Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Joe Biden

Joe Biden is running for president. I'm sure he's not perfect but he's the guy who has my vote so far. I watched him on Realtime with Bill Maher awhile back and liked how he said what he said. I can't believe we are 21 months from the election and I have even said who I so far am voting for. What's happened to me?

Probably the most amazing commentary on where American potential lies:

Joe Biden, on the day that he has announced his intention to run for President, he will be appearing on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Now just think about that for a second. Where our society is, the guy who is running for president is going to go on a news satire show that has a very specific demographic (hello, online petition dude!) that could become politically active in the next year and a half. I just want to say again that this is a time in America where great people will emerge from this experience as part of the new America that has sort of shed a certain reverence for all that is decent, not necessarily in the Stewart/Stern kind of way, but not to be as blinded by relative comforts while great injustices happen in the name of our country every single day. I almost feel guilty about enjoying how great my life is here. I want the soldiers out of there, and what I'm talking about is still having a force in Kuwait to active as reminder. We need to actually accept that our country in many ways is hitting one of the lowest points of its history and this where the heroes escape, showing us to the light again because it propels us upward, always yearning, always hoping always dreaming, praying. But in a nondenominational kind of way. We need to understand the impact that our large footprints can leave around the world and perhaps think about spending more for some things if it means we don't have to send extra aircraft carriers to the Persian gulf, ya know?

Anyway, watch or TIVO Daily show tonight!

Ryan Adams Rapping

www.ryan-adams.com

Unbelievable. The dude has like an eight-minute rap on the main page of his website. It's hard to describe, but he did just shout out, "one and a half stars, oh shit, my record went balsa wood in India or some other country I don't know", with the rap beat behind him and the metallic monster background vocals of "go to ryanadams.com motherfucka". No exclamation point there, I'll let that one sit there.

It feels good to be home. 10:49pm. My train from a town twenty minutes away was about 10 minutes late and I missed my normal tram. Another would come in 15 minutes. Should I walk down to the pub for one and catch a later tram? Nah. I had left the house at 7:25am, not the earliest time to be leaving the house for work but at least a time that couldn't be sniffed at. I huffed it with beanie and gloves, took a tram for 5 minutes and then walked 30 seconds and connected to another tram for one stop. I didn't have to take that tram but when the timing works out, it saves me a couple of minutes of walking. Then made some photocopies at the company while two interns were making colored photocopies of things like mugs and can openers that they then taped into the small kitchen they have on the 4th floor, really just a fridge, a sink, a large, out of date calendar, a dishwasher and one very important fresh coffeemaker. I had to admit, I have been going to that building for the past 3.5 years and never once really (a birthday or tailend of something might be on the list but...) seen some chirpiness, especially at such an early hour and it was somehow refreshing. I also had a second cup of coffee before my class started at 8am.

There are 4 people in the class: two women and two men. The women are about 50 and 40 and can't improve their passable English to save their lives. I gave them a kickass handout I got from a buddy that is basically two columns going down a page. The two columns, from left to right are: I said AND I should have said. They didn't use it the entire class after I had prompted them a few times that this would help them stop making the same inane mistakes over and over. The two guys are about 60 and 37 and while they're not much better, they definitely are because the older one is a travelling maddog, not doing the kind of travelling I like to do but the dude in the past 3 years has definitely been to Thailand area 4-5 times, South America 2 times, Australia and the other guy has two young children but they try. They try and to be honest, what more can you really ask of someone? So I just sort of encourage them as best as possible and thank them for continually allowing me to end the class 15 minutes early so I can get to my next class 50 meters back up at the corner where the trams go.

It's a nice building with an amazing interior and there I (normally but not today because they were busy) have 4 students, all male lawyers between 42 and 27, two partners and two associates. Their English is excellent and we discuss a wide range of topics with them supporting their beliefs quite well in English but me always having a sense of the upper hand because it's my language. It's a joy to spend with those guys, and they always have free coffee and I usually open up one of the little orange juice bottles they have in the small conference rooms. The fourth of them probably earn a combined 700euro (900bucks!) an hour between 'em. And I like them. And they have an interesting relationship to my work permit problems because one of the associates had helped spoof up my letter to the foreign authorities back in May of last year. But since they weren't specialists in that type of law, they weren't going to stick their necks out about it. Fair enough, no problem.

Then I walked 10 minutes through the main gate at the entry of the old town and turned right in the direct center of town and then bought a Danish-type thing (Nussschnecke) and about 60 more steps brought me to the next class, a group of about 15 students in their early twenties at a "Kultur Management" university where I teach American history.

