Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sigh

When a flyby commenter from Vancouver came by and read the last post, the only thing they felt worth commenting on was my sexual preferences.

I think that says so much about the State of the Nation.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The USA: Home of justice and freedom. My. Fucking. Arse.

via bitchphd.

UCLA student repeatedly tasered because he didn´t leave the library fast enough. Here´s the film of it taken by a cameraphone. Watch it and tell me it doesn´t frighten you.

And this country thinks it was a good idea to legalise torture?

You know, when a certain German politician likened new US homesecurity laws to Third Reich Germany, she was not at all wrong.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Because senility is more than it´s cracked up to be

Over the last couple of years my last remaining grandparent, my mother´s mother, has been rapidly losing the battle with dementia and Alzheimer´s. A great mixture which caused the paranioa that all her hose fittings would be stolen, led her to take them and hide them all and then not remember that she had done it, convincing her that the hose fittings HAD been stolen. For the last three years my mother has lived with her and looked after her, something I´m sure I wouldn´t have been able to do.

But now Nanna´s in a home where she gets great care and is still close to Mum. Here she´s made a new friend, another old batty woman who´ll I´ll call Dotty because I can´t actually remember her name, who she talks to all day, usually about the same things. They go and hide in Nan´s room when Mum brings a bag of lollies and scoff them all down, giggling like girls.

And they try and escape.

Dotty has it in her head that if she gets home she can look after Nan and herself and they´ll sit there all sumer enjoying the roses in her garden. So several times a week she grabs her coat and my grandmother and makes her way to the front door. This has a double door "airlock" type arrangement, but the only way out the external door is with the pin number. So the two of them huddle in this airlock for hours, waiting for someone to be buzzed in from the outside and then they make their grand dash for freedom.

It´s worked several times, with them being picked up again in the carpark. Last week, as they patiently stood in the airlock, the manager walked passed and said "Dotty, would you come out of there?". What did she do, this sweet, lovely, eighty year old woman?

She turned around and stuck her finger up at him.

Go, Nan! Go, Dotty! You go girls! Don´t let the bastards bring you down!

I can´t wait to see Nan again, even though she no longer really knows who I am. And I´m taking her a cake with a nailfile baked into it.

Questions?

A man just walked up the road in front of my window wearing a fluorescent pink rabbit suit.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Super Mega Hammer Geil

This video is a biology geeks dream.

The actin! The motor proteins! The ribosome! Co-translational import! Proteins! PROTEINS!

(I have, of course, a few minor points of contention with the molecular dynamics, but we´ll ignore that for now and just enjoy the visualisation of all the little things that make life work.)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A glorious evening

I have just had a truly wonderful evening with my husband.

First we went to the vernissage of a designer aquaintance, meeting up with SuperCool Matti and wife and then enjoying the bubbly and haute couture.

Then we came home, grabbed a glass of wine and started reading our respective books.

That was three hours ago. I just finished mine.

It was, admittedly, one of those frustrating crime stories that don´t give you the clues, even extraordinarily well hidden, to work it out on your own. That annoys me. I can write a mystery without giving away any clues. What a surprise the ending will be then! In fact, I believe I can write a book starting with a murder, detouring into the intracies of sheep breeding, then coming out at the end with the grand solution and no-one will have seen it coming. That would put me amongst the crime writing greats, wouldn´t it?

DrH is still eight pages from the end of his.

So that was it. Our wonderful evening. It consisted of not much more than silently, but aggressively, reading at each other. With some wine refills.

What more do you need?

During my uni years I used to spend vast amounts of time at the Divine Smem´s house doing little more than reading. In fact, there was one day when she opened the door for me while reading her book, went and sat back down on the couch and continued. I can´t remember what the book was, but it was obviously enthralling. I sat down, pulled out my book and started reading. After about thirty minutes she looked up and said "J!"(this was pre-doc times)"When did you get here! Would you like a cuppa?"

Ahh, the good old days.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

More Meme´s (sorry)

Guess who did it again?

My earliest memory is… standing at the windows in Melbourne airport watching the plane taking my grandparents to China take off. Nothing has ever again been as large as those windows were. I looked up and they went on forever.

At high school I
… tended to wear the winter uniform kilt most of the summer as well.

My first relationship was… short and innocent. (which reminds me, congrats on getting married Brett!).

I wish I’d never worn
… that duck t-shirt. I loved it, but I wish I hadn´t.

My mother told me… in very precise instructions how to prepare yeast for Hot Cross Buns, although I was a biochemist growing 10 litres of yeast culture a day.

I wish I had... a superpower.

My most humiliating moment was... when my slightly older cousins smeared lipstick all over my 10 year old face, telling me it was eyeshadow and rouge and that I looked gorgeous.

At home I cook…and DrH does the dishes. I don´t do dishes. Or vacuum. Or iron.

My last meal would be…
, well, I´m hoping for something quite soft and digestible as that would indicate I´ve made it a fair way along in years.

I’m very bad at…
finishing one project before starting another.

When I was a child… I wore my hair in Princess Lea inspired looped plaits.

The book that changed my life is… I´d have to say Communion by Whitley Striber because that introduced me to the poetry of W.H. Auden, which introduced me to modern poetry.

It’s not fashionable, but I love… embroidery.

Friends say I am… a pretty happy type of person.

The song I’d like played at my funeral is…
Throw Your Arms Around Me. You can take the Aussie out of Oz but not the Oz out of the Aussie.

If only I could…
move Germany next to Australia.

The last big belly laugh I had was… watching the dog walk head first into a pole. Well, it WAS funny.

What I don’t find amusing is… the US government.

I’m always being asked… is vary pronounced var-EE or var-I?

If I wasn’t me… I guess some other sucker would be stuck with this nose.

At the moment I’m listening to…
the truck delivering heating oil to next door.

My favourite work of art is… the one hanging over my couch.

If I were a car I’d be… a Messerschmidt (one wheel short....).

I often wonder…
what happened to half of my friends from Uni.

TAG:. KilowattHour, Susan

Sunday, October 15, 2006

What do YOU do at work?

Has anyone else noticed that on weekends the number of new blogposts, comments and hits seem to go down across the blogosphere?

Does that mean that it mostly happens from work?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Romance isn´t dead, but it may be flayed a little

"Hello my naked beauty."

"I´m not naked. I´ve got underwear on. And a dressing gown."

"Mmhmm."

"But under that I´m naked."

"That´s like saying that under your skin you´re all bloody."

"...."

"...."

"Well, you know how to kill a mood."

Friday, October 13, 2006

Sparkling whites

The other night I was watching Bring it On (or in german Girls United! because one should never over stress the second language abilities of a country where they´ll correct you on the use of Can I or May I). Aside from the flipping cartwheel watch my cute spandexed arse spin in air as I grin like maniacal crack-addict ´cause I´m doomed to be a small-town hairdresser when I grow up characters, only two thing really impressed themselves on my switched-off brain.

The first was that Kirsten Dunst is so damn cute I wish she´d suffer a really bad nose job which completely destroys her acting career, just so that I don´t have to be faced with the reality that cute is a phrase which has never, ever been applied to me by someone with a blood alchohol level below that capable of knocking out a medium-sized African Elephant.

The second is that I must be the World´s Number One Incompetent Tooth-Brusher.

There was that cutesy little Kirsten and her bad boy love interest having A Moment while brushing their teeth. Not a piece of spittle appeared at the corner of their mouth. No white foam remained attached to their chin after spitting. And their perfectly choreographed spitting into the basin hit dead center everytime. It must have made all tobacco chewers proud. Not a single mouthfull accidentally connected with the tap, to then run down the length of it leaving a trail of saliva and toothpaste behind like a hemorrhaging snail.

DrH is a tooth-brusher of similar finesse, able to wander around the house for the prescribed 4 minutes with toothbrush firmly probing the recesses around every tooth. No evidence of spittle will appear. He needn´t stay bent over the basin ready for an emergency spit, because that never happens to him.

He´s a man in control of his toothbrush.

I, meanwhile, am not. I hate to have a mouth full of foamy toothpaste. I´ve tried to keep it all in until I´m done, but it results in such a gag reflex that I´m in danger of having to brush my teeth again to remove the vomit taste. So I remain chained to the basin where I brush with the continual half spitting, half dribbling technique perfected by 1 year old´s the world over. It´s an unattractive sight: the hunched back, the foamy mouth, the dribbled on chin.

I must now deal with the idea that not only will I never have Kirsten Dunst´s petite nose or perky spandexed butt, but she beats me on tooth-brushing technique as well. Can I never win?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

When all you can say is Oh. My. God.


Knitting gone very, very, very wrong.

Home, James! And Don´t Spare The Horses!

I´ve finally booked a ticket home. I managed to get a seat on Austrian Airlines which is amazing, really, as they normally book out 6 months ahead. But I got a seat and I´m flying out on....... November 22 already!

And guess when I´m coming back? Go on, you never will...

March 10.

To borrow Susan´s phrase:

WOOT!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Yes, I do still think about science

I may not blog about science or currently be employed in science (except for occasional stints when DrH´s company outsources stuff to me), but I´m still a trained scientist, married to another and we have Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, Nature Methods and Drug Discovery World next to the couch for a bit of light reading.

And I do read some science blogs and comment on them.

The plight of YoungFemaleScientist, her bitterness and sadness about academia, strike a real chord with me as I was exactly there a year and a half ago. Her words could be, verbatim, my own (although probably with better grammer- she´s already told me off for my free form use of English).

