"joy in the misfortune of others"

May 2003

Yes. Yes, I do very much support the Dixie Chicks. Nothing that Natelie Maines said against the Shrub comes anywhere near as horrible, un-American and shameful as what's been said about and to the Chicks. And I will be one of the loudest people cheering when I go to see them in September in Frankfurt.

No. No, I did not dance on a table in a Turkish restaurant in April. I did NOT. It was not me. And that was not me with a co-worker singing "Down by the Riverside" into a microphone with the guys in the house band. Off with you and your vicious lies.

A sincere, huge thank you to everyone who wrote or called regarding Wiley. It means so much to me. Buster and I miss Wiley very much. I know I did the right thing for him, but I still miss him. Buster is not eating like his normal self -- he eats relatively slowly and usually doesn't finish his meal. When we walk, he also doesn't try his best to stay in front of me. His canine competition is gone. We take longer walks now, and he gets to meet and greet more dogs. And on weekends, I read and study on the patio while he sleeps in various places throughout our tiny, tiny outdoor kingdom. But he also gets left alone all day five days a week, and I know he's bored and lonely. It's been a month, as I write this, and although I wanted to wait a bit longer, I think that I need to start making arrangements to get another dog.

Some of you asked what I did with Wiley's remains: I had Wiley cremated. His remains were returned to me in a lovely ceramic vase, which for now, I have on a top shelf in my living room. When I leave Germany, I'd like to pour some into the Rhein. The rest I plan on burying in the vase back in the states, probably in my mother's back yard in Henderson.

Also, apologies for taking so long to bring you up-to-speed on what's going on.

My friend Betsy in Austin writes:

I've been thinking of you often -- well, more often than usual -- because there are several German engineers working near me this month and of course they usually converse in The Language That Dare Not Show Its Soft Side. What *do* sweet nothings sound like when whispered in German?
Um.... I'll let you know...

In March, Stefan and I were at a restaurant. I ordered this oh-so-tasty pasta con gambas, he ordered the typical German meal: fried pork steak and French fries. My food game first, and I said, "I wonder where your food is?" And without missing a beat he said, "The Freedom Fries probably are still cooking." Maybe you had to be there. That deep voice with the thick German accent and said totally dry -- I nearly fell off my chair. So much for my mascara.

Ofcourse, it's not always easy to laugh at this anti-Europe nonsense in the U.S. Stefan got this email sent through his web site from one of my fellow citizens:

Iraq is French for Germany. You will not be able to enjoy the money you have been stealing from the Iraq people any more. The truth will come out Germany and Franche are Iraq co-conspiritors we might have to kick you ass again! Never mind we will buy France and England and make the homesteads for President SADDAM you had one you deserve another!

The Iraq people deserve to be free from Madman Saddam.

You should have taught the French to speak German sooner

I did enjoy your motorcycle site!

Stefan's site was then covered in anti-War links and logos. Such a proud moment for me as an American. No wonder I'm in no hurry to return. But I am in a hurry to buy this tshirt.

We watched Stefan's favorite movie recently, called When the Wind Blows . It's an animated film from the 1980s, and he finally found an affordable copy on E-Bay. It's the story of a dowdy, patriotic and lovable English couple living in the country. The husband decides he and his wife need to get ready for the possibility of someone dropping The Bomb, per the free government literature he's picked up in the library. Half the movie is really funny -- he's building a little bomb shelter in the living room and she's making tea and rambling on about how she hopes the bomb doesn't hurt her good cushions or her curtains. I laughed a little quite a few times. But then the bomb does really hit. The couple survive, and their house is still standing, but it's a burned out shell -- almost everything is ruined. Still, at first, they keep merrily going along, because they know that emergency services are going to show up just any minute. They start to go through radiation sickness, but don't know that's what it is -- the government literature never bothers to explain that part. By the end of the movie, they crawl back into their little living room bomb shelter, out of their minds. I cried, though I didn't squawl like Stefan thought I would. I really thought those movies would be so dated now. But it wasn't at all. Not with the Shrub in office. Been keeping up your supply of duct tape, have you?

