Sunday, December 12, 2010


In the spring of 2000, I was incredibly lucky enough to go on a program called Semester at Sea. The following piece was presented to me by a professor on this trip. It made enough of an impression on me at the time, that I would eventually track down this professor, and get a copy of it years later. And now you get a chance to read it to. I hope you find it as fun, interesting, and thought-provoking as I did.

Excerpt from an article by the American anthropologist Ralph Linton. It was published in 1937 in the literary magazine edited by H.L. Mencken entitled The American Mercury. In it Linton wrote of the patriotic American who [and I quote]:

rises every morning in pajamas, a garment of East Indian origin, dresses himself either in cotton, first domesticated in India, or wool from an animal native to Asia Minor, or silk whose uses were first discovered by the Chinese. He puts on his feet stiff coverings made from hide prepared by a process invented in ancient Egypt and cut to a pattern which can be traced back to ancient Greece. He ties about his neck a strip of bright-colored cloth which is a vestigial survival of the shoulder shawls worn by seventeenth-century Croats. He looks in the mirror, an old Mediterranean invention, and goes downstairs to breakfast. There he begins with a cup of coffee, an Abyssinian plant first discovered by the Arabs. He sweetens it with sugar, discovered in India, dilutes it with cream, both the domestication of cattle and the technique of milking having originated in Asia Minor. He may have a cantaloupe domesticated in Persia or some grapes domesticated in Asia Minor, followed by the egg of a bird domesticated in Southeast Asia, with strips of flesh of an animal domesticated in the same region. After breakfast, he places upon his head a molded piece of felt, invented by the nomads of Eastern Asia, and if it looks like rain, puts on outer shoes of rubber discovered by the ancient Mexicans, and takes an umbrella invented in India. At the train station on his way to work he buys a newspaper with coins invented in ancient Lydia, settles back on the train with a cigarette invented in Mexico or a cigar invented in Brazil. Meanwhile, he reads the news of the day, imprinted in characters invented by the ancient Semites by a process invented in Germany upon a material invented in China. As he scans the latest editorial pointing out the dangers of accepting foreign ideas, he will not fail to thank a Hebrew God in an Indo-European language that he is one hundred percent American.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

NUKE THE WORLD!!!! (Not really...)

Okay, just a quickie, cause I'm mad.
First, I got this from I hate But I still go to it. I don't even know why. When I accidentally scroll to the end of an article, and start reading the comments, my faith in humanity drops by 80% every 10 seconds. It's startling.

Anyway, I saw this quote, in a letter from the 10 Republican senators-to-be, regarding the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia:

"One of the most important tasks of the 112th Congress will be to carefully consider measures that protect the national security of the United States," they wrote. "And few matters will more directly impact our security than arms control agreements like New START that would dramatically reduce the U.S. nuclear deterrent in a strategic environment that is becoming ever more perilous."

For background info, the deal with Russia would limit the number of nuclear warheads for each country to 1,550. I'll admit, I have no idea how many nuclear warheads we have right now. Probably because I don't have security clearance for that information, but even if I did, I'm pretty sure I don't want to know how many we have.

So, apparently, reducing our nuclear warheads would DRAMATICALLY REDUCE our nuclear deterrent. That's insane. Do you know how many countries there are in the world? Roughly 196, depending on how you count, and who you recognize. That's eight (okay, just 7.9) nukes for every country on earth. I just checked, and turns out Villach, where I live, which nobody outside of south-central Europe has ever heard of, is the 8th largest city in Austria. So if the US wanted to destroy the 8 largest cities of every country on earth, Villach would be on the list! How exciting!

So anyway, I have a quick piece of news for these genius senators-to-be. If 1550 nukes isn't enough to deter somebody from doing something, neither is 1551, or 2000, or 20,000, or 20 trillion. The fact of the matter is, even Kim Jong-il isn't crazy enough to use his nukes. The only people who are, are terrorists, and no amount of nukes will deter them if they get their hands on one. And with the treaty, we'd resume mutual inspections, precisely to make sure that they DON'T get their hands on one.