Several commenters (myself included) have encouraged her and her readers to think about the alternative career paths offered by industry.

She rejects that instinctively. I must admit I find her reasoning for it not particularly well thought through.

That´s why I posted about the Smaglik Square. Although I doubt if she ever comes here to read it, and I doubt if anyone has linked to it to spread the idea far and wide, maybe it helps one person to think more about their career.

A YFS commenter, yes, I stumbled across recently has written an extremely good post on industry vs academia. Now if only more academics would read it.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Bar None

In the old flat I had a bar I´d built to take up a fairly awkward and useless corner. It was great. Shiny black surfaces with bamboo front. It was the home of huge amounts of alchohol which DrH and I never drank, being more partial to sharing a shandy of an evening than hopping into the G&T.

The new flat had no useless corner into which this large construction could fit and we´d decided that we would have to do without until SuperCool Matti also moved and an old piece of furniture needed a new home. It was a cabinet from the 1930´s he´d inherited from the previous renters, who had it from the previous, who...well you get the picture. Dodgy, grungy, it needed a damn good scrub and a loving hand to shine again.

So I scrubbed. And scrubbed. And repainted the inside. And installed lights. And glass hangers. And now it looks like this:






Even my beautiful fruitbowl finally has a home.



And they told me I should dump it.

Onions and Epiphanies

Last night we had an Alsatian dinner party...meaning, of course, one with specialties of the region around Strasbourg, not one with large furry guests. That meant serving Federweiss, pretty much alchoholic grape juice which is still fermenting so rapidly that it is bottled uncorked with only the foil wrapping over the top. Otherwise the whole thing would explode.

I love it.

Traditionally this is served with Flammkuchen and Zwiebelkuchen, both absolutely delicious but requiring insane amounts of onions. I managed to solve the first problem presented by this by wearing swimming goggles in the kitchen while cutting them up. It may sound stupid, it certainly looked it, but it gets the DrJ Official Double Thumbs Up for Good Thinking, Mate.

Unfortunately the second problem could only be solved by opening the bedroom windows wide.

That was also compounded by the after-dinner cheese platter, following the crepe Suzette, with plenty of delicious but stinky french cheeses.

During all this indulgence I had an epiphany.

We´ve got, like most people I guess, the good china, the good glasses, the good cutlery. So far we pull them out only very rarely (especially as the 2-year long distance relationship put a bit of a damper on our hosting abilities). So the guests get the shiny knives, the sparkling wine glasses, the funky china. (Pretty china is not my style. Go the funk. We even have a set of black china, designed by Hundertwasser and it is SE-XY. That was my mother-in-law being extremely insightful.)

We, meanwhile, eat off, with and out of IKEA.

Well, bugger that.

Today I emptied the kitchen drawers of the rusting IKEA cutlery and in went the WMF. The ugly champagne glasses have been shoved to the depths of the bar for parties requiring extras, and the beautiful ones are out. Hundertwasser is on display and ready to be used.

Why have I not surrounded myself with the best we have before? Why were occasional guests considered better than I? Why have I not indulged in my own mealtimes?

Nope, from now on, every meal will be a masterpiece.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Alien attack

We´ve been inundated here with foreigners. First, a good friend of mine finished her PhD and so both brothers and partners were here for the defence and celebration. As she hasn´t a blog-name yet I´m hereby dubbing her the Mighty Flea. The Mighty Flea slipped a disc 2 weeks before here defence, spent the time in hospital and defended while high on morphine and muscle relaxants. She enjoyed the entire event greatly. So her family stayed with us while she prepared and then packed as she flies back to Oz today.

With a one-way ticket.

I can´t even imagine a one-way ticket anymore.

How....final.

Hot on the heels of the four family members came Little Bec - eight years my junior and my family´s next door neighbour for most of her life. The last time I looked she was fifteen. She also seemed extremely surprised...I believe the exact quote was "Hey, you´re just like a normal person now!" Apparently ninteen year old Uni students tend to talk of things which eleven year olds don´t find the slightest bit interesting. Or maybe I was just a tosser who tried to show off.

Yes, probably the latter.

I did promise her that I wouldn´t blog about her complete inability to ride a bicylce - despite her initial claims to the contrary - so I won´t.

But watching her stop at traffic lights made me feel like grace itself. And I thank her deeply for this.

Finally, the Mighty Flea herself is now here. Her flat is gone, her belongings sold or shipped, her bag packed and she leaves tonight.

There goes the only close friend I have left here. That´s the hardest thing with the mixture of a scientific life and ex-pats. Friendships are difficult to keep and often short-lived. But the Mighty Flea has been a part of Berlin for 6 years and now she´s leaving me behind.

I think I´ll go and have a little cry.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Seven Years In Deutschland

Today is the seventh anniversary of me moving to Germany.

I really never thought I would be here this long.

I first came for a PhD. After a year, when my boss and I had developed the kind of relationship which could only be significantly improved by a large weapon of some kind, I left that position and the near alcoholism it induced, and found a new one in a different city and a different field. That one was fun. Three years to the day to finish the PhD. I met the first great love of my life, and then the second great love of my life. I lost weight, looked good, felt confident. I visited Italy, France, England, Denmark, the US, Poland, Czech Republic, Spain. I learnt German. Then a short-term contract in Frankfurt - a great experience, nice workplace, difficult to be away from DrH. He proposed, I moved back to Berlin, we got married. We honeymooned in Egypt. I turned down a position at Berkeley, took one in Hamburg. Moved there and began the long distance relationship eight weeks after the wedding. It started wonderfully, the job was fun, my boss and I developed a great relationship, I made new friends there. Then homesickness, disillusionment with my career choice, uncertainty, loss of direction. Most evenings were full of tears, weekends of fights. So I changed. I moved again, to Heidelberg, for another short-term contract to leave the lab and learn a new field entirely. It was good, they wanted me to stay a while longer, but my marriage wouldn´t have survived that and I returned. With a deal. A deal that I had a years grace to follow my other interests, my other plans, with full support from DrH. And I wouldn´t force him to give up the job, city, country he loves and follow me home. Yet.

So that´s where I am. Playing, dabbling, expanding, learning, trying something new. If it doesn´t work - well I tried.

I´m happier now than I´ve been in two years.

And no matter what I whinge and gripe, Berlin is an amazing place to live.

Monday, September 18, 2006

When you´ve been overdoing the sci-fi everything becomes just that much more meaningful

Recently I borrowed the entire series of Babylon 5 from a sci-fi geek so that I could finally finish it. When it was first shown in Australia the rotten scheduling of it combined with my Honours year meant I missed most of series 4 and 5.

So far we´re up to the start of series four. With each series being 22 episodes of forty minutes that means we´ve ingested a lot of meaningful scripting, poignant moments, triumphant speeches and insightful lectures on humanity, ethics and love.

We are feeling extremely profound right now.

Unfortuantely this causes quite a bit of disappointment when reality steps back in. Consider.

"Why don´t you ever say anything like that to me? Why is there no DrJ, I could not imagine a universe without you in it?"

"Probably because life is too full of comments like I wouldn´t go into the bathroom for the next half an hour if I were you."

Friday, September 15, 2006

Leaving Science via the Smaglik Square

This post has been a long time in the making but based on my next-to-last post, and several statements I´ve been reading on science blogs, I decided to post about The Moment, The Epiphany, when I realised I was doing myself no good in academia. If you´re a die-hard academia fan you might want to stop reading now because you´ll just disagree with everything based on Your Principles alone without thinking about it.

Oooh. That was snide. But I´m not going to delete it because I´ve found it to be true. In fact, I quite often find myself wanting to bitchslap some young scientists into tomorrow for their amazing ability to parrot the professor without an unique thought of their own crossing their minds. Comments are open, go on now, flame away.

Eighteen months ago I was at a post-doc meeting for the organisation I worked for then and we had a number of guest speakers. The first was Prof BigName who lectured us on how wonderful academia is and how terrible industry is and how we have to share all our data with the scientific comminuty for free, while completely failing to mention that he is on the board of directors of several startups, is a consultant to more large companies and earns quite nicely from a number of patents. Maybe it slipped his mind? Lesson One: Professors bullshit, convinced that their career path is The One True Path and everything else is failure and will hammer it into every student they´ve ever had. If you´re stuck in that mindset get over yourself.

But another, more useful, speaker was Paul Smaglik, editor of NatureJobs. In a shocking display of technological innocence HE USED A FLIP CHART AND MARKER. That was enough to send spasms of pain through an audience that cannot survive without Powerpoint.

Paul drew a square, which I have now named the Smaglik Square. In fact he discussed it in an editorial a few months later, but without the graphics it doesn´t make the same impact. So here goes (and I´ve used Powerpoint to make this, just so you know).



This is the career choices open to a scientist. Guess where most sit? Yep, top left. And do many of those sitting in that little box ever look outside it? Nope, not often. And if they do do they realise the breadth of opportunites open to them? Ummm, rarely.

So what are the possibilities in each? Here I´ve noted down a few ideas but it´s far from exhausting.



So then what do most people do in their science career? That´s right, they spin around in that one little box.



Lab work can of course move into non-lab management if you´re lucky enough to get a senior position and that´s the only career path that most people can visualise BECAUSE IT´S THE ONE CAREER PATH ALL THEIR MENTORS HAVE TAKEN.

And must therefore be The One True Path.

