Saturday, September 27, 2008

Of Dreams and Donuts

I'm supposed to meet Jenny at a bar (to hear a rockabilly band) at 10, and I needed to do a thing in the lab at 8:30. So in the meantime I'm drinking some coffee to try and stay away past 11, and trying not to get freaked out by how dark and creepy it is alone in the lab at night. I could also do something productive, but I realize that it's been a while since I told you about my dreams, so here's the one I had last night:

I was back at GT walking from the lobby to my office. Gathered around the elevator were a bunch of current grad students speaking to each other in German. I stood there for a while listening to them and trying to figure out what they were saying, but no luck. I felt really left out. But the dream got better because when I went down the hall there were three dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. At first I thought that they were for everyone to share, but then I realized that everyone got three dozen donuts. I ate one, but the dream donut didn't taste as good as the real thing.

That's it. I think I must be at home here. For the most part my dreams now take place in Germany, and clearly Germany infiltrates even my American dreams. Probably I can take two things away from this dream. First - I like donuts. Second - I should probably do my German homework.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Rügen: Part III

This is definitely going to be the end of this story. Here goes: Kelly and I didn't want to go back to the country line dancing immediately after leaving the museum, so we decided to take the bus to the tourist town of Binz, eat dinner there, and take a nice walk back to Prora. One of the coolest things in Binz was not mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide. I also didn't take a picture of it. But along the shore was a series of sciencey sculptures. They were great - one of them involved turning a crank to make a tornado in a big plexiglass tube. The one called "The Storm" was the coolest, but it's also difficult to describe. But it did a good job of showing turbulence. Some of the statues I didn't understand - there were signs nearby, but as expected, they were in German. One of them looked like a giant raisin. I have no idea what it was supposed to demonstrate, but Kelly has a picture of me clinging to it. If she sends it to me I can post it.

Anyway, then Kelly and I sat together and stared at the water. It was romantic, but I'm not sure how she would have responded to gay chicken, so I kept my hands to myself. We ate dinner, then began the 3ish mile walk back to our campsite and the line dancing. I was really excited when I realized that the beach we were walking on was an FKK beach. I've been fascinated by this since Luise explained it to me. I took a picture to prove it.

One of the problems with walking along the beach is that it's hard to know when you've reached your destination. We couldn't tell, so every so often we'd walk up the paths leading away from the beach. At one point we started we heard voices in the woods, which was a bit creepy. So we scurried back to the beach, where a fireworks display was going on in the distance. I suggested that it might be coming from the linedancing, and Kelly didn't believe me - but now I realize that I was right. According to the flier about the festival, "Sonnabend etwa 22:00 Uhr dasFeuerwerk von Fred Feuerstein" were scheduled. But at the time it seemed impossible far away.

Eventually, we figured out where we were from the Nazi ghost buildings. The story is this: The Nazi originally planned to make Prora a major holiday destination. So they build several kilometers of these barrack-style buildings along the coast. I foolishly didn't take any pictures, but they're huge gray buildings that loom over everything. They're mostly unoccupied now, except for a few museums in the bottom floor of some of them. Apparently, the Soviets tried to blow them up and failed. So now they're just creepy, silent reminders of Germany's ugly past.

This picture, which I borrowed from the internet, was right across from the campsite.
Once we left the beach, we walked along the road with theses sinister buildings to our right for maybe 2 kilometers. I keep saying creepy. The thesaurus suggests "macabre, ghoulish, eerie, and ominous" as alternatives. This picture was in the daylight, but they're more eerie at night. Anyway, we made it back, but we were too tired to participate much in the festivities that evening.

The next morning we decided that we'd see the beach in the daylight as we walked back to Binz (before taking a train to Bergen and then on to Jena/Leipzig). The beach really is beautiful there - you can see why the Nazis chose this spot. Here are some pictures. Also, it turns out that everyone on the FKK beach was clothed. Maybe because it was too cold.

We made it back in time for our train, and Chinese food for lunch, but not much else. And, since we rode first class on the way back, we decided to have beers brought to us in our seats.