Today they learned about the following:
*Charles Lindbergh - his flying across the Atlantic to Paris in 1927 was the probably the largest event of the 1920s
*Herbert Hoover - I gave him a good rendition, making sure that they had an idea of just how amazing Herbert Hoover's life really was, organizing post WWI emergency supply logistics and earning millions in mining, helping to keep a revolution in China to overtake the town he and his wife were in, sending a simple telegram that said "safe." after the siege was over. It's just his inability to see that the government wouldn't recover from the Great Depression that history has decided to paint him as the fall guy for an event largely precipitated by the old fat white rich guys propping up stocks to make a shitload of money and then selling them to idjits.
*FDR and the New Deal, stressing importance of the alphabet agencies (google them)

I went home after that and had lunch with my girlfriend and roommate, fishsticks, some fried veggies and some french fries from the oven. Then I chilled hardcore, youtubing for a couple of hours, reading the New York Times and Washington Post, and read more of Joe Wilson's autobiography, also known as Mr. Valerie Plame, the woman who was outed as a CIA agent by Bush administration officials in retaliation for Wilson's NY Times op-ed article in July 2003 that said we were perhaps deceived by our leaders about why we went to war in Iraq, most definitely the largest mistake the United States has probably made since I was born. That would be 32 years for those still alive and counting.

I got dressed again, took a train to that aforementioned place 20 minutes away and taught two business english classes. In the first class we learned how to take effective phone messages and also a small quiz about business small talk. The second we learned about innovation and vocabulary like: pioneer, prototype, entrepreneuer, things like that. I'm meeting both classes in a pub for our last class next week, really looking forward to it. It's almost always really enjoyable to meet with one's students in a public place and reassociate your thoughts about your environment and who you're with.

So now I'm home. Assiyeah is reading John Dos Passos' "Manhattan Transfer" for a class. It's like a 1920's harlem "Great Gatsby" poorly described. Always aksing me bout words that no one ain't said since who knows whence, ya know?

So now I'm listening to Ryan Adams online, not the rap but some straight up country: I miss all those girls at the bar all loaded like freights, he just sang. One shot, one beer, and a kiss before I go.

So now I am.

So?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

me and Assiyeah going to Getty Museum


A sunset just before New Year's


What is your bank account number?

Seriously, the weather shouldn't be so good. It's about 50 degrees and sunny, I went for a run earlier this afternoon because one of my classes got cancelled. I have another 2.5 hours off before taking a tram just before 7pm. I have a class from 7.30-9pm that I prefer not to teach but it's nothing personal, it's just that once you are home for a few hours, it's hard to get motivated to go out again, even if the weather is nice!

I just put in a Curtis Mayfield song while typing this entry. Thanks to comedycentral.com for giving me Daily Show segments a day or two after they play. They're definitely going to be taking my time away from youtube but that's probably pretty good. What have I gotten done on my list of stuff to do today:

1)run
2)research on Bratislava hotel
3)research on train times to Berlin
4)confirmed my classes for Berufs Akademie starting in two weeks

I'm pooped. I haven't been sleeping enough lately for a variety of reasons. I have either been going to bed too late, or having to pee in the middle of the night like an old man (at 32, am I?), or getting up too early. Saturday night got a little out of hand but it was fantastic, we had a blast and it was cool too because we spoke German the whole night pretty much.

Yesterday I had the day off and I wasted the hell out of it, it was great! I watched a movie called "Jarhead" about a day in the life of a Marine during the Gulf War, watched some My Name is Earl, got some new headphones and dropped off some film for Assiyeah. Last night we had schnitzel for dinner and it was tasty but I really do need to think about what I'm eating and when I'm eating it. It's easy to want to eat something at midnight or later after going out all night but it's definitely not best for the waistline, ya know what I'm saying? Especially after buying 5 new pairs of pants when I was home, hahah but things are okay. I'm going to try and get a workout or two and one more run in this week. Unfortunately I have to work on Saturday but it's a private lesson for 3 hours and it's definitely worth 130 bucks so I'll not go out too much on Friday so I can have a semblance of professionalism.

Speaking of Friday, one of the most important days since I've lived in Germany. I am going with an acquaintance of mine to the German Social Security to officially make them aware of me and also to beging our negotiation to try and get me out of a backpayment. God, not having to pay back 4-12,000 euro will be like the best feeling ever, that's what this struggle has done to me, after 10 months, that just not having to pay all of my money into a bad investment is a great feeling, oy vey! We'll see, one very likely scenario is that they take my tax return for last year, which I believe says 10,500 euro earned after write offs and all that jazz and make me pay 20% of that every month starting this month. That would make it: 2100euro/year and when you divide that by 12, you get 175euro/month. I would not be happy at all about having to pay that for many reasons, namely because it's more than my current rent but mostly because I don't think I should have to because I have my own private IRA in the States. We are going to negotiate down to 79.50euro/month which is the voluntary payment and it's funny but 80euro a month for the rest of my life here so that I never have to talk to the Auslaenderbehoerde or the Regierungspraesidium or the German Social Security and I might actually get payments of 50euro/month when I'm 70 make it totally worth it. If I had to hear any bad news...Please say: Mr. Brown, I'm sorry but you have to pay something and so let's make it the lowest amount but you'll be done with us forever. And I will say, what is your bank account number?

I'll keep ya updated...

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A rally? A 10-km walk?

What should I do next semester with students in my classes? A peace rally, or make a 10-km walk fundraiser for my buddy's charity in San Diego? We have many possibilities, how can I get people to do great things?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

German American idol

It's super cold, gray, lightly snowing, watching the German version of American idol, slippers on, chillin, going to the Irish Pub, tomorrow I'm going to correct tests, prepare an invoice, finish making another test, maybe go for a run, depending on the weather of course. It may not appear that not much is going on but trust me, it is swirling around me.

