Tuesday, January 30, 2007

You'll never know fear or pain like this

Dear fellow iPod owners,

I guarantee that you have no idea how dependent you are on your iPod. No idea.

Until Monday evening, I was also in the dark about my intense emotional dependency. I was at the grocery store, doing what one does there (y'know, buying groceries and listening to music), and I heard a *crackle crackle* mixed in with the music and then silence. I was immediately certain that it was the headphones. "Crap headphones," I thought to myself, "I'll have to get some new ones ASAP." I think I then added a mental "Stat!" to really hit home the urgency of the situation to myself. Later that evening I thought of going to the gym without my headphones and it instantly became clear that I could never stay put on that crap elliptical machine without either some rockin' tunes or This American Life, so I asked Patty if she had any headphones. Indeed she did and she was cool with lending them too me, even though they were the kind that go in your ear and she doesn't even know what kind of ear hygiene I have (by the way, I have really good ear hygiene). New headphones in hand, I decide a test run is in order: I plug them in, I scroll around on the strange little iPod wheel to find a song, I press play, I wait, I wait, I wait--you get the point. Nothing. I try plugging it into my speakers. Nothing. I start to shake. Stay calm, Claire, stay calm. Look for iPod box, find iPod box, look at receipt and warranty information: warranty ran out on January 3. Shaking resumes. Depression sets in instantly. How could this be? Just one year with my iPod and this is it? I felt like I had been dumped by my soul mate--how could I continue living without the iPod?

Now this is the part where most of you are thinking "Claire, you are just way too nuts about your portable MP3 player" and this is also the part where I tell you, if you are a portable MP3 player owner, that you just don't know what it's like until you go through it.

Alright, to make a long story, well, not short but less long at least, I can tell you that I eventually got the idea of restoring the factory settings and low and behold the iPod caressed my ears with its sweet sweet melodies again.

Moral of the story: To avoid immeasurable pain and anguish, make sure your iPod is still under warranty and if it is, buy the extended warranty. And just acknowledge to yourself the fact that you are totally in love with it and couldn't live without it.
The bliss of an iPod brought back to life.

A appreciative snuggly moment with the iPod.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Finally a good wine came and found me!

After almost a year of living in my current apartment and thus shopping at my current grocery store (because it's by my house, duh), I have finally located a cheap and tasty wine there. You may not know this, but Germany is a country which is filled with good, cheap wine. Maybe not as good and as cheap as . . . well . . . actually it's pretty comparable to the other European countries I've been too and far far superior to the United States. For those of you who are not from the United States, you may be shocked to learn that we pay a minimum of $7 for a bottle of wine. It is usually bad wine. In Germany, I generally refuse to pay more than 3.99 Euros for a bottle of wine, unless perhaps a really hot guy is coming over . . . then I might pay upwards of 4.99 Euros. So anyways, the point I'm trying to make is that although this country generally has an abundance of cheap, good wine, the wine buyer at my grocery store has generally proven himself to be a complete loser in the white wine department. Until today when an innocent, and very cheap bottle of Graubegunder from the Pfalz (Dad, you may sadly remember that there is almost no wine from the Pfalz in Baden-Württemberg) found me and delighted my palette with a crisp, dry flavor. It's a delightful light, white wine that will surely become a part of daily life here on the Steinlach. Thank goodness for the Pfalz!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

My life, it's a good life

I know, I know, I've been ranting a lot about pigeons lately. But most of you know me and you know how I am -- I get excited. I got excited about pigeons and excited about ranting and I went with it. It did, however, finally occur to me that you might be interested in what is going on in my life and so here it is, Claire's life update.

As you may have seen in a previous post, 2007 started with a bang in Barcelona, where I had a marvelous celebration with Maria and all of our great Dutch friends. Since then, my classes at the university (all two of them!) have gotten up and going again, as have my English classes.

