Spend an hour a day writing: I HAVE to finish my book on life in Germany. I have sat on it for WAY too long. I have set the office up so that I have a proper work space, free of distractions. I need to get up, have coffee, a bite to eat, and spend an hour typing. This means I will have to go to bed ~10:00 though…
For my dress shirts to be tailored: if I buy dress shirts off the rack I get 16/32 . Unless it is a new “slim fit” it fits fine across my back, shoulders, arms and neck, but around the waist I have a couple feet of material to crease, tuck, re-tuck, and hide. It looks sloppy if I take my suit jacket off. I would really like them taken in and button holes added to all so I can wear cufflinks. I know, petty uptown problems…
Get rid of some crap: I am on a binge to get rid of some of the crap we have accumulated in the last year. Do I really need a 4X8′ drafting table in the basement? How many backpacks does it take to be excessive? Do I need to keep all those fvcking back issues of Monocle and Outside?
Red tomatoes: Last year my tomato harvest sucked. I had 5 red tomatoes, 4 of them split on the vine, and all the rest remained green. I will not be having that shit this year! I planted early, have been lovingly tending to them all summer and if the warm weather is over, then I am putting a hoop-house over the beds until each and every one turns scarlet red.
Lumber: I could do with 50′ or so of 8″ wide popular planks. The final push on the kitchen will require some pull-outs installed and extra shelving put into existing cabinets.
Get off my ass: I have been traveling so much, missing runs and workouts in the gym, eating out, and scarfing down cookies like a junkie who has found a heroin tree. I have to get up, push away from my desk, and run/bike/lift/hike/climb and shed my cookie-handles.
Posts Tagged Germany
What I Want Thursday was meant to be a weekly post but due to the realities of my J-O-B and growing list of home improvement projects, it has now become a bi-monthly (hopefully…) utterance. For this Thursday I would like:
- For traffic to slow the fvck down on 35th Ave! – A ticket was handed out last week for 62mph in a 35mph zone and 50+ seems to be the norm.
- For my kids to write me real snail-mail letters in addition to dialing the phone, typing a single line e-mail, or sending me a text. I do not want my generation to be the last that prizes personal tangible communication. I want my children to send Thank You cards, notes of congratulations, and sympathy. Manners are small gifts we give to other people, often strangers, that mean so very much…
- For my kitchen remodel to be finished and done with. I would like a celebratory breakfast of bacon, eggs, fine pressed coffee, OJ, flakey croissants, and lavender honey at the table in the breakfast nook. I would like a morning free of worry and noise to enjoy my breakfast in our new clean, bright, painted kitchen, while reading the day’s International Herald Tribune.
- Some BADASS/useful luggage for my frequent international travel. No more fvcking roller wheels!! Real bags, that look good with jeans or a suit. I like this one from Monocle, A similar one from a guy in Portland, and a new laptop messenger from Timbuck2 in all black.
- More book shelves. I need 8’ or so of shelf space in the office, 4’ in the kitchen for our cookbooks, and 3-5’ in our master bedroom to accommodate our home library. Some cool bookend would be snazzy as well. These or these or these would work nicely.
- For iTunes to realize I do not live in Germany anymore and to FINALLY switch my account over to a US one. Every time I buy a song or app, I get charged in Euros and I have to call in, explain the issue for the umpteenth time and they send me a refund for the difference in 10-14 days.
I had to take a quick trip back to Hamburg, Germany for work just before Christmas this year. Aside from all our close friends there, the thing that Stamps-With-Foot and I miss most about Germany are the Christmas markets. This is how Christmas should be done everywhere: booths selling hand-made small gifts, warm candied peanuts, hand-blown glass ornaments, hot mulled wine for sale on every corner, hand-painted pewter ornaments, Christmas music, grilled sausage, happy people holding hands, groups caroling, smiling kids, young lovers sneaking a kiss behind the huts…
I had about 3 hours between getting off work and having to drive to the airport, so I walked through the ice and snow to a couple of the larger markets, bought ~$400 in ornaments (we/I have a Christmas tree decorating fetish…) and small gifts for my lovely wife and the kids., then I took some pictures of all the wreathed ambiance.
