Archive for the 'Die Deutsche Leben' Category

Sep 22 2013

Wahlzeit

In English, election time-which was the headline of a special edition of Das Bild newspaper yesterday -which was delivered free to our house.

All indicators show that Merkel is on cruise control to a third term as the Kanzlerin ( Chancellor). However because one of her coalition partners lost badly-the Free Democrats, she will have to probably find a new partner-most likely the SPD. And you can bet they are going to want something for the deal.

Yesterday the S.O. and I went to the flea market in downtown Stuttgart. There were some rallies going on on Konigstrasse-and also the posters were all out in force.

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The poster says, "Go vote! On 22 September 2013".  It is from the SPD.

There were a few other posters out yesterday- I really found this one interesting:

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It is from the Alternative Party ( a small left party). The poster says : "Courage for [telling]truth. The Greeks are suffering. The Germans are paying. The banks are cashing in."

And of course our old friends the Pirate Party are still out in force:

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.This one says: " The great coalition of the survellance" "Mass surveillenace must be stopped. Safety laws must be checked."

It is a jab about cooperation with the NSA. By the way-if you look closely the camera is wearing a green Angela Merkel dress-with Angela Merkel pearls. Not so subtle imagery that she is quite on board with this program.

It will be interesting to see how quickly the posters come down tomorrow.

On a positive note-the circus came to town-to the next village over. The connection to the election? Probably none-but it has to be good for at least a couple of irony points.

 

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Sep 02 2013

Triberg

Published by under Die Deutsche Leben

A couple of weeks back the S.O. and I drove to the Black Forest and vistied Germany's highest waterfall in Triberg. Its a beautiful-if somewhat too touristy place.

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There are a variety of hiking trails that take you up the side of the falls-short and long. Problem is, on a sunny day, lots of people are walking on them.:

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Once you get to the top of the trail its a nice view back into town:

 

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Coming back into the town there are some nice things to see as well:

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And the town has some good places to eat. But it was still too touristy for my taste:

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But worth the visit.

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Aug 22 2013

And the election kicks into full swing.

Published by under Die Deutsche Leben

I am seeing more and more posters on the roads these days-from more than just the usual suspects:

Of course our friends, the Pirate Party are still out in force:

 

It translates to: "Imagine you were asked. For more participation and particulars of the citizens in political decisions"

And the SPD-in trouble in the polls- are out there also:

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" For an old age without poverty".

And let's not forget the Greens:

It says, " What the farmer does not know, I am not eating. And you?" They have lots of these "Und Du" ads.

Like this:

"Guilt is always the others"-a slam on Merkel.

And finally Die Linke-the left:

"Enough babble! 10 euro minimum wage now!"

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Aug 06 2013

Election season is here!

Published by under Die Deutsche Leben

It's August and Germany is having parliamentary elections this year. The election to the 18th German Bundestag will be held on 22 September 2013. As a result the campaign posters started cropping up on the lamp posts this past week. Angela Merkel, so called "Queen of Europe" is up for re-election.  Merkel's party is the CDU ( Christian Democratic Union). Their slogan is simple:

It means "Together Success for Germany".

The opposition party-the SPD ( Social Democrats) are putting their attack on Merkel:

The poster mocks Merkel's cabinet. "Merkel's Compentence Team?"  The slogan of SPD is "This we decide-Now we can vote for change". (Das wir entscheidet. Jetzt den Wechsel wahlen). Its not quite as good as their shark poster from 2009.

The best posters are those from the Pirate Party. Yes, Virginia, there is a Pirate Party in Germany. Arrgh!  Formed in 2006 it originally was a protest effort centered on free access to internet and data-but it actually won enough seats in 2009 that it had to think about broader issues.

The poster translates into : "Ask your children why you should vote Pirate. Vote Pirate".

On the plus side-at least the Germans don't drag it out for 2 years like we do. 6 Weeks and get it over with.

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May 18 2013

A rare sunny day

Two weeks ago the sun actually saw fit to make an appearance here. The S.O. and I decided to take advantage of it and go walking through the woods behind our house and to the nearby town of Waldenbuch. Who, unbeknown to us, was having the festival celebrating their 650th birthday.

Here are some pictures I took along the way:

 

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The pasture is quite open right behind our house-then it feeds into the woods:

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After about 3km of walking you come out into the town of Waldenbuch

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And it was festival time:

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And they had the old cars out on display:

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This is an interesting and small BMW:

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An Early 60's Opel:

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After a few bratwursts, a few beers and some ice cream-it was time to head back into the woods and home:

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Apr 14 2013

More Madrid

Published by under Die Deutsche Leben,Travel

The S.O. dragged me 447km round trip yesterday to buy a cast iron dutch oven.  Don't even ask how much it cost.

On the plus side she seems to have re-learned the idea of gratitude sex-for now. We will see how long it lasts.

In the mean time here are some more Spain pictures. Click on them to see properly and in a larger view.

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This was the old castle the Hapsburgs used in the 15 and 1600 hundreds. Easily accessible by bus from Madrid-that's what we took. It is known as El Escorial.

More pictures below:

 

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It had a beautiful Basilica inside-but of course, no pictures were allowed.

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Some pictures from the gardens:

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One of the things that surprised me about Madrid was the geography-it was much more hilly than I expected. I guess I had envisioned it as flat.

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Apr 03 2013

Viva Madrid

Published by under Die Deutsche Leben,Travel

I kind of think I now understand why Hemingway liked Spain. It is France without the stuck up attitudes of the French.

Regardless-I really enjoyed my trip to Madrid. Surprisingly, the city was very clean, the subways worked much better than those here in Stuttgart, and the wine and food were simply marvelous. The down side of course being, that to eat the food, you had to wait till 8:30 PM or later. I was fine with that-the S.O., not so much. Rather than adapt, she thought she could bend the city to her will. As a result I got to be witness to a few episodes of "the ugly Nihonjin". Suffice it to say, it wasn't pretty and I wanted to go hide in a corner. But, of course, I couldn't do that-I had to pay the bill.

Nonetheless the architecture in the city is marvelous. Below you can see some examples of it. In many ways the city looks like Paris-and why not? considering the lineage of the King is from France. ( Yes its true. The Hapsburgs lost the toss and France has influenced Spain ever since. If they could not win by invading-as Napoleon found out-they just influenced the monarchy. ( click on all the pictures to see them as they should be)

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Taken in front of the Teatro Real.

And of course there is the Royal Palace:

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Let's not forget the parks:

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And the music in the parks:

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How a Mariachi Band ends up in a Madrid Park is beyond me. But they had a cute looking lady singer:

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More to follow in three subsequent posts.

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Mar 27 2013

Taking matters into my own hands

Published by under Die Deutsche Leben,Travel

Those frequent flier miles are not going to earn themselves you know.

And since my erstwhile employer is not cooperating by providing me with the kind of travel I both need and should have as a job perk-I guess I will have to do it myself. So its on a plane today to the heart of Spain. I really don't have the money to do this right now-and the timing is not the best. But its March 27th, there is still snow on the ground and people are watching Charles Krauthammer be stupid.  ( I realize using the name Krauthammer and "stupid" in the same sentence is repetitive-but its a great example of how really deluded a certain segment of the American population is.)

So I need a break.

Pictures to follow if I can my laptop to work right.

Hasta la vista baby!

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Jan 13 2013

Nude up!

Published by under Die Deutsche Leben

That is what the JO's of the "aft tool shed"-the not so affectionate name for the frame 154 eight man bunk room on America used to say when they wanted to get rid of us Department Heads who went there to hide out from the terror in the ready room.

They would say, "nude up" and just  start stripping. That got anyone not actually living there out in a hurry.

Today, the S.O. and I went to the Therme Mineral Bad near our village. Its  a pretty nice deal-albeit a little pricey. It is kind of like a Japanese onsen-without the same customs as a Japanese onsen.

You arrive and pay your fee. For the two of us it was 21 Euro which paid for 2.5 hours in the indoor and outdoor pool ( both are heated), access to the whirlpool baths, and access to the saunas. More on those later.

You go into a row of changing rooms. Using the arm band they give you-you can open up an empty locker and put your stuff in there once you have changed. They have individual stalls for changing-but they are not broken out by sex. So men and women are "suiting up" into their swimsuits in the same room. ( But you have privacy in the changing stall). once in your suit-you exit the stall and go down the row and find a locker. You put your stuff in the locker-use the arm band to lock it-its pretty cool how it works-and then head on out into the indoor pool area.

We went in the indoor pool-then slid on out in the water via "doggy door" of sorts to the outdoor pool. Given that it was 30 degrees out and snowy-any excursion out side the water ( such as getting out to go to the outdoor whirlpool bath) was "invigorating" to say the least. After trying all the whirlpools and sliding back into the outdoor pool after a couple of quick stints through the snow, we returned to the indoor pool. 

After another 20 minutes of so-we worked up our courage and went down to the sauna.

Its actually a series of saunas, set to different temperatures and humidities. However the thing is-that down in the sauna area- the swimsuit comes off. And the changing room where you remove said suit is a mixed gender room. So imagine my surprise to walk in and see a 20 something girl pulling off her top to show me a rather exquisite set of breasts. ( At least they looked that way in the 2 seconds I saw them before turning my head away in order not to be assigned the nickname, gazer.) To say that this threw the S.O. for something of a loop is an understatement. She held back in the entry way-still in her suit-while I wrapped the towel round me and did a recce run to confirm that, yes Virginia, there really are naked women sitting next to naked men in the saunas. So I came back and explained the layout to her-and said that if she was uncomfortable with it, we could go back up to the pool and skip the sauna. Trouble was, she really wanted to get warm in the sauna, so she finally shed her Japanese reticence and disrobed from her suit. ( Personally, I think she makes an eye catching sight when she is naked-and recently opportunities to see her so have been nearly not enough, so I was more than happy she decided in the affirmative. I may be biased, but she still looks great for a woman in her mid 50's. :P  )

So wrapped in our bath towels off we go to the Finnish sauna. Where I had expected to just sit wrapped in a towel-but quickly discovered that people remove said towel to cover the wood seats, leaving one to "hang out" so to speak.

With a moments hesitation, off came her towel and like an beautifully carved statue of Venus, there she sat in her naked glory. Since I was very conscious of not wanting to be branded as some kind of pervert, I quickly learned to keep my eyes averted, looking up ever so quickly and then back down to the floor-or over at the S.O. Who was sitting with her legs crossed.

So we then did the circuit,  moving from the 70 degree C sauna up to the Roman Steam bath. ( Which is at 95 degrees and was one I could only stand for a short while-I am not a fan of steam baths finding it hard to breath in them.. Interestingly enough-they had a nice little bar down here-where one could sit in one's bath robe and / or towel and get a beer. ( For the next time-we are bringing bath robes, as many people did).

The S.O. was uncomfortable a bit-but she wanted to "try it all".  Wonder if I could get her to try that attitude with other things in life.

ANYWAY.

After getting nicely warmed-we showered. These had separate stalls-but it was still like a middle aged version of the shower scene from "Starship Troopers". Back to the changing room-suit up and back up to the pool.

We made the circuit once more time-ending up in the indoor whirlpool. After which we decided to get dressed and head home for beer and dinner. The S.O. was actually quite happy with the experience, even the sauna part-and it was kind of nice to be able to sit with her. In a Japanese onsen, she would have been with just the girls and I with the men. Which would have meant no conversation while sitting there soaking up the heat.

Evidently the Germans are more used to this modus operandi. As we were standing in the entrance-a woman asked us if we needed help. We explained our confusion-and she explained how it all worked. Which was what led to my confirmatory recce run.

It was a good way to spend a cold and snowy afternoon. And I got the "Peter Sellers" check in the block

In the car on the way home-the S.O. said something about "having seen more penis's in two hours at the Mineral Bad than she had seen in her entire life". ( We were talking about the sauna). I couldn't resist a response.

"Clearly you needed to get out more."

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Apr 28 2012

Taking a little detour.

And I'm back. Have been back for a couple of days-but tomorrow I am off again. Just time enough to do laundry. This time the travel is within Germany and I will be out of pocket for a couple of weeks.

I do plan to post some though-and I intend to use those opportunities to write about relationships. For two reasons really: one, its on my mind right now-as I read a book called The Happiness Project and two, I want an excuse to write some explicitly erotic prose. If you are prudish-or that is not your cup of tea, well, you can consider yourself fairly warned.

 

someecards.com - Women say that size doesn't matter but I have yet to meet a woman that owns a 3 inch crooked vibrator.

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Mar 06 2012

Sad day…..

Published by under Die Deutsche Leben

I sold the science project today. To "Sergey" -who while a holder of a German passport, is more Russian than German me thinks. I couldn't help but think of the scene from the Italian Job.

 

Seriously, I felt some genuine sadness driving the car up to the Zollamt to get the tax paperwork done-so that all the legal proprieties could be observed. He had given me a good price-considering the fact the car needs a new gas tank and serious(and I do mean serious) suspension and wheel bearing work. But the engine started up right away and it drove me smoothly to get the deed done.

Well sort of-as I drove through the Zollamt parking lot-I could hear the whining of the wheels as I turned them-probably only a matter of time before a control rod snapped right off.

But the car had actually been a real trooper-all things considered. It had always started and ran-and got me to and from work even when the snow was heavy. But there was also no way it was going to make it through inspection-without more time and effort and most importantly, money, than I could expend.

So I felt like a pet owner who is taking his old, sick, dog up to the vet for that final ride-that depth of sadness was upon me. Like the sick old dog-the car was on its last legs, but still it was faithful. I wish I had the skills, the garage space, and the time and the money to undertake restoring it-these 750's were actually beautiful cars once.

But as Mr. Eastwood said, " A man has to know his limitations".  This effort was not in my job jar. So I am assuming the car or its parts will end up somewhere on the Steppes…….

But once it probably looked like this:

 

Disclaimer note:    

I really should not wax so nostaligic about the car-the 750 series had one of the worst records for a luxury car and for BMW.  The cars have a very bad reputation and are a blot on the BMW record. They require way too much maintenance and are very hard to maintain. 

The BMW 750iL is like a woman in so many respects, she loves attention, she never tells you exactly what's bothering her (she makes you guess instead), she is always willing to spend your money, but when you give her what she needs, she can make you a VERY happy man. This car is an elite car for an elite few; it isn't anybody that can own a car like this. It is a car for the car enthusiast, financially, it's like owning a Lamborghini if you are not a car guy who loves to work on his own car. Labor is intensive and parts aren't cheap. I am a car fanatic, I love driving, I love cleaning, and I love wrenching. I have a 1989 750iL, I work on it (for fun, not because I have to) every weekend, these cars need to be paid attention to, their not always easy to figure out, and the investment you make has to be more than financial. Take some time to learn how some of its systems work, the Bentley manual is awesome. Taking this car to a mechanic other than one who either loves this car or is a perfectionist would be like expecting another man to put up with your wife while you enjoy the benefits. It sounds great, but rarely works out in real life. These are truly wonderful cars if you have the love, time, and patience.

I love women like women. Cars not so much. Yet, I hope it finds a good home somewhere. Rest well-trusty steed!

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Mar 05 2012

Herr Doctor will see you now

I've been in Germany about six months now and I thought I would take a moment or two to write about my experiences with the German Medical system.

In my previous employments I was either under American insurance and being seen by American doctors or I was under military care and being seen and having my medical information used against me-against my will. In only selected cases was I  personally seen and treated by foreign doctors-in Japan, Singapore,  and Australia.  I was able to witness the S.O.'s dealings with the Japanese system as well as the frustrations of her transition to American doctors and their different standards of courtesy towards patients ( something I heard about from her repeatedly-and not in a good way).

However, here-my ability to see American doctors is quite limited. Its not impossible-just not practical. As a military retiree I have some access to American military clinics. However it is such a low priority ( and it probably should be IMHO-given the budget cuts the services are taking), it is simply not practical. I do use them to fill my prescriptions though. As a result, I see German doctors. So far the experience has been exceedingly positive and it only serves to reinforce my belief that the American health care system is really fucked up-and needs massive changes.

Actually I should correct that a bit. America medical care itself is quite fine. Our system of paying for it though is completely and totally fucked up. The malfeasance of insurance companies is simply criminal.

As an "Auslander" I am not a full participant in the German Health Care system.  A system, by the way,  that is not " socialized medicine"-but does make kliniks and insurance companies adhere to a standardized set of rules and fee structure.

I have a German primary care physician. He is superb-and has done diagnostics for a particular issue relating to cholesterol-that I never got in the states. Its helped-and its actually cost a lot less than I thought it was going to. Same is true for the S.O. and her back issues. An MRI cost half what it cost state side-and the same is true of the ten sessions of physical therapy that were prescribed. The procedure where I had a sonogram of my neck and other locations was fairly reasonable given the amount of time the doctor took to perform it and explain what he was doing and the results he saw as he went.

In all cases the doctors were patient-spoke English well-and  the technicians were patient with my less than perfect German. So far I have never had to wait longer than 10 minutes to get seen after my arrival at the doctor's office. In Shopping Mall the wait was usually about 25 minutes or more.

The primary difference between Germany and the US-as far as I can concerned- is that in the US, I could rely on the doctors office to do all the billing of my insurance company. Here I have to serve as my own billing agent-meaning that I had to establish a "war chest" of money to pay doctor's bills and then replenish it through my payments from the two different health insurance plans I belong to. (TRICARE and my employer provided program).  If I had German "Versicherung" they would bill for me-but I don't and can't join because I am not a German citizen. So I am learning more than I ever cared to about filing and following up on insurance claims.

And I'm not liking it very much. With my employer provided insurance-I actually can upload claims fairly quickly, and thanks to the type of plan it is -one aimed at American Expatriates- I don't have to do medical translations of German bills. They are able to do it for me. TRICARE on the other hand is much more time consuming proposition. Not because it has to be-but because they have not taken advantage of several time saving things.

(I, like most veterans,  am completely opposed to the upcoming TRICARE fee increases, but that is a topic for another time).

So because of the requirement to deal with claims stateside I average 3-4 weeks, " in the hole" money wise. The German system of payment requires electronic bank drafts-checks are not used very often. ( For anything-I pay my rent and electricity via bank drafts too). So I have to have the cash on hand. Fortunately thanks to the advice of the S.O. and a savings effort that started the day I got rid of a substantial amount of American female baggage-it is not so big a deal. And certain Kliniks are getting up on line and direct billing my insurance company in the future. ( E.G., in Garmisch the ER was able to bill TRICARE directly).

So what are my conclusions after admittedly-a short amount of observation?  Well I have several, actually:

1) I think Doctors are pretty much the same. They got in the profession because they wanted to help people. What they morph into after being their a while though-varies from country to country. The US has probably the biggest transformation-because in the US doctors make HUGE amounts of money. ( Some of them). In Germany and Japan, doctors are still well compensated-and in Japan doctors enjoy a status in society-but not nearly as well as their American counterparts. Being human,  there is some resentment of that.

2)T.R. Reid is right: " No other country would dream of doing things the way we do. So it’s clear that we can’t fix the basic problems by tinkering at the margins of our existing system. Any proposal for “reform” that continues to rely on our fragmented structure of overlapping and often conflicting payment systems for different subsets of the population will not reduce the cost or complexity of American health care. Any proposal that sticks with our current dependence on for-profit private insurers – corporations that pick and choose the people they want to cover and the claims they want to pay – will not be sustainable."

In particular I am now more convinced than ever that insurance companies should be not for profit vehicles-and no employer or employee should be able to "opt out" of paying for health insurance. The mandate is essential-unless you wish to follow a model of Medicare for all Americans. Which would be also fine with me-but I think the private insurance model, provided employers were held down and forced to fulfill their moral obligations as employers would probably be more suitable for American society.

3) The process of paying a claim should be a lot easier and a lot more automated. If I can pay my credit card on line-insurance companies should be able to pay me electronically with 10 days from claim submission.

4) The people screaming about Obamacare "socializing medicine" and how it is making government run peoples lives-don't have a fucking clue what they are talking about. Private, for profit,  insurance companies are doing that now-and with no consistency. Free markets do not solve everything. In particular, with respect to health care, the blatantly encourage a criminal and immoral mindset among insurance companies.

5) Cost controls don't seem to be stifling patient care or innovation here in Germany.

6) American exceptionalism sucks! It is stopping us from capitalizing on the best experiences of other nations and as T.R. Reid pointed out is mostly founded on collective ignorance of how other nations really are. 

Another reason Americans tend to ignore the valuable lessons we could take from the rest of the world is that we have been in thrall to conventional wisdom about health care overseas. Thus we conclude that the foreign approaches would never work here. In fact, as I found on my global quest, much of this conventional wisdom is wrong. A lot of what we “know” about other nations’ approach to health care is simply myth.

10 responses so far

Mar 01 2012

Odds and ends….

Published by under Die Deutsche Leben

Andrew Breitbart is dead. I really have nothing to say-save for the fact that no one should have to die-at 43, 63 or 83. Condolences should go out to his family-which if one will notice,  a lot of his most ardent opponents are extending.  Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs probably summed things up best: 

We were friends once; that ended when I could no longer stomach the right wing extremism that Andrew chose instead to embrace. But I’m a bit sad that he won’t be ranting any more on Twitter about my “magic ponytail.” (Some of his other, more venomous insults I must confess I won’t miss at all.)

From all accounts, Andrew was a good family man who loved his wife and children, and I want to extend my sincere condolences for their loss.

 

While I have nothing to say-David Frum has a must read post up.

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I was up in Ramstein for most of this week-came back by train last night. It was, believe it or not the first time I had ever been to Ramstein. In my younger years-Rhein Main was the main entry and exit point to Europe. I have to say, the facilities at Ramstein are quite nice. They confirm every stereotype about the Air Force I ever had. The exchange and new BOQ are positively obsecene in how nice they are. Kind of sums up for me everything that has gone wrong with the American approach to overseas basing-just like Kadena and Yokota, the amount of real estate they have is really too much, and the creation of an isolated "American" community there is in many ways a bad thing. I'm glad I am down here in Stuttgart-and more embedded in the German community. That said-it is interesting the USAF can charge 1/3 as much as the Army-for much nicer lodging. What's up with that?

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The weather is getting warmer. That's good-I am ready for spring-however my inner feeling tells me there is one more major winter storm left here in Europe somewhere. Hope it doesn't happen too soon-or at least until I get a new car. That's right-Das Auto is tot! Or dying quickly….. In getting the science project ready for inspection-I came upon some discoveries that made me just close up the incision-there was a lot of suspension damage, which I had never suspected. The car was driving just fine. But it will not pass a German inspection-not without major work. Its cheaper just to sell it for what I can and get a new car. I can pay off my other car for less than this will cost to repair. So should I take the plunge and buy new BMW? I'm thinking not-the Mercedes A series we are renting right now ( the other car was getting its body work done finally) appears to fit our needs just fine. I can't understand why they don't sell this car in the states. Its small-but still has plenty of room. Gets good gas mileage and is a breeze to get in and out of tight German parking garages. I'm tempted to get one-but if I have to get dragged back to the US again-I am not sure I could bring it back with me. Sigh.

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Its been a busy week-and an up and down one. Got some bad news about a contemporary of mine, who passed away too young. I'll be writing on that when I can collect some thoughts. Cars are on my mind of course, and I've got 18 days to get some things done before I begin a long road trip. A least the days are getting longer.

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An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted.— Arthur Miller

Lot of truth to that I think-and sums up why the era of the 2000's will go on record as a lost decade. All of our illusions have become exhausted. Especially about the economy and the "Advantages" of being at war for the whole decade. More on that later.

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Feb 12 2012

More Fasching Fun

Published by under Die Deutsche Leben

The S.O. and I went to a Pferdemarkt today. ( Horse Market). It was up in Leonberg-a very charming old town northwest of Stuttgart. They have a four day festival-part of which is a Pferde Markt or Horse Market. Today there was a horse show-so the S.O and I went:

We also watched the younger girls ride the ponies:

The horse show was about a 1/4 mile from the town-the walk was pretty, in that it went from the town through the pastures and out to the Reit Zentrum. Leonberg is nestled against hills and makes for a pretty scene. We stayed and watched all the acts, which I gathered from the explanations in German, were from a local riding academy.

 

 

Continue Reading »

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Feb 07 2012

Snow? In Palma?

Published by under Die Deutsche Leben

Greetings from the European Deep Freeze:

A woman walks along Palma de Mallorca's promenade during a snowfall, on the Spanish Balearic island of Mallorca, on February 4, 2012.

 

More pictures here.

Temp in Stuttgart was below zero-FAHRENHEIT!

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