March 31, 2004

That's Right

I sure am:

Grammar God!
You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

If your mission in life is not already to
preserve the English tongue, it should be.
Congratulations and thank you!

How grammatically sound are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by Shelby at 10:25 PM | Comments (4)

Fear Factor

It's another beautiful day in Hamburg. Scout and I took a nice walk, I did a little shopping at the drug store, and I faced down one of my deepest fears...

My hair.

My bangs have grown out of control. I have thick hair that grows quickly, which is nice if you're looking for thick hair that grows quickly, but when you've left your favorite stylist back in San Jose, it can be problematic. Jennifer gave me a great cut that has allowed the rest of my hair to grow out gracefully, but not much can be done for my bangs. When they grew long enough to go over the top of my glasses, it's time for action.

So I had a decision to make. Do I face my fear of German and get it done by a professional? Or do I face my fear of the scissors and do it myself? Well, in the end, German won out as the greater fear, so this morning I took to the bathroom with scissors in hand.

I have to say I did a pretty good job. I cut very conservatively and ended up with a straight blunt cut. None of that pixie look that Jennifer gives me, but at least it's not hanging over my glasses anymore.

In other news, one of Kevin's American co-workers is here in Hamburg for the week. We're planning on meeting up with him tonight and going to the Dom. That should be fun.

Posted by Shelby at 03:39 PM

March 30, 2004

More Funny Stuff

Thanks to Procrasti-Nate I present you:
The ten worst album covers of all time complete with commentary!

Posted by Shelby at 10:15 PM

Scout Has Turned Into A Punk

Notice her handiwork here:

Okay, I'll admit I made it here. Click on the tabs to see the different kinds of signs you can make.

I've made two more below. Warning: Not Family Friendly. In fact, not friendly at all.

A public service announcement:

And you'll find me in the left lane:

Hat tip to Busy Mom Blog.

Posted by Shelby at 08:38 PM

March 29, 2004

Unconscious Mutterings

Time for today's Unconscious Mutterings:

Pitbull::Dangerous. I know they're not if they're not trained that way, but enough people teach them to be vicious that it makes me nervous.
TD::TD? What is that supposed to mean?
50::50 (like 50/50)
Mitt::Bit (I don't know, I guess my brain found the rhyme appealing)

Posted by Shelby at 09:01 PM

Hello, and Happy Monday

I got my orthotics today. I popped them right in and started walking around and the sensation was...interesting. I expected them to be hard molded plastic or something, but actually they're just a rigid foam. Cushiony, yet firm.

I'm going to have to get used to them. My arches feel as though I'm walking on large stones. I don't think I've ever had so much arch support in my life. The good news is that my right foot, the original problem foot with the severe heel pain, has healed nearly completely. This didn't happen just today, but over the past few days. I'm now only bothered when I walk down steep stairs and I still have some pain after sleeping. The bad news is that my left foot has gotten in on the action and has been hurting in the arch. This has also been the last few days. I think it just needs to get used to having arch support for once it its life.

Posted by Shelby at 08:48 PM

March 28, 2004

Long Time, No Blog

My Internet connection has been unreliable lately and actually I just haven't thought much about blogging, hence my absence. But now I'm back in action!

Thursday night was the last class for Eren, the woman from Istanbul. Kevin met up with me after class and although he wasn't planning on it, he ended up going out with us. We had a nice crowd, Matthias (our instructor), our two Englishmen for whom Thursday was their last class also, Tang and her husband (who isn't in the class but who joined us haplessly) and me and Kevin. We squeezed around a small table in a bar and had a nice evening.

Kevin had the misfortune to sit by one of the Englishmen, Bernard, who turned out to be very chatty (like incessantly so). They talked airplanes (he works for a British airline), cars (he drives a Jaguar, of which he's quite proud), living in a suburb of London, Rugby, Cricket, and Football (soccer). There was quite a discussion about soccer. Bernard stated with conviction (more than once) that he felt that the U.S. would become a soccer contender if we only had a good team.

(On a side note, I disagree. We've had good teams before and it still remains unpopular. In fact our women are among the best in the world and our league still went bankrupt. It's a strange phenomenon that practically every kid in America plays this sport and then abandons it at age 13. But anyway...)

Overall it was a good evening. And it was a good thing Kevin showed up because I had forgotten my purse. We ended up at a bar the Englishmen frequent regularly, it being right by their hotel (the Marriott, where my parents will be staying when they visit), and they were known there. Apparently known as very generous people. When the bill came in it was around 65 Euros. We paid in what we ordered without really putting in extra, but when the bill was paid off it was 95 Euros, and we didn't get change. Pretty good for a country that doesn't tip.

Friday night we headed to the Hamburger Dom, a carnival held 3 times a year for the last 666 years. Yes, the sign said "666 Years." It was chilly but fun. The Dom is just like your basic American carnival with the notable absence of animal and craft exhibits and those lines of booths selling everything from Ginzu knives to hot tubs. They have these mini-sit down restaurants specializing in wurst and we had our first German Bratwurst (sans bun, of course). The funny thing about Germans is that they seem to be really parsimonious about ketchup. There was practically a gallon sized squeeze bottle of mustard on every table, but a serving of ketchup cost 10 cents. They're the same way at fast food restaurants and french fry booths too. Apparently ketchup is a premium here in Deutschland. Too bad, because I like my wurst with ketchup and due to some confusion in ordering it came plain. Our fries came with ketchup, however, so I dipped in there.

And the Germans serve their fries differently as well. Whatever toppings you get (ketchup and mayo being the most popular, but also cheese, sour cream, and exotic things like tzaziki sauce) come right on top of the fries. They then include the cutest little plastic cocktail fork to eat your fries with. I often notice when I order fries that I am the only one eating them with my fingers. They probably think I'm some kind of barbarian.

The Dom also lacks that most luscious category of American carnival food: Deep Fried Everything. No funnel cakes, no elephant ears, no fried Twinkies. Too bad, since I like me some funnel cake every 5 years or so. In exchange, they have large candy displays featuring a preponderance of chocolate and candy dipped fruit. I'm not sure how they do this because it all looks like plastic, but it looks pretty good nonetheless. I mean hey, if you can't have deep fried Twinkies (which yes, I'm dying to try), you might as well have some chocolate strawberries. I intend to get some the next time we're there. The Dom is within walking distance of our apartment which is nice.

This is getting long. More of our weekend activities in the extended entry below:

One more thing about the Dom and then I'll stop talking about it. Well, two. And then I promise--no more Dom (which is pronounced "Dome," by the way). The first is the impressive rides. Like any carnival, these rides are made to be disassembled and ported to other locations. The German rides are much more impressive than the American counterparts, however. There is a full-sized drop tower, two full-sized roller coasters, and believe it or not, a log ride with actual water. We rode the tall ferris wheel and the go-karts, which were on a wooden track that looked like it was as old as I am. Both were a blast.

And the other thing about the Dom is something I discovered last time we went to the Dom in 2001, the "Ich Liebe Dich" cookie heart. Every candy booth sells these gingerbread hearts with various sayings in frosting, the most popular being Ich Liebe Dich (I love you). Here's a picture of me with my Ich Liebe Dich heart cookie in 2001. As the picture shows, the heart comes on a ribbon and you wear it around your neck. The picture from 2001 is just how I looked on Friday if you add a couple pounds, cut 4 inches off of the hair, and enlarge the cookie to the next size up (apparently Kevin loves me more in 2004 than he did in 2001). If you're not in love you don't have to miss out on the cookie-fest. You can get a variety of sayings from "Greetings from the Hamburger Dom" to "Men are Pigs."

Saturday we went to a special printing exhibit at the Museum Der Arbeit (the Museum of Work). There was a room with lithograph art (alas, no Hund Art) and a lot of printing presses and bookmaking things from the years. We saw what was supposed to be a printing demonstration but turned out to be a demonstration of cleaning the press (or at least that's all we stayed for). More impressive was the woman working the Linotype machine. For those of you not in-the-know (like, uh, me) old printing was done by hand by setting letters of individual type (which we got to experience on our Anniversary trip to the SF Center for the Book). The Linotype machine revolutionized that. Rather than setting individual letters you type on the machine and it then molds a lead line of type (Line-O-Type) for you, all spaced out and everything. It's quite an impressive machine, with about 10,000 breakable pieces. After the Linotype we explored the world of rubber (the building used to be a rubber factory) and then watched a lithograph printing demonstration (still, not as impressive as the linotype).

Today (Sunday) we went to Miniatur Wunderland. Note that these pictures are from Kevin's first visit. It's a giant, and I mean giant, model railroad layout with everything from Hamburg in miniature to the "U.S." (or their interpretation thereof) to generic villages and mountains. It was impressive, sure, but I couldn't believe how many people were there. When we walked in there had to be, no joke, 300 people there. We could hardly get up to the rails to see the exhibits. The crowd thinned out some, but I couldn't believe how many people would come to see a model railroad. Apparently it's a bigger thing than I thought.

My favorite part of Miniatur Wunderland were the little viginettes of death and destruction--like in one river there was a body under some rocks with two scuba divers upstream and an ambulance on the banks with bystanders. Underneath a graveyard there was one layer of tombs and a bottom layer of a torture chamber including a man on a rack, a mad scientist, and a skeleton trapped behind a wall a' la Cask of Amontillado. I also liked the billboards in "Las Vegas." One was an Ikea ad that said (in English) "Come and see our stool samples" (pictures of stools, of course), and my favorite, a picture of Family Circus with the caption "A waste of perfectly good ink since 1960."

Boy, I need to blog more often to avoid these monster entries!

Posted by Shelby at 07:46 PM

March 25, 2004

By Special Request

One of the blogs I read daily, The Introverted Exhibitionist, has a Man Of The Day post. Today's MOTD is none other than my beloved Cary Elwes, a special request from ME! Go check it out.

Posted by Shelby at 02:58 PM | Comments (1)

Watch Your Step, But Don't Step On Your Watch

It's a terrible way to kill time*
(extra bonus points if you can identify where that line comes from)

Today was cleaning lady day so I took Scout out for an extended walk to get out of their way. It is a beautiful, sunny day, albeit chilly. We walked through almost all of the Planten und Blumen, the large park near our house.

Because we were trying to kill time, I stopped and let Scout sniff anywhere she wanted. We stopped numerous times (read: every ten feet) and there was a lot of sniffing. Many of the flower beds had just been fertilized and that was very appealing to a small dog.

And speaking of small dogs, we met two on our journey. Two women were walking their dogs together, one a dachshund and the other looked like a dachshund/corgi mix (or some kind of dachshund mix). They approached us and all of the dogs had a good butt-sniffing. One of the women talked to me and I was able to understand almost everything she said!
"Is this a girl?"
Something something "How old is she?"
"8 years" (I added an ending on the word year but it didn't seem to faze her)
"She is a sweetie"

There were many daffodils and tulips in bloom and it was very pretty. Now I'm hoping that a frost doesn't kill them off. And when we returned our apartment was nice and clean. Or as clean as this particular cleaning service gets it.

And good foot news. The support of the Birkenstocks seems to be helping. I'm still experiencing pain, but I don't have to limp anymore. Unfortunately the muscles tightened up everytime we stopped so that was a pain, but overall I think I'm making improvement.

It's one of the jokes told on the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland. Or was, at any rate.

Posted by Shelby at 02:50 PM | Comments (2)

March 24, 2004

I'm Legal, and Handy Phrases

I had a whole blog entry typed out and then IE ate it. I hate it when that happens. And I don't really feel like recreating the entire thing, so I'll just give you a summary.

I got my visa so I'm legal through July 31st. And I have something really cool in my passport.

We have one of those German Phrase-A-Day calendars and whoever wrote this must have been smoking something interesting. Yesterday's phrase will come in very handy for me so I'm practicing it over and over: Mein Mann will mich verlassen, or "My husband wants to leave me." Why, that's almost as useful as "Where's the toilet?"

Posted by Shelby at 07:41 PM | Comments (1)

March 23, 2004

The Sounds of Silence

Haven't had much to talk about the last day or so. I'm very frustrated with my foot (plantar fasciitis). I have difficulty walking anywhere and am always in pain when I do so. It really puts a damper on anywhere I go so I've been staying inside mostly. I'm now wearing my Birkenstocks and will be getting my orthotics in a week so hopefully those will pay off. I kind of expected everything to go away once I started wearing the Birks but it hasn't worked out that way. I guess I need to realize that my foot is actually injured and needs time to heal, even with a world of arch and heel support. I wish this would go away soon.

Posted by Shelby at 04:38 PM | Comments (2)

Unconscious Mutterings

A new meme this week, unconscious mutterings.

  1. Wife:: Hausfrau
  2. Criminal:: Allegations
  3. Campaign:: Bored Already
  4. Infection:: Intestinal
  5. Portland:: Oregon
  6. NASCAR:: Gummies (no seriously, Haribo makes gummy Nascars)
  7. IMAX:: Theater
  8. Martian:: This girl who worked at camp with me who I really, really hated
  9. Nike:: Shoes
  10. Trial:: Lawyer

Via Dave, via via Kelley

Posted by Shelby at 01:26 PM

March 20, 2004

New Shoes!

It's rainy and very windy here tonight. We're cozy inside drinking a nice Côtes-du-Rhone with a label in Braille. For obvious reasons we've come to call this the "Braille Wine." It's quite good.

Last night we treated ourselves to a dinner out. We decided on the Japanese restaurant located across the way from my language school. Seeing lots of Japanese people when we walked in was a good sign. We were immediately given menus in English, luckily. We decided to order a cook-at-your-table dish of vegetables and beef filet with a special sauce. Once we got the hang of it it was delicious!

Today we set out to buy me some Birkenstocks. I've wanted them for a long time and now that I'm having problems with plantar fasciitis, I thought now would be a good time to make the investment. We struck out at the first shoe store where their entire line consisted of remaindered shoes in odd sizes. We then went to an all-Birkenstock store where we hit gold. I had a hard time deciding because they just didn't fit like I was used to shoes fitting. I'm used to tight shoes, and Birks are meant to be loose and roomy. I fell in love with a pair of shoes I ended up getting. From their Footprints line, they're the Ventura style. Here is a picture. Aren't they cuuuuuuuute?? I had no idea Birkenstocks made regular shoes with their cork soles but they do. I'm wearing them right now and am already breaking them in.

We then hiked over to Karstadt to see about some thicker socks. I don't know how the sock thing will work out with these shoes. I may just have to get used to the roominess. I got a pair of thicker socks at Karstadt and also found a very cute thin sweater on the discount rack. Big day for shopping!

