Monday, June 30, 2014

Hillary Clinton in Berlin

Hillary Clinton will be at Berlin's Schiller Theater this Saturday July 6th promoting her new book Entscheidungen. Although tickets are a bit pricey (16-23 €), it might be worth the cost to see a future US President?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Brasilien-Chile: Was Für Ein Dramatisches Final!

Watching last night's World Cup epic playoff between Brazil and Chile, I could see why Football (Soccer) is the world's most popular sport. After 90 minutes of regulation play and 30 minutes of overtime, the teams were still tied at 1-1. Chile gave its all, but at 2-2 in the penalty shootout and with one player left on each team, it was Brazil's Neymer that made the winning goal. Host nation Brazil moves on to the quarter-finals. 

Suarez Baring his Fangs
As an aside, in another playoff, Uruguay lost to Columbia after Luis Suarez, its star player, was suspended, for biting an Italian opponent. This was the third time that Suarez had used his fangs during a Football match. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Das Boule in Berlin

For those of you unfamiliar with the game of Boule (like me), Berlin is hosting a Boule Tournament this weekend on Karl-Marx-Allee. If have the time, you might want to check it out. It's certainly not on the tourist route, and it looks like fun. 

European Penis Size

European Penis Size
Here's something worth noting. It's a map from the Huffington Post German addition. It shows the average penis size of European men. French and Hungarian men size up fairly well. The German and British are about average while the Irish and Russian come up rather short. 

Germans a Happy Sort?

I'm a bit skeptical about a recent report from the German Economic Institute in Köln, which claims that more than half of all Germans are extremely satisfied with their lives. Of course, there are regional differences. For example, people living in Berlin/Brandenburg are the least satisfied. That comports with my experiences living in Berlin where I see a lot of unhappy people.  

Friday, June 27, 2014

How Drones Can Save Young Deer

Drones equipped with cameras can save thousands of baby deer, which are needlessly killed in Germany each year by farm machinery. We have the technology, but whether farmers (and ultimately consumers) will pay the extra costs associated with this new form of robotics is unknown.

On the one hand, German farmers argue there are too many deer as it is. Moreover, employing drones will only raise costs and place the German farming industry on an unequal playing field with other countries. Environmentalists counter that there are more humane ways to cull overpopulated deer populations, and that humanely cultivated farm fields will attract new consumers willing to pay more for animal safe produce. How do you stand on the Bambi issue?

Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Cause You to Lose Your Home (Update)

After 40 years in the same apartment, a Düsseldorf man must vacate his home because of his "excessive" smoking habits. That was the decision of an Appeals Court on Wednesday. Perhaps, the most famous smoker in Germany, Friedhelm Adolfs refused to comply with repeated requests to smoke outside his apartment or on his balcony. The smoke would often drift into the other tenants apartments posing a health risk and causing some residents to become ill.

Many sympathizers (no doubt smokers) donated to Adolfs's legal defense. The case became a rallying cry for "smoker rights." Where Mr. Adolfs goes from here is unclear, but hopefully, not to my apartment. 

As an aside, I've had to close my balcony door and living room windows while I write this post because someone's cigarette smoke is drifting into my apartment! Why not ban smoking in all living spaces, balconies included. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Berlin's Variable Summer Weather

This Postman is taking a much needed
break between rain showers. In Berlin,
the mail is delivered via the bicycle.
Watch out for the weather. In Berlin, it can be sunny in the morning, cold and rainy in the afternoon, and hot by the evening. Berlin's weather is highly variable, especially in the summer. When visiting make sure you're well prepared. A windbreaker, umbrella, and water resistant shoes are essential. One day it can be in the 90s F (30s C), the next, in the 50s (10s C). The week before I arrived, Berlin was experiencing daily temperatures in the 90s. Then I got here, and weather turned cool and rainy. It's been a wet and cool first week. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

For the Best Wraps in Berlin Try Fast Rabbit

At last, a fast food vegan diner offering appetizing food at reasonable prices. Although Berlin has plenty of vegan dining options, many of those restaurants are either too expensive or not good. Now, we have Fast Rabbit. Located directly across from Mauerpark, Fast Rabbit is a cozy restaurant specializing in vegan wraps. They offer three wraps for only 4,50 Euro. They also have Combos deals, which include a salad, french fries, and drink.

My favorite wrap is the Oriental consisting of grilled vegetables, red lentils, lettuce, and lemon hummus. It's perhaps the best wrap I've ever had, vegan or otherwise. They also offer an Italian wrap and a weekly special. There's Wi-Fi, plenty of outdoor seating, and some tasty desserts as well. I heartily recommend Fast Rabbit for a quick bite or a full meal.  