Although the uni stuff is less than thrilling this semester, my English classes for the quarter are very promising and I think that they'll be very fun and rewarding. Mondays I teach Business 3, which is small and not very exciting (sorry Business 3 folks!). Tuesdays I teach Business 1/2, which is a pretty large class (10-11 people) but one which I hope will be rather lively. Then Wednesdays I have the seniors, who are a beginner bunch and as the name implies, are all over 60. This class is a new one for me (the others carried over from last semester) but I love them after just one week! It's a group of just five students but they're very sweet and quite funny, so I'm looking forward to all we have to teach each other in the coming months. Then Thursdays I have the aptly names "Thursday Morning Conversation", which has been my favorite class for quite some time. This class is coincidentally comprised of just women and we have a fabulous dynamic together. We have a few new comers to the group this quarter and I'm optimistic that they will only add to our group. These groups classes plus my two privates make for a pretty intense English schedule, but I like it and it pays the bills (well, some of them), so that's a positive thing. I also get an incredible high from teaching. I don't know many people who get all wound up from being at work, so indeed I am a lucky lucky lady.

As you may have seen on the "What's Hot" List, I got a fantastic book called Stitch 'n Bitch from Sarah and have been spending quite a bit of time drooling on it. It's a very hip and very fun book about knitting with cool patterns and the key to true knitting empowerment: how patterns are made and how to change them. So pretty much all I think about now is knitting and if it were possible or not idiotic, I would quit school and become a craftswomen. That would rock.

Hmmm . . . what else is new? Well, my parents finally got Skype, which is exciting because it means we can talk on the weekends when they are in the phoneless world of the cottage. And . . . ummm . . . well, I think that might actually be about it. And it's my bedtime, so I'd really best be heading off. I hope that everyone is keeping their chins up during these cold, dark months!


Saturday, January 27, 2007


I officially have no idea who the 1000th visitor to my blog (since November). Said visitor was viewing my page from the Saarland and running Windows in German (yes, the truth comes out: I know these things about you). And to be honest, I don't really know if I know anyone in the Saarland. Yes, I've been to the Saarland and I know some people there, but I don't think they know of my blog or are interested enough in me to be reading it . . . so if you feel like it, 1000th visitor, identify yourself and you'll get the prize. If not . . . well, then I'll keep the prize.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Be my 1000th visitor! Win fantastic prizes!

Ladies and Gents,

I'm proud to say that we are nearing the 1000 guest mark! Well, to be honest, I imagine we've long since past it--you see I only started counting in November. But I'm missing the point here: 1000 is an exciting number! Thus, the 1000th guest will receive a pair of white cotton gloves to commemorate my Christmas fun. Think of the wonderful soft hand you will have with your bandmaster glove on and all the marching bands you will be able to direct! I can probably figure out who you are from the blog counter, but if you happen to notice the number 1000 on the counter in the lower left-hand corner when you're on the page, give me a heads up in the form of a comment!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Village of the Winged

In the comments for the last post, Maria requested that I share the movie that I made for her birthday last year about pigeons with you. What follows is the product of much love, many hours of procrastination, and months of annoyance caused by pigeons directly outside my window.

Just to explain a few things:

- Staniel is on of Maria's nicknames for me.
- I know that it should be "Alles gute" and not "gutes", whatever.
- I had to put this video on this IFilms online thing to put it on here and since yesterday, two people had watched it and gave it 3 our of 5 stars, which I think is actually pretty good.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Pigeons: To what end?

"Pigeons are gross and fairly ubiquitous in all metropoli, leading me to wonder who would buy one? You could just walk up two blocks to Plaza Catalunya and catch a gimpy one for free. But to what end?" - Maria Gruending, January 21, 2007, comment to last blog post

The sale of pigeons does indeed raise the question of why one would want one and what one would do with one when one had one. My first thought was to send messages with it. You know, the old carrier pigeons -- you could tie a note to its leg and it would fly to the desired person.

Now this thought of carrier pigeons led me to do some pigeon research and the results were alarming. Absolutely alarming. In what way alarming? The quantity, the sheer mass of information on pigeons.

The first thing I read about the pigeon didn't actually surprise me, because it is something that I became alerted to by being a German speaker, and that is that pigeons and doves are in the same family. In German, both the pigeon and the dove are called "Taube", which I find most insulting to the doves of this world, but the Germans pay my words no heedance. At any rate, their are more subspecies of pigeons and doves than I care to count and they all look suspiciously like pigeons if you ask me.

