Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything

Nothing like a little pressure, Snookie. It’s alright I can handle it. But maybe someone out there in the Interwebs has an idea for me.
Later this month I will take part in the annual Berlin Fotomarathon. The official website describes it as “one city, 12 hours, 24 themes”. Fotomarathoners hold their camera in one hand and a list of pre-determined themes in the other. They must then take 24 images (in order) according to the themes requested, all within 12 hours. Last year I met up with No Apathy Allowed and That Queer Expatriate at the start line, and it seems that they were both just as exhausted as me at the end.

So actually all of that 24 in 12 stuff is actually hard enough (seriously, go read the blog posts of Mandi and Adam above), but I’ve received a bit more stress on the side without really meaning to. 

Each participant gets a number which they then pin on themselves very much like you see on running marathon participants. This number is generally assigned to them in the order in which they register. The first image which each photographer must take is their marathon number. The idea is to use your number in some kind of creative way, while allowing for confirmation that these images really are from this person. 

Last year I had not properly understood this stipulation and had not prepared for it. My eventual solution was so embarrassing that I will not be including it here. (no, the one you see to the right was not my solution – in retrospect it might have been better) This year I have no excuse. Worse yet, I think that my job will be even harder. 

You see, my Fotomarathon number is 42. Not tongue-in-cheek 69 or even 77. No I didn’t get some nice round number such as 100, even an 88 or a 43 would have had fewer expectations…

No, I have to get the number 42, which is, according to the Douglas Adams book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the number from which all meaning can be derived, it is quite simply “the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything”. Now I need to come up with a creative and interesting way to showcase my start number. Um, yeah. No pressure there. 

Perhaps someone out there would have some idea of how to present the quite famous number 42? Any ideas? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? I’m desperate here!
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The End of an Era

In the past few days I had the chance to see the final Harry Potter movie… in 3D, no less.

The word bittersweet comes to mind when I think of the end in a series which I really enjoyed watching.

I hated Snape, wished I’d had a leader like Dumbledore, wanted Ron to be good at Quidditch, understood Hermione, and knew that no matter what, Harry would do the right thing for the right reasons.

Being a wizard (or witch in my case) would have been sooo convenient. There have been times in my life where I wish I could use the “Reparo” spell. Of course “Accio TV Remote” would have been cool, or there are so many times I could have used the “Point Spell” which would make a wand into a compass. These spells even worked their way into my everyday conversation. I remember once telling a friend to stop being mean or I would “… get all Avada Kedavra on their ass”.

Not bad for a franchise that in the beginning I had poo poo’d.

When I first heard about Harry Potter it was the as “The Philosopher’s Stone” came out. I worked in morning radio at an “adult contemporary” station (read women/moms 25-45). It was our job to know the pulse of our listener, and these ladies were talking about a movie their kids had been begging to see. A British flick about some teenager who goes to a school to learn magic.

OK, so how do we “own this” as the jock used to say? Well, we could have a look-alike contest on the opening night. Sure. Who’s going to judge it? Um… none of us, we had NO idea what it was even about, let alone what the kid looked like. So we coupled with a local movie theater to give us a party room before the film, found a mom who seemed to know what she was talking about to judge the thing, got the theater to provide a prize package which we sweetened with some other stuff we had lying around. Alright, that’s settled… now who should go? Crickets.

Let’s send Snooker! Yes ladies and gentlemen, our high-priced talent would not be caught dead darkening such a scene… so they sent the producer who had actually put all the other stuff together, so surely she would be the best choice, right? Yeah, my job was pretty glamorous, haha.

The night of the movie premiere the place was swarming with kids. Out of all of them, there were about 20 who had been creative enough to enter the contest. Some had recycled Halloween vampire costumes and wore a scarf in what I later learned to be Gryffindor-colored stripes. Others had gone all out and found round glasses.