There's a scandal in a conservative German political party. The head of their party is going to step down, after running Bavaria like a prince's kingdom. There are two dudes who are vying for that guy's job. Well yesterday, there was an article about one of them who is apparently having an affair with a lawyer in his office and she's pregnant. And the whole time this politician has played himself as a "family man". You see, Germany is just like American, somehow!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Tiptoed

Did the US tiptoe around a military commitment?

They didn't tiptoe around a military commitment. They threw us out of a window so we could fall on a military commitment. That's certainly not eh same thing. This thing was politicized around 2000/1 with the PNAC statement. This thing became illegal around summer 2002 when the Downing Street memo became known, 6-9 months before going to war. This thing became more illegal when two before the invasion the intelligence services were saying that the report about Iraq looking for yellow-cake uranium in Niger was a forgery and no weight should be given to it.

I would not be so "angry" if this hadn't all been so unavoidable. If they really still believed the evidence at the time of the invasion, with multiple (I'm talking about 100, from various agences and at least 10 of them written) intelligence sources being completely behind the Iraq/Niger story and saying that things are imminent. A strike is absolutely necessary or our way of life in the United States could be kissed goodbye. Put this letter down and scrambles aircraft carrier type of being behind the intelligence they had. Bush and Co. already knew it was a forgery before it was put into the State of the Union address. Putting knowingly false material into the president's most important speech of each year that inducesus to go to war in which thousands of Americans will die, most likely more than a trillion dollars or more will be wasted on fostering hatred, only insuring that this struggle goes behind territory but serious ideological differences, where the powers at be are going to do their best in giving us a sense of fear while encouraging us to shop and drive whatever damn car you want.


This is a goddamn shame that I have had to seek out and find out what is going on in this story because I think it is such an injustice, not only to the people who are losing their families, homes, arms and so on but even to us, "normal folk" who have to sit on the sidelines and openly gawk at how a few idiots on both sides are slowly making the world a much worse place to live. One of the biggest differences between these idiots is that one side is in charge of the most powerful government in the world, with many fingers on many buttons, and the media numbing to let them conduct this grand old capitalistic enterprise, where everyday at least 100 new people everyday decide that they hate America, a feeling I am hurt to see them having, because I love America, I think it is the best country in the world, in the America I think of (mostly pre-Kennedy assasination) but mostly as an ideal. America is basically the only country in the world with an ideal. And that ideal has been perverted and taken advantage of in the name of money and power. 100 new people hate me everyday because of the actions of others. That is not right. It wouldn't be so bad if those same people weren't raping the economy/environment/future at the same time.


And there we are, sitting on the sidelines, some of us not paying attention because of the wonderful diversions they've given us of which many I am quite enamoured, but not paying attention nonetheless, and some of us watching with varying amounts of disbelief, indifference and outrage. I am too lazy for outrage. Or rather, my life is too enjoyable to feel outrage. I am firmly stuck in disbelief. And now I think of it as my job to represent America, the America that I love, that is free-thinking, laid back, friendly and idealistic, that operates in a fashion which takes some of our hard-earned dollars to other countries in the world who really need help, of which about 60% of those countries is in Africa. Not give it to countries whose ideologies outweigh respecting sovereign nations and even money. But they are still getting rich and fostering hate. That is where our hard-earned money goes. More disbelief.

However, I gotta start cooking back here in reality. I should have started 15 minutes ago but I got a bit carried away. I hope you got through this okay...PEACE

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

State of the Union

Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia.

Which of these countries are our allies?

Anyway...

State of the Union last night, you all had the chance to see it, I didn't. How was it? I read an op-ed in the New York Times but it isn't the same as watching it live. Cutting gas consumption by 20%. Wow, about time. Did you talk to big oil before making that comment? Does that include "asking" automakers to stop making huge-ass cars that suck up gas more than anything?

We've forgotten Afghanistan. The Taliban appears to gaining power again, running through the Khyber Pass into Pakistan, our ally.

You know what, maybe we should forget this topic.

It snowed last night. I got up at 6.40am this morning, difficult to get out of bed knowing that snow was everywhere, it was about 15 degrees and I had a boring class to teach. But hey, it's work and so I did it. I was on the tram at 7.24am, transferred in the center of town, walked 10 minutes to get to work. We talked about family and travel. Then I had a class with 3 lawyers and we talked about their theses and my work problems. I think they like hearing about it because they are interested in how this little flea (me) is trying to take on the largest of bureaucratic monsters in this country of 80 million After that class, I walked another 10 minutes, bought a Danish-type thing for some breakfast and then taught some American History, namely the 1920's: The Lost Generation and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Babe Ruth, Race Relations and the KKK, and automobiles. I came home and had some lunch, did some organizing of some stuff and am now chillin while youtubin' Olbermann's take on the State of the Union address, and more importantly for me, the Scooter Libby trial. That's the dude that apparently outed Valerie Plame, a CIA agent, after her husband Joseph Wilson went to Niger to see if Iraq had tried to buy weapons-grade uranium only to find that it was bunk and then wrote an op-ed piece in the NY Times saying that the administration had possibly cooked intelligence or at least had cherry-picked it in order to take the country to war in Iraq. It appears that Dick Cheney, the worst public servant since Aaron Burr, had much more of an involvement on what happened in this case. I hope he starts getting a bit nervous. God, I can't stand that guy.

