Black Cat

Going not gentle into that middle age.

I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas

Filed under: Holidays — By: blackcat on December 16, 2006 @ 8:13 pm

This song (3 Mb MP3) is Michael’s contribution to the season:

I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas, a song from 1951 by Yogi Yorgessen.

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Why this Grinch Hates Christmas

Filed under: Expat,Holidays,Religion — By: blackcat on December 15, 2006 @ 7:05 pm

On 7 December, 2006, a tornado appeared suddenly in a residential street in northern London, severely damaging more than 100 houses. Fortunately, only 6 people were hurt, one seriously. No one died, but 34 of the houses were uninhabitable, and all of the residents had to be rehoused until inspections could be made regarding the safety of their buildings. The BBC reported:

Scores of families face a bleak run-up to Christmas after a tornado wrecked their north-west London homes, forcing them to be rehoused….

Irfan Malik, of Brent Council, said: “We really do appreciate that this has been a terrible thing to happen to people just before Christmas and that people will be pretty upset.”

On 27 March, 2006, a tornado appeared suddenly in a downtown area of southern Hamburg, Germany, and two men had the misfortune to be in the cabin of a falling crane. They were killed. Lots of buildings were severely damaged and thousands of people were without electricity. The German news media said that it was tragic, but didn’t mention that it was particularly tragic at this time of year.

A tornado causes immense damage and two deaths in March. It’s a tragedy. A tornado causes immense damage and 6 injuries in December. It’s “a terrible thing to happen to people just before Christmas”. It would appear that tragedies aren’t supposed to happen just before Christmas. I’m not sure what the cut-off date is. Perhaps it’s merely tragic on November 30, but it’s “particularly tragic at this time of year” if the same thing happens on December 1.

(click here to read further…)

Trick-Or-Treating with Poetry

Filed under: Expat,Holidays — By: blackcat on November 5, 2006 @ 11:09 am

The poem below sounds very like the one that was loudly and confidently recited to me when I opened my door to the first set of Trick-or-Treaters last Tuesday evening. Apologies for the following translation in English, which loses a great deal of the original grace, meter, and rhyme. The kid who wrote it in German is a poet. I ain’t.


Wenn Schatten ihre Welt verlassen,
lässt “Trick or Treat” Euch bald erblassen.
Klopft es dann an Deinem Haus.
denkst Du nur “Oh weh, oh Graus!”
Wollt ihr dem bösen Streich entkommen,
dann sind Gaben sehr willkommen.
Süßes stimmt die Geister heiter,
und sie ziehen streichlos weiter.
(–Klaus H., Graz)

When the Shadows leave their world,
“Trick or Treat” will make you turn pale.
When you hear knocking on your door
you’ll think “Oh no! Oh Horrors!”
If you want to excape their pranks
then you’ll have to pay alms.
Sweets placate the ghosts
and they’ll leave without playing pranks on you.
(–Judy, translator)

(click here to read further…)

The Toilet Paper Chronicles

Filed under: Car-less,Expat,Shopping - Preplanning,Shopping - Transporting the Goods — By: blackcat on October 15, 2006 @ 9:47 am

Happy End Toilet PaperThe Name
This is part of an on-going series about how a car-addicted American has managed to live happily for 11 years in Germany without owning a car. Today’s story is about the purchase of one of those products that defines civilization.

First, I ask you, how could I not keep my cupboard stocked with a product that has such a fine name? I expect such names from Japan, where they take the great pride in the labeling of their products. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an example of Happy End toilet paper at, but I did waste spend a lot of time amusing myself at their website. When you’re ready, we’ll resume… back yet? OK…

(click here to read further…)

“Where’s Your Car?”

Filed under: Car-less,Expat — By: blackcat on October 11, 2006 @ 5:43 pm

The last place that we lived before moving here to Germany was in the suburbs of Silicon Valley, California. In an attempt to get some exercise into my otherwise sedentary life, I tried to develop the habit of jogging through our suburban streets several mornings a week. For the most part, I was pretty good about this. Then I would get into my car and drive the two suburban blocks to the grocery store. Several times a week. It never occurred to me to combine the activities of jogging and grocery shopping.

