Monday, December 22, 2008

A Birthday And A Field Trip

Saturday was Ms. Myrna's one-month birthday. She spent the day at home, drinkin' it up til she was spittin' it up, napping, and playing with her new iPod (which matched her outfit, at least until she wet herself).

Sunday started off soupy and gray, but we chanced an out-of-town excursion nevertheless. Fortunately, the clouds burned off for a rather lovely afternoon visit to neighboring Bonn. The day will live in infamy as (1) Myrna's first train ride, (2) Myrna's first journey outside central Köln, (3) Myrna's first visit to a one-time European national capital, (4) Myrna's first on-the-go diaper change, and (5) Myrna's first Spaziergang with her new stroller, which the Jabbusches had graciously lugged over from Seattle. (It turns out that actually having a child seems to be requisite for pushing a stroller all the way to the gate at the airport.) Quite a big day, all told. We were glad to see that she took to the stroller very quickly, dividing her time between long gazes at the sky and, well, naps. Lucky for her, she seems to enjoy the bumpy ride afforded by Europe's many cobble-stoned walkways. Here she is in her stroller:

The you've-got-to-be-kidding-me look on her face may be best explained by this picutre:
PS: If you're in Bonn, and thinking about chocolate, the Schokoladen on Münsterstraße comes highly recommended.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Center of Attention

Grandma and Grandpa arrived this week, and so we've been busy with outings. I guess they didn't really want to travel 10 hours just to hang out in our apartment. These outings, of course, are carefully planned around feedings and trying not to stay out in the cold for too long. We have learned, though, that having a new adorable tiny baby in tow makes for a very social trip outdoors. Everyone stops to ask about her, especially if they too have a baby (which is half of the population in this city).

There were also many gifts carted across the Atlantic. We've tried to wait for Christmas, but there were a few that we just had to open and get her into. Here she is with Grandpa and Grandma in a new outfit from my parents neighbors, the Robls:

Here she is in a cute snow suit from her (crazy) Aunt Lisa (her arms and legs don't quite fill it up yet, but it is perfect for an outing in the cold. This time she decided her arms did both belong in the arm holes.... today was a different story, as she demanded that her right hand be free to flail out in the cold.)

More later, including (hopefully) her first day trip in the new stroller.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

UPDATED: Like Mother Like Daughter

This morning Myrna had no desire to go back to sleep after her 8 a.m. feeding. I'm sure her little coos and fusses sounded to Chris like her (pre-baby) mother's "are you awake yet? 'cause I am (and it's 9 a.m. on a Sunday, don't you want to get up and clean something?)" Of course, as soon as Chris and I dragged ourselves out of bed and she could have the bed all to herself, she fell right back to sleep. We could see very clearly her plans for this household. More photos from the weekend are also up on the December Picassa page.

UPDATE: Looks like the taste for exclusive rights to beds of disproportionate vastness is a trait with roots on both sides of the family. Here's Chris back in the day:

Monday, December 1, 2008

More MB than the iPod 6G

As nursing now fills the majority of little Myrna Burkhalter's waking hours, her most endearing moments of the past several days have gone undocumented. When she isn't half-interestedly taking milk or reluctantly having her diaper changed, she's usually cuddled up like a tree frog against either Kelly or myself. None of these conditions lend themselves to a lot of photos. This morning, however, I caught her tapping into some of her Jabbusch insticts. Some of these photos can be viewed in a new Picasa album for December, which I'll update throughout the month. Her November pics, of course, can still be seen in the old album.

Ah, and a word of explanation on one of these. At those rare moments when she's on her own, Myrna loves to lay on her back with her feet shot straight up in the air, a position she can hold for remarkable lengths of time. We have no idea where this came from. Considering her feet were in her face for most of the pregnancy, could it be possible that she's already regressing?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Night In

Now that we've got her home, we're really getting to know Myrna. And it feels like she's leaning on us a bit more than she did (and could) in the hospital.

Her first night at home, Thursday, was a trial for us all, with much crying, anguish, and exasperation. I can't speak for all of us, but I know at least one dude who caught only three hours of sleep before starting work at 8:00am and later dozed off in a very small chair in the play area of a secondhand children's clothing store. The lesson learned from that night was that Myrna insists on sleeping with us in our bed, something which I was really nervous about, given her tininess and my tossandturninmysleepness.

