Eric's Germany Journal

This is part of a journal I wrote while living in Ulm, Germany, from December 12, 2002, to September 17, 2003.


Saturday, January 18, 2003

Today was a very busy day, partly because I had some tasks to catch up on, and partly because I chose to stock up on some things to make future days less busy, I hope. I shopped at both malls, downtown, and the supermarket.

First was Mutschler Center and Kaufland (Bargain Land), where I got a picture of the escalator and shopping cart I mentioned on January 11. I inserted that picture with the January 11 entry, so, if you read my journal between January 11 and January 18, you did not see the picture. Not that most of you care, but you engineer types might take a look. I tried to find brownie ingredients, notably baking powder, at Kaufland without much success. I did stock up on other things, including shampoo. I ran out of the small supply I brought with me, and I think I found the same brand that I use back home, under a different name. Wash & Go has the same package style, opening mechanism, and color as Pert Plus, so I presume it is the same product modified for a different market. Incidentally, the back has instructions in five languages, none of them English, although it is a product of an English company, Proctor & Gamble UK.

Since I haven't found black beans, I have been getting beans labeled Linsen, which I think means lentils, and they are pretty good.

Rounded-triangular chocolates and slices of hazelnut-chocolate roll
Café Ströbele's best chocolates. The triangular chocolates have a whipped hazelnut cream inside with three circular wafers. The other pieces are slices of a hazelnut-chocolate roll with a strong hazelnut flavor.
Downtown, I bought chocolate, measuring cups, and chocolate. I also tried to tell my bank my phone number changed from the hotel, but I forgot they are closed on Saturday. I did manage to photograph some of the chocolates from Café Ströbele for you, although they move almost as fast as the ducks.

I have seen measuring cups at only one store, Abt, so I bought those. They are in English units! 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup, and 1 cup. They are products of a US company, although made in China. The fancy German kitchen store doesn't even have German measuring cups. The absence of measuring spoons, of native measuring cups, and of baking soda is all consistent with the hypothesis that Germans do not bake. I did learn more about this later in the day. Oh, there is another German custom that differs from the US. Many stores have little coin trays on the counters that are used to pass coins back and forth, instead of handing them directly to the clerk or the customer. I wonder how that came about. It comes in helpful at some stores because customers are busy bagging their groceries, so the clerk can put the coins in the tray and serve the next customer, but I don't think that is what started the custom.

After dropping off my purchases at home, I went to Marktkauf (Bargain Market) for my regular grocery shopping, and also not much luck buying brownie ingredients. Unsweetened chocolate is nowhere to be found. The recipe uses a mixture of semiweet and unsweetened, though, so I may be able to use bittersweet instead. I could not find baking powder even though I went back and forth through the baking aisle. I did find cocoa powder (Kakao). I also found tortillas, so, next time I make the filling for Tri-Color Fajitas, I can have it in tortillas instead of on rice. Unfortunately, I already bought ingredients for other meals this week. I think I found baking soda, but I am not sure. According to the ingredient listed on the German box, it is a chemical, and I know baking soda is a chemical, so that must be it, right? Let's see, Natriumhydrogencarbonat, sodium hydrocarbonate, is that baking soda? It sounds familiar, but none of my reference books are here. I will have to check on the web.

I also bought a small stand mixer at Marktkauf. That's my first purchase with a German power plug, so it won't be coming home with me unless it is the most amazing mixer ever.

Two road signs, one with a slashed circle and an arrow pointing left, and one with a double-slashed circle and an arrow pointing right
Do not go left a little, and do not go right a lot?
I made another trip home to drop off the groceries and headed out again to Blautal Center. The road signs to the left are in my neighborhood, and I do not know what they mean. By itself, I would guess the top sign means "no going left," but then the bottom sign would mean "no going, right, either, just in case you were thinking of that instead." The yellow sign underneath them tells utility workers where something is buried. There are such signs all over in various colors, so I guess the color may indicate the utility—water, electricity, sewage, gas.

Sculpture of a sparrow with yellow flashing headlamp, radio antenna, and rear car hoist
Abschlepp-Spatz, Tow Sparrow.
Speaking of road rules, there is no right-turn-on-red here.

The sparrow to the right is at ADAC, the German auto club.

In Reali at Blautal Center, I hit the jackpot: baking powder, black beans, refried beans, vanilla extract, and chocolate chips. The baking powder (Backpulver) was in packets, not a carton or canister. That could be why I missed it at previous stores, but I don't think so; I looked at a lot of stuff. It also shows why Germans do not need measuring spoons—the packets are sized and labeled to go with 500 grams of flour. So you don't measure, you just tear and pour. That won't work with my recipes, so I am glad I have my measuring spoons.

