Thursday, July 27, 2006

My father

I can tell loads of stories about my father. Actually, I often think there are enough stories and characters in my family to write a book one day. But today I felt like writing about my father. Basically, he is a weirdo. But he is a lovable weirdo.

Here are a few examples.

The Supermarket: My father was shopping with my mother at the supermarket. When they were in the produce section, my father observed a women buying mushrooms. But she was removing all the stems, and only taking the caps. Many supermarkets sell the better parts of produce for an increased price. For example, you can buy broccoli florets at a higher price per pound, than the whole broccoli pieces. And the same is true of mushrooms, but this supermarket only sold the whole mushrooms.

Anyhoo, my mother didn't really notice anything, only that my father rushed to be in the check-out line behind this lady. And when the cashier went to weigh the mushroom caps, my father quipped up: “this belongs to that” and handed the cashier a plastic bag with the collected stems. The lady was incredulous and probably called my father some nasty name, but the cashier was smiling, took the bag, weighed it too and charged her for the weight of the stems. I love that story.

The Airplane: My father was on a longer flight, and was seated in front of a young child. The child was kicking the back of his seat. My father has four children himself, so he is not totally ignorant of how children behave on long flights and he would be tolerant of the inevitable bumping that accidentally happens. A little bumping would have been okay, but the child was actually kicking the back of the seat on purpose. So he turned around and asked the parent to make the child stop. So, the kicking stopped...only to start up again a few minutes later. So once again, my father turned around and asked again. Once again, it only worked for a few minutes. So, my father got up, and walked two rows behind his row, and asked the passenger sitting behind the parent after explaining the situation, if he might be able to sit in his seat for a few minutes. The passenger obliged. And my father proceeded to kick the seat of the parent. My father returned to his seat, and magically the child kicked no longer. I think the parent probably thought my father was psychotic (a diagnosis us children have often made), but whatever they thought, it had the desired effect and my father enjoyed the rest of his flight in peace.

There was another story from a few years ago. I was driving home with my brother, and just before reaching our house, we were blocked by a garbage truck. We saw a Hispanic guy sitting on the curb, and two police cars were there. And we were trying to figure out what was happening. And then we saw it: they were loading his trolley into the garbage truck and destroying it. My brother and I just watched in silence, both in shocked outrage.

For those not living in the San Fernando Valley, a little background might be needed. There are a lot of illegal street vendors. It is practically a cultural thing. Many people come from countries where street vending doesn't require a load of permits and health inspections, etc. I often buy fruit from the Frutas man: he will come along with a shopping basket filled with fruits, and he will even prepare mango on a stick for you: peel a mango, poke a chopstick through it, and douse it with lime and a paprika powder. This is done all right in front of you, and he hands it to you for a $1 or $1.50. Yummy. But nevertheless illegal, because they don't have a sales permit.
But to be able to get a sales permit for such an “establishment” it would almost be prohibitive in the costs. I know a German whose wife was Thai, and she was thinking of opening a stand like that here in Germany. And when her husband went to the official departments to get permission, he was informed that his wife's establishment would need among other things: a toilet. Considering she wanted to sell from her bike, this wasn't going to happen. So she dropped the idea.

And this is the same in the States. In my opinion this is different from illegal hawkers of counterfeit products. These are entrepreneurs earning money, and putting a lot of work into it. They aren't paying income taxes, but they are working, and I really think that is a positive. Earning money this way isn't easy. But Los Angeles has a zero tolerance policy with illegal vendors. Their wares are just confiscated and destroyed. But I don't think the vendors are changed.

This particular vendor had a cart made out of plywood, obviously homemade. And I almost wanted to cry when I saw the police just dump this guy's livelihood into the dump truck. He was just sitting on the curb with a distraught look.

The garbage truck drove away and my brother and I were able to drive past and go home.
My brother dropped me off, and a few minutes later my father came home. And I described the scene to him. And I was all worked up, I couldn't believe that in Los Angeles it took 2 squad cars to dispose of a vendor's cart. The Los Angeles of carjacking, drive-by shooting, and methlabs galore. But oh, no, the police were going after street food vendors. And my father was just nodding and agreeing with me. But was distracted with something else. But I couldn't let go of it. And finally he looked up, and said: “what, you wanna do something about it?” And I said, yes, I wanted to go talk to those police and give them a piece of my mind. So he said, “okay, let's go.” So we got into the car and drove back to where it had happened. But they had already gone. But I thought it was cool that my father backed me up, and encouraged me to go say something.
I often wonder what I would have said, because obviously, the police aren't at fault for the legislation passed. But I just wish they wouldn't be so vigilant about enforcing the illegal street vendor ban, and would focus more on actual crime.

