Thursday, September 14, 2017

It's not stunning

I am stunned when advertisers etc. use the term "stunning" to describe things that are actually quite mundane, or at best, are interesting or attractive, but certainly do not warrant such a superlative. Or perhaps I exaggerate with the explanation of my response as I am more likely annoyed than just stunned.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

German efficiency myth

Germany has a reputation for running just like its kitschy cuckoos...like clockwork, in an efficient manner. However,I find this to be quite inaccurate. German bureaucracy and business practices typically can be quite inefficient. Even the BBC thinks so; read their article here.

Take, for example, the A6 highway highway and bridge building project that spans above Kaiserslautern. When I arrived in the area at the beginning of 2013, the signs along the highway promised that the highway would be finished in 2016. At the end of 2016, the signs were changed to say 2018. I rarely see anyone working on the highway, and when they do, it's one or two lonely workers. This construction is very disruptive for people in the area and I doubt that it will be finished by 2018 as so much of it remains undone.

I think that many people think of German efficiency because of the automotive producers. Having visited the Mercedes plant, I did see much efficiency in use there. However, I don't see this as a German invention; I see it as coming from the Japanese auto producers, or at least resulting from their competition. Had the German and other international producers not adopted these methods and developed others, they wouldn't have been able to remain competitive.

In civil life, there seems to be no penalty for inefficiency so citizens and expats must resign themselves to long wait times and the possibility of slow, ineffective service both at government offices and in the business sphere.

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Does this mean that I [metaphorically] shake my fist at Germany, or that I think that my country of birth is perfect? The answer to both questions is a very strong "no." However, I was surprised to experience the inefficiency for myself, as I too had heard that this is a very efficient place.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Representational Moo, disguised as cheesecloth ghost

You know those cheesecloth ghosts that bored crafters made several decades ago? (If not, go learn how. It's better than watching paint dry because you get to watch cheesecloth dry instead.)

Moo recently got crafty and decided to forgo the glue and shape a cheesecloth ghost out of nothing other than...wait for it...himself and a blanket.



Isn't he a creative kitty?

He was not amenable to me removing him from his artwork but I had places to go. He tried to convince me that he is a ghost but he was just too cat-shaped to be convincing.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Souvenir roulette

If I buy myself a souvenir, usually it's something consumable because I have already enough stuff. My choice is usually to buy something interesting at the locale's supermarket, preferably either something I've never tried but read about in a foraging book or a foreign cookbook, or something that I have no idea what it is and even better yet, can't read the package. This purchase from Poland fits the bill nicely:


tea! I love me some herbal tea.

In this tea purchase, I bought some fennel tea, which I've had in some other mixtures before. There is also aronia (chokeberry) tea, which I recognize from books about foraging but have never tried before.

The last tea is chiang mai flower and I have no idea what that is so I thought, why not buy it to find out? Usually it's fun to buy things that are unknown. The only time it didn't work out was when I bought a mix for Hungarian goulash in Macedonia and couldn't read any of the various languages on it to find out how to make it and also realized that it probably involved using meat, which is not my thing. D'oh!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Finally, Germany does tortilla chips right

I feel that it is my duty as an American to tell folks looking for decent nachos in Germany to beware. Be very, very ware, if it were possible to be "ware."

Anyway, the German conception of nacho chips is something that is like a demented cousin of DORITOS® Nacho Cheese Flavored Tortilla Chips. Please note that at least Doritos has the courtesy to note that the chips are nacho cheese flavored. Germany will just serve you "nachos" and fail to warn you that they'll be covered in some slightly-cheese flavored powder when you're expecting plain or salted corn or flour chips that are covered in melted cheese and other delectable toppings. Also beware if you go to a "Mexican" restaurant in a horse barn practically in the middle of the Bavarian nowhere because your "nachos" will be a Doritos knock-off and you'll get basically ketchup and a Cheez-Whiz cousin* on the side.**

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I saw that Aldi had some nacho chips that were only "gesalzen," or salted. There was no mention of cheese, or any other dairy products for that matter, on the package. I had a hankering for some chips and didn't feel like driving to the commissary for some proper nachos so I took my chances.

They were good! The Sun Snacks brand nacho chips are crisp, salted just right (a good pinch of salt but not enough to make one feel as if she'd just been licking a salt lick), and inexpensive (about a euro or so). All they contain are corn flour, palm oil, and salt. I've seen them at Aldi over the last several months and hope that they're an item that will stay in the stores.



*I was surprised that they had access to something Cheez-Whiz-esque. Since I thought it would be unlikely they'd have that, I thought they'd at least use real cheese.

**Yes, I know, it's insane to order Mexican food in such a place. I'm glad that I set out with reasonably low expectations because they were met...or not met...or, well, you get what I mean.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A roadside candy machine done horribly wrong

I can't even...

or I guess I can. During a trip to Winnweiler, a suburb of Kaiserslautern, I came across a most horrible candy machine. It effected horrified and shocked laughter from me...


not because it was filthy and gross looking, but because one of the offerings. If you are a sensitive soul, read no further.


If you're bawdy, check out this awful humor:


In case you were not quite sure what they meant, they included another photo to drive the point home:


Oh my.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Understanding German public transportation: a guide

Germany has quite a decent network of public transportation and usually can get you from point A to B. However, understanding all of the various options, how they work, and even when they work is not always the easiest.

I've been using the system for more than five years and I am constantly learning new things about it. For those who are new to living in Germany, it's a steep learning curve.

Live Work Germany wrote a guide about using the trains, buses, subways, and street cars of Germany. It's very useful to help unravel the mysteries of the transportation system; you can read it here.