One kid – the winner it turned out – had actually used makeup to make a lightning-shaped scar on this forehead. It didn’t matter that he was blond, the judge-mom said that was the best idea, so he was the winner. (I really wish that I still had the pictures I took at these events) The rest of the kids ended up getting tickets and a free popcorn from the theater, they all received radio station bumper stickers… ’cause EVERY kid NEEDS a bumper sticker, you know.

No, sadly I didn’t watch the movie that night. I headed home after a super long day of work (morning radio starts before people wake up… ahem… dark thirty, so to speak). I came to regret that decision.

When the second movie came out, I allowed my curiosity to get the best of me and did a Dollar Theater visit. This was the Chamber of Secrets, and not a bad movie at all. OK, I said, I will catch up on the first one, and watch the others as they come out, which I did faithfully.

Once I made it to Germany in 2005 I found myself with lots of time on my hands which lead me to perusing my new wife’s book shelf. She had purchased the first Harry Potter and gotten partway through it before coming to the conclusion that she doesn’t really enjoy fantasy, and it had been gathering dust on the shelf ever since. I poured through it and hungered for more (like so many others before me). Not having much extra money, and seeing the waiting list after doing some research at the only English library in town, I realized that my options were limited.

I downloaded the 2nd book, yes illegally… no, I don’t think JK Rowling will be hurt by it. Pre-Kindle days, books could be read on an Palm device, and I had a nice one. I had been reading Gutenberg-downloaded classics for a while, so it made sense to try. Google search brought me to a few places where I could download all HP books to date as .pdf and view them on my Palm, so that is what I did. One after the other, I read them. Carrying around my Palm and pulling it out whenever I had an extra three minutes… waiting for a train, standing in line, waiting for a movie to start, anywhere, anytime. I even read in bed, the backlight feature allowing me to read all night long if I wanted to, if my nose was cold I read under the covers… just like Harry. Well, I didn’t have the cool wand and the “Lumos” spell, but it was a close second.

Of course these .pdf’s were usually simply re-typed by some person with more time on their hands than typing talent, so there were errors, but that didn’t matter to me. Then there was the time I started reading “The Order of the Phoenix” and quickly realized that the writing quality was nothing like the magic of J.K. Rowling. It turned out to be a work of fan fiction, written by someone with a love of Harry coupled with a creative mind. I eventually read it all because it was rather interesting. Harry developed a love of jogging, really got back at Dudley Dursley in an evil way, and eventually got into Hermine’s pants. Whew… that was a wild ride, let me tell you!

Waiting for the last book was the hardest. A friend and I queued at the bookstore for the midnight release. I read the entire book in one weekend, laughed, cried, yelled in frustration, and generally had a lovely time. Poor Sweet No just kind of drifted in and out of my life that weekend, making fun of me as she passed the vacuum cleaner under my feet.

Not to introduce any spoilers, let’s just say that the movies were great but the books were still better. Character development was fantastic and the stories felt so believable. J.K. Rowling is rolling in money, and I am happy for her.

I really WANT to find out that there REALLY IS a Hogwart’s or something like it, even if I wasn’t invited. Am I alone? What about visiting the Harry Potter Theme Park in Orlando? Would you spend your hard-earned money to visit the studio where much of the film series was made?

And what of JK Rowling? There is a 19 year gap to fill, as well as the possibility to write about what happens to the kids of the magical trio. Would she, could she, SHOULD she write more about the adventures of Harry Potter?

Bittersweet indeed. But our ride on the Hogwart’s Express has been enjoyable.

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I Got It!! I Got It…

Yup, another ride on the Random Tuesday Trolly. Keely the Un Mom has inspired me, maybe she can do the same to you. Oh, and her site got a redesign and even moved. Hmmm. That reminds me, I’m a bit tired of this blog’s look and feel. Maybe I should give it a re-work… … hmm… sounds like work. Maybe I won’t worry about that right now and get down to the bullets.