5 Things.

Nicole tagged me!

Five things in my purse
1. iPod
2. wallet
3. a book
4. anti-histamines
5. tissues

Five things in my refrigerator
1. a quart of milk
2. a few bottles of beer
3. champagne
4. some sad looking lettuce
5. yogurt

Five things in my closet
1. hangers
2. a box with my clothes for Cyprus
3. a box with my clothes for a subsequent biking trip
4. nothing else, because I am leaving and have cleared out my closets

Five things in my car...don't have one, just a bike

My mommy left this morning. Kind of sad, but I will see her in a little over a month, and then it won't just be a for a visit. I am a little under the weather now, because the packing, and organizing of the last two weeks has taken a toll on my sleeping patterns.

But I am going to hop on a train this afternoon and spend some quality time with the boyfriend and most likely get some TLC!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


I actually snorted when I read this:

"The truth is — let me say this clearly — we didn't even expect (this) response ... that (Israel) would exploit this operation for this big war against us," said Komati.

He said Hezbollah had expected "the usual, limited response" from Israel after the two soldiers were seized by guerrillas on Israel's side of the border on July 12.

This is like the child that pulls on the dogs ear, and the dog growls, and the child giggles and does it again. And the dog growls. And the child laughs and does it again. And then, the dog bites. And the child starts crying, and blubbering.

I think that Hezbollah must be getting a lot of flack from neighboring countries, because otherwise they wouldn't have felt the need to make such a comment, which is essentially trying to make them out as the innocent victims.

Monday, July 24, 2006


I have lived in my apartment since July 1997. That is over 9 years of accumulated material memories.

My mother is here and we have been sorting through things. Toss, pack, or leave for next tenant (Nerdboy).

As I was going through some drawers where I just shoved “important” documents over the year, I came across ticket stubs from trips I had made, cassettes (which I categorically tossed), old journals and old love letters.

The last two were weird to deal with. I opened the old journals and read pages filled with angst-filled entries. Even though on the one side it is great to see how far I have come, it was depressing to see how insecure I was back then, to see how things bothered me, how I let people and events have such a hold on me.

The love letters were similar. They were all from my first boyfriend when I was in Germany. He was the only guy who ever sent me love letters, or left notes from me. It seemed like I had collected every note he ever left, and every letter he ever wrote.

The letters shocked me a bit, because of the passion that was in them. He had written them to me while we were apart, and spoke of missing me, but being happy he loved someone so much that he could miss them like that. And he mentioned trying to find me in his daily activities: reading the newspaper, writing articles, watching the news, grocery shopping. And he wrote that he thought that this separation was doing us good, because it made us stronger.

And it gave me this knot in my stomach, because shortly after returning from that separation, I broke up with him. Whereas the distance made his love stronger, it made me realize that I didn't love him that way.

His letters reminded me so much of the letters I wrote my boyfriend while he was deployed. And it made me incredibly sad, because I thought about how I would have felt had my soldier broken up with me after he returned, how absolutely gutted I would have felt.

It made me feel like calling my ex immediately to apologize, even though that is water under the bridge now, not to mention that we have already discussed things in length over the years. It is just that now, I am better able to put myself in his position. We are still good friends, and he another girlfriend now, who is perfect for him.

My ex wrote me letters like that all the time, and those are the kind of letters than I would love to get from my boyfriend, but he just doesn't express himself that way. It just went to prove that you can't have everything. Although my ex was like that, I never really appreciated it, I took it for granted, because he lacked qualities that I found in my boyfriend now.

For a while I was kind of depressed after reading all those pages. It rehashed all those memories. And I decided to throw everything away. Every last letter, note and journal. I just never wanted to read that again. I had forgotten about all that, and I didn't want to be so vividly reminded.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Lebanon Evacuation


People annoy me sometimes. Okay, often.

I can remember when Big Windy went to Pakistan to help in the earthquake relief efforts last November. Although overall everyone was pretty happy, there were some mumblings about the speed of the foreign community's reaction…and someone even dared to say that the helicopters should have gotten there quicker. Well, if I believe they were there within 48 hours. And that IS fast. First off, it takes a few hours for the news of the earthquake and its magnitude and, more importantly, resulting damage to reach the rest of the world.

