01.09.09

Health Care System Idiocy

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:14 am by Martin

I just lost my dentist. Not “lost” as in “I lost my keys”. He also didn’t get lost. He’s still here. He didn’t retire. But still, I can’t go to my dentist anymore because our company’s dental health insurance plan changed from last year to this year. So even though I just had an appointment about a month ago and I still have a lot of things to get done with my teeth, I can no longer go to my dentist because a change in insurance means that you’re effectively a new patient and they currently don’t accept any new patients at my dentist’s office. How crazy is that? It’s ridiculous. I had dentists retire on me, but never refuse to keep me around as a (paying, I might add) patient!

12.11.08

Nothing for Ungood

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:22 am by Martin

“Nothing for Ungood? What the heck does that mean” you ask. Well, it’s the literal translation of the saying “Nichts fΓΌr Ungut” in German, and it means something like “no harm meant” or “no offense”. More importantly, it’s the name of a blog that I found yesterday written by this American guy who lived in Germany for quite a long time. The blog is about his observations while living in Germany and the many small cultural differences between Germany and the US. Some of his stuff is kind of similar to what I write here on my blog from time to time. And although I hate to admit it, let’s be honest, German culture is very similar to Austrian culture, and so most of what he writes applies equally to my home country. It’s a fun read, especially if you’re American and you’ve ever lived in central Europe somewhere or if you’re from Europe and now live in America. Recommended.
Oh, I almost forgot the link: http://nothingforungood.com

10.26.08

It’s All Green! It’s Green! *Stare*

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:22 am by Martin

Two weeks ago I went to Greensboro, North Carolina to visit an old friend from back home who now also resides in the US. Having lived in San Diego (i.e. effectively the desert) for the last two years I couldn’t believe how lush and green the landscape was. Well, some fall colors already managed to sneak in. So it was a mixture of green, red, and yellow. But it was really beautiful to me and I kept repeating how nice and green everything looked, somewhat annoying my friend a bit I think πŸ˜‰

He works at Greensboro university, which has a really nice campus actually. Here are some pics from it:UNC Greensboro

Minerva Statue at UNC Greensboro

On Saturday we went to a NASCAR race in Charlotte, North Carolina. I had never been to a race of this kind before and didn’t really know what to expect. All I can say about it is that it’s friggin’ LOUD and it gets kinda boring after 100 laps, okay, maybe 50 laps ;). Outside of the race track a lot of people were tailgating. It seemed like each driver had a merchandise trailer parked outside to make some additional dough. This one I found particularly funny. I wonder if that little golf cart-like vehicle actually pulls that trailer all across the country πŸ™‚

NASCAR Merchandise Trailer

Before the Race

The Race

Here you can see a shot from the race. Can you see the cars? Thought so. Neither can I. They’re those streaks of light in the middle of the picture, which looks as if I was shaking. Maybe I was from the incredibly noise, but I think it’s mostly because of the cars passing by really fast πŸ˜‰

We had pretty good seats for the race, close to the start-finish line. One accident happened right in front of our nose and the girl sitting in front of me cowered in her seat for a second. A car got pushed in the rear by another car. It started spinning around and hit the wall right in front of us really hard. Some parts came flying towards us and the car slid along the wall at an incredible speed for a while until it came to a full stop. But apart from that the race was really kind of boring. Most of the time you don’t actually see accidents unfold because they might be happening far away from where you sit or simply because they happen in the blink of an eye. Sometimes the guy right next to me would stand up, pointing to a certain part of the track where something had happened. I tried to find what he was pointing at, but by the time I managed to work that out there was nothing much to see anymore.
The race was supposed to go for more than 340 laps, but we decided to leave after about 260. In any case, it was good to see a NASCAR race and I can tick off that box on my list of American sports that I haven’t seen yet. But I don’t think I’ll go to a race again.

