Tuesday, July 05, 2005

German authorities...

...can be well-organized and staff can be friendly there. Well, this is a rare experience in Germany, so I think it is worth reporting:

Both my identity card and my passport are valid only until September, which means I have to apply for new ones quite soon, because it takes some weeks to receive them.
In the past that normally would mean waiting in the registration office for hours, not to mention that office hours were only from 8 to 12 in the morning which made all working people glad.

But this morning was a real surprise. First, I learned that it is possible to make an appointment either by phone or online. In ancient times you had to appear in person and were assigned a number.
So I called and a very polite and gentle woman answered the phone. I was not put on hold, I did not have to listen to some cheesy music. And then, next surprise, she offered a date for this Friday, and when I said, that next week would suit me better, that was not a problem and she proposed another day then. I really had expected her to say something like: "You can come at the end of October" or something like that. Also new to me, they are open every afternoon from 1 to 7 p.m. So I got an appointment for five in the afternoon which perfectly fits into my own working times. The woman patiently explained what documents I had to bring along plus she gave me the room number and the name of the colleague in charge of this matter.

This is nothing you can take for granted. But if all authorities were like that, life would be a little easier!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Tagged


CaliValleyGirl played the Tagged game and I like to pick it up:


10 years ago...
I slowly prepared for my thesis with the supersexy title “Heuristic Algorithms for the Timetabling Problem”. In that year I was in excellent shape and probably played the best handball ever in my life. I also was in crush with a girl from the handball club, but there was no happy end of this romance.


5 years ago...
I made trips to Bulgaria and Portugal. I changed from part time to full time in my then job. At that time I really was thinking that I would stay there for many years, I was imagining something like a “career” – becoming a project leader or so. Well, two years later I left the company...In that year I also purchased my admirable bike which I still ride and which was my best buy ever.


1 year ago...
I had financial worries, it was difficult to make enough money as a freelancer, and I was unhappy with the whole situation. But at the end of the year I was able to get a new job, so the year definitely had a happy end. And there were highlights on the other hand. I visited a friend in London, did a bike tour in the Bavarian Alps, and in Hamburg I met my best friend from the wild times when we were young. I had not seen him for eight years.


Yesterday...
was another hard day in the office. It was the last day before my holiday and I had to get a lot of things done. I also got a call from the office half an hour before my wake up time. A colleague in my team had not shown up, so I had to be there earlier than usual. But the whole day I was checking the clock and counting the hours till the beginning of my holiday. I have worked very hard for six months, even with some shifts on weekends and bank holidays. I really deserve these free days!


Today...
is Saturday, I enjoy having a week off and doing all the things I had not enough time to do the past six months: Sleeping, biking, writing in my blog, reading good books, watching movies. And perfect timing, the Tour de France begins today. Which means again having respect for Lance Armstrong and hoping for Jan Ullrich. While I write this, I am watching the Live 8 concert.


Tomorrow...
I will go jogging with a friend, maybe bike some kilometers, watch a movie on DVD or whatever. Just relaxing and being lazy. And tomorrow night I will enjoy the feeling that I do not have to set the alarm clock for Monday morning.



5 snacks I enjoy...
1. Currywurst (curry sausage)
2. Kemmsche Cookies: these cookies are sold only in and around Hamburg
3. Oreos
4. Franzbroetchen: You get this also only in the Hamburg area
5. Ice-cream + strawberries



5 songs I know all the words to...
I can remember only two:
1. You’ll never walk alone. Originally a song in the musical play "Carousel". Later it became the anthem of FC Liverpool and it is nowadays THE football song. Also my favorite team St. Pauli adopted it as its supporters' song. Standing in the stadium and singing the song together with thousands of other enthusiastic fans belongs to my favorite memories.
2. The German national anthem. I guess I belong to a minority in my country. The average German does not know the lyrics of his anthem.


5 things I would do with $100,000,000...
1. I never had so much money, so first of all I would enjoy the feeling that I do not have to worry about paying the next bill.
2. Traveling with friends
3. Supporting my favorite football team St. Pauli
4. Investing in educational projects all around the world.
5. Sponsoring research for the fight against hay fever. Of course I know there exist more dangerous diseases, but here I am egoistic. I really like the summer weather, but I also curse it for bringing the hay fever.



5 locations I would love to run away to...
I could easily list 20 or 30 locations, and it is impossible for me to reduce it to five, so I give you ten:
1. The New York Marathon. Finishing in the Central Park with a broad smile on my face.
2. Kilimanjaro. Another one of my adventure dreams. Africa's highest mountain. You start in the jungle and at the summit you have reached the icy region.
3. Aussenalster, Hamburg. The most beautiful town in the world and my hometown. The Aussenalster is a beautiful lake in the center of the city and in summer it is gorgeous there.
4. Hawaii. I am a bad swimmer so my chance to participate in the Iron Man is quite poor. But there is still a lot of other things I would like to do there.
5. Big Sur, California. The greatest encounter of land and sea. Three years ago I did a bike tour from S.F. to LA and I was kind of speechless when I biked along this amazing scenery. I would stop every kilometer to watch the waves, the different colors of the water, the rocky coastline, the birds and the elephant seals...
6. Alpe d’Huez. Those who regularly follow the Tour de France know what I mean: The famous serpentine road in the French Alpes. I want to do it on my bike!
7. Ireland. Many friends have told me how beautiful this country is and how gentle the people are.
8. New Zealand
9. China
10. Space. Just to be in the orbit to look at our planet.



5 things I like doing...
1. Running
2. Biking
3. Reading & Writing
4. Thinking
5. Traveling



5 things I would never wear...
Well, depends on how much money you would pay for it. Then I could think even about high heels, thongs and leather boots. But what I never would wear is this for example: the white robe of the Ku Klux Klan.



5 recently seen movies I like...
1. Crouched Tiger, Hidden Dragon
2. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
3. One Million Dollar Baby
4. Sideways
5. Team America



5 famous people I’d like to meet...
1. Helmut Schmidt: German Chancellor from 1974-82, hero of the flood in Hamburg in 1962. He is already 85, but it is still a great pleasure to listen to him. He radiates intellectual brilliance with every word he says. I really admire him.
2. Angelina Jolie. Well, she is hot and smart.
3. Thomas Pynchon. If someone knows where this genius lives...
4. Bill Gates. Many people hate him. I have respect for what he has achieved. And he donates really a lot of money to charity.
5. Lance Armstrong: One training day with him. Just to watch this totally focused man. He is surely one of the greatest in sports ever.



5 biggest joys of the moment...
1. One week without seeing the office, no work, just relaxing
2. Following the Tour de France
3. Watching DVDs on my new DVD player
4. Running and chatting with my best friend
5. Biking



5 favorite toys...
1. My bike from “Fahrrad Manufaktur”. I have no car, and my bike is to me what a horse is to a cowboy. It is my daily means of transport, it was a reliable partner in California, in East Germany, and in the Bavarian Alps. We had some severe falls and survived them all...
2. My bike speedometer: Oh yes, I am a nerdboy, I like to spend a considerable amount of time on bike tours to watch at my cool Sigma computer and analyze the data – distance, average speed, maximum speed, driving time.
3. My new DVD player: I got it as a birthday present from a friend last month, really a cool idea, and I will spend part of my holiday borrowing DVDs and watching them.
4. My juggle balls.
5. My running shoes. Running shoes are so important to me, that I buy new ones only in a shop in Hamburg where I know that the guys there totally understand what they are talking about.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Huh Corp.

The Huh Corp. is a great fake company website - with a cool design and hilarious content. I like this the most:

Our name will confuse you, but, you have to admit, the logo design is pretty cool. And we're good at turning regular words into "e-words," such as "e-consulting," "e-business" or "e-sexual harassment."
Our office is really modern and we've got nice computers and stuff. If you ever saw it, you'd say "Wow, cool office. These guys are legit."
[...]
Our female staff members are all hot, so, even if there's nothing to meet about, we'll sit and flirt with them, and charge you for the time. When one of our new-age marketing gurus or design experts or consultants has an idea, the rest of us look at him or her with serious expressions and write stuff down on paper.We also have one of those dry-erase boards on the wall, and we take turns making flow-charts and brain-storming and talking about "injecting creativity into market positioning," and cool stuff like that.
[...]
Our CEO is rarely in his office, and all female team members are expected to sleep with him, or at least pretend like they want to. Our designers ride Razor scooters around the office, while wearing mail-bag style backpacks to hold their iPods.We have lots of shiny espresso machines, and all of our new-age e-movers (that's our cool way to say "consultants," remember?) drive to work in VW Beetles. Appearance is everything to us, because we'll get more of your money by looking cool than we will by doing quality work.If you call our office, the phone will be answered by a very disinterested intern, giving you the impression that we're too important to talk to you. Because we are.

It is definitely worth having a look. And as it is often with these parodies, they are close to reality - in one of my next posts I will tell you how dilbertesque my office is - or how much my office is "The Office".

Thursday, May 19, 2005

I am back

Well, finally I pull myself together and re-start writing in my blog. I am quite confident that this time the output will be a bit higher…

I hope you enjoy reading how the world is according to my spotless, sometimes erratic mind.

After several weeks of non-writing I begin with a very simple and innocent issue, before I try to comment on more difficult things.

And since I like to have readers of both genders here is something that never would cause any conflicts between men and women: the logic of female orgasm…

The article was published in The New York Times, but is only available if you are a subscriber. So here are some excerpts. Quite interesting, I think, and a nice topic for couples for tonight:

Evolutionary scientists have never had difficulty explaining the male orgasm, closely tied as it is to reproduction.

But the Darwinian logic behind the female orgasm has remained elusive. Women can have sexual intercourse and even become pregnant -- doing their part for the perpetuation of the species -- without experiencing orgasm. So what is its evolutionary purpose?
Over the last four decades, scientists have come up with a variety of theories, arguing, for example, that orgasm encourages women to have sex and, therefore, reproduce or that it leads women to favor stronger and healthier men, maximizing their offspring's chances of survival.

But in a new book, Dr. Elisabeth A. Lloyd, a philosopher of science and professor of biology at Indiana University, takes on 20 leading theories and finds them wanting. The female orgasm, she argues in the book, ''The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution,'' has no evolutionary function at all.

Rather, Dr. Lloyd says the most convincing theory is one put forward in 1979 by Dr. Donald Symons, an anthropologist.

That theory holds that female orgasms are simply artifacts -- a byproduct of the parallel development of male and female embryos in the first eight or nine weeks of life.

In that early period, the nerve and tissue pathways are laid down for various reflexes, including the orgasm, Dr. Lloyd said. As development progresses, male hormones saturate the embryo, and sexuality is defined.

In boys, the penis develops, along with the potential to have orgasms and ejaculate, while ''females get the nerve pathways for orgasm by initially having the same body plan.''

Nipples in men are similarly vestigial, Dr. Lloyd pointed out.

While nipples in woman serve a purpose, male nipples appear to be simply left over from the initial stage of embryonic development.

The female orgasm, she said, ''is for fun.''

Dr. Lloyd said scientists had insisted on finding an evolutionary function for female orgasm in humans either because they were invested in believing that women's sexuality must exactly parallel that of men or because they were convinced that all traits had to be ''adaptations,'' that is, serve an evolutionary function.

Theories of female orgasm are significant, she added, because ''men's expectations about women's normal sexuality, about how women should perform, are built around these notions.''

''And men are the ones who reflect back immediately to the woman whether or not she is adequate sexually,'' Dr. Lloyd continued.

[…]

Western culture is suffused with images of women's sexuality, of women in the throes of orgasm during intercourse and seeming to reach heights of pleasure that are rare, if not impossible, for most women in everyday life.

''Accounts of our evolutionary past tell us how the various parts of our body should function,'' Dr. Lloyd said.

If women, she said, are told that it is ''natural'' to have orgasms every time they have intercourse and that orgasms will help make them pregnant, then they feel inadequate or inferior or abnormal when they do not achieve it.

''Getting the evolutionary story straight has potentially very large social and personal consequences for all women,'' Dr. Lloyd said. ''And indirectly for men, as well.''