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.”

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=13085676&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1
BIG BAG BIG BOOM – the new wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.
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Dear Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport

Dear Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport,

My recent overnight stay in your older but generally uninteresting Terminal 2 due to a canceled red eye flight was not really the highlight of my trip, but it did certainly put an unusual cap on what had turned out to be a rather unpredictable excursion overseas.

Being part of a group of people who have just had their lives changed by those silly words, “Flight Canceled” is not always a nice experience, but at Sky Harbor, at least it wasn’t sooo horrific. It must be said that at least the place is kept clean. Since I was not allowed to stay in the gate area, I was witness to the cleaning crews as they waged war on dust particles all along the “lobby”. As I loitered in what must be the world’s most uncomfortable seats I was treated to one woman “training” two others how to clean. Not really a lot of fun, but was very entertaining since none of the three had a common language.

I’ve been using Sky Harbor Airport since the mid 80’s when jetways were a luxury and disembarking customers were shuttled down steps onto the slightly mushy tarmac which had been subjected to the heat of both jet engines as well as the wilting temps of the Phoenix desert weather.

Perhaps I should let it be known that I think the name Sky Harbor is fantastic. It is a harbor for things which fly through the sky. How simple, how eloquent, how lovely.

Also, the airport’s fantastic location in relation to where my Mother lives has made visiting her oh so very simple. My Mother and brother live 10 and 15 minutes away respectively, how great is that? I can pretty much call my brother right after touch down and know that he will be waiting for me outside after I pick up my luggage.

IF they didn’t live so close, there are great options such as the “Cell Phone Waiting Lot” system which is pure genius! How smart is that? Call your source of transportation as you see your bag pop out of the baggage claim, and BOOM, they drive directly out of the special lot to your pick up point!

May I just discuss another point of genius? Free Wi-Fi everywhere in the airport! How freaking fantastic is this? Flight canceled? Crank up that computer and see what else is available. Bored while waiting for your flight? Play some online video games, catch up on a little work, or simply research your next vacation.

Need to get a message to a passenger coming into Sky Harbor? You can either do this through the Internet, onsite at a special terminal, or by phone. At the baggage claim and at other areas throughout the terminal there are huge signs with PAL (Paging Assistance Location) displaying personal messages such as; “Bill and Judy, we’ll be on the north side exit waiting for you at door number 5”. Wow!

Years ago I had a proposal of marriage in one of PHX’s terminals but perhaps the PAL system would have been better for this. The girl I was dating had been thinking for some time about popping the question to me. We were going to be in the same terminal of PHX within about 12 hours of each other. She called me and told me to visit the ladies restroom closest to blah blah (I say blah blah because I have long since forgotten the details) gate. Then I was to go into a particular stall and get my message. As I had suspected she was asking me again in a new and different way if I would marry her. No, I didn’t take her up on it and later when we met again in Wichita I turned her down again. Moral of the story, never accept a proposal of marriage made in a toilet or from someone who would think that location was cool/romantic.

Then there was the Box Knife Incident. It was fall of 2002 and I was to catch a flight in Terminal 4. I went through security to my gate only to find it was still deserted because I was there so very early. Already seated there and looking bored was a woman who checked me out surreptitiously when I came to sit down. As I neared my chosen area I saw a box knife simply lying discarded on one of the seats. This was much like the weapons supposedly used by the terrorists on 9/11.

I approached it while visions danced through my head of the security detail I had just gone through to get to this supposedly “secure” area of the airport. Once again I met the eyes of the only other passenger in the waiting area. As I looked from her back to the box cutter I got the idea that she had already noticed what I had found and was also unwilling to touch it.

Eventually we talked about it and I told her that I would like to take the potential weapon of mass destruction to the check in desk, but that I would like her to confirm to anyone with further questions that it was sitting there before I had even made it to the area. She concurred and we talked for a minute or two about how that thing could have gotten past security and why on earth someone had abandoned it there. Soon I got up and carried it very cautiously (you know, by the edges to keep from smudging any possible fingerprints – have I watched too many cop shows or what?) over to the desk with three airline employees.

The airline representative took one look at what for me was a dangerous object and simply grabbed it out of my hand (not caring about any fingerprints, let me tell you) and threw it in the trash can at her feet. I nervously told her that it was not mine, that I had found it on a seat in the waiting area opposite, and that I was worried about it. She dismissively told me that I had done the right thing and that now it was safe. WTF? It was safe? In her trash can? To this day I often wonder if that was some kind of test.

Through the years I’ve been in and out of this airport MANY times. So many times that I know which side of the plane to sit on to get the best view of “A Mountain“, and what time of day is best to see shadows on the ridges of the local physical geography. Want any of that goofy information? Simply ask.

