Monday, January 28, 2008

Feeling like Yoda at low tide. 
Between figuring out what I can still do with my 2x separated shoulder, heel spurs, and stress levels that would send Oscar the Grouch to therapy, I find quiet joy in teaching. 

I don't want students to feel like a lifetime of injury and debilitation, is really necessary. 
I've drawn some short straws, made some bad decisions, and had some bad luck. I can still draw, cut, and get under a newbie's balance so that they pay attention. CG took it way more high-speed low-drag than most people survive, but he did. Now, he's paying the price. And I'm paying it with him. 

The facts are that I'm almost 40, I'm busted up and hamstrung by some genetic timebomb of heel spurs, and my left shoulder does not, and never will, work the way I used to, due to a bad fall. . Heel spurs are nasty things, keep you from walking around to keep weight off, while being perpetuated by extra weight.
In other news, I can't recommend ripping up your shoulder to anyone, who hopes to use theirs. 

If you ever wondered why your elders are so sardonic, strap several kilos of bricks to the small of your back, nails on boards to your feet, and drink a ton of chili juice. 
It does a number on your attitude. 

Saturday, January 26, 2008

This is a post from a young (25-ish) family friend, deployed in the Middle East as a civilian.. I'll just call him Z for now. 


I am 14 miles from the Syrian Border right now, as west as one can go. A long flight in a marine helicopter over the empty heath, moonlight illuminating a wasteland. The dark does not hide the bareness, but dresses it subtly. The lights of this place are swallowed, and the stars shine vividly. My old buddy Orion came, and it is nice to see a familiar face.

The base of Al Qa’im is the death place of trains, the last point, where they come to their eternal respite.
This is the quietude, the place of stillness. They lie hollow, yet are not forlorn. There is a hushed solemnity here. This is the place of endings, but they are dignified.
Old concrete ties crumble, supporting rusting iron. Even now, sparse clumps of fetid brown and green weeds caress these metal footpaths.
The old train station here has something written in a language I cannot read, greeting or wishes for safety. Some other buildings have official looking markings, all in a script unknown to me.

What was this place? I wonder if families were here, time past. Clothed in long robes, small children running around. A few british people, interspersed sparingly, pale skin contrasting with the people of this land. Wearing that look that says minor discomfort at being somewhere alien. Were there once vendors selling food for the trip? The hustle and bustle of the masses. Maybe young men off to school, to seek their fortune. Old men coming back to their families.

Where could you go from here? Damascus to Jerusalem? Baghdad to Tehran to Kabul To Lahore To Calcutta? Mosul to Ankara toIstanbul to Sofia to Belgrade to Budapest to Vienna to Munich? And once you make it to Munich, I can go to Regensburg, or Nurnburg, and then to Weiden and then to my parents house. Wine, Biscuits and gravy, and comic books. The thought that maybe I can get to a home out of time from here is comforting. Now, I am sure those lines do not exist. This was a place of tearful goodbyes, and joyous hellos.
There are no trains leaving from here.

This place is now the terminus.

I mourn the loss of a time I will never know, perhaps that time that only ever lived in an imagination. The train station I romanticize is now full of marines, and humvees, and MRAP’s. These depots are now maintenance and living areas, plywood houses with spray paint, grease stains on the floor. Some of the old trains served as living areas, and are littered with debris. This place is Casey Jones Ghost jones.

I am still captivated by this place. In my bag now is a four inch cotter pin I found, and I will be able to hold it years from now, and see these old trains. Soviet and French derelicts, hollow hulks sitting mute.
Where have they been, where could they go? I thought I recognized the font of the Bundesbahn, the authoritative german font bringing back other memories, other journeys.

It is raining now, cold drizzling, and later today, I will climb into a helicopter and depart this place. The stready hum-thrum of the blades will blot some things out of my mind. And yet, I owe it a debt, for I have the impetus to write again.

 1: The fact that the local, over priced hardware store (OBI) closes at 4pm on Saturday. Must be nice, kids, must be nice. Meanwhile, I need a new car battery, and all of your employees are grabbing a cigarette and driving the 3 blocks I just cycled to try and purchase a new battery on time, home. Disappointed, again. That's it for OBI, as far as I, and anyone I talk to, is concerned. The double bonus of "overpriced" and "banker's hours" is not a winning one. 