And that, my friends, is finally the end of the story.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Rügen: Part II

Okay, as promised, here's the story about the rest of the trip. I don't think that there are any other hilarious mishaps, but there is a ferry ride, a romantic walk down the beach, some lovely chalky cliffs, and a giant snail. Ready? Let's go.

So after the first night of line dancing, Kelly and I went to bed. And by bed, of course I mean sleeping bag on a cot in a tent. It was so cold. So cold. I wore my pajama pants under my cords. It wasn't comfortable, but it was warmer than a single pair of pants. Also, the bathroom was a long way away. So waking up at 5:30 and trekking over there wasn't fun. I managed to sleep for a while after that. When I woke up and saw that it was time for Früchstuck (breakfast) I was relieved.

The woman at the campsite check-in on Saturday morning did speak English, and she recommended that we take the bus to Königsstuhl to see the museum that went along with Jasmund National Park.

In order to do that we took a bus to Sassnitz, where we got distracted by the idea of a ferry ride around the island. We thought it would be a good way to see the chalky cliffs. It was. Here are your first pictures of this story.

We were hungry after the boat ride, so we got some fish at a restaurant nearby. Here's the thing: While you may know that the German word for "fish" is "Fisch," it's trickier to know what the words for specific kinds of fish are. In the end I guessed. Although I did guess that herring was probably herring, so I avoided it. It turned out well. I ended up with some sort of fish dish with tomatoes and cheese. I think it was quite good, but I was really hungry so it's hard to tell for sure.

Anyway, next we took the bus to Königsstuhl. We were actually the only ones on the bus, so it was sort of like taking a taxi. With very low fuel efficiency. We tried to go through the museum, but we got confused and gave up. We might have persevered, except that the last bus was in 2 hours and we really wanted to go down to the beach and look at the cliffs from below. However, since I did promise you a giant snail, I will say that the brochure of the museum promised a playground with a giant snail. I was determined to find said snail. When I did, I was a little disappointed. I'd say it was a largish snail, but giant might be stretching it a bit. Plus, his shell doesn't seem realistic at all.

So next we walked over to Victoria sight, which has something to do with some royal naming the view for his daughter. Sorry. I can't remember the details, but I can show you the view.

Here are some other views from the same overlook.

It really was beautiful. Next we walked down a really, really long staircase to the beach below. It was rocky, and filled with chalky stones. I took one home. It's my souvenir. Along with the hat. This is the view from below.

We walked for a while along the rocky beach, then realized that we needed to catch the last bus, and that it might take longer to walk up the staircase than down. So we headed back.

I know I promised that this post would finish the trip, but I can't justify continuing to not work. So you'll have to wait a while longer to find out about the romantic beach walk and the Nazi ghost buildings. I'm verbose. What can I say?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Rügen: Part I

I went on a little vacation to the Baltic Sea this weekend. It had been an alarmingly long time since I'd seen the ocean, and I was glad to get out of Jena for a little while. Kelly is nearing the end of her time in Leipzig, so it seemed like a good time to go to a part of Germany that I hadn't seen yet.

The trip started well enough. First, for some reasons first class tickets were cheaper for the train ride and I had always wanted to see first class. Here's the thing: not that much different. Second class is quite nice. First class is slightly nicer and I did get a complimentary pack of chocolates (Kelly didn't, she got on the train later) and I ordered a coffee from my seat. I think you may also have computer access, but I wasn't planning on working.

The trip was sort of long, and it was dark by the time we arrived. I printed out a map from the train station to the hostel and we made it easily. The man at the front desk didn't speak English, but we were doing okay. We pay at breakfast. Breakfast lasts unitil 9:30. Great. But where is the room? We asked. The man replied "Das ist kein hotel." What? Not a hotel? Kelly eventually figured out that he was saying the word for tent. Oh. It turns out that it was a campsite. Fortunately, the man gave us flashlights, sleeping bags, and a cots. The tent was sort of a permanent structure. Here, it looked like this:

Walking to the tent we had also realized that there was absolutely nothing around, and we would have been concerned about what we would do that evening, except that we got good news from the guy who checked us in. On the very same campground a country music line dancing festival was being held. And if you were staying on the campground, you got in free.

