February - March 2009
I suspect there will be just one more blog-from-Germany after this one that you are reading now.
In eight years, I've written 72 blogs from Germany (excluding blogs about travels to other countries and living in Afghanistan for six months). That's only six a year! One every-other-month, on average. I bet you thought it was a LOT more.
Yes, indeed, we're still planning to move to the USA in April 2009 (unless immigration throws a wrench in our plans; more on that later). Many of you seem to not believe it, that we're going to suddenly change our minds. Unless a dream job drops in my lap the moment I upload this blog, we're leaving Europe in just a few weeks. I want to work! I want to buy a house! I want to drive a car! I want to get my motorcycle license! Those things aren't possible in Germany for me.
I know I keep saying this, but some of you aren't getting the message: it is oh-so-easy to automatically stay up-to-date with me. You can:
I've watched the baby goats and baby sheep frolic at the Tiergarten on Bad Bodendorf for the last time... every Winter, and into Spring, there are new baby goats and baby sheep, and I love watching them learn how to use their legs and play with each other and grow wondrous at new things like human voices or the bark of a dog. The baby goats are particularly adorable: they will suddenly get a power surge and start bucking around for no apparent reason and then run frantically to another part of their yard.
The Tiergarten also hosts a variety of domestic and wild birds, and I've loved watching their chicks every Spring as well. They will still be having chicks when I leave the area.
In late February, I got the black swans (I call them the Didgeridoo swans), to honk/buzz at me one more time (it's hard to get them to unless you startle them at just the right moment).
And then there's the turtle, which I haven't seen since the Fall -- has he survived our very, very cold winter? I guess I'll never know...
I have so loved walking by the Tiergarten and along the Ahr every day with Albi for the past four years, encountering just a few other people - and what people there were, they were mostly dog walkers and other friendly faces. Or the German army, which had soldiers hiking while wearing packs up and down the Ahr a few times a year. I have become more in tune with the seasons, with the position of the sun and how it's different *every day*, with the effects of weather not just in the moment, but the effects from a week or a month before.
Soon, a move and a daily job will take it all away. And I'm so afraid I won't get it back, not for a long time, and maybe not ever. I've never lived anywhere in the USA where it's possible to take a safe, mostly-paved walk or very-well marked trails through open fields or woods just a few meters from my house, where my dog could be off-leash most of the time. In the USA, walks I've driven to are always over-run with competing runners, walkers and bikers. Is there a version of Sinzig in the USA? If so, where?
(Alex called me "Princess of the Ahr" for my birthday)
One of the few American events that's shown in Europe is the Academy Awards. The show starts at 1:30 in the morning here and even me, the die hard movie fan, tapes the show every year and watches later.
So, what did I think?:
In April 2007, my friend Reb, then in California, wrote me with the subject line "writing editing brevity" and said:
"Do a Google search for those three words, no quotes ... and the first three links that pop up are my class and your Web site. (I'm teaching tomorrow night.) Kind of cool/fun."The result in April 2007 was my web site and Reb's as the first and second web sites (can't remember the order). Sadly, this is no longer true... I'm now 14th.
Are we journo-grammar nerds or what?!?!?!?
The immigration process is dreadful, because you cannot get all of the information you need unless you go to the US consulate in-person and ask. The consulate web site and the US State Department web site do NOT have up-to-date nor complete information. Maybe it was up-to-date the DAY it was uploaded, but since then, there's an additional required form, or an updated form, or a new step that isn't on the sites yet. Also, there is no guidance on when to do what step unless you go down to the consulate and ask, in-person.
I'm not saying don't use the web sites for information. DO! But know that they are NOT complete. My advice: make a list of everything you think you need, based on what you find on the web (and use official web sites! lawyer web sites are often WRONG, as are lawyers!), then go to the consulate and ask, "Is this everything we need? When do we turn in each item?" The USA consulate in Frankfurt has a great handout about the visa application process -- what a shame it's not on the web site!
All visa applications for Germans to live and work in the USA are processed in Frankfurt, which is a two-hour drive, one-way, from our house. We've been twice: the first time, to ask all the questions we needed to ask and, the second, to turn in everything for step one of the process. The first time, we were seen two hours after our scheduled appointment. The second time, we were seen 90 minutes after our scheduled appointment, and midway between being sent from one window to another, everyone went on lunch break, so we were stuck waiting even longer.
If you are a USA citizen and you marry a foreigner, and you want to move with him or her to the USA, here's my advice:
And don't hire a lawyer -- we did, and got ripped off. She gave us inaccurate information -- when she bothered to give us any at all.
Brava, German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Brava once again.