2: Sundays-- can't mow your lawn, can't futz in the garden, can't work on the car, unless you are hidden from public view. A good day to do your taxes or clean the basement. God forbid the Oma across the street catch you weeding. 

3. Cultural Perfectionism: cars cannot have the slightest thing wrong with them, to pass inspection. Mine, which was slated to sell, failed due to an uneven emergency/parking brake and a rocker arm which was kinda loose.  Seriously, people, this is unsafe HOW? just mildly! but this is the German mentality, that mildly unsafe is UNSAFE. Keep in mind, that what I was dealing with, were on post, vaguely Americanized, regulations. I can't imagine the German TUV being even that easy. 

4. Cultural Perfectionism, Part 2: Germans, of course, are the most liberal country on the planet, giving asylum to all kinds of refugees and asylum seekers (provided they can prove German heritage or other abject need)  and have an unimaginable level of cultural guilt concerning these matters. However, it leads to some serious wierdness, and high taxes to pay for the welfare of all kind of "asylum seekers". When the US crashes and burns, and we head back here, we can only hope to be so lucky. A reason to keep up with my Deutsch. 

5. Economic Success: Germany, as the richest country in Europe, forced the Euro on the populace. They were not allowed, nor asked! to vote on its adoption. People call the new currency "Teuro" which means "expensive thing". For them, prices of goods increased by half again, or double, depending on the vendor's honesty. Honest vendors cut the numerical value in about half, and put the Euro sign on it. The rest (most of them) just replaced the Dmark sign with a Euro.. effectively doubling the price of goods and services sold. 

6. Weather: Germans call it "Wetter" for this reason-- every time you go outside, you get wetter. Cold and wet, or wet and cold. However you like it.  Forget it. 

7. Language: 
Mr Clemens argues it more perfectly, hundreds of years ago, than I could ever hope to. 

8. Food: At least in this rural area, the most adventurous is bland, MSG-laden faux Asian. Greek fare is much better, seconded by Italian. I cannot tolerate so much wheat product, so Italian is a very poor choice for me. The Greek diet of fruit, veg, olive oil, seafood, sheep cheese, thick yogurt and lean meats and seafood, suits me well. It's just their green wines, and ouzo, that get me in trouble. 

9. Music: Okay, this one's lame, but unless you love classical ( I do, sometimes, some things) and flashback, especially 80s, German popular music will make you nuts. Pluses: Sophie Hawkins and other forgotten gems.

10. Traffic-- this gearhead girl grew up on articles about how wonderful the Autobahn was, without its speed limits. We ended up with a sleek, smooth and speedy BMW 523i, our Black Beauty. She would do 180 kph without you noticing the difference. Heavy and silky in the left lane, Beauty would whip past anything you asked her to, and never miss a lane, as long as she had good tires and was well maintained. 
Unfortunately, on the modern German autobahn, most of the traffic is trucks from Slowhattica, spraying salty goo all over your windshield and kicking ice bombs under your fairing. They are not supposed to pass each other, but they often do, resulting in an "Elephant walk" at 80kph. A real drag, if you were driving twice that, and have to wait for Slowhattica to pass Dawdlebooblika at a measured difference of .0567 kph. 

There's a lot of other things I hate.. now that I'm leaving, I can talk about them. 

Honorable mention is the "Knoedle" a blob of potato goo that, if no one is watching, I like to hurl against solid objects to see if it sticks. I've actually done that, recently. Very satisfying. The only use, for this sticky clod of starch. 

Meanwhile, I'm sure there will be a top 20, of American things I hate.. and more. 
Perspective is a bloody harsh mistress. 
On 26.01.2008, at 16:17, one of my German colleagues wrote:
(in part)

>As far as I know, the German grammar was the rather unsuccessful result of an attempt to superimpose the Latin grammar >(romanic language) on the German (germanic) language. Does not work that well.

This is part of my problem. I am one of the few, the proud, the GEEKY! National Latin Scholars (age 14 or so) and German retains its tribal inflections. Having learned Oberpfalz Bavarian, I found my colleague from Hannover unintelligible. He found me the same.. meanwhile the conflict between German, and its badly adapted Latin structure, is a mis-fit, that gives me fits.

>But I must admit that I am glad that German is my first language, I would be in severe difficulties to aquire it as a second or >third one. Romanic languages with all the declination and flexion drive me crazy. Before I have half figured out how to say >what I want to say, the person I am talking to will have retired by then.