Mike had some advice about this when we saw him in September - that sleeping with an infant is sort of like when you and a buddy are out late and circumstances compel you to share a bed. You more or less sleep, but are vigilantly aware of the complete geography of the bed through every moment of the night.

Subsequent nights have gone much better and, so far, we haven't smothered Myrna. Certainly I miss REM sleep, but concessions must be made for waking up in the middle of the night to those bright curious eyes, even if said eyes mean a feeding that still requires at least an hour.

So anyway, this morning Kelly's mom headed back across the sea. Kelly and I have made up some quinoa with beets and eggplant, and if the three of us manage to do anything this evening beyond preparing food, serving food, and eating food, we'll probably have overextended ourselves.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Myrna meets Pig

For those of you who are trying to gauge Myrna's size (I know it's confusing with metric), here is an idea...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What I'm Thankful for on this Thanksgiving...

As of Thursday afternoon, all of us were home from the hospital. Myrna was a brave soul, with ultrasounds of her brain, tummy and hips - all which are completely in tact and properly developed, despite her early entrance. Then she had her final examination by the pediatrician and all his medical school students. By lunch time, we were all at home, starting to get back to "normal" (as if we know what normal is). This Thanksgiving was of course a bit different, but we enjoyed some difficult to find sweet potatoes with a healthy week old bundle of joy and a very loving, helpful Grandmother.

And, I don't believe we have written about her name. We had yet to decide on a middle name, though when I left the hospital we had to start the paperwork trail associated to her birth. So this Thanksgiving we gave thanks for our own little holiday miracle - Myrna Sofia Burkhalter (though she has enjoyed a stint as Myrna Jabbusch at the UniKlinik).

Daddy Love

For the first few days of Myrna's life, Chris was the only one who could visit her. It was difficult for me, especially since I had to share him with another person (who needed him more than me). He would bring me photos and videos each day, and stories about her. I knew then that he had fallen completely in love with her, and over the past few days, I've gotten to see just how wonderful he is with her. For those who might have trouble believing how into her he is, imagine my surprise when he shows up one day at the hospital with an entire Myrna slide show on his never less than 99% full ipod. Which album got the boot to make space for his baby girl I don't know.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Nach Hause?

Reporting from the Eco-Express laundromat, where I'm in heated battle with a strikingly aggressive group of Russian dudes for a third washing machine (and blogging right now isn't improving my odds). I've got one machine for the darks, one for the lights, and I need a third for baby clothes, because the doctors told us yesterday that Myrna may be ready to come home as early as Thursday - Thanksgiving, as it happens. The little girl has put on weight steadily, and feeds confidently, so they say her metabolism is sufficient to keep warm enough without the thermocrib.

This means that today we've got more shopping to do than Kanye. As we hadn't expected Myrna til mid-December, we put off buying a lot of things that, now, we won't make it 24 hours without. So there's plenty on today's agenda.

(Jumping back to narrativity, I just scored that third machine - but not without getting barked at by a girl in Ramones jacket, who'd only been waiting a whole three minutes, against my twenty.)
Myrna had a big day yesterday, spending lots of time with the grandmom, meeting with a midwife, and showing off for a small crowd of med students. And Kelly opted to spend last night at the Universitätsklinik with Myrna. Our floor-level futon was a bit of a push for her, and so she requested a bed in Myrna's room. This has allowed us to ease a bit further into parenting - more of the feeding, diaper changing, and fuss-soothing handled by us, and less by the nurses.

I hung out at the hospital with them til about 1:00am last night. Myrna had slept and snuggled til about 11:00pm, when she became hungry. We fed her the usual 50ml of milk, after which she perked up and played for a while. I'm learning that when she's being playful and straight up trying to be cute, she's moments from demanding food. True to form, less than twenty minutes after finishing one bottle, she forced our hand and got another 10ml for dessert. Then, finally, she bedded down, quiet and content.