Thank you, youtube! Without you I would be way out of the loop on what is happening in the world. I was probably "happier" before I got so interested in politics and current events but it's so amazing to see that the world still functions while the most evil and greedy things are going on. Daily Show, Colbert Report, Olbermann, Bill Maher. These four guys are helping me find out what is happening in America.

What is happening in America?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Cold

howdy folks,

It's cold as hell here in Freiburg, probably cold enough to snow but it's merely gray. There were a few snowflakes here and there this morning around 7.20am when I left the house but since then, nothing.

I'm in the middle of a multiple hour break between classes, something that normally used to bother me but which I am reveling in now. I got home around 10am and after a class got cancelled have over 7 hours a home before having to go out again. It's not that bad today, I checked some emails, did a bit of work, a small workout (still trying to get into the ole' workout plan but I did run on Friday), had some lunch and I've been updating my Ipod thingy. It now has over 4000 songs on there, including two full books on cd which is cool. I've probably put 50 cds worth in my computer today and now my laptop has about 15Gig worth of music.

I'm about 2/3 through a book about a trial in Detroit in 1925, when some black men defending their house in an all-white neighborhood, shot and killed a man when a mob was swelling outside their house. The infamous Clarence Darrow, of the infamous Scopes' Monkey trial in Tennessee earlier in the same year (about teaching evolution in school), took the case and now they are getting ready for the actual trial to start. There are some amazing things in this book, namely the KKK's influence as far north as Detroit, where they were running a mayorial candidate even. I didn't really understand how much the Jim Crow laws affected people all over the country more than 60 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. It's amazing how much crazy shit has happened in a country so "young" as the United States.

We are less than a month from going to Turkey for a couple of weeks. We haven't planned that at all yet but there are more important fish to fry, namely my work permit. I received the papers from my mom which amount to Social Security contributions and private pension scheme bank statements and I hope next week to take them to the German Social Security to try and get me out of having to pay back numerous thousands of euro which would effecitively ruin my life here in the best place on earth. If, by the grace of God (and an acquaintance who has been helping me a bit) I actually get the work permit without having to pay thousands of euros, I'm going to do a few things.

First, I'm going to book a trip to Montenegro and the surrounding area (Dubrovnik, Croatia and Sarajevo, Serbia) for the last week in May to celebrate my 33rd birthday. I would have already booked it but I have had to wait to see how this potentially financially devastating problem is going to play out.

Second, I'm going to take my girl out for a nice dinner, for supporting me through this time. I will also invite my acquaintance who shall remain nameless except to tell you he's a judge(!) for a nice schnitzel dinner one night, even if I do have to pay some money. He has helped me sleep at night, just knowing that some other human being is concerned about my problem and is trying to help. He's a good person for that and good people should get free schnitzel, right? :)

Third, I'm going to take an "extra" thousand euro for my savings account, partially for my California pension scheme but also for taxes for this year. I'm going to fill out the forms soon and it appears that after write offs and money that had not been transferred to me before 2006 ran out, I earned approximately 12,000euro and with my insurance write offs, my taxable income for 2006 should run around 10,500, about what it was last year give or take. I don't like paying taxes but I'm "happy" to do it, to show my involvement as a citizen in this country, to show that I can play by the system and all that jazz.

Fourth, I'm going to make sure that the people who helped me and those who definitely did not help me are going to know how my case turned out. I want the people who wrote emails on my behalf to know that their work helped a lot and without them I could not have done it. It's important to tell people thanks. Otherwise they think it was a waste of time. This certainly has not been a waste of time. Well, actually it has been, but I place that blame squarely on the Auslaenderbehoerde, their employees and the Regierungspraesidium. Their obstinance has wasted countless thousands of euro (probably between 1-2000euro?) in taxpayer money to deal with a problem that could have been handled in 10 minutes over 10 months ago. I'm sure that the Auslaenderbehoerde must have bigger fish to fry, don't they? Don't they?

Anyway, much love to ya'll, hope you're enjoying this Tuesday and be sure to be watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Colbert Report and Countdown with Keith Olbermann if you want to "know" what's happening in this country. Cheers!

Friday, January 19, 2007

putting the occasional old fat white guy in jail...

We need more old fat white guys who are stealing from the country blind going to jail for a bit. I told a class of 50 students this afternoon that the best deterrent to crime that we have in the United States is that if you break the law, you will be raped in the ass. That's the best we got. We have too many people in jail as it is, but we need more of these to go for a spell...


http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070119/ap_on_go_co/ney_corruption
Back to Story - HelpEx-Ohio Rep. Ney Sentenced to 30 Months By MATT APUZZO, Associated Press Writer1 hour, 6 minutes ago

Former Republican Rep. Bob Ney was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison Friday for trading political favors for golf trips, campaign donations and other gifts in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

Ney, the first congressman convicted in the federal bribery investigation involving lawmakers, their aides and Bush administration officials, pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy and making false statements.