The common pigeon, which we all know (and hopefully despise), is called the rock or feral pigeon and it is native to Europe, North Africa, and Southwest Asia. By some streak of bad fortune or more likely stupidity, the rock pigeon was introduced to North America in 1606, more specifically, to Nova Scotia (a shout out to all my peeps in Canada!). And while I dislike pigeons very much, I was quite impressed to read that among the things that pigeons have been trained to do is to differentiate between impressionist and cubist paintings, although on second thought, that's really no great feat . . .

Also fascinating are the efforts to rid cities of the pesky animals. In Tübingen we have a pigeon house that is used in pigeon population control. You see, they lure the pigeons in with this cushy mansion of a place and then steal their eggs and replace them with plaster eggs. Imagine waiting weeks and weeks only to find that your 'baby' is simply made of gypsum. And considering pigeons ability to differentiate between different periods of painting, they may well be able to differentiate between real and plaster eggs. Although really, the fact that they're still living there says a lot. Either they haven't noticed or they think they've hit the jackpot -- lay all the eggs you want and no kids to take care of (they're not called kids, they're called squeakers or squabs).

Ken Livingstone, London's mayor, has issued a ban on feeding pigeons in Trafalgar Square. Brilliant idea, Mr.Mayor, brilliant! If only the animal rights activists didn't feel the need to write a musical number about it . . .

Alright, so at this point both my depths of my distaste for pigeons as well as my wealth of interesting pigeon information is coming to an end. But before we go, did you know that pigeons, like flamingos, produce "crop milk" to nourish their young? They make this "crop milk" stuff by "a sloghing of fluid-cells from the lining of the crop" which is an upper part of their digestive track -- yummy.

Which brings us back, although I'm not at all sure how, to the carrier pigeon. I left this for the end because of it's totally freaky and disturbing nature -- you know, for effect. Here, my dear friends, is a picture of a carrier pigeon.

It doesn't even carry anything! It is actually the homing pigeon that can carry important messages written on thin paper very long distances. If I were the homing pigeon I would be pretty t'ed off that the ugly carrier pigeon took the good name, but who am I to say, maybe the carrier pigeon has a superior personality to the common and homing pigeon and isn't actually as despicable as I assume.

Also, for more interesting and helpful information on animals, see my previous post on porcupines and hedgehogs. The comments after it are really fantastic as well. During the course of my research I also found this blog about pigeons -- once again, not sure what to think. Certainly someone on the other side of the debate but even though I'm a pigeon-hating extremist, I can still listen to what the other side has to say.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Do outdoor pet stores fascinate you too?

This is an outdoor pet store in Barcelona. Las Ramblas, the main pedestrian street of the city that runs from the middle of the downtown to the Mediterranean, is loosely organized into different sales areas: there's the flower sales area, the tourist crap sales area, the street performer area, and the outdoor pet store area. Actually, the outdoor pet store area is pretty much at the beginning of the street and was thus one of the first things that I saw in Barcelona. I was then and remain today completely baffled by this phenomena.

As you may or may not be able to see from the pictures, these are pretty much fully functional pet stores. They've got toys, cedar chips, fish nets, leashes, food--pretty much the whole shabang. And they have a surprisingly wide array of pets: fish, bunnies, turtles, gerbils, hamsters, etc.

And then there are the "specialty" store. I noticed that one outdoor pet store seemed to have pounced on the niche market of poultry and fowl. They had a pretty decent assortment of not only chickens and roosters, but also quails and the kind of birds that you really only think about in connection with rich British people wearing smart hunting jackets, sleek boots, and of course a hat, accompanied by teams of well-trained dogs on some kind out for a hunt on a brisk British day . . .

And then came the really and truly alarming part of the whole experience: they sell pigeons! Those dirty, idiotic birds that I do detest! Perhaps even worse than pigeons and people who feed pigeons (see the What's Not Hot list) are people who sell and buy pigeons.

So what do you think of the outdoor pet store? As previously mentioned, I'm completely captivated by the whole thing. Somehow it is just far enough outside of the realm of my known world to really tickle me.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

May I remind you that buttermilk is not a sports drink?