LOL I feel the same way about Deutsch! Now, if we had moved to Italy, or Spain.. French is too irregular and gutteral for me to get along in. Very sexy to listen to, but I can barely ask for a glass of water.

>But what is much more difficult are the cultural (in the ethnological sense of the word) differences. I am just reading >"Teacher" by Mark Edmundson which gives me interesting insights into the mind of certain kinds of American college >students. A very strange, and for me strangely shallow and empty world - as long as I take my cultural background as an >absolute. Probably the characters of this book will find my world terrible from their point of view. I think because the material >culture is so similar, we tend to be in grave error in estimating the amount of difference between the US and Germany.

Our German friends say to us: "you are very strange Americans!" we tell them, that our American friends say the same. We keep the old, independent, free-thinking, iconoclastic America, rather than this new invention of slack-mouthed media victims. The "Neauveaux Ranch" if you will.. (Texanism for people who buy land to drive golf carts around on, because they are afraid of horses -NOT including LBJ, rather his would-be successor the limping duck) and their economic victims.

Out to dinner this evening ( lovely stroll to an Italian place), remarking on the vital aspect of the older folks, guaranteed retirement and health care.
There was an old gentleman who stuck his cigarette in his mouth, toyed with it in his hand, and finally took Tim Conway steps out the door to smoke, in in this new year of Rauchverbot (no smoking in public places), as did everyone else. Germans don't break laws. They put on their seat belts as they are driving their cars out of the driveway, but they put them on.

I've been living in your world (this region's sheltered version of it), for almost six years. It's not terrible. It requires more awareness, that there are people in the world other than yourself, something Americans are particularly terrible at.
We went looking for wide open spaces, and are having to re-adapt, to the places that are clogging up due to our own carelessness and obsession with individuality, and individual transportation.
We're the ones who didn't like all that togetherness, didn't fit or couldn't deal, in the first place. This is how we ended up in the New World.
Mr Clemen's satirical writings are still true today, for the child of wide open spaces and frontier mentality, tossed into close interaction, with people who are actually good at that sort of thing.

Recycling is the law. (though we've actually had people hide trash, in our driveway trees... !)
No working, no noise (can't mow your lawn), nothing open, on Sundays
Nothing bloody open after four on Saturday, either!
State funded health insurance, on several levels
Sick leave is unlimited, as directed by a doctor. You don't run out.
Litter is minimal. Vagrancy is invisible. Crime is also minimal.
There is a kind of social perfectionism, which perhaps only the Japanese supercede.
Driving lessons are expensive, and last something like 200 hours.
Even having a car running, while talking on a cell phone, is worth a fine and ticket.
Cars are required to have emissions stickers, in many cities. Cost is per emission level or something.
Bicycles are treated as vehicles (though a dear friend was, fortunately not badly, struck by a car in Regensburg)
Lots of room to walk, cycle, or take public trans!

Am I ready to go back to the crime-ridden, careless, littered, chaotic, polluted, expensive-awful-beer&wine often bad-food US?
Am I ready to pay rent again, to be again in the land of legless soccer moms where walking is criminal, and biking just gets in the way of cars? No wonder Americans are doughy. Sigh.

I'm at a point where we really have to "fish or cut bait".
I have to improve my German and pass the Heilpraktiker, or get back to the US and get into practice, and move on with my training.

It is easier for Americans who never fit in, at home, to not take it so personally, when they are a stranger in a strange land. It's a perpetual state, and no surprise for us.

And, I guess, these remarks might already feel way too serious people on the other side of the waters?

For most Americans, as with many Deutschers I'm sure you can think of, the world ends at their state line.

Someone shared a quote about a life without travel, being like reading only one page of a book.
Originally, my world ended at the Texas border.. but the first time I slept in the chill of the Rocky Mountains in the summer, I was "outta there". Once I left Texas, that was it. I will always have a home, but it's like realizing that your mother is an axe murderer... not so much that you wonder how you ever got on, there, but that everywhere else seems quite livable!

Quite sure I can't "go back and stay" I'll be migratory now, wherever I go.

Anybody got a Jetstream they're not using?

I have to add.. in the semiprivate world of my blog, that it is still OK to be educated and intelligent, in Germany. We sat next to a table of people who were running through a variety of languages and comments, in our tiny nowhere town.

Mostly good German, which I understand 80-85%. Czech, Russian (which I studied 1 semester) French, Spanish (which I also understand) some Italian as well (we WERE in an Italian restaurant!). I enjoy Greek very much, and wish I had more time and space to learn it. Let's face it, I love all languages but German.

This red-headed stepchild of Teutonic laid on an ill-fitting Latin frame, has been my curse, the last 5-6 years. I've learned it, I can converse in it, but I do not love it. It is a marriage of convenience.

It is only fun, because the German people are fun, and I will slog through their bloody (bloede!) language to reach them.

No, I can't stay here, but I don't have to go home.
Or do I?
I don't, yet, and won't know, for the next three weeks.

Our ponies are down to to wire.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Waiting for the wheel to turn" is a lovely song by Caipercaillie. 

When I was a child, sitting in the hot pseudo-seasons of Texas, I dreamed of crisp, cold places. I dreamed of snow, I dreamed of leaves with colors other than brown. Now I live further north than I ever dreamed, and am still dreaming of snow. A good white-out would make this winter a lot more FUN!

I dreamed of places not afflicted with humidity, and will never forget getting out of the college van for my Environmental Biology class in Del Rio, Texas in November. I was wearing a Dinotopia T-shirt and shorts, and none of it was sticking to me. I just felt "funny" and kept flapping my shirt because it felt so different. Meanwhile, thousands of monarch butterflies were passing through, and at some point someone photographed me, wondering at the fluttering trees. I'll dig that up from the paper photo archives.. we women bitch endlessly about our pictures, until we really start to age.  Then, we look at old pictures, and we know now, what we wished we had known then.. that youth has its own beauty. 

I saw an un-made-up pic of Nicolette Sheridan, sent by a gf same age as me.. I could aspire to that, at 44. I've got a (literal) handful of years to go, and probably another chemical peel or two, but it's possible. 

It is only through budo, that I could ever reconcile the beast within, to the beauty possible without. I'm feeling ugly with injuries, stress, and burdens of life, but I am also excited about the possibilities within the work we are doing. 

My poor mate is having a crap year, and mine isn't going much better. 
Not yet. 

I'm having to keep a very loose rein on the horses of fate. If I didn't consciously relax, it would all go back to Central Texas. In this case, I've let them loose, to see if they bring back anything better. It's been said, that to live in just one place, is to only read one page of a book. 

Go, ponies, go. Find great grazing, find the wild, beautiful places. Find us a home. 
I won't tell you where to go, but the mountains are beautiful and the sea is fine. 

Monday, January 21, 2008

Just got back from Regensburg, where cg's in the klink- er, klinik, again. I'm just glad we still have Black Beauty, our BMW 523i that we (DAMMIT!) have to sell before we leave. She's a 1998, but Very Well Preserved. 
The inside is all black leather and burl walnut, and the outside is all sleek black speed.
 I'm hitting 180kph smoothly except for the odd wind gust, and it takes some serious breeze to move Beauty. Well, that and the idiot truck traffic the German Autobahns are currently clogged with. So I make the 100 kilometers to Regensburg, and back, traffic allowing, in about 45 mins. I could never do that in our little Honda Element (2003) that we just got as a US specs car to bring back. The BMW also gets about a third again the gas mileage. At speed, even. I coast, rather than brake, and drive as far ahead as possible. 

The detached retina is lasered back down, his eye is full of some kind of gas to keep it in place, and he has a new acrylic lens in his eye to replace the cataracted old one.  A hip replacement, cataract surgery, and he's only 50. Unbelievable. I'm just hoping that he's kind of "getting it all over with" and can enjoy his next half century some. 

Fortunately, despite some crumbling edifices, this man has the heart (albeit arrythmic) of a giant. 
He also has a little Aussie cattle dog to nip and herd and take down anything, he might happen to miss. 

One of the nurses, after getting my lecture about him needing to take his meds for the Reiter's Syndrome, along with anything else they decided to toss in his system, agreed that I was the "Shaferhunde" this is the nice black and tan race of dogs we get from Germany who organize our lives, sniff our luggage and patrol yards everywhere. 
Protection dogs. 
Hm. I identify most with the quirky, stocky cattle dog (they have a bit of Dingo in), but CG is probably more on the line of a timber shepherd. Or possibly a Rottweiler, because they are basically giant lap dogs... anyway, the partnership breaks down into its basic parts, as we deal with crises. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Southern kids have it worst. Maybe there are ethnic/cultural groups with deeper family ties, but us Southern kids have this expectation laid on us, that we'll stick around family. I guess that's why those of who break away, make such a big splash. Maybe it's an economic class idea, that Harvard grads go on to travel the world after they graduate college, and we PWTs are lucky to make it out of high school. 