The packets, and the package of ten I bought them in, aren't even labeled with the amount of baking powder in them. The only indication of quantity on them is the fact they are for 500 grams of flour.

The vanilla extract confirms the lack of measuring. I found a very small bottle of vanilla at Marktkauf, but Reali has small vials of vanilla extract (and almond and others), about the size of vials for perfume samples. They are also sized to go with 500 grams of flour. It is like there is one standard German baking recipe, and you will make it.

The chocolate chips (Schoko Tröpfchen) are small chips, expensive, and in small packages. The small bags in the US are six ounces, and others are ten ounces or more. The chocolate chips here come in a box of 75 grams, only 2.6 ounces! What are you supposed to do with that? I bought three boxes to try with my first batch of brownies, but I may chop my own later.

With all that done, I have located all the ingredients I need to make the chocolate-chip macadamia brownies (no raspberry). I still must find an oven thermometer, though. No luck at Kaufland, Abt, Marktkauf, or Reali. I will try Galeria Kaufhof and Müller this week.

The scarcity of baking ingredients and tools suggests Germans do not do a lot of baking, and the meager chocolate available for baking suggests little of their baking involves much chocolate. When I serve my deep chocolate brownies (with sour cream in the recipe), the Germans are in for a shock.

The receipt from Reali has some sort of notice about one-way return limits, along with boxes with spaces to be filled in next to small amounts (€0.25 and €0.50). This may be something about returning bottles and cans with deposits, but I don't know.

When I was done at Blautal Center, I had been shopping for over six hours, so I just went home instead of looking for a Restmülltonne, the barrel I need to dispose of Restmüll under my own quota instead of my landlady's. Andreas said they may be available at home-supply stores, like the US Home Depot. There are two such stores near the brothel, so I may go there when I am up to it. The stores, not the brothel.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

The pure peanut butter I got back on January 2 is pretty good. It's a lot more oily than the US brands I am familiar with, but the oil was too well mixed with the solids to pour it off. I had a jar of hazelnut butter before, and the oil was separated enough to pour it off. Hazelnut butter has a lot of kick to it; I may bring some back to the US. Anyway, it is a shame that I have a good peanut butter, but there is no hope of finding a bagel to put it on, let alone a multigrain bagel like Hannaford's.

Huh. I am translating the letter from the German social insurance agency, and, according to my translation software, gestreifte means "roveed." Well, that's helpful, now I just need to know what "roveed" means. (Gestreifte actually means "striped.") Usually the software does better than that, but I have to help it along. Two sentences later, it translates an instruction as "Paint glue foil of above after below over the photo." Hmm, five prepositions in a row. Looking at the German, I cannot say it is wrong. That reminds me of the father who went upstairs at bedtime with a book about Australia to read to his son. When the boy saw the book, he asked his father, "What did you bring that book about Down Under up for?" There's no rule against ending a sentence with five prepositions, is there?

The social insurance card has a do-it-yourself photograph holder. You raise some plastic, press a photograph onto the adhesive, and push the plastic over it. The plastic is translucent but very orange, so everybody looks just wonderful under it. That reduces health care costs, because the doctor will look at your social insurance card and say you look better now than you did in the photograph, so you do not need any care. I am glad I prepared thoroughly in the US. Before I left, I printed six 2"x2" photographs on a piece of paper. I have needed four of them so far.

Here's a strange cultural difference for US folks: The price of a letter stamp here seems to have gone down. That would never happen in the US. However, it's still a lot higher than US stamps, €0.55 (down from €0.56).

I visited today, and it came up with the German Google site. They must redirect based on the IP address, and I got the German site since I have a German ISP. I can still get to the US site, through another URL that says "I really mean it."

Monday, January 20, 2003

I haven't found glass or paper recycling bins near my home, so I packed up my scrap paper and glass and took them to the bins near EADS. I didn't notice the first time I was there that there are two kinds of paper bins, and I am not sure what the difference is. I will have to photograph and translate the signs sometime. For now, I used the bin with the less dire sign. For those of you who are counting, we are now up to eleven places for your trash: organic, recyclable, clear glass, green glass, brown glass, one kind of paper, another kind of paper, other household-disposable material, stuff that can go to the local recycling center, computers and appliances, and stuff that goes to special processing centers.

The bins are labeled Einwurfzeit werktags 7-20 Uhr (Disposal-time weekdays 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.). Watch out for miscreants who try to recycle on weekends. Is it really a problem? I suppose the noise of smashing glass might bother people a little, but it would be hard to make any sort of disturbance with the paper bins. There is no lid or anything to move, just a slot to put paper in.