Dear Friends,

I'm here with a public service announcement: Buttermilk is not a sports drink. Water is a sports drink. Gatorade and its electrolyte-filled friends are sports drinks. I'll even give you protein shakes if you're a body builder (or maybe just a poor student rower). But I hate to break it to you that butter milk, pictured here in its German version: Buttermilch, is not a sports drink. It's not refreshing and for all I know all that lactic acid might make your muscles more sore . . . although actually, I don't know that to be a fact or even scientifically defensible.

At any rate, I saw someone at the gym today drinking buttermilk and I was shocked and appalled. Let me repeat, shocked and appalled. As a child, my friend Sara and I payed her little brother, Travis, to drink buttermilk because we found it so revolting. He went for it. Today, living in Germany, I find that many people actually enjoy drinking buttermilk. In fact, the geoscientists that I used to work with claimed to be addicted to drinking buttermilk. It's just not right! Buttermilk is for pancakes and . . . uhh . . . I don't know what else, but definately pancakes. If this upsets you too, give me a shout out because you guys have gotten a bit lax about commenting lately and it's gettin' me down.

Man from the internet enjoying buttermilk, thus giving consumers the false impression that it is delicious and refreshing.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Mostly it's about wigs

What's my blog called? That's right: Claire in Tuba-Town. And what's it about? Right again: it's mostly about wigs.

Well, it turns out that my life is actually about wigs. Not once, but twice recently, I have been accused of wearing a wig.

Wig accusation #1: Walking down my street a few weeks ago to the Christmas market, a man I was about to walk past looked up at me and shouted, "It's a wig! Of course, I knew it right away!" (rough translation). In this situation, I was so taken aback that all I could really muster out of me was, "Uh, actually, no." I'm sure he was convinced by that one.

Wig accusation #2: Sitting in a bar in Barcelona and chatting with friends and one non-friend, a heavy, sweaty and unattractive older British man, who thought he was all that but, as previously mentioned was a heavy, sweaty and unattractive. "When you walked in here, I was sure it was a wig. I would have bet on it."

So readers, what do you think, how should I take this? As a compliment -- my hair just looks so perfectly styled that I could have bought it that way? As an insult -- you look like a bald person and you're hair is so freaking poofy that it couldn't possibly be your own? Seriously, I need your help to interpret these incidents.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Missing Photos -- Take that Blogger!

Ok, Blogger tried to take my photos away but I won't give in that easily. Oh no, not old Claire Rose. The pictures are back and better than ever. So take that Blogger!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

So you want to hear about Barcelona, eh?

I've been getting requests for a post on my trip to Barcelona. I'm not really sure why I haven't written about it yet. Perhaps because it wasn't the most typically touristy trip. Perhaps because I don't know if any story I can tell your or any of the pictures that I have can even begin to convey the feeling of the trip. But, because people are asking, I'm a tellin'!

Maria and I arrived in Barcelona on the afternoon of the 27th, checked into our centrally located pension, and hit the town. We headed to the nearby main drag, Las Ramblas (or La Rambla or Les Rambles . . . as you like). Las Ramblas is a busy street with a huge boulevard made for pedestrians. Along the way we stopped at a chic city market, where we saw both amazingly gorgeous fruit piles and very strange but also somehow striking candied fruits, both of which are shown below. One of the most notable factors of Las Ramblas is the abundance of pet store kiosks, but considering the strangeness of this phenomena, it'll get its own post in the near future. So we walked all the way down Las Ramblas, from the middle of the city to the Mediterranean, where we sat for a bit and pondered the greatness of the city.

Then we decided to give Maria's old friend Vincent a call. The two of them had met two years ago when Maria and Vincent were studying Spanish together in, of all places, Spain. Vincent now owns and runs a beautiful bar that goes by the name of Nakupenda which means "I love you" in Swahili. Vincent invited us to visit him at the bar right then and there and so the first of many evenings was spent in Nakupenda. When you're getting free drinks, it's hard to leave a bar in less than 4 hours . . .

Day two of our trip involved Gaudi and cooking. Barcelona is speckled with the distinct and stunning architecture of Antoni Gaudi (whose picture on Wikipedia is worth a look) and Maria and I spent most of our second day checking out the Sagrada Familia church, Casa Batlló, and the Park Güell. The next two pictures are of the two contrasting sides of the Sagrada Familia which was started in 1883 and is still deep in the midst of construction.