Now, time for dinner.

Posted by Shelby at 09:54 PM | Comments (1)

March 19, 2004

The Day After Thursday, The Number After Four

I'm trying to find a more creative way to say It's Friday Five Time.

If you...

1. ...owned a restaurant, what kind of food would you serve?
All appetizers, all the time. Buffalo Wings, artichoke dip, mozzerella sticks, those onion flower things, mini shish kebabs, garlic fries, egg rolls, etc. If it's an appetizer, it will be there. And you can order sample sizes or come up with combo platters of your own or have dinner sized portions.

2. ...owned a small store, what kind of merchandise would you sell?
Fountain pens, dip pens, paper, stationery, and fancy things to write in and with. And of course our store would feature the Store Dog, Scout, and each customer would get a friendly tail wag as they came in. Regular customers would be greeted enthusiastically, while other customers could expect a gentle head nudge in case they wanted a dog to pet.

3. ...wrote a book, what genre would it be?
General literary fiction

4. ...ran a school, what would you teach?
Reading and writing. On the reading side, everything from basic literacy to speed reading to advanced literary analysis. On the writing side, I would emphasize writing fundamentals because the average American's writing skills are so poor. My goal would be to not only build skill but inspire confindence in writing. And I would also branch out into various types of writing like business and technical writing, fiction writing, poetry, and creative non-fiction. Anything you ever wanted to know and discuss about reading and writing, that would be my school.

5. ...recorded an album, what kind of music would be on it?
Assuming I was magically given massive amounts of talent, it would probably be contemporary folk music. If I weren't given that talent, I'd spare the world and record one of those compilation albums you see on late night tv, like the 4 disc "Back to the 80's" set.

Posted by Shelby at 06:46 PM

The Foot Doctor

Yesterday I went to see the doctor about my foot. I'm very glad I did. The doctor's office was a model of efficiency.

We arrived at 3:45 for our 4:00 appointment and as Kevin was talking to the receptionist I thought "this is an awfully long conversation." Then I heard the words "später" which I know means later, and I thought oh great, we've misunderstood the appointment and are too late. Then I heard "achtzehn" which means 18, or actually 18:00 which is 6:00. There was some more discussion, and siebzehn (17) was brought up and agreed upon. Then Kevin filled me in. We were 2 hours early. Our appointment was for 6:00, not 4. Fortunately they were able to switch me to an appointment at 5:00, so we only had an hour to kill. Oh well, better 2 hours early than 2 hours late!

We walked down the street and found a coffee shop with indoor seating so we spent the hour drinking hot chocolate. When we returned to the office everything was fine. Kevin filled out some paperwork and we waited a little bit. When I finally got a room, the nurse didn't speak English, so it was a little tricky explaining the problem. The doctor spoke English, however, (which was why we chose him) so that was easy. We had a brief chat where I pointed out where it hurt and he thought it might be a heel spur (an extra growth of bone--yikes!). He wanted an x-ray, which they did in the office a few minutes later.

When I saw the doctor again, he said there was no heel spur (whew!) and I did indeed have Plantar Fasciitis. He decided I needed some custom insoles and a 5 day course of an anti-inflammatory (Vioxx). Then a nurse came in holding two cardboard boxes full of foam. I stepped down into the box to take an impression of my feet (both feet get the insoles) and then they informed me I could pick them up a week from Monday. It was that easy!

So hopefully once I start getting some good support for my feet I'll be back in total action. I still want to get a pair of Birkenstocks this weekend, even though it might still be too cold for them. I'll see what they have to offer. I've wanted Birks for a long time.

Posted by Shelby at 02:24 PM | Comments (2)

March 18, 2004

A Fun Night

Tonight was great. After class four of us went out for a beer or two and some food. There was Mason, from India, myself, Eren from Turkey, and our teacher Matthias. It took a while to get a table in the small bar but it was worth it.

Mason and Eren are both in the shipping business, so they talked a lot of business. Matthias happens to be a university student studying literature (German and Spanish literature) so he and I had a lot to discuss. We ran the gamut from American postmodernism (yuck) to Garcia Marquez (genius) to Gunter Grass (old). Matthias said he liked American literature better than German or Spanish, but he didn't like American literary theory, and I had to agree with him on that front.

I also was called upon to represent my country in explaining things like Groundhog Day. We got on the subject of Bill Murray and Matthias said "What do you call it? It's like a hamster, but bigger?" Groundhogs. I was left dangling trying to explain this bizarre American custom. Sadly, I was not able to do such a good job. I mean I know the groundhog looks for his shadow, but what does it mean? I played it off like I knew what I was talking about, saying that if the groundhog sees his shadow it's 6 more weeks of winter. I'm not sure if that's correct but I figured no one was going to look it up to call me on it. Further research reveals that I remembered correctly--shadow = 6 weeks of winter. Phew!

I also was quizzed on Schwarzenegger ("don't blame me, I didn't vote for him") and Bush ("don't blame me, I didn't vote for him either."). My responses were eerily similar.
Matthias: "Germans think that Schwarzegeneggar as Governer is really funny"
Me: "Many Americans feel that way too."
Matthias: "Germans don't like Kerry, but they like Bush even less. Therefore they are rooting for Kerry."
Me: "Many Americans feel that way too."

I introduced them to American oddities.
Me: "It's called Der Wienerschnitzel, but it only serves hot dogs!" (Matthias found this very funny).

Me: "In California, you can't smoke anywhere."
Matthias: "Even in a disco?"

Mason: "I heard that New York is not like anywhere else in the US."
Me: "Yes, that's true."
Mason: "I also heard that about Los Angeles."
Me: "Yes, that's also true. But New York is nothing like Los Angeles."

Me: "In the US you can't take your dog anywhere inside."
Matthias: "Not even in a restaurant?"
Me: "Especially not a restaurant."

Mason: "So did you live near Silicon Valley?"
Me: "I lived in Silicon Valley."
Matthias: "People live there? I thought it was just like a place people drove to for work."

I've been warmly invited to Istanbul and New Delhi anytime I want to come visit. Eren says I have to see the Turkish Riveria. It sounds interesting.

We ordered baguette sandwiches that were very good, except Eren's. It had a mystery ingredient. Matthias tried to explain
"it's like a blueberry, but it's red?"
Me: "a cranberry?"
Matthias: "Yes, cranberry marmalade. Or like marmalade."
Me: "Jelly?"
Matthias: "Yes, jelly."
Unfortunately, Eren wasn't quite sure what a cranberry was either. Her sandwich came out a little odd, but she said it was okay. Mine was delicious. Salami, Gouda, Feta, lettuce, tomato, and an herb mayo, all on a toasted baguette.

We made plans to go out after another class. Unfortunately Eren leaves at the end of the month. Mason is here for 6 months like me. And Matthias said he'll still be our teacher if we continue on with the same class. Ideally I'd like to move to the morning class but if that doesn't work out I'd love to have Matthias again. He's a very good teacher.

And that was my exciting night.

Posted by Shelby at 11:28 PM | Comments (1)

March 17, 2004

Blogroll Updates

I've updated my Blogroll, the list of blogs I read daily. I've been meaning to do this for a while but just haven't gotten around to it (I don't know why not, it took all of 5 minutes).

