Jul 29, 2015

Cecil the Lion

There was a lion in Zimbabwe who was killed by an American hunter. This particular lion turned out to be a national mascot of sorts and it turns out that the guides and the permitting process may not have been legal. Did the hunter know he was involved in a illegal hunt? We don't know. However, many people on facebook have taken to their walls to demand that the American hunter be shot. 

What is wrong with these people?

1) even assuming the hunter knew he was acting illegally, the life of an animal, in my opinion, should not be weighed the same as a human. How many people demanding his blood for the lion's would have been skinned many times over for the leather in their shoes or the sweat from the children who assemble their clothes?

2) where is the outrage over the thousands of humans who are killed every day purely from the decisons of other humans? People are still starving to death, still being slaughtered for their religion or race.

3) the vast majority of Zimbabweans could care less about Cecil, since the nation is still suffering a sanitation crisis (over 4,000 died in a Cholera outbreak a few years ago) and major food shortages.

I know that Cecil the Lion makes a nice, catchy media soundbite, but seriously, people need to realize that the entire world does not live in American suburbia.

Jul 26, 2015


Friday night, Saori was busy with an office party, so I went out to meet my coworkers and Lyz who just came back from a month traveling around Europe before she goes back to Mexico.

There is an academy of fine arts up by Killesburg and they were having their end of year open house and party late into the evening. This is actually really cool because it attracts a lot of people from the community- of all ages, but mostly drinking age. It was pretty packed and quite lively when I showed up around 10pm.

I never actually ended up going inside to see the buildings and the exhibitions, which were also filled with people and small booths selling booze and snacks. I got a glass of wine, caught up with Lyz, ate some Indian food from one of the food stands, and then I was just too tired to see the work.

Saturday was lovely- I made eggs and salsa for breakfast, and then Saori and I went into town to run errands. First up was the glass bottle return.

I love the fact that Stuttgart is so good about the lifecycle of its containers- the vast majority of the beer they sell and nearly all the wine come in glass bottles for which you pay a deposit in addition to the (low) cost of the beverage. If you buy beer like a typical German, always shopping at the same place, buying beer by the crate, they easily get their bottle deposit back. I tend to buy a bottle here and there, of a most diverse array of beers from a wild array of stores. So instead of lugging tons of glass bottles around to five of six places around the city for five dollars back, I decided to just return the bottles that have a special mark that lets me take them to the local corner supermarket automated return and all the rest go into the glass recycling bins.

After grocery shopping, we walked to stadtmitte, stopping off at a speciality furnature and lighting store where we bought a giant round fillament "edison bulb" to fit our living room light. The bulb ended up being more expensive than the light fixture although to be fair, we got the fixture from IKEA and the bulb should last as long as a halogen, and not a typical incandescent.

We also went to Amercian Apparel which was having a sale and I ended up buying a few things 70% off, which is very nice. After shopping, I stopped for a coffee at the windy kleiner schlossplatz and headed home.

Sunday, Saori went to yoga in the morning and I cooked up breakfast and studied German while waiting for her to come back. After breakfast she had to go into work so I went on a long walk back to the Acadamy of fine arts and got a better look at the student work on display. The architecture building was interesting to see in its own right, although there was a really interesting project from one of the masters candidates about future housing in Japan, with a lot of really great models and drawings.

Sadly, architecure is losing him to film or theater or game design production because frankly our profession has degenrated to the point where curved surfaces are about as visionary as you are allowed.

Still excited about the pressure cooker, I made pork carnitas tonight. I went all out- with fresh onion and cilantro, home made salsa, and fresh diced pineapple and some grocery store wheat-corn toritllas. Delicious. Really good. The combination of pineapple, chiles, cilantro and onions really brings me back to Mexico City.

Jul 24, 2015

the new Payson

Saori and I have this long running ironic joke about Payson, Arizona as one of the premier cities of the world. When strolling through Paris or Venice, one of us will turn to the other and ask, "yes, but is it Payson?"

(Payson, indubiably, is a pleasant and lovely little town but it is definitely the farthest thing from cosmopolitain this side of Ponca City).

Mmmngn could be the new Payson. I came to Mmmngn for a work assignment lasting a few hours. It's off the main high speed train routes, nestled in the hilly plains in southwestern Bavaria, really within the Allgäu region, where one may wait many hours to see Neuschwanstein castle.