  • I have a nagging fear that everyone is out to make me paranoid.
  • Over the weekend I watched 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later back to back directly before going to bed… the zombies chased me all through my dreams. Oh, and let me just say… if the blood FROM the zombie is going to turn YOU into a zombie… then maybe the killing method should not be a knife. I’m thinking that is WAY too close contact. Perhaps a gun… or machine gun.
  • It’s getting just a bit nippy to be riding to work on Mimi the scooter. Come on! It’s just late August! I’m not ready for summer to be over yet!

Movies, movies… what to see? Some friends and I were planning to go see the new Angelina Jolie flick tonight, Salt. But we keep hearing that it is crap. Now we’re considering Stallone’s “The Expendables“, about which reviewers have also thrown around the crap word. Something tells me that it will be a choice between bad action flick with vagina or bad action flick with testosterone.

Heck, Cats & Dogs and the A Team are playing tooo… maybe we’ll be so drunk by the time the movie starts, we just won’t care what we’re watching.

(Imagine Snooker dancing around the office on Monday morning… singing to the tune of “You Did It” from My Fair Lady) Monday morning I got it! I got it! I got it! I asked Sweet No to get it! She said that she would do it, and indeed she did. I thought that it would be top heavy, but it isn’t, and now I must admit, that it’s really cool. WHAT IS IT you might ask? A coffee mug that looks very much like a Nikon camera lens. It’s the little things.

Sweet No suffered all weekend with a bad bout of lumbago. I’d heard the word before, but had no idea what it was other than the lum- prefix which I think means back or lower back or something. She leaned over a desk at work for a few minutes and suddenly stood up
causing a nasty back pull. The German doctor mentioned the feared word, “Hexenschuss”. It sounds a little sinister even if you don’t know the translation. But literally it means “shot by a witch”. Fun, eh? Love those Germans and their descriptive terms. She’s doing OK now… Who am I fooling? She’s as fit as a fiddle to begin with… 25 sit ups every morning, 25 push ups every evening, jogging 2-3 times a week. She’s already back to 75%. I, however, would STILL be lying down at the doctor’s office begging for a pain shot.

OK, that’s enough of my babbling.

> Update… we went to see “The Expendables”… um, OK… but I could have lived without it. One of the girls said that she felt she was watching a video game that she wasn’t allowed to join in and play. 
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Random Tuesday – No name version

Whoo hooo… It’s been a LOOONNNNNGGG time since I’ve been on the Random Tuesday Bandwagon. I’ve missed the ladies, and thought I would take a circle with them today and catch up on what kind of craziness Keely is up to… so, let’s go!

No and I bought a new blender/mixer thing after the Tchibo POS finally gave out. It has this weird glowy/blue/hologram thingy that kinda freaks me out when I walk into the kitchen. Nothing says “I’m home” like a making frozen margaritas (come on, you didn’t think we were going to make healthy smoothies or something) in a machine which looks as though it came directly off the set of Star Trek.

Last Friday the image you see to the left opened in a little Berlin gallery named Cozmic Photos.

It’s not my best work, but since it was an assignment (Reflections) and I HATE assignments, I don’t think it’s too bad. Click through to get more of the story.

Summer has made it to Berlin. The last few days were crazy hot. All of this in a place with very few air-conditioned buildings. Unfortunately this has brought back sooo many of my gripes with some of the Germans (thankfully a minority) and how they handle heat.

First off… um, there is this thing called soap… when used with water over your body it can help get rid of the severe STANK the rest of us around are getting from SOME Berliners. I’ve been taking upwards of three showers a day, I would hope that the dude I ran into last night on the underground was on his way home to one… WHEW!

