Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Snow!

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Damon got me a new camera for Christmas! It's super-tiny so I can carry it all the time, and it has lots of dummy settings like "snow" and "food" which are perfect for a lazy person like me. So, I went out yesterday in the snow to get photos to show you why I wish it would snow more in Heidelberg - but I forgot to put in the memory stick. Even this camera can't save me from that. It does hold two photos in its internal memory though, so I got two!


Isn't it incredible on the hills?
This is what it looked like right after it finished snowing yesterday. It never got that cold, though, and the snow was already falling off the trees in big clods when I took this. This morning we woke up yet again to see not a trace of snow on the terrace - all rained away again. It's depressing to go from the photos above to everything brown and wet and slushy again. I can understand that it sucks for transit/driving though...can I ever. That's why I want just one snowstorm so big that everyone has an excuse to not have to travel in it for a day or two.
Let's schedule one for January or so so we don't mess up anyone's Christmas travel plans, eh?
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Monday, December 20, 2010

What snow?

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Everybody else's exciting snow news is bumming me out. We got a whole two inches here, which only stuck for a couple of days before being all rained away last night. I would love to just experience one day of getting snowed in and civilization coming to a halt. Of course, since Frankfurt has been getting plenty of snow we could still end up getting screwed by it when we need to fly, but without the benefits of seeing our own town buried. Boo!
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Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Music Post, 2010

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It's the most wonderful time of the year: list-making time, that is. 2010 was a pretty fun year in music for me and I hope you find something here that makes you say the same!

This year I did a better job of turning off the shuffle and listening to albums in full so I ended up with as many "favorite albums" as "favorite songs" this year. Still this post will be focused on individual songs because it seems more likely someone will give them a shot.

Caribou - "Bowls"
Album: Swim

Caribou has gotten a lot of play this year! It's not often that I hear familiar new music away from home, but caught Caribou in a Welsh pub and a Berlin taxi in the last couple of months. We saw him play a very sold-out show at Karlstorbahnhof last month and the crowd was young enough to look at us funny. (Dan Snaith = my age, kids.) I really looked forward to this album and was so glad he did not disappoint.

Yeasayer - "O.N.E."
Album: Odd Blood

Surprise - Yeasayer's new album had almost nothing in common with their last one. The gamble lost some people and gained some, but I'm among those who really enjoy both styles. It's a particularly interesting move because I now wait with a special sort of suspense for their next album, having no idea at all what to expect!

The Books - "Beautiful People"
Album: The Way Out

In the immortal words of Questionable Content, "Music + Science = Sexy". At the first listen through this album I thought I'd made a mistake in getting it. I was wrong.

Sleigh Bells - "Infinity Guitars"
Album: Treats

I think Fluxblog described it best. Hearing Sleigh Bells the first time reminded me of hearing Nirvana the first time in junior high. I didn't think I should like it, but secretly I did anyway.

Joanna Newsom - "Good Intentions Paving Company"
Album: Have One on Me

Like most ....odd female singer-songwriters, it takes a few listens, and suddenly goes from irritating to charming as hell. Taking the first couple of lines totally out of context gives you something a lot of expats can probably relate to: "Hello, my old country, hello - the stars are just beginning to appear, and I have never in my life before been here."

Delorean - "Infinite Desert"
Album: Subiza

El Guincho - "Ghetto Facil"
Album: Pop Negro

These albums are so lovably chipper. I could usually take or leave beachy music so these were more great surprises for me.

Local Natives - "Sun Hands"
Album: Gorilla Manor

Also, "Airplanes". This album is excellent all the way through.

Arcade Fire - "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)"
Album: The Suburbs

I never got into Arcade Fire before. It seemed like alternative music your mother-in-law could love. I guess this year I was just in the right mood for it. Talking about dead shopping malls is always a good way to get me involved. I'll stop here before my consumerism rant kicks in...

Menomena - "TAOS"
Album: Mines

I didn't like the new album as much as the last, but I had to include them, as I saw them at Karlstor last month and was completely endeared by the fact that band member Brent Knopf was the one selling shirts in the lobby before the show - in sweet, polite too-perfect German. Later we got a second encore too, and the whole audience left enamored with them, even though they called us boring. ;)

Vampire Weekend - "White Sky"
Album: Contra

Let's all enjoy Ezra's young voice while he still has it. :)

Orbital - "The Gun Is Good"
(single)

I can't leave off Orbital, THE band of my college years, back to put out a couple of new songs. Welcome back to the 90s.