Now if you want to stay in the lab you are obviously more limited than non-lab work, however it´s important to note that unless you wish to be a perpetual post-doc, even choosing the lab path will eventually shove you into non-lab work. Very, very, very few professors are still pipetting. You can move into government or industrial research, however the latter choice usually comes with a time limit. Few companies employ individuals over 35 because the more the scientists are indoctrined into academia, the harder it is to get them to work well in a company setting.

However, if you do well in industry as well it is also possible to move back into academia. A number of higher industry individuals also have professorships, and doing a PhD, postdoc, or an internship in industry does not make you unemployable again in academia. Actually, I believe a number of academic scientists could benefit from the experience of a more focused, collaborative workplace. Here you are, bitch point two.

So here comes the final picture. If you do leave academic research for something else, where can you go? Just about anywhere.



If you go into tech transfer then you have a job with any of the three possible employers. If you go into industry research you can still slip out into non-lab work. If you prove yourself capable at a non-lab job, you are more likely to be hired in any other non-lab job than someone straight from the lab. If I was looking for someone to fill a position in the PR department of my University, I´d take an individual that has already shown capabilities in journalism, in human resources, in patent law or even in scientific sales, before I´d employ someone whose entire resume consists of "can pipette".

The crux of this post is: There´s a hell of a lot more out there than a Uni lab. Look at it. Think about it. And by that I mean THINK. Don´t just say industry=evil, academia=right. Maybe it is right for you, but if the only reason you can come up with is Because My Professor Said All Others Are Failure, then maybe you haven´t thought properly.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A hyphenated citizen am I?

Recently I´ve stopped tracking what happens in the Australian media, simply because it usually makes me want to scream, cry or give up my citizenship. Truly. It upsets me that much sometimes. As a quick check list in case you haven´t been keeping track:

Australia is not the centre of the world.
Australia is about as politically important on a world scale as Easter Island (except for providing cannon-fodder for the US the way it used to for England)
Not everyone wants to live in Australia.
"Queue-jumpers" is a disgusting, fake, bullshit political phrase which allows far to many people to display their xenophobia with pride.

Of course I´m not going to give up Australian citizenship, for the simple reason that after almost 7 years in Germany, Australia is still my home and I´m not going to let anything get in the way of me being with friends and family there again. But if the German government relented on it´s own xenophobic idea of having to give up other nationalities to take on German citizenship I´d do it in a minute. I live here, I work here, I pay taxes and support the economy and yet I´m not allowed to vote and must still provide evidence of my right to be here at all times and to all authorites.

So when I found this (well written and thoughful) piece from a few weeks ago which informed me that Australia is questioning the loyalty of dual citizens to Australia and whether the Australian government should be helping evacuate Australian-Lebanese because they aren´t among the truly faithful. Something which would not be under question if they were Australian-British or Australian-Israeli.

You know, I´m really not sure I want to go home at the moment.

Monday, August 28, 2006

All the world´s a meme

Wouldya looky at that? I got tagged by OurManInTokyo

1. Three things that scare me:
Horror films
Very large waves
The existence of scientology

2. Three people that make me laugh:
My german husband trying to be ironic
Scientologists
Janet Evanovich

3. Three things I hate the most:
Cheap people
Nuts in cakes and biscuits
The existence of scientology

4. Three things I don't understand:
String theory
The existence of scientology
German tax law

5. Three things I'm doing right now:
writing this
Skyping with Dad
Worrying about my future

6. Three things I want to do before I die:
hangglide
Volunteer in Africa
Look at the earth from space

7. Three things I can do:
Embroider
Genetically engineer things
Take over any conversation

8. Three ways to describe my personality:
Loud
Slightly too dorky for normal social circles
Totally impatient with frustratingly stupid or ignorant people

9. Three things I can't do:
fix car engines
Run a marathon
Sit through an entire film without getting up and doing something else

10. Three things I think you should listen to:
Older people
Wir Sind Helden
Any book on tape read by Rufus Beck

11. Three things you should never listen to:
Bitter people
Finn The Eskimo
Scientologists

12. Three things I'd like to learn:
Tango
Astral projection
To blow dry my own hair

13. Three favourite foods:
wasabi (I don´t really need the sushi, I´ll eat it on it´s own)
Flammkuchen
Any shellfish

14. Three beverages I drink regularly:
Strong english tea
Cheap red
Caipirhinia

15. Three shows I watched as a kid:
Astroboy
The Goodies
Degrassi Junior High

16. Three people I'm tagging (to do this):
Kilowatt hour
Twelve Two Two Fondue

ScienceWoman

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Playing professional

I spent all of Monday afternoon/evening playing photographer´s assistant to SuperCool Matti for a shoot with the Berlin bag designer In July. So if you check back on their webpages in a couple of weeks and see a tall, thin Russian model called Ivana who has freakishly small and pointy breasts and an aggresive pout, you may marvel at the gentle reflected light from the left created by little old moi who threw out her neck holding that GODDAMN REFLECTOR for 3 hours.

Today I had another photoshoot with SuperCool Matti, but this time for ME. It was mostly product and stock photos for my business webpage, but we also took some of me for the About/Company/StressedOutChick page. As you can see, you should never tell me to relax and look gorgeous:

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Later on, going through the alcohol cabinet

"Hey this bottle of Tullamore Dew I bought when Anke broke up with me! It´s still here."

"When ANKE broke up with you? And you haven´t managed to finish it?"

"It´s been sitting there for eleven years then. That was at the start of my Diploma year."

"So then you were single for a full year before the next one? Not a one night stand? Not a quick kissy-kissy with some chick in a bar?"

"Ahhh. No."

"You know that whole multiplication thing earlier? I think that explains it."

Alright it´s the last day he´s 36 BUT STILL

"It´s a good number though. 36. It´s 3 times 12. Isn´t there a 9. Yeah, 9 times 4. And 2 times 18. Hey! It´s 3 times 3 times 4! Or even 2 times 2 times 3 times 3. How good´s that? Oh, and 6 times 6. How could I forget 6 times 6?"

"Well 37 is a prime number. Isn´t that much more special?"

"No... I like multiplication."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

It makes me wonder what my subliminal influences were

Craftzine has an article today on dorodango, polished balls of mud made by japanese school children. They´re pretty and shiny and smooth and I like them a lot, but the freaky thing is that I spent my childhood doing the exact same thing on the beach. Actually my siblings and I all did, much to the bemusement of others who would say "WTF?", although probably with less swearing as it was the 1980´s and there were children present.

In fact, as proof, here´s a picture DrH took of some of my sandballs in Latvia.



Okay, these weren´t perfect, but I was on holiday.

but really, much of the steps involved in the mudballs we replicated in our sand balls - the finding the sand of the right wet consistency, removing most of the water by tossing it from one hand to he next while turning it to form a ball shape, polishing it with dry sand to get it smooth. Of course, being sand it wasn´t ever going to be shiny, but hey. We were Aussie kids and we came up with it on our own. That´s sufficiently freaky to wonder where the japanese influence came from. In those years I don´t remember any contact with Japan at all.

Friday, August 18, 2006

When childhood ghosts hit you in the middle of a crowd

I was walking down Ku´damm this afternoon when I saw a poster for the film Lady in the Water, with big wet footprints over a wooden floor.

When I was young I read a ghost story about some children who, when staying with a distant relative, come across strange wet, muddy footprints in one of the old buildings on the property. They belong to a young girl whose old-fashioned dress is soaked through, weeds clinging to her and who is, quite clearly, dead. Her story is that she was sent away by her family to marry, her mother sewing the dowry in jewels into her hoop skirt. Her steamer sank in the Mississippi and the survivors walked. Here is where I no longer know what happened - either she survived but was weak and ill and was carried, or she was already dead and her body was being carried by a man off the boat. He decided to remove the hoops to make her lighter, found the jewels and ended up burying her on the property where these children were now staying. Right under a small post that marked the path to this outbuilding.

Now I know (now) that this film is about something completely different, but that story left major marks on me and the film poster made me stop suddenly in the middle of a crowded footpath, heart pounding. If anyone can offer me any ideas what it was - if they´d heard it before - I would love to track it down. I think I read it in a compendium of ghost stories (including another about a man who had a fever and was buried alive because they THOUGHT he was dead and his ghost kept appearing with it´s back to everyone saying "Turn me over" and when they dug up the grave they found the scratch marks and I think he´d chewed his lips off, but that may have been yet ANOTHER story).

Actually, looking back on it, that book may explain a large number of childhood and early teen nightmares. The first fifteen minutes of Nightmare on Elm Street explain the next fifteen years of them.

I don´t do horror well. Oh no, not at all.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

If you didn´t know I was gorgeous before, you better believe it now.

Friday I spent several hours in a hairdresser pampering myself for my birthday and coming out with the first haircut with style I´ve ever had. Yes, STYLE. It gleamed, it schwinged, it was a banner of sophisticatedliness. People stopped in the street to stare at my new look, asking themselves if I was a celebrity because otherwise HOW ON EARTH COULD I LOOK THAT GOOD.

So you can imagine my shock and horror when after washing it I couldn´t reproduce the look at all. NOT ONE BIT. Somehow a small amount of water and shampoo has turned my awe-inspiring cut into a mop that looks like it was attacked with hand shears. What´s a girl to do? I´ve blown, brushed, fluffed, tossed, moussed, treated, gelled and waxed and it looks worse than ever.

DrH calmed me down last night by INSISTING that I go back to the hairdresser for a wash and dry so that I could find out how it was done this time. And if that doesn´t work, well a wash and blow-dry isn´t that expensive is it? My minimum budget can stretch to that a couple of times a week. Is he just a legend or what?