My Dear Krauts. Air will not hurt you. I don’t mean super-chilled, flying out of the air conditioner air… I’m talking about opening a freaking window and allowing the BREEZE into the room/car/train/whatever. If it is hot enough to cause perspiration while simply sitting, hey… it is hot enough to OPEN a window. No, it doesn’t hurt your kidneys (where did that come from?) No, your back will not seize up. No, the dry mouth and sore throat you have didn’t come from the FAN, it came from mild dehydration because you’re sitting in a room that is 35 DEGREES!! (Celsius – 95F)

Football Fever has the Jerrys at a fevered pitch. The German National Team have been solidly beating all comers (except for Serbia – funny, that) the whole way through the World Cup. Next up is Spain on Wednesday which I’m sure will be a real knuckle-biter. We hope to watch it from the Berliner FanMeile with 350,000 of our good friends. (well, at least we’ll be in the area… we’ll get into the VIP area to enjoy the game a bit more safely.)

Bad news. My beloved Beelitz-Heilstätten is being closed by its owner. It is my favorite place in the world to take pictures. Some of you clicked through to those links and wonder why a place that looks like it is already falling down – is closing down. Well, the owner says that he will no longer abide the trespassers (like me) who love the place soooo very much. It seems that not all of us come with the idea of “Take only pictures, leave only footprints, kill only time”. The vandalism is getting out of hand, and I don’t blame the guy for trying to secure his property. But dammit, I want to be able to go play.

Speaking of playing. This time next week No and I will be playing in Paris, helping the French celebrate La Fête Nationale. Yes, I expect to see plenty of French flags and fireworks, eat lots of food smothered in butter, and finally taste a REAL French Baguette. Oh, and take THOUSANDS of pictures. OOOHHH! Check out this little gizmo showing Paris!!! One of my Frenchie buddies gave me the link while giving me clues of where we simply MUST GO while in La Ville-Lumière.

Thanks for playing Random Tuesday Thoughts, head on over to Keely at the UnMom for more randomness.

Now for a cool video.
World-renowned animated graffiti artist BLU returns following a ten-month hiatus with a stunning new production called “BIG BANG BIG BOOM: an unscientific point of view on the beginning and evolution of life … and how it could probably end.”
BIG BAG BIG BOOM – the new wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.
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World Cup Fever

Well, I can finally admit it. I’m a changed person. The move to Germany has made me a “soccer” fan. Yes, Fußball has me. Friday night as the UK goalie scored a goal for the USA I giggled madly. Sunday night as the German National Team whooped ass on Australia (come on, would you expect any less?) I had a shit-eating grin on my face. Yes, I’m hooked.

The picture above was from a little gathering Sweet No and I had on the occasion of Germany’s first match game. Look closely at the colors of the food. Black Red Gold! The colors of the German flag. Yes we went crazy! Blue berries and Buletten (basically a meatball) were representing black (well, they really WEREN’T black… in fact, I got some comments that they were lovely), strawberries and bell peppers were red, and apricots, pineapple and more peppers represented the gold/yellow.

Not really pictured, we had Kostritzer schwarzbier in the line of drinks back there, then red Bionade and Gold Becks beer… how cute is that?

The sauces? Jack Daniel’s BBQ sauce (actually purchased here) “kinda black”, ketchup “duh, red”, and a mix of curry sauce and Bautzner mustard, “yellow baby”.

Maybe a little bit overboard, but fun none the less.

Also fun was this morning’s breakfast. Yes, you’re seeing that right, the bread (in this case a bagel) has been scored in such a way before baking/cooking so as to pop up with what looks like a soccer ball. Add to that the German flag and hey, you have a gen-u-ine “Fanartikel“.

While I’m on the subject of the Cup, let me just say… ENOUGH WITH THE VUVUZELA’S!!! I get it, South Africa loves the horn, they use it for every game. Who knew that a silly plastic horn could be so distracting? Maybe because we didn’t think about THOUSANDS of them all playing together sounding like an angry bee swarm.

All I can say is that I’m INCREDIBLY happy that I’m not actually trying to see (and hear) the game from the stadium. Can you imagine paying a fortune to get to SA, mortgaging your house to buy tickets to watch it live, and then not being able to hear what the hell is going on? Let’s just hope the phenomenon doesn’t catch on in the rest of the world.