There are two lists of things not to throw in the bins, one list beginning with Kein (no, as in no carbon paper) and one beginning with Keine (also no, but as in no foil). Apparently, when you have one list of things, you have to break it into two lists, one for the masculine words and one for the feminine words.

Microsoft Word crashed on me twice today, costing about an hour's work, total. It is supposed to back things up every few minutes, but it didn't. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. I had been working on just one file for hours, without opening or closing it (but saving it occasionally), yet Word put temporary backup files in both the directory containing the file and Word's data directory. That makes a mess so it is a nuisance to figure out what file is the most recent, and none of the files matched where Word's help files said it keeps the backup files, nor did the recovery procedure in Word's help files work at all.

Here is more about the supermarkets from the other day. The bakery aisles have lots of flour and salt but are otherwise meager. By contrast, the canned cabbage section is huge. Sauerkraut is just the beginning. Every salad I have had here has included sauerkraut, except the cheese salad. I think the sauerkraut here has less salt than the canned sauerkraut in the US, but it is hard to be sure. The flour is labeled with a standard number, Weizen Mehl Type 405. That's another sign that there is one standard German recipe that you are supposed to make.

I brought my notebook computer and two luggage bags with me to Germany. A lot of other stuff I had shipped. Today is the first day my boxes might have arrived from the US, according to the four-to-six week stated period. So, sometime in the next two weeks, I should receive more clothes, my printer, and some reference books.

Can anybody who has used the elliptical trainers tell me about them? The treadmill was in use at the gym today, and I got tired of the bike, so I tried one of the elliptical trainers. It seems awkward, because there is a lot of freedom in where you put your weight and where you push. Are you supposed to shift your weight from foot to foot, lean forward or stand straight, what?

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Some things are the same in any language. One of my officemates called the company's technical support group about a problem, and somebody came to the office. They spoke in German for a bit, and then spoke more German I did not understand, and then some more German. The conversation ended with a single word, said with exasperation: "Microsoft." I understood that!

I just completed my first bank transfer form, to send money to a guy in München to pay for a bootable Linux CD. It seems simple enough, except the space for the amount indicates "Euro, Cent" but has no marker to separate whole euros and cents. I figure you are supposed to use the last two digits for the cents, and I put a comma there to mark it. They use commas in place of decimal points, right? I'm sending eight euros, not eight hundred.

Well, that's enough for tonight. It's Buffy time.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

The soda machine in the EADS cafeteria is a plain-looking thing, mostly featureless except for the modestly-sized buttons. Come to think of it, I haven't seen one of the brightly-lit full-front-image soda machines here.

I went downtown this evening for several chores. I asked the Hotel Ibis if they had received any mail for me, and they said no. That leaves unexplained why a package that Kathy forwarded to me hasn't arrived and why I haven't received a bank statement yet. Just to be sure, I stopped at the bank and made sure they had my current address. I also deposited my Überweisung (transfer) form in their collection box.

I got a haircut. I checked out some place at the mall last weekend, but the wait was around an hour, and none of the hairdressers there spoke English. I had prepared some German instructions, but I wasn't in the mood to wait. Today I tried a bit more expensive place and didn't have to wait and got a hairdresser who knew enough English to communicate.

Then I went to find an oven thermometer. I tried Galeria Kaufhof first, as they have a good kitchen department. No luck. I bought some other things and got asked the same question as before about a Karte. Oh, wait, I didn't enter that story in the journal.

Okay, flashback. I am picking up a few words here and there, so that I can sometimes tell the subject matter of written things. I haven't got a chance at meaningful conversation; the best I can do is catch a key word occasionally. E.g., some time ago, I took a potholder to a cashier at Galeria Kaufhof, and she asked me some question with many words. I didn't catch anything but Karte, so I guessed she was asking me if I have their special-store-brand-customer-club-member-discount-so-we-can-track-all-your-shopping-and-mail-you-lots-of-ads card, so I said nein, which resulted in the behavior I wanted: She rang up my purchase, took my money, and gave me change and a receipt.

Today I bought a few more things, and this time I caught one more word in the same question: Kunde (customer). So I think I am on the right track about it being a privacy-invading-behavior-influencing customer card. But I did not find an oven thermometer. I was about ready to give up and have one airmailed to me from the United States, because I had already tried several other stores. Müller was last on my list, but I wasn't hopeful. I had just about exhausted their kitchen department when I found it! That's the last piece of the brownie puzzle. The oven is being calibrated right now. Now I can buy the perishable ingredients and make brownies this weekend.

I stopped at the tourist bureau to ask if there was a list of the sparrow sculptures around town, but they don't know of one. I will just have to walk around looking.

