Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What I am doing tonight

Did something I haven't done in 24 years: forgot my son's birthday. I have no excuses...
anyhow, he has forgotten mine several times, so I guess we are even.
I did get him a (belated) present (see picture above), and will meet him tonight at a restaurant in the Zulpicher strasse and give it to him. I don't know the restaurant, but it is called something like Oma (granny) Heidi, and he says it has the best and cheapest Schnitzel in town.
I had wanted to eat some Mexican food (he said he had found a decent restaurant here-- something I have been searching for like the Holy Grail for 20 years) but he doesn't want to go there tonight because he has been there the last 3 nights running.
He recently finished a project writing an hour's music for a video installation in a Moscow gallery: the artist had painted a huge canvas and then filmed it being slowly torn up by 25 naked dancers.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cultural Differences: Thermometers

There is another difference between America and Germany, and not only that they use the Centigrade system here. For years I would mentally convert the outside temperatures to Farenheit so I would know how warm or cold it was... now I am more comfortable with the system here, I like the logic of 0 being freezing and 100 boiling. Easier to remember than 32 and 212 (I am astonished that I can remember that now!)
Lying in bed now, feeling sorry for myself (actually it is just a bad cold but it is an excuse to lie in bed), wondering if I have a fever, made me think about another cultural difference: the medical thermometer.
In America it is oral, in Germany (mostly) rectal. I was shocked a little the first time the nurse said, OK, we are going to take your temperature, and I opened my mouth but got it in the ass.
Talking recently to a (female) German colleague, who had studied for a while in America; she had the problem in reverse: I hated holding the thermometer in my mouth. It is so much more comforting in the bum.
Here they give a lot of medicines (especially painkillers) as suppositories; in America this is considered cruel and unusual punishment. So I was amused to see that the doctors for the Army stationed in Iraq would deliberately measure the prisoners' temperature anally "because it was more demeaningfor them", but if it is like in Germany, the prisoners probably didn't think anything of it.
Maybe if the prisoners had been subjected to oral temperature measurement, America would have won the war by now! The prisoners would have been so humiliated by the invasion of their oral orifices that they would have confessed to everything.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Rachmaninov with a difference

My dad was a pianist, so I can sympathise with this problem. Excellent choreography.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

An Hour chez Schock

Some more of my broken tooth had crumbled by the time I got to the dentist's office (it is about a 25 minute bike ride from here). Waited for a few minutes in the reception area, then was put in one of the operating rooms, where I had to wait quite a while, sounds of drilling coming muffled through the wall. Even the usually nervous assistant finally went out to wait, and I took the opportunity to get out my new camera to play with it learn the new controls.
The dentist came in and I guiltily put the camera in the bag, but he saw it and was intrigued... we got into a long discussion on photography in general and I found myself lecturing him we found ourselves talking about camera techniques and the philosophy of picture taking and Cologne's greatest photographer (August Sander).
Then finally (he hadn't yet shown any interest in my broken tooth) he said, "Let's have a look." Then a few murmurings to his assistant, then, "Will have to do an X-ray, will see you again in a few minutes", and he rushed out.
The girl took me into the Xray room across the hall, saying, "A different kind of photography!" and then put me back in the dentist's chair. "Would you like me to bring you something to read?"
"No," I said, "just give me my camera again..."

She laughed, and we got into a discussion of cameras and picturetaking. "Some people like spending money on clothes, " she said, "but I don't so much. But I am very fussy about cosmetics."

I told her I don't spend a whole lot on cosmetics.

The dentist came back, glanced at the Xray, said "Well, that is a big hole!" He put tested for reaction to cold, then pounded on the tooth with his mirror. "Geht's noch?" "OK," I whispered.

"So. We will have to put a crown on it, but first I need to close it up. I will have to drill some. You don't need anaesthetic, do you?"

I didn't really have time to answer, he was already drilling. Then he put a clamp around the tooth.

"This may squeeze a bit", he said. He NEVER says, this might hurt. He is considerate enough to ask, during the drilling, "Geht's noch?" every couple of minutes, but he doesn't really want an answer. As if I would be capable of giving one.

"So. That was it for today, please make a new appointment"

Then he was gone.

The entire process, minus the camera diversion, took about 9 1/2 minutes. I have a temporary filling and no pain from the drilling or anaesthetic. The guy is a genius.

Then I was back on my bike for the ride down the Rhein in brilliant weather. (Click to enlarge picture)

I Didn't Need It, Really

I have been very happy with my main camera, a Canon 20d that I have had for about 3 years. It has been reliable and has stood up to the fearfully rough handling I put it through.
For those of you who are not interested in the tech things, skip this: The 20d is a single lens reflex, big and clunky, with interchangeable lenses. It has an ASA setting that goes up to 1600, meaning that I can get useable pictures even in fairly low light without having to resort to flash.
Its main advantages over the little pocket cameras are these:
I can use good quality telephoto lenses on it...useful for the concert pictures I take where I can't get so close to the stage, and also for taking portraits-- I don't like putting the camera in people's faces.
And (most important) the shutter is instantaneous, so I can capture exactly the moment I want: musicians are always moving around, I need to be able to determine when the shutter opens.
So why did I buy another camera this week? One that looks exactly like the one I have now?
Not easy to answer, but the 20d did have a couple of things that bothered me, one was the very loud shutter noise (disturbing in concerts) and the small display, and a fair amount of grain at the high ASA settings.
My new camera (Canon 40d) has a much quieter shutter, and huge display, and the graininess even at 1600 ASA is minimal. In addition, it has 10 megapixels resolution... I don't actually need the extra pixels, but they are nice to have if I need to crop the photo down. More important is, the picture information per pixel is much more detailed.

