at least.

The second last day here. I have been offered a three month extension but turned it down. Can you believe that? I TURNED IT DOWN.

A JOB.

A JOB WITH, LIKE, MONEY AND STUFF.

I can´t believe it either.

So here I go, back to Berlin to become a dole bludging bum for a while. I imagine there will be a lot more blog posting in the New Year, due to my lady of leisure status. But for now, there probably will be little posted between the 23rd and the 31st. I´ll let you know.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Blame it on the Bolero

I have surpassed myself this time. Stand back in awe. Prepare to BE AMAZED.

I ice skated.

I was a natural. I floated centimetres above the ice, carried forth by my own style and grace. I span, I piroetted, I completed a triple axle followed by an amazing finish where my partner threw me across the ice to stretch gracious and dramatic in a center spotlight, a vision of beauty and inner torment.

Ah, no. That was a teenage dream. Thank you Torvill and Dean.

Got a bit carried away there.

Sorry.

But I have now ice skated. Can tick that one off on my list of 100 Things To Do Before I Die.

The Christmas market has a tiny little icerink set up. It´s terrifyingly cute and christmassy- all lit up, Christmas trees on every corner, rugged up Germans drinking Glühwein hanging over the rails watching people speed past, the Castle on the hill above, walls glowing warmly in the snowy air.

Oh look, I´m getting all poetic. Must be the season.

So back to the reality of the situation. I was with a colleague and a few of his friends. This colleague, who I will nickname Torvill simply because it suits even though he´s a he, had come prepared with his own ice skates. Hmmmmmm. Yep I doubted I was going to be able to give him any serious competition out on the ice. The other two had to hire with me, and the three of us battled with ill-fitted shoes and wet laces for the rest of the evening while Torvill merrily skated circles around us.

With my boots finally laced and the blood from my damaged lacing fingers suitably staunched, I braved the ice.

Skate One placed on ice. Check. Skate Two placed on ice. Check. Upright. CheNooooooookay, Check. Handrail firmly grabbed. Check.

A few deep breathes and I pushed myself forward, left the security of the handrail behind me and entered the furious maelstrom. I slid forward, people young and old alike swerving to avoid me. I slowed. I stopped. I was still upright, but not moving forward. This would require moving my feet. Nope. Wasn´t happy with that idea. Not at all.

Then came Torvill to the rescue. Screaming up behind me at a hundred miles an hour he grabbed my hand and yanked me forward. There was nothing I could do. My ankles wobbled dangerously. I fought for balance. My left arm span frantic windmills in the air as I was propelled forward: skates first, body second, mouth yelling in fear a close third.

The first curve... negotiated. Although I do apolgise now to the elderly lady whom I whacked in the ear on the way past. I didn´t mean it, really I didn´t. Down the straight again. Next curve coming up. Hang on. Torvill had pulled the old slingshot manoeuver and whipped me past him. I was there! In front! Leader of the pack! Still upright!

From then on it was no holds barred. I tore around that rink. I stayed on my feet. I even tried some fancy stuff from my rollerskating days. I went backwards. I stood in the corner and discovered you could spin and spin and spin and spin. Although maybe I shouldn´t have had that Glühwein first.

I left the rink to a round of applause.

Thank you, thank you. I´m here till Thursday!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Getting geared up for festive food

I don´t think I´ve really explained my living conditions here. I am staying in guesthouse apartment belonging to my mother ship organisation. It has a kick arse view over the valley and is fully furnished so I didn´t have to bring much stuff with me (a BIG point - when you´ve lived in 9 apartments in 6 years you get REALLY SICK OF CARRYING SOFAS). However it is tiny, a full one room with attached bathroom, which for some strange design reason is almost as large as the main room itself. Personally I would´ve preferred a little less leg room when sitting on the toilet and a little more when sitting on the couch.

The biggest drawback of this apartment is it´s cooking facilities. I certainly can´t call it a kitchen, and I´d be hard pressed to call it a kitchenette or even cooking niche. It has a sink approximately 15cm wide, which means that no plate, dish or pot will actually fit in there properly. There are also 2 hot plates which are either HOT HOT HOT! or off. Below is a bar fridge, above two small cabinets. Spacious it is not, and it certainly doesn´t encourage one to bother with dinner at all.

Combined with this, the local supermarket closes at 6.30 which is before I leave work on most nights and to go to the next one requires a delicate juggling of buses and rain that I rarely have the desire to start with.

Summary: My cupboards are bare.

Dinner for the last three night has comprised:

Tuesday: A tin of chickpeas I found underneath a bag of rice was boiled in half a tin of tomato soup. I threw in a handful of sultanas from my work snack, some cumin, cinnamon, garlic and chili. Did vaguely resemble a moroccan stew and I managed to swallow it all.

Wednesday: Behind the butter I found the last bit of a packet of green curry paste, used the last of my dehydrated coconut milk and boiled up some rice. Green Curry Rice with NONE of the trimmings.

Thursday: Clever DrJ grabbed a loaf of bread on her way IN to work (thinking ahead, man, thinking ahead). Last night I had bread and butter. And water.

Tonight: You know, tonight I think I´ll go out.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

W(h)ine away

On the weekend DrH and I decided to be all bold and adveturous and went out for dinner to a small sushi place near our house. If you don´t think of this as bold and adventurous then you have not really considered HOW FAR BERLIN IS AWAY FROM ANY FISH-BEARING BODY OF WATER.

But despite our secret fears and the best attempts of a gaggle of workers starting with the underpaid fishers, through the overworked transcontinental truck drivers to the suspiciously silent Japanese waiter, we walked out with no food poisoning whatsoever.

To compensate and attempt to ensure at least some form of illness would follow, we went around the corner to a little wine bar/restuarant. One of those typical walk-past-it-a-thousand-times-and-said-every-time-I-must-go-in-there-but-haven´t-bothered-yet-as-the-kebab-shop-is-still-open.

So in we wander as if we own the place and grab a table in an appropriate niche, giving every impression of the kind of sophistication required to be at home in a wine bar without a wine list.

No wine list. Oh did our cheeks pinken when we asked and were politely but firmly informed that our waiter for the evening would herself be the wine list. Another sophistication faux par.

So what kind of wine would the Herr and Dame be interested in? Something full bodied, perhaps? Good. Sweet or not so sweet? Not too sweet? Oh I have just the thing, I´m sure you´d like it. Recently arrived, new to our selection. A full bodied Sicilian with a hint of tobacco.

I took the glass offered and sniffed as is considered appropriate, although the effort of getting my rather endowed nose into a glass can be a challenge even with the largest of red wine glasses. Not enough, I´ll have to go the full taste test. DrH watched me carefully as I took a small sip and swilled it around in my mouth. As I nearly spat it back at her.

A hint of tobacco? That drink tasted like a fucking ASHTRAY. The last time I had anything nearing it was when I accidentally grabbed the wrong beer at a Uni party and took a swig out of the butt bottle. Needless to say I keep very close tabs on my beer at parties these days.

So I was not about to pay 30€ for the same quaffing sensation as an undergrad piss-up.

I rejected the wine, stating clearly what I thought with a bit of Ummm, no, it isn´t really for me which in sophisticated speak means Damn it woman, you trying to poison me with that shit or what? much like We do not condone torture means Dang right we go kidnap, lock up and torture anyone we damn well please and to hell with your Geneva convention crap in Condoleezza speak.

Well our wine mistress for the evening certainly didn´t take it too well and when the second bottle came out, there wasn´t much choice in the matter anymore. We had to take it or risk the Evil Berlin Waitress Syndrome where they start dropping the plates in front of you from nose height rather than placing it gently on the table.

As we left, half a bottle later and 20€ poorer, I decided that the next time we try and do something sophisticated we should probably wear something other than hooded Linkin Park sweaters.

WTF?

I managed to miss all news reports over the weekend and Monday that may have mentioned the Sydney riots here, so it was a shock to read The Age yesterday and discover that parts of Australia SEEM TO HAVE LOST THEIR MIND.

That´s just fucked up.

I love my country, I miss it and I would do almost anything to live there again.

But Australia does have a few delusions about itself, which you can see only once you´ve left. It´s a little bit like the American I met the other week who, after 4 years in Europe, went "NOW I get why the rest of the world doesn´t like us."

Australia is small and inward-looking. Hate to break it to you, but much as Australia thinks of itself as a global player, the rest of the world thinks of it as a few beaches with some odd looking animals. It just doesn´t rate on the international scale.

Multiculturalism? Well only if you define it fairly narrowly ie. "These foreigners can come over but only if they´re rich with a good education, don´t do no funny foreign stuff here and act and sound like REAL Australians."

One of the most disgusting things I think I ever saw was shortly after the UN announced that Australia had the worst detention conditions for asylum seekers they had seen, The Age newspaper splashed the title "MELBOURNE: WORLDS MOST MULTICULTURAL CITY" across the front page.

Excuse me while I calm down again. That still gets my blood boiling.

I have driven with people through Footscray and had them yell "Lock the doors, LOCK THE DOORS" because it is a Vietnamese-rich suburb. This wasn´t Vietnam or Cambodia, it was Melbourne. As if it was dangerous and the foreign scary people outside the car were just waiting to do us harm.

And yes, with Australia´s terrorism paranoia - and paranoia it is - it´s not surprising that something like this happened. Unfortunately these days, I have more reasons to be ashamed of being Australian than proud.

And that hurts.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Because sometimes goodnight is not enough

Having a long distance relationship for the the past 2 years has dramatically changed the way DrH and I interact with each other.

Our evenings are currently very seperate. We both manage to finish work, but now he has to walk the dog, while I get to walk home and watch an absolutely terrible Telenovella called Verliebt in Berlin.

