Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Monday, July 4, 2011
Got a nasty shock the other day when I checked my bank account to see if the ATM withdrawal (of Euros) had shown up. It had. All I can say is, the percentage that it cost me to convert dollars to Euros was enough to piss off the pope and I have the lowest available rate through my credit union. So, on top of the fact that the exchange rate is piss-poor going from dollars to Euros, I had fork over quite a few bucks for the privilege. Note to travelers, check with your financial institution regarding the cost of withdrawing money before coming to Europe. You will really have no choice but it could avert a nasty shock. Many institutions charge a fee on top of a percentage for every transaction. Also, many establishments here do not accept credit cards. I don't mean that they, for instance, don't accept American Express. I am saying they don't take credit cards at all. Oh, and by the by, when you find a place that does accept your card, each of those transactions will cost you something over and above the lousy exchange rate.
I have much more to tell, but it's late. I will quit here and upload to the blog and make a link from Facebook to the blog- because I can't trust Facebook to do it automatically.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
There are many parks and green spaces in the city. Also the place is very clean overall. With that said, they really do have a graffiti/tagging problem in some areas here. It really stands out because of the otherwise clean orderliness of the city. I found it a bit shocking and sad. Surprisingly, I did not find the occasional squatter building to be as discouraging as the graffiti. They were ill kept but somehow it seemed like they belonged in a weird way to this subculture/counter-culture/anti-war/no-nukes/anti-capitalistic folks that at some level I root for. Still it is evident that many of these squatters also have drug and/or alcohol problems. Some things are the same everywhere.
As in most of Europe, they are very connected to their history here. The good, the bad, and the ugly. It is commemorated on placards and with statues everywhere.
In Jade and Martin's neighborhood there is a much higher percentage of babies an children than most neighborhoods. It seems very kinder and family friendly. Half the people you pass have a stroller or a baby in a sling of some type. This is unusual in that Germany has a low birth rate and they currently offer incentives to German citizens to become parents. In short, this will be a nice family type neighborhood in which my granddaughter can grow and thrive.
The Comfort townhouse is quite spacious and attractive with wood floors, high ceilings, and a little garden area out the back door. Given the average size of German homes in the cities, this is like a little palace. They did well.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
After a week in Hamburg, my daughter asked me what I thought of Germany.
The bullet point version is, it is quite pleasant here overall. Most people have been helpful and courteous. Many speak English, which is very convenient. I have picked up some German, but frankly, most Germans have better skill with English than I do with German so there is no point in my unintentionally butchering their language.
What follows is the extended version of my impressions.
Coming from the point of view of an American, Germany is not an exotic place. Sure, it's different, but in terms of day to day interactions with people and systems, the differences are often minimal though quirky.
The stores work largely the same way except they charge the customer for a sack. Also apparently one does not purchase baby related items at the grocery. Baby food, diapers, baby wipes, etc are obtained at another store that is roughly analogous to an American drugstore. The major difference about this store is, one does not buy drugs there. Most drugs and medical related products are sold at an apoteka (think of the old time name for the druggist, apothecary). Also Germans don't care for big stores even when they have the space. Walmart, Costco, even an American grocery would be unimaginable to most Germans. One thing this old liberal, pro-worker, semi-socialist appreciated was that many cashiers are seated at their stations. In general, non-professional workers seem happier and better treated.
Other differences? Bicycles are ubiquitous. Cafes also. Bars? You bet, and perhaps only second in number to cafes, but they are rarely large. Think neighborhood corner bar.
Here is an observation. Germans get nervous if they are more than fifty paces from bread. This, one reasonably infers from the number of bakeries. Oddly, they feel the same way about ice cream. My million euro idea is (shhh, don't let this get out) a chain of bakery slash ice cream shops. My theory is that I merely need to mention bread and ice cream in the same name and I will control their hearts and minds. I scream, you scream, we all scream for bread & ice cream.
