October 28, 2009

On goats and cascade failures

I recently joined a gym and have been taking great classes like Nike Fighting Fit, where you punch and kick the air to music for an hour.
Isn't that brilliant??
But sometimes there's no good class on (I'm boycotting Heidrun's class because she walks around barking out orders and doesn't even do the excercises) so I fall back on my old friend the Stairmaster.
The other day I was alone with about 30 Stairmasters, climbing away and looking at various magazines. Only highbrow ones, of course, like Der Spiegel, because I like to improve my mind while excercising.
No, people, not really.
Anyway, this older German woman with way too much perfume and make up came in and took the Stairmaster next to me, turning up her music so loud I could hear it through her headphones.
I finished one of my magazines and let it drop gently to the floor. Unfortunately it landed in just such a way to make an enormous racket, like a gunshot.
I smiled charmingly and apologetically at my neighbor, who glared back.
'Muss das sein?' she asked. Translation: 'Is that really necessary?'
Although I know it is unwise to piss off German women of certain age who were brought up in harsh circumstances after the war and think the younger generation is good for nothing, flippant remarks just fall out of my mouth in situations like this.
Me: 'Ja, leider muss es manchmal sein.' Translation: 'Yes, it is unfortunately sometimes necessary.'
OK, not my best, I can be much more scathing three days later, but that's what I had.
'Ziege!' she hissed at me.
Now, this means 'goat.' No one has ever called me a goat before because I'm such a friendly person so I was a little confused. But I went back to my magazines and ignored her for the next half hour while I finished my workout, including when she cut the cheese rather loudly.
I think that was pretty nice of me, given that I could have said, 'Muss das sein?' right back at her. Mwa ha ha ha ha!!
As I walked out of the room, her voice followed me: 'Ziege. Ziege! ZIEEEEGE!!!!!!!'
I flipped her off, still wondering what the heck Ziege means. BTW, I haven't flipped anyone off since, like, college but instinct took over.
I called Ralf. 'What does Ziege mean? I mean, I know it means goat, but what does it mean?'
After a slight pause, Ralf asked, 'Did someone actually call you that?'
Me: 'YES!'
Another pause.
Me: 'Don't you want to know who?'
Ralf: 'Um. . . a German person?'
Me: 'Ha ha, Mr. Funny German Guy. What does it mean?'
Ralf: 'I'm not... sure. No one we know ever says that. Why did they call you that?'
Me: 'Because I dropped my magazine at the gym and it was really loud. But she farted and that was way worse. And...'
Ralf: 'Sweetie, can we not get into that just now, I'm kind of in the middle of a small cascade failure here. It sounds like Ziege means bitch in this context.
A pause.
Ralf: Or maybe annoying bitch.'
A pregnant pause.
Me (accusingly): 'I can not believe this. Someone calls me a you-know-what for no reason and all you can think about is your silly cascade failure???'
I won't share Ralf's totally unfair response to this perfectly reasonable question.

October 26, 2009

Naked tush and Scarpetta spoiler

Sounds like a juicy post, doesn't it?

Well, not so much. The naked tush in question belongs to L, my baby who turns 4 next week.

While Ralf and I were in California for our conference L and K stayed with their German grandparents. On the last night a pair of wet PJ bottoms was discovered carefully hung over the side of the bath tub. Upon further investigation, a naked tush was discovered air drying in L's bed while the rest of her was completely buried in blankets. New PJ bottoms were put on and the blanket was adjusted to a more normal position.

Fast forward 2 hours and a second pair of PJ bottoms was found lovingly hung next to the first pair and the same scene greeted her grandparents in her room, i.e., naked tush in the air.

She's not even Generation Y.

This is the sort of thing you miss when you travel.

On the plane home I read Scarpetta, the most recent Cornwell installment involving freak mutations and an inside job. In the last book I read by her, one bad guy had a condition that made him look like a werewolf and the other bad guy (who turned out to be his brother) was an inside guy in the FBI special forces. So I kind of stopped reading Cornwell books until this last one and was annoyed by the similar plot.

I mean, you can't always have the cop being the bad guy, it undermines trust.

Other than that, however, it seems I missed a lot: Benton is alive again, Lucy is filthy rich, Rose is dead, Fielding's still bitching about life, Marino is into clean living and Kay Scarpetta, the gifted forensic specialist who once solved a case by knowing about some rare disease that makes you smell like maple syrup, has evolved from moderately attractive to a famous, gorgeous CNN spokesperson that now goes by her last name.

Kind of like me, although if you ask me, Honeypiehorse is way cooler than Scarpetta.

October 23, 2009

October 21, 2009


Hey, I can talk again!

It was kind of liberating not speaking all weekend but that's all over now and I'm now at a conference in San Francisco. Talking rather a lot, actually. Presenting, even.

So, did I notice any life changing revelations during my silent meditational weekend?

No, not as such. I'm still pretty much the same. Maybe taller.

However, I do suddenly seem to be able to remember everyone's name, even people I just met. For example, I see someone I don't know very well and their name just comes to me. So, I'm clearly transformed in some way because I'm usually hopeless with names.

Maybe shutting the heck up for a couple of days cleared out my short term memory....

October 15, 2009

In Transit

I'm off to a conference in CA for about 10 days. Actually, only 7 days, because I will spend the first several days at a silent retreat. Where I can't talk. Or blog.

I expect to return completely refreshed and enlightened from this so stay tuned for the new me.

October 13, 2009

Keeping Up with the von Joneses

German grade school is typically over at lunchtime.

Yes, you see the problem. Working parents scramble to get a rare state funded spot in a Hort, where they feed and help your kids with homework until you pick them up. Failing that, you might get a non-Hort childcare spot, where the kids play in the basement of some school until you pick them up.

And failing that, parents can send their kids to private school, get a nanny or the mom can quit her job. Actually I don't want to be sexist here, there are at least three stay-at-home dads in Germany and maybe more. Ralf would love to stay home but he earns more than me.

Before we moved to California K was in a Krippe, or preschool that accepts babies. The other baby in her group was Korbinian, a solid, mellow baby with a distinctive thatch of curly blond hair.

When we returned to Munich from California we ran into Korbinian's parents, who own a local business specializing in IT firewalls, and they (like us) were pondering what to do about the lackluster after school programs in our town.

Their solution? What anyone would do, really: Build an on-premise Krippe, Kindergarten and Hort at their place of business and get the community to pay for it.

Now, you've hopefully read some of my writings about the difficulties of getting stuff done in Germany, where everything's a problem until it's been done so many times it's a process, so I'll leave it to your imagination what sort of colossal undertaking that was. But they succeeded while we were back in California this summer and even managed to get the all-important and elusive signature verifying that they have enough toilets for each child.

This is where L goes in the morning and K joins her at lunch time in a private shuttle that is included as part of the overall package.

You might think that such busy people wouldn't have time for their children but au contraire. Somehow in the midst of all that running a business and opening new schools, they also have plenty of hours to spend with their children playing games, building a life size castle out of cardboard and reading Faust.

To give you an idea, on the first day of the school Korbinian, who is 6 like K, taught one of the childcare professionals how to play monopoly.

L went to a birthday party for their younger son this weekend and came home not with the ubiquitous goody bag and sloppy handmade crown but an actual stick horse they had made themselves. A stick horse! With hand grips! And a red felt mane!

Who thinks of having twenty 4-year-olds build a stick horse?

The Joneses have nothing on these people.

October 9, 2009

Baby Steps

As you may know, K started first grade this year.

I remember once when she was still quite small we had lunch with a friend of mine who had two pre-teen girls. I expressed worry that I would never be able to stop kissing K's feet, the tiny toes of which I thought looked like rose petals.

'It'll be so embarassing when she's a teenager!' I exclaimed. 'What if I can't ever stop??' My friend smiled with French urbanity (she's French) as she sipped her coffee and said, 'I wouldn't worry about it too much. Eet... changes as zey get older.'

And so it does. I no longer feel any uncontrollable desire to kiss the bottoms of my 6-year-old's feet or refer to them as 'petal toes,' although other parts of her are less secure from physical expressions of maternal adoration. But I'm still awfully proud of my grown up girl and the way she's adjusting to school life.

There's a little notebook the teacher uses to communicate with parents and you have to check it every day. Typically there's some request for the next day, such as: 'Please create a such-and-such out of a match box and send your child to school with 10 pressed Autumn leaves by tomorrow.'

What am I, McGiver??

Today there's a Fall Festival at school which parents are invited to attend. This morning we told K how excited we were to see her in her first play.

K's response: 'Oh, please, I'm just holding up a dumb piece of paper the whole time. It's totally lame!'

Alrighty then. She's only 6 but she's already lived in two countries and vacationed in several others. I guess you can't expect her to get all excited about holding up a piece of paper in the school pageant.

I tried again: 'Well, I'm sure you'll be the best paper holder upper ever!'

K's response can't be captured in print because she just rolled her eyes at me.

Ah, yes, our lifetime journey of parental dorkiness begins. She will never believe I used to have an iota of coolness in me. . .

October 7, 2009

The world's worst lovers

I discovered today at the Huffington Post that German men are the world's worst lovers because they smell.

Like what, soap? All the German men I know are neurotically clean. Because German women will chase them around with disinfectant if they're not.

According to this survey, most of my boyfriends have been the world's worst lovers. Alas.

Don't get the wrong idea, I haven't been working the 'world's worst lover' list or anything. For one thing, every time I get near a Swedish guy a little voice in my head starts chanting, 'My name is Jan Janssen, I live in Wisconsin,' and I start giggling like a loon.

But what's a girl to do? I'm taller than most of the Spanish, French and Italian men I know. I remember hitting a night club in Paris when I was young and fetchingly annorexic. I was immediately surrounded by tiny little smoking men waving their cigarettes around as they paid me extravagent compliments.

It was fun (and surreal) but it just didn't do it for me, you know?

Incidentally, where the heck are the Israelis on this list? Have you ever watched a troop of Israeli soliders march by on the news? Hello! And Israeli men are so extravagently and sincerely offensive in casual conversation it makes my toes tingle. In a good way.

Maybe Israeli women have too much class to participate in this lame survey.

October 5, 2009

Where do you draw the line?

Apparently the Germans have a law against giving your children names that can ruin their lives.

Seems reasonable.

But I ask you: who decides it's OK to name your child Adelheid or Gertrude or Uwe but draw the line at Verucca?

October 2, 2009

What's in a name?

I just read a great post over at Sara's repeating a Facebook conversation on baby names, which got me thinking that I might have missed out on an opportunity to inflict my own brand of creative psychosis on my offspring.

Damn. I'm usually so good about stuff like that.

So, if I ever have another baby girl, I will consider calling her:

Placenta (or maybe Placenta-Marie);
Sierra Mist;
Aphrodite; or perhaps...

Or better yet, a German name, like Bundesliga.

Other suggestions?

Of course, no contest if it's a boy:

Gaylord. I love that name.
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