|Path: Eric's Site / Eric / Travel / Germany / Journal 4||Related: Germany, Journal 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10, Visits (Site Map)|
|Do not go left a little, and do not go right a lot?|
|Main route curves right, small street goes straight.|
Lars sent information on the German taxes I am paying. SolZ is
Solidaritätszuschlag, East German solidarity surcharge. RV is
Rentenversicherungs-Beitrag, pension insurance. And AV is
Arbeitslosenversicherungs-Beitrag, unemployment insurance. I suppose
paying to help East Germany is better than paying to help bomb Iraq.
|Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Third Season on DVD. Willow, Xander, Buffy, Angel, Faith, Spike.|
It's the Buffy DVDs! The duty was only 3.5%, but they charged it on Amazon.com's total, including shipping and handling, and they also charged the regular VAT (value-added tax, like a sales tax), which is 16%. The two taxes combine to 20.06%.
Well, now I am set for entertainment for at least three weeks. I was thinking I might order more movies, but, if I have to pay shipping and handling and 20% tax, I do not think I will. I haven't seen English movies in the stores here, but maybe I should ask. If nothing else, I now have 56 Buffy episodes, so, if I watch the new ones and then watch all of them twice more, that will keep me until mid-June. Then season four comes out on DVD. Plus I have the soundtrack of the musical episode. Here is the first song, Going Through the Motions (95 KiB). The song is set after Buffy was brought back from the dead. Her friends believe she is disassociated due to a horrible experience in Hell, but actually she is extraordinarily depressed due to being yanked back to grim reality after experiencing bliss in Heaven. It isn't as entertaining without the visuals, like Buffy singing figuratively about "penetrate my heart" just as she thrusts a wooden stake into a vampire's heart, but it's still nice.
The guy at the Deutsche Post said a whole lot to me in German after I told him I don't speak German. I don't know if he was quoting a mandatory statement about the imposition of tax or was just blabbering at me in annoyance. The customs office used an odd dollar-to-euro rate, several percent below the going rate, and in my favor.
The 16% VAT is huge compared to US sales taxes. I don't notice it much since the stated prices in stores include the VAT and are comparable to US prices, but I wonder how much of a drag it is on Germany's economy anyway. (The German economy is in the dumps right now, partly because they insist on giving gobs of money away to Americans.)
Amazon.com mailed the DVDs on January 18 and estimated they would arrive between February 4 and February 13. I was thinking five to eight days, but that must have been a delivery time I saw somewhere else. The first delivery attempt was February 4, so Amazon.com was right on target. Now, where's the rest of my stuff?
I did get another notice about another package. The Deutsche Post is on a roll now, delivering a package a day since Saturday, so, if it is one of my boxes, I really should stay home and wait for the rest. No Zoll on this one. If it was the new FFT book forwarded from Amazon.com, there probably would be tax, but that is the only lone package I am expecting. Maybe they classified it as a used book since it was (re)mailed by a human being instead of a corporation. The notice is marked for a Postpaket, not a Päckchen, so it is something small [I thought at the time] and wouldn't be any of the boxes I packed at home. Oh, wait, Angela is sending me a German language training CD. I think that is the best fit.
The three notices the Deutsche Post has left me have said I could pick up each
package the next workday after 9, after 7, and after 8. What's that about?
Maybe they give people random times so they don't all show up at once?
For six weeks, my boxes disappeared into an alternate mail universe. The laws of physics are apparently different in the mail universe. How can the entire viscous contents of 250-milliliter (8.4-ounce) bottle:
|Pert Plus and Wash & Go.|
In other cases, I think convergence comes from the outside of a company or government agency. For example, consider the practice of stores using "customer cards" with small discounts or other incentives as a means of measuring and influencing customer behavior. Somebody somewhere had to invent that first, and then I bet it spreads like any other model of contagion: Another company sees it, thinks it is a good idea, and implements it. Also, some ideas will get written up in trade journals and become a part of the professional field of package development or marketing or warehouse design or whatever. There are a number of little things like that that I haven't mentioned, just particular ways of doing business or whatever that have no special reason to be the same in different countries.