The six-term lawmaker from Ohio, who once chaired the powerful House Administration Committee, accepted golf and gambling trips, tickets to sporting events, free meals and campaign donations arranged by Abramoff and his associates.

"You violated a host of laws that you as a congressman are sworn to enforce and uphold," said U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle, who recommended that Ney serve his time at a federal prison in Morgantown, W.Va., about an hour-and-a-half drive from his home in Wheeling, W.Va.
Ney will also serve two years probation and must pay a $6,000 fine. Huvelle recommended he enter a prison alcohol rehabilitation program for treatment of a drinking problem Ney has spoken of in recent months. Completing the program could knock about a year off his sentence.
Huvelle did not set a date for Ney to report to prison. He resigned from Congress in November, just before the elections.

The sentence was harsher than recommended by prosecutors, Huvelle said, because Ney had violated the trust placed on him as a public official. "Both your constituents and the public trusted you to represent them honestly," she said.

Ney apologized to his family and constituents during a brief statement.

"I will continue to take full responsibility, accept the consequences and battle the demons of addiction that are within me," he said. Ney's election-year actions drew criticism from Republican congressional leaders and the White House. Bush spokesman Tony Snow said Ney's criminal activity "is not a reflection of the Republican Party."

The gifts Ney received ranged from a trip to Scotland bankrolled by Abramoff's clients to thousands of dollars in gambling chips that Ney got on two overseas junkets from foreign businessman Fouad al-Zayat, a Syrian-born aviation company owner in Cyprus.

The lawmaker agreed to push legislation helpful to Abramoff clients including Indian tribes and a foreign beverage distiller. He agreed to help Al-Zayat get a visa to enter the United States and a legislative exemption to laws barring the sale of U.S.-made airplanes and parts to a foreign country.

Abramoff, once an influential lobbyist, is the star witness in an FBI corruption investigation that has shaken Capitol Hill. He is serving six years in a Maryland federal prison in a fraudulent Florida casino deal.

Ney's sentencing is the latest development in a long-running investigation that so far has yielded convictions of several former congressional aides and two members of the Bush administration.
Among those still under scrutiny for their ties to Abramoff are former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas; former Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont.; Rep. John Doolittle (news, bio, voting record), R-Calif.; Steven Griles, a former deputy secretary at the Interior Department, and Italia Federici, a political fundraiser for former Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

letter to one of my students about my work permit

hey Niklas,
A girl from the newspaper called me after our class today and wanted to know more about my case. I told her about the rentenversicherung and howthe case has become a lot more delicate in the past few weeks and we have to be careful about how we portray me and my problem. Most people will think at first:

He lives here, he works here, he pays taxes, he should pay rentenversicherung because maybe he stays here forever.

That will be the natural reaction of a good portion of the people who actually read the newspaper sunday afternoon, ya know? We have to try and make the story seem that:

1)I've been here four years.
2)We include my original letter to the Auslaenderbehoerde from May 2005 to give them most of all the backstory they need to show a good side of me.

Also, I plan to go to the Auslaenderbehoerde around next Friday, the 26th. It would be good if I could we could wait until then. I might, just might be able to get my extension with a quiet, polite conversation with my sachbearbeiter's boss' boss. Then we shouldn't have a letter printed two days later UNLESS the article is to show how the system worked and we should all pat ourselves on the back, that I, as a foreigner in this country, tried to get the support from my friends and students here, to come to my behalf as Germans and say, "this one is okay, he can stay" and they did, with approximately 35 people writing the Auslaenderbehoerde, 2 Stadtraetinnen made phone calls/wrote letters, the Auslaenderbehoerde took a lot of heat/stress because of me and now they have suddenly changed the battleground with social security backpayments, a dangerous topic financially. As I told the reporter today, having to pay back the money and begin paying that amount here in Germany would basically ruin my life. I mean this in a financial/enjoyment of life/small dream fulfillment kind of way, weissh?

That's why we have to wait until I go to the Auslaenderbehoerde to see what happens there. They most likely will either have to inform the higher office or have to answer something about my case when/if they ask a question to the Auslaenderbehoerde at some time. I need to provide the alternative that makes everyone happy:

*I have my own pension scheme in California. Here are receipts from two pension schemes in California and a receipt from payments into American Social Security.

*I have been here for 4 years, paying taxes, integrating, donating money to charity, putting on photo exhibitions and now this summer a fashion show with students from another university. I contribute to the city.

*In the 4 years I have been here, I have never needed a thing from Germany. As a matter of fact, I paid taxes. I have proven that I haven't asked for anything from Germany(knock on wood) in terms of unemployment payments or other social help services. Germany will never have to take care of me when I'm older because I have my own system in California where my people are from, California with the 8th strongest economy in the world,yes, that one.

Do you see what I mean?

All that should really happen in the end is that I pay my 25 euro, get my work extension for 2 more years, and in 16 months I will apply for an unlimited residence permit and show pension scheme payments if they like and I pay 25 euro and then get the unlimited one. And I'll say thank you and "Have a nice weekend" as I leave. That is how all of this should play out and you can quote.

