The Goodness of the West

March 10, 2008 at 11:14 am | Posted in Friends | Leave a comment
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I have just returned from a fan-tas-tic weekend in Vorarlberg – yes, the western most state of Austria where I spent three (relatively) lonely years of my life, teaching English to aspiring media designers, and that I eventually could not wait to leave. It was good to return, good to achieve some psychological closure (as my ex-colleague WM would say:-) – Vorarlberg may not be welcoming the legal alien, but it certainly is kind to the tourist:-)

I broke all the rules of Lent, had my first sugar high at 11am on Friday, had beer, prosecco, wine, sparkling wine méthode champenoise and more prosecco, ate pork and poultry and home-made Chinese delicacies, American fried bacon, banana nut bread, Altwiener Topfentorte, Schinkenfleckerlauflauf… wow. My friend S. also turned out to be the most fabulous hostess (not that I expected anything less), found my former colleagues in an excellent mood and condition (the banter quotient of course was as high as ever), drifted in and out of inspiring conversations with about a dozen of people and all in all really had a great weekend:-))))))) I even got serious work done on the train, for the conference I am attending next Monday.

But as of today, Lent is back on:-)

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My first exclusive reading

June 25, 2007 at 10:35 am | Posted in Friends, Literature | 5 Comments
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Yesterday my first exclusive*) reading took place, organized by two friends and colleagues of mine. If these friends didn’t exist, and had I not mentioned the fact that I write to them, then I doubt that I would ever have submitted anything to a writing competition. I would not have been invited to Berlin and Brandenburg and of course the reading would not have taken place either. Thank you again, Susanne and Greg, for making this possible! I’m a very happy bunny right now:-)

Happybunny Happybunny Happybunny Happybunny Happybunny Happybunny Happybunny Happybunny Happybunny

I read the piece that I had submitted to the writing competition and another one, a new one. I was nervous only for seconds, and then found it surprisingly easy to read to this audience of approximately 20-25 people. Putting on the author’s persona was facile, it was so easy that I even managed to entertain the audience in the break between the two pieces that I read. But the best part was the feedback I got from the audience after the reading, the personal feedback, the many encouraging words I received that asked me to keep writing, the thoughts that people offered about the texts and what they had stirred in them. Yes, I am really determined to turn at least one of these pieces into a novel soon:-)

*) Exclusive in the sense of: nobody else was reading, and the people that came had come because they had received an invitation with my name and face on it.

That’s how wars get started 30/40

March 28, 2007 at 6:48 am | Posted in Blogging, Bollywood, Friends, Teaching English, TEFL, Youtube | 10 Comments
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I’ve been a regular to the blogosphere since August 2006, and a regular blogger (one post per day, except when I am on vacation) for four months. This practice has fundamentally changed the boundaries of what I used to consider private and public. Things like using an IUD, for instance, I don’t think I would have wrote about on my first website, around 1998, over at tripod. (Btw, they used to call themselves “one of the leading personal publishing communities on the Web”, but have now hopped on the blog bus as well.) As I’ve probably written somewhere before, using a diary did never make much sense to me in the past – it just didn’t appeal to me to write something that isn’t addressed to someone. But who’s the address of blogging? Some individuals of course, both real life and blogosphere friends, although not immediately. Not in these same way as in writing (an email or letter) directly to them. The public? In a way. But with a difference. It’s as if blogging is also a way of getting reconciled with the world, with the things you’re doing, the problems you’re confronting. I suspect that this type of ‘public’ operates very much in a super-ego fashion – it would be worthwhile to examine this closer, but that’s actually not the topic I wanted to write about today.

Occasion for this intro is that I am going to use this blog today to write about a personal conflict I had with someone. This is definitely another step towards the blurring of the public and the private, or maybe even an attempt of making my concern heard by the super-ego that can accept or dismiss my request (following my half-baked theory above).

What is peculiar about this conflict is that, in our own minds, we both are right. It is an illustration of the great degree of subjectivity to which our perception of a situation is subjected. It explains why wars get started: both parties being trapped in their own little constructions of their world.

[…EDIT…]

I’ve changed my mind meanwhile. I am not going to write about this on the blog, at least not in the detailed way that I wanted to. It might be better, if you think of the death threats that some female bloggers are receiving these days. I’ve wondered in the past how Lenina’s ‘BF’ might respond to her posts about him, or his friends, which are not always favourable, but maybe he doesn’t know the address. Anyhow, explicit communication about this might only make the situation worse, as the person might read this blog and get offended (not a blogger….).