I can´t explain it- it has me in it´s clutches.

Maybe he then goes to the gym. Meanwhile maybe I go to Aikido, or, more likely, convince colleagues that a round of cocktails is in order.

We talk briefly at about 8pm, before I kick him off the phone because CSI has started.

Then we talk again at 11pm. He´s ready to go out with the dog for the final evening peeing event, while I´m tucked into bed. We chat, we say I love you, we say good bye, I roll over and go to sleep.

So when we are actually together on weekends things are getting tough. My routine is broken, I´m not sure how to get to sleep anymore. I lay awake for hours because something JUST ISN´T RIGHT.

But now, we´ve worked it out.

Get into bed.

Turn out the light.

Say I love you.

Say good bye.

Turn my back on my husband and snuggle the pillow.

Give it a kiss goodnight and fall asleep.

Friday, December 09, 2005

This little piggie went to market

The onset of December means the opening of all the Christmas markets across Germany. Market squares, from the largest cities to the smallest village are filled with small wooden huts selling the most necessary of Christmas gifts and keepsakes.

Some of this year´s personal favourites:

1. Ugg boots. Yes, Europe discovered them about the same time as New York and Los Angeles and has resulted in horrifically expensive, yet not very warm sheepskin-lined boots filling shoe shops from here to Milan. For some particular reason, the high time for this fashion was SUMMER. And they DARE to call Australia arse-about. Unfortunately, the market Ugg boots are rather less of a boot and more of a moccasin without, however, quite reaching that definition. They certainly give every impression of becoming an Ugg boot when they grow up, had they not been slaughtered and offered to middle class Germans before their prime.

2. Candles and Spices. No market can be considered complete without numerous stands selling horrible homemade candles and/or spices. The candles primarily represent animals with just enough similarity to living species to give small children nightmares well into February. These seem to be quite popular with aunts and uncles of said small children.

3. Black paper profile cutouts. Yes, a man sits in his little hut and will, for a set fee, cut a small profile of you out of black paper which you can frame and hang on the wall for your grandchildren to throw out when they loot your house for posthumous effects.

4. Hand painted glass balls with a variety of Christmas scenes. Perfect for that person who has everything. 100% guaranteed to smash into a thousand pieces in the Christmas decorations box when you pack up your tree, so that next year your Christmas may be enhanced by the experience of visting the emergency room with septic poisoning from tiny glass cuts when you absentmindedly plunge your hand in to find the holly.

5. The half meter Bratwurst. In a bun slightly smaller than your hand so the the only way to eat it is at arms length with mustard dripping on you.

6 - 10. Feuerzangenbowle.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Maybe this is how they found out about those WMDs

How do you produce high quality journalism these days? Investigative reporting? Hard-hitting interviews? Piffle! Apparently you just read blogs. It´s blogs that house all truth, man!

The story is that Defamer made a joke about a new Mel Gibson miniseries concerning the holocaust. The next day, the New York correspondent for The Australian reported this as a fact, instead of a tongue-in-cheek bit of nonsense.

Bravo The Australian! Ensuring Australian media is considered a joke by the rest of the world. Yeah, I can hold my head up proud now.

Basking in that Christmas Glow

How does an entire hemisphere deal with temperatures hovering around zero at one of the years most important festivals, when more practical countries have simply ensured their continent is experiencing summer? Simple!

ALCOHOL

What better way can there be to ensure that one doesn´t notice the tips of ones fingers falling off than to start drinking copious amounts of that heat-you-up-on-the-inside-numb-you-to-the-outside anaesthetic?

Christmas offers two specialties in this department. First and foremost is the everpresent Glühwein. This wonderful concoction of cheap red wine, oranges, cinnamon and cloves can be purchased with a dash of rum or amaretto or any other liquor of choice for the additional price of ten times the value of said dash. Most Germans will actually deliberately leave the warmth and comfort of home and hearth to stand in subzero temperatures and drink this, simply so that they can then say "My, doesn´t that warm you up, just what the doctor ordered, hey?" without any sense of ridiculousness in that they put themselves into the cold only for this drink in the first place.

The second Christmas drink is the appropriately named Feuerzangenbowle, or in English the Fire Tongue Punch. Primary ingredient is a big bowl of gluhwein, preferably in some kind of pot or cauldron which is kept hot over a flame. Over this pot is suspended a metal holder on which cones of sugar are placed. Yes, you heard me right, CONES of sugar. YOu can buy these in every supermarket and are hard, non-crumbly CONES.

Here comes the good bit. You then cover these totally in rum and SET THEM ON FIRE.

WOOHOO

The sugar melts and dribbles into the gluhwein, along with any extra rum, which you may have poured a little too enthusiastically thereby making the whole mess horrifically sweet and incredibly intoxicating.

Fun for all the family! The adults get completely sloshed and the kids get to watch grandpa´s beard go up in flames. What more Christmas glow could you possible ask for? As an added bonus the hangover the next day surpases the quality of a normal hangover by several orders of magnitude and can only really be cured by getting out into the fresh air, letting the cold whip that headache away. Of course, once you´re out there, you know what would be perfect? Just a little sip of gluhwein to warm you up again. Or perhaps, over there they have a Feuerzangenbowle.....

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Very Interesting Entry, Please Keep Reading

One of my daily joys is checking in with my site tracker and seeing who has read my blog and where they´re from (yes I know, I´m pathetic. But, hey, I´m a science nerd what more do you expect?).

Hi Mum!!

There even seems to be some people UNRELATED TO ME who read this blog.

Yes, Dad. I, too, was shocked.

Admittedly it isn´t the 50,000 readers a day that allows Dooce to support her family from her blog, but I´d like to say Hi to those non-family members reading here.

Hello all three of you!

There are also the drive-by blog readers who accidentally stumble across my site but don´t seem to stay longer than a quick read of the headings. I should try and make those more interesting. As my site tracker lets me see where they linked from, I was most amused to notice that one drive-by reader ended up on my site after searching Google for "Dolly Partons breasts".

Sorry you didn´t hang around. Guess this site wasn´t well enough endowed.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Pulping previously overpulped fiction into a pulpy pulp

A big new shiny machine is being installed at DrH´s work at the moment. This comes complete with a big new shiny machine installer. Well, maybe not the shiny bit. Okay, he´s also probably not that new. But I can assure you he is big. As in big enough to deal with a big new shiny machine.

And his name is Zack. Zack with the big new shiny machine.

DrH came home brimming with the news. "It´s a big new shiny machine!" he exclaimed. "With a guy! A guy called Zack!"

"Thrilling," his wife responded, concentrating more on the latest advert for Mercedes (as has been previously noted on this blog, there is a small car problem developing here).

"As in `Zack´s dead baby, Zack´s dead`," he responded excitedly, putting on a deeper voice than he normally has and squishing his chin down to his chest to do so. His wife looked away from television long enough to show her confusion at this unexpected outburst. "You know, Pulp Fiction!"

"I think you may mean `Zed´s dead`," she remarked coolly.

DrH froze. "Oh. Yeah." His face moved through various expressions from consternation to relief. "Lucky I didn´t say anything then. I was going to ask him tomorrow if Pulp Fiction changed his life. He wouldn´t have known what I was talking about."

"Well now," His wife soothed, "the whole web´s going to know about it ´cause I am definately going to blog this."

Monday, December 05, 2005

The benefits of a classical education

Scene: Driving through Berlin in an old, loud Volkswagen bus. Focus on two people in the front seat, so bundled up that they are unrecognisable. Shivering, they try to distract themselves from the cold with meaningless drivel. Pan to take in nighttime street scene, with large billboard saying "EUROHYPO".

DrJ "What kind of word is that? EUROHYPO. Sounds like an immunisation you get when travelling to Europe."

DrH "Guess it´s something to do with banks. Like Hypothek is a loan in German."

DrJ "Sounds like it should be a building. If Bibliothek is a library and Apotheke is a pharmacy, then Hypothek must be...a building for hypo´s?"

DrH "Well hypo is a lack of something right? Hypothermia, hypoglycemic."

DrJ "Perhaps a building for people with a lack of money?"

DrH "Looks like our Ancient Greek is letting us down. Damn that Ancient Greek."

Pause.

DrJ "Well what about hippo then? We have a hippopotamus, you guys call it the Nile Horse. Hippo is something to do with horses right?"

DrH "Nilpferde. Hmmm, could be. Potamus must be Ancient Greek for the river Nile then. Isn´t it? Or, hang on, what´s the name of the river that the dead people have to cross? Isn´t it Potamus?"

DrJ "Yeah. Ummm. No. I think that´s the river Styx."

DrH "Oh, right."

Silence.

Both characters look out the window. Pan away to the street scene, lit window displays flicking past.

Fade to black.

Maybe it´s bird flu

God I hate being sick.

Guess I´m not alone in that. It always seems to happen on weekends. Those 2 days a week I get to spend with my husband and all I want to do is curl up and sleep.

What a waste of 120€ train tickets.

I´ll write something more amusing and anecdotal as soon as my brain is functioning properly again.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Once upon a time, there was a lovely little sausage called `Baldrick', and it lived happily ever after.

Just like the novel above, although personally one of my favourites, my attempt at NaNoWriMo is once again a dismal failure. In fact, just about the only part in which my novel surpassed Baldrick´s autobiographical work was length, and even then not by much.

Just li´l ol´me, sitt´n alone in the darkness

In the toilets here we have motion detectors which turn the light on when someone enters, thus saving electrictiy and the whole effort of flicking the light switch on when you enter. Since I started, the one in the girls toilet hasn´t worked, so we were forced to turn the light switch on anyway. And since this is a different type of switch, with a little toggly bit underneath which is difficult to find in the dark, this necessitated much more effort than a normal light switch would.

