Montag, 29. August 2011

First day in Koblenz

It's Monday now, but a very unusual one: I'm currently in Koblenz on a one-week training, together with a colleague. Yesterday the weekend ended even earlier than usual, when I had to leave a 5 pm, heading for my beloved Hesse company.
There we met, and continued to Koblenz, which took us another three hours, thanks to the great "German Engineering" in our Volkswagen Golf (Rabbit in the US) - the gps sent us on the highway right into a traffic jam!
Now today was the first day of training, and it was a hell of a lot of stuff. Quite theoretic, but thanks to a very charismatic and entertaining trainer the day passed quickly. The hotel is ok-ish, in the center of Koblenz near the "German Corner", where the Mosel and Rhine rivers meet. Hopefully a lovely place, but it's still some minutes until we head off to see more of the area.
The weekend was really nice, too, as we visited the school where my wife works since this month. A private school (still somewhat uncommon in Germany), multilingual (German, English, French), and absolutely lovely compared to the barracks my generation used to learn stuff in. She's also very happy with it, although it means driving some 50 kms one-way to get there (it's in the city of Jena).
Well, we'll see what the week brings...

Freitag, 26. August 2011

Thank god it's Friday!

Thank god it's Friday, but this time just for the sake of it. The week was really lazy compared to the usual 55 to 60 hours of (dis-)organized mayhem. Things went relatively smooth, and it finally becomes apparent (after over a year) that my main function at work is being a proxy. We have a branch manager I'm sitting in the same office with, we a truck dispatcher (what I did before) and a foreman. I'm scheduled as replacement for all three of them, in case of vacation or sickness.
Besides that, tasks unique to me are quite simple and are a mixture between clerk and assistant. But, if any of those aforementioned people is away, I have to replace them. Soon, the branch manager is away, as is the dispatcher. My responsibilities will skyrocket from those of a clerk to almost dictatorial command over some 40 people and three full-size trailer trucks...
But first things first, now it's weekend, and next week I'm on full-time training at Koblenz, at the Rhine River. Gonna be great!

Donnerstag, 25. August 2011

Old memories brought up again

This day was really boring at work, but made up for it by a nice encounter in the evening: seeing Julian again, a former colleague (he quit two months ago) whom I really like a lot, and his sister. She's going to Australia soon, with the work and travel program - one of the things I'd really like to do myself, but I guess I'm too old now. She's really brave, however, saying that her English is not that good. But it'll improve with more practice. We spent the evening chatting about her trip first, when the conversation slowly went down the usual path and it was all about my work again. Maybe I'll head back to Canada one day...

Also, I found a great used car on the web which I intend to buy. It's basically just my car again (even the same build month), but with a few more miles, manual gear and the large engine. Especially the later two parts got my attention - if I trade in my current ride, it'll be just a few hundred bucks for a nice 193 hp. Maybe I'll head over to Hannover soon to take a look at it.

Mittwoch, 24. August 2011

Work and Stuff

Yeah, so I told you about this very important event at work today, which was basically just the most important meeting in this quarter. It was quite boring, content-wise, and embarrassing for me as I addressed the most important customer represantative with the wrong name. The third time. Ouch. He knows mine, which makes it even worse.
Well, for a variety of reasons (the most obvious being the distance from home) I'm quite unhappy with my dayjob, as are millions of other people. It's just that most of them don't know better, whereas I had the great fortune to see and work at a lot of different places. My sister, who's been with the same company for almost 25 years now, once told me that I should get used to my work.
While this is well-meant, I prefer to keep looking for other opportunities. It's of course never as easy pointing on a map, going there and get a great job. But it's well worth the effort. Working abroad was great for me and lots of fun, but more on that later...

Dienstag, 23. August 2011

Loud neighbours...

Good morning!

Wonderful, just really wonderful. What? Going to bed really early to get a good nights' sleep just to be awakened at half past four in the night by the cheap gangsta rap of your neighbour the apartment below. After some hesitation I got up, marched down the stairs with a steady step, knocked at his door sharply, just to be opened by another random person who could very well qualify as a quirky comic character. The sweet scent of weed left their apartment, with nervous shadows running about. Stating my request was not really necessary, so they turned the volume down a bit. Enough for me to sleep on, at least.
Now, I've done this like four or five times now (telling neighbours to turn down the beat), and I still hate it. First, it pushes me in the role of the unfun, streamlined white-collar worker who just destroys other peoples' happiness. Second, I hate communicating the moment I just awoke, but have to do it. Third, it frustrates me to have to tell people that are rights end where those of others begin (and vice versa, of course). Shouldn't a grown-up man, like, KNOW that loud music can easily be heard in the neighbouring apartments?
Oh well, the night's over anyways, and there's some relatively "big" events going on today on the job side of life. More on that later, stay tuned!

