30 April 2008

Do NOT lie to me.

Don't come up to my pharmacy with a prescription from the native Spanish-speaking provider and tell me she didn't explain to you how to use the cream. Don't tell me you can't speak English, and then argue with me fluently in English 10 minutes later when I confirmed with the provider that she told you how to use it.

Don't waste our interpreters' time. We only have 2 for all 4 clinics, pharmacy, patient accounts, and vital records.

Don't waste my time by lying to me.

Don't fucking lie to me.

27 April 2008

By request: LASIK

So, I get there, sign in, & get a name tag. We wait in the waiting room for about 20 minutes, I guess, before they call me back to sign all the consent forms and give them money. (I got a nice printout with "PAID IN FULL" across it...) Then I go back to the prep room, and Ben goes back to the waiting room.

I get a nice 0.5 mg Xanax, a round of medicated eyedrops, and a wiping of the eyes. Oh, and blue booties & a hair cap. Then I wait there, while the Xanax kicks in and the 2 guys who were there before me get their procedures. Ben tells me this was about an hour, but I wasn't paying much attention, being more focused on not flipping out. Then it was my turn.

I'm led into the laser suite, where I had to lie on a table with my head between these 2 huge-ass machines. They gave me a stuff bunny to hold, and good god I needed it.

Step 1 is to take a suction cup and put it on your cornea to hold it for the creation of the flap. The numbing drops made it not hurt, I suppose, but it was still uncomfortable, and I very nearly flipped my shit. The right eye was more traumatic than the left, because maybe the numb drops wore off faster? Dunno. Ben says they didn't show that part. The staff counted how many seconds remained, and I think these took about 30 seconds each.

Step 2, in comparison, was a breeze. The surgeon flips the flap up (eeew), and then a laser shines across your eye while you look at a blinking yellow light. Then when it's done, he puts the flap back down. The worst part of that is the slight smell of burning at the end. These took 40 seconds each. Then some more eye drops, and that was it. I didn't want to let go of the bunny.

The ride home, I had my eyes closed for. Light was really bright, even with the super-stylish shades they gave me. Ben drove through Taco Bell, I ate my bean burrito when we got home, and I went to lie down. They told me to take the Ambien they gave me, but I opted not to. The Xanax, Neurontin, and 3 ibuprofen I took after I got home let me sleep for about 5 hours.

Though I did take the Ambien before bed, because I doubted I'd be able to fall asleep on my own after sleeping half the afternoon.

Since then, my vision has been fine. I could almost read the 20/15 line at my last follow-up appointment. My eye doctor is supposed to call to schedule my 3-month follow up soon.

26 April 2008

Edgeworth, part 1

I found a decent suit pattern at Burda, so I went to Joann's to buy it. Of course they didn't have it, and the Vogue pattern number I'd written down a) didn't have a vest and b) only comes 3 sizes to an envelope. Poo.

So I perused the fabric a bit and happened upon this cotton bottomweight almost-twill that's in an appropriately garish shade of red (that won't look too horrible on me.) It was 6.99 a yard I think. 100% cotton! They had a 65/35 cotton/poly in an appropriate shade, but it had the nastiest texture. Then I got lining for the vest and coat, and a card of buttons for the vest.

I still need buttons for the coat and sleeves (though there are none in any of the art... I'm perplexed), and a wig (I saw one on the internet that might work). Possibly shoes, but I have a pair of women's black shoes that would do. I have a few yards of black cotton that I was going to use for the lining of my 1895 bodice, but I've decided only to to hem facings for that, except for the lapel part, so I should have sufficient extra. (Hm, I seem to have forgotten about the sleeves... well, I'll figure something out.) I also need a white button-down shirt and a jabot. I have fabric for a jabot, from when I never managed to finish my Balthier costume.

I've got the pattern on order, so I can start when it gets here.

22 April 2008

Works in progress

Costumes, costumes, costumes.

1. 1895 suit - finish for D*C (Labor Day weekend). reference
- Get documentation ready for contest; scan reference material.
- Find hat pattern
- Wig!
- 1895 corset? Laughing Moon?

2. can-can outfit - finish for D*C
- no to-do list, except making the whole thing.