You can walk through the Sagrada Familia, even though the entire insides are under construction. Inside are large information boards about the many aspects of the church construction. Among the copious amounts of information about stones, I found this beautiful and thoughtful quotation from Gaudi.
Maria at Park Güell.

Barcelona and the Mediterranean from Park Güell.

This pictures brings us to the part in our second day which was most certainly occupied by cooking. Because our generous hosts had let us drink on the house the night before and because we were probably intoxicated at the time of negotiations, Maria and I had managed to commit ourselves to cooking dinner for Vincent and Eric. This is easier said than done. We were staying in a pension (a slightly more private version of a youth hostel) and had both limited ingredients (you know, no spices, no oils or vinegars . . .) and limited cooking tools. Nakupenda doesn't have a full kitchen. We tried to get out of cooking by arguing that we had no tuperware, but Vince whipped out two tuperware containers and our argument was defeated. So, with scant supplies and our outstanding cooking and problem-solving talents, Maria and I created a fantastic fajita dinner, which we managed to transport to Nakupenda (on the subway) in two tuperware conatainers (ok, it's true, I may have taken some guacamole in a mug in my purse . . . but I digress) and which was met with rave reviews. It was another late night at the bar . . .

Being the troopers that we are, Maria and I dragged our crapulent (horrid word) selves out of bed to go see La Virgin Negra, the black virgin. Here, Maria's blog entry on this part of our trip:

"Spain is sort of a funny place. On one hand you have the vibrant metropolitanism of Barcelona, where everyone looks way cooler than you could even imagine yourself looking. Fusion cuisine, avant-guard music and New Left social activism are norm. On the other hand, walking down the streets you will still see groups of young nuns coming out of dark doors, giggling among themselves. I felt like me and Claire's day at Montserrat summed up the sombre/moving side of what to me is Spain.

Montserrat, along with being the name of a neighbourhood where I briefly lived in Buenos Aires, is the name of a monestary nestled high in one of the oddest geological formations I have ever seen. It's on a mountain that looks nothing like the surrounding hills and more like someone inflated a deformed latex glove then put some trees on it. The monestary is the site of a famous icon: the black virgin of Catalunya. How they built it I haven't the foggiest - the mountain is so steep that we had to go up in a cable car. But once we were up we found ourselves in a little village that included an unbelievably grand cathdral. Inside were a number of wonders, from dozens of delicately welded light fixtures to the famous little lady herself. The black virgin is holding a globe in her right hand and the baby Jesus in the left. He is also holding a black mini-globe. I can't really explain why it's so potent but it is. I can understand why it's one of the top pilgrim destinations in Spain, a country of pilgrimages.

Claire and I were not in complete health when we went but we climbed up to the top of the mountain (slowly) anyway, where there was what I think were some monastic cells built right into the cliff side. There are times when architecture and geography merge in a harmonious way and coming down the hill with Claire at dusk, I felt like this must be one of them."

Here we see Maria in the cable car. Interpret this face as you will.


Me ascending the mountain, once again looking suspiciously similar to my toothbrush cover.

Outside of the cathedral where the black virgin is housed.

Inside the cathedral.

The Rest of the Trip

I don't actually have a lot of photos from the rest of the trip, probably because we weren't so much doing typical touristy things, but just walking around and enjoying the city. So here is a smattering of photos to show you just a few highlights of the end of our trip.

This is me angrily eating a chorizo sandwich (my last one) at Miro Park, which I thought would be a park in the traditional sense with trees and grass, maybe a flower or two, but which was actually just a slab of concrete with a phallic Miro sculpture

My new Dutch friends, Nicole and Roy, just after the strike of midnight on New Year's.

Maria's new slippers. The slipper on your left says: "Sometimes I think I have the worst job in the world" and the right one says "Yeah . . . right!".

So that was Barcelona. It may not look like much, but it's a hell of a city and Maria and I had quite a time there, quite a time indeed.

PS Does anyone know why the beginning of this post is 1.5 spaced and the rest is single-spaced?? It's driving me absolutely mad!

Monday, January 08, 2007

New Hat!

