Tuesday, May 25, 2010

News from Home/Abroad, or Links a-plenty!

For the most part, I've avoided following the news regularly while on vacation here in Chicago.  This was helped early on by accidentally catching a bit of the local news which ran not one, not two, but three separate reports on the local kid who has made it to the final round of American Idol.  Buried somewhere later in the news was a story about the whole school book fiasco.  This was then followed by a commentary in support of the Texas school board by a local radio shock jock though no graphics ever stated it was a commentary.  At least we have the Daily Show to soften the blow.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Don't Mess With Textbooks
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

By the way, the final vote was last week.  And in case you are curious, it passed.  (Thanks again, Texas!)

But not all the scary news is coming from this side.  I'm not going to try to pretend I understand everything related to the EU/Greece crisis.  Germany has agreed to lend quite a large hand, though it seems they squandered a lot of time playing politics.  Although I've had Germans tell me the blame lies solely with Greece, it sounds to me like everyone had a hand in this mess and it is only going to get uglier.  Unless, of course, you're an American planning to visit the EU next summer.  I guess if there's a silver lining to all of this, maybe I can look forward to seeing some more friends visit next year.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Checking in

Keep trying to write a full entry, but just can't seem to find the time.  Anyway, here's some photos to keep you busy for a little bit at least.  All of these were taken last Friday.  It was a beautiful day, nearly felt like summer.  We did a bit of sightseeing downtown before taking the 'L' up to the ballpark to take in a game.  Afterwards we made a tour of the city at night.  Thanks to my sister for letting us take the car.  The final picture was well worth it.

Nerds on tour near Buckingham Fountain

Cloudgate sculpture in Millenium Park

The building formerly known as the Sears Tower plays peek-a-boo

Hi jinks in Millenium Park

Chicago-style Kölsch served up at Goose Island

Wrigley Field before a typical Cubs game
(That's a euphemism for another loss)

Peanuts and beer at the game

The view from our seats

Not much needs to be said here

Monday, May 10, 2010

See you Stateside, dudes

They had yet another election here yesterday. The results seem a little more promising than last time. This was the local state election. Here's the results.

We're off to Chicago in a few hours. We'll be there for the next month. We're up way too early, but I guess we're just too excited. Our roommate is coming along for part of the time. So I'll be looking forward to playing tour guide for part of the time. If I don't have deep dish pizza at least twice, I will consider this trip a bust. Hopefully I'll have a chance to check in here a few times. Until then...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Audio Testing

I realize these audio files aren't working correctly.  So I'm using this post as a way to test new ways of playing these files. So if things look weird on this one, now you know.

I am not sure what is causing these problems. I'm certainly no web pro. But I can't figure out if it is the Yahoo music player that isn't functioning or the file hosting site. I've used two different file hosting sites, but whenever I try to play clip, it ends up not functioning. If anyone has suggestions, I'm all ears. Pun... intended?

What are you doing July 12th?

I don't know about you, but I'll be getting married.  Yep, married.

I'm sure I know the next question.  "You met her years ago online, then met for an amazing week in Paris. Later you even moved to Germany to be together.  So... how did you propose?" 

Ah yes, there we were in Switzerland over the Easter holiday.  We had just spent nearly a week driving from Tuscany to the Swiss Alps where we were to conclude our vacation with a few days skiing.  We reached the top of the slope and gathered ourselves for a few moments before taking off.  This was most likely our last run before heading home the next day.  It was late afternoon and the sun was getting low in the sky.  We leaned forward and pushed off.

Halfway down this particularly long run is a small chalet overlooking the valley.  It is a good place to stop and take in the view over a hot chocolate.  As we zigzagged downhill, we looked to one another and nodded.  Let's stop there for one last time.  We stood on the balcony sipping our hot chocolate and watching as the sun began to dip into the horizon.  I knew this was it.  I waited until her attention was drawn by passing skiers when I reached into my coat pocket.  When she turned back to look at me, I dropped to one knee and asked her to marry me.* 

If only it went like that.  It seems that all your life you think the moment is going to be something like that.  Some sort of grand, sweeping gesture.  A story your family can pass along for generations.  Well, I hate to say it, but ours came about in the most ordinary of fashion.  But then again, maybe we needed something like that, something ordinary.  As my sister said to me, there isn't that much ordinary about how our relationship came together and that maybe we've had enough of the "big" moments for the time being.  She may have a point there. 

Nope, this one came about during the course of a long conversation.  I'm not even sure what the original topic was.  I'm sure we were just talking about work, or to be more honest, complaining about work.  One thing led to another and eventually I said something like "we should get married."  "Ok!" she said.  And that was that.  I'm serious.

Thus began a flurry of activity, most of which involved running back and forth to the Standesamt (registry office) here in Cologne.  For all that we've read, it really was not as difficult a process as we had thought.  Either it really wasn't that difficult, or we have just built up a tolerance to a certain amount of bureaucracy here.  All in all, I think we counted three trips to the Standesamt together.  Although we thought we had all the necessary paperwork, it turns out we needed two other documents.  One was an officially translated version of my birth certificate.  That wasn't difficult to obtain, although it wasn't all that cheap.  The second document needed was an affidavit from the US Consulate stating that I am not currently married in the US.

Unfortunately, that meant an extremely early morning trip to Frankfurt where the nearest Consulate is located.  (There's actually one in Dusseldorf which would have been a lot more convenient, but apparently it is only for emergency situations.)  I made an appointment online using the consulate website.  I printed out the official appointment confirmation which seemed to threaten me with endless bureaucratic delays if I failed to show up for my scheduled time.  My appointment time was 9:30 in the morning.  Of course the Consulate is no where near the center of town so this meant dealing with local public transportation in Frankfurt as well.  After doing all the math, we decided we needed to be on a train around 6:30 in the morning.

Let me just say this.  If you need non-emergency Consulate services and are an American citizen, don't get so worked up about the appointment time.  When we arrived at the building nearly an hour early there was a huge line in front.   This line, however, was for non-US citizens seeking travel visas.  I was able to walk right up to the counter using the line for citizens.  I showed them my scheduled appointment and asked if I should come back later because I was too early.  Instead, he told me to walk right in.  So there you go.  I'm pretty sure I didn't even need to make an appointment.  I probably spent no longer than a half hour inside. 

For all my complaining about the people who work in the Auslanderbehorde, the people at the Standesamt in Cologne couldn't have been any friendlier.  But maybe that comes with the territory.  At one point, as we were signing some of the final documents, the official turned to me and asked (in German of course) "You do realize you are getting married, not simply buying a washing machine, don't you?"

We were told it would take 3-4 weeks before we could take the next step.  Instead, it only took about 2 weeks until the letter arrived stating that we could return to the Standesamt to pick out the wedding day.  We settled on the 12th of July. 

So that's it.  We've turned everything in. We've paid all the requisite fees.  We've bought the rings.  The only thing left to do now is wait.  If you're not doing anything on the 12th of July, why not swing by city hall and wish us luck? 

*Thanks to a good friend for inspiring that story.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Post game report

We had a great time at the game.  We sat up in the corner but still had a great view of the action.  The game ended in a 2-2 draw.  FC struck in the first ten minutes and for a little while it seemed like the rout might be on.  But it soon became apparent that FC was comfortable in their position.  They took their foot off the gas which allowed Freiburg to score once before the half and a second one shortly after the break.  There was quite a bit of whistling (that's booing here in Europe) from the crowd during the second half until FC knotted it up near the end of the game.  Both teams came away with one point.  FC was already safe from relagation, but the point really gave Freiburg something to celebrate.  They will be sticking around in the top league for at least another season.  The team applauded their fans who made the long trip to the game for at least 30 minutes or more.  I made some audio recordings which, time permitting, I may post up here in the next day or two.

Here's the "official" recap, and the better one.  

By the way, if you're looking for really good information and history on German soccer, I discovered this site Sunday morning.  Not only does he have an unbelievable amount of background information, there's also quite a healthy dose of sarcasm.  Don't be fooled by the basic layout, it really is a well written site.  Here's the page on FC.

And here's a few photos.

Das RheinEnergieStadion
Just before the start of the game everyone is up on their feet singing the team's hymn or fight song and waving their red scarves 
Action at the far end
 This one might make for a good caption contest

Action on our end

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Off to the game

Finally heading to my first FC Köln match this afternoon.  I'm pretty excited.  Not entirely sure what to expect.  The season is nearly over.  FC is safe from relagation, but today's opponents need to win in order to stay safe as well.  Hopefully FC doesn't roll over on this one.  But if the home team loses, well, I'm pretty used to that.  Here's today's matchup (scroll to the bottom) from the official league site.  And here's a better one - from an American site.  Oh the irony.  Hopefully I'll get a decent photo or two to post later.  Time to go paint my face.  (Just kidding.)