4 pictures of Cesky Krumlov
As much as I love Bavaria, it's time to move on. From the far south of Germany, one has a couple of options: The Black Forest to the West, with France beyond; Switzerland is nearby to the Southwest; Austria is South and Southeast, with Italy beyond. I chose the E53 to the Northwest, taking me across the border into the Czech Republic. The border is in the middle of nowhere, barely marked by little more than a reset mile marker. If the little villages along the way didn't switch their signs from German to Czech you almost wouldn't know. The drive is a little harrowing, through the forest on a narrow 2-lane highway up and down and around. But you're virtually guaranteed to be the only one on the road for most of the drive, so drop the hammer on your cheap Opel rental and go nuts. The end of your drive today is a tiny little town hugging a horseshoe of the Vltava river. Inside the bend of the river is the old town and the cathedral. Above town, looking down from the hilltop, is the castle. There aren't really any museums here and the cathedral isn't much to see, so stroll the cobblestone streets (there are only about 3 of 'em) down to the market square, perfect in its simplicity, and then across the little footbridge to the gingerbread shop. (Czech gingerbread is hard as rock, but you can suck on a little piece for hours...) Stop into any restaurace for some of the best pivo on the planet and remember that you're just down the road from Plzen, which gave its name to an entire style of beer, and Budweis, only the most recognizable name in the world of beer. But even if your itinerary doesn't leave you hoarse from hours of 'na zdravy!' with your new best friends, you might be lucky enough to have dinner with the two guys that I ran into there. I should have learned their names, but I was completely overwhelmed by two local men who looked like they worked in the Skoda factory by day and played the most beautiful classical guitar duets by night. I'm not normally one to linger over dinner, but I ordered appetizers, mains, more appetizers, double desserts, and more becherovkas than I can remember just to stay and listen.
Sala kakuhle, tata
While it's not difficult to find personal flaws, which one can find in any other man with a little digging (some deeper than others), I think it's wonderful that Nelson Mandela was so widely loved. There aren't too many people like that left, at least not people who are loved for the reasons we loved Mandela, Gandhi, MLK, and others. Fortunately, he (and they) are easy inspiration to draw on for my book. I never met Madiba, but I have a connection to Africa that I'll eventually share with you.
8 pictures of Munich
I rented a car in Cologne from a local European firm and drove down the autobahn. It's not that big of a deal, but some people act like I walked on the moon. What's it like, you ask? Imagine a road without potholes where all the other drivers are courteous and try to stay out of each others' way. And Porsches (not Ferraris) come flying by at 250 km/h (160 mph). The road south of Cologne to Coblenz following the Rhine is EXACTLY like the river road in New Braunfels, TX. It's easy to see why the Germans settled in that part of the hill country. I stopped in Bamberg on my way South and I really wanted to love it, but I got lost in all the tiny, twisting medieval cobblestone roads and my GPS died. Instead of staying in Bamberg, I got back in the car and off the main roads into the countryside, looking for the grave of an ancestor. I found the towns in which he was said to have been born and died, but couldn't find his final resting place in either town. It's also said that he disowned his son, also in my ancestral line, so perhaps this was some way of sticking it to us, that we couldn't come back to visit. Mean old man.
But Munich was very warm & welcoming. I don't have anything particularly profound to say about Munich. I didn't get to spend enough time here, so I'd like to come back some time. I still listen to their radio station over the web and sometimes pretend I'm anywhere other than where I am.
I noticed a change after my most recent birthday. I no longer get spam advertising for penile enhancement & viagra. All of my spam is now for discount printer ink and fake rolex watches. Damn.
Job interview observation
I don't get asked about my Mario Kart skills as much as I'd like, so I usually have to bring it up without sounding like I'm bragging.
The Innocents Abroad
We wish to learn all the curious, outlandish ways of all the different countries, so that we can "show off" and astonish people when we get home. We wish to excite the envy of our untraveled friends with our strange foreign fashions which we can't shake off. All our passengers are paying strict attention to this thing, with the end in view which I have mentioned. The gentle reader will never, never know what a consummate ass he can become, until he goes abroad. I speak now, of course, in the supposition that the gentle reader has not been abroad, and therefore is not already a consummate ass. If the case be otherwise, I beg his pardon and extend to him the cordial hand of fellowship and call him brother. I shall always delight to meet an ass after my own heart when I shall have finished my travels.
