28 August 2006

The Beer Monkey

Hopefully I'll get back to writing more regularly in the next few days. Passed the exam, so no more studying to do (for the time being anyway).

I spent the last weekend in Budweis in the Czech Republic, where a colleague of mine comes from. As expected (due to the quality of the beer there), I ended up get pissed on a couple of night. Waking up the next morning made me think of something that happens to everyone (who drinks) at some stage: the visit of the beer monkey (amusing link).

Obviously there are many worse things about the beer monkey, but the most constant thing for me about his visits is how my hair looks in the morning. When I go to sleep sober, I wake up and my hair looks grand (well, as far as my hair goes). But after the beer monkey has dropped by, there are bits sticking up left right and centre in gravity defying positions (I've thin hair that always just falls over) that even the strongest hair wax can achieve.

What's your most regular or annoying feature of his calls?

12 August 2006

All Quiet On The Blogging Front

It's been a while since my last post. Next Monday I'll be sitting for a Java programmer exam, so most of my free time in the last week or so has been dedicated to studying for it. Hopefully I'll get it first time, and I can start to put up a few decent articles again (but a few celebratory drinks will have higher priority).

After that though I've a few other things that need to be done, so i reckon posting will still not be too frequent, but I'll be aiming for at least one a week. Me and Audrey (the wife) are moving out of Germany by the end of the year, so we'll need to start looking for jobs, and also organising all our stuff to be sent to wherever we go (likely destination, London).

So, it could be a while until my next proper post (unless I take a decent break from studying)

07 August 2006

Cut Power Cuts

With all the difficulties that North America has had in past few weeks with power cuts, you'd think that someone would have come up with a solution to the problems. The usual ideas and reasons for the current problems are being trotted out such as building more power stations, as it currently isn't keeping up with demand or making people more aware out their usage of energy.

Building more power stations is the simple way to solve the problem, but it won't help us solve the much bigger problem in the world, climate change. How is shovelling loads more coal into an inferno, letting it spew out more filth into our air and more greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, going to help?

Making people aware of their energy usage is the perfect solution to the problem, but unfortunately that takes a lot of effort in educating everyone of the benefits, and then motivating them to do something about it. But let's face, humans are a lazy species, if we don't have to do it, we won't.

The simplest way is too hit us in our pockets. Hard. There is nothing quite like lighter wallet to make people finally wake up to the realities of a situation, and do something about it. Electricity is, I consider, quite cheap. What if it was whacked up by 100%. Would people learn to switch off the air-con when it wasn't needed? Or think about buying the energy efficient light-bulbs next time they have to replace the kitchen light? I think we'd soon see quite a large decrease in demand on the power grid.

Obviously this method has some drawbacks. Higher rates will hit the poor much harder, but so will blackouts, brownouts and economic stagnation based on fragility of supply. But there are ways around these problems, such as through some sort of tax breaks for the economically disadvantaged.

I would like to see another method implemented. An allowance should be worked out that decides how many units are necessary for a household to run the essential services, plus a bit extra. Before this limit is reached, the price per unit should be quite reasonable, but when this limit is reached, then the price per unit should shoot up. It would soon make people think about over usage of unnecessary equipment and using energy wastefully. This type of regulation could also work for other services, such as water, which I think gets wasted much to easily by people as it costs next to nothing from the tap.

The only problem (there's always one) is that it doesn't serve the capitalist economic model that we live in today. But there are (and in this case should be) exceptions to every rule.

03 August 2006

Ruining A Triumph

The recent World Cup certainly showed the world what Germans were really like, rather than the unfriendly and boring but efficient stereotype that is usual. Efficient certainly, but the other two have been reasonably well blown out of the water. Or so I thought.

The weekend before last, I went to the Kaltenburg Knights Tournament. It is like "Medieval Times" in North America, but much better and more interesting. There is a complete festival sites with lots of very interesting stalls, selling not tacky cheap souvenirs, but orginal or authentic fair, plus some excellent food.

Plus there were numerous stages dotted around the place with many different shows to keep you occupied before and after the main show, and the parade was amazing, showcasing all of the participants close up in full costume. The tournament itself in the arena was very impressive, although I think it'd be much better to see it in the evening.

The one thing that soured the day was a small, simple incident as me and Audrey took our seats in the arena. It being a blistering hot day, and the arena being open-air, we were sitting in the direct sun. So, just before the show started, Audrey put up her umbrella to give us a bit of shade for a few moments respite until the event. Barely before it was up though, we heard a shrill voice crying, "Das ist nicht erlaubt" ("That isn't allowed") coming from behind us.

Audrey turned round to inform the middle-aged German woman that the show had not started yet, but we simply got a similar reply. Very shortly after taking down the umbrella, the gates of the arena opened and the show did start. Now I can understand the woman not wanting us to obstruct our view, but the tone of her voice and what she said just brought the stereotypical stern, unfriendly German back into my mind. Is it that difficult to say something politely?

I hope people like her are not going to affect the way the rest of the world now (correctly) views Germany, but she certainly isn't doing the cause any good. And where was she during the World Cup? Did people like her simply keep indoors or go on holidays when the World Cup was on to avoid all the "lower-classes" who follow football?

01 August 2006

German Pregnancy Revisited

Seems I was certainly in the minority (according to the comments) when i claimed the germans always seemed to get accidentally pregnant. Still, it keeps cropping up in my life. Recently I found out that one of my bosses had a grandchild a couple of years back who was completely unplanned.
It seems like I must be keeping the wrong sort of company. Although, considering the situation a little more, it turns out that most of the cases I know involve couples who are going out with a foreigner. Of the total, German-German couples make up 37.5% and German-foreigner couples have 62.5%. But then again maybe I just know more mixed couples. Maybe I need to work with more Germans (small company, only one proper German, but who claims to be Bayrisch)

I'm reasonably sure that Germans are quite careful when it comes to contraception and sex, and also believe that a lot of them, as one comment (from MadJan) put it:

"plan their pregnancies with "No pregnancy".....and they probably only do end up with 'accidental' pregnancies cos they were so spaced out that they forget to be cautious!!!!"

Maybe not the last part though ;-) I know quite a few couples who haven't even though about having kids yet, despite one or both partners being in their 30's (nothing wrong with that by the way), so obviously they've been fairly careful over the years (or else male infertility is quite high in Germany).

Then I thought it might be to do with abortion rates in Germany. Could higher rates mean that mean that quite a few 'mistakes' are taken care of. Or could lower rates mean that they are careful, but when it does happen then they keep the kid. But this map showed that German rates are particularly typical for the western world.

So the next step in this research is to get out there and get to know more Germans...