I'm no fan of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the German political party that's the equivalent of the Republican Party in the USA in many ways. Early on living in Germany, I was no fan of Angela Merkel, who was then a vocal supporter of George Bush and the invasion of Iraq. But when Merkel saw the drumming she was getting in public opinion polls (not to mention unflattering depictions in German carnival parades as a result), she had a big change of heart and changed her tune dramatically. Still, I didn't like her -- I felt like I couldn't say who she really is, what her values are, etc.
Angie, as she is called here in Germany, has stunned me with some of her outspoken statements as Chancellor: her unwavering support for the Dali Lama in face of very vocal criticism from China, her criticisms of Russia and Putin at a time when the rest of Europe was being way-too-silent, and now, her deliberate dressing down of the Pope in public over his reinstatement of a priest who is a Holocaust denier. Go Angie! I still don't like your tax policies and your lack of support for small business and your tepid reaction to the economic crisis that benefits only the largest companies, but when it comes to human rights and fighting the good fight -- you go, girl!
(what, you think I wouldn't be a political hound no matter what country I was living in?!? Paleeeeease)
Are you female and 40 or over? If yes, you need to run out right away and rent The Upside of Anger.
Joan Allen is a goddess. I watch this movie twice a year, I swear. Just did so again in February. I can't believe a man wrote it, I really can't.
Speaking of anger...
May I slap the person who made the decision to cancel Firefly?
Or someone at least please tell me that person is unemployed and miserable.
I'll be in my bunk.
I have a friend here whose boss insists on her calling him "Herr Professor Doktor" in any setting, even when its just the two of them. Ah, German academics... if I ever get my PhD, I'm going to require people to call me either "Dr. Jayne" or "Dr. Jayne-O"
Among our many, many fabulous wedding gifts was a bottle of Don Julio 1942 Anejo, from Sharron and Ron in Austin. We finally opened it early this year, more than a year after receiving it. I'm not much for tequila (except in margaritas) and I'd never had Don Julio before. Oh... my... gawd... it is the smoothest liquor I've ever had. We drank a shot every night for several weeks. Mmmmmmmmm. When we finally polished it off (too a long time, savoring a shot or two every night for a few weeks), and took the bottle to the recycling bin, Stefan stood the bottle on top of the bin, as a tribute.
Arriving at the Bonn train station to get home to Sinzig, I looked across the platform from where I stood and saw an old train, with large black and white photos of children propped up against its side. I realized immediately what it was: the "Zug der Erinnerung" or "Train of Commemoration." Was it just me, or was everyone on the platform much more quiet than usual, as we stared over at those faces of Jewish children, long ago deported to death camps?
The "Zug der Erinnerung" is a museum that was created and is financed by German citizens -- individual donors, not the government -- to commemorate the Nazi deportation of many thousands of children to death camps, most of them Jewish but also Sinti and Roma and from families of Nazi opponents. The children and youth came from almost all major cities and rural areas in Germany, as well as other parts of Europe, including the Netherlands, Poland, Italy, France, Belgium and Greece. Between 1940 and 1944, children were rounded up with their families and taken to train stations, where they were deported by the "Reichsbahn" to extermination camps.
The mobile exhibition is installed in several WWII era wagons and pulled by a steam engine. The train does special events at each stop, focused on the children who were taken from the area it is visiting, with the goal of identifying every child who was taken away (most children were killed). More than 200 children were removed from Bonn.
Interesting that this is here now as, just this past Sunday, Stefan and I went to the local Schloss (the kind-of-castle here in Sinzig) for a small exhibit regarding the Jewish community that was once here, through the experience of one once-prominent Sinzig family. The exhibit is based on a book, Knoblauch und Weihrauch: Juden and Christen in Sinzig, 1914 bis 1992. (Garlic and incense: Jews and Christians in Sinzig) by Rudolf Menacher. Much of the material is from or about the family of Richard Meyer, a Jewish former resident of Sinzig (he was responsible for the memorial commemorating the fate of Sinzig's Jewish population under the Nazis that we visited last month on the anniversary of Kristallnacht; it's on the site where the Sinzig synagogue used to be).
What always gets me most is seeing the proud men in the photos from WWI -- the Jewish men who were so proud to fight and die for the country they loved, only to be exterminated by their fellow citizens 30 years later...
If you speak German, download and read Die 23 Sinziger Opfer des Holocausts (The 23 Sinzig Victims of the Holocaust), a free booklet by Hans-Ulrich Reiffen that was created with a 10th grade class at the Rhein-Gymnasiums Sinzig (the local high school).
I love the Beatles. I am a HUGE Beatles fan. And, therefore, I've always seen Yoko Ono through a very particular filter -- and didn't even realize it.
Through one of my favorite blogs, Hoyden
[HOYDEN (hoid'n): woman of saucy, boisterous or carefree behavior]
I found out about this:
Yoko Ono: A Feminist Analysis (Part One: The Ballad of John and Yoko).
It's so worth a read -- and her comments worth consideration.
I guess everyone knows about the Dreadnought hoax but me? Brilliant. How did I find out about it? I watched The Hours, and wanted to know more about Virginia Woolf, someone I'm ashamed to say I have never read. So looked her up on Wikipedia, and then I also found out about Vita Sackville-West, Alice Keppel, Jennie Jerome and Agnes Keyser.
My my my. What a sheltered life I've lead...
I am heart-broken at the way dogs are treated in Afghanistan, per living there myself for six months in 2007. Dogs are considered absolute filth by the population. Dogs are beneath contempt. Knowing firsthand the love and health benefits that dogs bring to any home, and knowing how dogs can change a person and society profoundly for the better, this is more than mistreatment of animals; it's denial of something that could greatly benefit Afghan society.
What can be done to help dogs and cats in Afghanistan? Short of profound, comprehensive, long-term activities to change beliefs, you can make a donation to Mayhew International, a well-established British animal welfare group working in Kabul and other places in the developing world. The Mayhew staff are doing great work -- tying their work to local veterinary training programs, and spaying and neutering animals and then trying to find homes for them (mostly with foreigners living in the country, but they've had some success with local Afghan families).
So many times, I hear people say, "I'd like to give money, but how do I know it will really make a difference?" This is a way to REALLY make a difference.
The Amish DO vaccinate their children. Anti-vaccinations fanatics will tell you that the Amish don't vaccinate their children, but they DO.
And there ARE Amish children with autism. Anti-vaccinations fanatics will tell you that Amish children don't have autism, but that's a lie.
Three separate test cases went before special courts set up by the USA government as part of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, done to look at the very rare cases where it was possible that vaccines caused some harm to the people inoculated. The cases started in 2007, and in all three courts, the rulings were basically identical: there is no scientific claim that vaccines cause autism.
Also: the Earth is round, the Earth goes around the Sun, the moon goes around the Earth, and Darwin was right. Hurrah for science.
Be afraid. Be very afraid:
According to researchers Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, since the late 1970s, a greater and greater share of national income has gone to people at the top of the earnings ladder. As late as 1976, the richest 1 percent of the country took home about 9 percent of the total national income. By 2006, they were pocketing more than 20 percent. But the rich don't spend as much of their income as the middle class and the poor do -- after all, being rich means that you already have most of what you need. That's why the concentration of income at the top can lead to a big shortfall in overall demand and send the economy into a tailspin. (It's not coincidental that 1928 was the last time that the top 1 percent took home more than 20 percent of the nation's income.)
-- Robert Reich, February 1, 2009 in the Washington Post
I'm going to miss whitehouse.org -- the contents of the site have been archived elsewhere and will not be updated any longer. But I'm glad the information is still accessible, particularly the fabulous retro-looking posters.
Darwin's scientific theory regarding the origin of species, also known as the scientific theory of evolution, is not easy to understand, and frequently misspoken about, particularly by those who want to remove science from schools. Open University offers this free online course regarding Darwin's scientific theory that every high school biology teacher and anyone who wants to debate evolution should take.
Could I explain Darwin's theory appropriately? Probably not. I also can't explain
Dr. Kenneth Miller is a professor of biology at Brown University and co-author of the standard high-school textbook Biology. Miller testified at the Dover, Pennsylvania trial as an expert witness for the plaintiffs, the Dover parents who brought suit against their town's school board who forced teachers to talk about intelligent-design as science. Miller, who is also a man of faith, talks about why evolution matters, what flaws he sees in the intelligent-design argument, and why the Dover decision doesn't mean the end of the controversy.
What distinguishes scientific inquiry from other ways we humans gain understanding of ourselves and the universe? Listen to seven scientists, philosophers, and educators reflect on the essence of science, and why evolution qualifies while intelligent design does not.
Also, Denialism is NOT debate:Denialism is the employment of rhetorical tactics to give the appearance of argument or legitimate debate, when in actuality there is none. These false arguments are used when one has few or no facts to support one's viewpoint against a scientific consensus or against overwhelming evidence to the contrary. They are effective in distracting from actual useful debate using emotionally appealing, but ultimately empty and illogical assertions. Examples of common topics in which denialists employ their tactics include: Creationism/Intelligent Design, Global Warming denialism, Holocaust denial, HIV/AIDS denialism, 9/11 conspiracies, Tobacco Carcinogenecity denialism (the first organized corporate campaign), anti-vaccination/mercury autism denialism and anti-animal testing/animal rights extremist denialism. Denialism spans the ideological spectrum, and is about tactics rather than politics or partisanship... 5 general tactics are used by denialists to sow confusion. They are conspiracy, selectivity (cherry-picking), fake experts, impossible expectations (also known as moving goalposts), and general fallacies of logic. More about denialism here, from scienceblogs.com.
Books I finished reading during this blawg:Too Good to Be True: The Colossal Book of Urban Legends
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