So I´m heading out now to be made gorgeous again. I´ve seen the otherside, there´s no going back now.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Listen in, it´s free.

Everyone´s favourite ManInTokyo, Marcus, has got a new travel podcast, Don´t Drink the Water (sound advice in almost every situation). The first episode is up, concentrating of Tokyo of course, but he´ll be going on to many other travel destinations in the future... and if you hang around for a while maybe I can convince him to let little ´ol me do a bit on Berlin. Of course you could always email him and tell him that DrJ should ABSOLUTELY be a special guest star ´cause she rocks, albeit in an amazingly nerdy way. Don´t tell him I told you to though.

YouTube for the nerds in us all

Continuing the YouTube extravaganza (also known as And How Does She Spend Her Weekends, Huh?)

Finite Simple Group Of Order 2


If you´d like the lyrics (and I know that each one of you has a large enough dork inside) they´re here.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The end of the big 3-0

Well, I´m now 31.

31? Really? You don´t look a day over 26!

Awww internet, I know you´re just saying that.

Over our reltionship DrH has always ushered my birthday in with champagne and birthday cake at midnight the day before. I´ve always found it a bit strange and anti-climactic; I´m normally too tired to appreciate any more than half a glass and then I go straight to bed, and, well it feels like it´s over already. My family always started a birthday with everyone piling into my parents bed early in the morning, the birthday kid in the middle of mum and dad and the other two leaning on the posts at the end of the bed. The carefully wrapped presents would be gathered from my parents wardrobe, the family would sing Happy Birthday (including the special DrJ family extra verse), and then one by one the presents would be handed over with a kiss.

Of course I haven´t had that since leaving home thirteen years ago, but THAT´s the way a birthday should start.

So last night we skipped the bubbly and cake at midnight, instead drinking it all at 10pm in celebration of DrH´s ninth first authorship of a scientific paper. This morning I woke up to fresh croissants and hot chocolate to dip them into - because those French know how breakfast should be - and my presents were delivered to me in bed. I don´t know how he does it, but he still manages to pull out the perfect gifts.

TICKETS TO CIRQUE DE SOLEIL!

If you haven´t seen this, do it. Do it now. Get a flight to Berlin. It´s on here for September. It is absolutely incredible.

At least once per year the TV station ARTE shows Cirque de Soleil and that, along with the Youth Circus Performers Spectacular, is one of the most amazing things I´ve ever seen. And now I get to go in person.

I can´t wait.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Updating my travel map

Well it´s now time to update my travel map. As you can see there are still some damn big gaps: no countries in South America, only Egypt in Africa, only Singapore in Asia and I didn´t bother to fill in my two hours in an airport in Dubai. Airports don´t count.



create your own visited country map

So Europe is starting to fill up nicely now, I just need a tour around the new south-eastern European states. Then I better start concentrating on some other continents... I wonder if DrH can get a transfer to Japan?

And the band shall be called Underwear Explosion

I adore MAKE magazine blog. Where else could you learn how to weave a LED rug, etch your own computer boards and build a spy submarine? If you haven´t added it to your blogroll and check it at least three times daily DO SO NOW.

Done? Ok.

A few days ago came the ultimate in air guitar. A play-along with your keyboard called Frets on Fire.

And Oh My God do I just ROCK.

Eyes closed, head moving up and down, fingers flying over the F-keys.

DrH laughing hysterically at me.

I need a drummer and a lead singer. Post your auditions on YouTube.

Friday, August 04, 2006

It happens every morning as well

Since getting back DrH and I have been keeping rather irregular hours. He gets up anywhere between 6am and 8am, whereas I`m from 8am to 10am, and we go to bed somewhere between 10.30pm and 1.30 am, usually heading towards the latter.

When we do go to bed we try and be fairly quiet because it`s the middle of summer and we and all our neighbours have our windows open. Living in this type of apartment building – 4 stories high and enclosing a central courtyard - can be a rather intrusive lesson in how others live.
First we have the young couple with the baby. I`m not sure exactly where they are, but it`s probably in the back house on one of the higher floors, judging by the particular acoustics it lets out at 6am. Next we have the two elderly gentlemen who spend at least half an hour every morning at around 7am discussing loudly across their windows the state of the weather, their plans for the day and The current price of potatoes. I`m not sure exactly what the fascination with tubers is, but it appears quite regularly and they`ve now started intruding on my early morning dreams. Yesterday a large potato kept ringing my doorbell and insisting on taking the dog out for a walk. It appears I´m rather susceptible to subliminal suggestion while sleeping. I´m trying to keep this from DrH however, as I´m worried he´ll start whispering in my sleeping ear such loving suggestions as “You want to give DrH a blowjob at every possible opportunity.”

In our last apartment, which also had windows opening into the central courtyard, summer would witness an amazing nighttime chorus of snores, grunts and whistles. This reached it`s pinnacle when my parents visited a few years ago and managed to set up a tag-team snore spectacle with the middle-aged lady who lived below. It was like listening to a group of four year olds trying to sing Row,row,row your boat in a round without ever having heard the tune before.

Needless to say the reverberating acoustics of such a building can put quite a damper on your sex life and I´ve gotten a lot of use out of the discretion skills you learn in shared University accommodation. Or on Big Brother. It´s pretty similar.

But the current neighbour who´s been giving me the most distress seems to be stalking us, as regardless of what time we go to bed they have timed their evening ablutions to coincide. Most nights now, after I turn out the light, roll over, close my eyes and start drifting quietly off to sleep, the silence of our back courtyard is broken by a rasping hacking. It sounds like someone is trying to bring up a lung, and judging by the solid Thwack we can hear as the fruits of this labour hit the side of the basin, I´m fairly sure they´ve partially succeeded.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The day she becomes Dr Business

An hour ago I was at the Gewerbeamt and officially registered my business.

I came out of the office really quite frightened. I´m not sure exactly why - it cost me exactly 26€ to register so it´s not like I´ve just floated a company personally risking 100 000€. But for some reason it terrified the pants off me, that now it´s no longer just fucking around here, but that I have to now put out. So to speak.

DrH came with me just incase there were any language problems (official offices are really good at throwing a word at me I don´t know - No you need a Goobledygook before you can even think of doing this). He wasn´t quite sure about my reaction and spent the drive home a little confused. So when we got in the door he looked at me, face grinning, eyes sparkling, fists clenched and said, " You know what we need to celebrate? A cup of tea."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

WWWs?

Can someone please tell me why so many bloggers are using the word internets? It has always been internet, to the best of my knowledge, and makes more sense to me (isn´t it just one world wide web?).
So grammer geniuses (genii?) and Oxford Dictionary editors (who of course hang out here in their lunch breaks for a few laughs) enlighten me.

To Die, or not to die? Harry, is the question.

Apparently J.K. is getting requests from other authors not to kill off Harry in the last book. This I find a little weird, as I can´t imagine Stephen King himself submitting to the wishes of others instead of dictating his own endings of books.

So now´s the time for the big question: Is Harry going to Die?

Now, personally I don´t think so. My bet is that after all this Neville´s going to be the one to snuff him out and cark it himself in the process. Of course I could be wrong - J.K seems quite upset at the idea of others writing seqels with Harry, so maybe she will kill him just to prevent it.

Or maybe he´ll ride over the sea in a ship with the House elfs, never to be seen again and will prompt a new generation to start plastering signs of Harry Lives! over New York.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Because I want to

So, okay, I don´t usually "dig" memes and I certainly haven´t been tagged but I´m going to do this one anyway (thanks to Kilowatthour who found it at BehindTheStove). Please feel free to do it yourself and let me know!

YOUR MOVIE STAR NAME
(grandfather/grandmother on your father's side, your favorite sweet/lolly):
Dorothy TurkishDelight

YOUR FLY GIRL/GUY NAME
(first initial of first name followed by "izzle", first two or three letters of your last name followed by "dizzle"):
Jizzle Lodizzle

YOUR DETECTIVE NAME
(favorite color, favorite animal):
Purple Ferret

YOUR STAR WARS NAME
(first 3 letters of your name- last 3 letters of mother's maiden name, first 3 letters of your pet's name repeated twice):
Jacxon Leoleo

YOUR SUPERHERO NAME
("The", your favorite color, the automobile you drive):
The Purple Bulli

Some random photos (albeit without fondue)


Here´s the russian border in Estonia. the photo was taken quickly out of a moving car by DrH with lots of "Ooh, KGB will be after us for this!" so it´s out of focus and you can´t see much. BUT the fence posts are there and the yellow ribbons are tied on the fence that marks the border to the EU. Pretty ridiculous hey?







The midnight sun.
Bright bright daylight with the
sun along way off the horizon.





DrH doing his The Edge impersonation at 2am on the North Cape.

Reindeer. Motley looking creatures.



More I´ll put up in Flickr shortly, so feel free to peruse.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

We´re Back!

9763 kilometres later and we´re home. Ahhhhhh.

For a quick overview, here´s a CIA map with our path marked in:



It´s missing our path to the north cape unfortunately, but you can imagine that - IT´S A LONG WAY AWAY - about 2000km down to Bergen on the south-west Norwegian coast.

