February 26, 2010

February 24, 2010

Wellness Weekend

Hi everyone,
I'm back but getting ready for a business trip to the US so this is just a quick note to say we're home safely. We had a great time in Austria and even met some new friends, although they unfortunately live in Berlin instead of Munich. It's another family just like us except they have 3 kids and the dad is an FBI attache rather than a software designer.

Other than that, separated at birth.

After two intense days of playing with their oldest girl and K's new BFF, K remarked tearfully, 'I'm really going to miss... what's her name again?'

February 17, 2010

Gone Skiing

Actually I probably won't be skiing much. I will hopefully be basking in glorious solitude while my loved ones ski.

See you Monday.

February 14, 2010

No Tentacle Valentine's Day

This weekend my FIL had his 70th birthday. Some of his oldest friends came out for the birthday dinner and Ralf went over this afternoon to visit more with people he's known since he was a kid.

Soon after he left the house, the phone rang. It was Ralf.

Ralf: 'I'm such a schmuck. I forgot Valentine's Day.'

Me: 'Really?' (I'd totally missed it, there's much less hype about V Day in Germany.)

Ralf: 'Are you mad at me?'

Me: 'I am now.'

Ralf: 'I shouldn't have called.'

Me: 'No, you should have. I'd have figured it out eventually.'

Ralf: 'Tomorrow the Americans don't work so we don't have any calls. How about I make dinner?'

I like this idea. I agree. Then I have an idea that makes me even happier.

Me: 'You could shop for dinner ingredients too.'

A brief silence. I'm raising the stakes here but he owes me for forgetting. And although I don't mention it, he'll have to clean the kitchen after dinner, too.

Ralf: 'Any requests?'

Me: 'Nothing with tentacles.'

Ralf: 'Deal. I love you.'

Me: 'I love you, too.'

February 8, 2010


I had the most awesome idea! I will cook my way through Julia Child's cookbook and BLOG about it. Then people will send me money, they will make a movie about me and I will also be an excellent cook.

What? Really? Oh, damn.

Well, at least I still have my Sweet Friends award, from my sweet friend Reforming Geek, or RG as I like to call her.

I now have to pass this award along to two 'sweet' bloggers so in honor of Julie & Julia (who totally stole my idea) I bestow this award on Sara and Sara.

Well deserved!

February 2, 2010

Great Expectations

I'm always amused by the grand sounding names of the kids at L's Kindergarten.

The boys in particular have a lot to live up to:


The girls seem destined for somewhat less greatness:

Laura - well, OK, that's a pretty hot name

Solipsist, I don NOT have Teutonic hair!

I think I'd like to write for a magazine like OK, where the truth doesn't matter, only the facial expression, and not even that matters much. Yesterday I splurged and bought three magazines for gym. All three had Brad and Agelina on the cover.

The headlines:

OK - 'Brad & Angelina: What Will Happen to the Children?'
In -'Only Hate Remains! How Angelina Now Makes Brad's Life Hell.'
Gala - 'The Love Vow - No Chance of a Separation!'

There was also an article about Angie's Russian lover, complete with a picture of Angie looking sneaky, a cheesy hotel, a whip, a bottle of vodka and a jar of Beluga Caviar.

I could totally do that. Let's say I have a picture of Angelina in a sushi restaurant: I could spin up a whole story about her Norwegian lover and how he likes to rub raw fish all over her body before they run naked in the snow.

Or a picture of Shiloh eating a cookie: I could write about what terrible parents Brad and Angie are because they only let their kids eat junk food.

Or a picture with Brad's mouth open (or closed, for that matter): I can see the headline now, 'Brad Tells Angelina: 'I Can't Take It Any More!'

Or a picture of Brad's beard: 'Brad will keep his (horrible) beard (that looks like creeping moss) until every orphan on Earth has a loving home.'

Or a picure of Angelina's tatoo: 'AIDS scare!' (Did you know she had an AIDS scare when she got it because she had done it in a dive shop when totally wasted and that the symbols actually spell the names of her ex-lovers?)

Piece of cake, just give me a picture, I'll give you a story.

February 1, 2010

The Social Net

I thought I'd write about Germany today, although I haven't done any actual research so don't quote me or do any life planning based on this post.

The tax and social insurance rates are really high in Germany.

Income tax is fairly whopping. There are also various special taxes such as church tax and subsidizing the East Germans (which we now can't get rid of because they are a big voting block and keep voting for the free loser money, excuse me, re-integration money), as well as paying off various debts of shame accrued by the mostly dead grandparents of the current working generation.

Not to mention a popular problem faced by other countries: Keeping huge companies alive whose executives may be greedy, souless morons but employ a lot of people.

Then there's VAT tax, which is like 19% or something crazy like that and applies to EVERYthing you buy, including services, so if you want to redo your bathroom you need to budget an extra 20%.

I could go on but suffiice it to say that things are more expensive and salaries tend to be lower.

The social net is stronger, however. For example, parents get a monthly sum to help raise the future taxpayers of the Fatherland. Kindergarten (if you get a spot) is free. And there is very generous unemployment insurance to keep people off the streets... don't quote me but I believe it's up to two years with re-training if you qualify.

Now, here's the interesting thing. If you're unemployed you don't just get to sit home drinking beers and collecting your check. You have to show you're looking for work and you may be expected to retrain in a field that is in demand. Sure, an expert in bureaucracy can drag it out and maximize time off and/or free training, but the bottom line is you gotta shake your tail if you want the cash.

They want you back at work, not at home watching reruns. The system helps those who help themselves and those that don't help themselves can bite me... I mean, the system.

I think that's kind of smart. Of course, I hate bureacracy and jumping through hoops so it all sounds mega-annoying, but it serves the dual purpose of making unemployment undesirable while giving working families a longer lifeline before they lose their homes.

A good social network does more than just hand out cash. It does so responsibly and treats social problems from several angles.

Anyway, it's not perfect and I could write for hours about various problems for working families (like school getting out at noon), but there are fewer people on the streets in Germany than in countries with a weaker social net and the standard of living is still pretty high.

Isn't that the job of a social net?

And Solipsist, I have not gone all Teutonic!
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