Tuesday, 29 March 2005

Mush the Most

One of my favourite quotes regarding the internet is

We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.
-- Robert Wilensky, 1996

(As a sideline, the "infinite monkey theorem" makes some interesting reading, though, of course, for us experimentalists there are the required experiments. Those preferring a more cerebral debate may wish to look nutters.org or in Wikipedia.)

Let me get to the point of this post which is to state the bleeding obvious. There are some very strange things found through the Internet. For instance, what to do if you have a dog which you must exercise, must have control over while doing so and have to get somewhere but decline to use your own power? The obvious -- but to me, oddly uncomfortable -- answer is to invent The Dog Powered Scooter And the strange thing is, I cannot exactly say why I both want to giggle and scowl disapprovingly at the same time, though I do like the double-dog version. I can say that it almost seems the perfect invention for the many people around here who exercise their dog whilst seated on their bicycle.

Elijah's First Report

It's pretty good here for a place that is not australia but the weather is cold and I keep getting a running nose. I hate it my nose gets really sore. School is ok my teacher speaks english she went to the states for a few years. We have fish in our pond in the back yard. I don't how the fish survive winter because this winter the fish pond froze over and we could ice skate (slitschuhfahren in german) on it. We saw some frogs in there the other day swimming around. We walked to Daubenrath the other day and we saw some dead frogs but Josh did not like Daubenrath because of all the animals.

Monday, 21 March 2005

Zu Kaufen und Essen (To Shop and Eat)

Since we don't have a car, shopping is not quite what I am used to. But even if we did have one, there are still a few things that are not quite what I am used to. Things like:

  • Most supermarkets are discount supermarkets (like Aldi) and have a smaller range of products but at very low prices. This means that to get everything you want cheaply (even every day things) you need to go to a couple of them.

  • They list price comparisons which give the price per 100g or per kilo for most products. So you can compare different size products quickly.

  • At the checkout they don't pack your groceries into anything. They don't have plastic bags since you are expected to purchase reusable bags, but of course you can bring your own. So it's a mad rush to get all your stuff on the belt and then down to the other end with the trolley to collect. The counter after the scanner is very short and so only holds a few groceries!

  • The checkout people seem to be rather impatient and doing the mad rush is difficult if you have a lot of shopping.

I've checked out the local markets in the market square which is right in the middle of town. It sets up twice a week (Tuesday and Saturday). Shopping in the market square is more fun and the produce is generally very fresh.

They have an incredible range of dairy products! From cream -- where you have fresh, sour, creme-fresh (halfway between fresh and sour) and quark (halfway between sour and cheese) -- to cheese (of which there are at least 57 varieties) to yoghurt (another large range of choices) to cream puddings.

Other popular items are cured meats and sausages including salami, ham (12 or 13 different kinds) and the wursts (liver-, schinken-, brat-, blod-, weiß- and more).

A few items seem to be unavailable or very difficult to find. For example, vanilla essence (or extract), baking powder in quantity (all comes in little satchets), brown sugar and rice bubbles. I have, however, managed to locate the ingredients and bake my first batches of ANZAC and chocolate chip biscuits. So we are settling in fine!

Bryna has taken a great liking to bratwurst (a slightly spicy pork sausage) and rotkohl (a pickled red cabbage). Ariana however is missing Australian sausages, though we didn't have high hopes for her when we came.

That will do for now. I will cover bakeries and cakes later! :D

Thursday, 17 March 2005

Frühling has Sprung

Growing up in Brisbane I didn't understand a lot of things. I didn't understand why Christmas decorations and some traditions centred on snow and winter. Oh I accepted it -- most children do when it comes with perverse amounts of sugar and receiving free toys -- but I never really understood it. Similarly, I never understood what the whole fuss about winter was. The longing you would hear from our northern hemisphere neighbours about when warmer weather would arrive, the excitement of spring and all the things they were going to do in the summer. Sure winter was a couple of inconvenient weeks in the middle of the year, but I honestly didn't get the big deal.

Then we moved to Canberra. Turns out some places can measure four distinct seasons by the changes around them and not just by checking the calendar month. The colours in autumn were gorgeous instead of a couple of trees that looked like they had gone off a bit. And, after living through six and a half Canberran winters, I finally understood what the longing for the warmer weather meant.