It has been almost two years since we moved from Deutschland and I now believe that I have enough distance to finish my book about our life there and the funny/sad/wonderful/disturbing things that happened to us. I had maybe 65 pages written, but in but I put the manuscript down for a while because I found that it was overly biting and my sarcastic prose leaned over the hateful line when discussing my former employer. No one wants to read a travel essay that is spiteful. I hope to have it done and edited by this summer. Publishing in the current economy is part luck and part Voodoo so it might take a while (and a couple more re-writes) before it is Amazon ready.
I have promised myself not to rush things and to use a real publisher. My ego is not so big for me to even consider a vanity press. If my musings are not good enough for publication using a legitimate publishing house that will be rude to me, not answer or return my calls, edit my work with a heavy hand, and take 80% of the book’s profit, then I don’t want it out there for the world to read and snicker at.
Soooo… I have decided to slow my blog postings about the ironic crap I find out in the world from day to day, leave my witty observations in my head, and commit myself to using the time I would spend here on crafting my book. For now, I will continue with project updates, book status, and life events and after I am done with “A Year of Ordered Chaos” I am sure I will have loads of material and opinions to blog about.
We spend way too much cash every time we darken the door at Trader Joe’s. They have some really good stuff, most of it I didn’t know that I wanted or needed it until I saw it on the shelf and then I lust after it.
We were there Saturday night and I noticed a display for TJ’s branded “Bavarian Style Hefeweizen” and while I am real skeptical of some store-brand products, especially beer, I decided to give it a try if no no other reason than to make fun of it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only was the beer drinkable and super tasty, it was also unfiltered and had lots of lovely yeast in the bottle. My initial reaction was that the beer had a clean taste of banana and wheat, with a little clove spice. It poured a dark amber color, was murky, and formed a creamy off-white head with a limited amount of foam lacing. I might go so far as to say that it is one of my top 10 of American Wheat beers – especially for the price. I know, who woulda thunk it??
Although TJ’s is owned by a German grocery store chain, ALDI, and one would think that they would import the good stuff from the Spaten Brewery, the beer is actually brewed by the Gordon Beirsch Brewery in San Jose, CA., which is a brewery started by a guy who went to beer college (yes, it actually exists and is rigorous in its depth of craft and science) in Weihenstephan Germany. I have a feeling that we will be serving this beer to company all summer long. Again, both surprised and impressed by Trader Joe’s.
I made an application that grabs the latest news from NPR, CNN, and my three favorite comics and delivers it to my Outlook In-box first thing in the morning – I know, I’m a dork. Anyway, one of the ‘toons made me roll with laughter and I spit my fine latte out of my nose. About two years ago I was cycling through the fields of North Germany, along narrow country roads, with a friend and neighbor who just could not stay warm on the ride. The cold wind was just cutting into him so he pulled off, grabbed a paper full of glossy adverts from the ground and started layering them flat inside his jersey. I laughed and laughed at him all the way home and would snicker for months afterward when we would ride together. I had completely forgotten about it until yesterday morning when the comic below opened up in my morning Geek-mail. Coffee should never be spewed from the nose: it is both painful and messy. My laughter/coffee fountain was also a source of delight for the other cube-dwelling Engi-nerds that surround me.
I did a decent job in 2009 balancing my inner geek with my outdoor proclivities. I did occasionally spend WAY too much time designing/drawing tools, writing html/java code, more than once found myself in an hours long vegetative state in front of the flickering idiot box at 2AM, and I spent entirely too much time surfing Wikipedia, cycling websites, WSB, and CNN, but… I did manage to occasionally pick myself up out of the techie gutter and run/bike in the sunshine, take a long and relaxed climbing trip with old friends, cycle in a 100+ mile charity ride, flirt with my cute wife, drink great beer, buy a new home, and I managed to read a bunch of really good books even considering we had cable TV for much of the year.
As you can see from the small spreadsheet below – even after allowing for the fact that I fell and tore up my shoulder again, I rode more and ran almost as much as in 2008. I traveled MUCH less for work in ’09 than I have in the previous eight years and that is a trend that I hope to continue. With all the time spent working and moving I didn’t make it to the gym like I should have, something I will rectify in 2010 since I need to get my shoulder strong and want to have a stronger core for climbing. I plan to read more and watch TV much less – my pile of books that I “have to” read in 2010 is already two feet high. Since I am ecstatic about having a job in the current economic climate, there is nothing that I can do about the number of overtime hours and they will likely increase next year as I need to pay the mortgage and save for the kid’s college funds.
As I live in the beer capital of the world and great beer swirls all around me, I feel that there is no reason to drink sub-par beer. As my particular favorite fermented beverage is wheat beer, I thought about having a blind taste test that included a group of multi-national friends to see which of the most popular and available brands I should buttress with my patronage and financial support. The Beer Fairy (we are big buds – exchange Christmas cards and all that) stopped by our flat this past weekend and left eighteen (18) different quality brands of Hefeweissen (or just plain “weisse Bier” as we were repeatedly corrected by a German participating in the event). My darling bride graciously volunteered to be the beer wench/test focal for the evening along with another friend – both sporting dirndls, making for an authentic German beer drinking atmosphere (they are both getting some good stuff for this added and appreciated surprise detail). The tasting was loosely organized along the lines of a blind taste test – very loosely.
All 18 Hefeweissens we tested and a few other kinds of beer consumed after the testing. This shot was taken on the way to the recycling center the next day. I know my neighbors looked out their windows as I lined up the bottles for the picture and thought, ‘Crazy American, what is he doing now…‘
It wasn’t a test that would hold up to scientific peer review: Pallets were not cleansed before and after tasting, the beer was swallowed after the tasting (spitting good beer in my house unless you are having a heart attack will get one unceremoniously booted out the door!), the participants were seated together and were allowed to talk about the beer and/or each other’s mother if they so desired, food was served with the beer, there was not a control group given the same beer each time, no random sampling of participants from the overall beer drinking population was used. Multiple tests were not conducted under exacting standards, etc… This was a gathering of like-minded friends who just like beer. So, if you are reading this and you work for one of the companies that we decided sucked – sorry, but it is going to be real hard to sue me for posting an OPINION on my VERY obscure, almost NEVER read (…save for a couple of friends and a crazy English woman…) website/blog.
Just before 7:00pm on Friday, guests started showing up and we sat down for an evening of semi-scientific research. A few were late and a couple had to leave early, so the testing had to accommodate this flow of testers. All counted, there were three Americans, one Scot, one Swede, an Englishman, and three Germans who participated as testers and a good number of significant others and onlookers drinking wine and the hard stuff for the duration. Of those who participated in the actual testing: two were women, seven were men, and we ranged from twenty-two to thirty-six years old. Our dirndl-clad test administrators kept us well stocked, washed glasses between rounds, and delivered mini-pizzas and other snacks fresh from the oven. We had music playing in the background and a slide show of 350+ beer and weisse Bier related images scrolling on the big screen throughout the evening.
Going into this test I just knew that my personal favorite, Franziskaner Hefeweissen would come out on top and that my second favorite, Franziskaner Weissen Dunkel, would place well (I am brand loyal). Though, I was open to try other options to see how they faired against mein Lieblingsbier. I picked regular Franziskaner out the minute it touched my tongue and it was the only beer I gave the top score to, but I was somewhat surprised by the overall result. Here is a link to the results of the overall test and scorecard templates if you are interested, but the top five beers we tested, listed in ascending order, were:
#5: Franziskaner Hefeweissen (I was appalled!)