Secondly, the necessary supplies and personnel must be gathered. It is not like a fire department where guys are just sitting around, waiting for the International 911 to be called, and they jump into their helicopters and go flying to the distressed region.

Thirdly, they have to plan the flights. Flight planning includes calculating the affects of expected weather patterns, weight carried, flying altitudes and speed on fuel consumption. The longer the flight, the more tedious this preparation is.

Now I am sure there are other factors that I don’t understand or know about. This is just my off-the-cuff run-down from what I have picked up over the last two years.

Now, the earthquake was on a Saturday, and Big Windy was flying to Pakistan on Monday. For me that is a quick response. But SOME PEOPLE expect more.

And this Lebanon evacuation is another case.

Now I was listening to the radio in Germany on Tuesday. And the Germans were griping, because their government had up to that point, yet to enact an official evacuation. They had only facilitated people leaving the country, and issued a recommendation that German citizens leave Lebanon. The evacuation they had organized was by bus to Syria, and then flying out of Damascus on a chartered plane that landed in Düsseldorf. Germans had to pay their own way. This wasn’t provided free of charge. Consider it the “Lebanon Evacuation Travel Package”. I believe that Australia and Italy were also bussing their people out through Damascus.

Let me reiterate: Germany had yet to issue something stronger than a “recommendation,” they weren’t evacuating their citizens, only facilitating it through privately organized efforts, buses were going to Damascus (I heard of one Italian bus nearly being hit by an Israeli missile), and this wasn’t free of charge.

And the evacuated Germans were very angry about this. They thought it was pretty dangerous, and felt let down by their government.

I am not there, so I don’t know how it is, however from what I have managed to gather, there are still areas that are “relatively safe”. I saw a picture of a family on CNN with their make-shift signs begging America to get them out safely, and they were apparently staying 15 miles north of Beirut, and were safe. And I believe that most people are still in relative safety. I mean, of course it is scary and dangerous, any getting out is the priority, but basically, waiting a few more days to get a better evacuation plan would be preferable.

So I was rolling my eyes yesterday when I heard that Americans were complaining about the speed of evacuation efforts, stating that other countries were quicker. The representative to the embassy there, stated that America wanted to plan a “safe” evacuation.

I think that some people have absolutely NO concept of what it takes to organize efforts like this. Also, America could do it the quick way and bus loads of Americans into Syria (yeah, that sounds like a safe plan).

Some people were complaining that America should have a contingency plan for such an evacuation. Well, they do. However, the military isn’t given the budget to be prepared for each and every emergency with a reaction time of 20 minutes. And often the American public balks at spending more money on such “eventualities.”

It takes time to enact these contingency plans. To gather the material needed. So, tell me how this is all supposed to be done with the snap of one’s fingers? There are sometimes cases of lucky coincidences, like the USS Richard Bonhomme, or I can’t remember the exact name of the Navy ship, being in the South China Seas, just as the tsunami hit in December 2004. So they were able to offer aid quickly. Otherwise, it would have taken a few more days for a response. The same with the American response in Pakistan: if we hadn’t had service people in Afghanistan, the response would have been slower.

And yes, the waiting is tedious for Americans wanting to leave Lebanon, and they are afraid, but I am sure that once they start the evacuation, it will be done in the safest manner possible. It will be done correctly. Not in haste and incurring more dangers than necessary.

Monday, July 17, 2006


As a kind of last hurrah before leaving Germany, a friend of mine and I had planned on going to Croatia for a girls' week away. However, upon informing ourselves about the prices of some vacation packages, we decided that it was out of our price range, and started looking for an alternative.

My friend has traveled quite extensively in Europe, so it was going to be difficult finding a place where she hadn't been on a trip already, and which fit into our budget. Also, we both wanted to go to a country which had European customs, 'cos I didn't want a week of culture shock, i.e. Tunisia, Egypt, and Morocco, popular vacation package destinations from Germany, were off our list. But we happened upon a nice offer for Cyprus.

And we didn't know much about the place, other than it is split in half between a Greek and Turkish sovereignty. And I honestly didn't really know where it was...assuming somewhere near both Turkey and Greece.

But in the last few days it has become increasingly clear where Cyprus lies: about 250 km from Beirut.

Cyprus will be the hub of evacuation of foreign nationals from Lebanon. So far Italians have already been evacuated through there. The French are going to start ferrying their nationals. The British will also be conducting their evacuations through the island. And the Americans started an air evacuation from the embassy yesterday, and are planning further evacuations.

Although I am sure we won't notice anything, since we will be in the western coast of the island, it will be an interesting time to be there.