But not until the last few days have I ever seen such an abrupt arrival to spring. Last week was snow and temperatures hovering around zero (or further below!) and this week, wow! Small birds flittering everywhere with some kind of happy chirping and chittering going on. The sun is shining, the grass seems greener and the air is warm. I mean I haven't actually seen Bambi gently grazing in the forest yet, but I FULLY EXPECT TO any day now. I know that the last weeks have had an almost unprecedented late winter cold snap but, seriously, the warmer weather (and the attendant Disney atmosphere) has come on faster than you could say "Frühling". Well faster than I could say it anyway.

Sunday, 13 March 2005

Customary Customs

We received a fax the other day from the German moving company who will be taking our household goods from the port in Hamburg (where the ship arrives about the 2nd of April) to the house in Jülich. A standard sort of letter asking for documents that will be required for our things to clear customs. Documents such as a copy of my passport, signed declaration that we aren't bringing in anything illegal etc. Of course they also require a copy of my German residence permit. Can't be sending stuff to people who aren't supposed to be there right?

The problem being that, officially, we aren't here yet. Even though my work and the house we are living in is in Germany, I am employed by a Dutch organisation, F.O.M. (which in English stands for Fundamental Research on Matter. More on them here and about the division I am employed in here). So before we can be German we have to be Dutch. Technically, it is only me who has to be Dutch then German. Gaynor and the children are all EU citizens (they entered Amsterdam on their British (EU) passports) by virtue of Gaynor's English birth. So they are pretty much free to wander as they please but if they intend to reside somewhere they have to show valid health insurance and income support.

So I am almost Dutch now. That is, I'm waiting for my Dutch residence permit to be finalised. Of course, applying for that wasn't straight forward either. I had an appointment with the immigration authorities at the local town hall, a week after we arrived, only to find out my birth and marriage certificates weren't acceptable. Turns out my marriage certificate (which had been accepted by a number of Australian bodies previously) wasn't more than a commemorative one anyway! Naturally, I'd been warned to this fact by Gaynor some years earlier but it seems that piece of information had been filed in my mind with "Things I May Need to Know One Day", right next to "Things to Recall If I'm Ever on a Quiz Show". For the documents to be legally recognised they need to have an Apostille afixed to them. This is an extra stamp ($60 per document) which essentially authorises the document as legit (it is issued by DFAT) and makes it recognisable under a 1969 Hague Convention to which Australia became a party in 1991. I can hear that last filing drawer opening as I type ...

Anyway, so the procedure now is to get my Dutch residence permit approved (within two months), then to go with the family to the German embassy in Amsterdam to get official stamps in our passports to say we can go and live (and I, work) in Germany. Then, we go to the local town hall here and register with the immigration police. This then gives us a German residence permit. Exhales slowly. Which brings us back to our stuff arriving in a few weeks in Hamburg. The best we can hope for is a fluke of bureaucracy where our German residence permit are finalised by then. More than likely though, we'll need to pay for storage of our things until the rest of the paperwork has lined up.

Not that this has been a rant (well not exactly), but this is the price of staying together as a family, the way we chose to do it. Oh, as a happy side benefit of obtaining our German residence we'll be able to register a car.

Friday, 11 March 2005

Hi-ho! Hi-ho! A blogging we will go ...

After some long-winded discussions with one of my brothers (Jonathan. Well, OK, one email but he was enthusiastic -- "I think blogging is a great idea!"), I thought it would be worthwhile to start a weblog. Since there are so many nice people who are interested in how myself and the family (hence the "et al.") are faring, the idea is to create a central location where they can satisfy their morbid curiosity without the need for many and diverse emails on our part. Apologies for the lack of personalisation, though feel free to comment on the proceedings.

Though the blog bears my name, all immediate family members (who can read and write) are members and (hopefully) should contribute. I expect that the number and diversity of posts will increase once we finally have a full-time internet connection at home. Until then, you'll just have to make do.

For starters though, I came across this interesting/bizarre article about a future tourist named John Titor. Go Science!