#4: Edinger Weisse
#3: Schneider Weisse
#2: Franziskaner Weissen Dunkel
#1: Paulaner Hefeweissen Dunkel
As you can see, the Dunkel Hefe’s scored the highest marks and that could either be because of the group of testers selected or because it just tastes better – not real sure… One thing to note though was that although Paulaner had the #1 beer, the brewery also produced the beer that came in second to last: regular Paulaner Hefe Weissen. Odd…
In dead last place was Schoefferhofer Hefeweissen. It wasn’t drinkable (one of the testers scribbled “never again” on his score card as a comment for this beer) and one would think that production of such a concoction would have already ceased due to an angry pitchfork wielding Bavarian mob storming the gates of the brewery.
The evening was a rousing success: lots of beer and food was consumed, there were no fights or broken furniture, no one got sick, no hookers showed up, not one person was locked out of their house by an angry wife/girlfriend, and we agreed to do this again in six or eight weeks to test the quality of local Pilsner (though I might expand the rules to include Czech beers as they are the ones that invented Pils…). Most of the credit for the successful evening goes to Laurel and Megan, who were so gracious to us all, even after we got loud – and I need to give a special note of thanks to Karin, who made all the yummy snacks and testing glasses possible.
It has been an exercise in patience and frustration. 99% of our worldly positions were shipped from Hamburg to Seattle via an ocean container ship. We went with a medium priced international moving company, Hasenkamp, that seemed to be professional enough, but appearances can be deceiving. On moving day, it was discovered that the moving company didn’t reserve a space for the container truck in front of our building on a very narrow, crowded, one-way cobblestone street. Parking reservation is the norm when moving apartments in Germany. We requested one when we first contacted the relocation company, so we figured it was their issue. The guys sent to pack were pissed at their office when they showed up and blamed the lady organizing everything from the comfort of her chair, saying that it had happened before… and for us not to worry, as they would work it out with the office. They called someone and swapped out for a smaller truck.
The movers were very meticulous in packing our stuff and overall we though they did a great job. We bought them lunch and drinks and stayed out of the way to let them just do their job. Fast forward 9-weeks and we get a demand for payment form the moving company, Hasenkamp, for $600 extra bucks ?!!??? This was after we had already paid them $6,500. The added bill was to pay for the labor hours for moving our goods from the small truck to the ocean freight container since without a reserved space the container truck couldn’t park on our street. The packers called the Hasenkamp office, not me, and told them to bring a smaller truck brought over. I thought it was no big deal and explained it all to the guy requesting funds, expecting an ’Oops, our bad!” sort of reply. Nope, what I got was a shit-storm of e-mail demanding the additional money and explanations defying all logic, arguing over how it was really our fault that the international logistics and moving company hadn’t reserved a parking spot after we contracted them to conduct a door to door move. Included in this correspondence were not-so-veiled threats about holding our goods until we paid, incurring $100 a day in additional costs. The whole time this was going on, Hasenkamp refused to give us the status and location of our property. It wasn’t until the very end of this terse correspondence that we discovered that our stuff had been in the US for weeks, had already cleared US Customs, and was about to start incurring storage fees at the port. It the end I had to pay ½ of their original requested amount, but MAN it pissed me off to do so!
The condition of our stuff was 95% perfect. Lots of padding and tape and cardboard. There were a couple of chipped glasses, two broken picture frames, odd scratches here and there, and the right arm of our couch got smashed/crushed in the container somehow. I took some pictures and turned it in on the insurance. (Five weeks later – no response from Hasenkamp. Fuck ‘em. I am turning it over to my insurer and will give them the Hasenkamp info. AllState will cut me a check and send Hasenkamp a nasty legal note demanding the funds for reimbursement. This is why one should have insurance – companies have entire legal departments to deal with these type of issues.)