Oh yeah, before I forget, CSD (Christopher Street Day – Berlin’s Gay Pride Parade) will be this Saturday. Come out and celebrate!

Been reading:

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Random Tuesday – Cool Weekend Edition

Hey There! Thanks for dropping in. It’s another Random Tuesday Thoughts complete with semi-scary graphic. If you want to know what that thing is all about… head on over to Keely the UnMom, she started it all. Ham? HAM? Dinosaur head? Pink star? Oh, and WHAT is that grey blob on the left side?

Let’s take a ride on the bullet point express, shall we?

  • I learned a few things in Kansas folks, never dally while passing a semi truck hauling pigs or especially cattle. Perhaps you can imagine what might happen. Those holes on the sides do more than let fresh air in and teh stank out.
  • You should always live to the east of your work. This way as you drive into the office, the sun is at your back… same with coming home. Much more convenient this way, don’t you think?
  • This past weekend was a lovely one for me. Jul (of This non-American life) and hubby popped into Berlin for some museum hopping and general sucking up of the Berliner vibe. Although I’ve been reading her blog for years, meeting her in person was still a surprise. She is very much as I would have assumed, but still there are many aspects I would never have dreamed of – leading to pleasant surprise after pleasant surprise.
  • This weekend we also got the keys to our new apartment! Tee hee hee… Let the work begin! Gosh, I could write an entire blog series on what it is like to change apartments in Germany. Let’s just say that it is not so easy.
  • OK… and to top off THAT wonderful news… I finally got my dream camera!!!! The Nikon D90 has been calling to me since it came out, complete with video capabilities and live action view. Tee hee hee!
  • Sweet No and I are headed to Munich this weekend for We-Bum 2009, which is a yearly get together of expatriate bloggers. Interested in attending? It’s never too late to join. Drop a line in the comments and let’s talk! Watch out Munich, lots of crazy folks are on their way… and I’m not talking about Oktoberfest!
  • My Parents-in-Law are great. They love our cat Frank so much that in order for him to be more comfortable while we are gone, they have offered to move into our apartment (amongst the boxes – I don’t envy them) during the weekend. Sweet, eh? I wonder if I could ask them to box up the kitchen while they’re there? Too much? OK, I won’t do it. No, I won’t… ahem… NO.
  • Our hotel in Munich has Wi-Fi… but it costs 8EUR an hour. WHEN are hotels going to realize that this is a MAJOR selling point for geeks and just give it to us for free? If I had gotten up off my ass and booked sooner, I would have had my first choice in hotels which had FREE Wi-Fi. But ahem, alas… I didn’t get a round tuit until this last weekend. We had airline tix months ago, but only because that part fell under Sweet No’s job description.
  • The teachers union in Kent, WA are on strike. I was a Kentridge Charger for all of about four months in 1984. Seeing this in the news reminds me of my culture shock at this school. I was side by side with Asians and Philipinos for the first time in my life. They had a school-sanctioned smoking area, and covered walking paths between buildings. This is the school where I was first “outed” as a lesbian. Until I moved to the Midwest about two months later (unrelated) I was pointed and laughed at by the students and teachers alike. Nice school, eh? It was a different world. Today I would probably have more friends just because it is now so COOL to be a lesbian. (sarcasm intact)

Been reading:
Taxpayer Funded Religious Bias – Father Geoff is at it again, explaining the truths of the bias of the church and how they get away with being bullies while using your tax dollars.

Been surfing:
Following The Trail Of Toxic E-Waste – 60 Minutes is still doing hard-hitting, in your face news reporting I see. But I guess it is better if they do that OUT of the country. Nonetheless the story has me thinking about how many computer monitors I’ve been through in the past 10 years. Yes, feeling guilty now.

Alright ladies and gentlemen, that’s enough for today. Thanks for reading my rambling.

OK, and because I just think it is sooo cute…
I offer you the Durex Bunnies.
Quite possibly NSFW. Oh, and you should have sound.