Another box just arrived. I wonder if Deutsche Post is doling them out one at a time? This one was delivered by a carrier with a handcart. I have seen groups of carriers waiting at the bus/Straßenbahn stop near the main Deutsche Post office with carts or bags of mail to be delivered. But if you are delivering multiple packages to the same address, surely it makes sense to use a vehicle? Maybe the carrier had a vehicle nearby, or only brought the box from the nearby small Deutsche Post office?
Anyway, with two of my boxes delivered, I'm only 60% mad at Tom and Evelyn. This box contains clothes. There are some dress clothes, some gym clothes, some shorts I won't need until spring, a good Buffy t-shirt, my Boole Orders Lunch t-shirt (George Boole points at the menu and tells the waiter "no, no, yes, no, no, yes, yes, no, no, no, yes"), and more.
Argh, more mail from the EBU! It isn't much better than the first bill; they are charging me for the basic garbage fee (€67) and the 4-week Restmüll fee (€31). The original bill had the basic fee and the 2-week Restmüll fee. The Restmüll fee is fine, but I'm not happy with the basic fee; it's paid in my rent. They may refund the unused portion when I leave Ulm, so it may not be worth dealing with this. Perhaps I will both pay the fee and fight:
Last week, I forgot to mention that while I was shopping for groceries, I picked up a couple of cans of sauerkraut to try: red cabbage sauerkraut and pineapple sauerkraut. I did mention the size of the canned cabbage aisle before. Going through all the varieties available will take a while.
A trip to the grocery store can still yield so much. I want to make the Indian potato recipe I got from Eliza, but I forgot to translate the English spice names into German, so I had to guess. There's not a chance the pocket dictionary would have spices in it, except salt and pepper. Ginger was easy; there's whole gingerroot in the produce section, so I just had to look at its label: Ingwer. Fennel and turmeric were problems. Some of the spices had clear bottles, so I could get some hint that way. The only whole seeds I found that I couldn't distinguish were Kümmel, which I found out at home is caraway. So I am without fennel. I found a yellow powder called Kurkuma, so I took a chance and bought some, and it is indeed turmeric.
In the produce section, I figured out the red number in the prominent yellow circles on the produce placards is the number you press on the scale to get a label for that item. There are even instructions in the circle, "You please press number." Now I don't have to hunt and peck to weigh my produce. The sign is obvious once you know what it is, but I was suffering information overload the first few times I was there. I guess now I am learning to filter out some of the irrelevant stuff and make sense of what is left.
I also went looking for tuna (Thunfisch). (I'm not 100% vegetarian.) The dry foil packs we have in the US haven't reached here, but there are more varieties of canned tuna than were ever available in the US: tuna in water, tuna in oil, tuna in olive oil, tuna without oil, tuna fish natural, and tuna in picante dressing. The ingredients of tuna in water and tuna without oil are both tuna, water, and salt, so I don't know what the difference is. They are from the same company too, so they seem to be two different products, not just different wording.
Like the reversed book spines, some of the tuna fish cans are labeled so the writing on the side is upside-down when the can is positioned to be opened on the top. Above the tuna fish is Tintenfisch mit american sauce, which is squid with American sauce. Hmm. By the way, Tint is ink, as in tint; the Tintenfisch is ink-fish.
I bought some Kräuterspätzle, herb pasta. (Geez, Spätzle isn't in
my translation software. What planet did they get their German dictionary
from?) I have been ignoring the candy bars at the checkout counter, but I
noticed one with a picture of banana pieces on it, so I bought one to see what
that was about. It is labeled Müsli-Riegel mit Banane in Milchshokolade,
Muesli bar with banana in milk chocolate. Hmm.
|No toxic material. No household waste, no bulky waste, no special waste. Only weekdays 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fine up to $1,655.|
The Deutsche Post is tormenting me. First, they deliver one package a day, causing me multiple trips to the downtown office for one package at a time, and at a different time each day. So I fooled them and stayed home to receive a package. The very day after they learn I have done that, they deliver no package. Today, I went out briefly and got home by 9:45 to find they had come while I was gone and left a Postpaket notice. I have to wait until 8 a.m. Monday to get it, and, while I do that, the Deutsche Post will sneak in and leave another notice at home.
