Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Germany Trip

Intro
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We flew into Munich at 12:30. We had some problems contacting the hotel because we had not yet gotten a SIM card for the cell phone we were planning on using while in Europe because it was compatible with their cell networks. So we used a pay phone, and they sent a shuttle at a cost of 15 euro because it was before our check in time and their regular shuttle service. Yikes!

We stayed at RegentPark Hotel Munich Airport located in Freising (a University town near the airport). The staff was very helpful. Breakfast was good and included in the price of the home – not always the case in Germany. Every hotel we stayed at in Germany served a variation of the same breakfast buffet: Soft boiled eggs, breads, Nutella, jam, eggs, sausages, cold cereal, hot chocolate and coffee. The rooms were adequate. The hotel had a lot of decorations. We didn’t eat at the hotel but they do offer a dinner. The shuttle service was convenient. My only complaint would be that the room was cold when we arrived and took hours to heat up (with the radiator) even with the metal mesh blinds closed. This hotel room had a number of draconian energy saving features.
In Munich we went to the old town region which had an old courthouse, shops and the winter market. Of the winter markets we went to, this one was the best in my opinion. Glue wine, the Christmas season drink, permeated the air; we bought some books and toys at the little shops around the area. There is a square with some interesting statuary and a cathedral and a park of to the side. We didn’t have time to explore the park but it seemed interesting with pictures drawn on walls in the style of perhaps the mid 1850’s or earlier.
We then went to see the Heidelberg castle. It was very interesting, especially if you are into knights and such. The castle looks like it was once a functioning medieval castle, even if later additions turned it into a 16, 17th century mansion.
That night we stayed at a Best Western in Stuttgart. This was the worst hotel of our trip: most expensive, no breakfast, not near anything (except a cemetery and a skating rink.), and possibly infested with rodents. Stuttgart seems to be a city amidst tall hills – perhaps this is the reason it is so expensive.
Next we went to Kaiserslautern to visit with friends. We stayed at the City Hotel, which is a decent establishment, although old. The staff was very friendly, (disconcerting our first day when we had a very early start). Breakfast was good. Down the street from the city hotel (towards a church whose towers you can see from the street) is a nice pizzeria. We ate there once and found it delightful. The pizza is very thin crusted and if you order a pizza with multiple toppings you will only get a little bit of the topping on one part of the pizza instead of paying more. The Christmas market in Kaiserslautern is very Americanized and geared to American military personnel from the nearby military bases.
Our next stay was Paris. We saw the Arc D’Triomphe, Notre Dame, Sacre Cour, Louvre, the Eiffel tower, and a building near our hotel called The Pantheon – a slightly grander version than the roman original. The architecture of it would be federalist if it were in Washington D.C. Buried there are some French notables. We stayed at a hotel of the same name a few blocks away. The room was interesting in that the bed was located in a loft. This caused problems with as the heater vent blew into the loft, so the bed area was boiling and the rest was tolerable or the bed area was comfortable and the rest was cold. Our rooms also had some problems with the television turning on randomly, and the light switch in the hall controlled some of the other outlets – and caused all the lights to go off once. Paris has a lot of magnificent buildings and things to see. My first impression though was; “this is a dirty city”. Perhaps this was the contrast in being in Germany. In any case I recommend touring there at night – visit the louvre during the day.
Next we went to Dusseldorf near Cologne. We stayed at another best western near the main train station. This one was much better than the one in Stuttgart, with good location, breakfast buffet and adequate service. The only complaint we have is the safe provided with our room was broken. From there we went to see the Cologne Cathedral (It seems to me that it was designed to be a more impressive Notre Dame – I can’t say that it succeeded.), the Cathedral in Aachen (Really old – at least parts of it.)
In Germany we bought a little christam carosuel thing that rotates from catching the heat rising off of candles placed around it. We also brought back a lot of chocolate, some wooden German toys, a music box and books of fairy tales (Br. Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, etc.) We have the goal of teaching our one day kids to be fluent in German from a young age and as part of that reading these books to them.
The trip back home was twenty hours due to bad weather in London and a missed connection in Dallas.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

City elections

I voted on Tuesday. I was one of the lucky las cruces residents who got to pick a new city councilor yesterday. The other race, that of municipal judge, had only one candidate, so I voted for Locatelli, whom I assume is the incumbent. It makes me wonder what would happen if no one ran for a position. Las Cruces is too large, I think, for that to happen, but..

