June 28, 2009
June 27, 2009
June 26, 2009
Now's the time to break our complete dependence on an increasingly scarce resource. Consider calling today before the big vote. If they vote against investing in sustainable green energy we'll pay the price for it not that far down the road, probably in our lifetimes, definitely in our kids'.
If you don't believe me, do not call your Representative and we'll all just hope I'm wrong. If you do believe, even a little bit, please click here and make a phone call. It's your duty as an American, a voter, a parent, a global citizen and an adult.
(Not to lay it on too thick or anything.)
June 25, 2009
June 23, 2009
June 22, 2009
The product demo went well although Ralf claims that at one point I banged the table and bellowed the German equivalent of, 'Dude, we can totally do that!'
I have no recollection of this. I think he's screwing with me.
The meeting ran an hour late so we were late picking up our kids. I was too chicken to phone the mommy who had collected our kids from Kindergarten, taken them to gymnastics and home again, and to whom I had solemnly sworn we would be there by 5:30.
I mean, sure, sometimes people get held up but with our two kids she looked after five kids for four hours and walked them from school to gymnastics and home again and we were, like, an hour late with no message.
Basically, I just couldn't face the music when I had a big chunk of German fall guy sitting right there next to me.
Er. What I mean is that male charm was clearly in order so I made Ralf call her to explain and appologize.
From my end the conversation sounded like this:
Ralf: 'Katja, hi, it's Ralf. . . I know, I'm sorry. I'm really really sorry. What? I know, I'm sorry. I can't say sorry enough times. We just couldn't get out of our meeting, they nailed us to the. . . what? I know, I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. Yes, totally our bad. We're on our way now, we'll be there in. . . what? Yes, I know, I'm sorry. I know, you're right, we're really sorry. We'll be there in 20 minutes. Right. Right. Thanks. I know. Sorry. Bye!'
Hanging up the phone Ralf shrugged and made a vaguely Meditarranean hand gesture. 'See? No problem. She said it's totally fine.'
It must be so great to be a guy.
June 20, 2009
There isn't a German Douglas Adams that I'm aware of.
Now the other one, the one I had to force myself to read: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. It was excellent but heavy going, although she writes with a skilled light touch. I don't usually read books like this because they're gloomy, not to mention informative, but it was a book club book. So I exerted myself.
What a good but sad book. The heroine's difficult life didn't move me much as her personal challenges were microscopic in the face of the historical background of the book she restored (an exquisitely illustrated Jewish Haggadah). The writer did a very clever job describing clues in the Haggadah, such as salt or wine traces, then telling a story about how they got there. The reader gets a front row seat at particularly ugly episodes of human history: the bombing of Sarajevo, the coldly merciless Nazi hunt for both Jews and Jewish books, the Spanish Inquisition, the ancient wars between the Spanish Christians and the Moors.
People of the Book offers some fascinating insights into history, although I'm not a history buff and don't swear to have all my facts straight so please don't be too nit picky. For example, if the Jews hadn't bankrolled the ancient Christian war against the Moors, might the Jews and Muslims have avoided their age-long enmity? And would the Jews still have been expelled from Spain when Torquemada - evil, evil, evil, I didn't even like Googling him in case his evil spirit somehow lives on in the Internet - claimed that the victory made possible by Jewish gold came from God?
Plus I'm thinking Ferdinand and Isabella weren't so crazy about owing all that money with interest and were probably already pretty open to the idea of exiling the Jews in order to avoid paying it back. So I guess the lesson here is that it's never wise to put extremely powerful people too much in your debt, even if funding a brutal war doesn't give you any qualms.
And perhaps if this same victory hadn't put so much power into the fanatic and unscrupulous hands of the Christian church they wouldn't have gotten away with the Inquisition, which was a fascinating study in pure premeditated evil. Watching the priests calmly burning books - and people - that so much as hinted at the goodness or holiness of anything non-Christian and deliberately suppressing knowledge that conflicted with the silly mumbo jumbo taught by the Church in those days (like the earth is flat) was absolutely horrific. I needed a shower.
And you can actually witness the stage being set as early as the 14th century by the architects of the Spanish Inquisition for the later anti-Jewish sentiment in (disgusting, venereal disease-ridden) Vienna that was the warning bell for the horrors of WWII.
I finished the book feeling more repulsed than usual by the history of Christianity. But wait, the Christians weren't the only bad guys in People of the Book, although they do stand out a bit thanks to Torquemada and his disciples. Because everyone pretty much everyone else sucked, too.
The Jews are depicted as matter-of-factly mercenary when it came to looking out for their own interests, and one weak rabbi used the money he received to help his impoverished flock to feed his own gambling addiction, which was illegal and put his entire family at risk of horrible death. That was the hardest chapter for me - which is saying a lot - because I kept worrying about his children sleeping at home, unnecessarily put into deadly danger by his actions.