8 pictures of Cologne
I feel like I'm perpetually on vacation. Maybe it's because that's the only time I post to the blog anymore. Maybe it's because I've cultivated a state of mind that transcends space and time. That second one sounds awesome, so let's go with that.
This time, Colonia Agrippina, the ancient name of Cologne, a city in the northwest of Germany originally founded by one of Caesar Augustus' generals. Founding a city, of course, is the Roman practice of slaughtering a bunch of Germanic tribesmen and slapping your name on their village. Cologne is closer, both geographically and culturally, to Belgium and The Netherlands than it is to Berlin or Munich. Thus, I love it. Not that there isn't a lot to love about the rest of Germany. It's a beautiful country of rolling hills and verdant meadows. Seriously pastoral shit and the people are very cool. They don't care if you don't speak German or if you speak German badly. They will happily bring you a ginormous beer, some tiny sausages, and have a laugh with you. In Cologne, by contrast, they bring you dozens of tiny beers, a ginormous pig knuckle, and have a laugh with you.
So go to Cologne. Drink the local Kolsch (beer) and put a lock on the bridge with your lover. Check out one of the most impressive cathedrals in the world, climb the tower, and see the "authentic" shrine of the Three Kings. If you're there in the Spring, have white asparagus (pee still stinks) and ride the skytram across the river to the waterpark. Join a pick-up soccer game with college students in the marketplatz and marvel again at the cathedral at night.
And bring home lots of little bottles of toilet water, because everyone's going to ask you if that's where perfume comes from. And it does.
Jury Duty (live)
Today marks the third year in a row that I've been summoned for jury duty. Two years ago, I got in trouble for being too chatty with the girl next to me. (Point of fact, she's the one that was too chatty; I was being too noddy
, encouraging her by listening to every boring story.) I got out of serving on a jury that time by telling the judge that the cop in the case had once pulled me over and I knew him to be a cock.
Last year, I got called for District court jury duty. That was slightly more interesting, potentially serving on a Federal court case. Instead, it was a woman suing Wal-Mart for arresting her for passing counterfeit bills. I didn't actually get picked for that jury either, so back into the pool I go.
Which brings me to today, at Municipal court. These are going to be small-claims cases and traffic violations, which seems like a perfectly reasonable use of my higher education and astronomical intellect. I'm sitting behind an honest-to-god pimp, decked out in Sean John and a leather hat. I just tried to make a suicide pact with him, testifying to each others lack of sound mind/moral character, but I don't think I explained myself clearly and he just sneered at me. Guess I'm stuck here for now. Fortunately, there's plenty to keep me entertained: two old copies of "Texas Highways" and one copy of "Jet" magazine which, the woman who grabbed it ahead of me, assures me is not about aircraft.
Update: We're back from lunch now, loaded back into our pews like the civic-minded cattle we are. Everyone is seated more or less exactly where they were before, including the pimp and Ms. Jet. The morning was excruciating on my back. After the video about how rewarding this experience is (not monetarily, of course, it's $6 for a day of my life) and then a swearing-in (I elected to affirm instead) there was nothing. No talking, no muzak. Just the drone of a 50 year-old air conditioning system, cooling and recycling every cough and sneeze of my 75 compatriots. I'm SO looking forward to the rest of the afternoon.
This year, Santa was my bitch
Unfortunately, Christmas is often a disappointment for me. Somewhere in my early teens I became "too old" for toys, so I started getting sweaters and socks for Christmas. So it went for roughly a quarter century. But this year the curse was broken. New smartphone, bluetooth headset, bluetooth transmitter for the TV, HD clock radio, a ginormous atlas of antique maps, a new sander...
And cash, glorious cash. Yeah, it's kinda gross and passé, but I made it rain then rolled around in it. Grandma is kind of senile, so she didn't mind. My sister's kids just laughed. My sister says I'm a bad influence, but I don't see it.