Is this too many yet? One more.

Yawn - "Kind of Guy"
Album: Yawn E.P.

I actually prefer "Toys" but couldn't get it on YouTube. Yawn has generously put their super-catchy EP up for free download on their site, so just try it!

OK, I know when to stop, really I do.
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

13 Teeny Tiny Centimeters

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Yesterday I got one of my Christmas cards back in the mail. Over the address was a giant yellow label telling me that the envelope was missing 1.70 EUR in postage (the standard cost of a letter to the US). It already had 1.70 worth of (some pretty cool) stamps on it. The label went on to give a big list of appropriate postage for various sizes of package and envelope. Apparently, one side of a letter must be at least 14 cm long in order to be mailed. The envelope that was returned to me was 13cm x 13cm square.

So, I'm a little confused! Is it really missing 1.70 in postage and does it really need to have 3.40? Or is it totally unmailable? And why did only this one come back to me? There were others that were the same size. I tried deutschepost.de, but it comes back with an error if I put those dimensions in.

I think US mail requires extra postage for square envelopes, actually (not sure if the size matters or just hte shape) - or at least they did for a while. When square cards came into style they ended up redesigning the envelopes to be longer than the cards so you wouldn't have to pay extra. Strange (it's cheaper to send something bigger?!) but true...
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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Hochwasser! (II)

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Underwater!

I blogged before when the Neckar was high, but it wasn't as high as it was today! I didn't get any photos, but you can see some on Facebook here. (I don't think you need an account - I'm not part of the group that posted them, but I can still see them.)

It's not THAT high but definitely the highest since we've lived here. Unfortunately it is causing a bit of a problem for some people because it closes the road along the south side of the Neckar, and the road along the north side of the Neckar is already closed to thru traffic becuase of construction. This leaves only the Friedrich-Ebert-Anlage open. (Heidelberg is trapped between hills!) Also, you have to wade if you want to get to the boat restaurant near the rowing club in Neuenheim! The water looks like it has retreated slightly - or am I just imagining?
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Friday, December 03, 2010

It's Friday!!

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I n celebration, a few fun Germany-related games for you from Sporcle:

Great German Companies!

Most Common German Surnames! This was a lot harder than I expected. I got what felt like only a tiny sprinkling of them (and kicked myself when the rest were revealed) but managed a high percentile despite that.

German Chancellors!

Enjoy!
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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Rest of the mold story

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Alright, the architect and his pal are gone, so here is the rest. After the kip lecture he said he thought we were just getting regular moisture in the room and not letting it back out, and he had his hand twitching over his "how to air out your apartment chart" like he was about to whip it out and show us how to care for our ever-so-fragile German apartment, but he decided to do a couple more moisture readings first. And, it turns out that although most of the room is dry enough, the corner where the mold was, right next to the floor, is WAY moister than the rest of the room. So, he decided he wasn't going to turn around and blame it all on us after all, but that maybe the heat is leaking water into the wall/floor or maybe the wall needs to be torn out (!?). Well, hopefully the wall won't need to be torn out, but we'll find out more soon.

In the meanwhile, he wants us to run the heat in the bedroom all the time and open both our windows (haha, we have two in the whole apartment) wide open four times a day. He didn't specify how long. Having the heat on is going to hurt because we use it very sparingly and never in the bedroom - I might have to start sleeping in the living room, because I sleep best in winter because the bedroom is nice and cool and conducive to the big blanket piles I love. But, at least we are on the road to having it figured out after months of no response! YAY!
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More fun with air

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FINALLY, today someone is here to have a look at what might have caused our massive bedroom mold problem (it hasn't grown back since we tore off the wallpaper and floorboards, cleaned it all up, and put a dehumidifier in there).

Right now "the architect" has his little hygrometer out, of course, to find out where there might be too much moisture. I believe that he is currently lecturing Damon on how it is bad to kip (tilt) our window because moisture will build up on the window and roll down into the wall. Thereby leaving our only method of airing out the room (an absolutely crucial part of living in a German apartment as you know by now) having the window wide open in subzero temps all winter. (Because with the no-circulation situation we have because there is no way to pull air through on the other side, we have to have them open way longer than normal.)

I'll have the architect pay my heating bill, then.
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