Anyway, a crowd is gathering over my darks, so I should probably get into position to change out the laundry before Dee Dee comes over...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Myrna's First Sonntag: Nowhere Near As Dry As 'Against Interpretation'

Saturday night we caught up with some Bruce Darnell action on the TV set in Kelly's hospital room. If you aren't familiar with this German media sensation, well, that's a shame, but appreciation does require some understanding of the language. As an accessory participant on a number of reality-based shows over here, he's shockingly addictive. My favorite moment from Saturday's talent competition, where he served on the panel of judges: "Ich habe einmal gesagt, und ich sage noch mal. (pauses to stifle a tear) Lena, du bist besonders." Something like that, anyway.

Sunday was a-lot-of-snow day. Kelly visited the baby again. Myrna continues to develop exponentially in alertness, responsiveness, curiosity, and even adorableness. Also a little in fussiness and a lot in diaper-changing hijinks, but we won't dwell on those things.

Word on the street is that Kelly will get to come home Monday. Not sure yet how she's going to do on those four flights of stairs to our apartment, or how she'll take to the futon-on-the-floor set-up we've got over here (as short-term expats, some luxuries have necessarily been sacrificed -- ask me some time about my record collection). So we will see how all that plays out, but presumably she'll be able to spend a lot more time with Myrna on the Säugling ward, and will slowly readjust to life outside the Krankenhaus as well.

Also tomorrow, Kelly's mom rolls into kölsch-town, which should be pretty helpful, what with Kelly's still-limited mobility - not to mention our general ineptness in infant-handling.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Infant Indicted On Multiple Counts Of Embezzlement, Fraud, Treason

Defendant refuses comment.

The Weyetal-Universitätsklinik Express (Cont...)

The weather continues to be nastier than that dude who called Janet "Miss Jackson," but today is a Saturday and the streets have been quiet. As hinted in the previous post, not only was today Kelly's first chance wash her hair since the baby, but, to our great surprise, she got the thumbs-up on a one-block taxi ride and some time with Myrna. We spent five hours or so with her today. Sometime in the middle, I made a run to the house and returned with some food, bringing things a little closer to the familiar.

Kelly gave Myrna a bottle, we fumbled our way through some burping (burping Myrna, that is; Kelly and I are old hats, ourselves), and I let Kelly take advantage of the opportunity for some mother-daughter diaper-changing bonding.

At the end, Kelly was feeling pretty tired, and all the moving about still brings some pain. Around 4:00pm we returned her to the Weyertal hospital for some rest. I've got errands to run and housekeeping to catch up on (Kelly's mom arrives Monday, and shouldn't have to see the state that these three days have left our apartment in).

Anyway, this visit resulted in lots of new photos, which you can find at the same Picasa page as before. And a word on Aussprache. We've had quite a few questions over how one says Myrna's name, and understandably so. Well, it's like an Autechre thing, and we prefer to let you decide for yourselves. But seriously though, the first syllable rhymes with "her" or "sir."

The Weyetal-Universitätsklinik Express

Kelly's just been given taxi vouchers and the all-clear to visit Myrna today. This is totally unexpected, and unbelievably terrific news. I'll let you know how it goes....

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday, November 21st: Es Schneit

Today I woke up to the banging wind outside. It poured rain through the morning, then snowed after lunch. By 4:00pm the skies were clear and blue, but much of Cologne was left disheveled at best - some tram routes even halted due to power failure.

Kelly is well on the mend, and up and moving now - even out of her hospital room. This is good, because her naïveté about the amenities of the free buffet were becoming comical. She's at the Weyertal hospital recovering, and is terribly anxious to get out and over to the Universtitätsklinik hospital, where Myrna is staying. They're only a block apart, which is fine for me, but exceedingly difficult for Kelly. Hopefully we can reunite the two soon.

Myrna is better than ever, free for now of IVs or anything scary like that, and greedily consumed her full bottle this afternoon. I've done two diaper changes now, and Myrna has indicated dissatisfaction with my work in that department. She's still a very quiet baby, but things like - hypothetically speaking - getting pampers tape stuck to her leg will get a respectable Schauspielerin howl out of her.

Myself, I am tired, but really I've had it pretty easy this week. Regardless, I'm going to bed and sleeping the sleep of the just.

Thanks to everyone who wrote us today! It's a great feeling getting to share our enthusiasm. Oh, and big ups to Heike at Inlingua for the lightning-fast Official Translation of our marriage certificate on such short notice!

Myrna: A Force Powerful Enough To Bring This Blog To Its Knees

The sprout is nothing if not strong-willed. Shunning photographs, refusing to assume a position suitable for natural birth, upsetting her mother's shoe-tying needs, we knew this. But we were little prepared for her to arrive as early as November 20th (November 19th, if checking the calendar on US soil).

Myrna is here - tiny but healthy. We were a little freaked out for a bit, but she came out fine and is better every hour.

If it seems a little out of the blue, understand that it is SO is for us... Pictures can be found at our Picasa page, which I'll update as often as I can. Also, it's safe to assume that, for the foreseeable future, this blog will become egregiously precious.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Less than Six Weeks to Go

The current view in one of six outfits I fit into. And yes, those are the lounging pants.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


November 4th started here in Germany a bit earlier than in the US. For us it meant a whole bunch of changes. First, we are now six weeks from the estimated arrival of the little Brussel Sprout, and so my Mutterschutz (maternity leave) begins. A bit to my surprise, it is illegal for me to now show up at my office, so the final books and papers were moved home. Lucky for me, I still have lots of work I can do from home - finishing up a paper and sending off job applications for next fall will certainly keep me busy. In fact, I'm not really quite sure what I would do if I couldn't so easily work from home (I get bored way too easily - just ask Chris). But on the upside, I at least can lounge around in "lounging pants," and since I'm down to one pair of jeans that fit (the skinny jeans finally got too skinny this weekend) I'm happy to hang out here.

By the time we were ready for bed, no polls had closed yet. So it was off to bed not knowing what would happen while we were sleeping (kind of like the 2000 elections). I forgot to turn off my alarm clock, so by 6:30 am we were in the know of the election results. Really, quite a wonderful way to wake up.

Now the final one that needs to get the memo about changes is the little one. She still hasn't turned around into the correct position, and the chances of her now flipping on her own are fairly slim...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Brussels Sprouts

We got this great cookbook as a wedding shower gift a few years ago - Williams Sonoma Main Dishes. Back in Seattle, we had quite a few favorites that we ate regularly - like ginger cod on a bed of bok choy, bell pepper whole wheat pasta, and a roasted acorn squash and goat cheese pizza...mmm. In between the very colorful main courses there were simple side recipes. For some reason, our eyes and stomachs were drawn to the roasted brussels sprouts, and I remember our first trip at Fred Meyer, when we picked up twelve little brussels sprouts. Neither of us grew up eating brussels sprouts - though I distinctly remember them being one of those vegetables you were allowed to (and maybe had to) hate (they were served, for example, at dinner in the book The Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day). Perhaps they get their bad reputation from the usual preparation of boiling them. On the other hand - tossed in a little olive oil and thyme and then roasted in the oven for about 30 minutes, they really are quite delicious. Long story short, we fell in love with them. Now, finding green veggies in Germany has always been a little difficult. We are sorely missing our mustard greens and chard, but brussels sprouts are back in season and are abundant, so we can easily eat a kilo bag in a week. Here was last nights meal - shrimp and mushroom risotto paired with goodness.

As for the other Brussels Sprout - she's the equivalent of 1.7 bags, though quite a bit more squirmy. And I know full well that she will never want to eat such delicious green veggies.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


The problem with blogs is that once you take a break and get behind it's impossible to catch up. For the past two weeks since we've been back in Köln, we've yet to write anything, with the excuse that we haven't yet written about Seattle, so it's not chronologically correct to write about anything that has happened since. But I have lots of excuses (ok, maybe only two) for not writing about our trip to Seattle:

Excuse #1: It was a whirlwind trip and I don't remember all of it: Most of the days Chris and I spent frantically trying to get our condo ready for a property manager to take over the rental of. Moving, cleaning and painting all seemed like bigger tasks once we got to Seattle than they did when we were planning the trip. A big thanks to all those who helped us (and considered helping us as hanging out with us)!!!!! Amazingly, most everything we wanted to accomplish did get done, and the afternoon that Chris boarded a plane back to Germany, we had tenants signing a lease.

Excuse #2: I hardly took any pictures: I carried my camera around every evening we went out, but only once managed to snap a few photos (when I was out with Christina & Lisa, of course). It's a whole lot easier to write a post about a trip, when you can just put a link to a Picasa photo album. I've managed to steal a few photos from my dad, so here is a glimpse of our trip in photos.

Seattle - Sept 12-22

We loved seeing everyone, even though it was for such a short time. And we loved enjoying all the wonderful (and sorely missed) Northwest food and beer (well, one of us did at least).

One of the highlights (for me) was a lovely Baby Shower hosted by my sisters. It was a fantastic mix of friends and family that have known me from so many different parts of my life. I left Seattle a few days before Chris, with two very full suitcases - one filled with my clothes and the other filled with pink baby clothes, mostly received at the shower. As luck would have it, only the suitcase filled with my clothes managed to make it with me to Germany, while the bag of baby clothes took a detour in Paris. I must say, it was very nice to only lug one suitcase home from the airport and have the baby clothes delivered to my door the next afternoon. And, since I'm writing up excuses, I have another excuse about why I haven't sent out Thank You notes yet. For over a week I visited stationary stores, drug stores and book stores in Köln, looking for a box of note cards. Apparently they do not exist in this country - single cards (like Birthday cards) are plentiful, but boxes of stationary are no where to be found... very odd indeed.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


We started packing for our trip back to the states this weekend. First round of packing meant filling two suitcases with stuff that will stay in Seattle - books we've already read, and clothes that don't fit me anymore (lots of those). But it also meant starting the frantic search for our US-friendly power cords. As you may recall, during our first month here, I had a MacBookPro power emergency and was forced to by a new (overly-priced) power adapter, which of course was German-electricity-friendly. We used the US versions on our last trip back to the states in July 2007, but where exactly they went after that was beyond us. I was sure they were tucked away in a suitcase, but we couldn't find them. As the days have gone by, we've been trying to figure out where they may have gone too. Of course, we could have left them in Seattle, but then how did we charge up our computers in Newark on our lay over in July??? We don't have that much stuff here, and the thought that we lost them (and only them) during a move was a sad thought. I was almost thinking this evening I was going to have to go buy some Euro-to-US power adapters. But then I got an email from Chris titled "FOR RANSOM":
Turns out they were in the big suitcase all along.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Our last weekend adventure was to the grand capital. The impetus of the trip was to attend the opening of Cairoscape - an art show our friend Iman was exhibiting at, but we hardly needed an excuse to visit one of our favorite places. Brian also joined Iman's European adventure, and spent the weekend before with us in Köln, which meant we actually got to spend some quality time with him, touring our stomping grounds, record shopping at Kompakt, and eating a few kölsch culinary specialties.

Our last trip to Berlin was at Christmas, which was a nice quiet time to visit. We spent most of our trip that time and this time skipping over tourist destinations (we've been to all of them before) and instead exploring the neighborhoods that have changed so drastically since our previous trips. This time, though, the changes seemed a little too impressed with themselves. I'm not kidding when I say that English was more common than German in almost every little store or cafe we went into; and imagine our surprise when getting coffee we were bombarded by an "American Voter Registration Assistance Campaign." What country were we in? Everything just felt a little too Americanized. I guess though I did have to capitalize on that feeling - perhaps just to be ironic. One of our favorite sights is the Reichstag, but we've never been visited at night, so Sunday seemed like the perfect night to do it. Well, we had an hour to kill and after trying to find a nice non-touristy spot to rest by the Brandenburg Gate (something that doesn't exist) we had to settle with the Starbucks on Pariser Platz. It certainly didn't quite feel right.
Other highlights of the trip included a journey to Hard Wax Records, where I tried to be just like nerdy music German boys with a pile of randomly chosen records to listen to and attempt to entertain me while Chris was shopping (and I did get a few head nods at my selection, so I guess I must have been doing something right). Between Kompakt and Hard Wax, I have done my share of record store visiting for the next few months. We also got to meet up with our friend Anton, who graduated the UW with me and has a post-doc in Berlin. We had much fun comparing funny German stories and trading recommendations about US television series we have found ourselves hooked on since we moved here. And we thoroughly enjoyed the great and incredibly cheap food. It really is true that the cost of living in Berlin is much cheaper than the rest of Germany (as long as you stay away from the Brandenburg Gates, that is).

More pictures from Brian's visit in Köln (thanks to Hannes) and Berlin are here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Der Zahnartz

Lately we've been lazy with the blog, only writing about fun trips like London and Paris.  And since the next post inevitably will be about our trip to Berlin (this upcoming weekend), I will amuse our anxiously awaiting readers with the tale of my recent trip to the dentist.  For the last six months I've had "find a Zahnartz" on my list of things to do.  But I tend to put off finding health providers until, well, I end up pregnant.  And it's not like I have any fear of the dentist - I secretly love the going to the dentist.  Of course this dental hygiene epiphany didn't happen until I went to the dentist in 2004 for the first time in at least six years, and got to be a "special patient" who underwent deep cleaning tartar removal followed by appointments every 4 months instead of 6, but I learned my lesson then and fully embraced flossing and Sonicare-ing (so much so that I have a special European charger for my beloved Sonicare and import dental floss from the US).  So, when a recommendation of a great English-speaking Zahnartz within walking distance of our apartment who would make appointments via his website fell into my lap, there was no putting it off.    This evening at the most convenient time of 6:30 pm I met my new dentist.  He had this very cool dental-instrument sized camera that he used to take pictures of my teeth and then project them on the screen above me.  Basically a hi-tech mirror, just like the little camera on my macbook pro that I use as a mirror in my office.  I also got a salt-air power wash of my teeth, allegedly removing all the stains and plaque.  Best of all, I was forced to walk by the best ice cream stand in Köln on my way home, and although the mocha ice cream wasn't the greatest accompaniment to the bubble-gum flavored polishing cream, it certainly was a treat.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Long Weekend in Paris

We spent a long weekend in Paris, visiting a friend (also named Chris) who is studying there for the month. Chris and Chris met in French class almost two years ago, and one of them has kept their French up (ie, hasn't had it erased by German). Combining a visit to a friend from home and a first trip to France, it was quite a lovely way to pass a few days. Paris, in fact, isn't too terribly far from Cologne. (It's just under four hours by train - about 15 min less time than it takes to get to Berlin.)

The trick with Paris in August is that many of the locals have shipped out, just in time for we tourists to arrive. Quite a few restaurants were closed for the month, and even some tourist draws were shuttered (notably the Cinémathèque Française).

Still, lots to do, and realistically not enough time to do it. We basically stayed away from anything that had a long line of tourists - so we skipped the Louvre (and besides you would need at least a month to enjoy that), the inside of the Notre Dame (which looked like a baby compared to the Dom here), and anything that had to do with the Da Vinci Code (or so I think - I didn't even know it was set partly in Paris until I was reading our guide book, and still have no idea what the book is about). We took in the big sights, like the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Champs-Elysee. The Eiffel Tower was the one exception to the "line rule," though we stood in the hour long "short line" to climb the 671 stairs (a feat which easily be done in flip-flops or high heels in under a half hour, while those in the elevator line have hardly moved).

We made pilgrimages to a few notable literary landmarks (including the apartment occupied by James Joyce while he wrote Ulysses and, a few doors down, the flat Ernest Hemingway wrote about in A Moveable Feast). We did our best to find some cute, less bustling nooks around town (with some success, I think). Most importantly, we sat outside with lots of coffee, numerous baguettes, and even more sweet pastries, and did our level best to look like an Eric Rohmer film.

I'm learning that Chris has a thing for cemeteries, and so we did visit one of the three large ones, Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. Even with a detailed map, it was still a scavenger hunt to find the graves of Proust, Oscar Wilde, and Balzac, among others.

And since a picture is worth a thousand words, click on the below album for the photo highlights.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

London Calling

We spent last week back in the English-speaking world wandering around London. I had a conference/birthday celebration in London, so it was the perfect excuse to take a little holiday. We'd previously toured London was in 2002 with Chris's brother Aaron, so we could be selective about the tourist sites to cross off our list. That trip ended in Chris getting sick (what the American doctors wanted to diagnose as the newly spreading SARS) so the cold Chris got the week before we left was not exactly appreciated, but thankfully was never debilitating. We arrived early Monday morning, and the next two and a half days (my "days off") were filled with sun. Monday we hit up the Tate Britain and then took a beautiful boat ride down the Thames to the Tate Modern.

Tuesday we wandered around Portobello Market - stopping at a few record stores (something that was more thoroughly investigated after I was working, as I really think I had my fill of British record stores in 2002).

We enjoyed the parks - picnicing in Hyde Park and laying out in the sun later in the afternoon. We also enjoyed the coffee (no offense, Tea), especially since the milk in Great Britain comes refrigerated and in plastic jugs - it almost tasted "normal." And the food throughout our stay was absolutely delicious, perhaps because it was all so expensive or because it was unusual. We dined on Indian (the new British cuisine) and Ethiopian, ate delicious vegetarian gourmet meals, filled with vegetables we hadn't seen in over a year. We even joked about transporting leafy greens back to Köln. And then there were the English bitters, that sadly only one of us could appreciate.

The conference I was attending was to celebrate Miles Reid's 60th Birthday. The two and a half days were filled with interesting talks, and I got to see quite a few Seattle folks. While I was immersed in minimal models, canonical singularities and cone theorems, Chris was knee deep in movies at the British Film Institute, where he could sit at a private console and watch classic British films and documentaries on post-punk record labels for hours on end.

All told, lots of art galleries and museums, lots of good food, lots of maths, lots of coffee, and lots of looking at words that were written in English.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Kelly Rennt (well a little bit anyway)

I haven't been running as much recently. I have lots of excuses, but in the end I always just feel lazy. And as Chris can attest, my whining about feeling lazy is still on the top five list of things to complain about. This evening, though, I decided it was about time to head on out to the beautiful Stadtwald. Besides, I'm still enjoying relatively new pink running shoes and a bright pink ipod shuffle, (exclusively for running, as told by the inscription "Kelly Rennt") that I treated myself to a few months ago (and that were so nicely delivered by guests from the states). And I don't feel too sad about the fact that I purchased them with thoughts of training for a German marathon at the end of the summer, something that now is not going to happen. I was also sporting a new tank-top that I picked up this weekend. This is a new thing for me, but my usual summer running attire involves a bare tummy and I'm just starting to get a little self-conscious about the bulge that is forming. About 10 minutes into the run, the humidity starts to take it's toll, and the tank-top is sticking to my back. I start wondering how this top deserved the label "Sport," and the best I can come up with was that it has a razor-back cut. Then I remember that the German idea of "Sport" is sometimes a little different than mine. Take for example page 36 of the February 2008 issue of (german) "In Touch" where they show a photo of Gwenyth Paltrow in jeans and Converse All-Stars, holding a cigarette, and give it the label "Sportlich." I guess if that is sporty, then sure, my not coolmax tank-top is sporty.

About the time I'm done pondering German sporty-ness, two wonderful things simultaneously occur. The first is that Ace of Base's I Saw the Sign starts playing on my ipod. (By the way, Lisa, I'm truly sorry I made fun of you for liking Ace of Base in 1993.) The second is that it starts raining. Nothing too drastic, but certainly pleasant, and with it the humidity seems to drop a little. Now, even though all the songs in my running mix are hand picked and wonderful, there are times when I really can hit a groove with the music. Ace of Base is followed by Ghostface's Be Easy, and as the rain picks up, I pick up the pace a little too. Then I start passing other (male) runners, and d0 my little "You got passed by a girl" dance in my head (which, by the way, is now more dramatic and should be called "You got passed by two girls!!").

As I'm enjoying the rain, I remember a great tv commercial for Seven Up in the late 80s. After a warm sunny day of playing tennis, a guy cracks open a Seven Up and it starts raining. This ad is truly etched into my memory (probably due to the fact that it aired with something we had taped off of tv), though a youtube search yielded no proof that the ad actually did exist. As I round the lake, the rain stops, and a beautiful rainbow appears.... ahh. I get a burst of energy at the end, and manage to sprint the last few blocks home. As usual, at the end of a run, I can't remember why I had been putting this off for so long.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


This last Sunday we headed out early for a day trip to Münster. We were only a year late for the once-every-ten-years Skulptur Projekte Münster, but with the city full of remnants of sculptures from years past, there was still plenty to see. As the weather prediction was sunny and 80, it seemed like a beautiful day to get out and walk around (I even wore my running shoes instead of the standard summer flip-flops). The two hour train ride Sunday morning was peaceful and quiet, though as we left Köln city limits, gray clouds started to gather above us. Arriving in Münster with no map, we quickly found the open Tourist information and got loaded down with brochures about the sculptures. Münster is one big bike friendly city, and it would've been very easy to rent bicycles once we arrived but, since we had no idea where we were going, we stuck to exploring the city on foot, getting lost more than once, but at a slower speed.

One of the first sculptures we saw was from last year - Hans-Peter Feldmann's WC-Anlage am Domplatz. In the mid 1950s, during the reconstruction of Münster after the war, there were public restrooms installed below one of the main plazas. Frequently used, these restrooms were in poor state, not having a renovation since 1987 (when the pope visited). Feldmann's project was to redesign the bathrooms. Art meets public bathrooms - now that's something I can get down with. I felt weird photographing the toilet I used (though it was pretty snazzy), so instead I just have the entrances, and a picture from the official website.
We checked about two dozen sculptures off the list, while getting acquainted with the layout of the city. Here's one adorning the side of the Westphalia Landesmuseum, by Otto Piene.
Not far from there is Tom Otterness's busy Superwoman, peopled by numerous little figures working, drinking, and playing.

Kim Adams built a would-be house/office space out of a grain silo, placing it above a cafe that itself used to be a gas station. I'm thinking I need to work on getting such an office.
Further outside the center of town is a fountain by Piene's colleague, Heinz Mack.
We lucked out and dodged rain altogether. The gray skies never left, but it was warm. As for Köln, we found out the next day that we'd missed a blue-skied scorcher. But that hardly mattered, as we've been basking in warm weather all week.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

UEFA 2008 Semi-Finals

If you've been up on your Fußball lately, you already know that Germany secured a place at the EM final game last night (v. Spain, it seems). I was busy grilling a class til about 9pm and, as a result, we missed the game's first two goals. Egal, enough happened in the rest of the game to keep us interested. Joined by a couple of colleagues, we enjoyed the game from the comfort of a sidewalk table at an Altstadt pub. Kelly, concerned that I hadn't been consuming enough beer lately, was content to watch me knock back a whopping drei Kölsch (which amounts to little more than a pint and a half of light beer). None of us being either German or Turkish, we were in a comfortably neutral mindset, making the game's rollercoaster finish a little less punishing on the blood pressure. It also meant that we were in a position to find the intermittent broadcast outages completely hilarious. Apparently the result of averse weather conditions in Austria, one of the breaks in signal lasted for what seemed like five minutes, while another interrupted the final minutes of the game. When this happened, the screen would look like this:
Each time, we could hear the entire city howling to the heavens, quickly followed by a chorus of tinny radio broadcasts playing from the fleets of idle cabs lining the streets. I couldn't help but get a whiff of a particularly didactic premise to a feel-good, transcending-cultural- differences type of movie. It felt like all of us - Germans, Turks, and unaffiliated internationals alike – were poised to spontaneously race to some grassy hilltop - as chance would have it, the only place in all of Köln serviced by a secure television signal. There, panting and sweaty, we'd crowd politely around a tiny, rabbit-eared, black-and-white television set. Spätzle and simit would circulate, and we'd all be surprised by just how good they tasted together. Before long we'd forget all the ways that our lives and cultures might seem so different. None of this happened of course, but the threat loomed ominously. But what also didn't happen was the feared nationalistic/racist confrontations – or at least not that we saw during the long, slow walk from the disconcertingly subdued Altstadt, through the beer-drenched, confetti-spattered mob scene on Zülpicherplatz, to finally land at home around midnight.

And not that it has anything to do with the football semis, but Kelly was helplessly locked in a café restroom for twenty minutes this morning while I sat obliviously reading a book.