Friday, March 30, 2007

Prague: Grungy and Loving It

Prague is as gritty as Munich is clean, a Kurt Cobain follows Robert Palmer sort of experience going from the autobahn to the Munich airport at 200 KPH, then sitting next to a young couple passing a large bottle of red wine back and forth as the purple-dreadlocked woman holds a small dog in her lap on the Prague subway.

A bit jarring, but having had roughly 36 hours in the Czech capital now I can report that this city now meets with my full approval. Too many tourists, and too crazy near the public transport areas, but with plenty of quiet nooks where one can just stare at beautiful, grimy architecture and narrow cobblestone street scenes. Very, so very Europe.

And having always had a strange fascination with incomprehensible languages, we're having great fun figuring out menus and other signage. Too bad in a way that Prague is so popular with Brits (the Pound must be absolutely killing the Czech Krona in exchange), leading to plenty of dual Czech/English signs and a concomitant high level of resentment by those Czech workers who don't know any English. In a way, I much prefer the point & nod head system of ordering required in cities like Budapest, where I had no chance in Hell of learning Hungarian and Budapestians (?) knew little or no English.

But here I am in an English language bookstore/Net cafe just down the street from our nice, quiet apartment, and it's all very well and good, almost a bit too well and good. I'm making a note to speak to a defiantly non-English speaking local as soon as I leave this Net cafe. I need some tourist hostility to balance out all this easy travelling, perhaps a day trip to the countryside will take care of that.

Lastly, speaking of hostility, I am reading with increasing smirk the peasant rise against the All That is UnHoly Marty-led "Red Light Camera Horror". Oh, the Fascism! Oh the Humanity! Oh, the "They'll take my foot off the accelerator the day they take my cold, dead fingers off the steering wheel!" outrage of it all! I guess my idea about putting "governors" on the accelerating preventing cars from going over the speed limit will have trouble catching on. We pernicious car Nazis have such a problem gaining root in the U.S. Pity.

I can hardly wait for the first eighteen-part series in the Journal about a wreck caused by someone rear-ending a motorist who tried to stop at a Red-Light camera red light. I fully expect a downloadable Zapruder-like film capturing the impact in frame-by-frame detail. Maybe Marty can sell the film to some Driver's Ed. curriculum to help raise money he thought would come from the fines generated from the cameras. Oh, the humanity.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Munich Sßahn and the SV NotSoßahn

Here in Munich, I could be all serious and go on and on about how observing life here for just two days makes one immediately aware of how Americans are simply doomed when it comes to correcting global warming in contrast to a Europe that is light years ahead on the issue. Or I could just mention how the z and y keys are switched on the German keyboard. Maybe I will stick to the keyboard issues because they are not nearly as depressing as comparing the solid 150 yard line of bikes parked sidebyside this morning at a SBahn parknride to cycling life in the States. Much better to just note that I cant find the apostrophe key here in the dark at 430 in the morning, or the colon key, or the hyphen. Not to mention the quotation marks for things like ParkNRide.

Which reminds me that I never mentioned the construction going on and just about finished for the South Valley RailRunner stop. Quite a big parking lot being constructed next to the platform, and I swear I want that parking lot to be filled as savvy commuters swarm to the train. That would be great, but I deeply doubt it will happen. Again I hope Im wrong and we one day soon have a mass transit system one onehundredth as good as the one here in Munich, with its roughly 12 subway lines, myriad electric trams and bus route support. Man that would be great. Man, I just dont see that happening.

I guess one big reason is that I currently plan on driving on 2nd street alongside the RailRunner as I meander my way to work. Id love to say otherwise, but without a more complete, more frequent system to go along with the one rail line, it just doesnt make sense. Not to mention that the South Valley station is located in an area not many are keen on leaving a parked car at. I will gulp with a bit of shame, but I will simply be waving at the RailRunner stopped to pick up its mob of SV commuters.

Damn, wandered off from talking about the little funny things of my German keyboard. Maybe Ill get to more of that when I switch to the Czech model in Prague later today. Or maybe instead Ill just moan some more about relative differences in public transit between major European cities and hoping to be major someday American ones.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

"This Time For Sure!" -- Bullwinkle J. Moose

The word "haphazard" is a very cool word, but even it fails to capture the lolly-gagging attitude yours truly has had about blogging the last few weeks. And don't we all enjoy reading blog posts about not blogging? No, it's not fascinating stuff, but heading into a long-awaited Spring Break I've just not had the oomph going toward the whole blog thing.