Also in March, there was a special event where about a dozen museums in Bonn were open until midnight. So we went to the Deutsche Museum first, near where I work. It's a lovely museum, but totally over our heads. It's all about physics and chemistry, with no ultra basic displays for people such as me. Stefan was disappointed; the one in Frankfurt is about mechanical stuff, with lots of hands on things, and so that's what he thought this would be. Then we went to the tiny Egyptian museum at the University of Bonn. It's very small -- just one really big room of stuff -- but it was interesting, and provided a nice way to get into the mood of looking at Egyptian artifacts for our then upcoming trip. There was a belly dancer too, and she was pretty good.

Just four days after we got back from Egypt, we had to head off to Berlin for me to take my exam for my first OU class. Why Berlin? Because for some whacked out reason, that's where OU put me to take my exam for the first class in my degree program. We decided to make a long weekend of it, since May 1 is a holiday, and see things we missed on our last visit.

I wasn't feeling two days before we left, and went to bed at 8 at night for a one hour nap, only to wake up at 6:30 a.m. the next morning, losing an entire evening that I was going to use to study and clean. Meaning I had to clean frantically the night before I left, and that I lost yet another TWO nights to study. And meaning that I got to bed just after midnight and get up four hours later. And there's not more pleasant an experience than a cranky Jayne with four hours sleep and an exam coming up.

We got to the airport at around 5 a.m., and only after lots of investigation did we find that our flight was cancelled. Germany BA never called nor emailed to tell us. When we walked up to the counter to complain, once the rep finally arrived, she said that we had already been booked on the next flight two hours later. She offered no apologies, and was shocked that I wanted to complain -- and that I wanted her name. I could have really used that extra two hours sleep...

We got to Berlin, got on public transport (which is just FABULOUS in Berlin, truly), transferred to the bus we needed, and then the driver announced we had to take a rather radical detour. Turns out that one of the notorious May Day rallies was launching near our pension, and we could get no closer than 20 blocks by bus. There were massive amounts of police going in the direction we needed to -- I'm talking dozens and dozens of police cars and vans. I was tired and scared and worried about my exam the next day, and trying to keep from crying. I told Stefan to call the pension and see what they suggested. After 10 minutes of a busy signal, he finally got through -- the guy said we could "probably" get through by taxi. So, we took a taxi, and after much negotiations, we got near enough the pension to walk. And just as we were walking down the street towards the pension, here came about 100 skinheads. I hated those people about as much as its possible for a person to hate a group of people. I hate them as much as I hate people that abuse animals. But the fact they had delayed me reaching my room by a further three hours meant it took all the way to the very depths of my willpower not to spit right on them.

Did I mention I was cranky?

We finally get inside the pension, and the owner is just as jovial as can be, which just makes me all the more angry: he admitted that he had known the May Day rally started there, but said he "just didn't have the resources to call us and warn us." And I let him know that I thought that was a really poor way to treat guests, and if there had been an easy way to find another pension, I would have. But I was a wreck. I walked in our room and slammed the door, laid down on the bed and passed out from exhaustion.

No, I won't be naming the Pension -- he doesn't deserve my recommendation.

So, in other words, Thursday was not a good day. I did wake up later and study a bit, but I felt woefully unprepared for my test.

The next day, I took a cab to the exam site, getting there 15 minutes before test time -- OU suggests getting there 30 minutes before test time, and I felt late. The site was in a lovely former city hall, and I ran up the stone steps, found the room with a paper sign that said "Open University," tried the door knob, and found it locked. And panicked. What if there was a time change between Berlin and Bonn, and the test started an hour ago?!!!! The OU person did show up about two minutes later. I turned out to be the only person taking a test that day, which made me angry -- OU had said I had to take the test in Berlin because other people were taking a test there as well. There are FOUR test sites closer to me: Dusseldorf, Brussels, Frankfurt and even Paris. Truly, the British have no understanding of European geography.

So, that was back at the first of May and now, in mid June, I still don't know if I passed. But if I didn't pass the test, then I need to drop out of this program. I'm not saying I was stellar in the exam -- 'cause I wasn't at all. But I felt like I knew the answers to the five questions I chose to answer, well enough to demonstrate that I did actually study about half the materials and read all the course materials.