Knitting project number two of the season is completed and I'm oh so pleased with it. I'll soon draw to a close with project number three, although until that other knitting needles reappears, I guess it'll have to be put on hold. The strange thing is though, that other needle really can't be anywhere else but in my room and yet I've crawled around on my floor several times looking for it . . .
I just have to say that it's rather difficult to model a hat on one's own head.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Bandmaster Claire thanks Santa for the Christmas Cheer

The band shall play a jaunty tune in honor of Santa Claus, known to all the world over as my dear parents!

There are moments in life when one cannot deny the distinct possibility of divine intervention. One such moment was when I opened my Christmas presents from my parents. The order in which I opened them made such perfect sense, that one could almost see fate's little hands tinkering away. Let me elaborate:

Package number was unwrapped and one pristine pair of white bandmaster gloves drawn out. Now some people might tell you that such white cotton gloves are used to moisturize severely dry hands by applying lotion in the evening, donning the gloves, and giving your hands a 6-8 hour moisture party. Once again, my dear readers, I must advise you to ignore the hoo hah, blather, and poppycock of the masses and to continue diligently reading my blog. These are most certainly bandmaster gloves made of lightweight cotton for optimal summer band direction. Needless to say, I began directing immediately. And really, who better to direct than one's self. Oh dear, I'm getting ahead of myself now. We'll move onto gift number two now and everything will become so crystal clear to you.

Scrawled on the top of gift number two in my mother's lovely penmanship was "For an Os Mutantes Christmas". For those of you unfamiliar, Os Mutantes were a Brazilian psychedelic band in the late 1960s. My parents and I got very into the music of Os Mutantes this summer, basking in their amazingly refreshing take on their American and British musical contemporaries, adding unconventional instruments such as the slide whistle. Although there was no question in my mind of who Os Mutantes were, the message remained cryptic, until I opened it. Inside was a red slide whistle; a plastic, lime green, see-through recorder; and a tin whistle. Maria and I proceeded to play both along with Os Mutantes and to compose our own pieces. Maria, as it turns out, is both a recorder and tin whistle virtuoso, but that didn't stop me from getting in the action.

Gift number three could only have been the grand finale--it wouldn't have fit in anywhere else. Gift number three was a stuffed pomeranian dog purse. Yes, a perfect replica of a pomeranian with a zipper on its back and a short leather carrying strap. I dare not try to explain too much, for it might ruin the simple humor and absurdity of this gift. Instead, take a moment to observe the purse and its owner in the pictures.

With bandmaster gloves, our arsenal of instruments, and a pomeranian purse, Maria and I danced around, tooted our horns, and laughed hysterically until 2am, when the downstairs neighbors pounded angrily on the door and then scolded us for being so loud. I really regret having all that fun . . . NOT! But really, the night wasn't over quite yet . . .

In the end, things got pretty saucy under the mistletoe . . .

Friday, January 05, 2007

Burg Hohen-what?

Burg Hohenzollern of course!

Maria's visit has motivated me, as well as my pal Stefan, to do touristy things in the area that we had never done before. This includes (maybe exclusively . . . we're kind of slow) visiting the Burg Hohenzollern, a fairy tale castle in the Schwabian Alb.

You may wonder what one does at a castle and you are right to do so. A lot more goes on there than you probably know about.

Drinking a beer at the castle's small pub is a suitable pastime for a cold, or warm for that matter, afternoon. Our tour didn't start for nearly three quarters of an hour, so really, what choice did we have?

Another favorite hobby is gazing at the shapely bums of the guardsmen, which have been so thoughtfully immortalized in stone.

While learning about the long history of the several castles that stood on this same spot, Maria took some time out to do this brilliant impersonation of this tidy little jacket.

A romantic pose with a romantic view. Actually, Maria wasn't so hot on taking these cuddly pictures with me, but I had really hoped to visit this castle on a bit of a date awhile back and I wasn't about to let lack of male accompaniment ruin my romantic visit to the Burg Hohenzollern!

I think this one speaks for itself.

I can say without reservation that our visit to the Burg Hohenzollern was a smashing success! We all had a lovely day and were mighty glad that we had braved the cold and climbed up that big-ass hill. I was so happy that half of my head disappeared into the sunlight.