Monday, February 27, 2006

Weekend in Texas

Paris Marathon Training: Week 13 of 18
Today’s target run: rest day

Sorry that the postings have been a bit quiet but that first week of business meetings was hectic, to say the least.

Weather in Texas has been, well…predictably, unpredictable for Texas, as is the case in February. In the course of 9 days, I have experienced rain, sleet, ice, winter winds, fog, torrential Texas thunderstorms, and a beautiful and gloriously sunny day in the Texas Hill Country. I forget how different Texas looks from the green fields of Germany. Sitting on the balcony of a local Austin Tex-Mex café, overlooking the canyons of western Austin, and seeing the sun set (you know, one of those really fine Texas sunsets), I marvel at the beauty of a good rugged Texas landscape. You can take the girl out of Texas but not Texas out of the girl....

I can also report that the Mexican food meals are totaling 5 and counting. “And that’s a good thing”.

So, besides good old comfort food, a roadtrip to Austin, I’ve also seen family and friends this past weekend. Thanks to all of those folks who I saw, and for good conversations and your hospitality.

One notable visit (thanks, Tracey) was to my girlfriend of 30+ years (we’ll keep the exact year to ourselves).

Petersen girls

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Team Meeting Photos

Paris Marathon Training: Week 12 of 18
Today’s target run: rest day

More photos from the team dinner…a good group of folks…smart, hard-working, and lots of fun to be around.

Global HR BD Team Meeting 2006 003

Global HR BD Team Meeting 2006 004

Global HR BD Team Meeting 2006 002

Global HR BD Team Meeting 2006 014

Global HR BD Team Meeting 2006 013

Global HR BD Team Meeting 2006 012

Global HR BD Team Meeting 2006 011

Global HR BD Team Meeting 2006 010

Global HR BD Team Meeting 2006 008

Global HR BD Team Meeting 2006 006

Global HR BD Team Meeting 2006 005

Global HR BD Team Meeting 2006 015

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Team Meeting Day One

Paris Marathon Training: Week 12 of 18
Today’s target run: 60 minutes
Today’s completed run: 60 minutes

The good news is that the Tex-Mex cuisine I was hoping to partake in has been had…several times, in fact. The bad news is that Germany winter weather I was hoping to leave behind in Germany…well, I’ve apparently imported this cruddy weather into Dallas.

Day One of the team meeting has been concluded with a good (but full) day of meetings and a fabulous dinner with my global team mates.

For your viewing pleasure, my EMEA team….

Global HR BD Team Meeting 2006 016

Friday, February 17, 2006

Headed to the US

The blog will be a bit quiet for the next few days as I travel to the US for two weeks of business. While the first week will be spent in meetings and team dinners (i.e. all things work related), the second week will allow for visits with family and friends. I’ll be splitting time between the ‘Hachie, Plano, and Texas hill country….

What’s the first thing I want to do after landing….you guessed it…eat Mexican food.

Auf Wiedersehen

How did it this celebration start?

Paris Marathon Training: Week 11 of 18
Today’s target run: 3 hours, 30 minutes
Today’s completed run: 3 hours, 30 minutes
(Yes…you read that correctly…)

Maybe you know all of this…I confess, I did not….

My reading on the subject tells me that Carnival started out as a pagan event to drive out the winter and its “ghosts of darkness” who were beginning to lose their powers with the advent of spring. Thus, the parades where one sees partiers wearing grotesque masks to scare away the evil spirits.

Other legends point to Carnival as a time to honor the pagan Goddess Freya and to celebrate fertility with the beginning of spring.

Whatever the reason, early Christian missionaries decided “enough is enough” and they shifted the celebration to supposedly a more Christian event….the start of Lent. Now, “us Baptist folks” don’t really observe Lent, but we kinda know the drill. Supposedly, it is a time of reflection and abstinence which lasts for a period leading up to Easter, whereby people “give up” something during this period of time. Traditionally, this might have included meat, eggs, milk, and any food made of these items, but of course, now, people select an item they “enjoy” to show the sacrifice being made. Apparently, celibacy was also practiced during Lent.

Since the last opportunity to partake of these foods and activities, it is not unexpected that people would celebrate in a rather “enthusiastic manner”. Moving up to the Middle Ages, this custom was easy to follow because the food stocks were typically running a bit low at this time of year. Hence, the origin of the name Karneval, as derived from Latin carne vale, meaning “farewell to meat”.

Traditions have a way of evolving, and Carnival was no different. OK, fast forward to the Middle Ages, where another tradition, particularly in Germany and Central Europe revolved around Starkbier (stout). This potent beer was brewed by monks for use during Lent since they were not supposed to eat meat. History tells us that they made up for the calories by drinking this darker, richer beer. Hmmm…nice story but not sure I buy it. Yes, this tradition has stuck….just look at Carnival in Germany today, and man…the beer does flow.

Moving on to the medieval period….During this time each year, it was the practice for “common people” to hold up a mirror to the face of their lords, which led to the tradition of the Hofnarr or Court jester. The jester was the well-known fool at the side of the king who was allowed to tell every truth without being punished provided his criticism was disguised as a joke. Even today, the court jester costume is one of the favourite costumes worn by Carnival revellers. I’ll save the whole “costume thing” for another day.

OK…so now that we are all armed with the history of how Carnival celebrations and traditions began, we’ll move on to what we can expect in the way of today’s Carnival revelry.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Carnival…what is it in Germany?

Paris Marathon Training: Week 11 of 18
Today’s target run: 1 hour 12 minutes
Today’s completed run: 1 hour 12 minutes

Carnival in Germany…is akin to…well….Mardi Gras…for those of us in the US who are familiar with this big-bang event in New Orleans. It is considered “a fifth” season in Germany, because it is a time of total hype and revelry (or downright craziness) all on its own. Apparently, Carnival divides Germans into two camps: Those who absolutely love it and can’t wait to make fools out of themselves, and those who absolutely hate it.

Interestingly enough, this difference is can be seen along geographic lines. For those regions that are predominantly Catholic in religious affiliation, such as Saxony, Mosel River Valley, and North Rhine Westphalia, and for many cities such as Cologne, Düsseldorf, Munich, and Constance, etc. this is a big-time celebration. For Protestant areas of Germany, it is not really celebrated, since Martin Luther “forbade” Carnival.

Technically, January 6th is the start of this fifth season, although preparations have been underway since the previous November. After all, there are Carnival Princes and Princesses to elect and Carnival parades to stage. The pace of Carnival activities, parties, events, and parades increase in frequency right up to Shrove Monday, in this case, February 27th of this year. But more to come on specific Carnival events in future blog posts.

There are regional differences to Carnival…one of the most obvious is seen in the various names that are given to the event: Carnival, Fasenacht, Fosenocht, Fasteleer, Fastelovvend, Fastelaband, and Fastnacht are names given to the night before the beginning of Lent.

So, check back…Germany Carnival 101 is just beginning….

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Visitors are starting to come....

Paris Marathon Training: Week 11 of 18
Today’s target run: 60 minutes
Today’s completed run: 60 minutes

The second group of Waxahachie friends have now booked airfare, researched travel options, and are definitely headed “Germany way” in mid April. Easter weekend, in fact.

Yes, Becky and Jim K. plan to tour much of Southern Germany with a sidetrip to the Mosel Valley, which is where we will tour with them for 4 glorious days.

Travel, food, and friends…three of my favorite things.

PS – In case there are other guests to Germany secretly lurking out there, “come one, come all”.

Monday, February 13, 2006

I use the term “Handy-Man” very loosely

Paris Marathon Training: Week 11 of 18
Today’s target run: rest day

Nothing like the impending visit of friends to kick one into high gear on the home improvement projects. And so it went…we needed to have a new bathroom door installed in the master bathroom. Yes, this falls under the heading of “renter is responsible to fix” as per the rental agreement.

After a couple of false starts on missed appointments, our “Relocation Expert” (another term I use loosely) with a new Handy-Man in tow arrived this morning to install the new door.