I will link the whole demand for payment e-mail chain here. I will leave the company e-mail addresses intact on the mails, for general information purposes only, of course. It would be sad indeed if some automated web crawler spotted them and auto generated a mountain of SPAM/p0rn mail to those addresses… Hopefully I get a few web hits from someone searching for company information or from someone who is thinking about using Hasenkamp to move with. Additionally, I am going on a few of the expat forums in Europe and post all this again.
Make a customer happy and he MIGHT tell two people, piss a customer off and he WILL tell twenty…
It is windy and raining today and we are sitting inside snuggling with the heater in the living room, but the weather last weekend was nice enough for us to get out and ride our bikes to the city center on Saturday and to Altona the next day for coffee and books. My muse/wife was also gracious enough to let me snap a few pictures of her. She is her own special Betty Crocker/Jenna Jamison/Laurel stew and I couldn’t ask for a better friend or wife or partner in crime.
We had another tasting at the house recently and it was just as unscientific as the first one. Laurel is a pilsner fan so it was decided shortly after the last testing that we would try to find the best Pils brand available. I HATE Pils, so I offered to be the beer wench. Laurel’s dad was spending some time in The Czech Republic before coming to our place for a visit, so he agreed to get a sampling of Czech Pilsner – since that particular poison was born in a Czech monastery a few hundred years ago. He outdid himself by bringing a case of one liter beer 500+ miles on a train and then lugging it around Hamburg to our place.
Things started well and we had a fine turn out of participants as well as seventeen different beers to try. Mat and Karin brought aluminium foil for hats – lest other testers read your mind and it influence their decision and we provided beer related snacks. Donald, a chef by trade, cooked gourmet treats for the guests to have with the beverages.
Things started off well – I had a system where I assigned one glass to one person and would wash it real quick after a sampling had been drunk. After the second or third beer, Laurel stopped drinking and helped me with the serving. The testers started getting loud and opinionated after the fifth beer or so with the German testers saying hateful mean things about the Czech pilsner. Anytime we offered a German beer they knew right away and gave a little cheer. Consequently, as there were no Czech testers to balance it out, the German beer trounced the Czech versions, but two did make it into the top five.
A spreadsheet referencing each testers score for each beer and the overall ranking can be found here. The top five beers were:
#5 Warsteiner Pils
#4 Staropramen Svetlý (Pale)
#3 Bitburger (tie)
#3 Krusuvice (tie)
#1 Beck’s Gold
With hats, pizza, score cards, and beer. Click on the pic on the right for the best shot of the night.
There was continued drinking after the testing and things degraded further. At one point a brother of an invited guest decided it was a fine idea to grab a VERY expensive bottle of tequila and swig it like cheap bourbon. He threw back somewhere near $60 worth before the then half-empty bottle was taken from him. Shortly after we had to officially close the testing down for the evening. I would like to think that this proves, unscientifically, that Weisse beer is better than Pilsner and that the general public is better behaved and happier when they consume Franziskaner than when sucking down a Beck’s…
It is official: I have become an enormous dork. No, you say, not Talley… Well, lets add it up and see: I haven’t biked or lifted or run for shit this year and I have gained ten+ pounds of lard. I have not scaled one single peak or boarded one run. On the upside, I read 37 books – mostly non-fiction, am a board game winning machine, have been writing a Linux script to make my job easier on my off time, have become the master of the spreadsheet at work, and I spent a good deal of my Christmas break playing Guitar Hero: Legends on an X-Box 360. I have even been surfing the web for cool nerd tattoos. I have to admit that it has gone so far that I asked my wife to buy me a calculator watch for Christmas… I am so ashamed… All I need to do is start going to D&D gatherings and become a cyberthug on some obscure web forum and the damage will be irreconcilable…
How did this happen? Can I stop its progression? As I see it, I am a just a bit over the cusp, but if I can pull back a touch I may be able to return to the land of a flat belly, big arms, and cycling while maintaining just enough geekiness to excel as an engineer.