On my entrance to the polling station the workers there said, “you want to vote? You’re the first young person we’ve seen all day.”
I consider myself a counter cyclical fashionista.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Snow and Watermelons

It snowed unexpectedly this week. I personally blame this on el nino. As we all know el nino is spanish for The NINO. Be afraid, be very afraid. It is supposed to be a cold winter for us here.

Anyways, this shut down the parts of the garden that were still producing. Watermelons, tomatoes, peppers all dead. The strawberry plants look like they are doing fine though.

So we harvested everything that we could. There were six watermelons on our vines of a mix of sizes and of the two varieties that we planted. One is an orange variety - sweeter but a little less flavorful.

So now I am wondering what to do with six watermelons?
Probably we will give some away, and cut the others up into little packages for lunch throughout the week. In any case it is a strange juxtaposition.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Downtown this morning

One can always spend a nice morning on saturdays downtown. Today we went downtown. We spent a little time at the farmers and crafts market. Fresh tomatoes, watermelons, pecans and of course chiles were available. Also a lot of homemade southwestern style decoratives and art work were there too. If you want to decorate a room in that style I recomend going there.

We went to Coas, the secondhand bookstore. It has a lot of books, cheap if you bring in books to trade. The layout of the bookstore supports browsing by topic/genre not so much locating a specific book. So if you are a book junkie like us you definitely should go sometime when you have a couple of hours free. Today we got Flowers for Algnernon, The Golden Transcendence, Fund with Dick and Jane (movie, old version) Brother Bear (movie - in german) and a program that is supposed to teach you german. It is supposed to run on windows 95/98 tho so that might not work - they said we could bring it back for full refund so no worries.

Then we went to Zeffiros, a neapolitano style pizzeria two blocks away. Neapolitano style means really thin crusts (thin enough to justify eating with a fork and knife). It was unsuprisingly crowded - probably it is less busy during the week. We had a large Mediterranean pizza - cheese, artichoke hearts and greek olives. Pretty good. Ours was a little burnt unfortunately - perhaps they weren't staffed for the size of the crowd and the cooking got away from them. We'll probably go again some time though.

Chocolate Bliss

I love chocolate. The darker the better. I eat a square of dark chocolate most mornings. The kind that I am eating now is Lindts Supreme Dark (90% cocoa) recently I was at their website and I noticed that they had a chocolate bar that was 99% cocoa. I think that might be a bit too much for me, and finally I don't now if it makes sense to pay shipping and handling on a $3.50 bar to find out.
I usually get my supreme dark at, surprisingly, Wal-Mart. A better selection of Lindts is available at the International House of Delights - especially if you like fruit, chile in your chocolate. I am not a big fan of fruit and chocolate but it seems to be a common taste. If I want anything in my chocolate it is nuts. In fact I often eat a square of my Lindts supreme dark with a few walnuts, or almonds or occasionally hazelnuts.
Bite off a little chocolate and savor it as it melts on the tongue. Eat a nut. Repeat and enjoy.

The problem with Wal-Mart is that often they do not have Lindts in stock. The substitute I buy then is Ghiradellis. It tastes slightly waxy to me for some reason, but is still pretty good.

Note to the FTC: Lindts does not compensate me in any way for this or anything else. I have recieved no payments or free samples from them. If that does happily occur I shall so state in this post. Ditto for Ghiradellis.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Odd Couple

We watched The Odd Couple last night at Las Cruces Community Theater. We thought it fairly good.
The title refers to two guys struggling to come to grips with their recent divorces, one a neat freak and domestically inclined, the other a slob and a guys guy. A light delicious comedy.
They had constructed an impressively large set, creating the living room of an eight bedroom apartment. They also stimulated the smell of tobacco smoke on poker night. It smelled like they did it by lighting matches and wafting into the audience somehow. It was a nice touch but a little distracting, almost as distracting as the toilet (offstage) flushing very loudly.
Still, all in all a good story, and a good performance.
There was one funny part where one of the actors sits down on a chair and it breaks. He recovered pretty well and continued with the scene. The other actor, showing good presence of mind took the chair and moved it out of the way so it wouldn’t get in the way of a chase around the table later on.
I did notice some other spots, where I think, the flow of dialogue was interrupted. Keep in mind though this was the dress rehearsal. I think it is ready for performance but they were probably right to delay showing a week for further rehearsal.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I hope you like your car

I was stuck in the traffic blockage caused by the filming of Due Date for an hour yesterday at six. Avoid traveling on Highway 70 between Sonoma Ranch and Rinconada. The alternate route (the only alternate route!) of the frontage roads (Northrise Drive and N Main) is clogged. I know I won’t be driving there. I understand it will be closed these days: Oct. 10-14 630am – 630pm, Oct. 17-26 630pm-630am.

So if 25,000 people use that road each day and each person has to wait an average of a half hour then that is 12,500 Las Crucen hours wasted. If we were compensated minimum wage (not to mention gas burnt, wear and tear on the vehicle and breathing the exhaust from all those cars packed together) it would amount to $90,000 per day of filming. So for 15 days of filming; Las Crucens will lose approx. 187,500 hours. Fifteen Las Crucens received temporary jobs as extras. (The company was promising 250 during negotiations but once they had the O.K. – ha ha just kidding.)

It appears that Las Cruces government had no say in this. NM DOT approved it at the request of the New Mexico Film Office. One imagines that the NM executive is behind this. Closing Highway 70 during rush hour was a disastrous decision. Not only is that the only route from one part of town to another it also catches all the folks who work at WSMR. Thanks, NM DOT. I hope they can still reduce the number of days highway 70 is closed during rush hour.

What to eat? What to eat?

It seems we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic. So many people have different solutions . One could follow the latest studies and see how it affects the biggies of diet: cancer, heart disease, and brain function. Then apply results that seem to be reached several times. Of course it seems the Omega 3 fatty acid, thought to be very useful by aggregating previous studies doesn’t seem to be doing well in the latest study.

I am fairly young, not obese (not thin either). What I need is simple diet guidelines that still leave me with a lot of satisfying choices but not increasing my risk for diseases later on. To that end I think the insulin index would be a good rule of thumb (glycemic index is roughly equivalent except for high protein food). In choosing this I am subscribing to the theory that weight is regulated by your body and that changing your weight by much and keeping it there is extremely difficult without disrupting the regulatory mechanism. Insulin and Leptin are what is known to control weight and appetite and are the feedback signals in that regulating mechanism.

The thing is, and what I suspect is behind the obesity epidemic, is that your body developes resistances to both of these. Insulin resistance is pretty well studied being associated with type 2 diabetes. Leptin resistance is less understood. It seems however that lots of fructose is bad (if fructose corn syrup is in the first three ingredients I would consider it to be a ‘bad’ food). The point is: insulin spikes lead to insulin resistance which leads to your equilibrium weight drifting up up and away as your bodies’ mechanism for shutting off hunger gets reset.

Back to the insulin index – some surprises here. Yoghurt is worse than Ice Cream? Yep, ice cream has more fat which mutes insulin response. Ditto with fries and potatoes. Pasta is listed as being really low at 40. People I know who are diabetics say that pasta is actually fairly bad. I think pasta is problematic in that it raises insulin drastically after 2-3 hours and this study measures response within 2 hours. We eat pasta with olive oil and salad to blunt that response. I put my cutoff at about 65. Higher than that and eat in moderation and preferably with something else that is much lower. Grapes and nuts and cream. Mmmmm.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Feels Like Fall

I am going to call yesterday as being the first fall day of the year and not a summer day. Yes, yes I am aware that the first official day of fall is september 1. I guess I find the astronomical method (from the equinox, sep 22-23) closer to my experience.

The swamp cooler has not been running at our house. Windows have been shut. I use the heater a little on my drive to work early in the A.M. I feel a craving for fresh applesauce.

I feel it time for fall to come too. I am tired of having to water my garden and yard every day and am looking forward to fall waterings of maybe twice a week. That will be nice. Of course, it will be nicer when I have property in the irrigated region and my soil has *gasp* actual clay in it. Then I can water maybe once a week. I like my starter home, but I am looking forward to the 'real' home for a number of reasons.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Introduction

The purpose of this blog is to cover things that are optional in life. Not about life per se but about things such as hobbies, diet, home design, landscaping. In other words the things that are clearly 'ours' that we fill our life with.

I want to share a quick anecdote. My roomate, when I was talking to him about WoW, told me that he spent pretty much all of his free time, after work and school playing. Realizing that that sounded bad, he added. What else am I going to fill all the hours with?

Here then; what we fill our hours with: