Friday, October 20, 2006

The Wheels on the Bus

All I wanted on Wednesday was to get from point A to point C via point B, but that was the point at which Mr. Itinerant Preacher Crazy Man got on the bus. His non-stop diatribe really killed my enjoyment of being squashed between the window on one side and 80 other standing passengers on the other. At least we got the entertainment of catching each others’ eye and cracking up.

Mr. IPC Man was in fine form: (translated from the German) “G is for God. God is great, ja ja. G is also for great. God is good, which also starts with G, ja ja. This is NOT about Hitler!” And so on and so forth.

By the time we got to my stop, I had prayed more in the 6 minutes he was on the bus than in the last 20 years. I was able to tune him out a little by thinking, “Christ Jesus and Baby Jesus! Get me off this bus!”

The next morning, I was forced to partake of a fellow bus rider’s iPod playlist. I didn’t really want to be at a funky disco bus party; I just wanted to sit and be surly as usual.

Thursday afternoon was a bit better, bus-wise. One stop after I got on, a whole kindergarten got on the bus (in Germany, kindergarten = pre-school/daycare and not the grade before 1st grade), so there were about 40 kids, toddlers up to about age 4. Cute! I shared my seat with the two tiniest, and one of them fell asleep on me. I had forgotten how tiny they can be. I actually ended up riding one stop further so I wouldn’t have to trample my way through kinders or wake up the little punkin on my arm.


When we moved here, I planned to be done with my master’s degree in 4 years. Looking recently at the list of coursework I had completed and had left to complete, I saw that I would be able to finish all my coursework by the end of next summer semester, right on time. Except I wouldn’t be able to *get* my master’s by then, because you can only apply for admission to candidacy (basically) once all the coursework is complete and grades are turned in; at that point you can write your thesis and take your exams (2 5-hour written exams and 2 1-hour oral exams—ouch!), which you have a total of 12 months to do. So even if I finished all the coursework as early as possible, I would not be able to complete the other requirements by the end of the summer semester.

This put me in a bit of a conundrum. If by conundrum you mean a day-long crying jag. Should I go on bended knee to the department head and try to get her to pull some strings for me? Which meant I would have to cram in the coursework, thesis, exams, and quite probably packing up our household into one semester. Just thinking about it makes me want to die. Or should I drop out?

Finally, I realized that although the MA after my name would be nice, it doesn’t define who I am and wouldn’t guarantee me the job of my dreams later. So I have decided to continue with some of the coursework (dropping one upper-division class, whew!) that would be most useful to me in the case that I had the chance to teach German in the future (a teaching methods course plus student teaching, a course on second language acquisition, and a conversation course). I woke up the next morning feeling a sense of total-body relief (you know it if you’ve felt it). If events conspire to keep us in Germany longer, then I will finish up. If not, then I still haven’t wasted my time here.


I needed to get out and stretch my legs today, so fall photos from our village here.


Furniture made out of books! Why didn’t I think of that!?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

How do I love lists? Let me count...

Now that the semester and “real life” have started up again, I am back in list-making mode. You all know that I love me a list, uh huh, but I just realized recently that I am a really sucky list-maker. Here’s an item from my Palm To-Do list: “Start reading for class.” How helpful is that? When can I consider that item completed? 2 pages into the text? 5 pages? It has finally occurred to me that I have to be specific, and I am allowed to break jobs down into their constituent parts, which means more things on the to-do list, but the list gets whittled down faster because I am not waiting for one big thing to be completely finished. So that list item became “Read Chapter 1.” Much better.

John is one of those people who has a routine, and he deals with new things by making a routine out of them. That is *really* hard for me to do. Taking my vitamins? Sporadic. Forcing the poinsettia? Thank the seven dwarfs the days are getting shorter anyway, because I often forget to cover that puppy until it is already dark out. List-making is one way I deal with this; if it is on the list, at least I am reminded of it once a day at a minimum. We’ll see how smoothly this semester goes with my new outlook on lists.

Gnome-fanciers unite!
“Man vows to fight garden gnome arrest threat”

I first read about this in a German magazine!
World’s Ugliest Dog Contest

“In contrast to an earlier finding, it does not appear children who watch a lot of television wind up with behavior problems in school, researchers reported Monday.”

Monday, October 16, 2006

Christmas in October

Germans already have Fasching/Carnival for their big dress-up holiday, so they don’t really do Halloween except for the occasional costume party for adults here or there. That would explain why the xmas cookies and candy are already on the shelves at the grocery store—there aren’t any buffer holidays like Halloween or Thanksgiving (in September in Germany) to slow down the train-wreck of xmas advertising.

Personally, it doesn’t matter to me what time of year it is, any time is good for humming xmas songs. I like the tacky songs, while John is more a religious-carol-type guy. I don’t think my love of "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" is going to jinx our relationship, but it does put a cramp in our holiday music buying.

Last year in December, I went into a Starbucks for the first and only time—a classmate invited me, I swear!—and not only did I drink a large cup of their coffee, I also bought a CD of xmas music. I felt my soul shrivel even smaller than usual on that day, but the CD turned out to be not quite what I was looking for, so that made me feel better. Here’s what I got:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Sleigh Full of Songs
1. I Like a Sleighride (Jingle Bells), Peggy Lee
2. Deck the Halls, Nat King Cole
3. Winter Wonderland, Dean Martin
4. The Christmas Waltz, Nancy Wilson
5. Do You Hear What I Hear?, Bing Crosby
6. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Aimee Mann
7. 2000 Miles, Holly Cole
8. The Little Drummer Boy, Lou Rawls
9. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, Lena Horne
10. Merry Christmas, Baby, Charles Brown
11. Silver Bells, Wayne Newton
12. O Come All Ye Faithful, Ella Fitzgerald
13. Peace on Earth / The Little Drummer Boy, David Bowie & Bing Crosby

I realize that practically every recording artist prior to 1980 recorded at least one xmas song—my mom had complete albums of xmas music by Elvis and Jim Neighbors--but I’m not too keen on some of the artist/song combinations on my Starbucks album. In theory, I find it awesome that David Bowie and Bing Crosby did a duet, but in *practice*? Meh.

So if I were to compile a perfect xmas album—and this might be perfectly within my means via the magic of the Internet—here is what I would require, but not by any particular artist (I find that generic is usually better):

Sleigh Ride
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Up on the House-Top
Jolly Old Saint Nicholas
All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth
Jingle Bells
Jingle-Bell Rock
Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland
Let it Snow
Silver Bells
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
Blue Christmas
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

Any additions? n.B. This is the camp-only list. Non-campy songs should go to John.

Speaking of xmas, has anyone successfully "forced" a poinsettia? Mine is 2 or 3 years old, and this year I am covering it with a black trash bag 6 pm to 8 am. After 3 weeks of this, one leaf looks a little blotchily red; the only other impact I can discern is that other leaves are turning yellow and dropping off. I don’t know if that might be due to changes in watering patterns after I brought it inside, being enclosed in plastic half the day, or being man-handled into the bag twice a day. Otherwise it looks mostly healthy (once I cut off a branch that had some kind of boils on its bark). According to the web site I linked to above, the whole process can take about 8 weeks; I’ll keep you posted.

New to Nee

I come across a lot of interesting things via my Internet reading, but I am loathe to forward them via email, because it seems like the modern version of my grandmother the bag lady clipping and mailing bits out of the newspaper. But since I have a blog, where people can decide for themselves whether they want to follow a link, I can put up items of interest whenever I like. Ha ha ha!

John is the real debater in our family. He can formulate a position and make logical arguments, and he doesn't get all worked up the way I do usually (depending on the topic and the other person). So for now, I will put up links with a short bit from the text itself, and maybe a quick explanation in case the topic is more controversial, and save the personal commentary.

My first article is from the New York Times (you probably have to be registered to read, but it is free--I've used it for about 5 years, no prob):

Married couples, whose numbers have been declining for decades as a proportion of American households, have finally slipped into a minority, according to an analysis of new census figures by The New York Times.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Halloween, part 3

I think I’ve already mentioned that Hannah and I wanted to make a Halloween version of a gingerbread house since we will be in Texas at xmas-time this year. Yesterday we got busy and put one together. (1)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Here are our building blocks. I made the dough from scratch out of an xmas-themed German cookbook; Hannah designed the house, and I made a pattern for cutting out the pieces. Then I whipped up some “mortar” made of egg whites and powdered sugar.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I can’t remember if this is before or after the house fell apart on us. I think it is the first assembly. Here’s a tip, if you should ever want to build your own g-bread house: let the walls set before putting on the roof—it is surprisingly heavy and will knock the whole structure down if the mortar is still wet.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Here is a front view of the finished product. Note how the edges of the walls curved while baking, so we had to fill in the gaps with lots of mortar and candy, “so the rats can’t get in,” said Hannah. Here’s another tip: be careful while adding the baking powder, or the walls will end up much puffier and rounded than you intended.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Here is a back view. Hannah didn’t really like the sugar-egg glue, so she pulled apart some Brach’s Halloween candies and used those to attach additional decorations onto the back wall since it was looking a little bare.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This morning Hannah got out some marzipan and sculpted a witch and a broom out of it. She got them to stick to the front of the house by impaling them on a toothpick. Gruesome!

(1) John is so sweet. He thought it was ingenious and original to come up with a Halloween version of the xmas favorite, but I had to disabuse him of that idea. A google search came up with 434,000 hits for "Halloween gingerbread house" and 125,000 hits "+kit". At least I didn’t try to market the idea, because some of the kits are really cool.