Friday, September 30, 2005

Vote? But how?

That's how. So on the left you can see what a German ballot looks like, a big sheet of paper on which you draw an "x" in the circle next to the party or candidate you wish to vote for.
On the right you can see how we vote in Michigan (it's different from state to state). We still have the famed punch cards, which gained their notoriety in the 2000 presidential election. You see, you have to first put the card into the voting machine, and there's a book attached with holes in the middle. You use the holes as a guide, through which you shove that little metal apparatus (on the right, that's for an absentee voter like me, in the real voting booth it's a pin attached to a cord so you can't steal it) to make a hole in the spot that corresponds to your vote. Of course, to the left and right of the holes are pages which you have to leaf through to see all the different candidates and proposals. As an absentee voter, you don't have the advantage of the book, you just have a brochure, and must find the corresponding number for your candidate or proposal vote on the card and make the hole without the help of a guide. Which one of these systems makes more sense to you?
(thanks to Dietmar for the ballot! this is an invalid one from the 1st district in Dresden, with the name of the candidate who died on it) For all of you in the 1st voting district here in Dresden, have fun voting on Sunday! I hope this whole mess gets sorted out afterwards!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Vineyards, grapes, wine, and onion cake

Sunday last weekend was so nice, it was a perfect day to go for a stroll in the woods and around the vineyards in Radebeul.

It was a surprise to come across a couple towers like this. My students tell me that they were built as a part of a health spa that used to be located in Radebeul. It's possible that they even looked about like this when the spa was up and running, because some were built as ruins, as it was a fashionable thing to do at the time.

Up at the top of that hill is where we went. To the right is a restaurant (Spitzhaus) where you have a really nice view of Radebeul and Dresden.

But to get there you have to climb all these steps! Unless you take a car and drive around the other side of the hill, but that's no fun.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The NPD stole my bike.

It's possible. The place where my bike was stolen is also a place where there were many NPD posters hanging. This is the only place in the city of Dresden where I've seen NPD posters hanging. Granted, I haven't been to every little corner of the city looking, but I get around a bit. Usually you see them in the little villages near town, where almost 10% of the people voted for the NPD in the last state election a year ago. Unemployment there is really high, and people are frustrated, but come on, there must be a better solution. The NPD is the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands, which translated means "neonazis". Word for word it's the National-democratic party of Germany, but, well, we all know what that means. Anyway, there were NPD posters hanging, but when I went out today on my photographic mission to get pictures of campaign posters, the NPD ones were notably missing. At least those guys were clever enough to hang the posters really really high up, but still, someone went out and got them! Then I saw one ripped in half lying on the street. Whoever did this, thank you. Then I came across a pile of posters that had been torn down , flipped one over, and it gave me a chill. I touched an NPD poster with my foot. I need to wash. I photographed it quickly and flipped it right back over.

So it's election time in Germany. This is no normal election, as you've probably heard, I guess Gerhard Schroeder didn't have a majority in parliament any more, so after a referendum and some stuff like that, they decided to have a special election. So maybe there'll be a new chancellor after this Sunday (but it's not directly an election for chancellor, the voters are voting for parties, they can vote for 2). Another thing that's cool about German elections, they're on Sunday, when everybody has a day off, so they have time to go vote. And the weather seems like it'll be rainy, which is also good for an election, because I read an article in which it said that fewer voters go to the polls on a sunny election day. But half of Dresden won't be voting anyway, because the NPD candidate in that election district had a stroke on the square in front of the city hall a couple weeks ago and died, so that district will vote in 2 weeks. So maybe the election will be decided in the east! That has Edmund Stoiber's panties up in a bunch!! Ed is a member of the CSU, the Bavarian partner of the CDU (Christian Democratic Union), and he's pretty darned conservative. Let's just say I really like the graffiti onBautzner Str. that says "Stoppt Stoiba!" haha. Oh man. This whole thing is complicated. On Sunday I too am tagging along to the polls. I can't vote, but I really want to go into the voting booth! I know, everybody feels powerless and everything (I've voted in the last American presidential elections, I know what powerless feels like), and is really cynical about voting, but please go and at least try to bring down the NPD's percentage!

ha! The joke just got funnier!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

This is my dwarf. He doesn't have a name, I just really wanted a dwarf and picked this guy up at the flea market last summer. He makes a nice kitschy way to start a tour of my apartment for those of you who haven't yet had the chance to make the journey over the big pond and see my rockin' pad in person, or who visited before I moved last year.

The entry... A look into the living room...
Hey Little Wee! Here's the dining room. the kitchen...

The bathroom...

aaah! there's an octopus in there!

There's a bedroom, too, but it's pretty boring, so that's all!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

That's not the Sprick.

Where's the Sprick?