I was beyond relieved when the exam was over, and I returned to the pension by mass transit. Then Stefan and I embarked on visiting sites we missed on our last visit.

A word about mass transit in Berlin: FABULOUS. Everything is connected by a network of buses, above-ground trains (the S-Bahn) and underground trains (the U-Bahn). Barring May Day parades, you can easily take mass transit from one point to the other. The signs at each stop make it darned easy to figure out how to find out what bus you need to take where, and it's easy to find maps of the system at various points. It is the most impressive mass transit system I've ever seen. The joy of just hopping on and off a train or bus -- not having to look for a parking place or negotiate traffic -- heaven. BTW, Bonn's system is pretty good as well.

First, we went to the German Egyptian Museum, an excellent choice on that rainy day. The artifacts were so much more meaningful to me, having just been to Egypt. I could sometimes guess correctly what period a statue was from just by looking at it and remembering what our guides told us in Cairo or Luxor. For me, the top highlight of the museum is not the bust of Nefertiti (which is, indeed, fascinating) but, rather, the small sculpture of Queen Titi's head. It's about the size of my fist, and the expression on her face is so unique, the profile so lifelike -- I wanted to pull up a chair and stare at her for a long while. That would have been enough, but right next to the display is another display showing three-dimensional X-rays of the head. It turns out that under the muslin-like fabric covering the hair of the model are embedded jewels and other decorations. All this information made her, and the artist who made her, that much more interesting to me. And to think I've been in her tomb...

We also made it to the Allied Museum, which is far off the beaten track but worth the visit. There are two exhibit halls, and in the open area between them, a plane that was used during the Berlin airlift when the Russians closed all roads and railways into the city. As you walk down the street towards the museum, you pass a moving representation of the opening of the Berlin Wall.

Our last day, we went to the Olympic Stadium (spooky, even with the reconstruction -- I just kept thinking of Jesse Owens and Leni Riefenstahl), the Allied Museum (it took us two days to see it all, because of the weird way our schedule went each day), and the Reichstag (forgot to pre-arrange a special visit -- will definitely do that next time, as the pre-arranged group tours are supposed to be fascinating), and, at last, KA DE WE, the super department store, a German version of an even more upscale Macy's-meets-Austin-Central-Market. We tried to visit the Wall museum, and discovered its closed indefinitely for renovations. And I had a massive I-have-to-pee-NOW moment that was rather scary while we went looking for that damn museum...

Our last day, we jumped on Bus 100 to kill some time (it passes all the tourist sites), and saw that the line outside the Reichstag was quite small, so we hopped off and stood in line for not more than 30 minutes outside, and about the same inside, and then got to go up to the top of the building. It's really lovely, offering wonderful views of the city all around you, as well as the German version of Congress through a glass ceiling at your feet. I enjoyed it, but next time, I'm booking a group tour, so I can get see more of the inside of the building. We walked over to the Brandenburg Gate, now completely refurbished, without the Bunny motiff, and for pedestrians only. Off to one side was a "Silence Room", a place of complete silence where you can go and just reflect on... whatever. And so I did. And I thought of all the people who died to get through and over the Wall. And of all the people the Nazis killed. And all the people Stalin killed. And all the unrest in Congo. And of all the people that are killed by brutal dictators or misguided governments based in North America. Had a bit of a cry. Then got thankful for people like all the people who helped Anne Frank, and Ghandi, and Martin Luther King, and Aung San Suu Kyi, and Jimmy Carter, and felt better.

Berlin is fashionable and funky, yet livable and accessible. You don't feel like it's so "with it" that you can't jump in and enjoy it, or stand by and enjoy it. It's not "snooty", but it's incredibly hip. It's a live-and-let live place. It's what London should be, but isn't. It's got something for everyone, no matter what your mood or taste. And it's not expensive -- we had meals cheaper and better there than what we have in Bonn. Even the local bahn stops are fascinating -- one on the way to the Allied Museum has benches that are actually abstract wooden sculptures of humans, with the males all anatomically correct. There would be wild protests in the U.S. of such a thing. I loved it! I would have taken a picture, but the benches were black, and... well, the most interesting parts wouldn't have shown up...