Anyway, it's another one of those scheisse adorable little Bavarian towns which was lucky enough to keep its medieval old center from being destroyed in WWII. These city centers are so much the same at first glance- expensive restaurants in renovated patrician urban palaces and green courtyards. The marketplace square with way too many cheap cafes, a grand city hall, and a produce market most days. Every sixth store a failing family business. Every seventh store, a pharmacy. A small mid-calf-deep canal, with wooden footbridges and adjacent seating for the vine covered cafe or restaurant. Old, leaning, and meticulously maintained half-timbered buildings containing high end boutiques. Two to three massive multistory department stores shoehorned in to the cobblestoned medieval urban fabric. The three to four dozen kebab and pizza shops dotted through like cancerous freckles, and a few gambling halls, strip clubs, and sex shops at the crumbling edges where you can still find some existing segments of the ancient city wall.

So: interesting at least, often photogenic, and lively. A good stage at least for the local festivals so they can at least differentiate thier sleepy hamlet from the next one down the country road.

Speaking of festivals, I happen to miss Mmmngn's biggest festival by ONE DAY. The fisherman's day festival is a historic and surprisingly old tradition distinguished by all the manly Mmmngners (or having lived there for 10 years) jumping into the tiny, muddy city creek and attempting to catch fish. Trophies can then be brought to the market square for weighing and prizes.

Anyway, I had a train to catch so I took the site photos for which I had been sent and explored the old town. I ended up buying a sueded deer leather vest for 20 euros, marked down well over a hundred euros, from a small traditional clothing shop going out of business. Lederhosen was still too expensive to pull the trigger on something you wear twice a year. I also discovered my favorite microbrewery from Ulm had a Mmmngn branch so I happily lunched there and brought home two glass liter bottles of blonde.

Changed trains to the ICE in Ulm and was back at the office a little before 3. The rest of the day flew by, and now I am sitting on my terrace, enjoying a beer and a nice breeze. Happy it's the weekend.

Jul 16, 2015

bad times

Something else I learned this week: Stuttgart is home to the second largest number of baths in Europe. There are three types. Freibad; which are open, outdoor pools of the American city pool type, Hallenbad; enclosed pools, and Mineralbad, which have usually indoor and outdoor pools filled with mineral spring water. Usually the last two types also come with spas, saunas, and lap pools.

Ever since I got to Stuttgart I've been itching to go since I have heard so much about the baths, and I do love to swim. Counting back, the last time I went swimming was in the late summer of 2013, damn near two years ago, in Mexico. So I was excited to go swimming again, splash around, and cool off.

Sunday afternoon, Saori and I loaded up our bags and headed to Das Leutze, probably the best known Stuttgart mineral baths. It was relatively simple to figure out. You tell them how long you want to swim, and pay them in advance, and they give you a waterproof chipped token that you use to swipe in and out. It was kind of expensive- a little over 4 euros per hour. For a two and a half hour swim, it's actually cheaper to go to the movies.

Anyway, they had extensive lockers and changing rooms, and then we explored the various indoor and outdoor pools. Saori's favorite was a strong mineral bath with a lot of carbonation in it. It was quite strange- after sitting in the pool for a few minutes, tiny bubbles form all over your suit and body. You begin to lightly fizz like you are the lemon in a glass of sparkling water.

We swam a bit, lay out in the sun for a bit, floated around. Two hours went by really quickly this way. We checked out by dropping our token in the exit reader but it was rejected since we had overstayed. We had to top up the token ( an extra euro or two ) for the twenty or so minutes of overtime.

Overall, very nice. Very relaxing. Next weekend we will try a new pool until we find our favorite.

Jul 14, 2015

pressure cooker

The first day we were in Japan, Saori's mom, Yoshiko-san offered to buy us a pressure cooker. She assured us that there was a store nearby having a sale, so we set off on a very long walk to a local shopping mall. We didn't find any special ones there, and since we were planning on maxing our luggage weight allowances with clothes from UNIQLO and MUJI, Yoshiko-san offered to just gift us the money for a pressure cooker.

Fast forward to a few days ago, when I was at a large supermarket somewhere between a Kmart and a Wal-Mart with a fraction of the size and selection, they were selling pressure cookers. Looked solid. stainless steel. GSW brand, manufactured in Germany. I picked one up for 40 euros, less than a third of the price of a WMF one. 

I've never cooked with a pressure cooker before, so I carefully read through the owners manual, read about them online and looked up some recipes before picking out a chicken masala recipe. Actually, Indian cooking was one the things I had in my mind before picking it up, since my old Indian roomies used the pressure cooker all the time for things like lentils and certain curries. 

Anyway, the dish turned out fine- the chicken was really moist and flakey, but the sauce ended up really lame- I think I just need to find a better recipe. 

Today, poking around the internet a bit more, I discovered that actually you can cook rice really fast and easily in a rice cooker, which is huge considering how much Saori and I love rice. Actually we had been going back and forth about whether or not to get a rice cooker or a pressure cooker- now we have both. I'm getting a better hang of the pressure cooker but the rice still came out too gooey. I'm still trying to get the timing and the heating right. The problem is our stove is electric metal plate, which is incredibly slow to warm up and incredibly slow to cool down. From the highest temperature, I can completely turn off the stove and still bring a full pot of water to boil with all the heat still coming from the "off" stove. This is a problem with the pressure cookers, which really want to have a quick drop in heat once the cooking pressure is reached inside the vessel.

Anyway, the last interesting bit about pressure cookers is that the first commercial pressure cookers were actually invented and manufactured here in Stuttgart, before the turn of the previous century, by a man named Gutbrot. We live at the end of Gutbrod street, and Saori walks it every day to work, although she calls it "yummy bread street" which is its literal translation.

On that note- the more German I learn, the more I realize that Germans have no imagination when it comes to naming places and streets. Granted, there are way too many "Monte Vista / mountain view" streets in Phoenix, but at least you have schools, for example, named "corona del sol" (crown of the sun). I work in Germany on "Ant hill." The wine growing hill is called "wine hill." Granted, the forest where I used to live was called "Crow Forest" which is kind of cool. 

Other German failures of imagination- the city recently removed a large glass bottle collection dumpster from a street corner near where I work. It had obviously been there many years. This event has apparently blown everyone's mind because every time I walk by, the pile of bottles people are leaving on the spot, helpfully piled to the side, keeps growing. Is it a sign of frustration with the city removing a convenient bottle drop? Is it laziness? Does it come from the belief that because there was a bottle drop before, it must return in at some point in the future? 

Jul 6, 2015

barbecued on the 4th of July

We spent the last week sweltering under a heat wave. And I do mean sweltering. High 30 degree weather, high humidity. Most buildings in Germany do not have air conditioning of any kind. Grocery stores, public transit, and Starbucks tend to be the exceptions, so we actually took a few strolls to our neighborhood Lidl just to cool off a bit.

We also threw a BBQ for the 4th of July. Saturday morning, I hit the town early to pick up a foot-soaking bucket, a big swatch of fabric with which to cover the patio, red, white, and blue candles, last runs for grilling meat, ginger ale, sparkling water, fresh cilantro, and a huge freaking watermelon.

People started showing up at 7, and it was a mix of our common friends like Apo, Ioannis, and another Greek friend, some people from our offices, and a few people from my German course at IFA. Ended up with something like 10-12 people. Most people brought some drinks but many also brought meat for grilling, or some chips, or ice cream.

It was a good party- chill, people just relaxing and chatting. Got a little warm inside but apart from that, the last straglers left around 2 and we are now so old we stayed up to wash the dishes. This, truly, is the metric of 30s.

Sunday was hot. Really hot. It was so hot that it actually broke the autobahn. The concrete and asphalt expanded so much it just buckled and ripped.

I put up a thermometer. Sunday afternoon, inside our apartment, it was 35 C which is 95 F. With this kind of heat, the best thing we can do is to close and shade all our doors and windows starting around 10AM, and then leave them closed until 7 or so, when the outside temperature drops below the indoor temperature. We kept cool with a small electric fan, laying down on the floor, and drinking lots of iced beverages and water, and avoiding speaking too much apart from offers of miee iced coffee.

Sunday night we stayed up late too, to catch the FIFA womens world cup final. 1AM kickoff. It was actually a repeat of the final 4 years ago: Japan vs US. Japan won on PKs. Saori and I watched it together in mom's living room in Astroidtukee. This game though was really good. The US were on fire and delivered a 5-2 game, 3 of those US points within the first fifteen minutes. There was also an impossible scoring shot from the middle of the field.

Cooler today, mercifully, but its going to heat up later in the week and this weekend is going to be another roaster...

Medium is the message

I moved the blog again. I deleted the Tumblr account and moved everything to Medium.com, a more writing-centric website. medium.com/@wende