I need to figure out how to make the above happen. Can you help?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I love love

All right guys, here they are, what will most likely be the next photo exhibition, the creme de l' creme of the cream, 40 rolls, down to 80 photos down to 40 photos down to about 15 photos here. I won't say that it is my best work because I don't think that it is but there are a couple of shots that are keepers. Unfortunately, the one photo we wanted to use as the main photograph for the exhibition was not digitized correctly and so I have to take it back to the store which will delay its publishing until next week but at least you get a glimpse of what the next photo exhibition will look like.

I am publishing this mostly for my friends and family who don't live in Freiburg and maybe didn't see me at Xmas time. You might not be able to make the exhibition/ fashion show in June here in Germany and so if not, you still get a chance to see the photos and try and get an idea of what two months in South America is like, if you add in the lack of hot water, the abundance of poverty, struggling to get your breath at 13,000 feet and the strange sounds your stomach makes an hour after eating food from a street vendor! Enjoy...

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Bolivian Horn

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Colonia Cobble

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Argentine Cacti

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Potosi Costume

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Sucre Shadows

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Monastery Blue

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Arequipa Vat

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Salt Flat Pitcher

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Tilcara Feathers



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Squatty Saleswoman

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Salta Walk



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Sucre Walk

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Where are Uyuni?

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Potosi Dancers

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Flamingoes

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Peruvian Skulls

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

4 Years

I arrived in Germany 4 years ago, a small, shy child with a world of uncertainty ahead of me. I had no job, no language skills, my girlfriend's parents didn't like me. I had nowhere to live, I knew no one and I had brought enough money to technically last a year without working. And I had 3 large bags me to go along with the 5-6 boxes that I had mailed from California, each having cost about 50 bucks to mail. It took some time but things started to fall in my direction.

1)I went to the Czech Republic for a month to earn a teaching certificate.
2)I met Assiyeah's parents and they didn't seem to hate me.
3)I got a place to live and then a work permit (oh the good ole days when it was easy to do)
4)I got a class one Thursday while someone went on holiday.
5)I got some more classes.
6)I travelled a bit
7)I got more classes.
8)I went home to Xmas, already knowing that I would be going back after the holiday.

That was my first year living in Germany in a nutshell. I improved the language, seemed to make enough to live a nice, albeit reduced lifestyle and had new experiences all the time, like having a Norwegian and Swedish girl sleeping in my living room. God only knows what time they got home last night! Assiyeah got home around 3am she said. I was already sleep by 12.30.

So, four years have gone by. I now have more work than I need (unless I have to start paying those pesky social security taxes), have travelled further and longer and to more exotic places than I would have ever imagined possible at 32 and a half years old, learned another language (Norwegian), started having photo exhibitions, fluffing out my feathers as it were to show that there was more to me than just my English teaching.

I'm still really happy here. In fact, a new life was really opened up to me and I have done my best to take advantage of the opportunity and live. It is so great to meet my friends back home, I wish I could see them more often but we all have responsibilities, they just seem to have more because the basic things needed there each month like rent and car and a shitload more expensive than I have to pay. My rent is approximately 175US dollars a month which includes utilities and for transportation, I pay about 50 bucks a month, give or take. Those two things right there pale in comparison to what in California costs. I like making less money and paying less money here. I have a lot more time to do my thing, even if that is watching youtube or thinking about working out.

The weather is definitely crappier here, as it's raining lightly now, killing my motivation to go running but that doesn't mean I can't do a workout with weights, ya know? My TV, while big for German students, is a behomothly old. There is no TIVO, and very few channels. But it's okay. I have made sacrifices and life seems to be pretty good to me.

I was asked the other night if I have any regrets in life. The answer is no. For me to be sitting here typing this in my apartment in the Black Forest on my new laptop must mean that everything that has happened up to that point has worked out perfectly. In fact, the only regret I have from the past 7.5 years of my life was possibly getting the Auslaenderbehoerde so damn involved in my work permit problem that now I have to pay the social security taxes which were never a prerequisite for me. That is my only regret from the past seven plus years. Please god (or whomever), please let this turn out for me.

See, four years later, I still am in a position where I have uncertainty and hope. That's exciting, right?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Weekend!

Home at 11.15am on a Friday morning feels damn good. I cleaned out the bookshelf, found about 11 books to get rid, much to Assiyeah's pleasure, did the dishes, took the trash out, paid my doctor's bill from yesterday and still have the following on my to-do list:

1)go grocery shopping
2)bring some stuff to the cellar
3)clean off my desk
4)change my cell phone plan
5)do a workout
6)do some writing

That oughta be enough, don't ya think?

I'm glad to be working on this blog more often. I think I want to add enough to it so that some of my friends, more than Mooney, Zach and Maya actually read it sometimes. I know a lot of my friends have sedentary jobs and so they have 5-10 minutes a week to read what is going on in the/my world.

I spent a couple of hours online last night trying to figure out if I really have to pay this social security in Germany, it's tough to figure out because the vocabulary is high and also that different vocabulary is used even though the same thing may be being discussed. We'll see.

