Monday, May 28, 2007

The wave gothic festival was in Leipzig this weekend. I'm not sure, but I believe it is the biggest meeting of its kind in Europe. Long story short, there were a lot of interesting people in the city. Check out some pictures here. Ines' cousin is a participant in this gothic culture and we went with her to one of these gothic parties this weekend. It was rather you would almost never hear in a club, lots of interesting people to look at. Though there were many ridiculous outfits, the most humorous thing I observed at this party was in the bathroom. It was perhaps the first time I observed competition for mirror space in a men's bathroom. The gothic guys had to check whether their black lipstick and eyeliner still looked ok. Maybe we can think of this as a step toward gender equality...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Disney Movies and German Bureaucracy

I remember that in my primary education (and beyond) tolerance and appreciation for cultural diversity were major topics of societal concern. The main points were and are obvious. Don't categorize people. Do be racist. Everyone should have an equal shot. Stereotypes are wrong. Now, if I take these lessons and apply them to my experiences in Germany, then I should be able to debunk many of the common, German stereotypes. Beer-drinking, sausage-eating, well-organized, unfriendly skinheads. I'm not actually gonna address any of these prejudices/exaggerations. Instead, I'm just using them to bring me in a roundabout, incoherent way to an absolutely true stereotype: the bureaucracy in Germany is extensive and intolerable. Today, I was at the immigration office. I had been there once before to ask about the documents I would need to produce to get permission to live in this country. After compiling this mass of documents, I returned to the office in the hopes of easily procuring a residence permit. The first step was to wait 3 hours before being able to talk to anyone (when I arrived they were in the 40s and I pulled number 129). Upon finally talking with someone, it turns out that the application is still not complete. Luckily, I can send the papers without actually waiting in the office again. However, I have to wait a few months before my application is actually processed, and when it is, that's another trip to the immigration office. If Ines didn't come and vouch for me, I'm certain it would have been much, much more difficult. While this doesn't seem so bad (perhaps such bureaucracy is only ruthlessly imposed on immigrants), I think such extensive paperwork is an endemic part of German society. Doctor visits, driver's licenses, work permits, housing contracts...they all seem painfully complex to me. Oh well, you just can't fight the system.

Onto the next, unrelated topic...a short story. Ines and I watched "Bend it like Beckham" on TV a few days ago. It's a Disney movie, so it has a 99% chance of having a predictable happy ending....and that's what happened. Anyways, during the happy climax, two lead characters are kissing, lovingly but not erotically, and rubbing their noses against one another's face. Ines turned to me and said "I want to do this with you". Almost simultaneously, perhaps as the word "want" was escaping her lips, I let out a magnificent sneeze (the hay fever has been nastly of late). As I wiped the snot from my nose, I turned to her and asked if she wanted to reconsider. All she could do was laugh. What is my point? Life is not like a Disney movie, but sometimes it can be funny anyways.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

If I were more creative I could come up with cool lyrics like this...

What are you gonna wear to the impending rapture? -Tub Ring

Spit shine your black clouds. -Blood Brothers

Roaring with whispers, tiny bunnies, those fucking bunnies. -HORSE the band

No prophet has ever been accepted in his own village. -Kaddisfly

Get up off this Wisconsin Death Trip. -Static-X

I was gonna write more, but some seemingly good ideas turn out to have limited substance, i.e. I can recall anything else as I sit here...

Sunday, May 13, 2007

This should be interesting. I drank three biers earlier in the evening and now I'm enjoying a cocktail. It is some orange juice mixed with Mexican booze my sister gave me (a booze for average, poor Mexicans, i.e. something like tequilla but more likely to make you go blind). Anyways, I just spent the last 3+ hrs watching the eurovision song contest. For the amusement of visitors to this blog I will try to write a post about this event without pressing the backspace key. Starting now. Serbia won the event, tak,ign over the poisition from Lordi, last years winners form my adoptemd home land, Finalnd. (man this is terrible after one senctence). Me and everyone that was watching the event with me felt the song was rathger terrible. It wasn't pop, it wasn't rock , what wsa it? I don't know. But I do know that it wasn't too interesting or particularly beuatiful. Actually, Ines and I sent in a votr fro the Ukraine; theyre contestant was a drag quessn the played a eurotrash, 90s dance song (in german, actually). While it was also not a attravctive soneg we gound it more entertaining that the Servian dong. But as usual, our musical tastes are not matched byu the masses. Actually, this was the first time I wastched a full eurovision cong contest. but I imagine that most other ones alwao work like this. The best song doesn't win, but some unexpected song manages to attract the attendion to european voters. For example Loradi did this lats year. Theyre song was not good, but it was new and interasting, so pepole voted for them. While I didn't find the song from servia intersting , others must have, so they voted fro it. This lead s to the essential poroblem of understanding what people like and why.l I don't have this skill; I don't know what people like. What I kilke other people don't, so I wisely never pusued a jo in marketing. But after watching a eurovison contest in which artists try to make people form many different culttures ahappy, I can see how diffecult a job talent scouts have. Ok, at this point I feel that it is prudent to use the backspace button again. So what is the point of this post? Erasers are a necessary tool in writing a coherent post? What do people want in their pop music? Why can't marketing be a backup career for me? No. This post is simply to entertain. As the organizers of the eurovision song contest know, this is easier said than done.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

There's a lot of weird stuff out in nature. Here's an interesting example...ducks, yeah those boring, cosmopolitan waterfowl that old folks like to feed, have bizarre genitalia. Males, for instance, have giant penises. Naturally, they're not on display too often, so few folks are actually aware of this. Recently though an article on the presumable causes underlying this morphology was printed in the New York Times. Forced matings, a.k.a. rape, is common in ducks, so female oviducts seem to have evolved to prevent fertilization occurring during these events. The long phalluses of males are presumably a counter adaptation to the labrythinth like female genitalia. While the sexual selection in Anatid waterfowl is certainly interesting, I was particularly fascinated by this reaction to the article. A NY gossip site put up a blurb on duck dicks, in which some interest was expressed but it was clearly overshadowed by tone of disgust. Actually, I am quite familiar with this type of reaction. Tell "normal" people about something strange in biology and the typical reaction is "ewww, gross". To be honest, this gets a bit tiresome (especially from wise-cracking family members), and it is one reason that I'm reluctant to discuss my work openly. I wonder why this is the case and if this has to be like this. I think part of the problem is that people have an incredible tendency to personify things. Ducks have huge dicks and a third of all matings are males raping females, that's not how it works with people, so this has to be weird and somehow disgusting. I am not saying that these thoughts are conscious, but this type of subconscious logic could definitely be an obstacle to understanding the biological world. I, on the other hand, don't react to "disgusting" biological phenomena like this, but instead I ask why. Why does this look like it does? Why does it operate like that? If there are some reasonable answers to these types of questions, maybe people won't dismiss things as simply gross, but fascinating. So would more scientific education change the way people react to nature? Probably. But would people still react to my parasite stories as disgusting? Yeah, definitely. I just have to accept that the vast majority of the population finds my line of work inherently gross.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Well it has been awhile since a proper post. The combination of thesis writing, German learning, financial planning, occasional exercising, and managing immigration beauracracy hasn't left much time for blogging. I came across this today, and found it to be very interesting. Physicists recently described the largest supernova ever observed. Ok, actually, on the surface this is not so exciting. I mean, how can I be excited when I barely understand what a supernova is? Well, what I do know is that stars explode at the end of their life cycles in dramatic, powerful events dubbed supernovas. Normally, the amounts of energy emitted in such events are indescribable to normal, non-physicist minds. For example, a supernova may emit energy which is equivalent to a hundred billion hydrogen bombs or it may emit that equivalent to a hundred trillion H-bombs. Yeah, I get it, they're powerful beyond imagination. However, this article gave a rather innovative example of how powerful this particular explosion actually was. There is a star relatively nearby (7,500 light years, i.e. traveling at the speed of light, we would need 7,500 years to get there) with properties similar to this recently-described, huge supernova. If it were to explode in a similar fashion, the earth would be bathed in near perpetual light. As the article states, we could read comfortably in the middle of the night. The idea of a star exploding in a distant solar system giving the earth constant daylight, is pretty mind-blowing. Makes ya feel kinda small doesn't it?