What other helpful/interesting information can I offer? The toilets and faucets all work similarly to ours, which is convenient.
in the do's and don'ts category let me address ones duties as a pedestrian. Cross at the green and not in between. Far from being a cute children's rhyme, they really mean it! Wait for the little green walk signal. Seriously. Wait for it. I'm not kidding. Unless you are trying to incur the glaring disapproving stares of your fellow pedestrians, not to mention panic stricken drivers, just wait. I know you will feel tempted. Perhaps you've carefully checked in every direction and seen no approaching traffic within a kilometer (a skosh over a half mile) and you are thinking- surely they can't possibly mean wait even now. Save any rebellious I-go-my-own-way thoughts for some other outlet because I can assure you that, yes, they do.
There is more to come in the next installment. I need a bread and/or ice cream break.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Sunday, May 15, 2011
What if we are designed to assimilate change at a more modest pace?
What if the profound changes in our lifestyles over the past century have lead us
from an old world with, arguably too few choices, into a dazzling new world
with too many choices?
Sunday, April 3, 2011
Illegal immigration is another thing altogether. I consider it a 'wingless' issue. There is no right-wing position nor left-wing. It is an elegantly simple problem at it's base. It behooves us all to control/monitor those who enter into and/or live in our country. This is true for any number of reasons. It is also benefits the very people we scrutinize.
What more would we need to know?
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
"Hi, I'm America and I'm addicted to superpower status and its application through military might."
"Hi, America", my fellow attendees chimed in unison.
"I want to come clean right up front. I'm still using."
Collective gasps and tsk tsk noises.
"I know, I know. But, seriously, I figured I'd get off ground zero by trying to wrap my head around step one. You can imagine my horror when I wasn't able to get past the first sentence before running into the word powerless."
Chuckles and eye rolls from the other twelve steppers.
"Aw, c'mon, guys. I'm trying here. I'm thinking if I could start with something like, I feel a bit less powerful than I did for the last century or so, and I"m OK with that."
This remark is met with disdain bordering on pity.
"Hey, man, how about a lil slack for the only super-power in the room? Give me a U, give me an S…awww hell, whadya want from me? Yeah, yeah, I know but- try and imagine this, for all intents and purposes, I was a 'higher power'"!!
**To be continued...
Friday, March 11, 2011
The facts are not difficult to find or understand. America is still involved in two wars. Though for the record, the President only referenced the war in Afghanistan in his remarks this morning. I suppose we are meant to believe that the whole deal in Iraq, because it has slowed in recent months, should be considered finished. In regard to the wars (I feel comfortable to use the plural), we have soldiers who are on their fourth or fifth rotation. We have equipment that has been battered by years of use. We are in a recession and will be for years to come. We are heavily in debt. There are any number of emergencies in the world right now that America has done nothing or had a role insufficient to change the situation. I don't intend to suggest that America or Americans don't care. My assertion is that we have a large discrepancy between caring and action. This is not intended as judgment. Just the facts.
Here's a thought. What if many of the long-time world powers felt similarly? Not in the future. Now.
I submit that this is the real state of things. Why should we bother to think about where we really are? What if making policy for the future depends on basing ones actions on the extant facts?
Thursday, March 10, 2011
My note of caution. Remember 9/11. By this I mean, not so much the awful day, but the fear, loathing, and general bad behavior that resulted. I know this is akin to sacrilege. We prefer to memorialize our fallen citizens by accentuating the positive. We tend to dwell reverently on the heroic actions of fire fighters and other first responders. And rightly so. The problem is that we tend to do this to the exclusion of some rather heinous events that shortly followed those tragic days.
I suggest that we also recall the power grab that ensued with things like the so-called Patriot Act, the invasion of Iraq, and on and on. Americans are really quite good at coalescing in a determined manner following a tragedy. They are, arguably, less good at identifying those at whom they should direct their efforts.
What is our 9/11 for 2011? The fallout from the economic crisis coupled with the Republican/Tea Party sweep in recent elections. Now we have folks who, as often as not, believe their agendas are sanctified by a higher power from the outset. Just to make things more dicey, the elections have armed them with legislative majorities and gubernatorial seats across the country.
In short, the workers and middle class of this country need to stand on their hind legs and demand fair treatment. However, each one should keep his wits about him. Don't underestimate the extent to which righteous idealogues will go if their long sought goals begin to slip away. Keep in mind that even when they are the majority and control almost everything, they are able to perceive themselves as an oppressed beleaguered minority. With this mindset, these same people who blather on about the 'rules' and 'personal responsibility' will chuck that baggage in a New-York-Minute if it serves to secure their aims.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
However, it behooves us all to remember:
"If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all." -- Noam Chomsky
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Welcome to post 9/11 crazy thinking. We have a newly organized America. I call it: I'm-scared-shitless-there-are-terrorists-hiding-under-my-bed America. In the new America we criminalize everything. If a child is out of control and clearly needs major help, do we intervene and start the child on a mental health/medical health path? No. We arrest the child. No surprise really. It's what we've done to mentally ill adults for decades now.
We, as a society, decided to shut down the state hospitals and toss those people on the street. In a few places there was a thoughtful increase in community based service for these folks. Much of that did not last. Even more of such services began to lose funding as a result of the recession. Yes, I know the arguments about state hospitals having less than stellar performance and conditions. But, seriously, our response is to throw out the baby with the bathwater? Was there even a serious discussion of cleaning up those abuses and putting systems in place to monitor for problems? Draw your own conclusions.
How could this be in a country like America? A country where the six o'clock news could broadcast a two minute story about a homeless puppy and before the commercial break the station would be flooded with offers to adopt poor Fluffy. Well, as it turns out, our sharing and caring has certain limits when it comes to our fellow citizens.
"No way, man. That's just cynical."
Just follow the money trail and, again, draw your own conclusions. Also, lest we forget, the new system allows for some of our favorite activities. Blame and Judgment. Sure, at some level, we know we 'shouldn't' enjoy those, but they just feel so self-affirming- in that "I'm OK, you're screwed" sort of way. How could we resist?
Of course the problem is we now spend as much or more to clog up our jails, court systems, and eventually prisons with people who don't belong there.
I will leave it to the reader to guess what group of people brought us this lovely scenario. Oh, by the by, if you think it was only those zany right-wingers who changed the game, guess again. Soberingly, goofy liberal thinking played into it as well. I don't feel a need to recount the history as it is readily available to those who wish to inform themselves.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Still, it was worth watching, if for no other reason than to see Oprah's guru, Deepak Chopra, dethroned by truly intelligent thoughtful people. I'm certain his followers will perceive him as being set upon by atheist hounds. Everyone else will be able to watch him clumsily grasping at any handhold when confronted by those who are not so easily impressed with mystical jargon. It is my belief that he was exposed as the opportunistic hustler with the bloated ego that most of us long suspected.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
This sobering piece by NPR is worth a look: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/01/28/133310924/why-you-should-be-afraid-of-japan
Friday, January 28, 2011
It just occurred to me that the U.S.A. has become the equivalent of that kid. We clearly have the bully-thing going. Give me your lunch money or I'll smash your face. We substitute ideas like, if you don't practice government in the manner we would prefer, we'll smash your face. Or, my personal favorite, you are not 'free enough' so we will smash your face. To be fair, we aren't exactly like the schoolyard bully. He eventually got tired and went home. Once we have begun to get-up-in-your-grill, count on us never going home. We don't get bored. We don't pause. We don't wander off to focus on something else for a while.
Then there is the whole drugs and violence thing. Briefly stated, our citizens have a huge appetite for recreational drugs. This appetite is overlaid with our innate puritanical attitudes (as expressed through our so-called War on Drugs). In short there are good people and bad people. Bad people 'do drugs'. We must hunt down and destroy bad people. However, by our own definition, a huge number of our own citizens are bad people. Luckily we have a time-tested playground-inspired plan to deal with such cognitive dissonance. As a nation we close our eyes, we put our fingers in our ears and commence to running around making mindless blathering noise. A discrepancy ignored is a discrepancy solved. Well played, America.
Some of us are thinking, isn't there a flip side to this coin? As it turns out, yes- though it is only fractionally different from the obverse side.
It seems that our largest trading partner is Mexico. One point for all the Wall Street Journal readers who were thinking Canada. However, Canada is our above board trading partner. The largest single transfer point for illicit drugs entering the U.S. is Mexico. This is incredibly convenient. It allows us to rationalize our demonization of Mexico and Mexicans who, after all, don't look as much like us as Canadians. Also our appetite for drugs along with our War on Drugs, creates the perfect marketplace for the millions of assault-style firearms we produce. The circle is complete.