Cut & Slice

Coming to grips with a world gone mad. Continue reading “Cut & Slice”


By now it should be clear that I love Germany. No, I haven’t been there; that doesn’t matter. You don’t have to visit the Globe Theater to appreciate the genius of Shakespeare or the Louvre to understand the mastery of Leonardo da Vinci.

Berlin Wall 1961
Twenty-five years has gone so fast . . .

9 November 1989. You remember it like Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy – or King – Assassination, September 11.

Four-year-old me stood in my underwear watching Peter Jennings report live from Berlin and knew that something important was happening.

Berlin Wall ABC News
If I could find a souvenir just to prove the [wall] was here . . .

Others my age don’t remember this. Their earliest memories are of cartoons or animated movies.

I remember the world changing

German Flag Fall of the Wall

I Don’t Always Use German,


Writing 101 and the World Cup prompted several readers to comment on my use of language; specifically, my erratic mix of English and German. For the record, I am not a native German nor was German my native language. In fact, I’ve never even been to Germany (or any other part of Europe, for that matter). So, how did I come to learn Deutsch, die Muttersprache des Vaterland?

Erstes Buch
(c) 1971

It all began in high school with an ancient German Grammatikbuch, Erstes Buch. My Lehrerin was Frau Dickhut, an older Slovenian lady who insisted on calling us her “Schlechten Buben” even when we weren’t acting like Max und Moritz. I didn’t like German as a language then, although I can’t explain why. Perhaps because it was forced on me? However, I enjoyed the songs, stories, and food. Especially the food: Schnitzel, Brezel, Kartoffelsalat. Schmeckt!

I endured the two years of high school (Gymnasium? Ich versiß) only to discover I needed a foreign language for my college course. Since I already had some German background, I took the placement test and placed in second-semester Deutschklasse. However, I convinced my examiner to start me in first semester.

Deutsch Na Klar
Finally, German grammar on my level!

It was in college that I began to love German both as a language and as a culture. Fridays were Kulturtage: we’d sing (singen), play games (spielen), eat (essen), read (lesen), or give reports (einen Bericht geben). My first oral report was on Baron Manfred von Richthofen (der Rote Baron). I remember the first time I understood Wagner, Göthe, Brahms, and Fonante. It was electrifying.

German Team 1
Die Mannschaft!

Although I finished my “official” German classes years ago, I still try to keep up with it. I read Der Spiegel and Die Zeit and listen to Deutsche Welle – all free courtesy iPhone Apps. Listening to Germany win die Weltmeisterschaft in Deutsch? Wunderbar und entzückt! The one thing I lack is someone to speak to, so my Deutschesprechen ist nicht sehr gut.

I also teach force my students some German words. In addition to a German “Word of the Week,” I answer common questions in German.

Q: How much longer?

A: Fünf minuten! [oder die Zeit verbleibende]

Q: May I use the restroom?

A: Macht schnell!

And so on . . .

Sometimes, they pick it up quite well. A year or two ago I had one student who picked up my German phrases and asked or answered them in Spanish. Since I don’t know Spanisch enough to use it, our conversations would be an eccentric mix of English, German, and Spanish. We’d often use it to confuse new students on their first day of class. That made the first fünf minuten sehr interessant, indeed.

A Few Favorite German Words

Kummerspeck – (lit. “grief bacon”)

Kreuzworträtsel – (crossword puzzle)

Kirschkernspuckwettbewerb – (cherry seed spitting contest)

Oh my, I’ve used enought Deutche Wörter that Microsoft is now recognizing German as the document language setting. That’s never happened before.

German Flag Bow TieGerman has changed my everyday language. For example, I use „warum“ instead of „why“ (see, I told you the language setting changed!) and „wo bist du?“ for „where are you?“. It used to drive my wife verrückt, but now she accepts it. At the very least, she tolerates it.

Hoffentlich this has cleared up some of the Wirrung.

Bis Später!



Of Smartphones and Schadenfreude

Sometimes it seems everything conspires against us. Yesterday was one of those times.

Illuminati Dollar
Blame the Illuminati!

I really, really, really wanted to watch the BRA v GER match; however, my schedule would only allow me to see half of it. That was fine – after all, some of a match is better than no match at all, right? Besides, I had friends supporting both sides. I wanted to share in the joy/disappointment.

Now, I don’t have cable at my house, and my rabbit-ear antennae barely function. So, I’ve been watching at least one match a day at my in-laws house. Nothing new on that front.

But then I checked my email. You see, I had taken the opportunity to upgrade my current phone by renewing my provider contract for the low, low cost of free. According to their website, my phone would be delivered on Wednesday. The email I received informed me that it was on the truck for delivery on Tuesday. So, while I had planned on being ready for the 4:00 match at 1:00, I was sitting in my living room waiting for FedEx at 3:00. They delivered at 3:05; not bad, FedEx delivery algorithm!

4s BlackThen came the great question: did I try to transfer my content via the cloud or via PC. Since I don’t have WiFi and didn’t want to use data from my plan, I opted to use my PC.


I thought it would be a simple file transfer: make a backup file and then restore the new phone from that file. But no, it couldn’t be that simple. No matter what I did, my PC refused to recognize my phone as anything other than a new phone. Finally, at 4:30, I gave up and went to watch the game.

At my in-laws, my wife successfully transferred her content to her new phone in under 10 minutes using the cloud. I finally got my phone to work properly at 1:00 the next morning.

I was able to see twenty minutes of the game, about 50′ to 70′. Of the seven goals Germany would score, I only saw one of them (69′).

Schadenfreude Score

Previously, I had stated that while I supported Germany, I sympathized with Mexico. No one should have to leave the Cup with a broken vertebra.

Crying Brazil SupporterI lied. Watching the match unfold – or listening to it on the radio – or convincing someone to give me an update via their phone – I reveled in the schadenfreude of Germany’s thorough thrashing of the Brazil side. The tears of Brazil supporters only fueled my delight.

Now, I realize this may come back to haunt me. As Germany faces Argentina in the championship match Sunday, they may be on the receiving end of such a thrashing.

But for the next four days, I’ll glory in the excitement and anticipation of adding another star to the Deutscher Fußball-Bund.

Even if they lose, I want a Schweinsteiger jersey for Christmas.

Schweinsteiger Jersey Mannschaft
Die Mannschaft für Weinachten!

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Thoughts on the World Cup

World Cup 2014 LogoDear US Men’s National Team “Soccer Fans” on my Facebook feed,

Everything was fine until you showed up. Really, it was. I could cheer on my team in relative peace and quiet, free from threats and trolling. Absolutely nobody cared.

But now you are here, and all of that is gone. Now, you think you own me.

Let’s get one thing straight: I owe you neither an explanation nor an apology. In fact, I don’t owe you anything. But you seem to think I do.

Fact: I’ve been cheering for my team since 1994.

Fact: You’ve been cheering for your team since June 16.

Now, if this were any other sport, you’d have some very pointed remarks if I suddenly switched teams just because one of them was doing better than expected. You’d say that I was a bandwagoner or a fair-weather fan. Profanity might be involved at some point.

There’s only one American team I cheer for in any capacity: the UConn basketball team. I’ve cheered for them since I was old enough to know that college basketball was a thing. I can only imagine what you’d say to me if I started cheering for Duke or UNC or Kansas or Kentucky just because UConn was having a bad year.

In the same way, there’s only one team I cheer for in the World Cup: Deutschland. That’s Germany for those of you new to the game. Oh wait, that’d be all of you. And that was never a problem. At least, it wasn’t ‘til you came along.

