Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Sight-seeing Begins

Mom arrived on Wednesday and, after a good night's sleep, we ventured out to Bernkastel-Kues on the Mosel river today, a place I wrote about a few weeks ago.

As usual, the climb to and from the castle was a test of one's stamina. The reward was a great view of the town with the river flowing between.

After climbing down, we visited the Altes Brauhaus for apple strudel with ice cream and a beer. Not a bad way to cool off your day. Oh, and we walked around town, too, but the highlight for me was the beer.

Tomorrow another castle and a short jaunt into France.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Man

When you're down in the dumps and unsure of your self-worth, sometimes you need a little help realizing that you are somebody and that you are an important cog in the great machinery that is life.

In other words, you are The Man. Even if you're a woman, you can still be The Man.

Don't believe me? Let my friend from Best Buy assure you that in fact, whether you have come to grips with it or not, you are The Man.

If that didn't work, you can always do the following to prove that you are The Man:

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Supreme Fence Sit

The Supreme Court weighed in on the whole displaying of the Ten Commandments on government property today, and rather than take a firm side, they went with a "sometimes it's ok, and sometimes it's not" ruling.

Way to make a judgment, judges.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Just So You Know

There is a right and a wrong way to buy and drink a pint of Guinness in an Irish pub.

Here's how.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Never Too Early To Begin Christmas Shopping

Here are a few nifty things you can find online and get a head start on the busy X-mas shopping season:

Friday, June 24, 2005

Work In The News

The school I teach at has been the subject of a couple of articles in the Stars and Stripes newspaper this week:

Both worry me, especially the after-school funding issue. If the proposed cuts go through, my gig as tennis coach is over. Of course some say I should volunteer to coach for free, but then I'd also be saying that my time and effort aren't worth as much as that of the tennis coaches at all the other schools or even the coaches of other funded sports on my campus. If all coaches' salaries were cut, I'd consider it. If some get paid and others don't, then I won't.

Further Evidence That It Is Neither For The People Or By The People

Two scary events in Washington the past two days. First the passing in the House of an amendment to the Constitution to ban the burning of flags. Secondly the Supreme Court deciding that local governments can take away private homes and land and give them to businesses.

First, flag burning isn't an issue. Period. When was the last time you saw one burned in the United States? Twenty years ago? And that was on television, I'm sure. Allow me to pull a statistic out of my rear end (yet I'm positive it is accurate), but 99.9999% of Americans have never seen a flag burned in their presence, nor seriously considered setting one on fire. The only people burning flags on a regular basis don't live anywhere near the United States, and they only do so when CNN or FOX news cameras are around. Hence Fox and CNN are the real problem. Stop watching them and this "issue" suddenly goes away.

And holy crap! Your local mayor can now come along, announce that Wal-mart really likes how flat your neighborhood is and how great of a parking lot it would make for their new Supercenter, and before you can sing "My country 'tis of thee" your casa, that you worked so hard to buy and make your own, is bulldozed and asphalted over.

Both of these developments work to make crystal clear the fact that no one outside of the White House, the Supreme Court, or Congress has any real control over their lives or whatever liberties or freedoms one thinks they have.

Oh, but you still have the right to wear an American flag thong. That's still ok.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Playing Tour Guide In Paris

So I went to Paris on Sunday to meet up with an EF tour that included one of my best friends from the states, Walter, and the three girls from Eagle Pass he had been accompanying around Europe the past two weeks. I managed to get a room in their hotel and then spent all of Monday showing them around Paris. In one exhausting day we hit many of the major attractions: Notre Dame, The Louvre, The Cimetière du Père Lachaise, The Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Élysées, and the Eiffel Tower. All that in the simmering sun of a European heat wave.



  • Saw an attempted mugging in the Metro stop at Place de Clichy.
  • The heat.
  • The 100 drunk ravers who got on my first train at 8:00 am Sunday morning after they'd partied themselves into a state of frenzy the previous night. Luckily they didn't go all the way to Paris.
  • The heat.
  • The over-zealous pimps in the red light district in Pigalle. They'd actually grab and try to push Walter and I into the strip clubs. Very erotic.
  • Being charged 24 euros at check-out for the breakfasts I thought were complimentary.

Overall, though, a fun trip. I think I make a hell of a tour guide. That and I'm cheap.