I began to realize the surreality of this when one day I took a deep breath and prepared myself for the arduous task of… walking the two blocks to the grocery store. I just wanted to see if I could do it. It sounded so counter-culture, so hippy-like, when I heard of other people doing it. And I was in California, after all. So I set out — on foot — and found myself at the store in — 3 minutes. Well. That wasn’t so bad, but it did feel strange to walk across the parking lot without the car as my starting point.

When my purchases had been rung up at the checkout stand, I again realized a moment of surreality. The nice young man who insisted on bagging my groceries for me also insisted on carrying them outside for me. Even though I said that it wouldn’t be necessary. He asked, “where’s your car?” as I trailed after him out to the parking lot. It took a fair amount of explaining to get him to give me the bag. He was really nice, and he really wanted to save me the arduous task of lugging that one single bag all the way across the vast parking lot to my car, and he really wanted to follow the grocery store rules which said that the job for which he was hired was to save ladies the arduous task of lugging that one bag of groceries all the way across the vast parking lot to their car. I asked him if he was going to carry it all the way home for me. It didn’t occur to him that I might have arrived at the store in some other fashion than by auto, just as it hadn’t occured to me until that day to arrive at the store on foot. As I finally rescued my bag of groceries from the nice young man and started on my looong 3-minute walk home, I wondered why the nice young man’s store-appointed duties didn’t include riding in my car back to my home so that he could save me from the arduous task of transporting those groceries from my car into my home or apartment.

I never repeated the experiment. It was just too surreal.

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Keeping Up With Little-Cat-Boy

Filed under: Car-less,Expat,Pets,Shopping - Transporting the Goods — By: blackcat on September 24, 2006 @ 5:36 pm

We have an indoor cat who loves to drink water. Lots of water. And what goes in must come out. Which is why kitty litter is important. Lots of it.
(click here to read further…)

My Blog-Father, or, How I Learned About the Power of Blogging

Filed under: Admin,Writing — By: blackcat on September 22, 2006 @ 6:20 pm

Even though Matt is young enough to be my son, I consider him my blog-father.

People are going to believe what they want to believe about religion and other matters, which Matt at Pooflingers Anonymous grudgingly accepts. But when they try to justify their beliefs using pseudo-science and false logic, then Matt wades in and gleefully flings poo at the fallacies. That’s his specialty. I invite you to sample one of his Master Efforts, where he valiently subjects himself to viewing the entire 12-part “Blue Series” of Kent Hovind‘s creation “science” video lectures, and critiques each and every one of them, flinging lots of the brown stuff around.

But not only does he fling poo, he also spreads link-love. That is, he’s a nice guy. And generous.

(click here to read further…)

Spontaneity and other Car-ful Reasons

Filed under: Car-less,Expat — By: PJ on September 22, 2006 @ 3:09 pm

[from Admin: this post by PJ was originally submitted as a comment to Judy’s post “We used to own a car (or two)”. I thought it deserved to be a post in its own right.]

A car is a great thing to have. It is not, however, a great thing to need, whether or not you have one.

(click here to read further…)

We used to own a car (or two)

Filed under: Car-less,Expat — By: blackcat on September 21, 2006 @ 2:05 pm

Michael and I lived most of our lives in Silicon Valley, California, where living without a car is unthinkable. The bus network was not useful for getting to work, shopping, social engagements. The train ran on one line between San Fransico and San Jose at irregular intervals and, of course, you needed a car to get to the station. In large parts of the Bay Area, there weren’t even sidewalks, especially in industrial “parks” and shopping malls. There were parking lots everywhere. There were no bicycle lanes anywhere. Motorists hated bicyclists using “their” streets, and tried to run them over.

No walking. No bicycling. Driving.

And we did drive. With enthusiasm.

(click here to read further…)

The Weight

Filed under: Mind/Body — By: blackcat on August 25, 2006 @ 4:06 pm

I hear many people talk about their battles with body fat as if an unpleasant guest has moved in and won’t move out. Or they’ve gotten rid of it and they’re hoping it won’t come back. This guest is known as “the weight”.

“When I get the weight off…”

“I’ve kept the weight off for six months.”

“Nothing I do gets rid of the weight.”

(click here to read further…)