I have a system for reading new blogs. First, I find a blog. Sometimes that comes from another blogger who comments here and I follow their link. Sometimes it's a recommendation from someone else, sometimes it's a comment on someone else's blog that I like and follow that way. Once I find a new blog, it gets put in a bookmark folder marked Temporary. I check the temporary blogs regularly to read for content and see if I like what I see. Once a blog passes muster, it moves to the Blogs bookmark folder. These are the blogs that I read daily. Once the blog is moved to the Blogs folder, they graduate to my blogroll here (or at least that's how it's supposed to work).

Several people have just been promoted and I thought I'd call them out:

Awful Plastic Surgery
This is a site dedicated to, well, awful plastic surgery. It's hilarious, yet horrifying to see what people (mainly celebs) have done with their bodies. Everything from bad boob jobs (Christina Aguilera) to too much collagen injections in the lips, called "trout pout" (Meg Ryan) to cheek implants...well, you name it, it's there. They don't update it as often as I'd like, but it's really interesting to see all of the before and after pictures.

Burlap Soul
Annastazia came to me as a commenter on this site and I've loved her site ever since. She's "my kind" of blogger--that is, she's more of a personal journaler rather than someone who does a lot of political punditry or links to a billion other articles. You know, like my blog. So if you like me, you'll like Annastazia.

Diary Date
Suzi also came to me as a commenter here. She's a nurse in Northern California and her blog is a mix of personal commentary, interesting articles she reads, and currently, funny pictures of cats. She's also on a mission to destroy all Spyware, and hey, how can you not like that?

Life of Dave
I went to college with Dave and while we weren't close, I always thought he was a funny guy. We shared a bonding moment one night at Pizza Hut when he said, out of the blue, "If I had a hammer..." I turned and said "I'd hammer in the morning." Dave is also living the expatriate life in Paris, so it's interesting to see someone who is in the same position as I am.

Mom With Attitude
I found Michelle by seeing her blog on someone else's blogroll. I thought, "Mom With Attitude? What's there not to like?" Nothing, apparently. Although we have basically nothing in common (like...she's a mom, I'm not) I find her posts to be entertaining and touching. When I have kids, look for a blog just like this from me.

Posted by Shelby at 04:07 PM | Comments (3)

Let the Sun Shine In

It's a beautiful day in Hamburg! The temperature is 66 degrees (F) and I have the windows wide open and am sitting comfortably in jeans and a t-shirt. It's great to get some fresh air into the apartment and to have so much sun! I can't complain about the weather here since I arrived. It's been cold, but pretty decent. In fact I wish we'd gotten more snow. But it's nice to have weather like today. Like anywhere else in the world, March is totally unpredictable here, so tomorrow we're forcasted a high of 55 with rain. But for now, let the sun shine in!

Posted by Shelby at 03:15 PM

March 16, 2004

The Lightbulb Goes On

Feeling much better here. I'm back on solid foods again, experimentally, and it seems to be going well so far. Phew!

We had class again tonight and I witnessed a miracle. The lightbulb finally went on for one woman in our class. She joined late and speaks exclusively Spanish, so I couldn't help her in English. Up until tonight, she would sit next to me and copy all of my work from the book. Now, that wouldn't bother me so much, but the answers are in the back of the book. And it's not like this is rigorous homework we're talking about here. We get maybe 2 or 3 very short assignments.

Anyway, this lady was so clueless, I was amazed. She missed the day we learned the alphabet, and has no idea about any kind of German pronounciation. She would just look at the book and guess, using phrases we used often. For example, the book said "Woher kommen Sie?" (where do you come from?). She said "Wie heißt du?" (what is your name?). Now I think you don't need to understand any German pronounciation to see immediately that these two phrases are nowhere near alike.

In fact, after last night I strongly suspected that she didn't know how to read. That's how bad she was. Every time we would go around the table answering questions from a list, where the next person says the next item on the list, she would just repeat what I said, and even if you pointed to it in the book she would just laugh and shake her head. The only conclusion I could draw was that she didn't know how to recognize words on a page.

Well, tonight we had a major breakthrough. First, I sat on the other side of the room, because of the copying thing but mainly because of her overdose of perfume. This left her sitting by herself with no one to copy off of, to point out the right place in the book, or to find the right page. I thought for sure she'd fail miserably. But no! She finally stepped up and started understanding things. She realized that when we go around the table she's supposed to give the next answer. She even figured out how to count the people ahead of her to figure out which answer she would have to give. And when she did answer, her pronounciation was poor (and I am definitely not one to talk about that!) but it was clear that she was trying to sound out the words.

I was amazed. And relieved. It was agonizing sitting there watching her try to fake her way through it. I don't know what happened between last night and tonight, but it was as if a lightbulb suddenly went on in her head. The whole class gave a collective sigh of relief at her first independent correct answer and the teacher gave a big smile and said "Gut! Gut!" (good). She looked much more relaxed. I think she's going to make it after all.

And I finally got fed up with Mr. Impatient, and his new friend Mr. Impatient 2. The first time Mr. Impatient 1 spoke out of turn, answering a question for someone else, I pointed at him with a mock disapproving face (real hard to fake, let me tell you) and said "It's not your turn!" I did it in such a way that was it funny rather than accusatory. When Mr. Impatient 2 jumped in, I did the same thing. "It's not your turn!" Everyone giggled at that. And best of all, they stopped doing it!

And I can't be too mad at Mr. Impatient (1) anyway. He suggested that we all go out for a beer or a bite to eat after class, something that I had wanted to do but hadn't worked up the courage to. I've realized he's a nice guy and means well, he's just, well, impatient. Anyway, we'll be going out after class on Thursday and I'm really looking forward to interacting socially.

Posted by Shelby at 10:50 PM

March 15, 2004

What Did You Just Call Me?!

A nifty meme from Dave:

If you called me Shelby or Shelb, you're almost anyone I know.
If you called me Shel, I will make that face you make when you hear nails on a chalkboard.
If you called me Shelly, I will let you know in no uncertain terms that my name contains a "b."
If you called me Alaska, you know me from camp.
If you called me Dear, you're my Grandpa (of course, with gramps all females are "dear" and all males are "son").
If you called me Auntie Shelby, you're Corie.
If you called me Honey or Baby, you're my mom.
If you called me Shelbyville, you're Sandy.
If you called me Kodak, you were in my sorority.
If you called me Mrs. Hogan you're a telemarketer or are somehow connected to a doctor's office.
If you called me Shelbyscout, you're any number of people on a few internet forums I frequent or used to frequent.
If you called me Rosiass, you're one of the multitude of people who think they've invented that nickname. Also you're a little over 2 years out of date--it's Hogan now.
If you called me Girl, you're my husband.

And that's all I can think of.

Posted by Shelby at 10:05 PM | Comments (1)

Happy Birthday Scout!

I almost forgot with everything else going on, but today is Scout's birthday. 8 years old! She now qualifies for Senior dog food. But why--she's still as spry as a puppy and active to boot. This dog isn't going to be a Senior for a long time. Happy Birthday Beagleface!

Posted by Shelby at 09:23 PM


Still feeling lousy. This hasn't worked its way out of my system yet, as I had hoped it would. Don't want to stray too far from the bathroom. I'm able to keep soup and water down, although it seems to go right through me. Unless I make significant improvement today I'll probably be skipping class tonight. Okay, back to bed.

Posted by Shelby at 12:29 PM | Comments (1)

March 14, 2004

Beagle in the Big City

Or, we drag Scout through the U-Bahn and a department store. Click for pictures. She's awfully cute!

Posted by Shelby at 11:38 PM | Comments (1)

The Universe is Out to Get Me

Whoever said that bad things happen in threes was right. My third bad thing happened last night.

Out of the blue at about 9:00 I was hit with uncomfortable, then severe stomach pain and cramping. Assuming it was something bad I ate, I stuck it through thinking that once it left my system I'd be okay. No such luck. After about 5 hours of constant pain and, shall we say, seeing my food a second time from both ends, I couldn't take it anymore. When blood became involved, it was time to call the ambulance.

I was ambulatory but we have no idea where the hospital is or which one is open at night, so the ambulance seemed like the best way to go. Of the two paramedics, one was nice and the other was rather stern. Neither one spoke a word of English (which seemed to really bother the stern guy) so Kevin did his best to translate for me. Still, no matter how fluent you are in a language, interacting in a medical setting is a whole different ballgame. Later Kevin was reprimanded by one of the paramedics, asking "if this happened at 8 or 9, why didn't you just call your regular doctor instead of waiting?" Can you imagine that in the US? Just calling up your regular doctor at 9 pm on a Saturday? Kevin's response was along the lines of "well, we're foreigners and we thought it was something bad that she ate."

I got right into the uncrowded ER and was attended to by two nurses who spoke passable English. Still, we got stuck on some of the medical terms ("what do you call it--not when you vomit but the feeling you get before you vomit?"). They drew some blood and due to my bad veins had to try each arm before they could get enough. They debated for a while on which doctor to get for me, and due to the blood they got the surgeon.

He spoke reasonable English as well. He did an abdominal ultrasound (normal) and an exam, finding nothing. I was then given an IV, which was started by the doctor--I've never had a doctor start an IV on me before, only nurses. He did a pretty good job too. I was then given some saline with some pain medicine in it while we waited for the blood tests.

Most were normal, including the test that indicates whether there is internal bleeding, so that was very good. My white blood cell count was high, indicating an intestinal infection. I wasn't particularly surprised by the diagnosis--in December 2002 I was hospitalized for an intestinal infection that was worse than this but had basically the same symptoms. I wonder why I seem prone to this? With the exception of a granola bar and some chocolate, Kevin had eaten exactly what I ate all day, with no ill effects. Very strange.

Anyway, I was given two medications and allowed to go home. The first medication, "for my stomach," turned out after internet research to be Nexium (The Purple Pill). Since I happen to have a 6 month supply of Nexium due to a pharmacy mishap, we don't need to fill that one. The second was "for pain" and research showed that to be an anti-spasmodic, muscle relaxer for the intestines. It was interesting because I was expecting regular old pain medicine but when I was given it intravenously I felt the pain lessen without making me woozy, tired, or spacy.

I'm still feeling not so great now. Nothing like last night, but still experiencing many of the same problems. I had some broth for lunch and some soup for dinner and have been able to keep both down along with water. The doctor didn't seem to want to give me antibiotics for the infection, preferring to let it pass through my system naturally. I hope it does so soon.

In the meantime, expect light blogging until I feel better.

Posted by Shelby at 06:30 PM | Comments (1)

March 13, 2004


Oh, and on the subject of ibuprofen, we only brought a small bottle with us (dumb) and we're basically out so Kevin stopped by the Apotheke to get some more. As you may recall, all medications are behind the counter and you have to ask for them to get them. Not to mention they come in miniscule packages. Kevin got one box of ibuprofen tablets, and they cost around the equivalent of $7.00 for 20 pills! We're going to have to import some of these from the USA.

Posted by Shelby at 08:35 PM

A Doggy Adventure

Thanks to ice and ibuprofen, my knee is feeling loads better. I have regained full mobility and can even do stairs (carefully). The bump on the kneecap has subsided and while it's bruised, I think I'm going to live.

Since I was feeling ambulatory, we decided to take Scout on a doggy adventure. She got her first ride on the subway (scary!), got to sniff the Hauptbanhof Nord, Hamburg's main train station, and best of all, she got to go inside a department store. We went to Karstadt to look for a few things--a cosmetics bag to replace my old one, a soap dish for my new Lush products, and some cheap towels. Karstadt has a discount section (where I spotted a really cute top and some promising looking pants--I'm going to have to check them out again) near the cosmetics section.

I think it's interesting that someone would go to a department store (basically just like Macy's) to buy deodorant and shampoo, but that's what you do in Germany. Unfortunately they didn't have the cosmetic/travel bag that I like, but I got one that will do.

Meanwhile, Scout was sniffing all over the store and enjoying her time in a forbidden place. No one gave her a second glance. I'm still nervous about taking her places even if I've seen other dogs there before because it just seems so wrong, but there was no problem.

Ever the drama queen, Scout had several instances of pulling on the leash and making choking noises like we're abusing her and dragging her around by her throat. Kevin accidentally stepped on her paw and she gave the most pathetic yelp and walked around holding the paw up, even though he hardly stepped on her. She gave up the paw thing as soon as she realized that nobody was paying attention to her. Later on the way back to the train station, I was looking right at her and Kevin stepped down directly next to her paw. She yelped again and held it up. What a faker! I saw it happen and he didn't even step on her! I swear, she could win academy awards sometimes.

Oh, we didn't find any cheap towels so I guess we're going to have to get them at Wal Mart.

That was our big adventure for the day. It was raining this morning so we cancelled the idea of going on a harbor cruise, but it was really nice out later. If the weather holds maybe we'll go tomorrow.

Posted by Shelby at 08:32 PM

What's Your Inner Flower

what's your inner flower?

[c] sugardew

Usually these quizzes get pretty close to me, and this one is not too far off, except "sunrise is your wake-up call--you just can't wait to face the day." HA! That is so far beyond me it's like another universe. Sure I've been much better since my Sleep Apnea surgery in 2001, but I've always had to be dragged out of bed and that hasn't changed. I should've been some flower that blooms only at night.

Posted by Shelby at 08:16 PM

March 12, 2004

Friday Five

Enough gloom and doom. Let's do the Friday Five:

1. What was the last song you heard?
"A Very Merry Unbirthday" from Alice in Wonderland. They were showing the movie on tv and we stopped to watch. It was the easiest thing to understand in German that I've ever seen.

2. What were the last two movies you saw?
Lost in Translation and Whale Rider. Both very good. I liked Whale Rider better though.

3. What were the last three things you purchased?
Hmmm. I don't buy very much. Let's see, various food for lunches, the textbook for my German class, and dog nail clippers. I think those were the most recent things.

4. What four things do you need to do this weekend?
1) Stop injuring myself
2) My German homework
3) Buy towels and a new travel/cosmetic bag
4) Possibly take a harbor cruise (weather permitting). Otherwise see another Hamburg sight.

5. Who are the last five people you talked to?
Interesting question. I don't get around much these days, but basically:
1) Kevin
2) The three people who helped me after I fell (although that was hardly a conversation)
3) The English speakers in my German class, Mason, Eren, Mattias, and Graham, when Mason suggested we go out after class next week and we agreed.
4) The non-English speakers in my German class, Anna and Tang, with whom I held scripted German conversations from the book.
5) Scout (actually she's right up there with Kevin).

Posted by Shelby at 10:18 PM | Comments (1)

Oh You Will NOT Believe This

I just went outside to take Scout for a short walk, and had an accident. We came across a very cute black lab puppy and Scout naturally wanted to take a sniff, so she darted across my legs. I got entangled in the leash and went down like a load of bricks. Neither one of my knees dislocated (they are very prone to that) which was really good, but otherwise, not so great. I went down hard on my left knee, connecting with the sidewalk right on the kneecap--you know, the part where there's just bone and no padding? Man oh man. I did a full body slam against the sidewalk and banged up my chin. Tears popped into my eyes and it was all I could do to not start bawling right there--and I have a pretty high tolerance for pain.

The two people walking the dog and a man getting into his car helped me up and spoke rapidly in German in a sympathetic tone. I said "I'm okay, thanks" and hobbled off, lest I burst out into tears (which would be embarrassing). Besides, Scout still had her business to do and I could hardly retreat back inside. I hobbled off dragging Scout behind me and she finally got to work and I got to go back up.

The damage? My chin has a mild abrasion, no blood and no bruise, but it stings and is sore. My knee has a slight abrasion as well (fortunately no hole in my jeans!). It has a prominent bump on the kneecap and is already swelling. It's very painful to bend and cannot hold my weight unless it's perfectly straight. I popped some more advil and am back with it elevated on the coffee table under a pack of ice.

I can't believe this has happened. The foot that hurts is my right one, with the injured knee on the left. Can you believe the luck? On a Friday too! I'd hoped to be able to get out some this weekend! Hopefully I'll be able to walk on this knee. I could just cry.

On the "good" front, however, I did get a package in the mail from my friend Tori. Thanks Tori!! She sent me a book she really enjoyed, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall. I also got the Circle Journey book I'm exchanging with Katrina, my sister-in-law. A Circle Journey is a blank book that you pass back and forth with news and pictures, etc. Kat included a darling picture of my nieces, so that was fun.

Kevin was able to find an English-speaking doctor and I have an appointment for my foot on Thursday. Unfortunately, I can add my knee into the mix now :(. Although the knee just feels like a bad bone bruise, not muscular. Well, they say that bad things happen in threes--let's hope "they" are wrong!

Update: The knee is feeling better. There's still a large, painful bump on the kneecap, but I can bear some weight on it and it bends easier now. It doesn't seem to be a serious injury.

Our luck turned tonight too. McDonald's is running a contest where they have the entries rolled up in special straws. It's a very odd way of giving away game pieces as it's really hard to get the papers out, but anyway, we had McD's tonight and we BOTH won prizes! I won an apple pie and Kevin won a hamburger. How lucky are we?

Posted by Shelby at 04:34 PM | Comments (1)

March 11, 2004

Oh My Aching Feet

On the advice of both my friend Sherri and Annastazia, I've decided to take my feet to the doctor. At first I was treating this like a regular muscle injury--you know, ice, elevation, rest, but it's just not working and it's become clear that this is not really a regular muscle injury.

Finding a doctor, however, will be a challenge. At home it would be easy. Make the mandatory appointment with the Primary Care doctor, wait 4 weeks for their first opening, have the PCP glance at your foot and write out a referral to a specialist, wait 4 weeks for their first opening, have the doctor glance at your foot again, and get a flier with exercises and a prescription for Oxy Contin. Okay, maybe not Oxy. Maybe Vicodin. Or maybe those really big ibuprofen pills.

Anyway, Germany introduces a few challenges to this otherwise easy endeavor. Lucky for me, Kevin gets to do all the grunt work. First, find a doctor who speaks English. Apparently the American Embassy has a list of English-speaking doctors and whatnot (and a rating of their English skills). Kevin found the perfect doctor for us--English speaker, rated very good, and conveniently located a few streets over, on my way to language school. After a day of calling, Kevin finally gets through only to find that Dr. Hemker is on vacation until the 26th. Figures.

In addition to finding an English speaking doctor comes the issue of paying for it. The good news is that we don't have to go through our PCP anymore and can jump right to a specialist. The bad news is that our "out of network" (read: out of the frickin' country) plan requires us to pay upfront, submit the charges to insurance, and hope for the best. How much do German doctors charge? It's anybody's guess. The bummer is that we are 99.9% likely to have to pay in cash as well. That may take some rearranging of the finances to get that kind of cash on hand.

And then there's getting an appointment. Let us all hope beyond hope that German doctors exceed American doctors in their availability. Lucky Kevin gets to spend tomorrow (and perhaps subsequent days) trying to get an appointment for me and find out all of this information.

On top of that, she doesn't know it yet, but Scout is going to have to visit the vet. We have two trips planned for April that don't include the dog, and we've found a good Hundehotel (boarding) for her, but they require one more vaccine than she got in the US. It's for something called "Swamp Fever." So she has to get one more shot. The good news is that the kennel will cut her nails for us. That's always a bonus. Poor puppy. The abuse! The agony! So Kevin has to find an English-speaking vet while he's looking for a doctor for me.

Posted by Shelby at 09:23 PM

Something to Bookmark

I have been waiting my whole life for this explanation, and here it is, with pictures! Be sure to click on How to Fold a Fitted Sheet. I'm using this tip as soon as I get back from Germany.

Posted by Shelby at 09:00 PM

Our Putzfrau

Our Putzfrau (cleaning lady--or more accurately, cleaning service) came today. As usual, this was an interesting exercise. The last two visits, the putzfrau was under the impression that only one person lived here, so she would only make up the bed for one and leave one set of towels. Both times I had to chase her down in the hallways and ask for more in apologetic Germlish. Kevin wanted to be home this time to speak with them but he had a work meeting, so he wrote out a friendly note saying that two people live here, and we would like 3 bath towels and two sets of sheets. He also included that his wife spoke little German and was worried that we wouldn't get enough towels.

Well this kind of pissed off the putzfraus so they apparently nominated the one who spoke the most English to come and talk to me about it. She explained that it was "difficult" to give extra towels and blankets and if we wanted more we had to ask the rental company(!). Hello, how hard is it to give one extra towel when they're teeny anyway. Well it seemed that she mistook our note and that we were asking for more towels on top of our allotted towel(s), however many they felt that would be.

Anyway, when she went to clean Scout and I disappeared as usual and when we came back we had a fully made bed (2 pillowcases, 2 duvets), and 2 sets of towels. I think we're just going to have to go to Wal Mart and buy some extra towels as ours are the size and quality of hotel towels. We just have to hide ours when they come next time, because the first time they came Kevin had bought a towel for me and they took off with it.

Unfortunately, they do only a very cursory cleaning job. I don't think it's just us or that they were pissed about the note, this has happened before. Basically all they do is wipe up the bathroom, make the bed, vacuum the upstairs carpet (which is quite small) and mop the floor. They don't move anything around to mop so our coffee table which is on wheels has dust bunnies collecting under it. They also didn't wipe down the stairs today (they're wood) so we have dust and dog fur there. I'd do more cleaning myself but we lack the instruments (mop, broom, etc.) and we have to pay the cleaning ladies anyway. Oh well.

On our walk, Scout and I encountered a VMD--Very Mean Dog. He was across the street and as soon as he saw Scout, as we were halfway across the street coming towards him, he started growling that turned into an aggressive bark. His owner held him tightly (good) but didn't move away or keep walking. Luckily I had Scout on a short leash from crossing the street and I kept her close to me and kept on walking, cutting through the street to land several feet away from them on the sidewalk. Despite this dog's clearly threatening bark, Scout kept pulling on the leash to get closer to him, you know, to check him out. Sometimes she's NSS--Not So Smart.

Posted by Shelby at 05:44 PM

March 10, 2004

Don't You Hate That?

Doesn't it always seem that you can never get the ice pack to stay on the one spot that needs icing? My heel pain has transformed into ankle pain. I don't know if it's because I'm walking on my foot differently because of the heel pain, or if I was too aggressive in my stretching, or both, but it hurts :(. It's also swollen today, not badly but enough to be bothersome. Advil has totally cleared up the pain while resting, and I'm icing it (or attempting to ice it) now to bring down the swelling. What a pain--literally!

As a result, nothing much to report today. I stayed in resting my foot except for a short walk with Scout--much too short for her tastes. When we approach the two steps to our outer door, Scout digs her heels in and makes choking sounds to avoid going in. As a result it looks like we're dragging her around by the throat, and more often than not, a passerby will shoot us a dirty look for our obvious dog abuse. She's such a drama queen.

Posted by Shelby at 05:43 PM

March 09, 2004

No Witty Title Here

Today I got my first negative reaction to not speaking German. Pretty good, since I've been here a month and have interacted with various shop/food service people just about every day.

I also made my first solo subway trip. I have been very nervous about doing this because I feel that the signs are just not very clear and I'm constantly worrying about walking up the wrong set of stairs and ending up on some street where I have no idea where I am. Today I decided to go to the Hauptbanhof Nord station. Hauptbanhof means the main train station for each city, but this particular Hauptbanhof has two separate stations--the main station where you can pick up real trains and the S-bahn, and a small, regular-sized U-bahn (subway) station. Kevin and I have been to this station several times so I felt pretty confident.

Well of course I picked the wrong exit and it took me a little wandering around to find the street I was looking for, but I did find it. After more wandering around, I finally found the Lush store. After selecting a new soap and a moisturizing bar, I headed to the checkout. The transaction went well (non-verbal) until she asked me a question. I didn't quite hear her and couldn't translate in time, so I gave my "I don't speak German *sheepish grin*" response (and yes, I said it in German). She gave a little Humph sound and shot me a dirty look, then whipped around a got out a bag, and I then realized that she was asking me if I wanted a bag or not. Well, humph yourself lady. How do you say in German, "Look, my purchase pays your salary." Oh well.

I also have developed a problem--foot pain. This started a couple of days ago and has become progressively worse. My right foot hurts terribly when I walk, and also when I rest, so all of the time, basically. The pain is located right in the heel and after looking it up on the web, I have diagnosed myself with plantar fasciitis. I found some stretches on the net and those have been helping. Basically it seems that the muscle over the heel tightens up and is very painful. As you walk or exercise, it stretches out and the pain lessens, but once you stop it tightens up again. I rested all day Sunday and that seemed to help, but with all of the walking I did today, now that I'm home from class it is really hurting me. Let's hope I don't have to go to the doctor about this!

And just one note about class:
Dear Mr. Impatient: Other people are talking. Shut up. If you have a question, wait until the person talking has finished before you ask it. If you have an answer, wait until it's your turn to shout it out. If you ask a question, let the teacher answer before shouting out a series of what you think the answer might be.

Posted by Shelby at 09:14 PM | Comments (3)


Sunday we had a snowy day--the first real snow we've had since I arrived. I like snow when I don't have to drive in it, and I don't have to drive here, therefore...

Kevin, Scout, and the camera went outside to capture some of the snowy goodness. Snow Pictures Here.

But you know, I still have to say, it's just not like Michigan. Granted that it's, you know, not actually Michigan I guess this isn't really a fair comparison, but when I think of snow I think of Michigan. Sunday's snow melted yesterday for the most part except for lovely little patches of ice. It's half-heartedly snowing again today. Hopefully it will stick!

Posted by Shelby at 11:43 AM | Comments (2)

March 07, 2004

Not Much

Not much to talk about the last few days. We have settled into a routine, and I've gotten used to what I once found were the oddities of Germany. I did, however, have one exciting event--I found full-sized glasses! Uh, that would be drinking glasses.

When we moved in, I was a little dismayed by our cup situation. We had wineglasses (hurray!), mugs, and drinking glasses that were short and held even less liquid than your typical hotel glass. No problem, I thought. I'll just stop by Wal Mart and get some cheapo plastic cups. Uh, not so easy. First, it appears that plastic glasses don't even exist in Germany. Even the brightly colored obviously-for-children glasses are glass. Next, it took a while to even find tall glasses. And strangely enough, they mostly come in packages of 3.

I finally found tall glasses in a package of 4 for some hugely expensive price like 1.50 Euro (a little under $2.00). When I got them home, however, I was dismayed to find that while tall, they were very skinny. In fact, I tested them out, and they hold the volume of a regular sized mug. On the other hand, there's something psychologically satisfying about drinking out of a glass of normal height.

Then Kevin dropped one. Oops. And I became determined to find some real glasses. Back at Wal Mart, I found some. Real, American-sized glasses. In a package of 3, but for the low low price of 1.50 Euro (again). I snatched these up and briefly thought about buying 6. We'll see. We had juice out of them this morning and it was very exciting.

See? That's the kind of excitement around here lately.

Posted by Shelby at 02:39 PM

March 05, 2004

Lost in Translation

We went out to the movies tonight and saw Lost in Translation (in English, with German subtitles). I liked it. I thought the first half of the movie was very, very funny, and it sure made me glad to be a clueless American in Germany rather than a clueless American in Tokoyo. But was I the only person who actually heard what he whispered in her ear? Half of it, anyway.

UPDATE: Well I had no idea that the Big Mystery of the movie is what he whispers at the end. Everyone is chattering about it on the internet and there seems to be a general consensus of what it probably is. Unfortunately, that's not what I thought I heard. Interesting...

Then we had dinner at McDonald's. I know, I know, but look--it's fast, accessible, and cheap. We don't really have any other fast food options near the apartment. Besides, McD's is rather interesting. Their menu varies a little from the U.S. Yes, there's Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets (with a new chili sauce!), but there's also fried breaded shrimp and something called "chocolate balls" which are, as best I can tell, chocolate with a potato shell, deep fried. Not to mention what we would call jalapeno poppers. McD's is also running a contest right now. Instead of putting the entry on the fry box or cup, or just handing you one, they have it rolled up inside a special paper-wrapped straw. The straws here are not usually wrapped in paper. So you get this straw and it's got this rolled up paper inside which is extremely difficult to get out. And of course, we were both losers. Then, after we stuck our straws into our Sprites, Kevin read the wrapping which says not to drink out of the straw. Too late. It functioned perfectly well. They probably just didn't want you drinking your contest entry.

Posted by Shelby at 11:10 PM | Comments (3)

Friday Five

short ones this week:

What was...

1. ...your first grade teacher's name?
Mrs. Murphey

2. ...your favorite Saturday morning cartoon?
I don't remember. I do remember disliking the cartoons where the players didn't get along, like Tom and Jerry where they were always fighting. I liked those gentle, cooperative cartoons better.

3. ...the name of your very first best friend?
April Dorsey

4. ...your favorite breakfast cereal?
Frosted Flakes. Still is. In fact, there's some in the cabinet right now.

5. ...your favorite thing to do after school?
Anything but homework. I rode my bike a lot.

Posted by Shelby at 01:28 PM | Comments (2)

March 04, 2004

Class, Day 3

Don't worry, I'm not going to give you a blow by blow of each day of class for the next 5 months. Just updates as interesting things happened.

Mr. Impatient wasn't here today, and boy the class sure was a lot more pleasant without him talking over people. Maybe we'll get lucky and he'll drop out for good.

Mr. Pronounciation finally figured out that his own pronounciation sucks and has stopped correcting people.

Mr. Speedy is less speedy now that we're not saying things like "Hello, how are you? My name is Herr Speedy." He also was corrected several times by the teacher--call it Schadenfreude, but it made me happy.

We added a new person today and he seems very nice. He jumped right in and it was clear he has had some German before.

We have a new variation on "Ich." Ich is pronounced "eesh" (that's not exactly it, the ch is actually more in the throat, but eesh is close enough). For some reason this seems to be the hardest word to pronounce. Sure, people roll "Entschuldigung" off their tongues, but can never seem to get Ich (and its companion word, "nicht"). This was true when I was taking German in the U.S. and it's true here. Just to review, it's not ick, it's not itch, and yes, it's not eek either. Why is this so hard?

Posted by Shelby at 08:10 PM | Comments (2)

March 03, 2004

German Television

So I've been watching television to try to get a feel for spoken German. It's been frustrating to not understand what's going on. For a while I was watching Der Prinz von Bel Air--the Fresh Prince of Bel Air--but I was having a very difficult time following the show. A few days ago I did some channel surfing and found Home Improvement on at 5:00. I was able to follow that much better. I don't know if it's because it's a simpler program, or if it's because I've seen it in English and am already familiar with the characters, or if they just speak more slowly, but it was easier to understand. Unfortunately it's followed by a German sitcom which is just as hard, if not harder, than Der Prinz. So channel surfing again, I found cartoons. At 5:30 it's a German cartoon, then starting at 6:00 it's Disney cartoons--Gummi Bears and Duck Tales. The cartoons are much easier to follow. They definitely speak slower and the show offers many more visual cues to follow the story. The German cartoon is easier than the two Disney ones and I suspect it's for a younger audience. Hopefully having these on will help train my ear to the cadence and patterns of spoken German.

As far as adult programming, German tv leaves a lot to be desired. There's an NBC affiliate with such bizarre programming it's amazing NBC allows their name to be used at all. The primary show on NBC is "NBC Giga," a show Kevin told me about in 2000 and one I didn't quite believe until I saw it. It is quite literally a show watching other people surf the Internet. The screen shows a computer screen and various web pages, sometimes with video or music. There's a narrator, but basically they just go from page to page. I suppose I could have understood this in the very early days of the Internet, say 10 years ago, when it was still a new phenomenon, but now? Plus the fact that Kevin saw it in 2000 means the show has been around for at least 4 years. Very strange.

The commercials are also entertaining. The big show on the channel with Der Prinz is Big Brother. But in Germany, Big Brother is a little more racy. They have infrared cameras in the bedrooms to show who is sleeping with whom, for example. I also saw my first nude commercial, at 5:00. It was a commercial for body lotion, and featured a naked woman, first the front view from the waist up, then the back view from the waist down. Even though I had been told about this kind of thing, it was still a little shocking to see it for myself. And Kevin says just wait for late night tv, where the commercials and programs are basically soft porn. It's definitely different than the US!

Posted by Shelby at 06:51 PM

March 02, 2004

Which Peanuts Character Are You?

If I can't be Snoopy, I guess I'll be...

You are Woodstock!

Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by Shelby at 08:55 PM | Comments (5)

German Class, Day 2

Tonight was day 2 of my German class and some irritating definite personalities are beginning to emerge. Here's a note to a few of them.

Dear Mr. Speedy,
You probably think it makes you sound smart or sophisticated to say everything as fast as possible, hopefully tricking people into thinking you're a native speaker. Unfortunately, no one can understand you, including the teacher. Why don't you slow down with the rest of us peons and try to speak coherently.

Dear Mr. Impatient,
Do not answer questions when it is not your turn. I'm sorry that some people in the class take longer to figure out the answers than you do, but you are not helping by rudely interjecting the answer before the person can work it through themselves. We are all here to learn and I'm sorry if we're going too slow for you, but try to be a little more courteous.
P.S. If you absolutely have to shout out your answer, make sure it's right before doing so.

Dear Mr. Pronounciation,
It is not your job to correct other people's pronounciation. Interrupting them while they are speaking is rude and inconsiderate. The teacher will supply the correct pronounciation as needed. And like Mr. Impatient, you might want to pay attention to your own incorrect pronounciation before "correcting" others.
P.S. "Ich," meaning "I" and one of the most oft-used words, is pronounced "eesh," not "itch" and certainly not "ick." Get it right before you start pointing out other's faults.

This has been a Public Service Announcement.

Posted by Shelby at 08:07 PM

Lucky Dog!

Scout had her very first restaurant experience today. I went down to the Pizza Hut and they have a window where they sell pizza by the slice. I went into the restaurant and ordered my slice and then stood at one of those stand-up tables (which are very popular in Germany) to eat. I stood on Scout's leash and she was very good, waiting patiently and not pulling. She seemed pretty amazed by being inside a human eating establishment. I was nervous that dogs weren't allowed after all and someone would say something to me, but no one did. And I've seen dogs in there before. It was fun! I have to say, Scout was better behaved than a lot of the children you see in restaurants.

Posted by Shelby at 04:41 PM


Kevin left me his keys so I can access the laundry room. Laundry is an interesting chore here. The washing machine has the capacity of a thimble, yet has about 15 different buttons and dials to set. It takes--no joke--2 hours to complete the cycles, one of which includes spinning the laundry twice as fast as the engine of my Miata. It doesn't so much clean the clothes as it beats them into submission. Still, the clothes do come out really, really clean.

And all stretched out. For some reason the washing process completely takes the shape out of each item. Our shirts are now nearly as wide as they are long. It's a good thing I don't mind baggy clothes.

There's no dryer so we have to use a drying rack, thus creating wrinkled and crunchy clothes. It also limits the amount of laundry we can do at one time. Each load basically fills up the drying rack and they don't dry in the 2 hours it takes the next ones to wash, so you end up having to drape the second load of clothes all over the house. This is the mistake I made today. Too bad because I'm the kind of person who does all of my laundry in one go.

Posted by Shelby at 03:39 PM

March 01, 2004

German Class, Day 1

Tonight was my first German class and it went well. There are 9 people in my class, 5 men and 4 women. I am the only American and there's a broad group of people--2 from England, 2 from Turkey, then China, Ghana, Argentina, and India. Our teacher is super-nice--what a relief! He's young and has the most soothing voice. He even breaks the code and speaks some English for us.

I am one of the more knowledgeable people in the class but it's clear that Beginning German is just where I belong. Tonight we only got as far as "What is your name? My name is Shelby." "Who is that? That is Shelby." and "Where do you live? I live in Hamburg." There sure is a difference between a class like this which is conversation-based and a class like the college courses you take where it's writing and grammar based. With this class we jumped right in using words without extended explanations of what they were and what the different conjugations meant. I think this style will be much more useful to me.

In other news, I got my first rejection letter from a grad school. Boy, they sure didn't waste any time with that! It wasn't one of my top choices so I'm not too broken up over it. I think it may still be a while before I hear from the rest.

Posted by Shelby at 08:42 PM