So now we are doing laundry, airing the house (hah! in this weather? It´s actually cooler inside) and filling the fridge. But boy is it nice to be in my own bed again and not a tiny foldout bed in a small bus.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Fjordland

Well,after 2000km we're in the fjord region.
I won't talk to much about our little detour to the Lafoten ,partly because it was so cloudy we couldn't see any of the famous craggy mountains at all, but mostly because the heaving, rolling ferry gave me such severe seasickness I thought I wasgoing to die. And DrH's olive brown complexion was a decided olive-green and between us we filled at least 5 vomit bags they so helpfully provided.

The one road that exists in northern Norway runs along the coast and then down here there are hundreds of tiny roads winding along fjords - think extreme Ocean Road, multiply the excitement, height, danger and scenic factors by 500 and then lengthen it by a factor of a thousand and you're close. I've had some hairy scenes with these big camperbuses on the way.

Speaking of which- those things SHOULD BE BANNED AND ANYONE DRIVING ONE LOCKED UP FOR THE REST OF THEIR SHORT LIFE. They are as wide as the lane is and spend a lot of timeon curves on the other side of the road and are driven by people who should be in Volvo's with bowling hats on. KILL THEM ALL!!!!!!!

Am I a bit touchy on the topic? YES INDEEDILY DO.

We detoured off the main E06 highway (hah! single lane the whole way and in some places only with ferry, but with some nifty tunnels - one 8.6km long) at Trondheim and have headed to Alesund over a couple more ferries and some cool bridges. Today we'll take another ferry to Geiranger fjord and then through small roads and tunnels to Fjaerfjord to touch the glacierwith our bare hands. We have to be in Oslo on Thursday because DrH is flying back to Berlin for a day as Supercool Matti is tying the knot.

Congrats guys, sorry I can't make it!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Hopping through Hammerfest

It's raining and we're in Hammerfest. We made it all the way up to the North Cape from Helsinki in 4 days which was a hell of a lot of driving. Three hours after we arrived and set up camp it started to rain and didn't stop for another 16 hours. Luckily, about half-time in the World Cup final, the clouds started clearing and so straight after the game (and did you see Zidane? What a cheek! I wouldn't want to get headbutted by a guy that can slam speeding balls into goals with his head) we went to the North Cape itself.

You have to pay an entrance to get out there, which didn't bother us too much as they've spent lots of money on creating drivable roads there. The sky was clear, the sun was shining and about 500 tourists stood there and had their glass of champagne at midnight. We had a dodgy bottle of Australian red we'd bought in Estonia and had to neck it 'cause we'd forgotten the glasses but it was almost the same. Could even phone Australia from the mobile which is just a bit nuts when you think about. By 1.15 am only 10 tourists remained, we'd written postcards to everyone and the sun was on the upward curve again.

We left the next day, somewhat late, and made it to Hammerfest where we've made camp next to the Meridian marker. We're on our way south now onwards towards ALta to see some 400BC rock carvings and see how far we get.

Oh and today I became a member of The Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society and got a naff little pin I've stuck in my beanie. Cool.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Tallinn du bist so wunderbar

We´ve made it to Tallinn, capital of Estonia. Yesterday the Bulli/Combivan/Microbus/OldHeapOfTin passed 3000km on this trip and we´ve had no problems with it at all.

We left Riga and headed directly across the border as we´d used up all of the 4 days alloted to Latvia. Yes, I am fully aware of how ridiculous it is to do a country in four days, and how much it just smacks of Contiki, but I consider this just a prerun and we can come back later anyway - there are flights from Berlin to Tallinn/Riga/Vilnius for 30Euro thesedays. After all the whole point is to get ALL the way around the Baltic Sea AND get to the North Cap and if we´re not careful we´ll run out of time at the other end.

We crossed the border at Valka/Valga, a little town which is split in the middle by the border between Latvia and Estonia. There are three border crossing points in the town, but only one is for cars. Apparently the locals are quite used to foreigners going to the wrong one as we had several bored looking natives on bicycles waving us impatiently to the right control point so that they could cross the road. And I´s got´s me´s another stamp.

We spent the night on Lake Purhujava (forgive the spelling, I don´t have the map with me) which was created by the tears of mother´s whose sons had died in an Estonian epic. It´s said by psychics to be full of positive energy and the Dalai Lama blessed the place. However, two days later, on the highway to Tallinn, we came across a tree that had been planted by the Dalai Lama - in a random place on the side of the road - so I´m not so sure he wasn´t just wily-nily planting/blessing/bestowing across the country.

We then spent the following day cruising through south-eastern Estonia, near the Russian border and the area of the Setu people, who speak still another language and have their own culture going on. Half of it is now in Russia and the people are dieing out, with the youth not learning the language or traditions. It may be due to the upside-down metal mixing bowl breast plate the women wear once married - I must admit that I wasn´t sure in the end if you were meant to try and squish both boobs inside it, or leave it sitting on top of them to whack you in the chin with every step.

We also nipped over to a small border area where the only road connecting several Estonian villages actually runs through Russian territory. You can drive down it, providing you don´t stop for the 2 km stretch, so we did. Then did a u-turn and drove through it again. It is a truly bizarre experience - the border to the European Union was a rusty, sagging, unguarded wire fence running through a field of purple Lupine flowers.

We did a bit more sightseeing in the area - up to Räpina and Lake Peipsi (not named after the drink), and then decided to bang through straight to Tallinn. It was interesting watching how the housing improved along the way from east to west. What were rundown, paint-peeling wooden cottages with collapsing barns became shiny, newly painted wooden cottages with perfectly repaired barns and BMW´s parked outside.

Tallinn itself is amazingly touristy. The other capitals of the Baltics have been normal cities, but the centre of this is just awful. So it was a surprise to discover that if you go just one stree over, literally 25 metres from the screaming throng of German and English tourists and costumed estonian girls, the next street was quieter, containing empty art galleries and cafes with a single patron. And only one street further and the houses were boarded up, youths sitting on steps and 300 year old buildings stood in which people are happily going on with their lives without the clamour of "Hey Dan! Wouldya look at that!" We climbed a tower in the city walls and walked along them, completely alone up there as all the other tourists were playing follow the leader up the hot, steep hill to the upper city, something we´ve decided to give a miss as we´ve already seen too many castles as it is.

Tomorrow we´re on a ferry to Helsinki, there to start the Scandinavian tour.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

We´re in Latvia – is that just absurd or what?

We´ve been gone a week and it feels like a month already.

Quick summary. Get out your atlas and trace along.

We left Berlin and drove due east through Frankfurt (Oder) and got as far into Poland as Poznan on the first night where we successfully lit the new gas barbie without removing eyebrows, a feat which could not be repeated the second night I´m afraid and DrH is looking slightly lopsided. Day 2 got us as far as Ostroda, where we camped on the side of a lake in a camping ground with no toilets, let alone showers. However there was a small hut in which the owner lived during the summer months and from which he sold beer on tap and let us watch Australia get done over by Brazil.

DrJ: There are no showers. There are no toilets. But we have beer on tap.

DrH: Yes, DrJ. We´re in POLAND.

Day 3 and we got as far as Ketryzn (pronounced Ken-chin), birthplace of DrH´s mother (when it was called Rastenburg) before they had to flee the Russian army. (Just a quick history/geography note: this whole area of Poland, known as Masuren, was German until The War. In fact, so was Kaliningrad-in that little bit of Russia stuck on the Baltic coastline but cut off from the rest of Russia – it was called Konigsberg and when Kaliningrad celebrated it´s 900th anniversary, the Russians failed to mention that for 850 years it was German. Well for me it´s just weird, you know, like if all locals were driven out of Victoria, it was resettled and called Tölingaard and everyone spoke Swedish. You know. Just like what happened two hundred years ago there I guess.)

We spent the night at Wolfschanze (Wolf´s Lair) which, as all WWII buffs would know, was Hitler´s biggest bunker complex, where he spent most of his time between ´41 and ´45 and, most famously, where the failed attempt to blow him up took place. A comedy of errors almost, the meeting was moved from a bunker to a normal building (which couldn´t concentrate the force), one of the two bombs couldn´t be detonated and a big-arse oak table stood between Hitler and the bomb so that, although the room was quite devasted and four people were killed, Hitler was able to greet Mussolini at the train station 3 hours later.

What would the world have been like, hey?

It´s a strange place to walk through. The SS blew all the bunkers up when they retreated three days before the Russians arrived, and the forest has been left to reclaim the huge concrete slabs. Almost no signs, limited directions around and, to me, that felt right. It doesn´t deserve glorification in that way. The campsite was in the grounds. We were literally 50m from one of the bunkers and as dusk settled we took the dog for a run on our bikes through Zone 2 in complete quiet, only the birds disturbed it. That and the twisted concrete breaking through the undergrowth.

Day 4 we crossed the Lithuanian border by the southernmost border crossing. We were completely prepared, including the officially demanded European Pet Passport which identifies Leon Dog Wonder as having all his shots and not being a harbinger of disease. This, however, seemed to throw the officials somewhat and we came to the conclusion that they had never seen one before judging by the way it was being passed around the office to large smiles and loud Lithuanian. But they let us through (of course – it is now EU) and I have a pretty new stamp in my passport. We spent the night in Druskininkai, 7km from the Belarus border and a surprisingly gorgeous spa town. Although I know it´s had 10% growth a year, it was a shock to see how well the country is actually doing. I had visions of Soviet-era greyness, decaying concrete buildings and depressed-looking people. But it is not like that at all and an amazing number of shiny Audi´s are driving around. Why Audi´s specifically I´m not sure, but there were an awful lot.