Finally I went to the Volkshochschule (people's high school) to see if I could look at the book for the beginning German class to see if it really is for beginners. Or not-yet-beginners in my case. But I only found classrooms, a kid's library, and Albert's Café (in Einsteinhaus), no offices. It was evening by then, so I will have to go back in the day to see if offices are open in the other buildings or there is a bookstore around.

I am not impressed with the oven. Points around the edge of the door get hot enough to boil water.

Friday, January 24, 2003

My reality and entertainment coincidentally overlapped: Tonight's episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer featured a German monster. The monster in "Killed by Death" preys on children and sucks the life out of them. It was named the Kindestod, drawn from the German words for child and death. I wonder if there is such a monster in German folklore or the Buffy writers made it up completely.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

If I had remembered my camera, there would be a picture of a sparrow here.

Not a picture.
I went out for more shopping and errands today, and I forgot to take my camera to photograph sparrow sculptures. I located two more, so now I have at least four more sparrow sculptures to show you, including a ladybug sparrow. Maybe next week.

Since the streetcars are trains, they use train signals instead of traffic signals. There is a vertical white line for go and a horizontal white line for stop. In a few places, like the Ehinger Tor transfer station, the buses have train-like signals too. I wonder why that is? Another oddity is that the train signals and traffic signals are not synchronized. Often the streetcar will have a signal to go through an intersection while traffic going the same way does not. That seems inefficient, but I suppose there must be some scheme at work.

Now that I know what to look for, I looked for baking soda and baking powder in the baking aisle at Kaufland. They aren't in the aisle with flour, salt, and sugar. There is a separate area in the store where there are pudding mixes, gelatin, cake decorations, packets of vanilla-sugar, and baking soda, baking powder, and yeast. I had looked there last week but didn't see the small packets of baking soda and baking powder among the packets of other things that are merely decorative.

The German post office seems to offer banking services.

Sigh, I have to decode my butter and eggs. I need a weekend when I don't do anything new, like buy dairy products, and have to translate more stuff.

The butter is Deutsche Markenbutter, Mildgesäuerte, and Streichzart. I got the Deutsche part. None of the other words are in my dictionaries, so I can only guess from the parts. Markenbutter is "sign butter," and I do not know what that is supposed to mean. Mildgesäuerte may be "mildly sour," as opposed to sweet butter. (Between the lack of semisweet and unsweetened chocolate and the mildly sour butter, the sugar content of my brownies is never going to be right.) Streichzart is smoothing-tender, so maybe that means easy-spreading.

The eggs are marked with codes. I wouldn't want to design a machine to stamp lettering on irregular curved fragile surfaces. Mine are 2-DE-2035-2. The first digit is a code for the Haltungsform, the bearing form. That's easy to figure out, because there is a table inside the carton:

The translation software actually translates Freilandhaltung as homestead bearing, but it is obviously free-range bearing. And haltung must be something somewhat different from bearing, but you get the idea. It is interesting that they start the numbers at zero, like every good software engineer knows you should.

The two letters indicate the country of origin, DE for Deutschland (Germany), BE for Belgien (Belgium), FR for Frankreich (France), and NL for Niederlande (Netherlands). Can eggs come from anywhere else?

The four-digit group is the Legebetrieb, which is "laying business," so I guess that is an ID for the farm where the egg was layed. And the last digit is the Stall, which means barn, or maybe stall. Only ten barns per farm, or do they use more digits if needed? With all that information, you could go visit the hen that layed your egg.

The egg container is also marked mit Legetag and Gelegt im Schönen Bad.-Württ. The former means "with laying date," and the eggs are indeed stamped with a date, 20.01.03. The latter means "Put in the pretty Baden-Württemberg." Maybe "produced in beautiful Baden-Württemberg"? Okay, fine, no surprises, so I can try the butter and eggs in the brownies. Actually, there is a bunch more German inside the lid, but it seems to be promoting the examining agency (Fresh—Residue inspections—Hygiene—Animal health—Lining) and telling you the code format has changed.

Uh, oh, the egg cartons are labeled with the recycling symbol for Gelber Sack, but the EBU instructions say egg cartons go in Biotonne. What to do? I guess you have your choice.

Brownies In the Oven

The brownies are in the oven. This is important because: There were lots of differences making the brownies. Metric units, chocolate substitutions, mixer blades, egg color. I hadn't thought about it before, but, when I got the neat digital scale over 1000 grams, it showed a period instead of a comma to separate the thousands digit.

I used bitter chocolate in lieu of a mixture of semisweet and unsweetened, so that should work out okay. The flour and cocoa powder are slightly different but likely not an issue. For chocolate chips, I used the expensive chips on top but chopped up chocolate for the interior chips. The sour cream is thinner. Actually, the entire batter was thinner.

Once I started the mixer, it became apparent the eggs are a different color, a very dark yellow, almost orange. It is hard to tell because the light in the kitchen is bad. There are just three small spotlights, so there are lots of shadows. The mixer beaters have the same balloon shape as US beaters, but they are wires instead of blades. I do not think they have the same effect as US beaters, or the eggs were different, because the batter was thin. I beat the eggs longer than usual but the batter was still thin. Also, I am not sure the mixer is as powerful as my mixer at home, even though it is rated at a slightly higher power (210 watts versus 200). But maybe the motor is just quieter and smoother and not transferring as much power to the batter through the wire beaters.

After I put the chocolate and flour in, the taste was okay, but it seemed different, and I am not sure if that was a real difference or a subjective difference due to the thinness. I don't think the batter had the oomph it usually does.

Well, the first batch looks okay, and the macadamias are starting to brown. I can bake only one batch at a time because the oven is so small. That's another sign Germans aren't big on baking. Oh, and the top of the stove is very warm. There is a lid that comes down over the burners, and even it is very warm, but not enough to burn. The brownies bake at only 325°, so the lid might become dangerous at higher oven temperatures.

Uncut pan of brownies
Chocolate-Chip Macadamia Brownies fresh from the oven.
The first batch is out of the oven. They look okay. You can see the oven temperature is not well distributed—the macadamia nuts in the center are not browned as much as the outer nuts.

The leftover macadamias are very good, better than those I get in the US. I won't be able to taste the brownies until tomorrow. (They have to cool considerably before they can be cut without falling apart.)

Sunday, January 26, 2003

I added two links to the Ulm section of my main Germany page. One points to a page with a few pictures of Ulm, and the other points to a page with a good write-up of the Ulm sparrow story.

We Have Brownies

Tray of brownies
Chocolate-Chip Macadamia Brownies ready to serve.
The brownies are ready. They need better chocolate, so I will look around. I also think the texture is a little different, but they will do. When my laundry is done, I will take some to my neighbor, Herr Kling and some to my landlady, Frau Moser. Monday, I will take a dozen into the office.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Well, I have to say the brownies do not have the aroma of the real thing, and they dry out more quickly. I will look for better chocolate.

I have lost my EBU Restmüll sticker. Even if I do not use the sticker, I am supposed to return the unstuck half to the EBU office when I leave Ulm. I do not know what will happen now. Am I in trouble? Is there a fine? I do not even know how to tell the woman at the EBU desk that I lost the sticker, and she speaks very little English.

I realized Saturday the sticker wasn't on the desk by the door where I expected it to be, and I didn't know where it was. I looked all over in case I filed it accidentally or stored it somewhere and forgot. But "all over" isn't that much in a home that's less than a month old. It may have gotten mixed in with some trash (and probably the wrong category, too). If it is here, it is well hidden. I thought maybe I left it at the office, but I checked today, and it is not there. Oh, well.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

I found the Restmüllmarke. I moved a notepad, and there it was, in a pile of documents waiting to be translated. It's a growing pile: registration information for the Volkshochschule, information from my bank about Internet and telephone banking, the GelbeSeiten (Yellow Pages), and, of course, the Restmüllmarke. No, I am not going to translate the entire GelbeSeiten, just the interesting parts. It has a restaurant guide, divided into five parts:
Restaurants, Essen & Geniessen Restaurants, Eating & Savoring
Gaststätten, Trinken & Erleben Restaurants, Drinking & Experiencing
Nachtleben, Treffen & Tanzen Nightlife, Meeting & Dancing
Bringdienste, Bequem & Schnell Delivery Services, Comfortable & Quick
Hotels, Schlafen & Entspannen Hotels, Sleeping & Relaxing

There must be a connotation difference between Restaurants and Gaststätten, but my dictionaries do not tell me what it is. Gaststätten looks like "guest places," and I suppose it refers to bars. I will check out some of the restaurants when my scale gives me permission, and there are a couple of vegetarian restaurants listed.

I have email at the office now. I am not going to post it in a publicly accessible web page, so email me at my regular address if you want my office address.

I have narrowed down the German-as-a-foreign-language courses to one, and I am wondering whether I really want to sign up for it. I have plenty to do here, so my time will not go to waste if I do not spend it learning German. German will be useful to get around in Ulm, but I do not plan to spend that much more time here, and the skill will not be that useful later on. And the course is two nights a week for four months, which could interfere with traveling Europe when I get around to it.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Sarah Michelle Gellar)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Sarah Michelle Gellar).
Kitten pawing at spiral galaxies
Kitten poster.
After work, I went to Praktiker and bought a Restmülltonne. Praktiker is a huge store like Home Depot. Among all the light switches and hoses and garden furniture, they had some posters, so I looked through them to see what exotic foreign posters I might find that are not available in the US. There were no fewer than four Buffy the Vampire Slayer posters. (I only bought one small one, and a poster of a kitten pawing at some spiral galaxies. Besides, they airbrushed all the character out of the other posters.)