Mind you, the Budman had already been to the local equivalent of Home Depot, known in Düsseldorf as BauHaus, and had researched the availability of replacement doors. We already knew where to purchase the door, how much it would cost, and that the bottom few centimeters would need to be shaved off the replacement door prior to installation.

So, “Handy-Man” arrives with new door and proceeds to try to remove the existing bathroom door from its hinges. Yes, we knew it was rusted…that is why we called in the home improvement reinforcements. We should have just rehung the new door ourselves, thereby negating the need for Handy-Man altogether.

Now, I question the apparent handiness of a guy who:

(1) Has been told where to purchase the door, the exact dimensions of the door opening, and price and availability of the door by the tenant requesting the work.

(2) Fails to bring the necessary equipment to perform the required tasks. Point in case:

Relocation Expert: Do you have a pair of pliers Handy-Man can borrow?
Hachie Gal: Er, sure…let me get those for you.

Relocation Expert: (A few minutes later.) Do you have a screwdriver that Handy-Man can use?
Hachie Gal: Yes…flat-head or Phillips-head?

Relocation Expert: Not sure…(he walks back into the bathroom to inquire in German of Handy-Man). Flat-head.
Hachie Gal: OK…let me get it for you.

Relation Expert: Did you know the hinges on this door are really rusted?
Hachie Gal: (thinking to herself…Duh…that is why we called Handy-Man). Yes, they are.

Relocation Expert: Do you have some cooking oil we can use to grease the hinges?
Hachie Gal: (Sighs inwardly…) Vegetable or Olive Oil? (OK, so I could not resist this cheesy remark). We do have some WD-40 that might work even better. Would you like to try it instead?

Relation Expert: One more thing…could we also borrow a hammer?
Hachie Gal: (Patience being tested mightily and with clinched teeth behind a fake smile). Yes, let me get it for you.

(3) Proceeds to hang the door only to find out that the door has not had the few bottom centimeter shaved off as previously indicated. Yes, I believe the ever efficient Budman had alerted Handy-Man to this fact early on. Thus, Relocation Expert and Handy-Man trapse back out with new door in hand. And no, they are nowhere the equivalent of superhero duos like The Lone Ranger and Tonto, or Batman and Robin, even though their nicknames have a “superhero” patter to them.

(4) Returns an hour later to hang the door, and scratches the backside of the door in not one…not two…but three places. Never worry, they’ll return with touch-up paint which I am sure will not match the new door paint color or worse yet, will be sloshed on the bathroom floor.

(5) Leaves us with the door to dispose of. Note: Relocation Expert did say I could call the “Refuse Man” and he could come pick the door up. And how do I do that? Just look in the white pages under ”Refuse Man”? I am sure there will be a listing. Thanks…very helpful.

And we paid for this outstanding level of customer service. Just when I thought I had left the dark side for good and had adjusted to the lack of customer service in Germany….a new home repair issue sucks me back in and I am hurled back into this emotional spiral.

Handy? I think not.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Let the Games Begin

Paris Marathon Training: Week 10 of 18
Today’s target run: 3 hours, 18 minutes
Today’s completed run: 3 hours, 18 minutes

The normal blight of January and February sports action (especially in seasons when the NHL decides to strike) is abated every four years when, for 2 glorious weeks, we can OD on winter Olympic coverage. Yes, the Budman and I caught the opening ceremony on Sky Sports (Kudos to the Italians: creative way to interpret the “doves of peace”, BTW, in the opening cermony).

This is the third set of Olympics that we have spent living outside the US, and as is commonly our tradition, we cheer for not only our Home Country Team (USA) but the current Host Country Team of wherever we are living at the time. Sadly, Our Korean and Taiwanese Olympic teams often do not bring home too many medals (hey, Taiwan had 4 medals in the summer Olympics: 2 for judo and 2 for archery), but that is not what the Olympic spirit is really about anyway. So, this year, we are also cheering for the German Olympic Team as well.

A few fun facts related to Germany and the Winter Olympics:

* Michael Greis of Germany won the first Gold Medal of the 20th Winter Olympics in the men's 20 km individual biathlon event.

* The German Olympic Team is fielding 161 athletes in this year’s winter Olympics.

* Expect the German team to compete well, as always, but this year, it may be tough to repeat the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic performance. During the last winter Olympics, Germany led the overall medal standings with 36 medals — 12 gold, 16 silver and 8 bronze.

* Be on the lookout for the “Speeding Sausage” – do you even know there was such as thing/person? This is the nickname given to three-time Olympic champion Georg Hackl, who is known for the tight fit of his luge racing suit. He’s hopeful of overcoming recent injuries to claim his fourth gold medal.

* Germany’s best medal hopefuls include: Kati Wilhelm, a two-time biathlon gold medalist from 2002, speed skaters Anni Friesinger and Claudia Pechstein (the country's most decorated Olympian), cross country skier Tobias Angerer, and Sandra Kiriasis, a bobsledder who was a silver medalist in 2002 and hopes to win gold in Turin.

So, let the games begin.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Medical certificate? Check!

Paris Marathon Training: Week 10 of 18
Today’s target run: 1 hour 24 minutes
Today’s completed run: 1 hour 24 minutes

Yes, marathon preparation is proceeding according to plan. Besides the next 8 weeks of training (and getting travel and hotel reservations in order), I now possess the required “medical certificate” for the Paris Marathon. Even though this is my eleventh marathon, it is surprisingly the first time that I have been required to submit a “clean bill of health” in the form of some written statement issued by medical personnel certifying “that I have no contraindications that would preclude my participation in sports competition.” Come again?

Translation: A doctor must certify I am in OK health to run the marathon.

Now, what does such a check-up in Germany include? Well, yesterday’s visit to my German doctor did involve a check-up of sorts; however, for the receipt of the medical certificate, there was no checking of blood pressure, heart rate, weight, general Q&A such as “How are you feeling these days?” or “So, how is your general health?”

Still, I have complied with the requirement, have the medical certificate in hand, and will mail it to the marathon organizers in post haste. I’d better be mailing it in soon as I have had my ups and downs with Germany post.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Happy Birthday, Budman

Paris Marathon Training: Week 10 of 18
Today’s target run: 1 hour 24 minutes
Today’s completed run: 1 hour 24 minutes

Today is an auspicious day….it is the Budman’s birthday! I wish that being the clever gal that I normally am that I had some creative birthday extravaganza planned. Still, who know what fun birthday surprises may be in store?

Well, to start the day off right, a retrospective of my favourite Budman photos from the past year….


Heidelberg Germany May 2005 035

Heidelberg Germany May 2005 009

Aachen July 2005 066


Warsaw Poland 0705 053

Dinkelsbuhl 101505 017

Rome Italy Day 4 044

Italy Day 6-8 113

Colmar France Christmas Market 2005 002

Istanbul Turkey 2005 Disc 4 083

Happy, Happy Birthday, Budman! You are definitely one in a million. Hope the day is a special one for you!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

We gotta us ah strike on er hands

Paris Marathon Training: Week 10 of 18
Today’s target run: 1 hour 12 minutes
Today’s completed run: 1 hour 12 minutes

Monday in Germany, public service workers in the southern part of Germany (Baden-Wurttemberg) went on strike in protest of the proposed longer work week being implemented. When I talk about “public service workers”, I am referring to trash collectors, hospital workers, municipal workers, and some teachers in 4 or 5 of the major cities in this state.

About 10,000 workers were expected to picket and union officials said they are prepared for a four to six-week strike action. Hospitals, pre-schools and administration offices were affected, and trash was not collected, according to the union officials. It is the first widespread public-sector strike in 14 years and "supposedly" threatens to grow larger. The union is also seeking to get members in other states, such North Rhine-Westphalia (the state where I live), to join in the strike.

What’s the crux of the issue: Members of the trade union are opposing plans by municipalities to extend their work weeks from 38.5 to 40 hours without extra pay. After a quick round of arithmetic, that equates to 90 minutes more work per week, or 18 minutes more work per day. The union says this is a 4% pay cut; governments say they can no longer afford the 38.5 hour workweek. Hmmm....