OK, enough of airports… let’s get a look at a frustrated kitty.
Oh, you have to watch through to the end. 😉

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Ahh… we meet again

I am in the last few hours of a visit to the U.S. (Phoenix specifically). In the last week I’ve run into so many little things which are sorely missed as I live out my daily life in Berlin. Being a fat kid… yup, it’s just the way it is… a good percentage of those things which are sorely missed just happen to be food.

Yes, that is Taco Bell. If you were able to actually read the “hot sauce” package you would see, “Ahh, we meet again”. How true is that? Love it!
After I make a “Run for the Border” and come back to the States, it isn’t long before I’m downing a Burrito Supreme. Add to that crab legs and tonight’s prime rib… and a person could get the idea that I just come back to the States for the food.

Oh well, soon I’ll be back in my beloved Berlin meeting up with my good friend, Fresh-Baked Pumpkinseed Roll!

So what is it? What would you have trouble living without if you left your home?

Random Tuesday – No Swine Flu here

Hooya! I’m back… for reals (isn’t that obnoxious? Some days I surprise myself.) and I’ve decided that I can’t get away with not posting any longer. We’ve been back over a week. Things have finally settled down and we’ve actually managed to get our house straightened out just a bit. Moving two weeks before a three week vacation isn’t really perfect, you know? We came back and had to remember where we had stuffed everything in our rush.

Tahiti and New Zealand were fantastic! Need I say more? Yes, I think I do… but maybe this isn’t the time. Let’s just have a nice RTT and see if I can slip back into this blogging thing, OK?

Snooker and No managed to travel to the other side of the planet (23 hours in planes, 37 hours of travel time each way) , encounter hundreds maybe thousands of strangers, and not get Swine Flu… can you believe it? Maybe the media hype makes it out to be a bit worse than it really is. But I must admit that we were quite fastidious about our hand washing and general hygiene… and let’s just say it… No is Monk‘s little sister.

We got back and discovered that our home Internet service which was somewhat spotty before we left had degraded to the point that if you are online, you had better not pick up the phone or both will go to H E double Hockey Sticks. WTF? I reallllly hate Deutche Telekom.

November in Berlin is usually wet, gray, windy and cold. Surprisingly we came back and found that the first three were in abundance, but without so much of the cold. It has been getting up to the 50’s during the day, and last Saturday No and I actually managed to get out in the morning for a nice walk with the sun on our shoulders! YEA!

I’m riding the subway again. May I just say … ICK! Yesterday a co-worker & I hopped onto the train and as the doors slammed shut we both noticed it… the worst FART smell I’ve ever been enveloped by. Seriously, I’m surprised there wasn’t green goo dripping down the walls or something… it was horrible! Our eyes widened and we both agreed not to talk until the next stop when we could JUMP out of that car and run to the next car sucking in “fresh” air all the way.

The new Nikon D90 camera was soooo cool on the trip. We loved it and took over 1,500 photos. Before we even came home they were narrowed down into 475 which make a great slide show.

The D40X was with us as well, but I hardly ever pulled it out. The only time it got a workout was when we took simultaneous pictures, such as these.

Oh hey! New Zealand and Tahiti both had Coke Zero in most of the restaurants! YEA!!! Ahem, Germany… let’s get on the ball!

No is completely disgusted at the manufacturers of playing cards. It seems that she holds the cards in her right hand and fans them out in such a way that there is no number/letter in the visible top corner. Hmm… how to explain. Her card fan is the exact opposite of the way the cards are designed, so she doesn’t see the numbers/letters which are printed on the top left because she is looking at the top right.
Now you would think that she would just learn to fan them the other way, or hold them in her left hand. No, that is not her way. Now we need to find cards with numbers/letters on all four corners. Anyone have any ideas?

Don’t tell customs, but I bought black pearls in Tahiti… lots of them. Tee hee hee. They aren’t in settings yet because I was told to just buy the pearls and bring them back to Germany for the cheaper metals and settings fees. So while I am asking for advice… anyone know a good jeweler in Berlin?

The company I work for has rented another floor in our building for some expansion. May I just say that the ensuing “who goes where” discussion has been painful to watch with seemingly everyone vying for the prime spots and trying not to be seated with anyone they don’t like. Argh. NEVER move anyone’s cheese if you don’t absolutely have to! In case you are wondering, I am attached to the boss… I won’t move because she won’t move. So this has all been going on around me while my cheese is not being moved.

I think that I just want to go back to the islands… Life was soooo much more simple there. “Should I wear my blue bathing suit to scare the fish or will the purple one be better?” “Do I want to try the mango straight off the tree or should I go cut another pineapple out of the bush?”

Thanks for playing Random Tuesday Thoughts, head on over to Keely at the UnMom for more randomness and to find out what she’s doing with THE NOG.

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Photo Friday – Dawn

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the world
Morning has Broken sung by Bob Dylan
(edit: sung by Cat Stevens) 😉

This week’s Photo Friday theme is “Dawn”.
In my collection I actually have many images of sunrises, warm “golden hour” light, and even some pretty pinkish bubbly clouds. But when I think of sunrise images, I don’t usually like to see the sun itself, the shadows it throws are more interesting to me.

That is why I picked this shot for the “dawn” theme.
Well, that and because I doubt you want to see a picture of an ex of mine who just happened to be named Dawn… OMG! Out of curiosity I just Googled her! She’s actually online (Facebook of course) and she looks like she put on some weight (haven’t we all?), and moved to St. Louis. All I can say is that every lesbian in STL should steer clear!

OKOK, back to the photo!
I caught this image during the Whiney Expat Bloggers Meetup in 2008 in Bremen, Germany. Unfortunately I don’t have a great post about the event, but I do have some pictures. J put out the original call to come.

On this particular Sunday morning I had rolled out of bed early and headed off to get some early-morning pics of what really is an endearing city. I was almost alone on the quiet streets, soaking in the cool, sweet fall air with a hint of fresh-baked bread. It was pretty much me and the bakery people. (Germans must have their bread, Sunday or not)

Meandering along though the “Altstadt” (old town) area I came across J of Germany Doesn’t Suck who was also there for the Expat Meetup. We joined up and walked through the park, enjoying each others company and the lovely dawning of the day as the sleepy city woke up around us.

After some time we began looking for the restaurant Alex which would be the site of more Expat Whineyness. Without knowing it we walked right past the thing, into a lovely courtyard area flanked by fantastic buildings which most certainly age back two hundred years before my ancestors ever dreamed of emigrating to America.

Ahead there was a break in the eastern wall of buildings allowing a through way into the Domshof courtyard. Down the cobblestones of the street was flowing the most lovely river of fresh, morning sunlight. When we walked out of the cool shadow of the courtyard into the sun rays I immediately felt the warmth on my skin overcoming the crisp fall air. Wunderbar!

I looked down at that very moment and saw the view which you see above. Perhaps J thought I was crazy as I crouched down to get the shot. But he stood respectfully nearby and quietly allowed me to figure out the right angle and lighting to make the metal cover glow so gloriously. Thanks for that, J.

Visit Flickr to see the image in its original size.
Or see more of the Bremen shots.

See more entries or participate yourself by visiting Photo Friday.

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Photo Friday – Plants

Photo Friday - Plants

Well, another Friday has rolled around. What a lovely day, eh? The weekend is coming and like every other week I get an e-mail inviting me to participate in Photo Friday.

The theme this week is “Plants”. Hmm… I started to go through my Flickr account and found some quite reasonable possibilities, Bleeding Hearts, and even a quite seasonable Sunflower.

Why did I end up with this not so enchanting choice? Hmm. Possibly more because of the memory behind it.

July 2008 Snooker and Sweet No took off in the car for a driving vacation. First stop was Amsterdam and a k.d. Lang concert, then to the Alsace region of France for a visit to Strasbourg. After drinking in the wine groves we were to make our way to points unknown, perhaps in the Black Forest back in Germany or thereabouts.

But it was the short visit to Amsterdam which charmed my heart so. We did the normal touristy things of course, the cafes with their “special” brownies, the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House.

What had me completely beguiled was the feeling of the city itself. There might not be a way to describe it, other than to say it was …. unconstrained.

Crazy bicyclists are everywhere with what seems like no rules whatsoever. Alongside the bikes are scooters which are a free-for-all going wherever they please. And what few cars are allowed in the old town area have obviously made a deal with the devil to get a parking spot.

In the old town, the buildings are all situated close and tight, each one standing tall like a soldier protecting the canals. When I say tall, I am not thinking in mere height. The architecture doesn’t really strike me as taller than Berlin buildings, they are simply much more tall than they are wide. Simply put, they are impossibly narrow. Each one of them are only about three small rooms wide maybe four flights high, with crazy-narrow staircases taking you always up, up, up. They all just look super cozy all huddled up together.

As I was having my fill of “space muffins”, I could easily construct the illusion of the buildings standing alongside those canals with windows like eyes… watching, observing what was happening under them as the boats would drift peacefully by. No matter how my imagination would carry me, I never considered the buildings menacing as they loomed overhead. My thoughts assumed they would be looking down on the humans with loving, caring eyes which had seen much, but had never become indifferent or callous.

Amsterdam is a place I could live, and I don’t say that about a lot of cities.

This picture was taken as we strolled along yet another bridge covering one of the canals. We noticed the flowers and stopped for a moment to enjoy the view. While holding hands we casually moved in closer together, supporting each other yet each standing on our own. After a few moments we wordlessly moved apart and continued on our way. Out came my always close at hand camera. Snap… and there you have it.

For most it is a OK picture of a canal, some trees, boats and of course the flowers. For me, it is a warm memory of a wonderful place shared with a very special person.

More pics of Amsterdam.

See more entries or participate yourself by visiting Photo Friday.