Image from Korean Computer Mission.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Dum dum dum dum duuuuuum dum*

(*Pomp and Circumstance hummed by moi)

Yesterday was my graduation. My mom flew over to be here with me (and also to help pack my things for my return). Regrettably, my boyfriend was still on a mission, and wouldn't be able to attend my graduation either (phooey, phooey, phooey...). It was to be a 2 hour ceremony: the university orchestra would play a bit, then the 3 top graduates would present their masters thesis, and then the diplomas would be handed out in alphabetical order.

Well, I had marked the time in my day-planner: 4 pm. Nerdboy was going to meet us there, to offer moral support, too. So at 3:45pm we met in front of the main building to go to the ceremony in Aula 1. I was surprised that no one else was there yet.

So we walked to the doors and they were already handing out the diplomas! They were at “H” already. 15 minutes later “T” came round, and it was my turn to go up on stage to get my diploma. But how close we came to missing it! I can't believe I nearly missed my own graduation. I still don't know what happened. Somehow the time was changed, and I failed to inform myself.

But I did manage to make it in time to get my diploma, so things could have been worse!

Before: Nervous or excited? Couldn't decide.

Just after picking up my diploma

Tee hee...I was sooo tickled. That may just look like a normal piece of white paper with some black ink on it, but trust me, your eyes deceive you. That is actually a terribly expensive piece of paper, and represents many years of sweat and tears!

My mother expressing her joy that this is all over, too!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Dilbert Blog

I usually don't give a rat's a** about entertainers' political opinions. There are however a few exceptions to that. The first is of course, the South Park crew. Trey Parker and Matt Stone are always so succinct and “sense making” in their political satire. I mean, just a few weeks ago I downloaded “The Cartoon Wars”. It was a great parody over the Mohamed cartoons. After watching that I was thinking that South Park should be mandatory viewing for Americans. Just to get people thinking. The Daily Show is similar, but of course I like South Park better, 'cos it's funnier, and more irreverent.

And the other entertainer near and dear to my heart is Scott Adams, Dilbert creator. He has a blog on which he writes about anything he wants, and lately he has been writing a lot about politics. And although every post is incredibly funny, the posts are usually quite good at summing things up.

Like this one about consiracy therories:

My favorite conspiracy theory is the one that says the world is being run by a handful of ultra-rich capitalists, and that our elected governments are mere puppets. I sure hope it’s true. Otherwise my survival depends on hordes of clueless goobers electing competent leaders. That’s about as likely as a dog pissing the Mona Lisa into a snow bank.

The only way I can get to sleep at night is by imagining a secret cabal of highly competent puppetmasters who are handling the important decisions while our elected politicians debate flag burning and the definition of marriage.

Or this one about political activists at the Running of the Bulls in Spain:

The part that got my attention is that hundreds of animal rights activists always attend to protest. Many of the female activists protest by going topless and running with the bulls. That’s right: In order to make this event LESS popular, the female activists take off their tops and jog in front of onlookers.

Keep in mind that this is a crowd of people who hope to see bystanders get gored before the animals are all stabbed to death. I hate to categorize people, but which of these items do you think would have the best chance of discouraging folks that enjoy watching bulls get stabbed?

1. Classical music
2. Poetry reading
3. Tits

The thing that frustrates me most is that when I make people mad with my comic or blog, all they ever do is send angry e-mails. I never get the naked female activists jogging in front of my office. Apparently you have to stab animals to get the VIP treatment.

Other faves are: Flag Burning, the 20th 9/11 hijacker, and terrorists.

Don't always agree with him, but I enjoy his articles a darn sight more than many from so-called political analysts.

Monday, July 10, 2006

In France, Missing Germany

I spent the weekend in France...alone. My boyfriend was supposed to come too, but at the last minute couldn't. This is something I am sure most military wives and girlfriends are used to, but I am just getting introduced to the last minute rug pull.

So I had a mini pity party and then left.

And I have to admit, it truly does suck to go to a wedding on your own, especially if you don't know most of the people there. I knew the groom's immediate family, but that was about it. But if you look at the pictures in the following post, you can see all was not lost.

However, I learned something this weekend: when in France, and someone asks you, which country you like better, Germany or France, don't be as brutally honest as you are in Germany. I think the answer should be pretty evident to the asker, seeing as I lived in France 2 years, and in Germany 9 ½, but nevertheless they still ask.

So I answered Germany.