I made it out of high school, but life and circumstance, combined with expectations which really could have been a lot higher, though they were high! kept me from Rice or Brown.. I had scholarship possibilities in both directions. 

Hindsight being the art of seeing what an ass I've been, I did the best I could, with what I had. I would have had further to fall, when family support fell off due to my parent's divorce. I know they would have done everything to keep me in school, but it just didn't work out. I don't blame them any more. They would have done differently, if they could have. If I had known I wanted to be a surgeon, or a psychologist, maybe it would have been different. Maybe not. Things are, as they are. 

Meanwhile, I've been overseas for almost six years. 
I'm migratory now, like the whooping cranes, hawks and butterflies. I don't mind going where the pickings and climate suit me. I do mind staying where I get sick, or uncomfortable. 

I don't need to *be* somewhere. 
There are places I love, and places I have yet to learn to love. 
Anywhere I can watch wild creatures, help something grow, and participate in the currents of life, makes me happy. 

Somehow I see a future in a vegetable diesel powered Jetstream with solar panels, wandering the continents with my table. I'd like to see writing, and nature illustration, in that future.. I think I've exposed myself, enough that the possibilities will chase me down regardless. 

Meanwhile, I'm sure I've made all kinds of accidental history, here in a cold, damp corner of Germany. 
I didn't mean to. 

True to pattern, without thinking, I rushed in, where angels fear to tread. 
Thankfully, I am no angel, but a force of nature, beyond my own understanding. Thus I end up again and again, at home in the fire, with no hope of regaining the frying pan. 

True to my nature, I won't jump back in. 
Burnt fingers, fried shoulders, I only stop, if it stops my work. 
Otherwise, my approach is flamethrower, buckshot, tracer, no-holds-barred. 

Taking no for an answer, is no answer. Status quo is just target practice. 

It's been too long, since I've drawn a bead. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A lovely lady of 85 has come to my table. Her daughter, now in her mid-60s, brings her after her own 10 sessions. 

Both are battling structural problems, the mother has a large degree of kyphosis which is responding well to almost glacial manipulation of sternal fascia. 

It was our second session, and I asked a general question of the mother (loudly, as she is quite deaf) about other children besides her daughter.

The daughter explained, as the mother teared up and shook gently, that she was a "Kriegskind" and had been born during the war.. that women did not want to have children during that time, and thought to wait until after the war... but the great majority of men fell in the war (I am deliberately using German-flavored language) and there were no children, after.  And no men to father them. 

I was deeply touched... I reached deep into my own center, and changed my work to gently place a tissue in the mother's hand (for your eyes, I said) and held her hand for a little moment.. then I moved my hand to her lumbar spine, and supported her gentle shaking with this old, generational pain. 

It is another moment, which remains deeply engraved on my soul. 

Another was a circle of fiberglass bear sculptures in Berlin, which various countries had sent for display.  I suppose a blank bear was sent to the country, was decorated, and sent back. The British bear was covered with silly pop pictures, the Irish bear was all wound up in green and orange tapes, the American bear was dolled up like the statue of liberty.. but the one that arrested me, made me touch it.. was the Yugoslavian bear. This was some 4-5 years ago, during the Balkan war. It had been liberally pelted with machine gun bullets, and painted corpse-white. 

My first day in Germany, we visited friends (we are part of a lovely global martial arts community) in their old townhouse in Frankfurt.  
In the back yard, I noted deep holes in the lower part of the house. What's that? of course my hands wandered into these cavities in concrete... 
It was scoring from the 50 cals of the Allies... 

These are things I will not leave behind. 

I'll quote a line from Casablanca, that the problems of two people don't add up to a hill of beans in the world.. Just a guess, from a kid doing the best she can. 

Monday, January 14, 2008

A dear friend calls to check on me when I vent out here.. that's very sweet. 
It's hard to explain why I don't write when I'm happy! I'm certainly not UNhappy, I'm one of the luckier beings on the planet. Life isn't perfect, but I'm here to complain about it. 

I think the perspective of wanting firearms may seem paranoid, to those who have not lived with them. It's hard to explain that I *HAVE* been happy to have my wheelgun at my side, many times. 

I don't want to live that way again, but my upbringing and my ornery nature dictate that, should we end up in a place where public safety is a kind of sick joke (even in your own home!) I intend to be prepared. 

The referral cg got to Arlington VA could be lots of fun! Public trans and everything! Woot!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I'm really not interested in "normal American" things. I don't care to shop, I never had enough money. I don't care about commercial sports, what does that have to do with my life or values? no clue. 

Football? complete bore. Basketball, volleyball, golf the same. Does nothing for me, not interesting. 

Starbucks? Oh spare me. Lavazza, Tchibo, Segafredo! 

Chain restaurants: Crap aimed at separating you from your money. 
I'll hit local suppliers of seasonal local goodies, take it to my own kitchen, and make something wonderful! 

By the way, WalMart is of no interest, either. 

I'm hip to Ikea, though! looking for a way to buy stock in that sucker!
The options are these: Houston (ack! except for family, old friends, and a very interesting colleague for me) Suffolk MD (sounds nice enough) Sacramento (gangs galore and hot, yuk) Kansas City (unaffected by evolution since Clan of the Cave Doofus)  DC (well, lots of folks needing my help, public trans, and the Smithsonian!) Idaho Falls (in the lap of my beloved Rocky Mountains! everybody rub your lucky pennies, do your lucky dances, and so on for us on this, especially if you want to visit!) Fort Irwin (in the heights of the Mojave) Del Rio TX (bird and butterfly watching, beautiful SW TX, and I do want to pick up Spanish again) Atlanta (is this US crime central? Ack! my last choice at best!) San Antonio (has stolen much of CenTex water to run their Riverwalk, not my fave city and every highway is San Pedro)  Berkeley CA Lawrence Livermore Lab (whoa, how cool is THAT? the birthplace of Structural Integration Exploration! otherwise another damn big city).

The constant question is.. aren't you glad to go home?

Define home.. If it's somewhere I'm safe, and I know the expectations and possibilities, then the answer is, Oberpfallz, Germany. 

If it's where I came from, and I know to expect danger, have saved money for a sawed-off 12-gauge loaded with buckshot handy. 

If concealed carry is legal, I will train for it and do so. I have a good teacher. 

When I came over here, I gave up all my firearms. 
It was hard. But when I realized how ridiculously safe I was, I let it go. We have a door intercom, and my German is good enough to ask the right questions.  

I don't look forward, to having to carry again. I loved my 357.. but it's too big to really carry. Even with a 4-inch barrel. Ah, my beautiful Ruger Safety Six with nickel finish and Pachmeyer grips.. 

Meanwhile... up to this time.. we've never had to think about it. 

Think about that. 
It will get worse, before it gets better.  

Do you feel lucky, punk?
Would you pay more tax, to not have to test your luck in gunpowder?
We're looking at where we are headed. 

 Back to the USSR.. no, wait.. the USA. 
If you have to deal with the TSA, no diff. If they want what you got, they take it. Some association of kleptomaniac smokers and drinkers got a government contract. All the booze, lighters, tweezers, nail clippers and pocket paraphernalia you can snag! All that, and gummint bennies! Woo! 

So, once we pass the hazing gauntlet of the TSA, we can "come home". After we endure the subtle taunts about spending so many years overseas making us traitors. No, really, I've gotten that. 
Gee, supporting the troops by leaving home and everything we knew, our language, our culture, our family, is treasonous? better take that damn magnet off your gas-sucking, blood-letting SomewhatUselessVehicle. 

Nevertheless, we have loved our time here. We leave the garage unlocked, and if we space out, and leave the garage open, nothing goes missing. We never worry about being mugged. Today we got excellent German black beer for about 20 cents American per bottle. People are pathologically honest. When the Euro first came along, I watched older Germans helplessly open their purses to the clerks in the stores, who would expertly pick out the correct payment, and just as expertly drop in the correct change. 

So, now we go back to the land of drivers who can't successfully pick their own noses, much less steer machinery, and a populace as apathetic as it is starved of honesty.. 

Would YOU be thrilled?
We're not. 

Oh, did you get the news flash about the US trailing just about Every Civilized Nation in terms of health care?