So yeah, that's what I think. Thanks for listening to my rant.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

'European' Music

Okay, so it's been a while since I've posted anything on this blog. But that doesn't mean I haven't meant to. I just haven't made the time for it. Which isn't to say I've always been doing better, or more important things. Part of the time, that's true. But I've also been lazy, or rather, 'enjoying some downtime'. At any rate, one of the things I've been meaning to write about for months is the music here in Europe. And specifically, the music played on the radio station which is played throughout our company workplace. (Not in the clean room/labs, or the offices, but in the hallways, bathrooms, and other places it's nice to have some music.) Now, I don't know what I was expecting in the way of music before I moved here, but I've been pleasantly amused with the music that plays on the radio station here at work. I've kept a list on my handy handy's (cell phone's) notes app. (Sadly, my memory isn't such to remember all these songs off the top of my head!) I've made a list of noteworthy songs; either noteworthy for their awesomeness, hilariousness, or 'typicalness' of songs played on the radio. Listed in no particular order, they are:
1) The Fugees version of No Woman, No Cry
2) For Whom the Bell Tolls by AC/DC
3) Gangsta's Paradise by Coolio
4) The Ghostbusters theme song ('Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!')
5) Train's song 'Hey Soul Sister'
6) Soul Asylum's 'Runaway Train'
7) Unforgiven by Metallica
8) Some song by a chick leaving on Monday (played CONSTANTLY here in Europe)
9) Ke$ha's song about brushing her teeth with a bottle of jack. ('Cause when I leave for the night, I aint comin' back.) (This was the first song I heard when I arrived here...on the cab ride from the airport to my company apartment.)
10) multiple songs by Pink (Sober, and that song about ''s electric, it's genetic...')
11) Toto's song 'Africa'
12) The Eye of the Tiger song
13) 'No Woman, No Cry' by Bob Marley
14) Crash Test Dummies song 'Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm' ('Once, there was this boy, who...')
15) A whole lot of songs by the 80's (early 90s?) band Extreme
16) 'Poison' by Alice Cooper (amused with myself that I knew this song)
17) Don't Worry, Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin
18) Bruce Springsteen's 'Born in the USA' (interesting dynamic hearing this song in Europe, with a bunch of non-Americans)
And of course...
19) 'The Sign' by Ace of Base (this is Europe, after all)

So, there you have it, a nice eclectic mix of old and new, awesome and terrible, hilarious and sad, songs which I've heard on the radio at work.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


So, I took up rowing. And by 'took up' I mean I tried it once, liked it, and intend to do it again.

My company has a rowing team, and they were looking for new recruits, so I decided to give it a try. The first time I went out to the lake, I had a sore shoulder (from moving a lot of my boxes the day before), so I got to be the guy who sits in the back, watches everyone else work really hard, and just sits there and turns the rudder to steer us. It was a pretty sweet gig, but I promised that if my shoulder was better the next week, I'd actually do some of the rowing.

So, my first time actually rowing, yesterday, it was about 60F, with a steady rain out on the lake. Nevertheless, I gave it a try, and loved it! It's more difficult than it looks, and frankly, it's a bit more coordination with my hands than I'm used to. (Hey, I grew up a soccer player!) And to make matters more difficult, the other 4 guys I was with were cracking jokes ('No, I'm not paddling too early! Everyone else is just paddling a bit late!') and I have no hope of staying coordinated while laughing.

Nevertheless, I had a great time, and I have a strong suspicion that if I like rowing when it's a bit chilly and rainy, I'm probably just going to like it all the time. Which is awesome, because I've been looking for an easy-on-the-joints aerobic exercise ever since I had knee surgery 3 or so years ago. I always thought it'd be swimming, but I'm quite terrible at it, and don't really enjoy it. So I'm super excited that I might have found something else. Something with:

-human interaction
-outdoors on the water
-low/no impact
-generally fun

And the best part, there's a bar in the rowing clubhouse with an outdoor balcony, and an awesome view of the lake, where you can sit and enjoy a beer after the workout! Perfect! I have my Tuesday evenings planned for the rest of the spring/summer! =)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


So, I realized I can choose to be mad at Greece for costing me thousands of dollars, or I can choose to look forward to buying a nice little beach house in Greece in a couple years. I've chosen to be excited about the beach house! =)

And yes, I know enough to know that global economics are not so simple as Greece causing the value of the Euro relative to the dollar to go down. And I also know enough to know that nobody else knows it all either. Especially the professionals.

And I'm okay with all of that. Life's not about what happens to you. (And for the record, I've been incredibly blessed in that way.) But it's really about how you respond to the things that do happen to you. Shit happens. Some shit you can control. Some you can't. What you can always control is how you react to it.

I'm not exactly a religious person, but isn't there a saying/proverb/verse along the lines of 'God grant me the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I can't, and the wisdom to know the difference'? I kinda like that. I like that it doesn't talk about the power to change more things. Cause no matter how much power you have, you still can't change volcanic ash clouds, or exploding oil rigs. Crap will always be out of your control. Just ask the new Greek government.

But buying a little beach house in Greece isn't out of my control. Or at least thinking about it. =)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

It kinda drives me crazy...

So it kinda drives me crazy when I can't do something I've set my mind to. For example, today, I decided it was time to get a cell phone here in Europe. I've spent a week figuring out which cell phone I want, which cellular provider I wanted, and which plan I wanted to get. I spent a lot of time on this. Other than sleeping, and maybe working, I probably spent more time on getting this all figured out this week than anything else. So I've figured out the phone that I wanted: a Nokia N97 Mini. Why? Because it is Skype-compatible, (I think I can video call with it), it has a keypad, so I can actually send email/messages at a reasonable rate, it's got GPS capability, it fits nicely in my pocket, it's got wifi, and pretty much everything else I can think that I'd want. I figured out which provider I wanted: DREI (3), because I've heard good things about them from coworkers (in terms of reception), they have SUPER cheap international rates (2.5 euro cents to call the US, when I pay an extra 4 euro a month), and they have very good plans. I basically decided on a plan with 1GB data, 2000 minutes of phone calls, and 1000 texts for 19 euro a month, as part of a 2 year contract. Add 4 euro for the international calling, and 4 more euro for 100 international texts, and I can call or text the US as much as I want for 27 euros a month, plus 2.5 cents/minute. And while I've heard mixed reviews about skype over the phone, I can give that a try, and if it works, perfect, I can skype over the phone, and only pay 19 euro a month; or if I go over my 1GB data with skype, I can pay 4 euros more, and have unlimited skype capabilities.

Oh, and if I failed to mention this, I had to figure all of this out in German. Yes, I had translators to help...thank you Stefanie from work, and thank you Ricardo from Iraq! (Gotta love Skype and Instant Messaging!)

PERFECT! This is what I want, and what I spent the better part of my free time for the last week deciding what I wanted. It shouldn't be so hard to get this. Except the Radio-Shack type store a block away from me doesn't have the N97 mini for that company. Fine, I can walk a mile or two to the fancy mall with the Drei store. Which I do. With my passport. And my Austrian work visa. And my proof of Austrian residence. And all my US credit cards. And 350 Euros. And everything else I think I might possibly need, including my laptop and an english-german translation book. I'm ready to have this phone, and be calling family and friends back in the US, just because I can.

But turns out you have to be a resident of Austria for 3 months for them to give you a plan with a contract. No avoiding it. No talking to the managers. No paying THE WHOLE CONTRACT UP FRONT! For crying out loud, what FREAKING COMPANY IS GOING TO TURN THAT DOWN!?!?!?! So anyway...

I give up. It can't be done. What now? I decide to get a prepaid SIM card from them, and just use that for 3 months. Maybe I'll buy my Nokia N97 mini on ebay or something. So I do that, and they still have the international calling plan for 4 Euro a month, so this will work fine. I get home...and pop my new SIM card into my cell phone, and oh 4 year old Motorola RAZR (from CINGULAR...not AT&T, but CINGULAR!) is locked. So of course it can't read my new SIM card.

So now I'm mad, and frustrated, because I still can't call home without paying 1.49 a minute. But mostly, it's driving me crazy because I had my mind set on getting this done today, and now it's not going to be done. So I just have to let it go. And sometimes that's hard for me to do.

Oh well...IAPOTA--It's All Part Of The Adventure. (My new saying.) As long as I have my passport, and a credit card, I'm not going to worry too much.

Here's to Cingular/AT&T hopefully unlocking my phone for me!

Otherwise I'm doing my air shipment in today, and I think I've got just about everything I want...except for a backpack and camelback. I'll survive. Maybe I'll go to Vienna this weekend.