As you may have deduced from the above question, I have no Sprick. The Sprick was my bicycle, and she's missing. This ugly turn of events came after a rather epic struggle with her tires, and to be honest, it's almost a relief that her time with me has come to an end. You see, for a couple weeks before my departure to America, I had a rather ugly string of flat tires, which finally was remedied last Tuesday, after a nearly 2 hour operation involving about 10 different tools and a stripped bolt that had to be removed by sheer force (we couldn't cut it off because the saw was unfortunately missing). After fixing the tire and remounting the wheel, we broke the already broken front brake further, performed a test ride, and everything appeared to be okay, even though only 2 of her 3 gears worked. But it had always been that way. Then on my way to work the next day, the Sprick lost her chain, again and again. After the third or fourth time, I locked her up by a tree, rinsed off my hands in the river, and called work to tell them I'd be late. My students had a good laugh about my broken bike, as did I. Then when we attempted to pick up the Sprick, she was gone, probably off to the big bike dumping ground in the sky, because she isn't good for much else. So, to whoever has the Sprick out there, have fun! Don't get yourself killed when she breaks down next!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Wee is enjoying her new bunny kabob, a souvenir from America.

No, Boose didn't die, he's just taking a nap at 8 a.m. after a wild night.

Yay! I grew a tomato! Yup, only one.

The Rocky Road Back to Dresden

It all started last Friday. Driving back to Beaverton from a delicious dinner and a bit of shopping in Midland, I was talking to my brother and sister-in-law, when suddenly, I felt something on my back. Then it started moving. I reached back and felt something furry. “AAAAH!” I thought there was some sort of rodent on my back, and there was! A hamster. Butterbean II, Bill and Colleen’s new hamster, whom they had bought earlier in the evening, had escaped from his fortress made of a small cardboard box and a larger plastic container to attack me. This started up a whole search effort involving flashlights when we reached my parents’ house, because hamsters can really do some damage to cars. Butterbean II was found promptly, however, and without incident.

The next day, Saturday, was my day to depart to return to Dresden. My plane was at 6:30 p.m., and since it’s a bit of a drive to Detroit, we planned on leaving around noon. I woke up around 9:00, and was peacefully reading the paper before taking a shower, and the electricity went out! And it didn’t come back on. That meant no coffee, no shower, nothing. Fortunately my brother and sister-in-law saved the day. They still had power in town, so my mom took me there so I could prepare for the day.

We arrived at the airport on Saturday without any problems, and after a couple of flights I landed in Berlin on Sunday. The passport control people were closely checking every passport, which surprised me, but no problems there. I proceeded on to pick up my luggage and waited, and waited, and waited…and then came a little sign that said “End Bags”. Huh? Where was mine? Still in London, that’s where. About 10 of us didn’t get our luggage, so we had to go to some office, and make a report, which was no problem, and honestly, I was rather relieved to not have to carry my extremely heavy backpack back to Dresden. My bag arrived at my house on Tuesday morning.

And now for the rocky road in Dresden. On Tuesday afternoon a colleague of mine and I had a mission: Operation Fix Sarah’s Bike. This Operation has been on since July, when I started getting flat tires every time I went out. I think that was a result of bad repairs on my part, I didn’t find the object that had been puncturing my innertube, so it kept on flattening my tire. Operation Fix Sarah’s Bike was a very complex task, involving approximately 10 tools, a stripped bolt that had to be removed by force, a full tire inspection, an innertube patch, an attempt at fixing the broken front brake, and a test ride. Everything seemed okay, until my chain fell off 3 times in a row yesterday on the way to work.

But all in all, everything is great! The bunnies are home, seemingly without any psychological damage, my friends and family (and bunnies) are in good shape, and the weather is nice, so I can’t complain!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Lunch...and an unexpected theatre performance
**warning: this post contains foul language!**

Tuesday, August 30th, was my parents' 41st wedding anniversary. So, we went out to lunch. They picked the Old Country Buffet, a truly American institution, full of true-blue Americans eating to their hearts' delight and their cardiologists' dismay. While waiting in line to pay, we were treated to a free perfomance by a woman my mom later dubbed 4x4, due to her dimensions. 4x4 noticed a sign stating that there
was a discount for senior citizens. Here's a transcript of how the conversation progressed.

Customer (a.k.a. 4x4): How old do you have to be to get the senior discount?
Employee: 60 years old.
Customer: Well, then I'll take that. I'm a senior citizen. Do you need my I.D.?
Employee: No, do you have a card?
Customer: What card?
Employee: To get the discount you need to buy a discount card for $1.
Customer: A dollar? How long is the card valid?
Employee: It's valid until December, and you get the discount every time you eat here.
Customer: That's bullshit! I have to pay a dollar to save 50 cents? That's a racket! I can go to Ponderosa and get a discount and I don't have to buy a damn card. I'm going to call the manager. That's bullshit. I guess I won't eat here again.
My Dad: Isn't it bad enough that we look old? We have to buy a card too!
My Mom: Don't encourage her!

We really witnessed this event transpire. It was probably one of the funniest things I've seen lately. The only thing that bothered me was that this woman was really harassing the employee, who looked like a college student and has only worked at the OCB for 4 months. She seemed really shocked, and has a terrible underpaid job as it is, she doesn't need to be abused by people like 4x4.