3. Edgeworth suit? reference
- regular court suit vs White Day pic outfit?
- find patterns vs buy off rack?

20 April 2008

The Forbidden Kingdom

I went to see the new Jackie Chan & Jet Li movie with some friends last night. It was great fun! A quick summary:

+ The extended (5-minute? 10?) fight between Jackie Chan and Jet Li
+ Random white boy/kung-fu-movie nut not nearly as egregious as I'd feared
+ Jackie Chan using whiteboy as a weapon
+ Funny bits were REALLY funny (there was one scene I laughed really hard at, but now I can't remember it.)
+ Collin Chou's eye make-up. Also, his cloak.
- Only 1 Jackie vs Jet fight scene
- Plot still tenuous at best, but enjoyable nevertheless
- A bit of scenery chewing in the Jade Warlord's palace
- Frame plot set-up with nerdy whiteboy & gangsta thugs
+ I had to pee, so I missed the random white boy/Chinese girl romance scene

I'd watch it again, just for the Jackie & Jet fight scene. And Collin Chou's eye make-up.

17 April 2008

Women and Subversive Fiction

I wrote this as a post for BlueNC a while back. Now I'm sharing it here.

As long as I can remember, I've had books to read. Usually they'd be books my grandma had picked up on sale or at the used book shop, but I'd read just about anything I could get my hands on. This is how I discovered science fiction. In fifth grade, I was at a new school. I didn't know anybody, and I've always had a spot of trouble making new friends, so I got books from the school library. I'd just gotten through the Wizard of Earthsea and its sequels, so I went to the next book by Ursula LeGuin on the shelf. It was The Left Hand of Darkness. Why that was in an elementary school library eludes me, but I read it then. I can say that I didn't get it when I was ten, but when I read it again at 25, it was clearer. LHoD examines a world where the people are agendered, but go into "kemmer" and develop secondary sexual characteristics for having sex. It isn't fixed which characteristics any person develops each time. The story explores an earth-human's interactions with the people of Gethen and their decision to join the ekumen, a league of worlds. It contains the remarkable line "the King is pregnant." Aged ten, already ahead of my peers in science and math, and decidedly stubborn, it didn't mean too much.

I didn't think much about it again until after I'd graduated from college. I'd picked it up, remembering that I'd liked it and the other books by her I'd read, and added it to the stack of books waiting to be read. Then I read it again. And it was groundbreaking. At the time it was written, the suggestion that there were no strict psychological differences between the sexes was a radical statement. Eliminating rigid gender roles -- including that of pregnancy -- was beyond radical. In 1969 when it was originally published, no woman had won the Nebula for best novel. In 1968, a woman won best novella (Anne McCaffrey) and best short story (Kate Wilhelm), but Ursula LeGuin won best novel for 1969.

Men continued to dominate, winning 8/10 in the 1970s and 7/10 in the 1980s, until the 1990s, when men and women each won 5 awards. This decade so far, winners have alternated between men and women. The winners for 2006 haven't yet been announced. (Nebulas are awarded by vote of members of the Science Fiction Writers Association.) Are there more female SF writers now? Or are they just more visible? But it's so often the same women winning Nebulas or Hugos. Ursula LeGuin, C.J. Cherryh, Connie Willis, Anne McCaffrey, Lois McMaster Bujold, James Tiptree Jr. True, you often see the same men popping up year after year: David Brin, Asimov, Orson Scott Card, Kim Stanley Robinson. Is there an amount of favoritism? Certainly, because it's voted on by SF writers. All awards have that problem.

I took a peek at my bookshelf the other day. I have more books by CJ Cherryh than will fit onto one shelf, and it's still not her entire bibliography. I have every book Bujold has written. I have a lot of LeGuin. The only male author who has near the representation on my shelf is Terry Pratchett. I look at my husband's shelf, and (buried behind his action figures) are a lot of books by male authors: David Brin, Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, Card. He's got all the Neil Gaiman.

There is a trope that female readers prefer stories with good characterization, good plot, and good relationships, while male readers like a lot of sex and explosions and fancy sciency gadgets. I reject the notion of any inherent differences between male and female readers as to what their preferences are, but I can't resist exploring it. Science fiction has long been "a man's world." As noted above, the majority of award-winning authors were male until recently, and male perspective characters are still predominant, even in books written by women.

Take, for example, Bujold's Vorkosigan series. The main character, Miles Vorkosigan, is a man, as are a lot of leads: his father Aral, his cousin Ivan, his cousin Gregor, Gregor's security guy Simon. There are female leads, as well, and they're strong women: his mother Cordelia, her security woman Drou, the Koudelka clan (Drou's girls), Elli Quinn, who captains his mercenary fleet while he's home. But everything we see is from Miles' perspective. Or CJ Cherryh's Foreigner sequence (now up to 9 books, and going on 12). The main human is a man, and he has a male and female bodyguard (the latter of whom becomes his lover, naturally). The stories are told from Bren's perspective.

Conventional wisdom holds that people don't want to read stories about people who aren't like them. The main consumers of science fiction have traditionally been white males, so publishers go with books about white guys. Women are voracious consumers of science fiction now, and in participatory events (read: cons, fanzines, fanfiction), women participate with great enthusiasm. But it's still majority white, at least in the places I've been.

In stories written by female authors, you often have a focus on the characters, their development, and the plot, though some are marketed more to an action-oriented audience. Even then, you can follow character growth as the plot progresses and things blow up. Male authors, in my experience, focus on moving the story forward, in some cases to the detriment of character. It could be a function of good author vs bad, but I've found fewer bad female authors than male. This could be related to numbers, or to the idea that women have to be twice as good as the average man in order to be considered equal. (Or that women who have the spinal fortitude to break into science fiction are just damn good writers.) Then there's the difference between "hard" and "soft" SF, and fantasy (which has a lot of female writers, and more non-traditional characters), which I won't get into here.

Part of the appeal of speculative fiction, which includes both science fiction and fantasy, is the ability to speculate. SF answers the question "what if?" Many of my favorite writers skip right past "what if women were equal to men?" and use that as a base assumption. On CJ Cherryh's starships, women do everything men do, even if the POV character is a man. LeGuin credits the feminist movement of the 1960s and 70s with helping her "learn to write as a woman, without putting men at the center of the story."

Subversive literature, indeed.

16 April 2008

General update

So. When we last left our intrepid heroine, she was unemployed in Greenland and lackadaisically looking for a job. Shortly thereafter, she got a lead on a job, then found a different one, working for a government entity that shall remain nameless. She's been working there nearly a year and a half.

I'm bored. I'm at work right now, and I'm mostly twiddling my thumbs, waiting for people to walk up for prescriptions. I shouldn't complain too loudly; real retail pharmacy jobs get 500 or more prescriptions a day. I like the slower pace - it lets me do other things.

Like take an online certificate program in field epidemiology. I'm mostly through the 3rd of 4 courses, and the last class is being offered this fall. I get summer off! Woo. Epidemiology looks at the patterns and spread of disease, and field epidemiology is basically outbreak investigation. It's kind of interesting, and I'd thought maybe I wanted to study epidemiology, but I don't. It's interesting, but not for me I think.

I've been studying tai chi for about a year with the same teacher. I'm learning a Chen style long form, and it's coming along fairly well, I think. I should be able to test on it by the end of this year. Then I need to figure out what to do next - two-person forms, a weapons form, another style (Yang)?

We're going to Japan for 2 weeks this summer, with Ben's folks for half of it. Should be exciting.

Our trip to Berlin - Christmas 07

20 Dez 07

Oy. Well, we're in Germany at least.

We were boarding our flight to JFK when the pilot kicked everyone off because the ATC in New York said they were too busy, so we had a 2-hour delay. So everyone from the flight (all 13 rows) stood en queue to get rebooked onto new flights. The amazing gate attendant, Joe, tried to get us routed through anywhere – Atlanta, Cincinnati, Chicago – to Berlin. He found us one flight that went from RDU to ATL then Manchester, UK, then Paris, then Berlin, and a different one through Gatwick. He was mostly trying to get us to Europe at all. Then he got us on a flight to Frankfurt via Cincinnati, from where we were responsible for our own transit. And, of course, because it was air traffic's fault, not weather or the airline, we got to foot the bill for the shiny ICE from Frankfurt to Leipzig to Berlin, to the tune of E186. Thanks, Ben's mom's Christmas money! It's more expensive, but it's 3 hours faster than the IC and a hell of a lot faster than IR would be, so wev.

I have unsuccessfully tried to connect to the ICE wireless net, probably because it isn't available on this line. Alas. No internet for me.

I really want to take a shower.

Got to the hotel around 5:30. We walked from Hauptbahnhof. It was cold & dark, and it was about a km. I'd napped a bit on the train, so I was ready to keep going, but Ben was knackered, so he took a nap while I showered, so we headed out to dinner & a Christmas market.

