I’ve been to Tastees three times — I’ve never had a bad meal.
A couple of months ago, one of my colleagues told me about a book that he’d read in grade 8 English: I’m OK in OK: The Diary of My Year in Oklahoma.
I decided to read the book.
For those of you familiar with the EU ranking of language skills, the book is rated A2 and recommended for “Schuljahr 8, Level 2” – and I must say, after having read it, that the English is surprisingly sophisticated and complicated for a book aimed at grade 8 students.
The book is by Wolf von Bernuth (whose cover photo makes him look shockingly like Finn Hudson, the character portrayed by the late Cory Monteith) and covers his year as a foreign exchange student in Oklahoma. He’s from Berlin and the year is – well, it’s not clear what year it is, other than to say that the book was copyrighted in 1990, and he gives his fellow American high school students a Cold War geography lesson using food at a local diner.
One of the diary entries that my colleague remembered the most was from September 26:
My colleague was in 8th grade when reading that and he remembers that there was confusion in the classroom as to what exactly this was talking about – followed by a bit of embarrassed discussion. I guess boys (and girls) who are roughly 13 aren’t really ready to discuss such things, especially in mixed company.
America’s high school experience, on the other hand, actually comes off pretty well. Wolf attends high school football games (including homecoming), gets a learner’s permit (earning the real license, too), and participates in the high school choir. Basic American as apple pie kinds of things.
The last thing is the retro-nature of what Wolf did – things like writing letters to his parents. It’s hard for the youth of today to understand this backwards form of communication that involved physically putting information on a piece of paper, folding it up, sticking all of this inside another piece of paper, finding a stamp, and mailing it off. (BTW, am I the only person who remembers aerograms?)
The book is definitely a quirky and interesting look at what kids in Germany learn about the United States as well as being an impressive documentation of how English is taught.
I recently picked up a new camera – so new that I ran into a slight problem: my computer’s software doesn’t have the ability to read the camera’s raw output – fortunately I can still take JPGs and the default settings have been fantastic.
Actually, I am rediscovering how much I love Berlin through the new camera. It’s a Lumix DMC-GM1 – whose chief advantage is that it is tiny – like super small. Like my fingers are too big for some of the controls. Hence there is a learning curve attached to the camera—and I’ve had to withdraw from playing with the manual mode all the time–although I do play with manual from time to time.
Last night I went out with @SnookerinBerlin for a photo-walk around Wedding—one of Berlin’s northern neighborhoods. A bit of rain and a sun that had set made it a bit challenging, but I think I managed to do OK.
It’s hard to believe, but over a week ago I had my birthday – and I had two birthday parties.
One of the parties – a “surprise” party that I knew about – was small, intimate, and a ton of fun. Of course my “surprise” party was not the point of the gathering, just a nice sideshow to a gathering of really cool people.
The other party was one that I planned – a celebration of my thirtieth birthday. I realize that it wasn’t my actual thirtieth birthday, but I’ve never actually celebrated my thirtieth, so it seemed only fair to celebrate it a few years late.
It was actually a ton of fun – if not exhausting for me – with 35 guests – plus four kids – a total of 40 people present, if you count the birthday boy.
I’d show you pictures from the parties – but I didn’t bring my camera to either party since I wanted to actually enjoy the parties and not be the obnoxious host snapping pictures of everybody present. And so I let the party sweep over me.
It was a Sunday Brunch – Berlin style – with a huge buffet of amazing food at an amazing restaurant (12 Apostel). I started the party alone at 10:00—but I was only briefly alone. Within minutes my friends and colleagues started arriving, and it was in relatively short order that both of my tables were fully occupied.
And despite the repeated “no presents, just presence” edict, I received some lovely presents – thankfully somebody was able to drive me home, or I’m not sure I would have been able to get home without a taxi.
When I’d planned the party, I guessed that it would have lasted until roughly 1pm – but instead the last five guests and I staggered out the door at 3pm. Funny enough, I left hungry – I’d been too busy talking to all of my guests to actually eat more than a bit or two along the way.
Given that I didn’t notice time pass and that so many guests stay for such lengthy times, I do believe it was a good party – and I thank those of you who were able to make it. And I wish the rest of you could have…
So, following on The New York Times from February 5, 1974, I thought I would share the February 6th cover.
All grey — color news photography was, of course, in the future. The New York Times did a fine job of covering what seems to be important news: a doctor acquitted in a patient’s death, the on-going gasoline shortage, a trucker’s strike, and Nixon refusing to give information to a prosecutor. Buried on page 17, next to a Braniff advertisement, is the headline, “David Eisenhower Says Nixon Will Never Quit.” That promise lasted just over six months. Braniff lasted another 8 years.
A fair amount of space in the February 6, 1974, New York Times was dedicated to stock listings and classified advertising. Both, back then, critical to the ongoing success of the newspaper publishing industry. I doubt that any newspaper today publishes the full listing of stock quotes and the classified advertising has all moved to Craigslist. The model for newspaper success has certainly changed.
Now for two advertisements: first up Walbaum’s. Amazingly, this grocery store chain still exists, although I don’t recall ever having seen one whilst visiting New York City. The prices for groceries are amazing: 3 pounds of apples for just a buck! A two pound can of coffee for just $1.85! Note that in the upper left hand corner is an apology for the trucker’s strike that might mean bare shelves.
A tough year for some airlines?! The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same: TWA observes, “you might think your next flight will feature wooden benches and stale sandwiches.” TWA offered 3 meal choices to passengers in coach, a choice of movies for a small surcharge (including “a choice of general audience or adult movies” — some how I think the term “adult movies” has morphed since 1974), and — at major terminals — there was the “TWA X-ray security system” — thus meaning that your bags were no longer routinely opened.
Of course, as I read this edition, I searched for the most important event to have happened on February 5, 1974, but it was not there. And for that, I remain a bit disappointed in The New York Times — surely they would have known that the birth of a boy in Denver was important, earth shattering, news, right?
So, forty years ago tomorrow, the headlines covering today’s news focus on gas rationing in New Jersey, President Nixon offering a budget, and China renewing its Cultural Revolution. Miners in Britain also voted overwhelmingly (81%!) to strike.
There’s also no URL telling me to check out the newspaper online and it cost only 15 cents.
February 4, 1974, was a pretty eventful day!
Since November I’ve been to the movies four times – something close to a record for me. Normally I would tell you about the movies immediately, but I’ve been lazy, so you’re getting four updates for the price of one. This will save you from having to read my complaints about movie theaters (too many commercials shown for the price I’m paying) more than once.
Probably the best movie I’ve seen of late was “Ich fühl mich Disco” – a cute German film about an overweight kid and his Dad – and his Dad reacting to the news that his son is gay. Adding to the charm of the movie is the fact that it is set in Berlin – mostly eastern portions, so not the parts that I am especially familiar with, but still Berlin.
Then, whilst in Amsterdam, I saw The Butler – I’m under the impression that the movie has been well received, but, as far as I am concerned, the casting was terrible. Not one of the actors looked anything like the presidents they were portraying. The only actress who looked like the character they were playing was Jane Fonda, who played Nancy Reagan. The underlying embellishment of what was supposed to be a movie based on a true story took it down some interesting paths, exploring race relations in the United States. That said, The Help was a far better movie (and book) on this subject.
The worst movie – one for which I wish I could get my THREE hours back – was The Wolf of Wall Street. There was nothing of remote interest in this movie — the constant F-bombs, the naked girls and orgies, as well as the absurd drug use turned me off. The excessive length only made it worse.
Finally, I saw Anchorman 2 – never having seen Anchorman. What a fantastic satire of American television and how American television has evolved since the 1970s. The jabs at the television industry and its corporate owners were spot on and funny. It has actually made me want to see the original.
I’m happy to report that after a two or three month slump at the gym, the past week or so, I seem to have hit my stride again.
Looking back, I’m pretty sure that November was a month that I went to the gym, just to keep the habit going. December was the month I barely went – more due to health issues at first, which was then followed by seasonal party time.
That said, when January rolled around, I forced myself to get back in the habit. But the enthusiasm wasn’t quite there, if you know what I mean. I was going through the motions, without actually enjoying it. Whilst doing cardio, I would watch the clock – thinking to myself, “only 24 and a half minutes” – followed shortly thereafter by “only 23 minutes.”
This is not a recipe for a good time.
Then, about a week ago, something changed – a switch flipped – and I suddenly started liking the gym again. Essentially I’ve stopped watching the clock and am enjoying the weight lifting machines and enjoying doing cardio. Today, after doing upper body weights, I did 60 minutes of cardio, and at one point somebody got on a machine adjacent to mine and I didn’t notice for several minutes – I wasn’t aware of my surroundings. I wasn’t aware of how far I had gotten through the cardio.
Further, I seem to time my workouts well – especially during the snowy weather. When I get to the gym, the locker room floor is dirty – puddles of melted snow and ice everywhere. When I get back to the locker room, ready to get dressed, the floor has just been freshly mopped, so I’m able to avoid stepping in cold puddles of water coming back from the showers.
It’s nice to be back in the saddle, so to speak. I’ve noticed a difference in how I feel after the workout: I’m energetic and then, the next day, a bit sore.
When I was in a foul mood, I was only sore.
Yesterday I decided to go out for an adventure in Berlin.
With temperatures the coldest all year – around -12° – and plans for a long walk around Berlin, I bundled up. Out came the long underwear (wool, even!), winter jacket, hat, gloves, and warm shoes. I went all out – my scarf trailing behind me as I wandered down the street.
Actually – and this is a side note – the greatest discovery I made in 2013 was wool. It’s a discovery I owe to the Shetland Islands. While I had some wool clothing, it wasn’t a fabric I sought out since I find wool to be scratchy. It turns out that when you pay for high quality wool – and pay a lot – you can get wool that isn’t scratchy.
Over the past year I’ve acquired four wool t-shirts – as in shirts you wear in the summer – in addition to the woolen underwear and undershirts. Plus I have woolen scarves, including one made just for me by JuSt Shetland. (I actually bought two scarves from JuSt Shetland; the second is made of alpaca; I adore both equally.)
This has, to some extent, led to a rethink of my wardrobe. I’d already banished most synthetics (exceptions being gym clothes and winter jackets), favoring cotton, but with my wool discoveries, I’m starting to incorporate and test other fabrics. While in Laramie, for example, I found a buffalo wool hat — it hasn’t been cold enough to really appreciate it yet.
Later this year I will be attending a wedding (actually I can count two weddings in the next 12 months, but the second is going to be a beach wedding), and I’ve decided I should probably wear a suit. I don’t actually own one – an error I will correct when I get a bespoke (I love that word—definitely not in common American use) suit while on holiday in a part of the world where bespoke suits are (in)expensive.
Since I don’t know anything about buying suits, I’ve been doing a bit of surfing, reading up on what to do. I even watched a video – not meant for me – entitled, “How to Choose a Wedding Suit” – although I have to say that after seeing the host, I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t take fashion advice from the so-called “fashion expert.” The only people I’ve seen wearing uglier suits were doing so ironically.
Whoa – slight detour there – what I wanted to say is that the suit will be wool. Actually I think I’ll get two suits, and both will be wool. I also hope to get a several custom made shirts to match the suits.
I also want to get a new wool winter jacket – I have one that is over a decade old (it surprises me to realize this) and its lining is on the verge of falling completely apart. I’ve been told that it is pointless trying to get the lining repaired, that it would be just easier and more cost effective to buy a new jacket. Yesterday’s super cold weather reminded me that the wool jacket is often a better choice in Berlin on a day-to-day basis. It’s not the lining, though, that discourages me from wearing my wool coat daily, it’s the fact that it is technology un-friendly. It was designed and purchased in an era when the only piece of technology I carried around was my Nokia brick cell-phone. Now I expect my coat to carry an iPhone, a pair of headphones, and my Kindle. My current wool coat cannot do it.
Meanwhile, after digging in to my wardrobe for the warmest clothing, I paused to read a status update on Facebook. My friends in North Dakota are experiencing a heat wave, with temperatures soaring to 8° – kids wanting to take off their coats because it’s hot outside.
The irony wasn’t lost on me: 8°F is colder than -12°C.
I still went outside wearing many layers.
It’s all perspective.
Not quite sure how it happened, but today is January 18. It’s been a good couple of weeks.
I spent New Year’s Eve in Amsterdam visiting friends. Suffice it to say that, when it comes to New Year’s Eve, Amsterdam is pretty much like Berlin. Fireworks started exploding the morning of December 31, peaking sometime midnight, and continued well into the morning of the first.
After that, I returned to Berlin. I had a crazy couple of weeks at work. Seriously crazy. I had a backlog of work that had me a bit stressed. Had I not actually worked most of the time during the Christmas and New Years weeks, I would still be behind.
As it happened, I managed to get completely caught up a week ago – just in time for a weekend trip to Thüringen, where I met a friend’s two year old son for the first time (and not for the want of trying, but things conspired against the two of us meeting), and hung out with what I can only describe as the most awesome people on the planet. Jena, Weimar, and Erfurt were the places I hung out: a party, some nice meals out, and more cups of tea than is good for the system.
Then, Monday, I popped down to Heidelberg – which I can only describe as a charming, yet rainy, and surprisingly large. I spent Tuesday being a lazy tourist – my hotel was in the middle of the city (I’d mention it by name, but they stuck in a room that surrounded the elevator while the lamp by the bed was both too low to use for reading in bed and, the second night, never worked at all. Those were just the obvious flaws) – I took the funicular up to explore the castle above the city. Summary: pretty castle, pretty views.
Wednesday was the day that I had meetings and discovered that the functional part of Heidelberg is spread out. It sure took a long time to get out to where the meetings were held.
After that I made a rapid return to Berlin – 4.5 hours on an InterCityExpress train – partially annoying because of people talking despite the fact that they were in the quiet car. I ended up working most of the trip home on an urgent project.
That said, while I left work completely caught up with my work, by the time I returned to the office, I was already behind. I made some headway Thursday and Friday, but I suspect the week ahead will be challenging!
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