While shopping for a 35-liter Restmülltonne, it occurs to me that charging for garbage by volume should create a demand for garbage compacters. Next time I am near a small appliance department, I will have to test this hypothesis and see if there is a large selection. Not that I want one, 1.25 liters per day should be enough for me, but understanding the economics is interesting.

Just inside the Praktiker exit is a bakery. Actually, there is a bakery inside almost every large store. This one had an odd pastry I had not noticed before, a sort of streusel braided into a pretzel shape. Pretty, but nothing special taste-wise. It was evening and getting dark, so the establishment across the street was all lit up, with neon hearts in every window (over twenty of them).

I just received my forwarded Verizon bill. This has nothing to do with Germany, but as long as I have your attention: Verizon's bill always stands out because of a quirk. For the past 26 months, I have had fixed service from Verizon. I switched all my long-distance service to other companies, and the only thing Verizon bills me for is the fixed-price line with unlimited local service. Yet out of the past 26 months, the bill has been 16 different amounts, once for a price increase but usually up or down by a penny or two for reasons known only to their computers.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Today I got most of the out-of-cache kernel design in a fixed, usable form. There is one more part to optimize, and then the rest of this part of the project is a simple matter of programming. There is still a lot to do, but this makes it clear I will be done early.

The EBU sent me a bill for waste disposal services for Neutorstraße 12 for 2003. That is the address of Hotel Ibis, although the bill is just for one person. I think I am not going to pay it, particularly since I didn't spend even part of one day of 2003 in the hotel. Now I have to figure out how to tell the EBU I am not going to pay it.

They sent a 35-liter 14-day Restmüllmarke with it. It is like they registered me as a person living at that address and wanting 14-day service. That doesn't make sense, because, at my first contact with the EBU, I gave the woman my new address, she knew Frau Moser was already paying for services here, and she gave me a 28-day Restmüllmarke and told me I would be billed for €31. I suspect I may still be billed for that, and I just need to get the Neutorstraße bill canceled.

I wish I could just throw away the bill, but, if you haven't paid your garbage bill, you aren't allowed to throw things away.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Sculpture of a sparrow with ladybug markings
Ladybug Sparrow.
I went to the EBU and disposed of my garbage bill. It was a lot easier than I expected. The woman at the EBU desk today spoke less English better than the woman the other day—fewer words but better comprehension. She got the idea right away and took away the bill and the 14-day Restmüllmarke. So I can't pay the bill now even if I want to. And she confirmed that Frau Moser will be billed, and I will be paying Frau Moser as part of the lease. So things seem okay. I am still a little worried that I have a 28-day Restmüllmarke, but, if I get a bill for that, I am fine paying it.

Plaque featuring likeness of Einstein
Einstein Plaque.
After the EBU, I went to the nearby Einsteinhaus to look for the office again. It's a lot more visible when the office lights are on. Before I knew it, I was registered for Deutsch als Fremspreche, German as a Foreign Language. If I understand the school calendar correctly, the class runs until July 7! It only meets 30 times, but there are 10 holidays. That tells us what dates I may be available if you want to come visit: February 27 to March 9, April 10 to April 27, and May 29 to June 15. Don't count on June; if I finish the job, I will not have much reason to finish the class and stay around. When I stay or not may depend on factors like how much aggravation the EBU causes me.

Sculpture of a sparrow with writing on it as if it were a book page
Book Sparrow.
The school does not have a bookstore. You buy the book at any bookstore in town. That is another economics problem. There are a lot of bookstores in town, so is the demand for textbooks enough for most of the stores to stock the books? Apparently so, I found the book in stock at the first store I tried. I now have a German book. It is in German too, so it is a German German book. I suppose the Deutsch Deutsch book goes with my ein Einstein Stein.

I remembered my camera this time and photographed eight new sparrows for you. I will add them to this journal over the next few days. I noticed the Einstein plaque above while I was photographing the book sparrow to the left. The plaque is near the monument of his birthplace, and it is a gift from India. The book sparrow is in front of a bookstore, but not the one where I got the German German book.

The bakeries have "pizza pretzels" that have cheese and another pizza topping or two poured onto a large pretzel. The mechanics of retaining pliable cheese in an open-weave pretzel do not work well.