Dinner was at a placed called Mirchi that Ben found in the guide book. It's an Indonesian
fusion place, and I had a cheese dish that was a lot like paneer makhani, while Ben had shrimp (unsurprisingly.) After that, we took the U-bahn down to the Gendarmenmarkt to visit the Christmas market there. It cost a Euro to get in, but it was worth it. Lots of vendors, mostly selling roasted nuts, sausage, baked goods, and warm (alcoholic) beverages. I got a couple small stone elephants (lapis & 'speckstein'), and we bought Lebkuchen. Kein Weihnacht ohne Lebkuchen! And Glühwein, of course.

We were cold & tired, so we headed back around 9 to get some Zs.

21 Dez

Up bright & early (well, dark & foggy) to get a guided tour that met on the other side of town. Stopped at a coffee shop just across the street to get breakfast & caffeine before hopping on the train.

The guided tour was fascinating. Our guide was an expat Kiwi who married an East German woman after he moved to Berlin 5 years ago. He was as keen on Cold War-era Berlin history as I am, except that he actually majored in it at university. Learned quite a bit, really. Saw a lot of things I would have missed otherwise because they weren't on my radar. 90% of eastern Berlin was destroyed in the war, and 60% of western.

It ended at the Reichstag, which is now going by Bundestag to project a friendly image, and you can go up to the observation platform, so we queued up – Kontrolle and metal detector when you go in, and they only allow so many people to be going through at one time, so you get to wait outside. In summer, apparently, the line can be 3 hours long. (Ben notes that the government is having difficulty getting people to call it the Bundestag, as all the maps still label it Reichstag.) In, up a lift, and back outside to the roof. You have a great vantage point of the city, and the glass dome in the center looks down on the parliamentary chambers (not in session over the holidays.) There's also an overpriced upscale cafe on the roof (E14,50 salad.) Despite the fact that all I'd had to eat since 9 am was yogurt & granola and a muffin, it was 3:30, and I was half frozen, I had no desire to pay that much for food, so we walked more. The tour guide had said there was a cafe across the street, so we started over there. The menu posted in the window didn't look too veggie friendly, so we went back to the Brandenburger Tor area to poke our heads into the bank with the Frank Gehry sculpture of a whale. It was as weird as it sounds. We'd decided to see if we could get tickets to Figaro, so we were going to walk in the direction of the opera house anyway, and look for food along the way. We stopped at a cafe/konditorei that served drinking chocolate (yum.) I got one of those, and Ben got a Berliner Weisse mit Schuss (rot). Actually wasn't that bad. For food, Ben tried the Currywurst mit Pommes (he says he liked it, and the fries were top notch), and I got a gnocchi with spinach in gorgonzola sauce, also quite tasty. Then off to the Staatsoper (which was bombed twice in WW2, once in 1941, rebuilt, then bombed again), where we got tickets for Figaro then wandered around the Christmas market am Opernpalais until it was time to get seated for the show. Saw a bunch of cool things, including an oil lamp that looked like a tree and if it wouldn't become so many shards of glass in our luggage would be coming home with us, but only bought Glühwein (returned the cup, wasn't that interesting), roasted nuts, and some hard candies. I will buy roasted chestnuts at a market before we leave. (Europe was unaffected by the chestnut blight, so they are far more plentiful.)

We were vaguely underdressed for the opera, but we had the very back row in the top level, so it wasn't like we were front center parkett or anything. Friedrich der Grosse commissioned the Staatsoper to give everyone the chance to see the opera, not just the rich, so I didn't feel too badly, since surely peasants in 1815 were far less well-dressed than I. The building was really pretty and had some good acoustics. The opera was fun, too. They had supertitles in German. I followed them (mostly – they used a fair bit of archaic language), and Ben says he switched between trying to read and trying to follow the Italian. It was funny, and there was a happy ending. Alles Gute!

Then walking back to the U-bahn station, stopping to take pictures of a Bugatti in a Bentley/Bugatti dealer window, and a laser-eyed manekineko. Back to the hotel, download pictures, and wrote this. Now to sleep. Tomorrow, the zoo.

22 Dez

Another long day, but not as long as yesterday by far.

Up, dressed, off to the Zoo. Bought a combination ticket for the Zoo & Aquarium, and by the time we were done at the Zoo, going inside to the Aquarium was feeling like a great idea. Still cold & cloudy. A lot of the animals were hiding inside to keep warm, but Knut was outside enjoying the cold, swimming around in his little river thing and drawing a crowd. We got some good pictures of Cute Knut, who's about a year old now. There was also a baby pygmy chimp (the first ever at the Zoo, according to a man watching them), a baby oran or two, and a pair of lion cubs. Then we went to the Aquarium, which was blessedly inside, and contained several really creepy spiders.

Went over to the Christmas Market at the Gedächtniskirche. Got some Glühwein, roasted chestnuts (all for me, Ben didn't like them), and a couple trinkety things, then went down to the KaDeWe. I learned about it in German class in high school: it's the largest department store on the continent (not all of Europe; I think Harrod's is bigger), and the communist government upheld it as a symbol of capitalist decadence and whatnot, but when the wall came down, that's where the Ossis headed first.

KaDeWe is huge, and it was full of people doing holiday shopping, unsurprisingly. I looked at the women's fashion, saw a few cute things that I didn't want to pay ludicrous amounts of money for (like E400 for a sweater) and mostly laughed. But there were some cute German shoes for not-unreasonable prices, if I needed more shoes. Then we went to the Kultur floor, bought some CDs for us & friends, perused books, bought nice chocolate, and lost my hat. I also discovered my coat is ripping at the seam in the lining. So I was unhappy. Then we went back to the Christmas Market, where I bought a new hat & we had more Glühwein and some food, then went back to the hotel, where we died. I also discovered that the power converter and the MacBook charger are not friends. Unfortunately, indeed.

23 Dez

The MacBook and the power converter seem to have a tenuous relationship: the converter starts overheating after about half an hour of charge time. But it works, so...

Today we walked along part of the wall. The Wall Memorial was closed for the holiday, so we might go back on Wednesday when it'll be open again. We were able to see part of the death strip, however, because it's just an open space.

After that, we took the U down to Alexanderplatz (Alex to locals), and stood in line for about an hour to go up the Fernsehturm, which has a very fast lift – 6 m/s, so you go up about 250 m in less than a minute. Nice air pressure changes. The viewing platform offers a 360º view of the city, and on a clear day, I imagine you can see all the things depicted in the photographs stationed throughout. Today it was sunny but hazy, so we could see a few hundred meters away, but not much further.

Then back down, back to the train station for some lunch, and hiking over to the Marienkirche, which was not allowing entry despite there not being a sign. So we looked at the fountain of Neptune and walked over to the Berliner Dom. We stopped at the Ampelmännchen shop and picked up some Ampelmann kitsch. Ostalgie is the best. Then the Dom: 5E entry, but the daily operation fee for the church is 10,500E, so they need all the loot they can get. Inside is very lavish and not particularly in the non-ornate style of Lutherans. But it's very lovely, and they finished the parish church section in 1989. Then you can hike up a whole bunch of stairs and walk around the cupola on the roof. It also offers lovely views, but it had become nearly dark by the time we went up, and it was cloudy besides. So back down, then further down, into the crypt of the Hohenzollern dynasty. Some ornate sarcophagi, some fairly simple tin boxes. Then to get out, you have to go through the gift shop. Quelle surprise. Ben bought a build-your-own paper model of the Dom. It looks hard. I got a bookmark of the Brandenburg Gate with what looks like an 1800s painting on it.

Then we went to the Luciamarket at the Kulturbrauerei over in Prenzlauer Berg (the low-rent district.) Not a whole lot to buy, and the Glühwein mugs weren't terribly exciting, so I didn't come back with one. We did get some Fladenbrot with cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, & garlic sauce, then some potato pancakes with apple sauce, before heading back. It's the first night so far we've been back before 10 pm, and I'm looking forward to a whole lot of sleep tonight.

24 Dez

A lot of things were closed today. Museums are often closed on Mondays, and Christmas Eve is a public holiday. So we went down to see if the Stasi archive exhibit was open, or the Topography of Terror, an outdoor exhibit on the SS & Gestapo. Both were closed, but the Topography is scheduled to be open tomorrow & Wednesday, so we'll try to work it in then. The Stasi archive is closed on holidays, which the 25th and 26th usually are, but since we'll be in the area, we'll stop by again. Then we went down to the Checkpoint Charlie area, where things were bustling. If you take your passport, you can pay to get it stamped with original border crossing stamps. Communist kitsch is profitable; I presume capitalist swine are delighting in the irony. We opted not to go into the museum at Checkpoint Charlie, then wandered a bit and then over to Potsdamer Platz, which was rubble in 1945, a no-man's-land until 1990, and now is a mass of skyscrapers. There were 2 Christmas markets, both ghost towns. The one on Potsdamer Platz had a snow tube slide, which Ben went down. Then we went over to the Sony Center, and it was a lot smaller and almost entirely closed, but there was a Lego/Duplo Christmas tree & Santa. We wandered around a little more, making a detour back to the KaDeWe to see if they had found my hat. No luck; someone now has a nice hand-knitted ski hat. I hope they enjoy it, fucker.

Loitered a bit, got donuts at the Dunkin Donuts (I had a donut named after one of the Wise Guys, Caspar. It had nut-nougat filling and a chocolate tree on top. They should sell those in the States.), wandered around a bit more, got dinner at a restaurant that was actually open and serving real food (Josty im Sony Center), and decided to come back. There's an organ concert at the Gedächtniskirche, but I guess we're not going, because Ben's getting naked to take his shower, and I've left the decision up to him, since he's keen on organ stuff. So we're channel surfing on wacky German Christmas programming. We saw the Simpsons holiday special, but mostly since we've been surfing. Fun and excitement. Ben was entranced by Germany's funniest home videos for a while. I made him change it. Then there was a weird animal video show on the next channel. If we're home and bored tomorrow night, we can watch Harry Potter at 8:15 on ZDF. We'll see.

25 Dez

Frohes Fest! I was concerned we wouldn't find anything open today, it being a holiday, but the web said that the city museums were open, so we spent the day in the SMB, the Pergamon and the Bode. The Pergamon has a lot of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern art, including a collection of Islamic art and a temporary exhibit of the Prussian expedition to Egypt, sponsored by Kaiser Wilhelm and company. The Bode was formerly known as the König Friedrich Museum (after the Great Elector) then renamed. All the museums took a hit in the war, and presumably the small, portable things were moved to safe storage places.

So when the museums closed at 6, we sought some dinner. A variety of places were open on Oranienburger Str, including a couple Indian joints and a Jewish restaurant, but we ate at a place called Oranium, where they had some awesome sounding pasta.

Since it's cold and dark, and probably not a whole lot going on tonight, we came home and are watching Harry Potter. Whee.

26 Dez

Started the day at the Wall Memorial and archive, which is free, and you can overlook the site of the Wall and a preserved death strip (presumably without the land mines). Then we tried to go to the Stasi Archive again, and it was still closed for the holiday. Damn. So then a walk over to the Topography of Terror, an exhibit about the Gestapo and SS, and their prison which had been on that site. The building started life as a hotel, then became a school, then the Nazis took it over. Then the Soviets demolished it, and digging around there (to expand the wall?) uncovered the basement and its cells. Then it was turned into a memorial for the people who were tortured and murdered there or sent to KZ to die.

Freezing cold, we walked over to Potsdamer Platz to use the internet and eat lunch at Dunkin Donuts. Then we took the U2 out to Sophie Charlotte Platz and walked up to the castle. There's no photography allowed inside, so we bought a book. The new wing of the castle is a largely Baroque & Rococo design, with a hall modeled on the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. Much of the furnishings in the castle are not the originals, and because of bomb damage, it had to be reconstructed from the ground up. They used some inventory records and the like to determine what had been in the house. Ostentatious, gaudy, and pretty. Those Hohenzollerns had tons of loot.

Then the Christmas Market at Charlottenburg, reputedly the first one there for a really long time. Got some food, hot drinks, and wandered around in the cold. Then because it was only 6 something, and too early to return to the hotel, we walked up the Ku'damm a bit and window-shopped to the U-bahn station. A sign with advertisements for real estate informed us that we could buy about 21,000 sq ft apartment house for 3 million Euro. It was in a good location, in a historic building, and presumably you could make your 3 million Euro back, but ...

So, tomorrow we have to go home again. Blah. Don't wanna.

Ben commented a few times that only crazy Germans would come up with the idea of standing around outside, drinking hot beverages and eating horribly unhealthy food in the middle of winter. But they've got it right, man. Christmas in Germany is about booze and lights and family, and buying stuff of course, and some Jesus whatnot, but none of that ridiculous “War on Christmas” nonsense the Ridiculous Right came up with. But mostly the booze and cakes. Yum.