Yesterday, finally, the man came to fix it. So when I entered this morning, arm outstretched, fingers automatically searching for the little toggle, the light magically switched on. Great! It works! Modern technology at it´s best.

I entered the cubicle, removed the various layers of clothing necessary and made myself comfortable.

The light went out.

I was sitting in pitch blackness with my pants around my ankles and the toilet roll was empty.

The only thing I could think of was to try and get the light back on again. How else was I going to find that replacement toilet roll?

I kicked my shoe off and threw it under the door. Well actually, I tried to throw it under the door but had somehow misjudged the gap and the shoe rebounded in a random direction. I tried again with the other shoe, which this time did manage to go under the door, but somehow did not flip the sensor.

Reaching forward I could just turn the handle on the door, pulling it open towards me although for some unknown reason the sensor also failed to pick this movement up. So delicately balanced on the edge of the toilet, fingers gripping the handle of the door for support, I lent forward and waved my arm up and down.

Miracle of miracles, the light went on again.

There was the spare roll of paper, hidden behind the toilet. There was my right shoe in the middle of the bathroom floor. There was my left shoe, in the next cubicle, having somehow slid under the wall on it´s random flight. There was I, about to fall off the toilet.

I sat back. I closed the door again. I fished the toilet roll out and replaced it. I was ready.

The light went out.

Germanisms

Now is the time when I gripe about those little things that drive me banana´s when Germans speak English.

1. Not being able to distinguish between borrowing and lending. Two words actually exist in German, and interestingly they start with the same letters, but they´re used interchangeably.

2. Vary. Based on the logic that the word variety is pronounced var-eye-ity, vary is invariably pronounced var-eye. As is var-eye-able.

3. Wideo

4. Months. There is an S there. USE IT!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Monday, November 28, 2005

On the joy of marrying Germans #27

"Come and snuggle to me....Hang on, is that smell me?"

"Seems so."

"Should I go and have a shower?"

"Well I haven´t brushed my teeth so we can have a stinky competition."

"Hahaha."

"Hahaha."

"..."

"..."

"Maybe spoons would be better."

"Think you may be right."

Me and The Big Man

So to prove that I actually met a real live astronaut, here he is! (note the terrible hair)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Pimp My Scientist

Went and got a haircut today. Decided that this funky red, yellow, orange, brown shit that´s been going on for the last year just HAD to stop. And I need a style. Like, ANY style. Seeing as it´s been years since I last had one. Hell, anyone who knows me well would say I never had one and, well y´know, they´re undoubtably right.

So I was there in the chair, discussing with a young and typically bored and uninterested Berlin hairdresser what I wanted done. SHe sighed several times, disagreed with me several more times and finally shrugged and pulled out her assorted cutting apparatii. After about 10 minutes of her fussing around and yanking out handfulls of hair with attached scalp, I looked up from my book to discover that all she´d managed to do so far was trim the bottom. So I stopped her and pointed out that I wanted it shorter.

"Like this?" she asked boredly, showing me about 2cm off the bottom.

"No. Shorter."

"This much?" adding an extra 3 millimeters.

"No. Here," I said grabbing a handful and holding up about half the length of my hair. "Cut it off to here. And layer it. And give me some sort of fringe." She looked at me with a bit of a `it´s your funeral´look and went to work.

30 minutes later she started dyeing my hair, once again only after a long and protracted discussion over my choice of colour, insisting that dark brown would make me look pasty and wouldn´t suit at all. About this point DrH walked in on his way home. We talked a bit, he touched my hair but made no real comment at this stage as it was half dyed and half in foil and I looked like a big chicken with a silver comb, and then he left. Importantly this conversation, as most of ours, occured in English. After he left the hairdresser found her voice again.

"What did he say about the cut?"

"Nothing."

"No, really. He touched your hair."

"I mean it, he didn´t say anything."

She gave me a disbelieving look, one combined sneakily with a self satisfied look of "told you you shouldn´tve done it. Now see your husband thinks you look stoopid, Should´ve taken my advice. Hahah I was right." I´ve got a suspicion that the slight lip curl to the left may also have indicated a certain "Bloody foreigners, no fashion sense at all", but I may have just imagined it. And anyway, I happily admit that my fashion sense starts and stops with the first thing I find in the pile of clothes at the bottom of my closet, so she wouldn´t have been entirely wrong.

Another 30 minutes later and we were both staring at my reflection in the mirror. Hair half the length it was, dark dark brown and a semi, swept to the side fringe. I said nothing. She said nothing. I turned my head to the side. She cleared her throat.

"Well it looks better than I thought it would."

And that, dear readers, is high praise from a Berliner. High praise indeed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Where are all the good blogs?

Bill mentioned on his blog on Monday that his stats counter went beserk the day that Dooce linked to him (who I found linked to from Loobylu, who was linked to from Sublime Stitching, who was linked to by, well, I can´t remember that far back). That was the day I found his blog, and man am I glad for that. Between Dooce and him I get the most giggles for the day. But where are all the rest?

It seems to be playing with links. Each links to someone they like to someone they like etc, but I haven´t really seen a direct writing style relationship between the writers I like to read and the people they link to.

How can I find more? I need more, my current Bloglines list is normally done in about 15 minutes a day. That´s not enough!

With the millions of blogs out there I simply don´t have time to search them all for the few gems. I need a super list of funny, quality writers.

The joy of marrying Germans #54

They always put the toilet seat down.

Always.

Monday, November 21, 2005

I believed, but there was nothing

Oh woe is me! I have been left alone in the darkness! Cut off from civilisation! The years of undying faithfulness have been thrown back in my praying face!

I can´t connect to Google!

What shall I do? How can I continue with my lifeline hacked through and thrown back into the ocean of uncertainty? How shall I answer those daily questions of necessity such as "Who was that song You´re So Vain really about?"

Google is my link to knowledge and understanding. It is Dr Google in times of pain; Wiseman Google in times of suffering; Brother Google who answers those questions of religon and faith. It is Telephone Book Google, Old Friend Google, Boredom Fighter Google, General Knowledge Google, News Google, Put-the-name-to-a-face Google.

Oh Google, why have you left me?

Please, please, please get it up again quickly. My fragile soul cannot endure this much longer.

When I gwow up I wanna be a astwonaut




Back from the week away. I wish I could say it was a great, relaxing event, but in fact it was 10 hour days of standing in high heel shoes trying to find potential clients in a completely non-target audience. In it´s defence though, part of it was damn exciting and my childhood dream of going into space has been reborn.

My company is one of several representing the European Space Agency in trying to find commercial partners who may want to run experiments up in the International Space Station. So we were at this convention as part of ESA.

Do you have ANY idea how thrilling that was? We had real russian space suits there. And a model of the space station. And movies of flights and experiments. And little astronaut pins. And low gravity shampoo.

And a real, live astronaut.

Frank de Wille gave an hour long presentation on going into space and what it was like. The years and years and years of training beforehand. The week long headache when you first get up there as all the blood goes to your head. The stink of the space station when they first open the doors. Floating in a tiny metal container in the middle of space.

And damn it, I want to do that.

I gave up the dream of astronauthood when life and interest pushed me towards biology. But it´s back. The dream. And it turns out I´m not completely out of a chance. They´re apparently hiring in the next few years to make up the Astronaut Core, which is down to 12 instead of 16 now. And they look for highly educated, very practical, hands on people about the age of 30. That´s me!

All I need to do now is lose about half my body weight, get really fit, learn Russian and outcompete the 40,000 other applicants. Oh and become German.

It is the European Space Agency after all.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

There will be a break in our regular programming

While I´m off handing out business cards at a convention for the rest of the week. Hah! Got a suit and everything. If I get access and have anything interesting to say, I may update but don´t hold your breath.

Meanwhile, enjoy the fact that this is my 101st post.

Note to self

When trying to rapidly write a reasonable novel in an unreasonable time frame, avoid all frivolous enjoyment reading, especially when said read is a) completely different in style to your own writing and b) good.

Damn you Iain M. Banks. Damn you.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Three good reasons why I didn´t study chemistry

1. 1,1''-([4,4'-bipiperidine]-1,1'-diyldicarbonyl)bis[1'-carboxy-, compd. with N,N,N',N'-tetramethyl-1,2-ethanediamine

2. 7,13-Methano-5H-quino[3,4-c][1]benzazepine, 5,8-diacetyl-6,6a,7,8,13,13a-hexahydro-, (6aa,7b,13b,13aa)

3. Difuro[3,2-b:3',2'-b']cyclobuta[1,2-c:4,3-c']dipyridine-2,11-dione, 4,9-diacetyl-4,5,6,6a,6b,7,8,9-octahydro-, (6ab,6bb,12aR*,12bR*)

I need some Girlie influence

I don´t have many female friends here. I guess it´s not surprising as I´m in a male dominated field but still. Not many. I go shopping on my own. Hairdresser, buying new makeup, shoe shopping. All alone. Then I go out drinking with the guys. Where´s all that girl talk I need? The one about bra´s and period pain. Boys, men, Boys. Sex. Hair. The role of the modern women in today´s society. Accessories.

The important things in life.

I realised this was becoming dire yesterday.

After a passionate Sunday afternoon with DrH I felt no desire to chat. Didn´t want to start a conversation about our relationship. No amateur analysis of our feelings.

I wanted to fall asleep.

And when I closed my eyes, this is what I saw:



Thar she blows

Are you familiar with Eddie Izzard? Have you seen his Glorious video? The one where he talks about floatation vests in aircrafts? About how you have the extra little mouth valve for a “top-up”, because that´s how they always describe it, and yet it makes him think of a very English cup of tea. Swimming over to your fellow downed comrade saying “Oh Hello, fancy a top up?”

Or that there you are, having just crashed into the ocean, floating.

1000 miles to England, 2000 miles to the US.

You´ve got your whistle.


I have small backpack I bought about 2 years ago. In that time I´ve used it, oh, approximately 3000 times. Taken it on, taken it off. Opened the various zipper compartments. Admired the firm support with the special breathable back. I even –shock horror- use the little strap across the chest as it sits more comfortably. Not to mention that it gives me a cleavage Dolly Parton would be proud of and damn if I don´t just wanna have that occasionally.

This strap is black. The “receiving” part of the clicky thing is black. The insertion part of the clicky thing is bright orange. So it´s something I´ve looked at thousands of time. I´ve noticed it. I´ve handled it. I´ve pushed it in and out of it´s partner piece.

And yet, I looked at it the other day and realised it has a built in whistle. Yes, a whistle. In the orange plastic clicky thing. The thing I´ve looked at a thousand times and never seen. How could I fail to see it? Its BRIGHT ORANGE. It sits in the middle of my cleavage. I guess it is quite possible that a percentage of Berlin males could assure me that they noticed it years ago, but I missed it.

I´m like a kid with a new toy. A man with a new large breasted girlfriend. I can´t stop playing with it. Don´t worry about the unsightly boob squishing, you´ll hear me peeping long before I come into view.

Friday, November 11, 2005

All it´s missing is dried fish on a stick

Joy of joys the new IKEA catalogue has arrived. I know it´s pathetic. It´s an addiction. I can´t control it.

Hello, my name is DrJ and I´m an IKEA addict.

That Swedish design. The bright colours. The little Allen key screws. I´m getting shivers just writing about it.

Last night came the small Christmas edition. I would add it it too my pile of IKEA catalogues but, get this, I THREW THEM OUT. I was trying to move on, get over my reliance on the thick books that lived permanently next to the television. To stop leafing through them, rearranging our apartment in my head, repeating the soothing sounds of BEKVÄM, GRUNDTAL, UTSAGA.

So now all I have are the pathetic remainders that get sent out for the seasons. Summer´s bedroom. Spring´s kitchen. And now Winter´s Christmas Wonderland.

40 pages of IKEA shopping bliss with all you could need for the holidays. Even the freaky looking moustachioed Swedish guy cutting up tablecloths on page 6 could do nothing to diminish the thrills that were running up my spine as I started turning the pages slowly, revelling in the clear lines, the sharp edges.

I found the first necessity on page 9. Who could think of celebrating Christmas without a JULEN straw figure in the shape of a reindeer? Better yet, skip ahead to page 21 and there are the coordinating paper serviettes, completer with an artists impression of the selfsame reindeer. Really, what Christmas dinner table could call itself complete without these?

Hang on, page 24! The complete TABLO kitchen arrangement now 60% off! We definitely need a new kitchen, my love. Really. I can use the old one as a desk. Complete with a handy sink that I can put the harddrive in so it doesn´t take up space. See?

Hold the phone. What´s this? Page 33. ANNAS diy gingerbread house. All the pieces you need, just stick it together. That´s a must. I wonder if it uses those Allen key screws?

This isn´t going to work. 7 pages later and it´s over. My IKEA catalogue was just too small. It was a teaser. A let´s get her all worked up and leave her hanging. Where´s the satisfaction? The closure of reaching the monthly deals and maps to your closest location? The handy index?

I wonder if I can get the old ones on Ebay.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

But it stinks so GOOOOD!



Leon Dog Wonder, like probably most dogs, likes to roll in shit. ANd I don´t mean shit in the general modern day usage suggesting "stuff" but in the traditional usage of "excrement coming from the behind of a living creature". In the year and a half of having him, I have become familiar with an amazing variety of shit including general size, colour, smell, common locations and difficulty level in removing it from the fur of a white(ish) dog.

First is the rabbit. This is the least of our worries actually as Leon prefers to eat it than roll in it.

Next comes the hedgehog. Very small amounts, but a sort of slimy dark green/black and extremely fragrant. This normally ends up behind his left ear for some reason.

Third is the duck. Definately slimy, not as stinky. Found generally around ponds so often easy to avoid.

Horse shit. Oh my how he loves this. In fact he has memorised the forest paths where it is most commonly found and will bound ahead, making sure he can get at least two good mouthfuls in before my projectile hits him in the head. Doesn´t tend to roll in it though.

The unidentified but extremely stinky shit. Brown, as all good shit is. Difficult to remove and we haven´t yet been able to work out the source. Quite possibly wild pig.

Finally the worst one of all. This stinks to high heaven and the dog enjoys BOTH eating it and rolling in it. It´s almost impossible to remove the smell, even after three baths and copious amounts of shampoo. I´ve even tried my Herbal Essences Forest Flowers but it does nothing to disguise the stink. But I do now know the answer to that ages old question: Do people shit in the forest and public parks?

YES THEY DO.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Daylight, what daylight?

The clocks have changed again which of course means that it is now a 10 hour time difference to Oz, not an 8 hour one. I want to emphasize that again. TEN HOURS NOT EIGHT.

Just for those who may want to call me instead of reading my blog. PICK UP THE DAMN PHONE.

Of course, what the time change primarily means is that it is now dark in the middle of the day. And by the middle of the day I MEAN THE MIDDLE. Very soon it´s going to be dark at 4pm. That´s LUNCHTIME.

Hmmph.

And so it means that walking the dog, something DrH must do on a daily basis now that I can´t have the mutt here with me, has become an adventure in facing all those childhood fears of big scary things rustling in the darkness. Together on the weekend, DrH and I go into the Grunewald (the world´s best park, it being not really a park, but a bit of leftover forest that´s slap bang in the middle of Berlin and really huge). It´s always getting dark when we make it there and most of the conversation is made up of:

"What´s that?"

"What?"

"Up there. Can´t you see it?"

"Ummmm. Maybe another person? No, I think it´s a tree. Yes, it´s a tree"

"Hang on, there´s someone coming. Get the dog would you."

"Wait, what´s that noise?"

"What noise?"

"That rustling in the bushes."

"You mean the one that sounds like there´s a wild boar right behind us?"

"Yes that noise."

"Well, I´d be guessing....look, get the dog would you, I think we should back away quietly."

Thursday, November 03, 2005

And she´s off and writing

I have signed myself up for Nanowrimo after all. I´ve decided to try an amusing story about the life of a female grad student. Well they do say write what you know. It´s probably going to be along the style lines of Janet Evanovich, as that´s a style which comes pretty easy to me. Hell, I just want words on paper, not Shakespeare worthy prose. You don´t get that on this blog, you won´t get that in a hurridly thrown together story.

And with only 27 days to go, I´m going to be pushing it big time to make the 50 000 words. Even crap words.

So far I´m off to a powerful start with 897 words. I´ll update if I keep going. If this subject trails away and never sees the light of day on this blog again, then you´ll know that I´ve failed. Again.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

My Little Pony, I Love My Little Pony

Yesterday was a public holiday here, some kind of Catholic celebration. No idea actually, but lots of people were visiting cemeteries and it gave me a day off. I took the opportunity and went and visited my ex-student at her parents place not far from here. The really cool part was that her parents breed Icelandic horses , so she took me out for a ride.

They have 13 horses at the moment and they are all just horrifically cute. Their backs are at about my shoulder height, perfect for someone like me who hasn´t been on a horse for 15 years and has all the balancing aptitude of a slumbering cow in a paddock full of drunk teenagers. I got to ride Phoenix, who was a champion and her Dad´s prize possession. Nicely enough he didn´t seem to mind having me on his back too much.

These horses have one of the weirdest runs, called the Tölt, which normal horses don´t do. It´s a really smooth gait between a trot and a canter. Apparently one of the competitions is to have a race where all the riders hold a glass of beer and whichever rider has the most left in the glass at the end has won. Phoenix and I did a bit of it, but, being the inexperienced rider that I am, I couldn´t actually keep him in it and he either sped up or slowed down, depending on what he felt like doing. In the end we had a great ride through the forest, where I pretty much sat like a lump on his back and he did whatever he wanted, but hey, he got the exercise and I got to sit on a horse: win-win is what I say.

How NOT to ask someone out

Monday night I was invited to join a friend at a party in one of the most amusing ways I think I´ve experienced. Firstly it was casually slipped into a list of things he wanted to discuss:
1. Weather (or something equally as interesting)
2. Fashion (actually, I can´t really remember what point 2. was)
3. Are you busy tonight?
4. Tomorrow´s weather.

Nicely slipped in, I thought. But he lost it all on the follow through.

Because what then came was a list of all the reasons why, maybe, he wouldn´t go after all. And the reasons why perhaps it´d be difficult for me to get there or get home. And maybe a bit later on he´d decide, and maybe, let me know.

I mean REALLY. Regardless of the fact that I´m married and we´re just mates, you don´t ask ANY girl out in that way. Invite them, then tell them no, actually I don´t think you should come.

I may have found the reason he´s single.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Here she goes again, like she´ll manage it this time, eh?

Well the end of October signals several things, but one of the most important in my little world is the start of Nanowrimo. I did actually sign myself up last year, but only managed about 2000 of the 50 000 words, what with seminars and sick dogs and going to Australia.

Dare I try again?

I´ve got a few hours to think about it, I`ll let you know.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Trailing spouses and bitterness by the bucketfull

The past 2 years have been particularly difficult for me in terms of my career. I have tried to explain it to DrH, and I think he sees it, but at the same time it doesn´t directly affect him, so it´s a bit of a theoretical. This article sums up a lot of what I´ve been feeling, that I´ve become a trailing spouse.
I´ve fought against that in many ways, not the least by taking jobs in 3 different cities which has required my moving, the two of us commuting, and untold stress on our relationship, just to prove my independence and own abilities. But I still gave up an opportunity in Berkeley for our relationship, for his job, for his career.

And none of it has changed the fact that I was still always going to come out second best to someone who is in my scientific field but several years ahead, and male. Sorry, but woman just cannot compete. Forget the equal opportunity bullshit that everyone spouts these days. It still doesn´t happen. I know of only 2 female professors in my field in Germany and neither have families. A few years ago an internal study from one of the big research organisations here, which shall not be named but may have something to do with a famous physicist or a piece of wood, looked into the ratio of women in the higher levels. Of the around 120 professor level positions 11 were held by women and 10 of those were in relationships with the head of the institute. That sound like equality to you?

So I´m sorry, but all of those open minded men that I´ve had this discussion with, who all insist that "it´s easy for women to get ahead in science", while they work 14 hour days and have the little woman at home looking after their babies and washing their underwear can just bite me.

Am I bitter and pissed off? Damn fucking right.

But I still may have tried to fight my way ahead through this. To try and be one of the few who make it. Until I married another scientist and I knew that this would never work. He woud always get the better job, he always had the better prospects. He is a damn good scientist, don´t get me wrong. In some ways he is better than me. In others though, I am.

So it was pointless trying to compete. It was better that I throw in the towel, look for a new career path where we aren´t competing directly. Which I´ve done. I´m enjoying my new job, don´t get me wrong. But would I have enjoyed my old job more if I hadn´t had this threat, this knowledge that it was pointless, hanging over my head? You know, I think so. But now I´ll never know.

And yet, I´m still the trailing spouse. When this position finishes in a few months, I´m back to looking for a new job. And I´m going to have to base it around his job. And that pisses me off. What if I get a good job offer around here? Or better yet, and extension where I am? It´s great here, I´m enjoying it, I don´t want to leave. Yet he doesn´t want to leave his job either.

So who´s going to win? Can we resolve this without one of us feeling bitter? I´m already carrying around enough bitterness and regret, that I´m starting to wish that I could pass it on to him. Tit for tat. I gave up my career for our relationship. It´s about time you did too.

I know it´s not fair. I know it may be considered by some to be selfish. But I almost don´t care anymore. Why should I be the trailing spouse? I didn´t sign that in the marriage contract. I agreed to love him, which I do. I didn´t agree to sacrifice my future for him. He tries to be supportive, he tries to offer up suggestions, but I´m still waiting for those magic words. The ones which say "I will follow you, anywhere, anytime". No caveats, no "wait and see if you like it", no "maybe we can work a few days a week/month at home so this distance thing works". For once, I want someone to give everything up for me. Show me I´m worthy of equal respect, not just muttered platitudes.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Because occasionally, just occasionally, scientists need to have a good hard look at themselves

We had a meeting here yesterday of a bunch of Very Big Wigs doing Very Important Things and having Very Important Opinions. When we finally awoke from the general daze this caused for the next 16 hours, we realised that one of the VBW´s had left his jacket in our meeting room and was now, presumably jacketless, wandering the British Isles. Luckily he realised this himself (probably when the rain started to seep through to his underwear) and called us to ask if it was here, with the comment:

“Muggins seems to have left his jacket there.”

Which of course necessitated the question “Who´s Muggin´s?”

“Oh it´s just a nickname I have for myself.”

Sometimes I feel that VBW doing VIT and having VIO occasionally have Very Big Problems.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sometimes you just get it, that whole cute Europe thing

Heidelberg is a damn cute town. One that´s very famous for it´s damn cuteness judging by the number of Japanese tourist buses that go screaming through it, pour out camera clicking tourists for 10 minutes of "been there, done that, got the photo" before shoehorning them back in to continue the 15 countries in 10 days tour. Talk about an economical use of time. The Swiss ain´t got nothing on them.

So far I haven´t been able to see much of the city as I´m working and living up on the hill beside Heidelberg in an outer suburb. But even this, a tiny suburb with a somewhat lower average income and large amount of old people with small dogs has an unexpected beauty. My flat is on the upper floor of a building and overlooks the Rhein valley, a vast, flat plain dotted with towns and roads and rimmed in the distance with the hills that mark the border to France. Every morning I get to look at this view as I´m getting dressed. On my way to work I pause after buying my raisin bread roll for breakfast and stare out across the valley. It´s not a beautiful suburb here. The architecture is 1960´s and reasonably rundown. But the view transcends all of that. I would live here just for that view.

And then there are the towns themselves. The night before last I had to get off at an earlier tram stop than usual on my way to Aikido (don´t ask me why, tram and bus drivers here seem to decide quite randomly what route their going to follow and when they´ll decide to call it a break). The class is in a small town on the other side of the river, which can be reasonably called a suburb of Heidelberg now. So the tram let me off on the edge of this suburb. I´d been travelling through the gorgeous city centre of Heidelberg, moved through the larger villa area on the other side of the river, gone through the outskirts (1960´s again) and was starting into the villa area of this next town.

It´s amazing to watch the change in architecture representing the growth of the town. I was walking down a road lined with villas and large houses 100-200 years old. Within about 300m this changed to smaller houses, arranged in that hapahazard fashion that usually means they were parts of farmhouses (large gates to an inner courtyard, converted barns and outhouses now apartments) and probably over 400 years old. 200m further on and I was in the centre of the old town, with two story buildings with low ceilings. Tiny windows, front doorsteps that go directly onto the cobbbled road. The wooden frames visible in the walls (think Tudor houses etc). The fortress in the centre of the town. The oldest written evidence of this town´s existence was July 765.

1240 years old.

Is that not just completely insane?

In Hamburg the area I lived in celebrated it´s 800th birthday this year. I´ve stayed in houses that are 400 years old. Raised in Australia on American entertainment, the first time I visited Marburg at Christmas with the snow, the lights, the old old old houses and castle, it felt like Disneyland. That it was all painted cardboard on struts. That if I went through a door the fairytale would disappear and I´d find myself in a shop selling t-shirts, baseball caps and minatures of the town square in a glassball.

No matter how Disneyland or Hollywood try to portray it, recent countries like Australia and America just cannot do justice to places with history like this.

Do yourself a favour. Next time you visit Europe, forget the big cities and the famous statues. Visit the small towns and cities. Go to the local church which is still in use after 800 years. Walk down the tiny, winding streets of these places. Stay in a tiny pension in a building that´s older than America. Have tea with the landlady who´ll tell you the history, the stories. Live it, breathe it. Don´t just photograph it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The one where she manages to keep her butt in her pants

The second Aikido training went a lot smoother than the first. It´s truely amazing what a difference a new piece of elastic can make to the quality of one´s experiences. Today I barely hurt at all, but tonight...ahh yes, tonight. Tonight is weapons training.

Where I shall talk very softly but carry a big, big stick.

She´s armed, she´s dangerous. Her pants are staying up.
So who wants to take me now? Huh? HUH?!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

When you know that this person is no longer safe to allow unchaperoned at parties

In my undergraduate years we had lab practicals in the afternoons, where 40 or so of us second years would gather together in some big old labs and perform the basic but new to us experiments that would start us down the path to noble prizes and professordom. Well, I guess they can´t win them all.
These practicals were run by a staff member, a lovely bearded man in his mid-40´s, who would stand up the front with a microphone and small speaker so that those at the distant back of the lab could hear him. I came to the conclusion that these moments were for him the most joyful part of the job. He´d appear out of the preparation room and smack the speaker down on the bench, twiddling with the knobs until it was tweaked to his satisfaction. He´d then grab the microphone, hoisting it in his hand and rearranging his grip while briefly clearing his throat.
Every time I expected him to leap on the bench in front of him, legs braced, arms outstretched, face lifted to the sky as he belted out the first lyrics to “New York, New York”.

Every time I was disappointed.

But I am still a firm believer that, hidden not far beneath the surface, this man was a lounge singer at heart.

Last Saturday I found my inner lounge singer.

Karaoke.

Eat your heart out Lisa Stansfield. I WAS around the world.

And I will be there again. Oh yes. I will. There´s no holding me back now. The only way is up. Baby.

The next german Popstar is coming.

Does anyone else find this as disturbing as I do?

"Chips that store music could one day be built into breast implants. One breast could hold the MP3 player and the other the music collection. BT futurology, who developed the idea, say it could be available within 15 years. "

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

They call me the Couch Ninja

Last night I got my arse kicked.

Based on a severe lack of any exercise in my life, combined with the fact that the only friends I have in this city are sports nuts, I succumbed and joined MissC and the Frenchman in the noble Japanese art of Aikido.

I was already off to a bad start in my old blue tracksuit pants and baggy grey t-shirt. Feeling shy in my inappropiate clothing, I slid out of my thongs backwards onto the tatami and bowed in the same general direction as everyone else. I´m not entirely sure what it was I was bowing at – the instructor, the small indiscernible picture on the wall, the second door which led to a small broom cupboard or perhaps the stage where school children perform their end of year concerts in this community hall. Sticking out like an over-coloured bad thumb I snuck to the end of the row, knelt with the rest, bowed when they did and mumbled under my breath anything that sounded vaguely like the European accented Japanese phrases they were saying.

The last time I experienced anything like this was my Grandmother dragging me along to Church with her when I was 14. Fingers like steel were clamped around my wrist as she jerked me up and down with her at seemingly random places during the service. Kneeling, sitting, standing, sitting, standing, sitting, kneeling, standing, sitti…no, standing again. An endless progression of religious choreography spiced with musical interludes and speaking in tongues. Bollywood, eat your heart out.

But I digress.

The warm up already proved my wardrobe mistake. Thick white pajamas may not be the talk of this years Milan and Paris catwalks, but their practicality on an Aikido tatami cannot be denied. Trying to do shoulder rolls without looking like a turtle stuck on its back was difficult enough. Combined with the failing elastic on my tracksuit pants it was a recipe for disaster. Never before has so much plumbers crack been seen in polite martial arts society.

Then, the training which involved an amazing amount of time spent with your face pressed to the ground staring at the hairy feet of the pair practicing next to you. Or if you were them, at my baggy trousers, who´s unstoppable journey southwards had by this time convinced my underwear to come along for the ride.

Wrists were grabbed, elbows and shoulders twisted, bodies tossed across the floor. As part of some as-yet-not-understood nuance to the technique, resounding slaps were made with arms and hands in particular moments. Was it a sign of respect for the person´s skill in throwing you? A mark of your failure in being thrown? Used only for particular moves or at any time? Or was it just the childish delight one gets from making loud noises, especially in a situation where you are NOT allowed to talk? I´m not sure.

By the end of the 90 minutes my wrists were red from the continuous Chinese burns. My knees chaffed raw by crawling across the mat, the already damaged cartilage behind my kneecaps were pounding with pain from landing heavily time and time again. My shoulders ached, my legs were shaking. I was out of breath, sweating and baring large amounts of cheek to the world. Today I feel every muscle and some things I sure aren´t muscle but can´t put a name too as I´ve never used them before. Getting up and down from my chair is difficult and I´m waddling in a strangely pregnant woman like manner.

I can´t wait for next week.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Would the winners PLEASE COME DOWN!!

Yes, its that time of year again. When the science geek in me rejoices and I revel in the pathetic sense of humour we posses.

It´s Ignoble time!

And this year the winners are:

AGRICULTURAL HISTORY: James Watson of Massey University, New Zealand, for his scholarly study, "The Significance of Mr. Richard Buckley’s Exploding Trousers."

PHYSICS: John Mainstone and the late Thomas Parnell of the University of Queensland, Australia, for patiently conducting an experiment that began in the year 1927 -- in which a glob of congealed black tar has been slowly, slowly dripping through a funnel, at a rate of approximately one drop every nine years.

MEDICINE: Gregg A. Miller of Oak Grove, Missouri, for inventing Neuticles -- artificial replacement testicles for dogs, which are available in three sizes, and three degrees of firmness.

LITERATURE: The Internet entrepreneurs of Nigeria, for creating and then using e-mail to distribute a bold series of short stories, thus introducing millions of readers to a cast of rich characters -- General Sani Abacha, Mrs. Mariam Sanni Abacha, Barrister Jon A Mbeki Esq., and others -- each of whom requires just a small amount of expense money so as to obtain access to the great wealth to which they are entitled and which they would like to share with the kind person who assists them.

PEACE: Claire Rind and Peter Simmons of Newcastle University, in the U.K., for electrically monitoring the activity of a brain cell in a locust while that locust was watching selected highlights from the movie "Star Wars."

ECONOMICS: Gauri Nanda of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for inventing an alarm clock that runs away and hides, repeatedly, thus ensuring that people DO get out of bed, and thus theoretically adding many productive hours to the workday.

CHEMISTRY: Edward Cussler of the University of Minnesota and Brian Gettelfinger of the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin, for conducting a careful experiment to settle the longstanding scientific question: can people swim faster in syrup or in water?

BIOLOGY: Benjamin Smith of the University of Adelaide, Australia and the University of Toronto, Canada and the Firmenich perfume company, Geneva, Switzerland, and ChemComm Enterprises, Archamps, France; Craig Williams of James Cook University and the University of South Australia; Michael Tyler of the University of Adelaide; Brian Williams of the University of Adelaide; and Yoji Hayasaka of the Australian Wine Research Institute; for painstakingly smelling and cataloging the peculiar odors produced by 131 different species of frogs when the frogs were feeling stressed.

NUTRITION: Dr. Yoshiro Nakamats of Tokyo, Japan, for photographing and retrospectively analyzing every meal he has consumed during a period of 34 years (and counting).

FLUID DYNAMICS: Victor Benno Meyer-Rochow of International University Bremen, Germany and the University of Oulu , Finland; and Jozsef Gal of Loránd Eötvös University, Hungary, for using basic principles of physics to calculate the pressure that builds up inside a penguin, as detailed in their report "Pressures Produced When Penguins Pooh -- Calculations on Avian Defaecation."


As you can see a fine example of modern research at its best. Once again Australia has received an Ignoble, to go along with previous wins on patenting the wheel and analysing the forces required to drag sheep. I´m not sure who made it into my favourites this year, a bit of a competiion between the penguin poo and the locust. I´m afraid I have to go away and read up on Mr Buckley´s exploding trousers to find out EXACTLY what that has to do with New
Zealand agriculture in the early 20th century, but I´ll get back to you on it.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

On trains with military precision

Man, I had forgotten how long this commute could be. I mean, it´s actually even LONGER than the Frankfurt to Berlin commute I did two years ago. I left work Friday night at 4.45pm, arrived in Berlin at 11.23 pm and this morning I was up at 5.30 am to get a 6.30 train, to arrive here at 12.30 (later than it was meant to be due to some train delays and missed connections).

I´m just plain ol´ tuckered out.

An extremely surreal moment happened this morning while waiting for the next connection in Mannheim. Standing on the platform, shivering in the fresh autumn chill that has appeared in the last week, I glanced up from my book (The Algebraist from Ian Banks – VERY good) and watched a strangely silent cargo train pull in to a halt in front of me. The thing was….I mean, the thing WAS that this entire train was laden with army tanks. Lacking their turrets, and apparently personal and heavy ammunition, but still 30 or more LARGE army tanks sitting on the back of a train in front of me. Apparently they were American - well they had names such as Sgt Powell and SSR Roberts painted onto the sides, not your typical German names. It´s probably not that odd a sight here in an area that has had American military occupation for 50 years, but for me it was extremely strange. It did seem to bring a hush over the whole platform and as the train started moving slowly off again there wasn´t a single person talking.

It was a bit like watching a funeral procession. In our everyday, mundane, commuter lives it reminded us of war and death. And that both were happening now, and not that far away.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Copied without permission from The New Yorker ´cause it´s just damn funny

INTELLIGENT DESIGN
by PAUL RUDNICK


Day No. 1:

And the Lord God said, “Let there be light,” and lo, there was light. But then the Lord God said, “Wait, what if I make it a sort of rosy, sunset-at-the-beach, filtered half-light, so that everything else I design will look younger?”

“I’m loving that,” said Buddha. “It’s new.”

“You should design a restaurant,” added Allah.



Day No. 2:

“Today,” the Lord God said, “let’s do land.” And lo, there was land.

“Well, it’s really not just land,” noted Vishnu. “You’ve got mountains and valleys and—is that lava?”

“It’s not a single statement,” said the Lord God. “I want it to say, ‘Yes, this is land, but it’s not afraid to ooze.’ ”

“It’s really a backdrop, a sort of blank canvas,” put in Apollo. “It’s, like, minimalism, only with scale.”

“But—brown?” Buddha asked.

“Brown with infinite variations,” said the Lord God. “Taupe, ochre, burnt umber—they’re called earth tones.”

“I wasn’t criticizing,” said Buddha. “I was just noticing.”



Day No. 3:

“Just to make everyone happy,” said the Lord God, “today I’m thinking oceans, for contrast.”

“It’s wet, it’s deep, yet it’s frothy; it’s design without dogma,” said Buddha, approvingly.

“Now, there’s movement,” agreed Allah. “It’s not just ‘Hi, I’m a planet—no splashing.’ ”

“But are those ice caps?” inquired Thor. “Is this a coherent vision, or a highball?”

“I can do ice caps if I want to,” sniffed the Lord God.

“It’s about a mood,” said the Angel Moroni, supportively.

“Thank you,” said the Lord God.



Day No. 4:

“One word,” said the Lord God. “Landscaping. But I want it to look natural, as if it all somehow just happened.”

“Do rain forests,” suggested a primitive tribal god, who was known only as a clicking noise.

“Rain forests here,” decreed the Lord God. “And deserts there. For a spa feeling.”

“Which is fresh, but let’s give it glow,” said Buddha. “Polished stones and bamboo, with a soothing trickle of something.”

“I know where you’re going,” said the Lord God. “But why am I seeing scented candles and a signature body wash?”

“Shut up,” said Buddha.

“You shut up,” said the Lord God.

“It’s all about the mix,” Allah declared in a calming voice. “Now let’s look at some swatches.”



Day No. 5:

“I’d like to design some creatures of the sea,” the Lord God said. “Sleek but not slick.”

“Yes, yes, and more yes—it’s a total gills moment,” said Apollo. “But what if you added wings?”

“Fussy,” whispered Buddha to Zeus. “Why not epaulets and a sash?”

“Legs,” said Allah. “Now let’s do legs.”

“Are we already doing dining-room tables?” asked the Lord God, confused.

“No, design some creatures with legs,” said Allah. So the Lord God, nodding, designed an ostrich.

“First draft,” everyone agreed, and so the Lord God designed an alligator.

“There’s gonna be a waiting list,” Zeus murmured appreciatively.

“Now do puppies!” pleaded Vishnu. “And kitties!”

“Ooooo!” all the gods cooed. Then, feeling a bit embarrassed, Zeus ventured, “Design something more practical, like a horse or a mule.”

“What about a koala?” asked the Lord God.

“Much better,” Zeus declared, cuddling the furry little animal. “I’m going to call him Buttons.”



Day No. 6:

“Today I’m really going out there,” said the Lord God. “And I know it won’t be popular at first, and you’re all gonna be saying, ‘Earth to Lord God,’ but in a few million years it’s going to be timeless. I’m going to design a man.”

And everyone looked upon the man that the Lord God designed.

“It has your eyes,” Zeus told the Lord God.

“Does it stack?” inquired Allah.

“It has a naïve, folk-artsy, I-made-it-myself vibe,” said Buddha. The Inca sun god, however, only scoffed. “Been there. Evolution,” he said. “It’s called a shaved monkey.”

“I like it,” protested Buddha. “But it can’t work a strapless dress.” Everyone agreed on this point, so the Lord God announced, “Well, what if I give it nice round breasts and lose the penis?”

“Yes,” the gods said immediately.

“Now it’s intelligent,” said Aphrodite.

“But what if I made it blond?” giggled the Lord God.

“And what if I made you a booming offscreen voice in a lot of bad movies?” asked Aphrodite.



Day No. 7:

“You know, I’m really feeling good about this whole intelligent-design deal,” said the Lord God. “But do you think that I could redo it, keeping the quality but making it at a price point we could all live with?”

“I’m not sure,” said Buddha. “You mean, what if you designed a really basic, no-frills planet? Like, do the man and the woman really need all those toes?”

“Hello!” said the Lord God. “Clean lines, no moving parts, functional but fun. Three bright, happy, wash ’n’ go colors.”

“Swedish meets Japanese, with maybe a Platinum Collector’s Edition for the geeks,” Buddha decided.

“Done,” said the Lord God. “Now let’s start thinking about Pluto. What if everything on Pluto was brushed aluminum?”

“You mean, let’s do Neptune again?” said Buddha.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

On the Art of Locksmiths

Yesterday I managed to lock myself out of my flat, a fact which I discovered only upon arriving at work and realising that I didn´t have my keys on me. “No problem, ” I thought, as I wandered around the side to the delivery entrance to get in, “I´m staying in a guest house with an office across the road with SPARE KEYS.” I may have even followed that with a “Brilliant” or a snide “See, I´m not as dumb as they all think” followed by a mental finger flip, but I´m not sure.

So I spent a relaxed working day, chasing down accounts of prior art and conflicting patents, continuing in my desk-based illusion of Sherlock Holmsian investigative work and tempted only once to retort in a suitably superior voice to a colleague “Elementary my dear Watson” when asked how I had possibly found something out. Content in my knowledge that the evening would involve a relaxed stroll over to pick up the spare key before wandering back to my apartment and indulging in CSI:NY, I had an enjoyable lunch of roast lamb and vegetables without even a hint of indigestion.

Seven o´clock rolls around and I fulfil the first of my expectations, walking home to the tunes of Wir Sind Helden, highheels making offensively load echoes bounce off the neighbouring old folks home in time to the music. The office was open, within minutes I had the spare key and home I went.
Still singing under my breath and quietly impressed with my own cunningness in locking myself out in such a fortuitous manner, I inserted the key into the lock and tried to turn it.

It didn´t.

Bemused, I removed the key, looked at it from all sides, inserted again and gave it a stern twist in both directions, just to be sure. It didn´t budge. Cannily, I had left the keys in the lock on the other side.

This necessitated the employment of a locksmith, a somewhat elderly gentleman with a habit of muttering swear words under his breath in the general direction of any available door and a nifty little leather box containing the tools of his trade. When he failed entirely at getting a number of these pieces of coathanger through the doorjamb, he went back to the car to get the Master of All Locked Door Cracking Appliances. This piece of equipment was of such a highly technical standard that I am sure I can do it no real justice so I will attempt to describe it in only the poor vocabulary available to the uninitiated in locked door cracking. It was a straightened coathanger with a bit of string on the end. This he inserted under the door, attempting to manoeuvre the bit of string around my keys protruding from the inside lock. All to no avail, as something on the inside consistently caught the bit of string and pulled it off the straightened coathanger.

At about this point, my neighbour, a young Czech, stuck his head out the door to find out what all this muttered, and occasionally shouted, swearing was. Upon investigation of his flat, we discovered that it could in fact be possible to clamber from his balcony to mine, where the half open window would allow someone access into my flat. The Czech and I contemplated this for a few minutes, staring thoughtfully at the dividing wall and precarious ledge, but even more thoughtfully at the three story drop. So we did what any young, fit people would do in this situation and called the old guy in to climb around it.

So 50 Euros later, the old guy opens the door to my flat, slightly more disordered than before as his Master of All Locked Door Cracking Appliances had managed to pull each and every shoe I own off the shelf next to the door and into an untidy heap in the entrance way. But my flat was open and I was still in time for CSI:NY.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

And she´s off and running

So today is the fourth day on the new job, and I must say THIS IS DAMN COOL. They´re breaking me in nice and slow, which is nice but I´m already getting involved in negotiations with big companies and stuff.
And the whole getting dressed up for work thing? At the moment its kinda fun. They are actually pretty casual here, but I´m enjoying wearing heels, so I think I´ll keep doing it for a while.

But I´m really missing my dog. I have a one room apartment in the guest house here, which is ok, if kinda small. But I was sitting there last night, watching Dead Zone and thinking "I should be going outside now before bed. Why do I feel like I have to go outside? I haven´t been outside since I got home at 7, it´s time to go out. But hangon, there is no dog here, you have NO REASON to go out. But it feels just WRONG not going out."

In the end I did manage to force myself to go to bed without taking myself for a walk and pee, but it was HARD.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

This is DOING MY HEAD IN

Well we have packed. Piled boxes and bags and small animals into the back of the Combi van and made our way south where the sun shines and the people are friendly. On the way we have stopped at DrHs parents place in Marburg for the night.

Im trying to write this entry on his fathers computer. Unfortunately, this is equipped with a bilingual keyboard. If it was German no problem. But its a cyrillic-english keyboard as he writes papers in russian, AND it is set on German keys, which I cant see as thez arent written. So I am trzing to find the apostrpohe and I canät, z and y are around the wrong waz and everz other kez is mixed up some how.

I think Iäll write later when I can understand what it is Iäm trzing to saz again.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

That´s all, she wrote

Today ended an era. The era of DrJ in a lab.

Adios, waved the labcoat as I packed it into the wash basket. Adieu, whispered the autoclave in its final hiss of opening in my presence. Fare the well, sang the shakers, serenading me out the lab door.
The comforting weight of a pipette in my hand is gone. The familiarity of lab procedures. The automatic aseptic technique my brain subconciously imitates when I open jars of olives or prepare the dogs dinner.

Monday begins a new life of suits and highheel shoes. Makeup and jewelry. Not singing any time I feel like it. I hope I can adapt.

But tonight, I pack.

Monday, September 12, 2005

On the joy of marrying Germans #9

"I´m sorry I didn´t notice. You poor thing."

"Are you patronising me?"

"No. How could I? I don´t even know how to spell it."

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Let them eat cake

Well, congratulations are awarded to the former First Lady Barbara Bush for possibly even outdoing Prince Phillip in the ability to say something that was completely and utterly stupid when the world was watching.

Quoted as saying that the Katrina evacuees in the Houston Astrodome were "..uderprivledged anyway" so living in a sports arena on camp beds "... is working out very well for them", she brings to mind that most famous of french queens, Marie Antoinette.

What an arrogant idiot. Maybe she'll start handing out teacake at her next oh-so-useful outing.

Friday, September 02, 2005

"You call that a wedding anniversary? THIS is a wedding anniversary"

Certain readers here may recall that for our first anniversary in February DrH failed entirely to get me something. It being the paper anniversary and all, it shouldn´t have been too hard, but I guess you win some, you lose some.

Out of general interest in the topic this morning, I looked up a list of what all the anniversaries are. The Chicago Public Library has one which included both traditional and modern versions. Notable is the fact that after the 15th anniversary (trad: crystal, mod: watches), the traditional list falls off to only be celebrated every 5 years, while the modern list keeps going on a yearly basis until the 50th, but then drops off to every 5 years until the 100th. A bit arse about I would have thought, I´d be wanting to have it loudly and expensively noted every year after the 50th wedding anniversary that not only am I still alive and kicking, but that I´m still with the same guy and haven´t given into the urge to go and find myself a spritely 70 year old toy boy.

Some of the later ones in the modern list are truly very modern. Note:
24th: musical instruments
29th: new furniture
32nd: conveyances (eg. automobile)
42nd: improved real estate
46th: original poetry tribute
48th: optical goods (eg. telescope, microscope)

Whoever said Romance Is Dead is wrong. By my 50th wedding anniversary I´m going to be blowing loudly into a tuba to get my husbands attention while sitting in my EZBoy recliner in the new old folks home, ferried around on one of these old person Vespas, peering myopically through horrifically expensive glasses and yelling loudly "Huh? Huh?! Speak up man, dammit!" at his poetic proposals of love and fidelity.

That´s what love is all about.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

It´s their way of saying "Why don´t you just fuck off"

Leon Dog Wonder, being an apartment-based dog, must be taken out to relieve himself numerous times a day. Its a routine now, which includes him coming into the study every night at around 10.30, crawling around my chair legs to sit between my feet and stare up at me with big brown eyes saying "Out. Now. Please?" If I´m still watching a movie he´ll do exactly the same thing, but place his head directly between me and the nailbiting ending I´m trying to absorb without his guilt-causing gaze.

And so every night I put on my shoes again, grab his lead, and perhaps even his flashing collar if I´m daring to enter the park after dark (something I only do with DrH, or on my bike, because riding hell for leather through a dark park full of dog-dug holes, with nothing to guide you but the intermittant flashing of a dying dynamo powered bike light and a red blinking dog collar in the distance is the only form of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants excitement you get in suburban Germany). And then I go down 2 floors, put the lead on the dog, check I have poo-bags and go out into the night.

These nightly walks are NEVER more than 20 minutes. I mean, hell, I´m a few minutes from bed myself, the last thing I want to do is get all that endorphine aerobic rush stuff going on. And trust me, a slow walk, stopping so that my canine companion can sniff and pee on the lowest branch of every second bush is enough to start that for me. So quite often, especially if it is a bit later, these walks are less than 10 minutes.

But in the time that I´ve gone out and come back, someone in my house comes out and double locks the front door. EVERY TIME. In the TEN MINUTES that I´m gone. I don´t even understand why they do it. Ok, so its a rule in the house here that the front door gets locked after 8 o´clock. With a key. From the INSIDE.

Because it´s not, like, enough that you need a key to get in from the outside anyway, due to the lack of doorknob. No, they want to make sure that in the case of a fire we all BURN only inches from salvation as we need our keys with us when we´re running through the house, in our pajamas, in a mad panic trying to escape the death trap that the house has become.

Am I being to melodramatic? Well, maybe a little. BUT THEY DO IT. In every house I´ve lived in in this country we have to double lock the doors at night. "`Cause if, like a robber comes in, y´know, and he could pick the lock the first time, well, y´know, he´d have to spend a whole extra 20 seconds to get it to turn the second time y´know?" Chew, chew, spit out gum, thems thinking folk, thems is.

So why does someone do it to me every night when I´m out? It really is not "Oh, yes, 11pm, there´s that nice, attractive, couldn´t be a day over 23, Aussie coming down the stairs with the clackety-clack of those little doggy nails from that cute and clever little mutt. She´ll be going for a quick walk, come back and double lock the door when she gets in."

No, its "There´s that chick and her damn dog again. Quick, while she´s out, double lock the door, turn all the lights out and pretend no one´s here. Maybe she´ll get the hint and fuck off."

Sitting on her bum, twiddling her thumbs

How on earth do people manage to update their blogs daily with amusing, well written anecdotes? What on earth are they doing differently that so many interesting things happen to them?

Over here, DrH came back last night from a week in Florence at a conference. What a terrible strain I´m sure it was for him. Every evening I rang him at 11.30pm in his hotel and on only two evenings was he actually there. The rest of the time I had to call his mobile (at least the hefty part of that cost goes on HIS phone bill, serves him right for being out having a good time in an exciting foreign city WITHOUT ME). And every one of these nights he was in a different bar or restuarant around the city trying out some new italian cuisine or great italian wine, and loving the dork heaven that was Florence this last week.

There were several thousand scientists there, all working in a very specific field and every time I spoke to him it was, "I left the last session and met XXX and YYY and so we went and had dinner, where AAA and BBB were also in the same restuarant. And then coming home across the square I ran into CCC and DDD and so now we´re having a few quiet ones, oh, and look! EEE and FFF have just come in!"

Its such a small community, and pretty much every single one of them (except me obviously) was in Florence last week. So it was a lot like a class reunion and he had a ball. All it need was a Volkswagen bus meeting in the next town and I never would have gotten him back again.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

keep the noise down, I have a headache

DrH is at a conference this weekend so I have 2 days to myself. I thought I´d go shopping, take some long walks with the dog, have some long baths, catch up with some friends.

Instead I decided to go out with some colleagues last night for a few quiet cocktails. I should have left the bar when they did at 1, but no, I was having a good time and stayed on dancing until about 3am.

That would have been fine if I hadn´t had so many Mojito´s with it.

Oh dear. I did manage to take the dog out when I got home, but it took about 5 minutes to unlock the door again to come inside. I also managed to get up at 2pm today and take him out again (poor boy!), but I´m still in a very bad way.

Yes, I know, its all self-inflicted. I remember why I do this only once every few years now. At least with so many mint leaves a Mojito tastes ok in both directions.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Happy Birthday DrH!

Well you are 36 - definately on your way to middle age, a midlife crisis, motorbike and young, blonde bit-on-the-side. In the four years we've been together you've gotten a lot more grey hairs (and no, much as you like to think it - that isn't "pale blonde" scattered through your beard) and you've managed to throw your back several times, demonstrating how quickly old age creeps up on you past your prime.

You have managed, however, to keep the best butt in Europe. Well done.

I never used to consider myself much of a relationship-type girl. Frankly, I sucked at them - just ask any of my ex's. But this relationship has been one of the easiest things I've ever had to deal with. Even the difficult times (and this year there certainly have been those!) have been relatively smooth. We are respectful with each other, careful of not saying too much, but also aware that saying too little can be just as damaging. I know it won't always be this simple. I know we have many more years and many more complications to our marriage ahead. But I welcome them, I look forward to it. Because I think you and I can do it.

Ich hab dich lieb. Herzlichen Glückwunsch.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Just call me Party Animal

So Saturday was my birthday party - several weeks late so that I could combine it with DrH's, who turns three six tomorrow. Of course, this was one of THE worst things you can do in Germany - you NEVER congratulate anyone before their birthday EVER. I still haven't worked out why not, but its taken very seriously. EXTREMELY seriously. The Germans that came refused to congratulate him.

It was a really interesting mix of people - a colleague of DrH's, my group of "dog" friends, neighbours and of course colleagues from work. All of the dog people spoke only German, while the common language at work is English - although at least half also have good German and a third or so are quite happy in any of Italian, Spanish or French as well. Its one of the great things about working in science, and about working for this organisation in particular - it's internationality. So on Saturday there were Australian, German, English, Scottish, Danish, Dutch, Italian, Bulgarian, Venezualan, Russian...and that's only a small sub population of the nationalities I work with.

The party was great fun. Leon Dog Wonder was universally adored and I got lots of flowers and other really cool gifts. Birthdays are great. Aside from that whole getting old thing, of course.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Remember when? or: Suck on it, woman

Everyone of us had them. Those absolute bastard teachers whose only aim in life seemed to be trying to hammer you down. Don't get me wrong, plenty of teachers are great, some even fantastic - including the Year 11 Chemistry teacher who went through my exam to find the extra half a mark I needed to pass. In case you ever read this Kent, I got my doctorate two years ago from the Chemistry department, so you have probably been one of the most influential people in the course my life has taken. Actually, come to think of it, am I really grateful for that?

No really, many and varied teachers were a huge influence on me in those formative years. Well them and Astroboy. And don't forget the Goodies.
The reason I mention this today is that my mother, who was a teacher at my high school (the influence of THAT is a WHOLE other post), will be going to a reunion shortly and this just brings back all those memories. There was the teacher who put up with my inability to act in Drama by encouraging me towards being a technician, something which helped me pay my way through Uni. There were the many science teachers over the years who are entirely responsible for me becoming a scientist - I blame them all. The maths teacher who questioned why I wasn't in advanced maths earlier. The music teacher who knew me better than all the others and was steady and positive support over 6 years.

But there was one. One who should have been banned from setting foot into a classroom. One who did her darndest to fail me in my final year of high school. One who turned around to me one day and hissed "You'll never become ANYTHING."

Oh how well I remember those words. The expression of pure hatred conveyed in her scrunched up eyes, her reddening face, her quivering jowls as she hunched towards me to spit it directly in my face. What drives a teacher to cut down students in such a way is completely beyond me. I can't recall ever being a particularly difficult student one way or the other. But I nevertheless was vehemently informed that I would be nothing.

Well, Dragon Lady, from now on that'll be Dr Nothing to you.

Suck on it, woman.

Mad Cows???

In todays The Age:

A herd of cows in Sverdlovsk, Russia, will have to be fed confiscated marijuana as part of their winter diet after drug enforcement workers destroyed sunflowers and maize that 40 tonnes of dope had been planted among.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Paris Night #1

"I shouldn't have had that Creme Caramel."
"Uh huh."
"I think I'm going to explode."
"Really."
"Yes. Really. I am going to explode. My stomach is going to pop. I'm going to end up like Henry VIII."
"uh huh..... What?"
"Henry VIII...he exploded...from syphilis...and all the dogs came and ate his entrails. Well I think it was Henry VIII. Well, one of the Henry's I think. Ok, an English king at least."
"How on earth do you know a thing like that?"
"Read it somewhere I guess... or a high school teacher told me."
"And syphilis makes you explode?"
"Guess so...its pretty disgusting stuff...it, like, rots away all your genitals."
"Yuck, then you pee straight from your body?"
"What, you mean like a girl?"
"Oh. yeah."

--------------------

"No don't touch me, I am still gonna explode."
"Its not that much touching..."
"I'm serious, you touch me and you'll make my stomach explode all over the room."
"You must be the girl that Die Arzte sing about."
"Y'wha?"
"Gestern Nacht ist meine Freundin explodiert. Ich hab nicht dammit gerechnet, deshalb bin ich jetzt blut verschmiert."
(Last night my girlfriend exploded. I wasn't counting on that and that's why I'm now covered in blood).
"That's disgusting. They really wrote a song about that?"
"Yep."
"Well, don't touch me then. If I explode you'll be all covered in blood and CSI will come along and do a blood trajectory analysis and work out its all YOUR fault that I exploded."

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Mystery Trip

And no, I don´t mean unusual drug combinations.

I´ve just found out...we leave in 3 hours for Paris! I was right! Haha!
DrH has indulged my Jugendstil passion and booked us into the Hotel Elysees Ceramic. Is it not an absolute riot of Art Nouveau?:
Its really close to the Place Charles De Gaulle Etoile, so we can walk everywhere.

Can´t wait..must go and pack, we have a private compartment on the night train tonight!