Before I describe it any further, there's a video you all need to see.

You might think this was taken at a country bar somewhere in the U.S., but I promise you - this is Germany. These are Germans (who don't speak English, I might add) dancing to country songs. They were wearing cowboy hats. They had American and Confederate flags hung on the wall. I was amazed. Here are some more pictures.

Clearly, in this situation there's only one thing to do. Buy a cowboy hat and try to fit in. So that's what we did. Here's us immediately before making an attempt at line dancing, and a couple of hours before returning to the tent to shiver in our sleeping bags all night.

That it's for today, folks. You'll have to wait a while to find out about how the rest of the weekend was.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Guess what came in the mail this morning?

It's so cold here. I think the high today is something like 12. I mean, that's in Celsius, but it still seems so cold when I ride my bike to work. Which reminds me...I need to invest in some wind resistant gloves.

It doesn't look so bad, but it really, really is. Maybe the wind, or the fact that it's SEPTEMBER, but I'm having a hard time already.

So I needed to do something to cheer myself up. Actually, I did this a while ago, but it took a while to come. So this morning, I walked to the post office to pick up a little present for myself...

Anyway, Jenny wanted to watch it with me, but we can't start tonight or tomorrow because she's busy, and I'm going out of town this weekend. Looks like it'll have to be next week.

Also, just as an aside - what's with you people who voted for a president that you can drink a beer with? Who is that? Are the Germans voting for that? Because you know that was the rationale behind electing G.W. Bush. Also, I don't think I have 17 readers (and I know for sure that at least one of you voted more than once), so I suspect it's possible that one person could have voted for the BEER multiple times. I'm thinking about a new poll. If anyone has ideas you can let me know.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Poltics and Morality

This election is killing me. I'm so wrapped up in it - I can't quite manage to step back. I thought that I'd try to write about something else, but since my legwarmers aren't finished yet and I don't really have anything to say about my life (went to a bar with some prospective grad students, going to see Mamma Mia tonight, started watching season 2 of Star Trek: TNG) you're getting more of the same. Anyway, I was looking at the NY Times most e-mailed list and they're still all about Sarah Palin.

I was looking for someone still capable of talking calmly and reasonably about the subject (ruling out Maureen Dowd) and I found Judith Warner's most recent column. She had attended a McCain/Palin rally recently and speaking to the people in attendance she realized that they're thoughtful, reasonable people who are tired of the condescension and scorn of liberal Democrats.

It's strange - I'm also tired of the condescension and scorn of liberal Democrats. Strange, because I am a liberal Democrat. Perhaps because I grew up in a state where liberals are a small minority and then I went to college at a school where liberals were a very small minority I like to think that I can see conservative Republicans and people rather than ignorant yokels. And when I'm at a party surrounded by people mocking the values of faith and family and the people who hold them, I can only think "hey - those are my values. And my people!" No wonder you're not getting Republican votes. I don't even really like you right now.

Judith Warmer points out an essay by Jonathan Haidt, "What Makes People Vote Republican" in which he points out some of the moral differences between Democrats and Republicans. He claims that morality can be described in terms of 5 characteristics: harm/care, fairness/reciprocity foundations, ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. While Republicans value these things more or less equally, Democrats primarily value the first two - the idea of harm/care and fairness/reciprocity.

You can test your own moral beliefs at the website I thought it was pretty interesting. Like most Democrats I value harm/care and fairness/reciprocity highly. However, I'm somewhat closer to Republicans in the value I place on purity/sanctity.

Haidt claims that Democrats think that working-class people have been duped into voting for Republicans, when in reality people honestly prefer the Republican moral order that the Democratic party is lacking. Somehow

"...the Republicans have become the party of the sacred, appropriating not just the issues of God, faith, and religion, but also the sacred symbols of the nation such as the Flag and the military. The Democrats, in the process, have become the party of the profane—of secular life and material interests. Democrats often seem to think of voters as consumers; they rely on polls to choose a set of policy positions that will convince 51% of the electorate to buy."