Tasty, crunchy Pancakes!

A lot of people will agree that there are few things better to start a day with than some sweet, crunchy, flagrant, fresh homemade ... pancakes!
Everyone loves pancakes, which is why my first article here will tell you my own personal recipe for them.

There's two variants of it: one for the fully-stuffed kitchen with quite some different ingredients, and a basic one I like to use when I'm spending my time at the mountain hut of a friend of mine.
Ingredient amounts are for two people, or one really hungry person.

Let's start with the proper one:

You'll need

one really large (or two medium) egg(s),
about 1/5th cup (a little less than 50 ml) of milk, preferably 3.5% fat
tab water or carbonated water
about 1/3rd cup of wheat or spelt flour
about 1/3rd cup of sugar (preferably cane sugar or a 60/40 mix of cane sugar and grape sugar)
about 1/6th cup of dark liquid honey (alternatively maple syrup)
one teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground vanilla
some vegetable oil
optionally: 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
a slim, high-walled bowl
an electric mixer
a frying pan (non-stick, aluminium)
a cooking spatula

Start with breaking the eggs into the bowl. Add the milk, then the sugar, the honey, the flour, the cinnamon and the vanilla, in that order. Mix it all together briefly with the electric mixer on a high setting, until you have a uniform mass. It'll be quite solid and sticky. Now, continue mixing at a rather low setting while carefully adding carbonated water as needed. You want your resulting batter to be somewhat liquid and easily pourable.

Now set your oven to the highest setting, put the pan on the plate and the vegetable oil in it. Wait a while until the oil is hot (if it's smoking, it's too hot! - turn down the heat a little and wait one or two minutes), then gently pour your batter into the pan. For a reasonably sized pan (diameter of around 30 centimeters/ 12 inches) it's best to fry three oval pancakes at a time.
Fry them for a very short while, and carefully turn them around once you can see the edges of the pancakes becoming a light brownish colour. If it still feels not solid at the underside, wait some more. After you turned them once, wait about the same time for the other side. Then, take them out of the pan on a grid (if you put them on a plate they will become moist and not crunchy) to cool out a little. Repeat until you've used up all batter, adding vegetable oil as needed.

Notes: You can be generous with the oil, as the batter will absorb only so much of it and the result will not be fatty in any case (as long as you don't attempt to deep-fry them).
Adding baking soda will add some kind of bubbles during the frying, leading to a more voluminous but less crunchy result. Using only milk instead of water makes the pancakes less crunchy as well, while omitting the milk will make them very crunchy but less tasty.

Experiment around a bit, until you have found the combination of ingredients that you like best!

Now, that was the fancy variant with lots of demanding ingredients and proper equipment, and quite some calories (not as unhealthy as the pre-packed mixes you'll find in your supermarket, though).
But what about the following situation: You and some friends have spent the night in your lovely and somewhat remote mountain hut, with a limited kitchen inventory and a modest array of ingredients?
That's very the puristic variant kicks in! Talking of pancakes made just of sticks and stones, almost. Yet tasty and a good remedy against that persistent hangover, especially when coupled with strong coffee :-)

For this, you'll need:

one or two egg(s)
about 1/2 cup of flour (any kind will do)
about 1/3rd cup of sugar (any kind will do)
a fork
some scratch-resistant vessel (a used, cleaned-out food can will do, or a large coffee mug for instance)
a non-stick frying pan OR any pan and lots of cooking oil

Break the egg into the can/mug. Beat it thourougly with your fork until it's a fairly uniform, yellowish mass. Add some water, then the sugar. Beat thourougly again. Add the flour and more water, until you have a rather liquid batter (more liquid than for the proper pancake recipe above). Heat up your stove/oven/hot stone/car hood and put your pan on it (if you're going car hood and it's really hot and you don't mind your car's paint film or your digestive system's health, omit the pan. ON YOUR OWN RISK!).
Gently pour the batter into the pan (/on the hood) until it covers it's surface (Except for using the car hood, in which a diameter of about 10 inches should suffice. If your car hood does not allow for that size, buy a real car first). Fry it until it becomes solid and darkens slightly at the underside, then turn it around gently and fry it some more. Repeat until you've used up all batter.


Welcome to the world of Bob, also known as "NovaColonel" - a fictional rank from the Battletech Franchise which I used to be a huge fan of. Well, I still am, but haven't been into it for a while.

This blog will offer you a variety of articles, with more added along the way. For the beginning, I'll post some recipes I like, as this is the easiest thing for a start. Later on, there will be articles that (roughly) deal with my work, without revealing my employer of course. There'll also be short stories, some anecdotes from my life, some philosophical stuff, and whatever comes to my mind.

Feel free to browse the content that's online now, and enjoy!