Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Thief Among Us

While I was in Spain, the lack of a computer forced me to go out and buy some *gasp* pens and paper.

At the department store's office supply section, I picked up a notebook and put it down immediately, unhappy with the cover. I moved over a foot and looked at a different group of notepads, picking a few of them up, too. As I was doing that, I noticed that one of the saleswomen had been standing at the end of my aisle. She didn't ask me if I needed help, so I assumed she was stocking something. I went to the next aisle to look at the other notebooks. The woman appeared again, this time on the other end. I ignored her and went back to the other aisle. She appeared again. I moved towards the pens.

The saleslady moved to the cash register, which was by the pens, and she was now joined by another saleslady. When I disappeared around a particularly large display, one of them appeared behind me, acting as though the aisle behind me suddenly needed tidying. It did, but so did the rest of the store. Why care all of a sudden? For 15 minutes the women kept shadowing me through their office supply domain. I actually started switching aisles more frequently just to see if they would follow me (they did).

What was I going to do? Grab a handful of erasers and make a run for it? Stash Hello Kitty notebooks in my purse to sell on the office supply black market to some five-year-old HK addicts? Apparently my orange sundress and flip flops gave away my secret identity as Master Office Supply Thief. There's a new criminal in town and she's set on making off with reams of A4, off-white printing paper!

In the end I went to the counter and paid four euros for a green notepad and a set of pens. Disappointment floated around the two women as one begrudgingly rang me up and the other one drifted away. Maybe they thought they were going to be heroes that day, collaring a thief in their midst. Sadly, I turned out to be a simple, upstanding citizen who just needed some alternatives to a computer and the internet.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Check out the actual FARE on my ticket, and then check out the FINAL PRICE. Amazing.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Chanterelles are beloved in Germany and when they're in season, the markets are exploding with them. My California upbringing means I love light, simple food, citrus, and wine. So the below recipe was a perfect combo. This is also an excellent substitute for mussels/clams (and easier to clean!).

The picture is from Martha Stewart, the recipe is from

Watercress Orange Salad

After failing to keep New Year's Resolutions for more than a few months and then giving up on them altogether for a few years, I've decided I need a new approach to life. We make New Year's resolutions because there are always things in our lives that we feel we could do better, or differently. But trying to keep a resolution for a year is impossible. The time frame is too long and we get bored, or forget, or can't remember why we thought the resolution was important in the first place. So I've decided to start smaller. I am setting goals that I want to achieve in 30 days. At the end of the 30 days I can keep going or I can stop, it doesn't matter. What matters is sticking to something for just a month - a small, manageable period of time.

Which leads me to question of what my first goals should be. After reading Jonathan Safran Foer's "Eating Animals" (a post on that coming soon!) and working on sustainability within a large company, I have been asking myself a lot of questions about my own activities. How can I work to make a company more sustainable when some of my own activities are not sustainable? How can I continue to eat meat when I know it contributes to climate change, hunger, global pandemics, and human rights abuses? There is always a need to balance what you should do with what you feasibly can do, but if I'm brutally honest with myself, I haven't even been doing a lot of what I could do relatively easily. The arguments about not having enough time or money to make those changes are just arguments - they're not reality. And the arguments that one person can't make a difference is also ridiculous. Ten years ago, asking for a vegetarian meal at a restaurant gave me funny looks. Today, I can open a menu and go straight to the specially-designated "vegetarian entrees". That was because millions of individuals made the decision to become a vegetarian and the markets responded. Now there is a need for consumers to say they want really sustainable products, not just greenwashed marketing, and I intend to be one (of the millions) who makes that demand.

So, my November goals are about changing the way I consume food.

November 2011
Month 1, Goals 1-3
1. Go back to being a complete vegetarian (no fish, no poultry, no meat)
2. Buy in-season produce, locally where possible
3. Buy groceries that have at least one of the legitimate "bio" labels

Germany and the European Union together actually have 10+ bio labels, but not all of them have an actual positive impact on environmental or social issues. I did some research and identified six that were not simply exercises in greenwashing and am basing my purchases on them. [For those of you living in the U.S., the "organic", "natural", "cage-free", and "free-range" labels have virtually no meaning whatsoever thanks to the USDA's conflicting mandate to protect consumers AND producers....If you're trying to make more conscious decisions, you'll need to find local third-party verifiers in your individual states. is a good place to start looking.]

I also found an awesome calendar of seasonal fruits, nuts, and vegetables in Europe that not only identifies what's in season, but labels what is likely to be grown within Europe and what is likely to be imported. I also located two specific farmer's markets in Frankfurt that only include farmers/cheese producers from the state of Hessen. In reality, many of these farmers also purchase goods from other distributors and sell those products, too (for example, there is no way the current abundance of persimmons came from Germany...). I try to counteract that risk by checking the produce I'm interested in against my seasonal, European calendar.