Fast Rabbit
Eberswalder Straße 1
0175 2849695

U-Bahn 2: Eberswalder Straße

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

WASPS in Berlin

See Update:  Coexisting With Wasps

Late summer and early fall is wasp season in Berlin; and, according to scientists, 2014 is going to be a banner year for this pesky insect. A mild winter and warm spring have contributed to their increased numbers. Wasps can be particularly troublesome at outdoor cafes.

The best way to prevent unpleasant encounters with social wasps is to avoid them. If you know where they are, don't go near their nesting places. Wasps can become very defensive when their nest is disturbed. If you can't avoid them, stay out of their way and move to another location. A wasp sting can be painful, and for some people, it can be deadly.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Snowden Awarded Berlin's Prize for Civil Courage

Yesterday, Edward Snowden was officially awarded the 2014 Berliner Prize for Civil Courage. The prize recognized Snowden's "courageous advocacy for democracy and civil rights." The 10,000 Euro prize is a citizen-driven initiative, which is funded by 100 private donors who donated 100 Euro. While most of the donors are based in Germany, donations also came from Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Nepal, Switzerland, and the United States. Is the Nobel Peace Prize next?

In Germany and much of Europe, Snowden is viewed as a hero. Snowden, like Daniel Ellsberg who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, has brought to light important information that deserves to be in the public domain. Snowden uncovered questionable activities that our leaders wanted to keep secret, information that every free society needs to know. He disclosed the NSA's massive surveillance programs, which constituted an unconstitutional invasion of Americans' and foreign citizens' privacy rights. These surveillance activities did nothing to protect our security, but instead, placed our very liberties in danger.

Many people will think differently; but the fact remains, the Snowden leaks did no lasting harm to US national security. No one was placed in danger, no vital US military plans were disclosed, and no conversations between US officials and foreign diplomats were revealed. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Das Kaffeebier (Coffee Beer)

Coffee-Beer? It sounds crazy, but Stefan Weiske and Daniel Zeller may have hit on something. This mixture of Ethiopian coffee beans and beer sounds awful, but for those that have tried it, it's refreshing and surprisingly good. It could be the drink of the summer. Watch out Starbucks!

Berlin's Gay Pride Parade: CSD 2014

Grey skies and rain couldn't dampen the festive spirit of this year's Christopher Street Day Parade. The CSD parade is an annual celebration of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender community in Berlin and around the world. This year, two parades were held: one focusing on gay pride, and the other, a rally calling for GLBT equal rights and an end discrimination.

In many respects, I would have preferred just one parade. Having two parades somehow diminished the soul and character of the event. The GLBT parade should be a celebration and a recognition that inequality exists throughout the world. Moreover, the parade is an opportunity for public awareness, and for the straight and gay communities to come together. 

Each year, hundreds of thousands of people view the parade, and many of those spectators are unaware that homosexuality is still a crime in many parts of the world. In five countries and in parts of others, homosexuality is punishable with the death penalty, while a further 70 imprison citizens because of their sexual orientation. Even where homosexuality is legal, many countries still openly stigmatize and discriminate against the GLBT community. 

Observing the demographics of both parades was certainly telling. In one parade, the onlookers were primarily under 30 and of mixed sexual orientation; in the other, the observers were overwhelmingly over 40 and mostly gay. Next year, I hope the CSD parade returns to its more traditional form.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Celebrate Music with Balloons

Young Euro Classic celebrates the best youth orchestras in the world. From June 22-29th and from August 8-17th, 2014, YEC will be performing at Berlin's Philharmonie and Admiralspalast respectively. If advertising is any indication then YEC should be outstanding. Currently at the Kulturforum, YEC has installed a series of large hot air balloons with the face of famous musicians.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hitchcockian Themed Advertisements

Who knew a hairdryer could be so intriguing. I'm waiting for the full-length film version of these two ads. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Medical Emergency at 40,000 Feet!

I'm back in Berlin, and yesterday's flight over was, for the most part, uneventful. However, there was a medical emergency (minor as it turned out) during the flight. It's usually not a big deal since there's always a few doctors on board more than willing to offer assistance. Nevertheless, no one responded to the initial request, and it was only after a second request was made that a doctor responded. He happened to be sitting next to me, and he only responded when it became clear that no medical liability would accrue. As he put it, "you gotta watch your ass." It seems that fear of medical malpractice isn't confined solely to the US.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Being Gay is Like Being an Alcoholic?

Is Texas Governor Rick Perry dumb, ignorant, or just out of touch. (Perhaps, all three.) His recent statement equating alcoholism and being gay is so ludicrous that it would be laughable if it didn't reflect the views of many Republicans.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

So Long, Mr. Cantor!

