Saturday, February 28, 2004

The difference between a big country and a little country

Americans know how to have a political scandal. We've got presidents who lie about sex, drugs, and weapons of mass destruction. We've got media watchdogs like you wouldn't believe, and a public just waiting to sink their teeth into the nearest offender. We can do multiple scandals at once. We're flexible.

Austria doesn't so much understand that whole process. The biggest political scandal going right now is that the Finance Minister's homepage was suspiciously financed. A webpage! This has been in the news daily for months, people. Did he get the money from blah and does he have to give it back and will he go to court and yadda yadda yadda. I mean, good tenacity on the scandalmongering here, kids, but seriously, let's think about topic a bit.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Yet more proof that I am an ewil, ewil person

I spent yesterday in Oberschützen serving as a juror for a language competition. I think I did my job fairly well, as the best girl won and we only had to fiddle with the scores once to make it happen. However, I think I spent most of my free time yesterday making fun of language mistakes.

I will be the first to admit that speaking a second language is damn hard, and I don't do it perfectly by any stretch of the imagination. However, there are certain mistakes that, even after five months of hearing them, crack me up immediately.

The biggest one is the v/w confusion. For some reason, 95% percent of my students think they live in a willage and watch telewision while drinking wodka. I don't get it. It's not like V makes a "w" sound in German—in fact, it sounds like "f." They should be saying "fillage," "telefision," and "fodka," which is not nearly as funny. Thank God they're all confused so I can get a good laugh.

Mistake of the day: we were talking about gay marriage, and one of my students wanted to know what "civil onions" were. I immediately pictured two onions in tuxedos, shaking hands and bowing. Heh.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Things I say far too often in class:
Seriously, I have said all of these things in class on multiple occasions since I started teaching, and some of them I say multiple times per hour.
—Right?...Yes. Okay.
—Pull yourselves together.
—Comments? Questions? Complaints?
—Put a cork in it.
—Excellent. Very good. Okay.
—Who wants to read? ... Okay, rephrasing. Who is willing to sacrifice himself so the rest of the class doesn't have to?
—Okay, what is going on back there?
—All right, moving on.
—I know, it's crazy when you have to do work in class.
—Hey. Hey. HEY! English! (or "Listen, please!")
—Uh...okay. Sure.
—The next person to say "no" is going to come up here and sing a song.
—Okay, yes or no? Yeeeessss or noooooo. Some sign that you're alive? Anything?

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

You're a Faschingskrapferl

Today is Faschingsdienstag, known to the rest of the world as Carnival or Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday or whatever the Chinese name for it is. For some reason this is sort of a non-entity of a holiday in the U.S., unless you live in New Orleans, where's it's just a disgusting entity. In Europe, it is the Thing. It's Halloween and Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve all rolled up in one.

Stegersbach had a parade this afternoon. It was kind of the worst parade I'd ever seen, which made it, of course, the best parade I'd ever seen. There were (I'm not exaggera8ging here, as M2 would say) ten floats, and all of them looked like they had been thrown together by drunken gnomes. These same gnomes were evidently driving them, because it was the slowest, most confused bit of float coordination imaginable. At one point the road was divided by a little island/lane marker thing, and of course half the floats went around on the left and half went around on the right, and then they couldn't get back in a straight line again and everything was stalled for half an hour.

However, this general idiocy was compensated for by the insane number of people running around in elaborate costumes, both in the parade and as bystanders. Best part, though? You know how in American parades they throw candy to the kids? Yeah, in this parade they were handing out liquor to the adults.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Politically Correct

Today I taught two lessons on the Democratic primaries, and I was well prepared since I've been following the developments since October. I don't talk about politics much otherwise, and definitely not in this forum. But that doesn't mean I don't think about them. Thinking about them is probably unavoidable.

I'll admit, political discussions annoy the crap out of me. I suspect it's because they tend to be overly simplified, i.e. "The Republicans are evil and the Democrats are good and that's the way it is, forever and ever amen," or whatever. Or people embrace just one issue—abortion is a big one, as is the economy—and vote based on that, regardless of other equally important issues. Right to life? Republicans are making a mockery of the phrase with their insistance on enforcing and expanding the death penalty. I don't pretend to understand the economy, but I don't think the Democrats are going to be able to just manufacture money and jobs by providing tax breaks to manufacturers. They're not going to suddenly move back home and start paying a fair wage. It's not that simple.

And that's the point. Nothing is simple in politics, and it annoys me when people try to make it that way. Even trying to explain the election system to a bunch of 18-year-olds who are relatively intelligent is frustrating, because it's complicated and confusing.

I have a largely liberal outlook: I reject the death penalty, and I support gay marriage, affirmative action, stricter gun control, and environmental protection. But I don't reject Republicans outright, because they make a lot of good points. I have decided what I have decided on each individual issues, and I want everybody to stop trying to convince me. I'm not going to vote for anybody on your say-so. In fact, anything you say is just going to make me contrary. Like Edwards? I'm voting for Kerry. Like Bush? Good for you. Still voting for Kerry. Like Kerry? I don't want to hear about it.

Wanna talk about the weather? Computers? My students? Anything but politics, please.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Use the force, Luke. No, force in pounds.

I cannot get used to the metric system. I've already complained about not being able to figure out how much of a fever I was running because the damn thermometer was in Celcius. I have a hard time talking about the weather because of this. For the past week I've had to describe the weather in English, and it seriously always comes out like this: "It was beautiful—50...uh, 10 degrees the whole week." Does 10 degrees sound like beautiful weather? I submit that it does not. (Frankly, neither does 50, but it was February in England, so...)

Also, how many apples are in a kilo? I don't know. I ended up with 6 1/2 pounds of blood oranges once because I forgot to convert from metrics. Needless to say, I couldn't eat them all before they went bad. The metric system is wasteful!

Distance measurements are just as bad. Somebody mentioned today that running 40 kilometres would be a marathon. I was like, 'Uh, no, Hopalong. A marathon is 26.6 miles.' Fortunately that was only in my head. Still, it seems odd to me. Marathon. 26 miles. How hard is that? Just quit with the kilometres business. Quit with metrics all together. Come to the dark side of Imperial Measurements and be happy. The two countries that use the imperial system have ruled the world. Coincidence? I doubt it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Brilliance in (British) advertising

I have a new favorite commercial.

My favorite commercial used to be the Jetta one where the guy licks the doorhandle, but it's been replaced. Replaced by another car commercial, actually.

It starts out with a warning: this commercial contains nudity from the very beginning. If you are easily offended, look away, etc.

Then the scene opens on an elderly naked woman driving a yellow Mini, with an elderly naked man in the passenger seat. They drive down the road, and come upon a middle-aged naked man running down the side of the road. The elderly naked man leans out the window of the mini brandishing a giant fish, and whacks the runner across the ass with it just as the runner turns around to hit the car with his own fish. The elderly man pulls himself back into the Mini, says "That was a good one" to the woman, and they drive away as the slogan "It's a Mini adventure" appears at the bottom of the screen.

Change of plans (a.k.a. Update your website, bitches)

Evidently there's nothing to do in Stratford-on-Avon, to the point that the hostels are closing down without telling anybody. So instead of spending the next two days there, I'm off to Oxford to do God only knows what. Hopefully I'll still be able to make a day trip to Stratford, because it was sort of half my whole reason for coming here.

Bath has been solid good times, which I would write more about here if I wasn't trying to use a retarded keyboard where the keys require approximately the force of a jet-propelled elephant to depress. I guess that's what you get for checking your email at McDonald's.

Monday, February 09, 2004

No adventures, just good times

So far, so good, although by saying that, I'm probably cursing myself completely. I made it to London on Saturday night, found a hostel, and crashed. Yesterday I did fun touristy things—kicked it at the Tate and slavered over William Blake's prints for awhile, and then wandered over to Piccadilly Circus and saw The Reduced Shakespeare Company do The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged). This latter was highly enjoyable, including as it did several "Janet Jackson's Boob" jokes. And when they performed Hamlet backwards, one of the included Satanic messages was "George Bush is a genius." Anyway, then I went to the cinema and saw Elephant, which I've been wanting to see forever. After that freaked me out sufficiently, I went back to the hostel and crashed, fully satisfied with London and ready to move on.

So now I'm in Bath. I've already been to the Jane Austen Center and done a little light sightseeing. I plan to do a bit more before I retire to catch up on sleep so I can get up bright and early and do the übertouristy bus tour of the city.

Before I run off again, I'd like to thank the weather gods for their compliance with my request—it's mild and NOT RAINY here. And also, I would like to admit that I probably have a book addiction problem. I have bought 10 in the past two days. Help!

Friday, February 06, 2004

Into the wild blue yonder

I don't have anything particular to say, just wanted to let you know that I'll be taking off for London tomorrow evening, and hopefully I'll make it to Bath and Stratford-upon-Avon before I come back on Friday. If you have anything you desperately want from England, send me an email. I'm sure I'll be checking it at some point.

No, Suz, I can't send you a Magnum bar. They don't ship well.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Things that probably aren't a good idea

I got a bike on Tuesday. It's a purple 21-speed with a bell and a shelf-thing on the back. My big goals now are a) buy a basket for it and b) avoid falling off in front of anybody.

Note that I didn't say "avoid falling off." That's because I like to make goals that are somewhat attainable. Before Tuesday, I hadn't ridden a bike in well over 10 years, and it's only by the sheer grace of God that I don't have skinned knees or a broken wrist as we speak. As it is, I freak out when any of these things happen while I am riding the bike:

—I have to ride off a curb
—I have to ride around a puddle
—I have to ride through a puddle
—I have to turn a corner
—I have to ride in the street
—I have to ride on the sidewalk
—I have to go down a hill with a grade of more than 1°

Lance Armstrong I'm not, is all I'm saying.

But do I wear a helmet? No, I do not. Paging Darwin.

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