The outcome after two weeks? A whole new repertoire of recipes, a healthier diet, and the knowledge that what I'm eating is sustainable for future generations.The goal timeline is for only 30 days, but it's already become apparent that this change is cheap and easy, so I'll probably stick to it in the long-run, too.

I found the recipe below while looking for something to do with my seasonal and locally-grown watercress. The picture and the recipe come from Food Republic, a treasure trove of recipes from a "Canadimerican" couple living in California (

I also added pumpkin seeds and radishes (also in season!), which complemented the rest of the salad quite well.

By the way, I *love* honey mustard but spend tons of cash testing out sub-par honey mustard dressing at the supermarket. This recipe is amazing and ridiculously simple to make, ending my search for the perfect dressing!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hamburg! (2)

The beach, Hamburg-style!

Followed by an evening at Zur Gondel, a restaurant on one of the many canals in the city. The food at the restaurant is outstanding and they do not skimp on the food. The service was a little grumpy and slow because they didn't have the right number of seats for our reservation (not our fault) and were then forced to move tables around and serve a group with three boys under the age of 15. Nonetheless, I would say a place definitely worth visiting. You can also rent boats and if you're extra-special, have a romantic dinner on the dock (see picture below). We also saw a guy come with his dog and a picnic basket to a boat he had arranged for earlier, where he was then waiting when his date showed up. Quite the romantic, sunset gesture... (


Can you tell Hamburg is the shipping capital of Europe?

Oh yeah, a ferry boat.

And a schooner.


Thursday, September 1, 2011


Went to Hamburg to visit the fam, here's a select few pictures from the Alstervergnügen (Alster Fest) that I visited during my first day there...

This trashcan says "I wish I was a "müllionär"" because the word for trash is "müll" and for millionaire is "millionär". It's a play on words, get it?? Get it?? Of course, every time I see this picture I get that stupid song stuck in my head...

The candy is ALL PLASTIC. The real stuff is in the fridge and they just put out this crazy plastic copies to tempt you...yum...

This man told me he had the best sausage in Hamburg...I'll take your word for it.

This is one Schwarzwälder booth man asking the other to take a picture of him in his ridiculous outfit. Yes, even the salespeople thought they looked hilarious.

Chilling out on the Alster, whuuuuut

They had set up this zip line that took people back and forth so they could jump off this platform. Too cold man, way too cold.

Apparently it's a thing now to knit stuff and throw it on public spaces. I actually read an article  about a year ago about a stealth knitter who had been putting stuff on statues and what a huge deal it was and such an artistic statement. I'm not sure how cool that artist thinks it is now that it's become mainstream...

 The walk home...

Also a thing - I already posted pictures of this from my Frankfurt trip.You etch your romantic couple name into a lock, lock it on the bridge, then toss the keys overboard. Oh yes, it's just that corny. This particular lock is actually a memorial, and a much better approach to the whole lock thing, in my humble opinion.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Seminar I: Stuttgart (4)

One of the places we visited while in Stuttgart is an association-like company that promotes investment and innovation in local industry, called "Wirtschaftsregion Stuttgart". One of their projects is working to promote e-mobility (electricity powered vehicles) and they had a series of e-vehicles in the garage for testing and promotional purposes. Below, Veit Haug, Director of Conception and Coordination, showing off the electric smart car and electric bike.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Seminar I: Stuttgart (3)

As part of our cultural experience, we also took a hike through Stuttgart wine country, with this lovely lady as our guide. She was adorable and hilarious and it was nice to be out and about rather than sitting in a conference room all day.

Seminar I: Stuttgart (2)

During the seminars we meet with academics, politicians, business people, and representatives of local culture/history to get a rounded view of the particular topic we're looking at. Since one of our topics included Bosch, and therefore BW, we had a chance to visit the Minister President's offices and speak with his chief-of-staff. The new Minister President is from the Green Party, an amazing development for a state that has been ruled by the CDU uninterrupted since 1953.

There are differing opinions about why the Greens won, but it is clear that the Fukushima nuclear crisis and the Stuttgart 21 project were catalysts for change. The Green's interpretation is that the citizens of BW were tired of being excluded from politics and were demanding more civil engagement whereas the CDU is of the general opinion that in the typical German fashion, the voters overreacted to the nuclear issue in Japan and the Green's took advantage of this fact. Both sides are likely to be somewhat right. The Green Party was formed as a result of the nuclear issue decades ago and in an international poll, Germans were ranked as the most reactive and more paranoid about nuclear energy. On the other hand, with the growth of the internet and easy communication, more citizens are aware of the policies their governments are implemented and they are not thrilled when they feel laws are implemented for political or monetary reasons rather than for the greater good.