As I said a couple of days ago, Maya is coming into town. I'm going to dinner with Assiyeah tonight to a place called Harem, a Turkish restaurant where she and I can discuss some of our trip together and also have a romantic dinner. We'll be going to an Arabic cafe after that to smoke one of the big sheeshas which is a large water pipe used in many Arabic countries. It could be an interesting group of folk, adding Aaron, the soldier from Iraq I met in late November, and a couple of other people I have yet to meet so...tomorrow is meant for getting our room together, meaning putting shelves on the walls, organizing some of the furniture, stuff like that. Sunday I'll do my lesson plans including working on my tests for Furtwangen and then going to watch football at O'Kellys at 7pm. See ya soon!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

What I signed to the petition to George Bush about...

the increase of troops to Iraq when it asked if I had any other comments:

And I hope all politicians involved please don't forget about passing the War Profiteering Act of 2007 proposed by Pat Leahy. Unpatriotism is cheating your country out of billions of dollars overcharging and providing shoddy work without oversight. We should follow the Geneva Convention's laws. We should start using the FISA courts for the national security's wiretapping. Suspension of Habeas Corpus should be repealed immediately.

We should find a way to integrate the nation's illegal aliens without having both political parties' self-interest involved. Our Forefathers invented what will most likely forever be remembered as the most important political document of all time. Our duty is to follow that paper and use it to guide our judgements, not to find small holes in the slowly disintegrating document and punch your fist through them.

We should put the kind of money put into Iraq into things like getting the homeless off the street, trying to assuage more extreme poverties and inner city decay. We should decrease the importance of lobbyists in our political structure. We should all have health insurance and pharaceuticals should occasionally make some drugs that help millions of poor people (i.e., not a new cholesterol medicine for rich white people who eat rich foods but more like AIDS medicine, things of that nature.

We have to start using alternative forms of fuel as soon as possible, with the side benefit of allowing us to unentangle ourselves from the Middle East which is proving easily to be the most dangerous place on earth. If companies are not allowed to do business with Iran, how can a subsidiary of Halliburton do business with them?

Can you please reopen the investigation to September 11th and appoint an independent council? Can we take tighter control of campaign financing?


Okay well, I guess that's enoug for now. Good luck.

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I wonder if I'll be on some government list now...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Scandinavian invasion

I got a Norwegian and Swede coming to this apartment this weekend, look out! I'm still a bit under the weather, going to visit the doctor tomorrow, I met with a judge with the Tax Court who is an acquaintance of mine, he's not an expert at all on social security in Germany but still someone intelligent who has ideas. I dropped off my negatives from South America so the best 20 or so pictures can be digitized and put onto the website here. I have to leave for work in 5 minutes, teaching Business English. I might have a new private student next weekend, a lawyer who is going to drive about an hour to come to me. I'm charging him approximately 40 dollars/hour to get a lesson from me. If he's willing to pay it, I'm willing to charge it. I've gotten quite a few things from my to-do list done and I used SKYPE for the first time the other night. All right, I just wanted to give you guys a quick update on life, I'll be back soon.

Monday, January 08, 2007

4am two days in a row

I'm sick. I have been wide awake at 4am two days in a row and it's been tough. I almost fell asleep at work today, while students were reading a text! I will keep this short but wanted to inform you of something I thought was good.

There's a documentary called "Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers" which makes a very interesting case about how some large corporations have been overcharging the US government for work done in Iraq. Attempts to have this stopped by the Republican-led Congress was stopped a few times but now, with the Dems in control, Patrick Leahy has a new bill that would potentially impose a fine of "double gross profits" when it is proven that the company has shirked the government of money and up to a 20-year prison sentence. That's what I'm talking about. Making a profit is one thing. Making it at the expense of others, namely soldiers who are risking their lives, and your employees, who are risking their lives, and giving them improper information or equipment to maximize profits is wrong.

Okay, that's all...

Oh no, one more thing. I got my bike back! It was unlocked today next to the apartment and I brought a lock down and locked it up and left a note on it trying to discourage the person from restealing it! yeah...

Saturday, January 06, 2007

4.18pm, Saturday, 3 King's Day

I am sitting in my apartment in germany, legs hurting from hauling up all those heavy bags 4 flights of stairs but now I'm here, new laptop, new year, new wardrobe and reading selection, new hope and new worries, I'm happy to be here. I will get into a few different things in this blog but consider it a new start. Until this point, it was current, now it's old, ya know why I'm sand?

I just spent 20 days in Southern California, all of them in Orange County except two in San Diego and one in Los Angeles. Assiyeah was there for 10 days. So much of what is totally normal there throws me for a loop, as it's either bigger or better or worse and disappointing, things I never thought about make me stop and gawk and other things that used to be part of the spiritual ritual of coming home is slowly being phased out while the friends I have all become stronger as we live our separate lives. It's so cool to think of Z and A and N (should I not have just typed out their full names) all hanging out at my parent's house, all of us having known either other for 20 years even though often we ran in completely different circles, and knowing that they try and maintain a friendship with me, knowing it's pretty low maintenance 10-11 months of the year and then super high maintenance for the busiest and most chaotic month of the year. That sums me up pretty well.