Day 5 was…. STALIN WORLD! In reality it´s called Grutas Parkas, but that didn´t stop the world´s media nicknaming it and the owner, a canned mushroom tycoon, from getting an Ignoble Peace Prize. He organised to get a lot of the removed Russian statues and put them up on his private property, where you can wander around looking at them all while listening to piped Russian propaganda music. I had visions of Disney-esque theme rides (“Muuum, I want to go on Lenin´s Loop, pleeeease!”) and costumed Lithuanian´s posing for photo´s with visitor families (“Say `Deportation to Siberia!´” Click!), but it was in much better taste, with the statues positioned throughout the green parkland. In fact it was too nice – it was easy to forget just what monsters posed for these objects.

In the evening we got to Trakai, just outside Vilnius and got to swim in the lake before bed. That was truly bizarre. There I was, swimming in a lake in Lithuania with the gorgeous Trakai castle directly in front of me and IT DIDN´T FEEL BIZARRE AT ALL. It was all so normal it was freaking me out.

Day 6 was spent in Vilnius in insane heat. I´m afraid I couldn´t really enjoy the UNESCO World Heritage baroqueness because I was too busy wiping the sweat out of my eyes. In the end, the most I could conclude was that it´s a pretty city, a small city, and a city that looks like almost any other of a similar age and wealth in Europe. I feel I´ve short changed it, but on that day, in that heat, to me Vilnius was just a town like any other.

Day 7 we headed across Lithuania for the coast, pausing in Kaunas and ending up in Klaipieda. This was a day of mostly driving and the Midsummer Night celebrations in the camping ground (involving leaping over a bonfire for good luck) were welcome indeed. The only downer was the toilets. Apparently, although the country has embraced growth and improvement, the sewage system hasn´t and instead of flushing toilet paper, one has to put it in a bin next to the toilet. HAVE YOU ANY IDEA HOW GROSS THAT IS? I MEAN, REALLY? Oh, and if you are planning on visiting start practicing some squats.

Day 8 we crossed to the Curonian Spit by ferry, as to drive onto it would require an extra 90 km trip south and an entry visa to Russia. We visited the maritime museum and aquarium in an old fort on the end of it and then went and sat on the beach. It´s a hard life. Beachcomb as we might, we couldn´t find any amber and I´ve decided that the rumour it just washes up on the beaches was made up to make tourists look stupid (“I´ve found some! Oh no. It´s a rock. Here, here! Oops, dead ladybird”) and really it is found in inland reservoirs by specially trained rodents of unusual size. Eventually we pulled ourselves away from sun, sand and fruitless searching and headed up the coast to Latvia.

The Latvian border crossing was far more relaxed than that from Poland to Lithuania – perhaps because they weren´t trying to keep up appearances to a bigger neighbour. Driving through the Lithuanian exit post we were quite thoroughly ignored and at the Latvian entry post we had to wait while the border guard finished turning his sausages and wandered over from the barbeque set up on the side of the road. I got another passport stamp and, after turning down the pop music blasting out of the building so he could hear it while eating, he admired the car and wished us well in three languages.

We stopped for the night on the coast north of Ventspils, with more mosquitos than I knew were possible. Normally I´m not bothered by mosquitoes – sometime around puberty I discovered they rarely bit me and if they did I´d get no lumps or itchiness. If any pharma company is reading this, I´m quite willing to share my blood for medical research in exchange for, say, 50% royalties. Anyway, these mozzies were a cut above and although I wasn´t getting bitten, the vicious battle between at least ten of them for the pleasure of going up my nose while I was eating dinner was enough to drive us to bed early.

Day 9 we continued up the coast. About 20 km north of the campsite the road became gravel and the next few hours were teeth-rattling. We stopped in some traditional villages of the Livonian people with 100-200 year old wooden houses and went swimming off the Kolka Cape, where the Baltic Sea becomes the Gulf of Riga. We detoured inland to Dundaga to take a photo of a crocodile statue. It seems that a Dundagan bloke fled Latvia, wound up in Australia and spent the rest of his life wrestling crocodiles and this is the guy that Crocodile Dundee is based on. How´s that for a new spin on an Australian icon`? Hey Paul, how´s your Latvian? As thrilling as the statue was, we backtracked up that bloody gravel road and drove down the gulf coast. By 6pm we´d reached Jurmala just outside Riga and decided to camp here in order to do Riga the next day.

Day 10 was far to relaxed. We didn´t get into Riga until after lunch and by 4pm all we´d done was the Art Nouveau quarter, the Freedom Monument and some bookshops. So we headed back to camp and decided to spend an extra day in Riga.

So here we are, Day 11. Wandering the old city of Riga which, to me, is more impressive than Vilnius. Tomorrow we head for Estonia, probably Tartu but we´re not sure yet.

I've uploaded some selected photos to Flickr, so have a look at the slideshow or via the flicker album in the right column to get the full descriptions of each.

From Latvia With Love

I have a terribly funny and comprehensive post written, but left it in the car so you'll all just have to settle with knowing that I'm alive, I'm hot and I'm in Riga, Latvia. Now I'll take a moment for more important news:

My sister gave birth to her first child, a little girl called Ella, a week ago. That makes me an auntie for the second time and maybe one day this century I'll actually get to meet them both.

Glad you could join us Ella. We're a pretty nice bunch.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

She´s off, like a bucket of prawns in the sun

Well Blogger ate my entire post, which was one of extreme wit, fascinating events and belly laughs, and I have no time to try and remember it all now. The summary is: I suck at footy tipping, so will stop now; Yay Australia!; Man, those Swede´s are EVERYWHERE; and Holidays woohoo.

So we leave in about 2 hours. A few days later than planned, but now we have bought all those essential necessary´s for 6 weeks of camping through the Baltic wilderness - a camera, red wine, dog muzzle.... hang on, that sounds like a list for a Baltic porn film.

I found a map online (FROM THE CIA) on which I´ve drawn a rough guess of our route in, but now Blogger´s being an extra bastard and not letting me upload it. I´ll try later. Anyway, we´re making it up as we go along so it´s only rough - we probably will go north through Finland now instead of Norway, and we decided today not to go through Sceczin to Poland but through Frankfurt (Oder). I can´t say how often I´ll update, if at all, but I´ll try. Otherwise talk to you in 6 weeks!

Bye!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Double or nothing?

Ok, so my prediction of the germany game was a bit out, so how about double or nothing on Australia vs Japan?

I´m not sure about Australia in this competition. I think we´ll do a lot better than any European expects, but I would still be mildly surprised if they got through to the second round....but you never know.

Anyway, my prediction is for a close game...1:1

Friday, June 09, 2006

And they´re off and kicking

Well today´s the day. Start of the World Cup 2006. Of course you wouldn´t of realised it, what with all the advertising going on here , you´d of thought the World Cup started 3 months ago. By now I´m already well and truly sick of footballs, German flags and pantless stuffed lions.

DrH and I spent about an hour last night deciding what to do for the opening game. First there´s a huge concert in treptow park including SEEED, one of his favourite local hip-hop bands, which will show the game. But we didn´t buy tickets. The there´s the “Fan Mile” which has stopped all traffic between Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column for the next month. But that´s too many tourists. Then there´s the local pubs which will show it. But they´re too smoky.

So we´re sitting on the couch watching it. We have the beer, the chips, the frozen pizza. Kick off is in twenty minutes and we´ll be taking bets up till the whistle.

So who´s on that Costa Rica will win 1:0?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

When the star pops her head in for a brief visit

I can´t begin to explain how frustrating the last 6 weeks have been. We´ve finally finished moving - it only took A MONTH - and on the weekend handed over the old flat. SOME relief at least.

I´ve now finished my full-time working stint and can go back to the things I´ve been trying to do.

The internet was finally connected yesterday and now I can find out what´s happened in the blogosphere over the last month. Man, I´ve felt cut off from the world.

The new flat is one giant pile of boxes.

And we´re leaving next week on holiday!

I wanted to post about this trip earlier but the abovementioned problems, and the uncertainty of whether or not we would actually go because of them, got in the way. We´re planning on leaving on the 14th (although it may be a few days later), throwing the dog in the VW Bus and heading around the Baltic Sea.

The plan is leave Berlin (just after the start of the World Cup and all those damned football tourists who KEEP STANDING IN THE WAY IN UNDERGROUND STATIONS WITH LARGE MAPS WHILE BERLIN IS TRYING TO WALK AROUND THEM); head quickly across Poland (as we´ve been there a few times already, but maybe I can convince DrH of a 500km detour and go to warsaw, ´cause I´ve never been); skip around the little bit of Russia stuck on the edge o the Baltic (which is a shame as we really wanted to see Königsberg/Kalingrad, but we weren´t organised with visa´s); go up through Lithuania, Lativa and Estonia; a ferry across to Finland (and all it´s trees); drive across the south of it to another ferry to Sweden (to see the really old ship they pulled up from the Stockholm harbour); drive north to enter Norway and head up to the North Cap (to see the 24 hours of sunlight, but we´re a bit worried we won´t make it in time now); back along the coastal fjords of Norway (they give it a lovely baroque feel you know), a ferry to Denmark and then drive back into to Germany.

Or we might go clockwise. We don´t know. We´re making it up as we go along.