The chief-of-staff outlined a new citizen engagement policy that includes discussions with stakeholders prior to the implementation of new projects and an effort to provide forums and areas where citizens can voice their opinions and provide feedback. Although I like the initiative, I sometimes question how effective simple "town hall meetings" are going be when considering bigger projects like Stuttgart 21. I think they will need a larger and more integrated program to really see impact citizen opinions and enhance engagement but nonetheless, I find this a very positive development.

These offices also have an in-house curator, and she's responsible for the management and development of the art and furniture within the building. We had a tour around the inside (I am not posting pictures because other people are in them), and it's interesting to see the influences from the different time periods. One room looks like Nixon may have chilled out there, whereas another looks nearly 200 years old. 


Monday, August 29, 2011

Seminar I: Stuttgart

As part of the Bosch Fellowship Program, we have three seminars during the year. They are broadly organized as "Germany - Federal," "Germany - State," and "Germany and the EU". The first seminar was "Germany - Federal" and included an introduction to Bosch and its home of Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg. The first few days we were in Stuttgart, learning about the Bosch Foundation and Bosch as a company. The Foundation building is next to the original house where Bosch used to live and has an amazing view of Stuttgart. Below, to the right of the grassy area, they also have a fruit orchard where employees can go during their break and pick fresh apples to eat.

What I really like about the Bosch company/foundation relationship is the way the funding for the foundation is structured. The foundation does not engage in corporate activity, but holds 92% of the shares in order to fund its activities. The voting rights for those shares are transferred to the Robert Bosch Industrietreuhund KG trust that then decides how to vote. This separates the business from the foundation, enabling both to make the decisions they think are best for their purposes. I think that's awesome.

View from the Foundation (the orchard is down to the right, you can see a few trees)

The funding structure

The Bosch House - Some of the furniture is original, but not all of it. The house changes hands a few times, particularly during the war periods, and it took a while for the company to buy the house back and locate some of the furniture.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Berlin Hipster Pretention Phenomenon

Due to Berlin’s reputation for being a party city, everyone goes there to, well, party. At the same time, Berlin is filled with Hipsters who pride themselves on appearing as though they got dressed in the dark in a thrift shop that hasn’t accepted any donations since 1985

Being a Hipster has become a pretentious phenomenon in and of itself before the Hipsters started controlling the clubs in Berlin. Originally intended as a counter-pop-culture-movement, it has since become the mainstream "cool club" to belong to. You have to take time to look like you didn't take time. You have to work hard to look disinterested. And you can only be into things while they're still outside of mainstream culture. The whole concept of "not caring" has been turned on its head, since now you have to care a lot to look like you don't care. (Generally speaking, of course. There are some people where being a hipster just comes naturally.) There was an awesome episode of Happy Endings about this last season, as well as this too-long-but-still-hilarious sketch from the Harvard Sailing Club.

Anyway, the Hipsters often control entry to the bars and clubs and take unbelievable pleasure in turning people away for whatever inane reason they come up with that evening. As a result, people often "go Hipster" in order to get into particular clubs. In other words, the Hipsters themselves have taken their counter-mainstream cultures and forced it to become mainstream in Berlin. Anyone who wants to get into a club assumes a Hipster persona, and the longer they stay in Berlin, the more Hipster they become for real.

I was turned away from some random bar for showing up in a group (they let people in one by one, but turned away anyone who was in a group of more than two) and turned away from Watergate because one of our people was too fancy (he was wearing a plain white button-up shirt instead of a t-shirt with some ironic graphic image on it). Berghain, the most famous club still in existence in Berlin, has a reputation for making people wait in line for up to two hours, only to reject them for no reason once they get to the door. (I’ve also been informed that Cookies also has the Hipster Pretention Phenomenon from time to time, but I think we got there early enough to avoid that issue.) Visiting Berghain, Watergate, or Cookies is worth it at least once just to see whether or not you can pull off Hipster Chic. Luckily, because it’s Berlin, every time you’re turned away, there are three more clubs right next door waiting for you to arrive.

As a result, whenever I go to these places, I just arbitrarily put on a random conglomeration of clothes without looking in the mirror. I know that the mismatching nature of my outfit, which would normally drive me crazy, will be exactly what I need to get past the doorman. I've even purchased a pair of ankle boots that I ironically wear in warm weather with a summer dress and mismatching scarf. If I want to go super Hipster? I put on my square, thick-rimmed glasses - something I ordinarily don't need outside of the classroom.