Aaanndd I got a bonus at work, which is practically unheard of at my company. But I'm awesome, true story. Bonus, plus the ultimate stocking stuffer (pronounced 'Kay-sh') makes me a happy Christmas boy.
Here's another view from my latest hotel window...
View from my hotel window
Rather than cling to anachronistic conventions, I've taken a look at the facts:
- Modern technology makes formerly-laborious tasks both routine and simple;
- Plenty of scientific research confirms the importance of a good night's sleep.
- I am a middle-aged man whose biological functions have changed over the years;
- I no longer sleep soundly all night and usually have to get up to pee;
- Refraining from drinking anything after a certain hour has no effect on the above.
Therefore, I've decided to un-train myself not to wet the bed. It's better for me to sleep through until morning and do laundry the next day.
Why I hate summer
11 o'clock at night and the thermometer on the wall still reads 90 degF outside.
The "F" in case you were wondering, is an abbreviation of Fuckmeit'sfuckinghotoutsidegoddammit.
My experience gleaned from watching kung-fu movies
The fat guy who knows karate is always the bad guy.
Thought of the Day
Coming home from vacation is like a failed organ transplant. My body is rejecting going back to work.
8 pictures of Brussels
When in Brussels, find a corner bar near the Groote Markt and drink Tripel Karmeliet, Duvel, Leffe, or Maredsous all day people-watching. Shit, drink a Stella Artois if you can't remember any of those. Do not, as I spied one fellow traveler do, ask for a Corona. Fucking Aggies.
3 things better in Europe, 1 thing better in USA
Which is to say that's where I am now, not a treatise on the subject. Nobody seems to care anyway, so I'll post pictures when I get back and maybe then you'll care a little.
Guten tag aus Frankfurt
Or more appropriately, guten morgen. It's about 11am here, making it about 4am back home. I just flew in and boy are my arms tired! I've got a temporary layover here in Frankfurt for another hour, so I thought I'd give ya'll one more chance to guess where I'm headed.
The flight here was Lufthansa, which I thought would be nice, but it sucked ass. It was hot and crowded. The woman next to me had not yet become acquainted with modern dentistry. I didn't sleep at all and found myself praying for one of those bloodclot things that kills you instantly. More later, with pictures of course.
7 pictures of Bruges
Bruges is the kind of town where I could take a thousand pictures and wish I'd taken a thousand more. I've been to other little towns that claim to be "The Venice of ___" with a couple of pitiful canals and some tour boats, though they're usually little more than drainage ditches. (Hello Suzhou, I'm looking at you)
But Bruges lives up to the hype, and probably even more so than Venice, which I'm told smells of sewage half the time. This place is like stepping back in time, and history and charm ooze from every orifice. As does chocolate, wonderful chocolate. The people are friendly, happily speak English, and the beer is cheap and excellent. If you're not a big beer drinker, ask for a lambic
(framboise, peche, kriek, or my favorite, faro) and you won't be sorry. I can't say for certain, but I'm pretty sure my ancestor(s) passed through here. This town is currently #1 on my "retire early and open a little café" list.
Go here. Go here now.
About to take wing
I'm preparing for another trip abroad with a broad next month. Tickets are purchased, rooms are reserved. Not much left to do but charge up the camera batteries and pack. Last year I got my passport stamped in 4 countries: France, Belgium, Mexico, and England. (Lifetime total: 9, not including duplicates.)
In another month, I'll have 2 more stamps, but I'm not telling you where I'm going. If I tell you that I'm going to have to convert my dollars into crowns, you'll probably have a pretty good idea, but it's still vague enough that you should doubt whether you guessed correctly. And I already have a pretty good idea about next year's trip ...
I'm a little
concerned about my health though. I have had a headache, the same headache, since early-mid January. I'm no stranger to headaches, but they usually go away after at most 2-3 weeks. My neck & shoulders have been jacked-up too, although that's probably the stress. Work has been kicking my butt, but I'm doing well and am expecting a promotion soon. I bought a new pillow. It hasn't helped. According to WebMD, the possible side effects from the medication I'm on include headaches, muscle aches, and both constipation and diarrhea. Either the guys who invented this stuff are full of shit or they're talking out of their ass. WebMD also mentioned the possibility of limpdickedness (forgot the technical term)
which I DON'T HAVE
, though I would naturally prefer the high-cholesterol and early death to that. Maybe I should try going to bed at a reasonable hour.
More than 4% improvement over last time
Maddest of mad props to anyone who knows what the title of this post means.
Totally unrelated, 3 more deceased and, as before, 2 painlessly and 1 not so much. Still not feeling too badly about it.
I noticed that a lot of so-called designers on HGTV say that a particular style is "shabby chic." There's nothing chic about a beat up piece of furniture falling apart in my living room. And you can't just dress something up by adding 'chic' at the end. If you could, I think you'd see a lot of designers from Alabama bringing "trailer-park chic" to trendy boutiques. And the upper midwest would be the epicenter of "racist chic." I still hate Illinois nazis.
I think it's unfair that women can fart from their vagine but guys can't do the same from their genitalia. If I could, I'd use it to blow up balloons.
Of the winter solstice
I hadn't thought about the connection to today, the shortest day/longest night of our northern hemisphere world, until literally a moment ago. The ancients celebrated it as the death of the sun, followed by the birth of a new sun, so it makes sense. What I did think about was how, after leaving the church, I thought buddhism was the answer for me. They both say don't kill, but I killed. Thrice in two days. It didn't bring me any pleasure to kill them but I consoled myself with necessity and how it was self-defense, in a way. Obi-Wan said that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view. The trilogy is full of buddhist concepts. But buddhism, like the trilogy, is also full of supernatural fantasy, which I eventually decided didn't fit me either. Two of them died quickly, as far as I could tell, and without any additional effort on my part. The other did not, as Dylan Thomas would have you, go gentle into that good night. "Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
By my hand that light was snuffed.
Song on my mind, aboard a southwest train 5300 miles from home
When the rain is blowing in your face,
And the whole world is on your case,
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love.
When the evening shadows and the stars appear,
And there is no one there to dry your tears,
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love.
I know you haven’t made your mind up yet
But I would never do you wrong.
I’ve known it from the moment that we met
No doubt in my mind where you belong.
I’d go hungry, I’d go black and blue,
I’d go crawling down the avenue.
There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love.
The storms are raging on the rollin’ sea,
And on the highway of regret
The winds of change are blowing wild and free.
You ain’t seen nothing like me yet.
I could make you happy, make your dreams come true.
Nothing that I wouldn’t do.
Go to the ends of the earth for you
To make you feel my love.
Pakistani investigators inspect the crater caused by a car bomb
We are experiencing technical difficulties
Pardon the delay.
Last week, my computer crashed like it hasn't crashed in YEARS. I'm talking old-school blue screen of death. I pride myself on having set up my computer in such a way that recovering from a system crash is pretty easy and I shouldn't have to worry about my data. But the BSOD is unusual and got me flustered so I panicked. My attempts to restore the system only made it worse and I did wind up losing some stuff. Stuff that I wouldn't have lost if I had remained calm. Not everything (the pr0n is ok)
, but there was effort
involved in what was lost - a sold week's worth of photoshopping photos that I hadn't backed-up. The originals are ok, so it's back to square one now that I've got my basic platform restored. And come to find out, the blue screen was caused by a Microsoft update patch. I blithely clicked "ok" without reading it when they told me it was an important patch. I'm sure there are some famous quotes out there on complacency, but I don't really care to google them.
Vacation debrief, part 1
It was barely a year ago that I renewed my passport and packed a bag, headed for 3 weeks in Vietnam. I make no secret of my love of the far east. That last sentence sounded better in my head, since it implies that one might want to keep such an affection private. Mom, dad, I'm coming out of the black lacquer wardrobe: I love East Asia. (See, isn't that silly?)
I have felt more at home there than in my own bed, so perhaps I was asian in a former life. Unfortunately, I don't really believe in past lives, so that probably isn't it, but that doesn't mean that something about the orient doesn't resonate with me. Vietnam always intrigued me, and the travel shows made it look really quaint and hospitable. (Ha!)
When Tattoo-girl came along, who is of Vietnamese descent, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to check it out. Except that she wasn't interested. I wore her down though, and the trip last year was a little bit about exploring and experiencing her roots.
My own ancestry is far less exotic, in my opinion. I think I'm like most people in that I associate my ancestral identity with that of my father and his father and his father, and so on. Family research has shown that my oldest known patrilineal ancestor came to Louisiana from Europe around 1720, making me an eigth-generation American. Wait, do you count from the first guy or the first guy to be born here? Does it matter that the guy born in Europe died in America but before it was the United States? Well, however you count it, my 6th-Great Grandfather was the guy on the boat and since he didn't come to Lousiana from Canada that makes me creole, not cajun. I had heard my grandmother say this once and it didn't register with me at the time because I had always associated creole with Caribbean creole, which implies African descent. I just thought I knew more about authentic Lousiana cuisine than anyone who dumped a whole tin of cayenne pepper into a pot and called it cajun food. It's not as important anymore, but once upon a time it was a big deal and being creole was much more preferable than cajun. Creole, as applied in Lousiana, is a word derived from Spanish meaning 'colonist' (not just French, but Spanish and even German) and was therefore used by people who considered themselves more "pure European" than those who intermarried with Native Americans or Africans. America prides itself on that phrase about all men being equal, but the vast majority of us are descended from societies that clung (some of which still cling) to class distinctions and old habits die hard. As proof, every few years, one political party or another trots out the class warfare card and more often than not we play right into it. Three of my ancestors fought in the American Revolution under the Spanish flag of Galvez and yes, a few of them owned a slave or two and fought on the wrong side of the Civil War. But this is also not an entry about slavery or guilt. I don't condone it, I merely understand it in context and we can discuss it later if you'd like.
So where did that first old coonass come from, anyway? Records indicate that he came from Flanders, once an independent region but now mostly coastal Belgium (including Brussels) with a little bit of northeastern France and southwestern Holland. Unfortunately, Flanders is about the same size as Maryland, so one can't just show up and expect to find his ancestral village and distant cousins. To my knowledge, my family has never claimed to descend from royalty, so it was just some anonymous patch of dirt (probably owned by someone else) that Great^6 Granddad walked away from. Nevertheless, I decided that I wanted to go see it and that I wanted to drag Tattoo-girl there too.
Where I was
Top 10 U.S. Cities
There was a story on the radio one recent morning that listed the Top 10 Cities in America for something or other. Like you, I got to wondering which cities appear most often on Top 10 lists, so I've compiled a list...Top 10 U.S. Cities appearing on Top 10 U.S. Cities lists
|- Dallas, TX|
- Austin, TX
- Boston, MA
- Houston, TX
- San Francisco, CA
- Seattle, WA
- Los Angeles, CA
- New York, NY
- Chicago, IL
- Washington, DC
These were the results from 21 recent surveys (source: internet)
including, but not limited to:
- Top 10 cities with new hotel rooms
- Top 10 wettest cities
- Top 10 cities to find a job after the military
- Top 10 miserable cities
- Top 10 happiest cities
- Top 10 cities to find a pet sitter
- Top 10 largest credit card debtor cities
And I know you're going to want the rest of the data, so here are the other cities that made one of the Top 10 Cities lists that I sourced:
11. (tie) Atlanta, Miami, Philadelphia, Portland
15. (tie) Cleveland, Denver, San Diego, San Jose
19. (tie) Boulder, Canton, Detroit, Fayetteville, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Madison, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, Orlando, Pensacola, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Tucson
35. (tie) Albuquerque, Ames, Anchorage, Asheville, Athens, Bakersfield, Baton Rouge, Bellevue, Berkeley, Buffalo, Burlington, Cambridge, Charleston, Charlotte, Charlottesville, Cheyenne, Cincinatti, College Station, Colorado Springs, Columbia, Des Moine, Duluth, Eden Prairie, El Paso, Eugene, Fishers, Flagstaff, Flint, Fort Collins, Fort Worth, Fresno, Hanford, Harrisburg, Holland, Huntsville, Jackson, Jacksonville (FL), Jacksonville (NC), Jersey City, Lafayette, Lake Charles, McKinney, Memphis, Milwaukee, Mobile, Naperville, Newton, Oakland, Ogden, Oklahoma City, Olympia, Overland Park, Oxnard, Pittsburg, Port Arthur, Providence, Provo, Raleigh, Rochester, Rogers,
Sacramento, San Angelo, San Louis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Rosa, St. Louis, Stockton, Tallahassee, Tampa, Toledo, Topeka, Visalia, W. Hartford, W. Palm Beach, Waco, Wilmington, Winston-Salem, Youngstown
Congratulations to ALL the winners.
What to do if a Somali warlord goes to your gym
Somali warlords are dicks. Not only do they hog the machines, but they leave them all sweaty & gross afterwards. Seriously, would it kill them to mix it up with a little cardio on any of the 15 available ellipticals? Plus, when they move into your neighborhood, the price of recreational drugs usually goes up. (Ed. note: victimless crime)
But they are for-real criminals too, so here are some tips for getting rid of them...
1. Unless your gym is outside the confines of the US, do not call the CIA. Inside the US, you have to call the FBI. Do not call your local Police or Sheriff's department. More than likely, they don't know where Somalia is and will arrest you for reporting what they think is a World of Warcraft
2. Confirm that the individual is in fact a Somali warlord. The FBI hates a false alarm and one incorrect accusation is usually all it takes to get you on their "Boy who cried Wolf" list and then they won't take you seriously should you happen to spot DB Cooper
at the grocery store or Mormon polygamists buying Ikea meatballs. (yum!)
Steps for correctly identifying Somali warlords:
a. Is he a big, black guy? If yes, then chances are good that he's a Somali warlord, but this is not what's known in the law-enforcement community as positive ID.
b. Does he refuse to use the fingerprint ID system at the gym entrance?
c. Does the towel-guy refer to him as Colonel, but instead of pronouncing it Kerr-nell
he says Coll-o-nell
d. Subtly drop references to your friend (always use the buddy system, plus he can spot you for bench presses)
about the movie Black Hawk Down
and how much you hate the ending [SPOILER ALERT] where all the Marines get rescued. If you notice that he's nodding in agreement, he's probably a Somali warlord.
3. Distract him and lure him into a smaller training room away from his henchmen. Remember Somali warlords are often muslims, so the standard lure of a free ham sandwich is not likely to work. This doesn't need to be complicated though. If you get access to the gym's PA system, you can make an announcement that the UN shipment of food and medical supplies is being delivered to the yoga studio immediately after Zumba class. The opportunity to steal a UN shipment of food and medical supplies is too tempting for any Somali warlord to pass up. Timing your ruse for after
Zumba class also minimizes the chance of innocent bystanders getting hurt and/or used as human shields.
4. Subdue him, but do not use guns. Although the weapon of choice for most Somali warlords is the AK-47, they are known to sometimes carry rocket launchers. The M72 LAW
, for example, folds up and can be concealed in a gym bag. Do not be unprepared though, as hand combat is your best choice and likely to escape the notice of gym officials as "sparring." Krav Maga
is an excellent choice. The details of this step will have to be up to you to determine, since that's not really my thing. (Ed. note: He's a lover, not a fighter)
5. Once your Somali warlord is out of commission you can safely call the authorities. Tying him up with a jump rope may call attention to the fact that you're tying a dude up in the yoga room and you may not want that kind of reputation. Instead, use resistance bands which have the added bonus of looking, to the casual observer, like a one-on-one training session. The henchmen (see step 3) will flee once their leader has been corralled, so there's nothing left to worry about.
6. Call the FBI and collect your reward! (Ed. note: This is not a promise of reward or compensation, offer void in the US)
I hate it when the automatic toilet flusher goes off and I'm still sitting there. What, like I don't exist anymore? That would seem to prove the nonexistence of self
. When I wash my hands under the automatic faucet, I've demonstrated dependent arising
. Not that they aren't both fundamentals of emptiness
Hmm, if vampires can't see their reflection in a mirror, can they use automatic hand-dryers? (ed.: Buddha never mentioned vampires)
I bet they walk into a lot of automatic doors too. That must suck, because I know how embarassing it is. And then you jump up and down, waving your arms trying to activate it. But if I could kill everyone who witnessed it, it would suck a little less.