To illustrate this, here are two pictures I took last night on my roof garden. One shows the scene as it looked, the other using the extra depth of information I can get from the camera.
Actually it is the same picture file (exposure was around 15 seconds), just with different readouts of the same information. Pretty startling nevertheless!

Why I am not at Work this Morning

Not going into work this morning because I managed to break a tooth yesterday and have to drag myself to the dentist. He is called Dr. Schock, and he is the fastest dentist I have ever experienced. His office has three operating rooms in a row, and at any given moment all three are filled, one with a patient waiting and being prepared by the assistant, one where the dentist is working, and one with the patient recovering from the Schock.
While you are waiting, the assistant is obviously very nervous, because if she has forgotten something, or the preparation is not complete, she gets an immediate public humiliation when Dr. Schock comes in.
He hates using anaesthetic because it slows him and the whole assembly line down. "You don't need a shot while I do this filling, right?" he asks brusquely, and usually doesn't even wait for an answer, anyhow he has nearly finished drilling in the time it takes him to ask the question.
I have confidence in Dr. Schock, but it still doesn't stop my anxiety as I go to his office. Am I the only one who feels this way? One consolation, though, is that the health insurance covers these things.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Saturday Morning Chez Moi

In response to Carol's request, I walked around the block yesterday, a fine fall morning.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Cologne Marathon

The Cologne Marathon runs (ha, ha) right past my apartment, so I get a good view... but it is hell trying to get into town while it is going on, as I found out yesterday trying to get to the train station. I took a few pictures before I left.
About 30,000 participants and 750,000 spectators manage to bring the city to a standstill, more or less.

Travels so far this year

This is a map of some of the non-local places I have been this year so far.
Still to come in December: USA and China.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Rehearsal with cellist

This guy--Gautier Capucon, from Paris-- has been doing a terrific job on tour, playing every night with amazing intensity.
I first met him years ago when he was a little kid. His brother plays a mean violin too.

Friday, October 05, 2007


My life is a mess, but cleaning up my apartment (which is also a mess) would simply be escaping from trying to clean up my life.
I have discovered to my everlasting joy that you can put smelly but much-loved feather pillows through the washer and dryer! The same cannot be said about pillows filled with artificial stuff, which come out all lumpy and horrible.
I like learning new things, but stop short of learning them thoroughly. This has put me at a disadvantage all my life, with languages, my music, and with relationships.
Distraction is a constant enemy in my life. All kinds of things can distract me, even thinking about distraction.
Wearing dark blue for some reason makes me more efficient. But I am still easily distracted.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

MiniBloggerMeetup Frankfurt

Everyone has written about this meeting, so I guess I don't have much to add! But it was enjoyable and raucous, all were in good spirits, especially after the third beer. Everyone had a lot to contribute, and the meeting could easily have gone on a few days longer.
J. deserves all the credit for scouting the locale and leading us there. We didn't all fit in the car, so J. and Rich and I walked the 8 blocks or so,
poor Rich dying for a pee the whole time. J., forever cheerful despite his blog title, kept insisting that it was just around the corner.

Sparky waited ages in his car for us as we assembled at the Starbucks in the train station. Jen insists he would not have been bored, because he had his Scientific American stashed somewhere, but I could see he was full of Angst that something had happened to her-- after all, she was bravely having a rendez-vous with a bunch of Internet Perverts she had never met. But once we were all there, and the first beers had been dutifully consumed, he was the life of the party.And I must say that if there would be a fight with fisticuffs, I would definitely want him on my side.
Jen was outrageous, as is her wont; she has such innocent clear eyes but comes up with the naughtiest paragraphs I have heard from a prim American female mouth! I am sure Sparky had to wash her mouth out well with soap afterwards. Very entertaining.
Rich offered to let us see his scars for a small fee, but when no one took him up on his kind offer he generously showed them to us for nothing. Some people are just born kind and saintly, he is one of them!

Elisabeth could easily have run screeching from the place, having seen what antiquated personages had assembled, but no, she integrated easily and maintained her good humour to the end. It did cheer her up, though, to show me pictures from her time at the Oktoberfest. She was showing the pictures in chronological order, and one could judge how many hours she had spent there by counting the number of buttons undone on her blouse. By her description (and the photos tend to corroborate this), she and her new friends more or less took over a good part of the festival, and have been engaged to appear again next year.
Carol was, as always, the catalyst for the whole thing; without her it wouldn't have happened at all... and this, even though (besides me) no one had met her before. A remarkable woman, we miss her presence in Germany but we are sure our paths will cross again sometime.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Vilnius, Lithuania

Lovely place, very cultured and great food and beer.
it was raining today, so Ihope to get some better pictures tomorrow.
Obviously much more affluent than the other Baltic capitols, but still seedy enough around the edges to make me feel comfortable.

Riga, Latvia

Agressive Russian men shout at you in the street.
The waitresses and shop assistants are the most surly and unhelpful I have ever encountered.
There is an Art Nouveau district which has gorgeous houses, but they are very shoddily built and somehow uninviting.
We did have some nice meals, but ended up just sitting in the room and having some great plum schnapps, homemade, after the concert.
I was glad to get out of Latvia... at the border they took away my passport for a long time, holding up the departure of the bus.. because, they explained, they thought my passport was Ukrainian. Figure that out.

Tallinn, Estonia

Just a few random impressions, will try to write more later:
Magical fall mystery atmosphere.
Proud but with a melancholy air.
Tina and The Guy take me proudly around the old town, but she says you have to drink a lot of vodka to get through the winter months sane.

The people are friendly and direct.
We have amazing meals.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?