Here are some things that I found interesting to say the least:

1)one of the major first channels had morning news containing one of the newscasters in her pajamas lying in bed with a microphone and one or two male models in pajamas under the covers with her while female models walked down a short runway with different pajama style. The newscaster was telling us that these were some of the hot pajama styles this winter. This was the news.

2)It's boggling to think that Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Keith Olbermann reach one of the largest, most savory of demographics and yet we still don't care and are content to enjoy our lives as we should, but never giving real thought to what is actually happening in the world. Those 3 newscasters bring us what is relevant far more than the networks. Hell, the first two guys are in bullshit mode the whole time and they still provide more news than the real news. The ambivalence to the outside world that I never used to think about shocks me at first today and then I get glazed into it again after a week or two. It's like I have a sweet heavy glaze on me when I'm there. Trust me, it's not a bad thing but just different from the berries in the forest feeling here. Okay I just exaggerated but I think you see where I'm going.

3)The politics in my country are so divisive. There's a haughty smirk when proclamations of a yearn for bipartisanship are made, especially when the the current minority has fucked up so much of our country to make money and take freedoms away. Foxnews I watched a few times because of the morbid curiosity. It wasn't as bad as I thought for most of the time but when it got ugly, it got ugly, just a poor excuse for bringing news to the people. The news guys who matter have to spend too much energy and how these politicians are fucking up and now we are on the eve (or day after, actually) of great change in the States. Democratic majority with plans for trying to help people, i.e., raising minimum wage, reinstating habeas corpus, warrantless wiretapping stopped, following the Geneva Convention on torture, pulling troops out of Iraq, slowing down the president's rush to become absolute ruler. The people have spoken and for the president to go against the majority on a majority of important things, we gots to have a talk. Considering that Joe Biden is going to have 4 weeks of official inquiry into the war in Iraq, a woman called a liberal just became the 3rd most important person in America, the speaker of the house. Let's see if Bush's own proclamations about bipartisanship were true. Is he really going to send more troops to Iraq when I read that 11% of the people favor sending more troops. We have the basis for the best country in the world and I still so proud to be American but I find it fascinating that all of the stuff I read about America living in Germany is pretty much happening and people like Keith Olbermann talk about it but it gets stuffed into the night in 10-second clips between commercials of primetime television.


4)I miss wearing t-shirts, shorts and sandals basically 9 months a year. I miss eating Mexican food. I miss perfect weather and a cheap gym making it very easy for me to stay motivated to exercise. When it's gray and 40-50 degrees tomorrow, it's hard to get motivated but I am going to do it.

5)Shopping in America around Xmas time is fun. Some guy in a shopping mall in Florida shot another dude for some piddly reason, killing him. There were sales galore and many possibilities for seeing many good stores on the same premises. Bought a whole new wardrobe, like 4-5 pairs of pants, 2 shorts, 8 shirts, new pair of shoes, 2 belts, sweet! Got some dvds, so many books your eyes would bulge, just like my bookshelf in the living room. I think I brought about 12 books back with me. I've read 2 of them so far. I brought a heating blanket for Assiyeah, a super cool board game called Cranium, a poster of butterflies and more and more. It is addicting shopping, don't ya think? Those gift cards make it too easy.

6)A 10-year old kid in Tennessee hung himself trying to imitate the Saddam Hussein execution he had somehow seen with his parents. The execution itself looked bad. I haven't seen it, just the most used quick shots with the noose around his neck. It is from a fucking cell phone! Someone at Saddam's execution had a cell phone with a camera and videotaped it and then uploaded it to the internet and all the networks were showing it over and over again. I kind of get speechless thinking of what to say about all that.

7)What the hell is Trans fat?

8)Every single person I know in California has a huge ass television, it's amazing. My parents go to the movies once or twice a week, I saw about 5 movies when I was home, Blood Diamond, Rocky Balboa, Night at the Museum, and Pan's Labryinth, and the Good Shephard. That could be how many times I go to the movies in Germany in one year. There are so many channels to watch it is boggling and still often there is nothing on. I'm guessing that onDemand will become larger and everyone I know using Netflix, getting dvds mailed to them like rentals and mailing them back for free in order to get more. Tivo and dvr of pausing live television. Saturday Night Live was funny but Neil Young surprisingly sucked.

9)It's expensive to do most everything in California, usually. People drop money like hats sometimes, amounts that German people would agonize over (as would I most likely!) before spending.

10)There is a strip club subculture in America.

11)The commercials get super loud when watching television, like double the volume or more. It gets louder here too but it's amazing how that is still allowed or enough people haven't complained about it. Should the television channel have say over YOUR volume?

12)Cars are huge, it's like people are flaunting how big their car is to show exactly how little they care about the environment because I can afford the 10 miles a gallon in my 50,000 dollar car! It's like military vehicles driving next to them, you would seriously think that each of those cars had missle launchers somewhere on them.

13)The people are great. You can meet some of the friendliest people for 10 minutes. It may mean nothing in your life but for that moment it's quite pleasant and that's a goal of mine often.

I could (and probably will) keep going but it's time to chill out some more. Happy New Year...