Friday, September 27, 2019

My blog entry that's both a blessing and a curse

One of the most-visited* and most oft-cited** blog entries in this joint is the analysis of the German educational system that I wrote, viewable here. After having published it six years ago, I feel conflicted about leaving it on the blog.

On one hand, it's a quick read and outlines a somewhat convulated subject that people are curious about. Is it comprehensive? No, it's not, at all, but at least gives an idea of how things work here, and in English. Does it bring a lot of visitors to the blog? Yes, it does, though that's not really its purpose. I had just wanted to share something that I had written for a German Life and Culture class.

Conversely, the article is somewhat of a curse. I am an educator in training and spirit (though not exactly in job tile right now). Information literacy is very important to me and I am disturbed that this article is being used as a research source when it's only appropriate to be used for entertainment/enlightenment purposes. I know of at least one high school teacher who used it as a class assignment (based on web analytics linking to the person's page) and the article was even referenced in conference proceedings of the National Defence College in Bangladesh, which didn't really properly reference it other than citing the article in the bibliography.

I won't call out the high school teacher or school but I will mention the Defence College, because the paper mentions the editorial board and based on the amount of authors and the numerous strings of letters after their names, including PhD, those individuals should be well-acquainted with proper academic research and citation and know better than to use a personal blog as a source. The other ironic thing is that they would have seen the disclaimer at the top of the article and the corresponding blog entry outlining why the article isn't an appropriate source.

At this point, I will still leave the article on my blog and hope that people read the clear disclaimer on it. Maybe it'll hit home for at least some people and they'll think more about the research process.

*by real people, not by spammers; those would be other entries, and I have no idea why the entry Fastnacht in July is so popular with them

**or not, by people who use it as a reference and don't give me credit

Monday, September 16, 2019

Nope, Netherlands, not this time either

It seems as if I've written about the Netherlands a lot recently (or once, but considering that I rarely post any more, that could count as a "lot"), so here's another post about the country since I took a recent trip there again.

I love visiting the grocery stores in the country, especially because they're open on Sundays, which German stores are not. However, not all of them are open; some of the German-owned stores don't join the fun (like Lidl or Aldi). Albert Heijn and Jumbo aren't spoil-sports, though, and we perused their aisles with glee on a Sunday.

The snack aisles are many and plenty, full of exotic chips with Thai and Indonesian flavoring. Plus there are some exotic offerings inspired by the USA -- or, as this popcorn says, "inspired by the USA recipe," which doesn't really make sense from a grammatical point of view. I guess they're trying to avoid calling it "American" because there are other countries on this continent. Or maybe not.

The biggest issue is that this is not a typical concoction for popcorn for us. I'm assuming it's similar to kettle corn, which we do have, but it's not always available. Typical popcorn for a US American would be salty and butter-flavored.Germany seems to also think that we have salty-sweet popcorn and I can say that even that kind of "American" style popcorn doesn't even taste like our kettle corn. More common than kettle corn, but less common than regular popcorn, would be caramel corn, but I have rarely seen that here. Oh well. It's another case of not quite getting our food (and it goes both ways).

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Dutch get in on getting American food wrong

"American" week at German grocery stores evokes strong emotions for me, including the desire to laugh, cry, be sick, or when I'm feeling adventurous, maybe even try it sometimes. There are usually very few things that I do want to try, though, because it's either food I wouldn't eat even when I'm in the US or it looks disgusting. I had yet to participate in "American" week shopping in another country, though, so during a trip to the Netherlands this winter, I perused their display for their take on what we eat.

This one landed a solid nee (no) for me: some sort of "American" sauce for fries.

Based on my non-existent knowledge of Dutch, but with the ability to somewhat decode the ingredient list based on my knowledge of English and German, I determined that it has canola oil, mustard, something from corn (a thickener?), vinegar, sugar*, and lots of preservatives in it.

Is this typical American food? Well, the preservatives would almost have me thinking so but as far as what it would probably taste like, I can give a resounding no. And thank goodness for that!


*I would like to continue ranting a bit. Yes, American food and condiments add sugar. However, for German food, I'm always shocked/disgusted by just how much is added. I can't even eat most of the commercially prepared sauces, soups, or spaghetti sauces here because they taste almost as sweet as candy does and it's very off-putting for me. I am wondering if this Dutch sauce would be as sickeningly sweet as the German ones?

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Flying grapes...or another awkward German encounter

Oh lawd, when one learns a new language, one can make some really funny mistakes. Recently I made a group of people practicing languages laugh. Who said I wasn't a comedian? Oh wait, it wasn't on purpose.

Me in German : "You could visit Trafalgar Square. There are many grapes, I mean pigeons, there."

(Trauben = grapes, Tauben = pigeons. At least I didn't say there were many baptisms there. I get that one mixed up too.)

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

It was so awkward it killed me

My German is finally to a decent level; I've taken various C1 classes so many times that it had better be! However, that doesn't mean that my vocabulary is always adequate, especially for topics that I don't deal with often (or ever) in German, and some topics are a bit too macabre for our textbooks to deal with in detail. Take this awkward conversation I had in German (translated into English for your enjoyment), for example.

At the thrift store

Me, in German : "is this card for when someone dead is?"

Clerk: "um, yes."

Me, delighted: "Oh, good! I mean, it's not good that someone is dead. It's good that it's a sad card. My vocabulary is not so good for death."

He thought that was funny.

Monday, May 20, 2019

American Week again...oy vey

No matter what time it is, it seems to be American week at one of the grocery chains in Germany. Oh wait, never mind; that was a song about it being 5 o'clock somewhere.

However, that doesn't mean that one can't get some "American" delicacies with some regularity among the local grocery stores. Visiting either Lidl or Aldi last week (sorry, I visited both so I can't say which one it was exactly), I came across a display of the infamous McEnnedy brand (don't get me started on the name).

In addition to the "American" popcorn (which is sweet but not really kettle corn, thus not really American), muffins, etc., here are some items that stuck out. Or shall I say struck out? Har har.

Potato snacks: tomato ketchup flavor. Gag. I'll eat fries with ketchup but the idea of eating potato chip-esque versions of these...just no. (Maybe that's because I don't particularly like potato chips or fries anyway).

Pancake mix in a squeeze jar: yes, we actually have this in the US. It's kind of wasteful (from both countries), especially given how easy it is to make pancakes from scratch.

Family brownie: the family that eats brownies together...I don't know where to go with this -- stays together? It has hazelnuts in it, which we generally don't do, but if you like them, it's a special treat.

Monday, March 4, 2019

TooGoodtoGo App review: some cheap fruit & veg in Kaiserslautern

Recently, I read about an app called TooGoodtoGo, which allows restaurants and stores to sell leftover food at a low price. It benefits consumers with a deal; benefits the store by selling something that otherwise might make it into the trash; and of course it benefits the environment, too, by diverting food from the trash.

It was a pleasant surprise to find out that a few stores in Kaiserslautern participate. One was a fast food fish restaurant (Nordsee), which isn't for me because I don't like fish. However, the other offering, Real, a grocery store, was just what I had in mind: for 3,50 euros, I would receive at least 10 euros' worth of fruits and vegetables. Participating stores sell a limited number of shares but several were left at Real, so why not give it a try, I thought.

I downloaded the app, found the offer from Real, tapped buy, selected one portion, clicked buy, added my payment method, and received a receipt. Pickup times were between 1600-2000, so I tooled over to the store and went to the front desk and told the staff member I was there for the TooGoodtoGo pickup. After looking over my in-app receipt, she swiped it and told me to pick it my package in the produce department and then come back through customer service so she could buzz me through the gate. Easy enough.

I received about 8 different items, including: rucola salad, another container of some weird lettuce, some pale yellowish-orange carrots, cherry tomatoes, oranges, an apple, a head of broccoli, and a container of broccoli and cauliflower. Everything is still fresh enough to eat raw but I won't have high hopes for a long shelf-life since part of the purpose of the setup is to help the store move some of its older produce.

My treasure trove of fruits and veg
So, do I feel that it's worth it? Yes, I was happy with my purchase and I feel that I received even more than ten euros' worth. It is somewhat difficult as one person to use all this up so it might make sense to split the purchase with a friend, especially when it comes to the salad and fruit. I could make some vegetable dishes and freeze them though. For those who juice fruits and vegetables, it's a good haul. I think I'll even blend some up for a fruit smoothie of my own.

One downside is that the app is still gaining traction. In Kaiserslautern, there are only three participating locations, and even in bigger cities in the area, like Mannheim, there aren't a lot of options yet, but I hope that the app's popularity will grow and more stores and restaurants will participate.


All opinions are completely my own. I received absolutely no compensation or consideration from the app or the store. I'm independent, yo!