duh, Germany, petpeeve

My Four Most Productive Months


About halfway through the summer of 2015 I discovered it – a large, scaly callous. And once discovered, I was bewildered. How do you even achieve a callous on your ankle bone? It wasn’t until two weeks later that I realized what had happened.

I woke up with our baby one morning and we began our normal routine – the same routine we’d had for the past few months. We sat cross-legged on the rug and played before I did my morning exercises. As I went to rise, I leaned in and felt my ankle scrape the rug.

At the time I was coming to the end of three months of paid parental leave. Being your typical desk jockey, I wasn’t accustomed to this much sandal-wearing, floor-sitting or child-lifting, and all of the cross-legged sitting had taken its toll on the old ankle bone.

In total I had taken four months of paid (60% or so) leave. My wife had taken 10 months. This is parental leave in Germany. Fourteen paid months in total between us. Along with state mandated protection for the mother’s job (or an equivalent post) for up to two more years of leave unpaid. Not to mention the special eight weeks of ‘Mutterschutz’ for the mother before and after birth.

I’ve had a lot of trouble writing this post in a constructive way.

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Light Crap, petpeeve

Replacing Unpleasant Dementia with Sweet, Sweet Memories

Reader be wary: Andy Rooney-esque diatribe ahead.

I subscribe to the Confectionery News. It’s an industry rag that caters to the the folks who make your treats. It’s not actually a rag. It is a website. Each day my inbox receives a hearty helping  of news on the wonderful advances in the confectionery world, untold promises, and exposés of sweets research. Here is a sample of headlines:

Remember when you boiled down all that fruit into syrup and then pressed it back into fruit form?

One particular headline stood out recently:

Nostalgic candy wrappers help dementia sufferers bring back the memories: Nestlé

According to the article, “Nestlé UK has put together a collection of historical packaging and posters of its Rowntree brand designed to help patients diagnosed with dementia bring back happy memories.”

At first blush, this sounds really great. A unique way to help dementia patients flex their mind muscles. Just pull those old ads out and watch forgetful folks remember  when they used to buy delicious Rowntree Fruit Clear Gums for a nickel a box.

Then on second thought it sounds creepy as hell. Continue reading

petpeeve, Serious Shit

On sustainable communications

‘Resource scarcity will become a major factor for our world so we all have to accelerate the pace of our commitment. Which is why we’ve adopted an approach we call…’

I stole this image from the movie Mars Attacks that another blogger used in talking about a similar subject. You can find her post here.

For communicators working in the competitive field of sustainability, there is a constant war of words, a proliferation of jargon, as we jostle for funding opportunities and unique ways to express how what we do is better and more effective than the other sloths.

Hence the humble word ‘training’ has become capacity building, which can morph into an on-the-ground train-the-trainer approach, before winding up as locally-owned participatory skills development. And so it goes, a never-ending proliferation that can leave even the most astute reader cross-eyed and ready to slit their wrists.

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Bialowieza Addendum

Addendum to the post Old Growth: Bialowieza Forest

Upon arriving on the outskirts of Bialowieza, I realized I had no idea where I should hop off the bus. And the driver wouldn’t stop unless someone told him to. So finally after a bit of time I worked up the nerve to inquire about the location of the ‘Bialow%@&*^@a’ Forest (at this point I had not yet conceived of how to pronounce the name of my destination)

He responded with the universal body language for, “thanks a lot for telling me now, numbnuts,” and let me and three other forest seekers off the bus. He hopped out, pulled my pack out from below, pointed us in the general direction and sped away.

Undeterred and eager for forest, we got our rain coats and began the kilometer walk back to where we should have told him we wanted to get off. While walking and introducing ourselves (me and three astrophysicists – two French, one Polish and all quite nice), this little fellow below joined us.

This puppy is worth the visit to Poland.

Just an ordinary, little rapscallion with nothing better to do than tag along. He scampered at our side, biting at our shoelaces and being the kind of affable puppy you want to equal parts squeeze with love or kick in frustration. We all hoped he would continue along with us for the rest of the trip, but in the picture above is where we parted ways, our little chap happily standing by the side of a house eating some other dog’s excrement, I believe.

Oh, wait, hey look! A horned squirrel!!

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beefjerky, cockfights, hell, petpeeve


The guys in the center are the guys

“Stupid Mother F%#k! Denk an die Kinder! Stupid! Die F#$ker!”

It was a sunny, hot day in Vienna. After three coffee conference days filled with cappuccino quaffing followed with beer drinking, we headed across the Danube to the Old Danube, an oxbow of the river where Viennese gather to swim, row and sun bathe.

“So you think I can change here?” I asked as people milled around on the crowded beach, no changing rooms in sight.

My friend Anna (a Finn living in Vienna) replied in the affirmative. “Yeah, I don’t see why not. We do it all the time.”

And so I quickly yanked off my pants and in the blink of an eye pulled up my swimming trunks – literally, blink -of-an-eye, no extra jiggles, nothing – and sat back down in the grass between my friends. We began talking about the hotel where my friend stayed on the weekend and the prostitutes that gathered down the road.

All the while, in the background I could hear someone muttering.

“Mother F*#ker! F&#*ing sh*t!”

I thought they were referring to me, but it was hard to tell. Anna assured me that it was fine what I had done. There were women wandering around topless. Naked kids all over the place, and men in Speedos that left less to the imagination than if they wore nothing at all.

But the cursing got clearer and closer. Continue reading

beefjerky, Germany, petpeeve

To my somewhat racist neighbor

Dear older German woman,

It's okay, don't worry. It's all good.

It’s okay. You don’t have to worry. When you came up to me that other night as I was walking down the street, you seemed very nervous and agitated. You talked at me for a while about something urgent, but all I could make out was ‘black man’, ‘fear’ and ‘I live down the road’. I figured it was no use trying to explain to you in my limited German that black people are just like other people. They have hair, and feet and noses too.

Maybe I should have stopped and introduced you to the person, but I was a little taken aback by the urgency in your voice. I thought that you were in some sort of legitimate danger. Instead of trying to help you understand, I decided to help you home.

Okay, though, I can understand. It was a bit dark out and I have to admit, I was carrying some fancy camera equipment and when I saw those two Turkish guys catching up to me rather quickly on the street I did a double take as well. But really, you don’t have to worry.

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