Tito callously abandons his underage army to their fate.
The Serbs are bloodthirsty murderers with no real agenda beyond killing their peaceful Muslim neighbors.
The UN peacekeeping force is a pathetic joke.
The rest of us are apathetic losers that won't lift a finger to help dying children.
Land developers destroy natural resources and historical works of art such as cave paintings with a greedy eye to personal profit.
The heroine's own mother, a WASP I believe, turns out to be unbelievably cold-blooded and self-centered.
Although it's supposed to be about individual heroism and sacrifice to save a beautful book, this is not a book about nice people. Then again, I guess if it were, the Haggadah wouldn't have needed to be saved so many times.
Interestingly, the real heros of the book tend to be young girls of both Jewish and Muslim faith. And the Muslims also come out of it pretty well, risking their lives to save a young girl from Nazis, not to mention saving the Haggadah several times throughout history.
Anyway, although it was a very well-written book it was hard, hard going and I felt extremely sad about the human condition and all its victims by the end of it. This is going to sound trite, but can't we all just get along? And if we can't, could we at least leave the children out of it???
Now I'm reading Lily White by Susan Isaacs, recommended by Jessica. Way different genre. Very intelligent and witty. Plenty of insights but no uncomfortable soul searching. No gratuitous millionaire love interests. Just what the doctor ordered.
June 19, 2009
June 18, 2009
And this is my sunscreen:
It's not as stylish and trendy as my deoderant, but it does claim to protect my DNA. I love over the counter DNA alterning cosmetic products, don't you? I looked up the ingredients online but all it said was, 'contains active ingredients.' Which is good, because I wouldn't want the chemicals that change my DNA to be inactive, right? It just makes sense that they wouldn't work as well as active ingredients.
When I was in high school our social studies classroom had a poster of Mickey Mouse flipping the bird with the caption, 'Hey Iran!' I know that's unthinkable today but THAT was marketing. Simple, direct, compelling. With one simple captioned picture my adolescent brain registered the following message: 1) the US is mad at Iran; 2) the US has big cahonas; and 3) the US is the good guy because we have Mickey Mouse.
Today that same poster would probably be a website with links to related stories, articles, interviews, blogs, youtubes and advertisements and after wasting an hour or so I would come away with dozens of conflicting messages instead of just 3 simple ones. Which is good because people are easy to fool with simple, direct, compelling messages.
But it can also be paralyzing.
I don't really have a point.
Er. . . bye.
June 17, 2009
In previous posts I have invited you to take action to save our environment, so you probably figure I’m some sort of tree hugger in it for the polar bears.
I like polar bears just fine and give money to organizations that try to save endangered species but that's about it. Frankly, I like chickens better. Even though Sara assures me they would immediately poop on our tracter seats if we had a tracter, I am strangely drawn to them.
But there’s another reason I’m so passionate about getting us off petroleum products and onto sustainable energy. A reason that may resonate more strongly with people who think polar bears and clean air and water suck.
Dum dum DUM!!! (That's supposed to be ominous music.)
Our way of life depends on it.
1. Each of us uses an incredible amount of energy in every aspect of our lives. We live like kings of old with the equivalent of thousands of servants that wash our clothes and dishes, light our homes, procure and prepare our food, entertain our children, convey us to our social engagements, and enable us to send and receive communications. Factories require unimaginable amounts of energy to produce cars, toys, household products and plastic water bottles, and then even more energy is used getting these things to places where we can buy them. Just think for a moment about how much ‘easy energy’ we all take for granted.
2. Most of our energy needs are met by oil and/or petroleum products. This both creates pollution (did you know it leaks into our groundwater?) and makes us vulnerable to oil rich countries that loathe and detest us but these are minor details. Here's the kicker: We’re running out of oil. Sure, there's still quite a bit there but within about a generation it’s going to require more energy to get at the remaining oil than we get back.
3. Now imagine a world where energy is not readily available. I don’t just mean that nothing happens when you flick a light switch and you have to hang your laundry to dry, that’s small potatoes. Think about the economic implications of scarce energy. No more rock concerts. No more enormous factories producing plastic junk. No more truck bringing the plastic junk to you and me. No more supermarkets. No more bottled water. OK, you say, we can live without rock concerts and plastic junk. But who's gonna pay you if you have some job like ‘rock concert organizer' or 'fund manager' or ‘HR Director’ for a big manufacturing company? And where will you buy food, water, clothes and plastic junk if easy energy goes away?
4. Then there's inflation. In order to solve the financial crisis and provide affordable health care to children (yay!) and overweight smokers (boo!) our government is planning to print a whopping pile of money that isn't backed by anything except debt. If energy becomes scarce or hideously expensive the production of goods will necessarily slow down a bit, because producing all the crap we buy eats up monstrous amounts of energy. So, we will either have more money in circulation trying to buy fewer goods (INFLATION) or we will revert to the equivalent of slave labor to replace the energy, which could mean less inflation but is much worse than inflation. Either way, expect inflation and possibly indentured servitude.
5. The good news is that there is more than enough solar power to meet our energy needs, not to mention create a lot of new jobs. But it will take a big, expensive, coordinated effort over many years and we need to start now to avoid the crisis later. To put the costs into perspective, Germany's planning a major solar project in Africa for about half of what Al Gore says it would cost the US to follow suit, so the money's there. And at the end of it, we would have something real that produces both energy and livelihoods, instead of just pumping it into toxic financial instruments, where it mysteriously vanishes, or oil companies, who will increasingly have a stranglehold over all our lives.
I'm just saying.
The situation's bad but there's hope if we take this opportunity to start acting like responsible global citizens. A few simple things you can do without a total lifestyle change: Consume less. Don't eat so much meat. Try to do with less energy. Don't buy bottled water - the FDA doesn't check it very carefully so it's a good idea for health reasons, too, unless you like cancer. Send $10 to Sierra Club and skim their excellent magazine, which is full of great information and tips. Register online at wecansolveit.org, which is Al Gore's organization, and sign the petition to repower America. Sign up with the Environmental Defense Fund and get notified about upcoming bills that impact clean energy and petitions you can sign to remind Congress that this matters. Buy some wind credits to help alternative energy providers out.
You can also try praying but God gave us this beautiful world to shepherd, not ravage, and is probably pretty pissed at us right now.
Finally, the smart money's on doing things that make you less dependent on the system, like getting solar panels and starting a garden. You'll be pleased to hear that we'll be starting ours just as soon as we've resolved the duck question.
And our backup plan is to go live with Sara.
June 16, 2009
Today, although I have several burning topics to get off my chest (including cooking, economy, pediatricians and bedtime stories), I've already used up my alloted time on Working Girl.
Feel free to check it out.
June 15, 2009
But it's small town Sunday again, courtesy of Wendy, and once again I'm digging out old vacation pictures. I actually lived in a Japanese small town for 2 years but that was before digital cameras. These picures are from our 2002 Japan vacation, when I was a gauche young girl with freckles, do-it-yourself bangs and one eyebrow.
Mt. Fuji (Fuji-san)
Shrine with a Symbol that Once Meant PeaceShibuya (or maybe Shinjuku) - Back to Civilization!
June 14, 2009
June 13, 2009
June 12, 2009
June 10, 2009
June 7, 2009
So here is this week's offering:
The first picture is of me and Max (remember Max?), the second is of me and the girls.
June 6, 2009
June 4, 2009
If you're interested you can see what I wrote here.
June 2, 2009
Soon after we moved back to Germany from California I blogged about the challenges of grocery shopping here v. there. Nearly a year later I continue to admire the Germans for perfecting the art of the unpleasant shopping experience but at least in my own little town I enjoy a 'regular' status at the local Tengelmann and occassionally someone smiles at me.
I take the kids shopping when I just need a couple of things and on a good day nothing too horrible or embarassing occurs. But last week L completely disappeared at the check out counter!
I had asked her to put some Tic Tacs back on the shelf next to the check out stand but she went running back through the store instead. I looked away for maybe a minute and she was gone. I called, no answer.
I looked around at the other shoppers - I mean, someone must have seen her, she was right there a minute ago - but they were all too busy acting out their respective demographic behavioral stereotypes to offer any clue as to my child's whereabouts:
Older men: stern demeaner, no eye contact
Women of all ages: glaring at me for losing my child but uninterested in helping me find her
One younger guy doing his own shopping: a cheery smile (German men under 30 tend to be fairly sunny)
Leaving my stuff on the belt I raced through the store with K calling my child's name.
No worries, she was in fact in the back of the store and all was well. We trooped back to the teenage cashier, who was nice enough about our sudden egress and only sighed once.
The other shoppers looked a bit put out but my kid had wandered off so I wasn't feeling too bad about making them wait. Actually, I was feeling kind of self-righteous about making them wait since I had been worried and they were all so unhelpful.
But there was more to come. I was handing over my cash card when K (who had not yet embarassed me and was ticking like a bomb) suddenly pointed at the cashier and halloood, 'MOMMY WHY DOES SHE HAVE SO MANY RED SPOTS ON HER FACE? ARE THEY PIMPLES???'. It was like she was trying to be heard across a vast chasm.
The poor spotty cashier had done nothing deserve that. Why couldn't K yell something like, 'Why does that woman behind us look like she just ate a lemon???' That's what I would have yelled. But we mustn't live vicariously through our children.
Moral highground lost, I paid, said thank you and escaped with my tactless offspring.