But now the excruiatingly-awaited Break is here, and like a sheet pulled off a lousy painting at a bad art auction a new, dynamic blog is now unveiled. I even promise to write about something other than my not writing.

One new exciting feature here at Babble (for the next two weeks, anyway) will be "Live Blogging: Europe", in which your humble blogster spends far too vacation time in internet cafes telling you all the stuff he would be doing if he wasn't doing the same damn net surfing he could be doing in ABQ. Well worth the price of admission right there, I tell ya.

I'll be reporting "live" (and isn't all blogging "live" when you think about it?) from Munich and Prague, using funky keyboards with weird umlauts and the letter "Z" where our letter "F" is on the keyboard. One way you, Babble reader, could help out would be by paying me for this blog, hence making the trip tax-deductible.

A one-penny donation into a PayPal account and I can write-off all the $7.50 coffees and $19.00 blintzes I can consume. Or maybe I can't. I'm a schoolteacher, don't ask me about tax stuff. Those that can't do taxes teach and therefore never make enough money that taxes become a problem.

Whether tax-deductible or not, the wife and I are very excited about the trip because it will allow us to "live blog" from Europe. Okay, that's not why we're excited about the trip. In fact, there are probably 1,532 more exciting things about it than "live blogging". At least...but we do have the "live blogging" thing going for us, too.

And what does that mean for you, Burque Babble consumer? It means more blog entries (I'm almost to 300 now), with more cynical blog goodness cooked right in! It means you'll get to learn where various letters are on Czech computer keyboards! It offers you the vicarious thrill of getting vicariously fatter and fatter from all the sausage-heavy meals downed with pilsner beer to be gobbled over the next 10 days or so! I'm getting fatter so you don't have to!

Enough marketing. I always sucked at marketing...hence the teaching thing, perhaps. By the way, despite the fact that few if any people seemed to like them, I will be posting more "inside the temple" teaching stories that don't conform to the typical "what about the children, won't anybody think about the children?!?" ranting. I found over the last few months that it's hard for me to write about teaching while actually doing it. I'm guessing my reaction was like that of an ER doctor who comes home from work to watch "ER". I needed the time from the "box" (my term for the classroom) to be consumed with thinking about anything but school, and writing about stupid things like testing, more testing and "what about the children...." was just making me morose. On top of that, nobody seemed to like reading the entries.

But ignoring that last fact, I'm going to lay a few teaching stories down from the safe distance of another continent, including why our school police officer took a job as an educational assistant. Trust me, it's pretty funny....if you like to laugh at things so pathetic and sad that most people would simply cringe and look away in self-righteous disgust. Okay, maybe I'm overselling it...but it is pretty funny.

And now on to more packing. To all my teacher/student friends, have a good Break, and try to think about everything but "the box" as much as possible. Lastly, thanks to Sarah (if I got that name right) for your very nice comment to my last post..the one from weeks ago. And to the other folks who wondered just where the Hell I wandered off to...thanks for wandering by this little piece of the blogosphere. I promise to be better, really, I promise. This time for sure.

Monday, March 12, 2007

A Creeping Return From Sweet Blogsylum

Ah, sweet blog vacation.

There's a great chapter opening in Robert Penn Warren's All The King's Men where the narrator guy who has a crush on the sweet girl goes to the sweet girl's house, the girl opens the door and it becomes apparent that sweet girl has been having an affair with the morally bankrupt Willie Stark. Our crushed crush-having narrator guy then immediately drives west from Louisiana all the way to the West Coast, holing up in seedy hotel rooms.

At least that's the way I remember that chapter. And I'm still too blog vacation-esque to go about looking up the actual book. Like narrator guy, I decided to hole up in the metaphorical equivalent of some seedy non-Net wired motel rooms for a few days, smoke some figurative cigarettes and throw some metaphysical playing cards into a symbolic fedora.

I'm back in town now, so to speak, but still somewhat mentally stuck in that figurative hotel room back in Barstow. How did I get here? And why did I go there? Let's see, I think it all started a few days back with some rather foolish time spent on the internet looking into matters having to do with NM folks who want to impeach President Bush. Or maybe it was before that, quite a bit hazier now looking back, with the realization that blogs and blogging seem to be more boring and useless than ever. Burque Babble most boring and useless of all.

I seem to remember looking at Duke City Fix posting pictures of a baby chimpanzee on the day the Scooter Libby verdict was announced, while Daily Kos members talked about how Libby was the tip of the iceberg and that Cheney, Bush, Reagan, Warren Harding and Nikita Krushchev were all gonna resign within the next 45 minutes because of it. And then I sort of black out, but vaguely recall having myself posted some incredibly boring tripe about standardized testing.

Yeah, it's coming back to me now. I distinctly recall saying "blogs have jumped the shark" to myself, then falling backward in my chair like Terry Gilliam when he gets that heart attack in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail". Then I got up and tried to avoid having anything to do with blogs for a few days.

Oh, I visited some sites, got into a sparring match with an impeachment zealot or two, but basically I just went off to the figurative Crossroads Motel and unblogged myself. Now, I'm back, but I have to say I didn't miss bloglessness a bit. Totally unaffected, like that time the TV broke and you didn't have enough money to fix it, and spent a week without TV and then got paid and could fix it and thought to yourself, "why would I want to fix my TV?"

But then you went ahead and fixed the TV, and pretty soon forgot about having ever thought twice about getting it fixed in the first place. And two days from now, while surfing between Wonkette, Metafilter and Cocoposts, I'll probably forget all about my blog-free vacation and how I didn't miss it at all. How any semblance of liberal angst seem to slip off like an easy girl's skirt, and how I didn't really think too much about how Dick Cheney is really Satan, or Al Gore does or doesn't use energy credits.

I will admit, though, that I noticed that ElectaBill Richardson signed the Cockfighting Ban. And that I was cheered up a bit. I still haven't checked out a "blog" about ElectaBill's signature yett. I wonder what do those kooky bloggers think about it? I also wonder...if I don't check out blogger response to news, is it still news? Is it the same news? Or is it somehow changed, twisted and excreted somehow, like sausages being processed at a rendering plant?

I don't know. And what the Hell should I care? What the Hell should you care? It's just some stupid blogs we're talking about. Including this one. Especially this one. Still, I've always been drawn to the stupid, pointless exercises of life, as long as those exercises admitted up front they were stupid and pointless. I can't say much for this stupid, pointless blog, but I can say this: we're never gonna take ourselves too terribly serious here. I kinda wish the same was true for much of the rest of the blogosphere, even the supposedly non-stupid, important blogs. Maybe especially those non-stupid, important ones.

Monday, March 05, 2007

You've Lost That Wilson Feeling....Ohhh, That Wilson Feeling

I've been trying to figure out why I'm not having a schadenfreude love fest with the news that Pete Domenici and now Heather Wilson have admitted pressuring U.S. Attorney David Iglesias. A few months back I would have been on a natural high of Everestian proportions over this thing. Peals of ceaseless laughter would have been heard coming from my house for days on end. Now, pretty much nothing. I think I've figured out why:

1. The voters of NM-1 chose to keep Heather Wilson. We in NM-1 deserve every ethic violation we get. We deserve Karl Rovian power politics because we had the chance to get rid of Wilson, yet meekly chose to re-elect this war-mongering, flip-flopping, out-of-touch charade of a congresswoman. And Pete has a Caesar-style lifetime appointment now, so it doesn't matter what stupid thing he says or does. That's the deal we've made, Heather and Pete, and we deserve all the lousy governing we get from the deal. I repeat my oft-made the *%$#@%^ election, people. Just win the *%$#@%^ election.

2. The underlying story here is shenanigans perpetrated by your NM Democrats. I have the sneaky, stomach-punched feeling that a few years from now we'll be remembering this whole deal more for the Manny Aragon and crew angle than the Wilson/Domenici angle. Just a hunch. I realize saying this now almost seems preposterous in today's news cycle. In fact, it sounds very preposterous. But I still have this hunch.

So while Daily Kos and others on the left are whooping it up now, I'm pretty much unable to even crack a smile about the whole deal. Both sides suck. We voted for Wilson. What's there to get all pimply from schadenfreude excitement about?


P.S.: News about the NM Legislature passing impeachment resolutions has me feeling the same way, if not even more apathetic. Not only do I disagree with the idea of impeachment in general, but we're supposed to believe impeachment of this President is a possibility when the Democratically-controlled Congress can't even get its act together on how to influence the direction of the Iraq invasion? And Joe Lieberman is the tenuous hold on a majority in the Senate? Are you kidding me?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Simple Literacy Calculation

Sitting in Parent/Teacher conferences over the past few days I've rattled around the following question of calculation:

Dear Parent: In your home is number A or B higher?:

A: The combined diagonal inches of television screen(s);

B: The total linear feet of filled bookshelf space.

If A is higher than B, that's not good. If B is higher than A, there's a pretty darn good chance your son/daughter is doing well in school. back to those Parent/Teacher Conferences