You see, for years you didn’t care about soccer. I would argue that you still don’t care, but that’s not the point. You didn’t care because America sucked. And you didn’t care about America’s suckiness because soccer wasn’t an “American Sport.” You didn’t care about soccer because you couldn’t gloat. America wins the so-called “World Series” and “Super Bowl” simply because other countries don’t show up. Oh, all right, I know Canada may be involved in the World Series. I honestly don’t care for either baseball or football. At least now you might know the difference between football and futbol.

But now you care. So when you post a status update on Facebook or a tweet on Twitter, you get dozens – maybe even hundreds – of likes and retweets and support.

When I post the same in support of my team, I get things like

Turn in your America card.

You’re being unpatriotic. You know that, right?

You’re dumb.

You’re a moron.

You’re out of control.

You should be deported.

You’re a Nazi.

If you support another country the government should give you a one way ticket to live in that country since you love it so much.


And these are just the ones I can repeat.

I could counter your arguments with logical, thought out responses. However, that would imply they are worthy of debate. Suffice it to say your comments prove you know nothing of the sport or of history.

I don’t go trolling you every time you post something about your team; why must you do it to me? Let the score speak for itself. After all, that kind of is the point.

You know, I don’t really care that you support the USA. That’s fine. My friends support England and France and Brazil and Chile. One or two of them might even support the USA.

What I do care about is the fact that you’re bringing the traditional American arrogance and superiority complex to a sport that you haven’t cared about in decades, if at all. I can only imagine the terror you will unleash upon the world should you actually win.

Now knock it off before you ruin it for everyone.



Author’s Note

I realize that not all American supporters act like this. Some have supported the team since day one. That’s great; it’s what the sport needs.

This letter is written from my personal experience and is directed at those on my Facebook feed (and those that act like them) and not necessarily to all American supporters in general.

This post is being published as part of Writing 101. Challenge 19: Write at least four-hundred words, and once you start typing, don’t stop. No self-editing and no second guessing: just go. Bonus points if you tackle an idea you’ve been playing with but think is too silly to post about.

34 Countries from the End of a Pier

Trent River in New Bern, NCThis week I attempted to travel around the world. No, I’m not trying to be some kind of modern-day Phileas Fogg, breaking a new record for circumnavigating the globe. Instead, I’m working on a project.

As some of you know, I teach middle and high school social studies. Last year, my Geography class was decidedly lackluster. This year, though, I have a plan: every two weeks, I’m going to create a travel montage highlighting a particular country. I want to include posters, brochures, postcards, a clock with the local time, and – of course – sample the national cuisine.

Of course, the obvious solution would be to employ the vast knowledge of Wikidpedia and Google Image Search, but I want things to be more real. Therefore, I set about contacting the embassies of 34 countries from around the world. The list was entirely arbitrary; I sat down and made a list of the countries that I would want to learn more about. Here’s the list:


Germany, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Portugal, Greece, Romania, Italy, France, Ireland, Norway, Spain


Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, India, China, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines


Cote D’Ivoire, Morocco, Egypt, South Africa, Zaire (D.R. Congo), Madagascar

South America

Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru

Central/North America

Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada

Believe it or not, I heard back quite quickly from several embassies. Norway wins the prize for promptness, though, with a response time of 5 minutes. Garrison Keillor would be proud. So far, several countries have promised to send me supplies: Germany, France, Norway, and South Africa. I am on a waiting list for Peru. I was disappointed to learn that several countries do not send out information, including Italy, Japan, Cote D’Ivorie, and Costa Rica. I have not received a response from any of the other countries.

Now, I would appreciate your help. I know from the site stats that I have visitors from around the world. If you live outside the US – or know someone who lives outside the US  –  and are willing to help me out by sending me some local brochures, posters, magazines, newspapers, or anything of the sort, please let me know. It doesn’t have to be a country from the list, any country would do.

I could hope beyond hope that this would get picked up by Freshly Pressed, but somehow I don’t think this article meets those standards. So, if you can help, let me know. If you can’t help personally, repost, reblog, or share my plea; you can help make Geography class a more interesting place to be!

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