Related links:

Best If Used By

Ever wonder if its time to throw out the bottle of soy sauce that has been in the cabinet since St. Patrick's Day? Or if it's true that honey won't spoil?

Wonder no more: Surprising Expiration Dates.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Til Tuesday

I'm catching a train to Paris in a couple of hours and probably won't be updating this site until I get back Tuesday night. In Paris I'll be meeting up with a small tour group from my hometown. If all goes according to Hoyle, I should bump into them at the hotel they're staying at later this afternoon.

Oh, weather for Paris the next couple of days: hot. And do I know if my hotel has air-conditioning? No.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Dog's Eye View

One of the funniest things ever posted to the internet is Triumph the Insult Comic Dog's visit to the line outside of a Star Wars movie. If you've never seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it now.

Afterwards, check out Triumph's visit to the circus outside the Michael Jackson trial. Personally, I don't know or care whether or not Jackson is truly guilty. That's his problem. What facinates me, though, are the hundreds who showed up in person during the trial, and especially the day of the verdict, to cheer Jackson on. How can anyone attach themselves so closely to a celebrity - a freaky one at that? How lacking must your own life be to devote it to a singer/dancer who you'll never meet or know on any sort of level beyond a commercial one? Boggles my mind.

Won't Stop Till I'm Number One

Someone found my site this morning searching Google for buying porn in belize. Last check I'm number four on that list. Proud? You bet'cha!

Friday, June 17, 2005

Ten Random

Just for ha-ha's, here are the first ten random songs that pop up on the iPod when I set it to shuffle:

"40" - U2

"Nantucket Sleighride" - Mountain

"Nearly Lost You" - Screaming Trees

"Suck My Kiss" - Red Hot Chili Peppers

"Up All Night" - Razorlight

"Rubber ring" - The Smiths

"Breathe In" - Frou Frou

"El Carretero" - Buena Vista Social Club

"processed beats" - Kasabian

"Promises, Promises" - Naked Eyes

6,696 songs and counting. These things are addicting.

In The End You Will Die, And That's A Good Thing

Steve Jobs of Apple fame gave the commencement speech at Stanford recently. In it he tells three stories. The best is the third that starts off with:
My third story is about death. When I was 17 I read a quote that went something like "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "no" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important thing I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life, because almost everything--all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure--these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Read the rest.

Have A Nice Summer, Teach!

My last day of school wasn't completely without incident. Did have a couple of kids acting like jerks with the attitude of "what you gonna do to me now?" Some teachers here had their cars egged on the last morning, but mine was untouched, as far as I can tell.

All that pales by comparison to having a kid barf all over you on the last day, though. I don't know how I'd react to that. Probably throw up right back.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun

Yes, I am very excited about this. I saw Pink Floyd live in 1994 in San Antonio and it was the greatest visual and musical spectacle I've ever witnessed. Hopefully they'll enjoy this one-off show enough to consider one last tour. Sure they're pretty darn old now, but if you've seen the latest Roger Waters and David Gilmour dvds, you've got to admit they've still got their chops. I know I'm not alone in admitting I'd pay a pretty hefty sum to see the full Pink Floyd perform again.

Related link:

Pots To Piss In

Why don't all urinals have this kind of class?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Bittersweet Symphonies

I can't claim to be an expert on classical music. I'll listen to something, and if I like it, great. If I don't, so be it. I'll try my best to appreciate something if a so-called expert says it is some cultural milestone, but that's about it if the song just doesn't do it for me -- whatever "it" is.

One set of music that I don't have to try very hard to like are Beethoven's Symphonies. He wrote nine of them, and there's not a stinker in the bunch. Everyone knows the fifth one -- it's got the most famous opening in music history -- but many might be fuzzy on the rest. The symphony critics rave about is the ninth, and I'm still working my head around it. I've got a fantastic set of the symphonies with Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic, and both the fifth and ninth symphonies are worthy of listening to again and again. Very lively and aggressive. Not laid back, bore-you-to-death classical music at all.

But suppose you're sitting there reading this thinking that you'd like to try listening to these symphonies, but for whatever reason don't have access to them. Well, that excuse is over thanks to BBC Radio 3 and the BBC Philharmonic. Radio 3 is going nuts with Beethoven lately, and the Philharmonic has elected to play all of the symphonies for broadcast live over the radio station, and then have them posted to the Radio 3 website the next day.