Beautiful Flower in Old Salem

The next day we went to a close-by city called Winston-Salem, in particular to a part of town called Old Salem, which was founded by German-speaking European settlers from Moravia. There was a chapel next to the graveyard there that had a German inscription seen below. It says “Fest gebaut, Gott vertraut”, which rhymes nicely in German and translates into “Solidly built, with trust in God” or something like that (and no, it doesn’t rhyme in English ;)).
Chapel in Old Salem

After the visit to Old Salem we decided to drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway a bit. It’s this awesome road through the Appalachian mountains. Highly recommended.

View from Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

As you can tell from these shots, the weather was gorgeous. In fact, for that particular weekend it was better in North Carolina than in San Diego (which is kind of rare). All in all, a very nice weekend getaway. And I already have the next one planned. In a few weeks I’m off to Denver, Colorado for a weekend. Yay! πŸ™‚

09.30.08

Dog Beach Fun

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:03 pm by Martin

On my birthday last Saturday we took Blackie to the dog beach in Del Mar. We had to keep her on the leash the whole time because she’s still not good with other dogs. As soon as another dog enters her private space she changes from her usual calm self and turns into a snapping little menace.

As soon as we got out of the car and onto the beach, Blackie did it. Of course. What else would she do. She peed and then she pooped. As all good dog owners on the beach, we had some plastic bags with us, and Epifanio, my roommate who’s the actual owner of Blackie, smartly enough gave me the plastic bags to carry. As soon as her poop came out he said “Don’t look! Don’t look! It’ll make it worse”. And indeed, it did. Can you say gag reflex? Anyway, I picked up the smelly pile with the plastic bag and thankfully the trash can was right next to us so I didn’t have to carry it far…and yes, it felt warm through the plastic bag ;).

Blackie at Del Mar Dog Beach

After that adventure we tried to get her to go into the water. But she didn’t want to at first and actually managed to get out of her collar to which the leash was attached. As soon as she realized her new-found freedom and before we could react, she ran off. You can see Epifanio running after Blackie in the picture below.

Epifanio Chasing Blackie

After a wild chase he got ahold of her and managed to get the collar back on. So they came back towards the water and Epifanio tried to tighten the collar a bit so that Blackie couldn’t get out again. Unfortunately, he also unhooked the leash. The ocean waves came in and went, and so did the leash. Now we had a tightened collar, but no leash, so we decided to head back. Next time we’ll be better prepared at the dog beach. Oh, and we already have a new leash πŸ™‚

09.22.08

Call It Luck, Call It Fate, It Was a Good Day :)

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:29 pm by Martin

…Saturday that is. It was a good day because a lot of lucky coincidences let everything work out that day. It all started with us getting a pet at the house. One of my housemates owns this black lab that was staying at his parents’ house up in LA all this time. So he talked to our landlady and convinced her to let us have the dog stay at our house (for an additional fee, of course ;)). Her name is Blackie and she’s such a cutie. She’s very affectionate and really likes snuggling with people. Of course, her being the only female in the house means that we’re really going to spoil her πŸ™‚

Blackie

Blackie

So Saturday was the day that Blackie officially joined our household. That was the first lucky incident. My housemate’s sister brought Blackie down from LA in her pickup truck. That was the second lucky coincidence. Why will become clear in a minute.

Later that day, my housemate and I decided to take Blackie for a walk. Since we’ve always wanted to take our bicycles out and around the neighborhood we thought this would finally be the perfect opportunity. Unfortunately, Blackie wasn’t really used to running next to a bicycle. So she was swerving back and forth behind the bicycle causing my housemate who was holding on to the leash to nearly fall over a few times :). After a few blocks, both us and the dog finally got the hang of it and we ventured forth into the streets of our neighborhood.

After a while, we passed this house that had lots of stuff outside. “Aaah, a garage sale” we thought. In the middle of all the junk, eeerm, sorry, stuff there was this big, wooden dining table. Coincidentally, we were just looking for a dining table at the house. So as we went past the house on our bicycles both me and my roommate looked at the dining table, then we looked at each other, looked back at the dining table again, until we both exclaimed “That’s just what we were looking for!”. And what’s more, it was only 50 bucks _and_ we currently had the pickup truck that would allow us to transport it back to the house. So like I said, it was a day of lucky coincidences. We got ourselves a pet and a nice dining table. I mean, sure, we’ll probably have to resurface it (the table, not the dog ;)) and do something about the cushions on the chairs, but for $50 it was a true bargain.

Dining Table

09.12.08

Ant Attack!

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:45 pm by Martin

The other day I came into my room after work, sat down in front of my computer to check my email, as I suddenly felt something tickling my forearm. I looked down and saw a tiny ant crawling up my arm. Not thinking much about it I continued to check my email and then went out with my roommates to catch a movie (Transsiberian, which was excellent by the way :)). We came back at around midnight, and I again sat down to check my email. For some reason, I didn’t turn on the light in my little office room. So only the computer screen was illuminating the room. After a while, I felt this strange tickling sensation again. But this time it wasn’t just on my forearm. It was all over my body. As I looked down I saw all sorts of movement, on my arms, on my legs, everywhere. I turned on the light and was shocked to find that my entire room had been infested with an army of ants.

Ant

They came in through a little slit in front of the balcony door and formed a street straight to my garbage bin where they had found the remains of a tangerine I had eaten that day. Not having any ant spray at home I walked down to the kitchen to get the next best thing, a cleaner called Green Works. “Natural, all-purpose cleaner” it said on it. Yeah, right. Natural. When I sprayed the ants with that thing they immediately dropped dead. So I sprayed and sprayed, and wiped them all off the floor, the desk, the chair, the garbage bin, and not to forget myself, filling an entire garbage bag with paper towels full of dead ants. After about half an hour the battle was over. I was victorious. Or so I thought. Turns out that the Green Works cleaner worked well as an instant ant killer, but not so well when it came to keeping them from coming through that slit again from the outside. So even the next day I still had some ants in my room. Once I got around to buying some proper ant spray their days in my room were numbered as well.

Anyway, the moral of the story is: I really hate ants ;). I had an ant infestation at every house I’ve lived in here in the US so far. Of course, I could have been smart and not ignore the first warnings. Whenever you see one ant, one itsy-bitsy, tiny, little ant, in your room, it means it’s all over. You see, these first few ants are the scouts. They’re searching for routes to get food. And once they find something, and it could be something insignificant for a human, such as some breadcrumbs on the floor or – ahem – tangerine remains in a garbage bin ;), they will notify all their ant friends – thousands of them. So the next time you see one little ant do yourself a favor and get some ant spray and spray it in front of doors and windows. I know I will.

07.31.08

Viva Mexico

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:15 pm by Martin

After going jet skiing at Mission Bay again yesterday, I had a fun time driving an ATV around on the beach today. “But in San Diego that’s not allowed, is it?” you ask. True, but let me start at the beginning. A friend and I took a bus trip to Mexico today. We went down the west coast of Baja California on the scenic highway 1 and stopped in three towns just south of San Diego, Rosarito, Ensenada, and Tijuana (where I had been before maybe about a year ago).

Rosarito Archway

Our first stop was Rosarito, a small touristy town just south of Tijuana. It’s really only famous for the Rosarito Beach Hotel there and apart from a nice pier there’s not much to see.

Flowers at Rosarito Beach Hotel

Rosarito Pier

Another maybe 45 minutes further south we arrived at Ensenada, a port town where some cruise ships from San Diego stop over sometimes.
Ensenada

Ensenada kind of reminded me of Tijuana in some ways. It had a main shopping street bustling with activity and people trying to get you to buy their stuff or eat at their restaurant. A few blocks away from that street you can find a much quieter atmosphere where the “normal” people live.

Here are some of the more interesting things I found on the shopping street, such as horse shit. Also available are the new flavors donkey shit or bull shit or real shit. In case you were wondering, those are packs of cigarettes πŸ˜‰
Horse Shit for Sale in Ensenada

Or how about you buy some superviagra? It’s only 5 dollars. I’m not kidding. Just like in TJ, there are a lot of pharmacies in Ensenada that sell prescription drugs for a lot, and I mean a lot, less than in the US. Of course, they only sell generic drugs, but in the end it’s the same stuff.
Viagra Ad in Ensenada

In the center of Ensenada they have this huge Mexican flag. According to our bus driver it’s the largest of its kind in all of Mexico with a width of 50 meters. Pretty impressive.
Huge Mexican Flag

The funnest part of the trip was definitely our hour out on the beach with ATVs or quad bikes. After getting used to the vehicle, we started doing jumps, swerves, circles, or we just tried to go as fast as we could on the beach. It was good fun and the beach they have there is perfect for ATVs. There’s a race track behind the beach, then some sand dunes with some premade tracks for ATVs with lots of bumps, and the pretty flat beach itself where you can really rev up the engine. The best part was the price. It was only $30 for an hour.
ATVs

Our final stop on the way back was Tijuana. Just like the last time I had been here, I didn’t really like it that much. It’s a noisy and dirty place where they paint donkeys with the colors of zebras, put them in front of a stupid looking backdrop, make tourists wear a sombrero and charge them for the picture they take together with donkey, backdrop and stupid tourist. The only interesting thing they had this time was a beer festival at the beginning of Avenida Revolucion, the main shopping street of Tijuana.
Tijuana Avenida Revolucion

All in all, an awesome day in Mexico. I’ll have to check how expensive the ATVs are over here in the states and maybe rent one for going out into the desert some time πŸ™‚

07.30.08

Costumes, Comics, Toys – Comic Con 2008!

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:14 pm by Martin

Last weekend I went to Comic Con 2008. Just like last year it was pretty crazy and crowded, but I had an awesome time. Lots of people were dressed up. Some of the costumes were absolutely amazing. I can only imagine the many hours that must have gone into making them. Apart from strolling the exhibition floor and buying some comics and T-shirts, I also went to a bunch of panels. The most interesting one was the Disney Pixar panel where they showed 20 minutes of footage of the upcoming movie Bolt (some of it still pretty rough, or only concept art). They also showed first scenes from the other new Pixar movie called Up, which looked really interesting.

Quick Draw Panel

I also went to the Quick Draw panel of which you can see a photo above. There were three panelists, professional comic artists, and they were given various keywords or phrases and they had to quickly draw a comic picture. All three artists were absolutely amazing. I believe for the above picture they had to draw something with a pig in it.

Alright, enough words. I’ll just let the images speak for themselves:

07.20.08

Mission Bay Fun

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:28 pm by Martin

A friend of mine had his birthday today and invited us all down to Mission Bay close to downtown San Diego where we rented a party boat. Me and a friend also rented a jet ski for an hour and drove it around the bay with speeds up to 45 mph. The jet ski could have gone up to 60 mph, but with two people on it that’s a bit hard. It was good fun. I’ll definitely have to do that again. We nearly fell off one or two times, but that’s all part of the fun. Next time I want a jet ski all to myself πŸ™‚

Later on when we finally rejoined the party boat (which wasn’t quite as easy as we had originally planned because we couldn’t find each other in the bay), the lifeguard actually pulled us over twice. The first time because some of the guys on board went for a swim in an area of the water where you’re not supposed to swim (which we didn’t realize at the time), and the second time when we came back to return the boat where we were going slightly too fast. The interesting thing was that the lifeguard boat had a camera crew on board. Our captain didn’t have anything to drink, so we were fine and luckily didn’t even get a citation. I wonder if we might be on TV somewhere tonight, though πŸ™‚

When we got back we even saw some seals sleeping on the docks.

The Clash Between Faith and Reason

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:04 am by Martin

I just found this excellent talk by Sam Harris called “The Clash Between Faith and Reason”. The page has video and a full transcript that scrolls by in real-time. As alwlays, Harris is awesome presenting his arguments in a concise and calm manner.
I also recommend his debate against Rabbi David Wolpe.

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