|Bellhop Sparrow at Hotel Ulmer Spatz.|
After dropping off a couple of purchases, I headed back out to look for the Recyclinghof for my part of the city. It isn't where the map says it is. I have four batteries I cannot put in any of the household disposal barrels or the scrap paper or glass containers, so I am stuck with them.
|Where not to go.|
|Car that didn't go to New Hampshire.|
|Gardener Sparrow. All the real gardening enthusiasts pierce their wings.|
I looked for cookie sheets that would fit my tiny oven. The only fit I found is
an expandable (or, in this case, contractable) sheet. It fits in my oven at
11"x16", which is small but usable. Should I make chocolate-chip cookies or
deep dark chocolate cookies first?
|Ads are the same.|
The remaining two boxes in transit will bring my printer and some more clothes.
|The establishment all lit up.|
While I was buying batteries, I investigated the DVDs. It was pointed out to me that many DVDs have alternate sound tracks, and US movies dubbed into German would likely have the original sound track available on the DVD. Sure enough, many of the DVDs have English soundtracks, and some even have English menus. They are marked for region two, but that should be no problem since the DVD player on my computer is software, and I can alter the Registry at will. I might buy Ice Age, which I haven't seen, and Three Kings, which I have. The Stargate series is also on the shelf, but not, I think, beyond the episodes I have seen already. I did buy Miss Undercover, which I think was called Miss Congeniality in the US (Sandra Bullock plays a federal agent undercover in a beauty pageant).
They have Buffy seasons four and five on DVD here! But it is horrible;
the price is exhorbitant, €63.99 for half a season, and there is no
English soundtrack! The full third season in the US is only $44.99, so the
German DVDs are three times as much at the current exchange rate. That's
outrageous. It's much cheaper to buy the US version and pay the shipping,
customs, and VAT on it. Even if I were tempted to buy the German version, I
wouldn't be able to understand it. It might be interesting to see the musical
episode in German, but I'm not going to pay €63.99 for that. Still, it is
horrible having the new seasons right there on the store shelf. Other DVDs were
reasonably priced, so the Germans must recognize the true value of the
|Gelber Sack day.|
One more package arrived, this one the FFT book. Too late to be useful, I'm almost done writing the FFT. The tax on books is lower, only 7%.
My landlady, Frau Moser, came by to help me with the EBU fees. Apparently I
must pay the €67 basic fee but not the €31 four-weekly Müll fee. She
is going to straighten that out with the EBU. So, hopefully, I can forget about
the EBU, and a €31 refund will show up someday.
|The sparrow gets it—an Ariane rocket pierces the sparrow in the belly.|
|Starry Night Sparrow. If the sparrow is high enough to be among stars, the sky should be black, not blue.|
Coming back from the school, I visited a game store on Herrenkellergaße and
encountered more sparrows.
|Cartoon Forest Sparrow. On the left, you can see a bird, a butterfly, flowers, and leaves. On the right, you can see a tree branch and the snake's head.|
|World Flag Sparrow.|
My printer is in town. It is at the Zollamt (customs office), and I have to go there and give them more information so they can figure out how to tax it. The notice says to see the marked reasons they need information, but nothing is particularly marked, and the list seems to be simple things that should be obvious. I shipped the printer in its original box, so it is clearly labeled and even has a picture. The value is plainly printed on the customs form. The only thing that's a little complicated is the reason for importing it. I included a note in English, with a translation done by software, saying it was for personal use and would be returned to the US, but maybe they need some clarification. Maybe they need to know how old it is. It's more than a year, and anything over six months should qualify as used household goods and not be taxed.
So, tomorrow I go to the Zollamt. It isn't very far away, but it is further than I would like to walk with the printer, and the route is perpendicular to the bus routes that radiate from the city. I have to study the bus map tonight and decide what I want to do.
More stuff to translate. There was an armed robbery at the nearby post office,
and the police are looking for people who may have seen the perpetrators
scouting the post office or the getaway car. I don't know what the crime rate
around here is, but this is the first criminal activity I've heard of, and the
neighborhood has the look and feel of a good community, so I think this
incident is unusual. I was also handed a flyer when I entered EADS this
morning. I suspected it was a union notice, and I translated enough of it to
confirm that. Nothing I can do about that even if I wanted to; the meeting they
are announcing is going to be in German.
As expected, the Zollamt just needed to know the printer was used and for personal use, although I had to communicate that to a woman who spoke very little English. I expected the customs office to be one of those places where English is common. Fortunately, I had a statement prepared in German. When I packed the boxes, I wrote a statement explaining what was in the boxes and why I was importing them, and I translated it into sort-of-German with software. I had taken a copy to the Zollamt, and that seemed to satisfy her. After I got the printer, I found it still had its copy of that statement attached. And somebody had noticed it—there was another piece of paper inserted with it. Why was the one right there on the box not enough, and the one I schlepped across town enough?
Well, now I have the printer, and I remain only 20% mad at Tom and Evelyn. One
more package to go. No delivery notice today, though, so they'll have to suffer
through the weekend at least.
|The Galilei Coat of Arms. A red stepladder on a gold shield forms a pictograph of the word buonaiuti, which literally means "good help."|
Science is a philosophy—a philosophy of reasoning and comparing our reasoning to reality by doing experiments. Unlike many other philosophies, science uses experiments to ask, "Is this right?" By interrogating reality in this way, we correct and improve our beliefs. Often corrections are slow because humans are stubborn, but the power given to us by science accumulates. It has grown over the years to an astounding level today. Galileo in particular showed the necessity and power of performing experiments and using them to improve theories.
This past year was a good year for Galileo. Two of his experiments were named to the "Top 10 Beautiful Experiments," collected by Robert P. Crease and published in Physics World, September 2002. Among the criteria considered was the transformative power of the experiment—its ability to change thinking and behavior.
Most of the experiments have at their cores a simple test that answers a question. Rutherford's experiment, for example, fired particles at gold foil and asked what the resulting paths told us about the atoms in the foil. Most particles went straight through and a few bounced. That showed atoms are mostly empty space with a solid nucleus. The numbers and angles of the bounces showed how big the nucleus is. The experiments selected as the top 10 beautiful experiments are:
If you open common consumer electronic devices, you will find featureless black
chips. However, Rough Science shows we are still able to see how our
complex technology is the product of a chain of knowledge in which each link is
quite simple. The ways that complex ideas, behaviors, and devices are
constructed from simple things are beautiful.
I finally found the big game store in Ulm, Spieleladen Morgenland. I had checked it out Thursday, and I went back today to purchase a game. But I ended up with three games, because I also saw Bus, which was well reviewed and is by the same people who did Roads & Boats, and I saw a game called Müll + Money. I thought a game about Müll would give me something to remember the EBU by. Heh, the store's cash register can't print the ü character. There are just blank spaces where it should be.
I stopped by a newsstand to buy some English newspapers. They also had Playboy in English. That is no good because Germans who do not know English will not be able to read the articles.
|Geese and Ducks.|
People keep asking me for directions, although I stopped reporting it here after the first three. While waiting for the bus after the Zollamt yesterday, a guy stopped and asked me where Siemens is. There are a lot of people who have trouble getting around Ulm. It can't be hard; I haven't had any problems even not knowing German. Today, a delivery driver for an Asian restaurant stopped and asked me where Fünf Bäume Weg is. This time, I was able to help him! Luckily for him, Fünf Bäume Weg is near my gym, TSG Söflingen. I was able to convey to him that he should go to Harthauser Straße (within pointing range), turn right, go about 500 meters, and look for Fünf Bäume Weg on the left. Giving directions makes me a bona fide resident, and I used fünf hundert twice in one day.
Incidentally, Weg is just Way. The letter g often acts like our y. I think Fünf Bäume Weg is Five Tree Way. Hey, that makes a connection for me—at Café Ströbele last week, I asked the names of the two chocolates I prefer there. One is Royale, and the other is Baumstamm. I didn't have the spelling though, just the pronunciation. But it is a slice from a chocolate and hazelnut roll or log. Baum is tree, and Baumstamm is tree trunk. Perhaps Stamm is related to stem.
For dinner, I tried another restaurant, nearby. One item on the menu für
unsere kleinen Gäste, for our small guests, is Käpt'n Blaubär
(Tintenfisch mit Pommes). That is Captain Bluebear (squid with potatoes).
While squid is on the kids menu, pasta and cheese is on the grown-up menu
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© Copyright 2003 by Eric Postpischil.