Archive for the ‘Ramblings to Myself’ Category

Sand a.M.

5 Stern Radwanderweg

We walked to Sand am Main yesterday and the day before, when the sun was shining and there were hints of spring in the air. It is a very relaxing seven kilometer round trip using the five-star bicycle route to stay off the main road, Entering Sand this way, you get a hint as to where the name came from. Besides the wine produced locally, a lot of sand is dredged up from the waters in Sand a. Main (Sand on the Main River).

This afternoon, ducks were having a lot of fun sprinting across the water. The drakes were showing off for the females lined up to watch.

Drakes showing off

J.C. and the Sunshine

There is a very nice looking Catholic church in the center of town with a statue of Jesus on the roof. Maybe some day I’ll be in Sand at the right time to get the sun shining through the halo. In the mean time, we’re looking forward to this summer when the Strausse or, in the local dialect, “heckenwirtshaften” (literally hedge  pubs) are open and serving local wine and simple food outdoors.


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What do Kevin Costner and the heavy metal band KISS have in common?

For starters, both Costner, who is an actor, producer, and director and now a musician, and the heavy make-up, heavy-rock band play terrible music terribly. Both demonstrated this last night on the German TV show Wetten, dass..? a reality game show extremely popular in Europe. It’s kind of a cross between Sábado Gigante and The Tonight Show, and draws ratings in German-speaking countries of 50% or more of viewers.

Both Costner and the members of KISS are, shall we say, past the green of their lives. Costner is in his mid-fifty’s, and KISS members are all on the far side of that. But they are kids compared to Sophia Loren, who was also on the show last night. Loren is supposed to be 76-years old, and is starting to look it.

Sophia didn’t sing on the show. I wish Costner, who is touring Europe with a modern country music band,  hadn’t either.  To say that Costner can’t sing would be heaping undeserved praise on him. With luck, old Kevin will get over his mid-life crisis before he brings his show stateside, potentially exposing dozens of die-hard fans to the embarrassment of it all. KISS sounded the same as always when they took the stage. Which is to say I think they were lip-syncing an old tune.

One bright spot in the show is co-host Michelle Hunziker. And before you say “just another pretty face” consider this. The admittedly easy-on-the-eyes model, actress, singer and dancer speaks Italian, French, German, English and Dutch. This came in handy when talking to Sophia, who doesn’t speak German, and Costner, who while married to a German woman, doesn’t speak much of anything.

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These ducks are using a section of the iced over harbor on the Main River in Hassfurt as a “rest stop” of sorts. A little known fact about the duck is that it is a clean bird. Given the opportunity, a duck would prefer not to use the water it swims and eats in as a bathroom. Here, ducks are using a section of the ice for just that purpose. Look closely at the photograph and you will notice several “spots” used as open-air urinals.

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This sign in the Dülbig points the way to Zell am Ebelsberg, a small village nearby. It’s about half-way between Westhiem and Zell a E, on a small road used mostly by farmers and bicyclists.

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The news isn’t always bad when it come to the dollar. Here is a chart showing a decline in the Euro, which corresponds to an increase in my real income here in Germany. This was from an article in Spiegel On Line International about the currency and debt problems in the Euro zone. May this trend continue, and may I finally begin receiving my retirement pay, if there’s any left after Washington gets done with the budget.

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Rural West Virginia

Checking the news this morning, I noticed a ” . . . powerful blizzard paralyzes mid-Atlantic states“. I knew there was a blizzard (Obama called is “Snowmageddon”) from the pictures my friend Pat sent. I read this story and learned “Shawn Punga and his wife, Kristine, of Silver Spring, Md., went to a hotel because they lost power and were concerned for their 2-year-old daughter, Ryder, who was bundled up in thick pink pajamas and slippers.” The temperature had fallen to 60 degrees in their home.

Buried further down in the story was ” . . . only two people had died — a father-and-son team who were killed trying to help someone stuck on a highway in Virginia.” No names were mentioned.

When I tried to find out more, I had to go to a local news source to find out a ” . . . father and son died when a semi-truck plowed into their Dodge Caravan after they stopped to help a driver stranded on the icy interstate.  William Edward Smith Jr., 25, of Mooresburg, Tenn., was standing outside the van when the tractor-trailer lost control on the slick roadway. His father, William Edward Smith Sr., 54, of Sylva, N.C., was still inside.

Both men died at the scene“.

This tragic accident happened on I-81 in Wythe County, Virginia. This is a long way from Silver Springs, MD and the thick pink pajamas and slippers of s 2-year-old girl. That the temperature had fallen to 60 degrees in the little girl’s home was more newsworthy than the names of a father and son who died when they stopped to help someone else is just one example of what is wrong with the world.

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They've been smoking a while.

I have smoked more and smoke longer than just about anyone I know. I started smoking the cigarettes I filched from Mom’s purse more than 40 years ago. My daily consumption was measured in packs, not cigarettes. Yet I recently quit “cold turkey” with no problems at all.

I have quit many times in the past but always went back to smoking in a matter of days or weeks, at the most. I’ve use nicotine replacements like the patch and gum. Didn’t work because I still wanted to smoke. This time I have no desire to smoke again because I know the secret of how to quit.

Quitting is a three-step process involving –

  1. Life-style change.
  2. Relocation.
  3. Financial incentives.

A life-style change could involve school or work. Graduating from college or getting that dream job qualify for life-style changes, as would getting fired or going to prison. What the change is isn’t as important as long as it has a major impact on your every waking moment for the foreseeable future. A little something to take your mind off that next cigarette is what you are looking for.

Relocate. Pull up roots and move to another state or country. Someplace far enough away you can’t possibly go back without plane tickets and a week off. Move far enough away you have to learn a new language and this could double as a life-style change.

Financial incentives to quitting smoking have to be real to be effective. Just because cigarettes are now 25% of your budget isn’t enough. When you have to make a choice between feeding the kids or feeding your habit, you are in the right ballpark.

Following these steps, I haven’t smoked in over three months. My life-style change involved retirement (at about half of what I was earning), upon which I relocated to a country where cigarettes cost about $7.50 per pack.  Both these factors went a long way toward the financial incentive step.

I was going to market this three-step process. After all, if it worked for me it would work for anyone and I certainly could use the money. Then my wife pointed out what should have been obvious. I had had any number of life-style changes in the past and continued smoking. I have relocated several times and have lived on both the east and west coasts before, as well as Europe. I continued smoking. I remember paying $1.80 for a carton of cigarettes in 1972, and more that $7.00 for a pack of name brand smokes in Maine recently. I continued to smoke.

Quitting smoking is easy. Every smoker I ever knew has quit smoking at one point or another. Hell, every smoker quits every time he or she finishes a cigarette. The trick is not to start again. I quit smoking on November 1, 2009. The only real difference is I haven’t started again because I don’t want to. If I ever figure out how I came to not wanting to start smoking, I’ll be be back with a marketing plan.

Of course, if  we can convince kids never to start smoking in the first place my business plan won’t be worth much. And that would really be wonderful.

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The breaking wheel, several of which can be seen here in the background of Bruegel’s “The Triumph of Death” was a torture device used for capital punishment in the middle ages and later into the 19th century. In the epitome of cruel (if not unusual) punishment, offenders were tied to a wheel and beaten with a cudgel. The aim was to break bones and cause the most pain possible. Sometimes it could take days to die from this “breaking on the wheel.” Ironically, the cudgel was also called a life preserver, a club intended for self-defense.

“The Triumph of Death” painted c. 1562 by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

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Beta vulgaris L.

This is a pile of sugar beets. You see these piles in the corner of many fields this time of year. Second to carbonated water, sugar is the most important ingredient in soft drinks. There is a Coca-Cola factory here in Knetzgau. The factory is a major employer in the area. I suppose a lot of the beets grown around here are destined to end up in a bottle. Cans are not very environmentally friendly and unpopular in Germany for this reason.

Monsanto, one of the world’s leading evils, has genetically modified the lowly sugar beet to be resistant Roundup which, like Agent Orange, is a herbicide. Now growers can plant the beets, spray the s*** out of the fields with Roundup, and harvest the only thing that remains. Kind of a “last man standing” method of farming.

Sugar from the biotechnology-enhanced sugar beet has been approved for human and animal consumption in the European Union. On September 21, 2009, a federal court ruled that the USDA had violated federal law in deregulating Roundup Ready sugar beets without adequately evaluating the environmental and socio-economic impacts of allowing commercial production, and will be considering an appropriate injunction.

How could the EU approve use of this genetically modified sugar source when even the business friendly U.S. courts have found inadequate evaluation of the impact this product can have on the environment and the population? Beets me.

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From Wikipidia

Belief in witchcraft, and by consequence witch-hunts, is found in many cultures worldwide, today mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa (e.g. in the witch smellers in Bantu culture), and historically notably in Early Modern Europe of the 14th to 18th century, where witchcraft came to be seen as a vast diabolical conspiracy against Christianity, and accusations of witchcraft led to large-scale witch-hunts, especially in Germanic Europe.

I don’t believe in witchcraft or any other such nonsense. But if I did believe and went out on a witch-hunt, I would probably tag this one.

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