There's some good news and some bad news following yesterday's election.
Good News: Good Riddance to Eric Cantor, an overly ambitious politician who would stop at nothing for more power. 
Bad News: The Tea Party is still alive and well in the country. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Georgette Sings!

Summer is here, and there's plenty of steamed heat. I love this video clip from the Mary Tyler Moore Show where Georgette sings Steamed Heat to Ted's consternation. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Chicken Mobile (Das Hühnermobil)

It may not be the most practical or even the best alternative to industrial farming, but it's certainly innovative, energy efficient, humane, and environmentally friendly. It's the Chicken Mobile: a specially designed van that transports hundreds of chickens from meadow to meadow each day. And unlike the so called free-range or cage-free chickens (terms without government regulation or legal definition), these chickens really range free and are subject to no painful mutilations like debeaking.

Even when chickens are allowed to "free range," their range is usually contaminated with the germs of thousands of other chickens occupying the same space. Transporting chickens to different meadows reduces disease transmission and the need for antibiotics used in most farming operations.

The Chicken Mobile includes a scratching area in the lower level as well as a spacious lay area above. (See video.) It provides protection from the weather and predators while affording easy access to the outside. The van's solar system also provides electricity and heat. Most importantly, the Chicken Mobile allows young people to see where our packaged food comes from while giving our feathered friends some semblance of a real life.

Of course, the best way to end chicken cruelty is to eliminate eggs from your diet. Even the Chicken Mobile folks are cagey when it comes to the issue of male chicks or mature hens once their egg laying days are over.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

This Nun's Got Pipes!

Here's a real singing nun. Sister Cristina Scuccia recently won Italy's version of American Idol. Look at the expression of the judges when they realize it's a nun.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Supperclubbing in Berlin

Want to experience different cultures and foods while visiting Berlin? Why not try a Super Club.  A Supper Club is an eating establishment operated out of someone's home, which offers multi-course meals at very reasonable prices. A Supper Club is a sort of dinner party (usually 8-10 people) where guests enjoy a special home cooked meal by an amateur chef. They are usually advertised by word of mouth, facebook, or on the web. There are about 30 Supper Clubs in Berlin. It's a great way to meet people from all over the world in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Supper Clubs offer all types of foods, including vegan meals

70 Years Later and Oradour Still Awaits Justice

Oradour-sur-Glane is a fully preserved, ruined village that was the site of the worst Nazi massacre of civilians carried out in France during WWII. In all, 642 people (almost the entire village population), including 247 children, were shot or burnt alive on June 10, 1944. To this day, there is no adequate explanation for this act of barbarity.

The women and children of the village were locked in the church and the church set a fire. Only one woman managed to escape through a window. The men were led to barns and sheds where machine guns were waiting. The victims were first shot in the legs so that they would die slowly. Once they were no longer able move, they were covered with fuel and set on fire.

Of the approximately 200 German soldiers involved in the massacre, only a handful ever saw any form of justice. Last year, German President Joachim Gauck toured the ruins and stated, "I share the bitterness over the fact that the murders were never brought to justice. I will address that in my country and will not remain silent." Recently, an 88-year old former member of the SS was been charged with his involvement in the massacre, but whether he will see trial remains a question.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

New Rules for Online Shopping in Germany

I do a fair amount of online shopping while in Germany, but that may change when a new rule obligating online shoppers to bear the cost of returning unwanted items takes effect on June 14, 2014. Of course, online retailers can continue to pay the return costs if they wish, but 57 percent of German online retailers plan to take advantage of this new rule and have their customers pay the return costs, this according to a survey conducted by Trusted Shops. By the same token, the survey also found that 37 percent of shoppers will only shop at online stores that promise to refund the cost of returns. How this rule will actually affect German online retailing is anybody's guess.

I can only speak from experience. A few years ago, I had to pay the return cost for an item I had purchased online from Levi Strauss. The return cost was almost the price of the item itself. As a result, I no longer shop online with Levi Strauss or any retailer that obligates me to pay return costs.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Happy Birthday Michelle Phillips!

Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas is 70 years old today. She's also from my home town of Long Beach, California. As the last surviving member of that iconic music group (Cass Elliot died in 1974, John Phillips in 2001, and Denny Doherty in 2007), Michelle Phillips had a soft and melodic voice that harmonized well with that of the incomparable Cass Elliot. In many respects, the Mamas and the Papas symbolized 1960s: a time of change and a time of possibilities. In fact, as a kid, I had a big crush on Michelle Phillips. Happy Birthday Michelle!