Why, she asked. And I think I literally saw the blood drain from her face when I said that
France was an xenophobic, racist country, full of snobs who thought they knew better than the rest of the world. And in Germany no one had ever said to me, that I was intelligent for an American. Also, that the riots in the French suburbs a few months ago had really shocked me. When you look at France's national soccer team, you would think it was the United Nations playing, but France itself is ultra-segregated along class and race lines. America, in comparison, and even Germany, is an equal society. I mean, the Front National (a pretty right extremist party) got 20% of the vote last elections.

I realized I had gone too far when she snipped, “well, I love France.” I hadn't meant to be so rude, but I guess all my resentment was coming to the surface, and I forget where I was.

A little later, a woman was talking with me, and said: “We French still can't understand why Bush was re-elected.” I was in my biting tongue mode then, but so wanted to say: can't you guys just get over that? I mean, it was almost 2 years ago now.

What was truly quite strange, was that this trip to France really showed me how German I have become. Germany is like the anti-France. French are delicate, and they generally have great taste in wine, food and clothes. But they drive this pathetically tiny cars, that are sooo old and repulsive with their black exhaust. And when on the freeway, they don't observe the overtaking on the left rule (they don't in the states either, but at least there are like 5 lanes in the states, so it doesn't matter). I was so glad to get back to Germany, where people are a little more natural, less snobby about things, and who follow the rules on the highway...oh and not to mention, where the highways rarely have speed limits.

I actually felt such happiness when I crossed the border back into Germany. It made me realize how much of this country I have in my heart now, it will always be a part of me, and I will always be comparing other countries to it, along with the US.

Wedding in France

I spent two years in France a long long time ago, and it seems now that I am there at least once a year for a wedding now, which isn't a bad thing. In fact, I would have to say French weddings are pretty gosh-darned good.

Firstly, they are usually held in really old churches.

Interior of St. Pierre Church, Mâcon


The reception for was held at a castle that the couple had reserved 2 years ago, when they first got engaged. It was truly a beautiful area, and the weather was fantastic.

Château de Pierreclos

View from the château of the surrounding countryside

I don't know if it is regional, and something only particular to Burgundy, but they don't have wedding cakes, but rather a pastry made of many profiteroles stuck together:

Thursday, July 06, 2006


I am done. Finished. Fertig.

I walked out of my oral today. Waited a few minutes outside, and was called back in to be told my grade. Was very pleased. Everything went better than I had hoped.

I have all my grades now, and passed in everything!

Now, I am off to soak up that feeling and enjoy not having to study anymore.

I look forward to reading a book, just to read it, and not having a highlighter in my hand.

I look forward to doing some sports and shaking off the "test-fat", i.e. the 5+ pounds I have gained over the last 2 months.

I look forward to enjoying this fabulous summer Germany has been having, and drinking beer without thinking "nope, have to have a clear head to study later".

I look forward to my mummy coming over in a few days to watch me graduate!

I look forward to the absolute lack of structure, before I have to return to reality and start working.

My current soundtrack:

Well we got no choice
All the girls and boys
Makin all that noise
'Cause they found new toys

Well we can't salute ya
Can't find a flag
If that don't suit ya
That's a drag

School's out for summer
School's out forever
School's been blown to pieces

No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher's dirty looks
Well we got no class
And we got no principles
And we got no innocence
We can't even think of a word that rhymes

School's out for summer
School's out forever
School's been blown to pieces
No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher's dirty looks
Out for summer
Out till fall
We might not go back at all

School's out forever
School's out for summer
School's out with fever
School's out completely

Alice Cooper

Saturday, July 01, 2006


...that was my boyfriend's response to the alleged premeditated rape and murder of an Iraqi woman, and the subsequent killings of some of her family members.

I am sickened when I read the purported details of the case:

The Americans entered the Sunni Arab's family home, separated three males from the woman, raped her and burned her body using a flammable liquid in a cover-up attempt, a military official close to the investigation said. The three males were also slain.

It is still under investigation but it seems to have been a crime of opportunity, the soldiers having observed the woman on previous patrols and then planning the crime. The Army official was also careful to mention that the soldiers had never been subject to an attack themselves, so in no way was this a case of "collateral damage" incurred in defense.

According to the article: If convicted of premeditated murder, the soldiers could receive a death sentence under U.S. military law.

I am against the death penalty. But in this case I could almost see it justified in punishing treasonous behavior. This wasn't only a crime against an Iraqi family. It hurt so much more than the families involved. It hurts American-Iraqi relations. It endangers US soldiers.

It makes me so angry. And so very sad for everyone involved.