I learned a new German word on this trip: schadenfreude , or joy in the misfortune of others. What a fascinating thing to have a word for. I also bought the Xenophobe's Guide to Germany, which is written by two Germans. I laughed about it for the rest of the trip.

On the Spanish studying front, I had a big setback: my class disintegrated. Every student quit but me. It's nothing personal against me or the teacher... they just all decided they were too busy to make the commitment right now. Two intend to return in the Fall, but that does me no good. There is no class immediately below me nor above me -- I would have to go two places up or down. I wouldn't have mind reviewing what I've studied for even the last six months. But review everything from the last year? Go from the middle of Book 2 to the middle of Book 1? The solution is that I pay for private classes once a week, and attend the class two places below me, so that I can keep my group experience up.

I fell into this nasty habit in April and May of watching Pride and Prejudice instead of studying. I'm falling behind in studies and it's all because of Colin Firth.

For the second time in my life, a friend has sent me a picture of himself with a member of Monty Python. A different friend this time -- Steve in Santa Barbara -- and a different member of Monty Python: John Cleese. It is going to go right next to my picture of Scott with Eric Idle. At this rate, in 15 years, another friend will send me a picture of him or herself with Michael Palin, Terry Jones or Terry Gilliam.

Oh, I wrote part of this from my patio. I'm wireless now, and can not only work on my laptop from various places throughout my apartment and back yard, I can send and receive email from all those places as well. I can even have up to 49 people over who also have laptops with Airport cards and we can all surf at the same time from my back yard. My own little community network. Tempting...

Buster is sitting out in the yard as I write part of this as well. Oh, wait, now he's going back into the house. He'll come back out in about 10 minutes. Buster has started insisting on going out and laying in the back yard each evening. He lays with his head up, like a Sphinx but with his hips turned sideways, sniffing the air and considering what he's missing in the yard next door. His insistence would be annoying, except that it forces me to study instead of watch TV. With daylight lasting until well past 10 p.m. these days, there's plenty of light.

Q & A for the month:

Q: If Martha Stewart makes two or three calls to an executive before dumping $200,000 worth of his company's stock, and Secretary of the Army Thomas White, a former Enron executive, makes 77 calls to Enron executives while dumping tens of millions in stock, why is the SEC only investigating Stewart?

A: Guess which one is a Democrat.

Okay, that's it -- you are caught up. That's my life and thoughts to date. As for upcoming trips -- I'm not sure. I plan on going to Spain for two weeks, but have no plans other than that. I'd like to go for a long weekend to Prague, Paris or Rome soon. Any joining me?

As for am-I-getting-another-dog: yes. I'm just not sure of when.

As always, I'll end with fun links:

NOTE: I rarely correct URLs on my personal essays/blogs. If you click on a link and it no longer works, visit and you can probably find an archive of the site you are looking for.

Each day, I would like for my computer to greet me in this manner.

Mark Fiore has interactive political cartoons that will make you laugh... and cry... awesome stuff.

"Ain't It Cool News has an article on one of the more fascinating fan film projects ever conceived: A shot-for-shot remake of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" filmed in Biloxi, Mississippi between 1982 and 1988 by Eric Zala, Jayson Lamb and Chris Strompolis. The trio began filming the project when they were twelve and finished six years later when they were eighteen. Now, fifteen years after the project was completed, word of the film's existence has gotten out and audiences who have seen it have reportedly been stunned by the trio's ingenuity, with none other than Steven Spielberg giving them a big thumbs-up. The complete film isn't available online, but a trailer that gives a bit of the feel of the finished project can be viewed.

Don't all rush at once now for this patriotic gift.

The Sports Pickle -- think of as a sports version of the The Onion.

Comedy Central has a go at Texas politics

Not pleased with your current phone plan??

Michael Moore's fabulous press conference at the Academy Awards. And there are four scenes from Bowling From Columbine you can watch.

The Iraqi Info Minister is spell-binding. Check out M.S.S. Throughout History after you finish some of his quotes. Ofcourse, speaking of living in a fantasy world, you could do a very similar site for Donald Rumsfeld....

Image from Web Project Mushrooms Into Cultural Phenomenon:

More soon...

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