Thursday, December 30, 2010

Of Shame and Redemption

Shame first: Shame on you Germany! You may wonder what the heck I mean by this, but trust me, all will be revealed. Today Jak and I decided to check out a local ski hill that he had not yet skied at. We should have realized that things would be less than fantastic when the line to park was out the gate, and it cost 1.50 Euro to park. Alas, we are nothing if not fatally optimistic and following a quick trip to the WC we paid our 30 Euro and got in line. Those reading stateside may think of an orderly queue, but rest assured it was nothing of the sort. That is where the shame comes in. How can an entire people be entirely without any ability to organize themselves? The cue to the lift was about 150 people doing their best rendition of Brownian motion, slowly, slowly, slowly making slight progress towards the lift. Now some could argue that it was simply the amount of people involved, or that it is our jobs biasing us, but let me point out some fallacies in the notion. We are in Germany, a land theoretically known for order and propriety, so let us imagine the opposite world. You have seen the pictures of the circumambulation of the Ka'aba, that is 20 or 30,000 or more Muslim pilgrims from multiple countries speaking multiple languages and they can pull it off smoothly. I have seen the documentary. There are obviously no German Muslims, because they wouldn't manage a single trip around the darn place. This leaves out the little bonus features such as chain smoking and lack of basic hygiene (i.e. deodorant) that our companions suffered with. Suffice to say that after 35 min, we made it to the top, skied down for 8 or 9 min, and then waited 55 min to get back up, than skied another 10 min, at which point we did not have the time to make it to the front of the line before the lift closed. Not a good day skiing, and not a good example of the mythical "alles in ordnung."
Redemption came in the form of food. Jak and I stopped at Netto on the way home to grab some bread. And potato salad. And terrible candy for Alli. Fortunately for German-American relations, the aforementioned was all amazing (save the candy) and quite cheap. It produced a dinner that managed to reduce our rage and hatred of people who cannot form lines to a manageable level, and life as we know it continued on. I suppose every day cannot be perfect.
P.S. That smile of Jak's in the picture? It is forced, and even then only successful because 3 Snowboarders had just crashed behind me. While walking. But being good at what you do is an entirely different rant for an entirely different day.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