This is interesting: Banks do not normally mail statements. I just got email from Lars explaining this. Next to the Geldautomat (ATM) is a Kontoauszugsdrucker (bank statement printer). You use it whenever you want a statement. After a while, the bank's computer will figure out I am not using the machine and will mail me a statement. The Kontoauszugsdrucker is one way people figure out when somebody has paid them money—you can verify a transfer into your account by getting a statement. I suppose most people also do it by phone or Internet. I will have to try out the Kontoauszugsdrucker this weekend. Learning to use the ATM was a bit of trouble, because it would prompt me with some message, I would start looking up words in my dictionary, and it would time out before I had gotten more than a word or two.

Oo, my randomly selected signature today is a quote from Buffy: "There is no problem that cannot be solved by chocolate."

Friday, January 31, 2003

Shiny sculpture of a sparrow with a ring in its beak
Jewelry Sparrow.
Uh, oh, more mail from the EBU. Hmm. Well, this one seems to be a confirmation of the retraction of my assessment. That's a neat trick, getting it here in today's mail, considering I was at the office around 4 p.m. yesterday. Let's see, it says my fee was €130, my fee has been changed to €0, that causes a reduction of €130. Then it says €0 was past due, €130 was due, and there is a reduction of €130. And the convenient bank slips they attach for you to sign are all marked out, not to be used. So, it appears I am okay. For now.

Okay, what's next. A notice from Deutsche Post that I have a registered letter or parcel. Let's see, I think it says please pick up the shipment with the return of this certificate and official identification within seven days of the next workday after 9 a.m. Foo, is Saturday a workday? Maybe I should wait until Monday before trying. Also, I have to go to the downtown Deutsche Post for it. That's fine for whatever this is, but it is going to be a nuisance when my five large packages from home arrive. I will have to make several trips by Straßenbahn. Hmm, what's this? "Note please comments on the back!" Aah! It's a five-row, six-column table of I-don't-know-what. Hmm. Okay, it's just a list of who can pick up what type of mail. The receiver can get anything, their spouse can get almost anything, children and parents at the same address can get some stuff, people with some sort of authorization can get things marked "personal" (but not anything else, which is confusing), and so on.

Sculpture of a blue and green sparrow what may be a flowerbud
Hummingbird Sparrow. I think it is a hummingbird sparrow because it is over a store named Kolibri. Is that some sort of flowerbud at its mouth?
I don't know what the shipment could be. My five packages of stuff will likely all arrive together. Kathy forwarded a book by airmail that is four weeks late, but it wouldn't be registered. sent me the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD, and that just might require a signature, although I wouldn't think it would be registered. I suspect the dictionaries overdid it and Einschreiben just means a thing that has to be signed for, not registered mail. And I ordered a cheap Linux CD from a guy in Munich, but that's not likely to even require a signature.

Here's the last letter. Well, you thought you were special, getting mail addressed to "Resident," huh? Here's a letter marked An Haushalte mit Tagespost, "To Households with Day Postal Service." How about that? It's an ad for a long-distance phone company. Andreas already showed me a web page listing various companies' rates for local and international service, and I am using a service that allegedly costs only 3.2¢ per minute to the US. Phone rates do not obey the laws of physics. I pay 3.2¢ per minute from Germany to the US, around 5¢ per minute from New Hampshire to other states, and around 10¢ per minute from Nashua to elsewhere in New Hampshire. If any of my New Hampshire readers want to talk to each other, it may be cheaper to set up a conference call from Germany than to call directly.

Saturday, February 1, 2003

Sculpture of an elegant lady sparrow with eyelashes and necklace
Lady Sparrow. This one is over another jewelry store.
There was a guy in the Fitness-Studio last night who had problems setting and starting the treadmill. I don't know why; the treadmill is labeled with instructions in plain English. I bought a kitchen timer today, and it came with instructions only in English, no German or other languages. Well, near English—the phrase "This will cause eyes uncomfortable" is not that of a native speaker. Perhaps it is made in Japan, given English instructions, and then sold in Germany.

Why when you press the button marked Blaukraut on the produce-weighing machine in Marktkauf does it print a sticker labeled Rotkohl?

Sculpture of a red sparrow smoking and wearing a cap with a red star
Smoking Sparrow. Che Guevera's face is on its belly.
I got my bank statement, and my pay statement from Acotes also arrived. This never ends; I just keep translating and translating. I think the bank charges for mailing things, like sending you an ATM card. But that hasn't added up to much, so I have bigger things to deal with. The big surprise in my bank statement is that the private health insurance I opted for is deducted directly from my bank account, instead of from the employer's pay. I didn't know who the heck was taking money out of my account until I figured out what the name "UNION KRANKENVERS." on the statement was. It is Union Krankenversicherung, but I hadn't seen the name in six weeks, and a lot of other German has gone by since then.

I have to retract my comment about the banking system being less susceptible to fraud in the absence of checks, since it seems people can take money out of your account without permission. Acotes must have given Union Krankenversicherung my account number. I did sign a form stating I wanted health insurance, so I agreed to pay for it, but I did not agree they could take it out of my bank account. I don't like that; I need to have control as one way of dealing with the foreign things I do not understand yet.

The pay statement does not have any surprises like the bank statement. I am paying several taxes, as expected. However, I do not know what they are. I am paying German income tax as well as SolZ, RV, and AV. I have sent email asking Lars what those are.

Many of the sidewalks have two lanes, one for pedestrians and one marked for bicycles. It snowed Thursday night, and, while walking around today, I noticed they have cleared the two lanes separately in many places. The bicycle lane was well cleared, down to the pavement. The pedestrian lane was partially cleared but still had packed snow on it. Is there any US city that plows bicycle lanes?

The Linux CD arrived in the ordinary mail, so it is not the Einschreiben. I guess that makes Buffy the leading contender. I'll find out Monday.

Whitewater where a stream enters the Danube
A powerful stream enters the Danube.
I went to Zunfthaus der Schiffleute for dinner. On the way, I passed through downtown a little before 6 p.m., and the stores were already closed. It is odd seeing the shopping district quiet before sunset on Saturday. For dinner, I had pasta with cheese and herbs. After dinner, I walked along the Danube (I can do that here!) to the Roxy. A couple of trains crossed the Danube while I was there, but I couldn't get a good picture in the dark before they passed by. I did get a picture of this stream entering the Danube. I mentioned before how fast the streams in town flow. The whitewater in the picture should give you a sense of the speed. I have more respect for the ducks I see paddling upstream around here.

As before, the Roxy was nearly deserted, but somebody there told me the café-bar opens at 23 Uhr (11 p.m.). That's after my bedtime. Also, the last Straßenbahn leave the nearby Ehinger Tor at 0:13 and 0:35, and the walk home is over two kilometers. I walked that route and more several times in the day, but a cold night is another matter.

Sunday, February 2, 2003

Yellow sparrow sculpture covered with artwork.
Sparrow at Eitel Bek, a medium-sized department store. Eitel means vain.
The scallions here are a different variety. They are larger, and the bulbs at the end are very bulbous. US scallions are narrower and very straight all the way to the ends.

The names of letters are different in German. You don't think about letter names much. A letter and its name may be so closely tied together mentally that you do not think of the name as a separate thing. But it is; the English name of "v" is pronounced "vee," but the German name is pronounced "vau." Same letter, different names. The English name of "w" doesn't contain a w sound at all.

Sculpture of sparrow flying with luggage.
Traveler Sparrow at the Hauptbahnhof. Since it can fly, why is it at the train station?
Since the letter names are different in German, I can't easily spell words to Germans. Or if I say I work at E-A-D-S or have a problem with the E-B-U, a German listener does not understand. The dictionaries are not much help. They show "v" is "fau" and "w" is "ve:", where "e:" is a symbol for one of the e sounds. However, for most of the letters, they say the pronunciations are the same as in English. But I know that is not the way speakers around here say or understand the letter names.

Notice the distortion around the legs of the Traveler Sparrow to the left. I suspect that is due to removing too much information from the transform of the photograph in a frequency domain or other non-spatial basis. That is fascinating, right? The software I am writing here is used for things like that.

Saturday I was in a store that sold electronics and kitchen appliances, so I looked around a little for garbage compactors. I did not see any evidence of the demand I expected. Andreas told me that one jurisdiction decided charging by volume was a problem, so they started weighing garbage. The garbage workers pick up barrels with a device that weighs what they hold. The weight is taken as they pick up a full barrel and again as they put down the empty barrel. The difference is charged to the household's account. That must also require scanning each barrel for an identification code, so the right household is charged.

Monday, February 3, 2003

Foo, the Einschreiben was just documents from LA International, the recruiting company. No Buffy, no forwarded book, and none of my packages.

I just noticed the space shuttle accident while going through Yahoo for a search last night. With no television and not much choice in English newspapers, I am not following the news at all. So even the big stories I do not hear about unless I catch them by chance.

I tried to register with the US consulate this morning. Since I had to go to Deutsche Post after 9, this was the first opportunity I have had to call the consulate from home during their business hours. I got a receptionist who transferred me to some department, and then the phone just rang and rang. I guess they weren't open yet. There doesn't seem to be much point in registering with the consulate now, so I may forget about it unless a convenient opportunity arises.

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© Copyright 2003 by Eric Postpischil.