So far they've performed the first five symphonies and have them available for download at The Beethoven Experience, along with everything you might ever ask about Beethoven and his music. The music is great and the price is even better.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Sunday Cinema

Here's several video clips worth watching. Some amusing. Some just interesting.
  • Rendezvous: An unnervingly quick tour of Paris by motorcycle. I'll be in Paris next week, but not quite at these speeds.
  • The Daily Show: Loads of BitTorrent links to clips from The Daily Show. All of them are great.
  • Water bottle Jetpack: Crazy clip of a guy with a bunch of pressurized water bottles strapped to his back launching himself over a lake.
  • Let It Slide: Compilation of people and their inability to use a slide.
  • Demonic German Kid: Pray that your offspring don't turn out this terror.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

All For #1, And #1 For All

Some might be waiting for The Fantastic Four movie to come out later this summer. Some might be anxiously awaiting the next X-men, Superman, Spiderman, or any of the other superhero movies out there. Myself, I don't care about any of those teams of do-gooders nearly as much as I care about another group of superheroes who aren't getting nearly as much attention:

The Urology Team.

They keep Mr. Happy happy and Mrs. Happy gushing with glee. They're not afraid to go below the belt and help you where it hurts. In short, they're heroes -- each and every one of them.

But When A Muslim Say This, They're Evil

If you ever listen to right-wing Christians (and I don't blame you if you don't), they spew quite the scary stuff. In their eyes, if you're not a strict Christian fundamentalist, then you need to either leave the country or die.

Much like what strict Muslim fundamentalists in certain countries we're occupying or opposing are spewing.

So remember kids, if we're saying and doing it in the name of Jesus, God's will is done. If they say it or do it in the name of anyone else, then we need to kill them. No exceptions.

For giggles, try and get through all of Quotes from the American Taliban. It'll brighten your day.

Friday, June 10, 2005

So Incredibly Useless, It Might Be Art

Here's a website devited to photos of celebrities playing table tennis.

Ask Not What You Can Do For The Internet

Instead, ask what the internet can do for you. Thirty things, specifically.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Here There Be Art

What would a child's drawing look like if an accomplished artist transformed it into a more realistic image?

Well, for example, the image to the left might look something like this. Cool, in a slightly disturbing way.

For more, checkout The Monster Engine. Shows that sometimes kids might have the right idea after all.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Reason #187 Why I Don't Subscribe To Entertainment Weekly

From the magazine's recent "The Must List":

Ewan McGregor and Ian McDiarmid: The great Scots turn in marvelous performances (one nuanced, one scenery-chewing) that define the moral spectrum of ''Revenge of the Sith.''

Yeah, that moral spectrum that ran from point A to point A.

And just how does one chew scenery when it's all glossy digital pixels?

And nuanced? Nuanced? Just because Ewan didn't swandive into a toilet ala Trainspotting doesn't mean he's the next Ben Kingsley.

Sure To Mess With Your Mind

Check out this amazing optical illusion.

Just stare at the cross, then watch the "green" dot make all the other dots "disappear."

That site has lots of other cool optical illusions, but for my money that one is the best, though my seminar students really liked the "face in the beans" picture, too.


Monday, June 06, 2005

I Learn Something New

I've often wonder what role the towns I live and work in had in Nazi Germany. That's not exactly the kind of info that anyone around here makes easy to find. But now Google has come up with a new feature, Google Print, where you can search for terms within books and then see the pages those terms appear on right there on your computer screen.

Facinating if you ask me.

So I searched for Baumholder, the town I teach in, and found that before WWII broke out, the Nazi's built their largest training area there, which was an apparent boon to a very poor part of Germany. Wasn't good for everyone, though. As Gis and Frauleins: The German-American Encounter in 1950s West Germany puts it:
"The twenty-seven Jews who called Baumholder their home suffered much humiliation, as few in the community stood up for their fellow citizens. Except for two individuals, all of Baumholder's Jews left their homes and businesses in the years before 1938. While some of them were fortunate enough to to escape to the United States, the eleven who merely moved to larger cities in the Reich were all killed in Nazi extermination camps."
Further reading in the book reveals that several prominent members of the Baumholder community were hardcore Nazis, including the school principal and the Protestant minister.

