Sunday, August 30, 2009

Butterfly in the Sky

I heard on NPR that Friday was the last day of Reading Rainbow. Apparently, there's a shift in focus away from teaching the love of reading and towards teaching the how of reading. It was on for 26 years - starting in 1983. Anyway, I thought I'd take the time to thank PBS and LeVar Burton for making this show. I suppose that today's kids have other TV shows, but allow me a moment of nostalgia here.

Also, Reading Rainbow had a kick ass theme song. But you don't have to take my word for it:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I'm pretty sure that living in Germany is making my English worse. Partially because I sometimes find myself saying the British word for things (e.g. "I'm tired. I think I'll take the lift to my flat to get my jumper.") but also because Charles (other people too, but mostly him) is trying to deliberately sabotage my beautiful language.

It started out with adding "ish" to the ends of words. As in "this cake is awesomeish." But since then it's deteriorated. Some classic Charles terms include "hotnicity" (i.e.. the charachteristic of being hot) which is closely related to "hotitutde" and the verb "to hotify" (i.e., to heat). My personal favorite was the German/English hybrid word "genauicity" which, I think, means something like "truth."

Anyway, I found this comic this morning that makes me think of Charelian English.

Although he might have actually said "dangerousish" or "exhibits dangerocity."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

One Embarassing Thing About Europe

I get that the prevailing opinion in Europe is different, but let me share the thoughts of almost all Americans.

Sorry, if anyone (and you know who you are) is offended by this. I saw this graph today and I couldn't resist pointing it out.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Stop Embarassing Me, America!

Astrid came into my lab just a few days ago to ask about the health care debate in the U.S. I believe her question was something like "Is that how you discuss things in your country?"

Yes, sadly. Whenever it's important and we feel strongly about something the conversation degenerates into accusations of "Death Panels." Jenny and I have been ranting to the Europeans about how ridiculous the situation has gotten.

I think that almost all people can agree on certain things:

1. Our current system is not working.
2. Health insurance ought the be available for everyone and reasonably affordable.
3. No one should kill anyone else's grandmother.

As you may know, I'm now living in (socialist?) Germany and the health insurance system seems to work reasonably well. Here are some things I've noticed.

1. People are not afraid of loosing their insurance coverage.
2. People go to the doctor a lot, and seem to be able to choose a doctor.
3. German grandmothers are not subject to death panels.
4. People don't have to wait in line to buy bread.

Now, if we could all talk about this rationally. No one is going to turn the U.S. into Russia. I've started a campaign (by which I mean I e-mailed a link to Jenny) to get people to e-mail Obama. Here's the link. I found it satisfying. I'm considering e-mailing him just to say how my day was.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Misogyny = Violence Against Women = Bad

This isn't a real post, since I'm not going to take the time to construct even a half-assed argument about it, but take a look at this if you have time.

I agree with Bob Herbert in this piece, of course, but it amazes me and sort of infuriates me that an op-ed article can say things like

We would become much more sane, much healthier, as a society if we could bring ourselves to acknowledge that misogyny is a serious and pervasive problem...

Really? I'm shocked! And misogyny leads to violence against women? Shocked again! How is it possible that we don't already know this? I'm glad that Bob Herbert wrote this article, I guess, but why are issues so critical to the fabric of our society dealt with and then dismissed in a cursory one page editorial?

Damn you, Michael Pollan!

It looks like I'm not doing better at posting in August than I did in July. Sorry people - by which I mean sorry Katy and Mom. Maybe I really should start twittering, since most of my observations that I think I'd like to share with you aren't really worthy of a whole blog post. For example, last week we had and International German Teacher conference in Jena, so the town was full of people from all over the world speaking German. It made me a bit worried, because I'm pretty sure the the people I spoke to over the week thought I was a really bad German teacher. But I thought that explaining "No, I live here, it's just that I speak very badly" wasn't better so I let it go.

This particular post, however, did have a point. It's Michael Pollan. I can't decide how I fell about him. He had a lengthy article in the NY Times magazine recently. Basically, the idea was that Americans don't cook anymore, instead we watch competitive cooking shows on TV (i.e., Iron Chef America). He was also interviewed on Fresh Air about it.

Americans don't cook, we don't eat real food, we don't eat good food, we're controlled by giant food corporations. It isn't that I don't agree, it's just that it makes me feel so tired to think about it. Actually, I listened to the Fresh Air interview, went home, and ate Uncle Ben's 2 minute rice for dinner.

That's the whole problem, of course. I got home at 8. I was tired, and the thought of spending at least half an hour cooking something seemed overwhelming. So I ate my bowl of rice while reading, although I had the TV been in English I might have watched a cooking show instead. On some level, I understand that we have time to do the things that we make a priority. As an aside - it drives me crazy when people tell me that they don't have time to read. Mostly because the implication is that they're busier than me. You could read, but instead you choose to work/watch T.V./play soccer/play video games/etc. We do the things that are important.

The same can be said for me and cooking. I like food, but I don't enjoy preparing it. I don't hate it, like say, I hate cleaning the bathroom or something, but I rarely want to do it. So it becomes just another thing that I should do: I should get more exercise, I should do my German homework, I should be a more informed consumer, I should clean my apartment, I should take more care to select and prepare locally grown organic food. But that list makes me exhausted.

Which, I guess, is how the giant food conglomerates get me. I'm not willing to put up a fight and so I'm generally willing to eat the food-like products marketed to me. Because honestly, they're cheap and easy and taste okay. And so I watch Michelle Obama plant her vegetable garden and think I should, I should, I should. But I don't.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I need vacations like Hobbits need breakfasts

It's official. I'm going to Greece in September. I'm trying to sort of be European about these things (I deserve 30 days of vacation per year!) and not feel bad that I already went to the U.S. this summer. Also, I'm pretty sure that Greece will be awesome. And, sadly, Jena starts to get cold around the end of September so it's an excellent time for a second vacation.

The plan for this trip was hatched by my friend Ko (the one I went to see in Göttingen a while back). Ko has been concerned about how and when he might be introduced to my blog reading public and suggested that this might be a good place to mention him. I had other ideas, but he vetoed them. Probably just as well. Anyway, Ko has wanted to see Greece, and I really enjoyed the setting of "Mamma Mia" so it seemed like a good idea to me. I think it looks sort of like this:

Plus, I keep thinking that I should travel as much as possible while I'm in Europe. If I don't like Ko after spending ten consecutive days with him, then probably it wasn't meant to be. Although it'd be best to keep that to myself until the end of the trip, since Ko's the one who has been listening to Greek tapes. I just plan to speak English loudly. People appreciate that, I've noticed.

I'm sure I'll be posting more about this in the future. And I definitely need to get a camera sometime soon (I've gone through two since I moved here - I think it's me) so I can document things for all of you. In the meantime, I've been learning about Greece from the CIA world factbook. It's pretty useful, like wikipedia but more reliable. For example, did you know that Greece is slightly smaller than Alabama? Or that it imports 527,200 billion barrels of oil per day (compared to the 13,710,000 billion barrels imported into the U.S. each day)?

Perhaps I'll come up with some exciting Greek poll to put over there on the side. In the meantime, I'm gonna work really hard. Except that it's sunny outside.... I hear it calling me....