Should be fun and I think we need a bit of time away from everyday life and goddamn moving boxes. Speaking of which...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Dreaming Mr Black

This morning DrH got up ultra-early to be at work, meaning of course that through his rising, showering and dressing routine I snored on oblivious, semi-waking only to groan at the instructions of his highly complex and accurate alarm clock system involving three seperate clocks and a phone. Sometime between clarification of The Inbuilt Safety Devices (Government Tested and Approved) and Step Three Sub-clause B: What To Do In The Case Of A Random Meterological Event Causing Interference With The Atomic Clock Standardisation Program, I fell into a dream involving an old friend.

Now I haven´t seen Mr Black in six years, and even then we had been drifting apart in the manner of people who were suddenly getting regular sex and didn´t need those stand-by friendships which ensured company at the movies - because heaven forbid that you sit in a dark room of complete strangers, where you can´t converse, interact or even look at each other, ON YOUR OWN. So it was wonderful to see him again and it seems he has replaced his previously rather full beard with a far more artsy goatee of surprising length. I was fully enjoying our conversation involving sex-life, unusual living arrangements and asparagus recipes when the first of the alarms went off. This I managed to quickly dispel it with the Emergency Snooze Button (Feature #3859: Nine More Minutes of Bliss) and had just explained to him the latest book idea based on The Second Moment of Z (to which he answered, and I quote, “Brilliant.”) when DrH´s Backup Device Number Two: Annoyingly Shrill Alarm Slightly Out Of Arm´s Reach began. Employing the Roll and Slap technique I silenced the damn thing, but by then Red Alert Wake-up: Whining Dog Who Needs To Pee was at the door.

I got to work exactly four-and-a-half minutes late and received the disapproving stares of the security guards at the entrance, but really that´s nothing when you´ve had the chance to catch-up with an old friend.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The second moment of Z

My stay-at-home lifestyle has suffered a brief but sharp kick to the ribs and I´ve been secondered by DrH´s company to spend a few weeks doing the sciency-stuff he and his colleagues can´t get finished ´cause they spend too much time in meetings. And it´s been fun. None of that lab-work crap I hate, but the more thrilling sit-on-my-arse-in-front-of-the-computer work. And I´m getting paid for it.

At the moment I´m struggling with some really difficult data and trying all kinds of diagnostic-thingies to work out just WHAT THE FUCK is going on with it and so I came across this statement in my trawling the web for solutions:

Test: I2/I2 (also refered to as "the second moment of Z", where Z = I'/I')

Is that not just a surreal name? I am SO going to write a sci-fi novel now based around that phrase.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Yep. It´s pathetic.

So now that I´ve managed not to update in A MONTH, I expect to have lost all eraders I had worked so hard to get...

I´m afraid the problems responsible for my failure to access the internet are still ongoing. Budget considerations and moving houses are taking up more than they were meant to. As a bit of a promise to keep you coming back, I´m going to put up a movie of our current flat (the one with the weird design) soon, and then you can compare it with the new flat. Life in Berlin and all that.

Oh, and I´ll be in Frankfurt from tomorrow till Sunday catching up with Montgomery, who´s doing a flying dash across Europe to meet Daws and I. Hopefully I´ll have more of her escapades in Vietnam (or was it Korea? or Cambodia?).

But as I´ve got to get to an appointment in 5 minutes I´m afraid I must dash. Cheerio.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Saturday, April 01, 2006

When heavy bikini tan lines are really inappropriate

As I had trouble deciding on a film tonight, I´ve been flipping through most of them. So far I´ve watched Cold Case, Mad Max, Heat, some Jackie Chan one, a documentary on the red crabs of Christmas Island and have now landed on the midnight offering of Kabel 1:

Sexcalibur.

Friday, March 31, 2006

One to beam up

I´ve done it! I´ve managed to finish the latest Harry Potter which I´ve been carrying from place to place since last October when the German version came out. Yes, I´ve read them all so far in German as my one attempt to improve my second language. The only problem is that it takes almost 6 months for the German version to come out and by that time EVEYONE ELSE HAS TOLD YOU THE PLOT. Hence the time delay in reading a book to which I already knew the ending. DrH is rubbing his hands in glee that he is finally allowed to start it. The past few months have consisted of me slapping his fingers away from the cover everytime they strayed across the table to where the book has been sitting looking at me with disappointment written clearly on every side. But in this house I have dibbs on Harry Potter. ME. Mwaaaahhhaaaahh.

DrH is slowly turning into the sci fi/fantasy fan I always wanted. I know it will never reach the extremes of a born and bred sci-fi fan, but it´s step into understanding why I enjoy watching actors prance around in stupid makeup, making stupid comments in even stupider storylines. Why this is a fundamental part of me. Why I am a nerd. He started slowly with Harry Potter, I then got him addicted to Terry Pratchett (we now have all books except the Truckers series and guess what I have to order on Amazon today?). He loved Douglas Adams and gobbled up Jasper Fforde. He´s even broken his teeth on Ursula le Guin. And while I´d love to throw an Ian Banks at him, I´m frightened that step will prove a little too large for the moment.

But I was still amazed that last night as I was watching Stargate SG-1, and he was ironing shirts next to me, he turned around and said “It´ll be an alien that´s infiltrated and is passing himself off as a human with some kind of technology thing.”

He´s not quite there yet, but now he´s paying attention.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Antiquities And The British Museum, or, And I Thought Those Germans Were Thieves

The very first time I walked into the Pergamon Museum in Berlin I stood there thinking "My god, those Germans have stolen EVERYTHING". That place hasn´t just relics and artefacts, but ENTIRE BUILDINGS within it´s walls. Well, the Brits aren´t much better.

We went to the British Museum on Saturday because it was free, it was raining and we´d sat in enough cafe´s for one day. Cultural sods that we are, we didn´t actually see anything - just one display on how cultures look at life and death. Instead, we admired the covered courtyard, looked at the room with the Michelangelo exhibit from the outside and then went through the museum shop.

You have to love museum shops. In Washington I bought candy with an insect inside. I have collected postcards of some of the world´s most famous paintings from museums in Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, London, even Melbourne. I´ve bought scarves with native prints, small replicas of statues, books on whatever theme was foremost.

I love museum shops.

The British Museum shop was no exception. We purchased a reprint of a Michelangelo (some reclining naked guy sketch - THAT´S going up above my desk) in the main shop, but DrH spotted a smaller shop just before we left which of course also had to be inspected. The first comment from DrH was:

"Hey look, the invention of the mouse."



"Those damned Greeks invented everything didn´t they?"

This was followed quickly by me:

“I want this one!”



"Can I get a horse´s head? Can I? Can I? PLLEEEASE."

“Yeah, ok. We can put it in the guest bed.”

In the end, we didn´t purchase any plaster moulds of famous statues because, although they had life sized replica´s of David´s eye, nose, mouth and ear, they didn´t have a copy of his penis.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The land of my forefathers

Early tomorrow morning DrH and I are off to London for a long weekend. I´m going to give into my not-so-secret obsession and spend two days at Stitch 2006, including a day of classes with people like Tracy Franklin. DrH is tossing up whether to come along with me or not - I think he´s caught between the idea of being almost the only guy in a room of hundreds of woman, and the fact that most of these woman are over the age of fifty. It´s a tough call. I´m exceedingly interested in what wins out: subconcious ego or realistic expectations.

So I won´t be around until Monday. This means that no-one has to sit on Skype or Messenger waiting for me and don´t expect any emails answered. Oh and anyone who´s been trying to call my mobile phone for the past few months- forget it. O2 cancelled my contract and billed me a whopping amount of Euro´s for a mistake THEIR billing department made and I´ve now offered the phone to the dog as a chew toy.

Yeah, this is how GROWNUPS live

If you read all through the Cribs post, you´ll have picked up that we´re planning on moving out. I decided that, even if we are only here for another 6 months, I am going to go insane in a flat I can walk across in less than 2 seconds. And the lack of walls and doors is becoming a problem - the other night DrH walked the dog late and I was already asleep when he got back, so he went and sat in the kithen on a hard stool for two hours and read his book.

So I started looking for new flats in this area last week. Luckily Berlin is really cheap (at least in terms of large European cities) and there were a number of flats around that met our stringent requirements: Walls. Check. Doors. Check. Rent is less than our monthly income. Double Check.

We started checking them out on the weekend and lo and behold, the first we fell in love with. Many have since told us we are completely insane as the the flat is ground floor (excuse me, Parterre, meaning that it´s about half a floor off the ground), has an insanely long hallway as part of the flat was walled off to become another persons flat (so someone else is sleeping between our bedroom and the living room, which is a little weird when you think about it) and the kitchen is a strange curvy shape as the back stairwell for the old servants entrance is next to it.

But we loved it, and we thought Hey, while we´re waiting to see if we get it, we can always check out other flats. A plan which failed as our application was approved in about 3 hours, leaving one to think that this may not be a flat that was in high demand. Hmmm.

So now we will start packing and cleaning and renovating the flat to give back. In germany, you have to ensure the flat is freshly painted (and even some times wall papered) when you hand back the keys, and that everything is new and clean. I started out well this morning. As I opened the curtains to let in the 3 minutes of actual sunlight Berlin is getting at the moment I managed to PULL THE CURTAIN RAIL OUT OF THE WALL.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Now why didn´t I think of that

If you haven´t done it before, go check out Google Idol. Now.

Go on. I´ll wait.

Right. Now why didn´t I take part? That would´ve been perfect! We already have my fantastic performance of Lisa Stansfield´s Been Around the World as evidence of my skill in musically humiliating myself.

Some do-it-yourself boy band here in Germany has done something similar, getting far too much exposure, this blog entry included. Aside from the almost unbelievably bad attempts at keeping in tune, the turkish-german accents are rather hefty.