Maybe I didn't want to know this stuff.

The book did have an interesting photo taken from the outskirts of Baumholder in 1952 when the Americans had taken over and were rebuilding the place to house the thousands of troops who are still there. Shows the vast difference between the peasants of the countryside and the "modern" city the Baumholder was becoming:

Those were the days.

Older Than Old School

About as far back as I go music-wise is Elvis. Never been much of a Frank Sinatra fan or anything else prior to the mid-fifties.

But that was before the 78 RPM Jukebox and its collection of tunes from the first thirty years of the last century. These definitely take you back to a simpler time. For instance Snoop Dogg or Eminem could learn a thing or two listening to "My Dawg" by Al Bernard, especially the skit at the end, much like the ones included on so many of today's rap cds.

For the audio geeks out there, they also provide the technical specs of how they transfered each song from vinyl to mp3, though I don't have much of a clue about what "Edison Diamond Discs, 51106-L was transferred using a 3.5 mil elliptical stylus in a Stanton 500 cartridge at 80 rpm" really means.

Related link:

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Republicans Believe The Darndest Things

Courtesy of Working For Change and This Modern World.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Bernkastel-Kues On The Mosel

I've been in Germany almost two years, and I'm still amazed at how little I know about my immediate area. For instance, I've often heard about a place called Bernkastel-Kues. Everyone at work who'd been there raved about it, but silly me, I never asked where it was. I found out last night it is only about an hour away from my home.

Bernkastel-Kues is a small town located on the Mosel River. If you close your eyes and try to picture a classic Germany town, the kind of German town you would want to see if you came to Germany, this is the place.

I got there last night via boat. A group of teachers from the Baumholder area all pitched in to rent one for a two-hour evening cruise with dinner on the Mosel, then some time to walk around Bernkastel-Kues at dusk before hopping on a bus back to Baumholder. Other than some rain halfway through the boat trip, it was a great evening.

One of the geeky highlights on the boat ride (other than the above average food and beers) was getting first-hand experience in a river lock, where the boat was squeezed into a tight box, water was flooded in to raise the boat about fifteen feet, and then a gate opened to send us on our merry way up the Mosel. Facinating process, though maybe you had to be there.

After two hours or so of eating, drinking, and snapping pictures of the villages along the Mosel, we arrived in Bernkastel-Kues with its castle looming overhead. We had a little over an hour to wander down winding streets that were nearly deserted at 8 p.m. I was assured that deeper into tourist season the place will be packed, but last night we had the town and its over 400-year old classic German style buildings nearly to ourselves.

The couple I was with eventually ended up at a cemetary carved out of a hill overlooking the town. My morbid side loves a good cemetary, and this one didn't disappoint. Even though I'm not a religious person, I had to be impressed by some of the statues and other carvings. One Jesus cruxifiction was particularly outstanding. Makes great catholic desktop wallpaper.

Never made it up to the castle, instead making our way back down to the river to enjoy some coffee and a spectacular sunset at a riverside cafe complete with a flock of swans enjoying their quiet Friday night. For those not into sunsets, there was also a rare look at a Porsche SUV. Honestly, you'd have to be rolling in cash to afford to drive something like that in a country where gas will set you back six bucks a gallon.

In short, I now have a new place to take anyone who makes it out here for a visit. If my mom and Marcela thought Trier was great last summer, they'll love Bernkastel-Kues this time around.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Shocked. Shocked, I say.

Raise your hand if you've ever heard of violence at a rap concert.

Ok, good. Since I didn't see any hands, I'll go ahead and assume that you'll be just as shocked as I am after you read this: a guy got beat up at a Snoop Doggy Dogg (am I spelling that right, btw??) concert recently.

Dude got the absolute beatdown of a lifetime after jumping on stage and trying to throw his arm around Mr. Dogg's shoulder. Within seconds he was thrown down by all the other guys wandering around on stage. You know, those fifteen guys on stage at every rap concert who are each given a microphone even though they have no discernable talent. Well, they might not have any singing ability, but by the looks of the news video coverage of the event, they do have plenty of kick-the-crap-out-of-the-dumb-ass-on-stage talent.

The video of the whole thing is hilarious, but even more so is the wrap-up by the whiter than white news anchors trying their best to give a damn.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Don't Fret Europe