He suggests that when we, as liberals, sit around polishing our halos and claiming to have the moral high ground we aren't thinking about the full complexity of morality. We might, he says, start thinking about how our values can be tied to ideas of loyalty and sanctity.

I found his essay both frustrating and compelling. Compelling for the reasons I mentioned earlier. Frustrating because there are many things about conservative ideology I find to be fundamentally immoral - denying equal rights to gays and women, for example.

But even though he doesn't talk about it I think that one of the reasons for Obama popularity is that his message seems to acknowledge at least the importance of unity/loyalty, and maybe even sanctity. Somehow, I guess, Democrats in general and Obama in particular, must present some sort of coherent moral order that doesn't sacrifice the fundamental values of social justice and diversity.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Road Trip Songs

Somehow I keep thinking of the roadtrip lists. So I've decided to do a few of my own. Some of them are ridiculously obvious, but I'm open to suggestions.

Songs for striking out:

On the Road Again - Willie Nelson
Colorado Woman - Caroline Herring
Route 66 - Chuck Berry
King of the Road - Roger Miller
Get out the Map - The Indigo Girls

Songs for coming home:

I've Got a Name - Jim Croce
Heaven When We're Home - The Wailin' Jennys
Early Mornin' Rain - Peter, Paul & Mary
Childhood Memories - Iris DeMent
Wagon Wheel - Old Crow Medicine Show

Songs of Longing/Searching:

Teenage Feeling - Neko Case
Not California - Hem
Long Way - Antje Duvekot
So Desperate - The Mountain Goats
Frozen Bed - Sonia Leigh

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bad News/Good News

Originally this post was just going to be about bad news, but I've decided to be more optimistic and also point out the silver lining for the bad news.

Okay, item number 1
Bad News: GT has figured out that I'm no longer a student, and has revoked my journal access privileges.
Good News: I have the password to UGA journals, and theoretically Mom should be able to keep my updated as it changes.

Number 2
Bad News: Bitch Ph.D. has posted a story about how, during the time when Sarah Palin was major of Wasilla, rape victims were charged for collecting evidence. I have no idea whether Palin actually knew about this, but I don't think it's an excuse. Conservative feminist. This is the sort of thing that causes me to have trouble with that term.
Good News: This table suggests that it's not going to be an issue (please, please, please). Many, many more Democrats have registered to vote in recent months than Republicans. I have a feeling this election is going to turn out to be about voter turn out. And hey, here's another piece of good news: I faxed over my application for an absentee ballot yesterday. I'll call tomorrow and see if they got it.

Number 3
Bad News: I wore a long sleeve shirt and a fleecy jacket on my bike ride to work this morning, and I was still cold.
Good News: There's a movie playing in English at the theater tonight. "Factory Girl" or something. I have no idea what it's about, but did I mention that it's in English?

Number 4
Bad News: On Thursday, the autoclave broke for the 435th time since I've been here.
Good News: It was fixed yesterday afternoon and it's still under warranty.

And now, for one bonus good thing (it's not so much news - I think it fits better into the "things that make me smile" catagory). Has anyone been listening to the NPR roadtrip series? I didn't hear it when it played on the radio, but I've been enjoyed going through and listening to some of the lists. Plus, it's kind of a fun concept. Five roadtrip songs with some specific theme. Anyone got ideas?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Things that make me smile

1) Sunny days. You may recognize this picture comes from the same day at the nearly naked man in the park. But today it's a little cold and it makes me worry that this was the last one.

2) Knitting. I taught Kristina how to make cables, and she's displaying her first attempt proudly.

Also I finished one leg warmer. Then I kind of lost interest.

3) John Stewart. Oh, the Daily Show. You're so funny - and you allow me to watch your show even though I don't live in the U.S.

This made me laugh. You thought I was gonna stay away from the presidential election? Tell me what you think. Also, there's one about how the RNC is a gathering for closeted gay sex.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Welcome to Germany

Two serious posts in a row, and I thought it might be time for something a little lighter. So here you have it: FKK at it's finest. You all want to visit me now, knowing this is the sort of thing that you'll see in the park. Thank you Matt. You make and excellent Vanna.

As good as the picture is, it was even better in real life.