I suppose it would be an unfair division of labor if I were to make Jak write all of these. On the other hand, as I write this Jak is in the kitchen making bread for today, but I suppose we all must use our talents as we see fit.
Christmas has been especially pretty this year, as in Bavaria it has been snowing on and off for the past 3 weeks, in fact it is snowing as I write this. Thank God for a white Christmas! The Army is generous and we have a 4 day off for Christmas, Wednesday was our last day of work for the week. Now idle time is well known to cause hands to populate with little devils, so the manly men consisting of myself, Ted, Sam and Mike decided that we had to start off the break with a bit of off road adventure. Thursday morning saw us all kissing our wives goodbye (except Mike, poor guy his Fiance is still back in the states) to go off into the woods in search of adventure. In true us style, we all forgot our cameras to document the adventures, so you will have to use your imagination. We started off in the woods that run along the fence line of post, where Jesus demonstrated how truly awesome a Land Rover is. I led with Sam providing running commentary, and we took every trail that we could make, with the exception of one trail that is beyond even the power of the Landy when covered in snow. Now I could narrate every turn and trail, but I suppose we will hit the highlights.
Now the second part of the adventure of offroading requires a caveat, namely Germans cannot drive. While not as reckless as the Italians, they seem to be permanently stuck in the first snowfall of the year lack of driving ability. This was driven home to us (punny I know!) when about 2 kilometers down a forest track we encountered a local national in her Audi A3. For those unfamiliar with the particular vehicle, it has all of the off road capability of a Ford Focus, so she was of course stuck. Imagine the expression of mild terror as 4 young Americans dismount their vehicles, but in short order she was much happier as we actually had an idea of how to get her out. With the cobination of Ted's, hmmmm "liberated" HMMWV tow strap and the unstoppable power of a LT77 Gearbox tied with a low transfer case and a locked differential we had her out in short order and were all backing down the trail to the entrance. While Jak may be an excellent driver in reverse, this woman was rather a worse example of the capabilities of the fairer sex, as she managed to get stuck 3 more times as she would swerve into the ditch while backing up. We eventually did complete the rescue and she was very grateful and even offered money. If this whole Army thing doesn't work out, I can always deliver mail and rescue cars.
The other part of our adventure was the discovery of a partially eaten wild boar head. Of course we had to bring it home and mount it on Sam's fence post, to scare off the Soldiers who use our neighborhood as a shortcut to the bars. Michaela (his wife) did not find it as cool, and it lasted about 30 minutes before going to the dumpster.
4 Days are not all mindless fun adventures, Jak and I also did some last minute shopping for a Yankee Swap (called by southerners a "Dirty Santa") and did battle with elderly Bavarians at the butcher to gain what we thought was tenderloin roast, but instead ended up as wild boar. I have to wonder if we once had its' head, but the chances are slim. Christmas dinner was the two of us while Tom surfed the counter for scraps we had inadvertently left within paw strike of our fat cat. We also attended midnight mass where we heard this Christmas Gem:
Santa was having a bad Christmas, it started when right after Thanksgiving when Mrs Claus put him on a diet, as his big red suit was not quite big enough. Then, the flu hit the workshop and half of his elves were on quarters for 2 weeks. Then, a week before the big day the Reindeer got into the fermented milk and cookies and Rudolph and Prancer broke their hooves walking home. If the OPREP for that wasn't bad enough, because the loadmaster elf was still on quarters, his secondary had to take over and he messed up his plans on ALPS, and the sleigh was loaded incorrectly, causing the landing skid to crack. Santa was in his office trying to figure out how to get the presents to their targets, when there was a knock on the door. It was an angel with a Christmas tree, and the angel said to Santa "I am the Christmas tree angel, I am supposed to go around giving these out to everyone, where do you want me to shove this?" For Santa, it was the last straw and he said "YOU CAN SHOVE IT. . ." And that is how we get the tradition of having a angel on top of the tree.
I thought it was funny.
Jak and I opened our presents this morning, with much help from the cats. We miss everyone very much, and apologize for this rather disjointed entry.
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Finally, a break in the action!

So, although there hasn't been anything too extreme going on, we have been busy. Firstly, I must say that half day schedules are not really half days. Secondly, staff duty gets more, ummmm, interesting as the night progresses. Lastly, I am very thankful for this Christmas four-day holiday! Work has been a bit busy, but with the Soldiers leaving early, it certainly has allowed me to get some work done, as well as accomplish tons of stuff while pulling staff duty. Thanks to Sam getting locked out of his computer account, I had to take his shift on Tuesday.

During the day, it was business as usual, people signing out on leave, chatting with MSG Blake and SFC Elmes, and managing the extra duty folks. As the night progressed, things got odd. We recieved a frantic call trying to locate the owner of a Zippo lighter that had tried to ship through the mail. The customs fellow on the phone seemed to think it was a matter of life and death to get a hold of this Soldier, who he could only identify as SPC Jones. Seriously, does he know how many SPC Jones that the battalion has?! When we told him that, he hung up in frustration. Oh well, someone will have to do without their $10 lighter....schade. When on my checks to see if the arms rooms and motor pools were locked, I was followed by some small four legged creature every time I walked into the back area of the companies to make sure the back doors were secured. Odd. The last truly nerve wracking thing occured when I was dropping off my runner at his house. As my runner's car is not working now, and in the Christmas spirit, I offered to give him a ride to his home, as it was ony a couple of miles away and was very slippery out. On the way down the road, my windshield wiper fell off. No big deal, in the Land Rover, that is par for the course. I pulled over at his home to let him out, and to try to shove it back on. Epic fail. As I was swearing and banging at the wiper connection points, the Polizei pull in behind me, giving me odd looks due to my unsual behavoir. When getting back in the car, more odd looks were issued from the two German police officers, as I proceeded to get in the wrong side of the car (the Landy is right side drive) and drive off. Needlessly, they followed me to make sure I wasn't drunk. As I am on QRF this month and have a no drinking order, I certainly was not drunk, just a bit crazy, but that is my normal state. Pulling onto the main road to get back to post, they followed me. As my wonderful 24-year old diesel Defender excellereates at a rate of 0-60 in about 5 minutes, I was hoping they would pass me. No such luck. Meanwhile, in the car, I was sweating bullets, due to the fact that I did not have my license, as Nate had taken the Volvo the night before, which had my wallet in it. Having not slept in roughly 30 hours, I was certainly not driving my best, but thankfully made it on to post where they chose not to have the hassel of signing on to follow me. After making back to work and finishing a report, I successfully made it home to shower and go to bed. What an eventful day.