I guess with my American work mentality, I easily work an extra 18 minutes a day on a regular basis.'s way more than that. And after all, the rest of the world looks upon us as crazy folks when they see how many hours a day Americans work, or how short our vacation time is each year. So, I’ll be the first to confess…I just don’t get it.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Fell asleep...

Well, I just couldn't stay awake to watch the Super Bowl. Kick-off was at midnight Germany time. I couldn't keep the sleep fairies away, so not only did I not see a down played, I even missed opening kick-off. I did, however, catch the awful pre-game show with Steve Wonder et al and that debacle of a national anthem with Aretha Franklin and Aaron Neville - am I the only one who panned this? Would have been interesting to have seen The Stones at half-time, but....

Thumbs up for the Parade of MVP players from Super Bowls past. Cowboys were well represented (smile). Two comments:

* Generally speaking, the older guys looked to be in better shape and more mobile than the younger ones (exception Jerry Rice - he looks like he could still be playing football).

* If anyone needs proof to how football wrecks the body in later years, you just needed to catch a glimpse of those players who could barely walk due to all the excess weight and bad knees. Frankenstein had a more graceful walk...

Starbuck’s Mugs

Paris Marathon Training: Week 10 of 18
Today’s target run: rest day

Now, before I am chastised about collecting them, I am sure we all have things cluttering our closets from our travels that we just as soon not brag about. Russian nesting dolls, a table sized version of the Eiffel tower, wooden shoes from the NL, a Mexican sombrero, or any kind of wooden carving “stuff” from the Caribbean. I suppose I could admit to a similar purchase, here or there. And not that there is anything wrong with that. It is just that our souvenir purchases these days lie more in the realm of textiles/home furnishings, books, tableware, furniture, artwork, and Starbuck’s Mugs.

Yes, you read that correctly.

I’m becoming a little worried…two cities in a row, and not a sighting one of a Starbuck's coffee shop. Not that I can’t get along with out a trip to Starbuck’s. And yes, I am all for savoring the “flavor” of local coffee houses, even though I am not much of a coffee drinker.

No, my concern is really of a purely “souvenir-istic” motive (yes, I know there is no such word but it seemed to capture what I was trying to say). Recent trips to Brussels and Amsterdam would have normally meant an obligatory trip to Starbuck’s where the purchase of a “city” mug would have been in order.

Of course, we encountered that identical situation in Italy, but I had anticipated that the Italians would have scoffed at US coffee franchises, so I never really expected to find a Starbuck’s store.

With curiosity begin to brim, a quick trip to the Starbuck’s website brought about a shocking revelation. There are only 8 countries in EMEA in which Starbuck’s operates, and I already possess city mugs from 5 of the 8 countries. A similar ratio was (6 out of 9) was uncovered in my collection of AP Starbuck’s coffee mugs, where the percentage would have been much higher had I actually visited Australia and New Zealand.

First, no passport stamps in Europe, and now this. What is a tourist to show for their world travels?

PS – I’ll anticipate the question: No, it does not count if I don’t visit the country and purchase the mug myself.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Gotta love satellite

And yes, I’ll be watching Super Bowl coverage LIVE starting at 11 pm Germany time. Will be pulling for Seattle as well, as it is just too difficult to cheer for the Steelers. Too many years of Steeler-Cowboy gridiron battles leave me with little will to root for the "Steel Curtain". Sadly, I think that the men in black and gold will be too much for the Seahawks.


Paris Marathon Training: Week 9 of 18
Today’s target run: 3 hours, 7 minutes
Today’s completed run: 3 hours, 7 minutes

I realize I am coming to the party late…after a very long run (in the snow, mind you), I spent most of the day “horizontal on the couch” scanning satellite and intermittently, snoozing, eating, and watching TV. That’s what running for 3 hours will do to you. During one of the “awake times”, I was finally able to watch a couple of episodes of Scrubs. I don’t have all the characters clear yet in my mind, but I can tell this is just the kind of quirky show I can go for.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Final photos

Paris Marathon Training: Week 9 of 18
Today’s target run: 36 min

Today’s target run: 36 min

Well, I guess my replay of the Amsterdam trip is coming to a close…let me just share with you some final photos from the weekend. Thanks to Cyn for use of a couple of her photos.