Despite the inherent irony and pretention that exists in Berlin Hipster culture, I love the influence it has had on the city - there's always some crazy art exhibit or underground club, people wear clothes that are interesting to look at, and no one gets stressed about life. Berlin lives in the now and the only question you have to worry about is, "How long is now?"

Friday, August 26, 2011

Eastern Comfort

There is a hostel boat on the East Side of the river, called “Eastern Comfort.” Despite the crazy appearance of the boat from the outside - as well as its uglier sister "Western Comfort" - the inside of both boats are really quite nice. As it turns out, the hostel boat is run by an American from Seattle, who also throws a weekly “English-Speaking Party”. The goal of the party is to introduce Germans and other traveling foreigners to native English-speakers and spend the night speaking English. However, as the night progresses, it just becomes an international boat party with no particular language emphasis…

While I was there, a German man was speaking to one of my Spanish friends, and this is what he said about me (in all seriousness!), “Her German is fantastic, but her English is really strange. She should really work on that…” Whaaaaattt?? Last time I checked, my German was passable but the accent is funny and my English borders on perfection. *sigh*. This is why I have to constantly reassess myself and where I’m going in life…(just kidding).

We also spoke to a man from Burma. As he came over, he immediately said, “I’m really high, so I might say strange things.” We looked at him quizzically because he was pointing to a bottle of strawberry wine as he said this. “What?” “Are you really high or really drunk?” “Well, look at this bottle!! I’ve had almost half already!” Then we started laughing and asked if he had done any drugs, the mere suggestion of which shocked him. “No, no, no, no, no!! I drink but I do not do drugs!” Turns out what he meant to say was ‘really drunk’ – he didn’t understand that ‘high’ is only used for drugs. Then after I told him I was from California, he wanted to know where my parents were from. I looked at him quizzically and asked why he would want to know that.

“Well...isn’t everyone’s parents in California from Mexico?”

Sooooooo, if you’re ever in Berlin on a Wednesday, it’s definitely worth a visit!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Deutsche-Amerikanische Volkfest

A group of the Bosch Fellows went to the German-American Volksfest (folk festival) last weekend, which was absolutely hilarious. The festival is in its 51st year, and has over the years developed a “Main Street”-style “downtown”, which are basically food booths with corny facades that look like some horrible Disneyland knockoff (see pictures below). They also had a map of the U.S. that was missing a few states and a board up depicting “South Wyoming.” I have to say, North Wyoming felt a little left out…

Despite this, the festival was really fun. The beers (including some American beers) were affordable and the country music cover band was actually very talented. We also went on a rollercoaster, had frozen yogurt, and bought a Dr. Pepper. All in all, a lovely day in the sun.

We also ran into the same mustache club we saw at the international beer festival!! I immediately insisted that we take another picture together, so now we have two pictures from two different festivals with the same Berlin Bart (Mustache) Club

Two of the men in our group also had the opportunity to get a "hands on" experience with a German-style bachelorette party. In Germany, bachelor/ette parties have lots of games involved that aim at embarrassing the bride- or groom-to-be. In this case, all the women wore t-shirts that said "Germany's Next Best Wife", except for the bride-to-be, who wore a shirt covered with hearts. Each heart has a price on it, ranging from 1 to 4 Euros. The bride then had to ask men if they'd be willing to pay for one of the hearts. If the man said yes, then he had to cut the heart out of the shirt with a pair of scissors and then pay the bride the price listed on the heart he cut out. So naturally, we made the men in our group do it. They each paid 4 Euros and cut a heart out of her shirt, with lots of giggling coming from both groups during the whole process. It sort of made my life.

Am I an artist if...

I photograph other people's art??

Our lovely German instructor, Stefan Endres*, arranged for a tour of the Baden-Württemberg office in Berlin. In Germany, it's very common for public and private companies to support or sponsor contemporary artists (in stunning contrast to the U.S.) and the B-W government is no different. They have an in-house curator who collects art from B-W artists and displays it in their building. Here a few examples that were on display during our visit.

The Nefertiti bust below has a slightly different history from the rest of the works of art. The original Nefertiti bust was discovered during excavations in Egypt that were funded by James Simon, a rich Jewish textiler who lived in Berlin in the early 1900s. Simon was a philanthropist, annually donating one-third of his income to the "benefit of poor people" (i.e. building schools, hospitals, etc). He co-founded the German Oriental Society and it was one of their excavations, funded by Simon, that discovered the bust. Although Simon was well-known in his time for his generous work and his contributions to the study of history and art, he had been relatively forgotten in recent times. As a response, B-W created a memorial in his honor outside the building and set a copy of the Nefertiti bust in their library to remind everyone of the contributions Simon made.

*highly recommended for people trying to learn German in Berlin: