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.