With Christmas here, Nate and I will be celebrating the holiday with the cats and then going over to a friend's house for some games and festivities. Although I have, and will continue to complain about my no drinking order during the Holidays, luckily Nate and I have produced a ginger ale that has no more alchohol than a serving of cough syrup! While others have their gluhwein, I will have my home made ginger ale, so all holiday spirit is not lost for me! Thanks for reading our ramblings and have a wonderful Christmas!

PS. The pictures are from Sunday's snowshoeing adventure in Pottenstein and off-roading in our Land Rover Defender, Jesus!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Time

So we've not written in a while. I am just waiting for DPW to come and fix my flooding kitchen, so I've decided to write. So get this, last Saturday we woke up to a couple of inches of water in our kitchen. Our dishwasher was in the process of exploding, and both cats were on top of the fridge. The sensible thing to do would be to place a call to the department of public works (DPW) to get a plumber to the house ASAP.

So we looked in the phone book and called the answer. Okay, no problem, we'll just call the emergency DPW line....the fire department picked up. Well, there are two issues with this: the first problem is that our house is so saturated with water at this point, there is no way it could ever ignite. Problem number two: they can't do a damn thing about it. After a while of explaining why we need the services of a plumber, and no it cannot wait until Monday, two guys showed up to our house. Although decked out in overalls, our Mario and Luigi look-alikes didn't provide much help. They explained to us that they were working on over time as they don't usually work weekends (or ever it seems, seeing that I am still waiting as I type this) and that they really don't deal with dish washers. Well, then please explain what you do deal with , I asked. They replied that they deal with pipes, they need the wash-meister to deal with this on Monday, but the problem is, is that he doesn't work Mondays, or any day for that matter, but Fridays. Go figure. So with that said, they made to leave. At this point I basically barricaded them in and Nate forced them to at least disconnect the water so the Niagra effect would stop. At least they successfully accomplished that. As it is now Friday, I am waiting for plumbers or dish washer meisters, or whoever to show up. Who knows, as it is snowing, that may not happen either. Thanks Germany, you suck at this efficiency thing.

On a completely unrelated note, Nate and I spent last weekend working on things around the house. We did the normal winter cleaning and Christmas prep, but also decided to tackle a project that we had been planning to do for a while; that is, make a new play structure for the cats. I must explain that my cats are a bit large. As our vet says, "Tom is not obese, just a bit fat. And plus, he has a large bone structure!" Thanks for sugar coating it, doc! Frank is also large, being a Norwegian forest cat. The existing play structure we have was fine when they were little, but is not sturdy enough to support one of them, let alone both.

When looking for materials to build our cat jungle gym, we decided to find as many textures as possible for the cats to enjoy. Due to an ice storm my favorite lilac tree fell down last week, so Nate cut the remainder of the tree down to use in this play place. We also scored some great remnant pieces of wood at Obi for super cheap and some carpeting. Add in some rope, and voila, new cat palace is finished. We consider this a success, as they not only like playing and resting on it, but they like it better than any of the boxes that they are usually drawn to as their preferred leisure locations! Anyway, Merry Christmas to everyone!