Amsterdam street scene.

Picture 056

Cyn at our first stop: the Anne Frank House.

Amsterdam January 2006 003

Dam Square.

Picture 042

In front of the Royal Palace (not the official residence but still used for official functions).
Picture 040

Nieuw Kerk, or New Church, in Dam Square.

Amsterdam January 2006 007

Along the canal lining Prinsengracht, the street where Anne Frank lived.

Picture 037

Old mansions along the canal.

Amsterdam January 2006 024

The Old Watch Tower.

Amsterdam January 2006 005

Holly on a cold and windy Sunday morning in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam January 2006 023

Oude Kerk, or Old Church.

Amsterdam January 2006 014

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Many reasons to return

Paris Marathon Training: Week 9 of 18
Today’s target run: 48 min
Today’s target run: 48 min

Well, while the trip to Amsterdam was brief, it can be safely stated that I’ll return if for no other reason than the Budman wants to go. However, there are many other reasons to return as well:

* Now that I have the city’s “lay of the land”, I look forward to going back to explore in further detail. Those canals do wind just a bit so you can get turned around rather easily – next time, I’ll be a little more efficient (thanks, Cyn, for being the map gal, as I couldn’t have done it without you. As Joey on Friends say “step into the map”).

* This is the 400th year celebration of Rembrandt’s birth so there are tons of things going on all year connected to the painter. On trip #2, I hope to see The Nightwatchman (Rembrandt’s famous painting) as well as Rembrandt’s house museum.

* Museums galore! You can OD on museums if you want, with the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum just two of the more famous ones.

* Outdoor markets! Not as many in the winter but come spring, everything will be in full outdoor market mode.

* Shopping on Sundays…for those of us in Germany, access to stores on Sunday is a BIG deal.
Antique stores right and left – need I go on?

* Local food is pretty darn good. Cyn and I only tasted a bit of it, but the Dutch pancakes, split pea soup, and hot chocolate with slogrom (whipped sweetened cream).

* English speakers is difficulty is low.

* Mostly, it is a very charming city that is easily walkable, very compact, and with great architecture. And then if you need, the tram or canal buses are a great way to move around.

I could go on but I suppose you get my drift…this one is a keeper!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Anne Frank Haus

Paris Marathon Training: Week 9 of 18
Today’s target run: rest day

Thanks for letting me interrupt the Amsterdam travel stories for an Oscar post…it is almost a national holiday in my book and I felt the need to give the day its due. Now, back to Amsterdam.

One of the first stops and truly, one of the most moving places I have visited in my recent travels, was the Anne Frank Haus .

Most of us read the book in middle school, so we all acquainted with the story. Still, I was not prepared for how moved I would be by visiting the site in person.... Words fail me.

Anne Frank kept the diary from June 12, 1942 to August 1, 1944, and chronicled the hiding place that she her family, and a few of her father's colleagues used in Amsterdam to hide from the Nazis. Originally, she kept the diary for herself, but later she wrote that she wished to publish a book based on her diary. Sadly, she never got that chance, as her family and friends were discovered by the Nazis (betrayed by someone) on August 4, 1944. Her last diary entry was August 1, 1944.

Front of the Anne Frank House and Museum

Amsterdam January 2006 001

Anne and her sister died in Bergen Belsen sometime in February or March of 1945 due to complications of typhus. Anne’s mother. Edith Frank, died in Auschwitz on January 6, 1945 due to hunger and exhaustion. Only Otto Frank, Anne’s father, survived the concentration camps, having spent his time in Auschwitz.

Fortunately for the world, this brave young woman, who died before her 16th birthday chronicled the horrors of this terrible period in our world’s history. Anne’s diaries were saved by secretaries of Otto Frank’s who had assisted the family while they were in hiding for over 2 years. In 1951, the book was initially published, and today has been translated into over 80 languages.

If you ever get a chance to see this place, you definitely do not want to miss it. It is so sad and yet so inspiring...all at the same time.

Her mission was simple:

“I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.

Her writing certainly did that for the world.