At least they admit they know they sound like shit. But they don´t give a shit as they´re now famous.

And that´s all that kids want to grow up to be these days.

Monday, March 20, 2006

1 Room, 1 Bathroom, 1 Bar. Location: Berlin, Germany

Yo, wassup Internets? I´m DrJ from Alien Ted, and this here´s me crib.

If ya´ll just follow me, this here´s the front entrance to da House, man. Here´s the letterboxes from all the other flats. Check out the marble walls, man. Yeah these were installed, like, two years ago to give it that sophisticated European look. Forget that the damn builder guys were cutting up marble outside my bedroom every morning at 6am. But looks good, ´ey?

So just through here´s the courtyard. Nice planting´s, bit of a shrubbery feel to it. The downstairs neighbour keeps it going so´s her cats can come down and pee all through it. Some friendly neighbour even put one o´these here seats here so´s one can sit and, like, chill of an evening next to the dumpsters. Cool, man.

So in this side entrance goes up to the flat. These used to be the flats for the servants and stuff, so the doors and stairs aren´t as big as in the front house. Come on up a few flights, don´t mind the open door – Hey Frau Schmidt, man how´s it hanging?- Yeah, she leaves it open so´s her cats can go up and down and scare the living shit out of my dog. Yeah, scary fucking Tom cat, one is.

Here it is casa de DrJ. Front Hall, yeah not much room, mind the mic there. One the left is this door into the kitchen. Cosy place and handily set out so´s anything ya need is within reach. Doesn´t really fit two people in standing up, but we can do it in shifts. And ´cause it´s expected – the fridge. Umm yeah it´s a bar fridge. Freezer section is full of lung and heart and shit for the dog and we´ve got here, oh look! Some old curry…should throw that out I guess.

Anyway if you´ll just look up a bit you´ll see this balcony into the kitchen. That´s the spare bedroom which is built in the roof section of the hall. It´s pretty funky. Come through I´ll show ya the rest.

Bathroom. Hmm a bit small. Doesn´t fit a tub in, but the shower´s pretty good. Has, like, water and stuff.

The lounge. This here´s me bar where I serve drinks. Yeah me and the DrH a pretty partial to sharing a Shandy of an evening. Party hard that´s our motto. Yeah, the corner was a bit useless and so´s I thought, I thought here let´s build a bar and so´s all me friends came around with a hammer and a bottle and we built it, like. Worked out pretty good I thought and doesn´t fall over much at all.

Above there is the mezzanine that goes through to the spare bed. I can stand up there, but it´s pretty low. The previous owner built all this in cause of the really high ceilings. Up there´s me desk. It´s a bit iffy ´cause the desktop´s not screwed down and I´ve almost pushed it over the edge a few times.

The other mezzanine over there´s got the bedroom. Yeah . Where all the magic happens. Heh. Yeah. Magic. Heh. The big hole in the floor is so´s you can open the window. Can be a bit dangerous if you´re drunk tring to get up there. We can´t actually stand up up there, it´s a bit too much like Being John Malkovich´s 7 ½th floor, but then who needs to stand up in the bedroom? Yeah. Heh.

Well I think you´ve seen it all now. The whole one room. Yeah. Glad ya could drop by ´cause we´re gonna move outta here now. Somewhere with two rooms. Hell, maybe we´ll blow out and get three. Yeah. But now it´s time for yáll to leave so bugger off now. There ya go. Seeya. No really. Bye.

Leon, if they don´t piss off, sic em.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

When your life is in danger, stay clear of the German coast

This has been making the rounds. Thanks Chris for sending it on! I laughed so hard I banged my head on the keyboard.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Just when I want to go, Germany throws something at me that makes me want to stay

The 4th Wok World Championships.

If you haven´t heard of this wonderful sport, well, it´s something you should change now. The history is that in 2003 one of the TV hosts, Stefan Raab, was on a show called Bet This, where he lost. In losing he agreed to go down one of the bobsled courses in a wok.

Thusly was born the sport of wokking. And lo, it was declared that the wokker shall sit in a wok. And he shall strap a ladle to each foot for extra steering power. And he shall set forth down the luge track as fast as he might. And should he reach 90km/h shall The Viewers be pleased.



After his great success in making it down alone and uninjured, Raab decided to start a full Wok World championships. It includes the single wokker as well as the four man wok team. Primarily it´s celebrities who take part, but a couple of real lugers are also there, like the world champion Georg Haeckl.



How can you not love it?

In my desperation I actually googled "Curing Homesickness"

-----------------
UPDATE 27/11/2007
I'm still getting lots of hits and traffic to this particular post even now, so I thought I'd leave an update on this page.

I spent a long time working through homesickness and other issues of careers and geography, some of which are summarized here and here .

But this is pretty much where I am now with the whole homesickness/expat acceptance thing. Good luck to anyone who gets here by googling "homesickness" themselves. I know how tough it can be.
---------------

And found this. I´ve been doing it pretty tough recently and homesickness has been a major factor - though if it´s the cause or effect I´m really not sure. I know I feel horrifically trapped here. DrH is happy here - he has his job, his friends, his family, his culture. His attempts to compromise in this relationship, like doing the majority of the travelling between Hamburg and Berlin, though are but a meager sacrifice in terms of what I give up on a daily basis for this relationship to continue. I can´t keep waiting for him to decide he´s ready to leave. I need to go now.

Six years is enough already.

That article was good. It voiced everything I feel in a way which didn´t include me sobbing uncontrollably in the corner of the couch. That always make it difficult for people to understand or sympathise. Especially those who´ve never been away from their own culture for longer than 4 weeks - sorry but you guys haven´t a clue where I´m coming from so don´t even think of giving me advice or telling me how good I´ve got it with a husband like DrH. Ok?

I really liked:

In yet another way homesickness has elements of a virus. It lies dormant for periods of time and then, quite unexpectedly, strikes, causes pain, and then retreats until the next time.

True. My bouts are coming more and more frequently though. I´m afraid I may need surgical intervention. My theory is that there is a homesickness organ which is directly affected by this virus. It probably only develops in expats who have spent a longer period exposed to foreign substances. My indepth analysis of the symptoms suggest that the organ is located in the upper chest cavity as marked in Figure 1. I further propose that this organ creates direct nerve connections to the tear ducts and hiccup mechanism.


Figure 1. Chest cavity. Location of proposed homesickness organ marked by a red arrow.


But it was this passage that fully describes WHERE I am:

The lived time of homesickness is a special mode of time. It is a futureless experience of time. We cannot envisage a future in a place which is so unfamiliar; we have lost the future of home and now are living time differently. It is truly a marking-time of time; just as soldiers mark time and go nowhere as they wait for time to move forward, the lived time of homesickness seems to hover in that momentary pause as each leg is held in the air in anticipation of its return to earth. The sense of not knowing when we are going to move forward can indeed be sickening because the lived present of everyday life has a future which comes to meet us in the present

While this is how I´ve lived for years now it offers really no hope for my future:

Can it be controlled? In one sense, definitely not. All the stories of homesickness tell of its dominance. It descends unexpectedly. It can take one unawares, and when in the grip of homesickness one has to succumb to it. It is not within our power to control its arrival. However, as we all learn to live with the flu virus and do our best to keep it at bay, so we can learn to manage homesickness. For a time we have to give in to homesickness and let it run its course through our bodies. We may go to a quiet place and cry for a while, or we may take out photographs and indulge ourselves in feeling sad. These strategies seem to play a necessary part in cleansing ourselves of the ailment. Then we can move on, move forward. We can keep ourselves busy with work and social events; we can try new activities. We can arrange our lives to avoid the loneliness that is often inviting to the homesickness bug....It is not likely that a cure exists; however, homesickness is a condition that each person must cope with in his or her own way. It seems that it can go into remission. Yet there is no definitive numerical value for when remission can be termed cure.

The worst part of all is that I know that even if I get to Australia, I´ll end up being homesick for here. There are now parts of Australian life that drive me barmy and I´m not sure I can handle it if my dream falls flat. What if going home disappoints me more? I have such high expectations I don´t think any place can live up to them.

I need a way to spend half a year here, half a year there.

I think that´s the only solution.

Where´s my frequent flyer card...............

Friday, March 10, 2006

An evening of culture

We started with a Riesling. A 2002 Müllheimer Kirchenpfad from the Rheingau. A pleasant drop. Rich, warm. Reminiscent of summer days in the Alsace region of France. Hints of berries. A small suggestion of honey in the aftertaste. His nostrils moved appreciatively as he savoured the aroma before helping himself to the first nip.

Our second bottle was the from the same small winery of south western Germany. This time a 2001. More powerful than the first wine it brought a woody taste with it. One that could hold its own against the onslaught of a meat dish. A brief sniff was all that was needed before it gained his approval and the taste hit the tongue.

Oh no! Before the evening has ended we have run out of wine! A hosting catastrophe. I will never be able to hold my head up in polite European society! But wait, what´s this? A bottle, hidden at the back. A local speciality. An acquired taste. The famed Apple Wine of Frankfurt.

Cautiously I uncork the bottle, pouring the first glass quietly. I introduce it´s uniqueness, the unusual aspect of being able to sample this on an evening in Berlin. I pass it across for approval. Barely has the scent reached his nose before he turns his head away. He won´t even sample the flavours of this working class drink. He turns his nose up at the common.

My dog the fucking wine connoisseur.