Although it would be a story worthwhile sharing, featuring dissent arising from using diverging terminology from different disciplines, misunderstanding and mistrust originating from wrong assumptions about the workings of technology, a clash of gendered behaviour, and a mutual pushing the buttons of each other’s inferiority complexes (I don’t know exactly which buttons exactly I pushed, but I know which of mine were activated: Never say something to a TEFL person that would make it appear as though you thought TEFL folk weren’t proper academics. They already think they are not, and being a TEFL person alone gives most of them a sense of failure. Most of them have turned to teaching English because it was their last exit to a regular income. More about the inferior complexes of TEFL people to be found at the English droid’s page.)

A brief excerpt of the actualized gendered behaviour (also suggesting that the argument arose via email):

masculine: “You are wrong. That’s my view. And I don’t believe you. I am not going to respond to anything you write about this from now on.”
feminine: keeping up the the communication via email nonetheless, trying to substantiate that she was falsely accused, animating the other side to respond…

This example of masculine behaviour, btw, reminds me of the character of the patriarch played by Amitabh Bachchan in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (already mentioned a couple of times on this blog). The patriarch rejects his adoptive son for marrying the wrong woman and declares him a persona non grata. Talking about him is no longer condoned. Numerous attempts are made (mainly by women or characters with feminine connotations) to animate him to rekindle the communication about and with the son. But all attempts are brutishly silenced by the patriarch:

“I’ve said it. That’s it. Bas.

I think this post should end on a positive note nonetheless. There’s nothing better for that than a sequence from a Bollywood movie. I’ll pick one from the end of KKKG, when everybody is reunited in wedding and happiness, and the patriarch appeased.

God, I love this movie. I’m not normally a fan of Hritik Roshan, but I just love his little tongue in cheek dance in the first part of this scene.

Carnival Photo Report, Pt. 5

February 19, 2007 at 12:40 pm | Posted in Friends | 2 Comments
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Carnival in CologneDay Five offered another opportunity for me and my boyfriend to get into our Bee & Meadow gear.

We went to a private party, a carnival breakfast to which my friend Jessica had been invited. She is a stunning tall woman, and had she been born as a boy, she would be a stunning tall man as the picture on the right shows:-)

It was the day of the great parade, but neither of us was really in the mood for going. Last year, we had collected several kilos of sweets during the parade. This year, I am planning to give up sugar and alcohol for lent, so collecting sweets might not be the best idea:-)

Carnival in CologneIt was a nice gesture by the city of Cologne to launch a beer campaign that featured my boyfriend’s name:-))))

After the party, we went home, slept a little, went for coffee and soup and watched movies for the rest of the evening: World Trade Center (directed by Oliver Stone) which was completely useless, and Good Night and Good Luck, directed by George Clooney, which was excellent.

Carnival Report, pt. 4

February 18, 2007 at 8:06 am | Posted in Friends | Leave a comment
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Day four wasn’t too carnivalesque either. We returned to the city at half past ten, went to Ehrenfeld – the burrough where my most of my friends in Cologne live – and from there to the “L”* bar where the last patron was just about to leave and no carnival music was playing. What a relief after another 5.5 hours train trip in a coach that was bracketed by fighting carnival corpses!

*Old friends of the “L” bar! It has a new owner who tore down that colourful wall and redecorated it to give it a slightly posher, not so punk but still trashy style. They also have good wine now (for € 2.60 a 0.2l glass) and I like it much better the new way. The picture in the link above shows the old “L” though.

Carnival Photo Report, Pt. 1

February 15, 2007 at 9:52 pm | Posted in Friends, German, Posts in German | 2 Comments
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Carnival in CologneThursday, February 15, Weiberfastnacht, i.e. the day before Shrove Tuesday in Cologne. People agreed that Saint Peter must be from Cologne as we were blessed with the finest weather in years: Dä Petrus is ne Kölsche! I was a bee, and my boyfriend the cutest meadow ever. Later on, we danced Polonaise* in the backyard of a friend’s house. It did not matter that the sun did not reach us there: we had the sunshine in our heart.**

*) a stately Polish processional dance popular in 19th century Europe, according to Merriam-Webster

Carnival in Cologne**) Dat Hätz vun der Welt, jo dat is Kölle, dat Hätz vun der Welt, dat schläht am Rhing! Es och der Himmel öfters jrau, un dat Sönnche schingk jet mau, doch mir Kölsche han im Hätze Sunneschingk***

***) A translation into both English and German, as not all German speakers are able to comprehend the Colonian tongue.

Das Herz der Welt, ja das ist Köln,
das Herz der Welt, das schlägt am Rhein.
Ist auch der Himmel öfters grau, und die Sonne scheint etwas matt,
doch wir Kölschen haben im Herzen Sonnenschein.

Carnival in CologneThe heart of the world, yes, that is Cologne.
The heart of the world beats on the river Rhine.
May the heaven often be grey and the sun shine a bit dull,
but we Colonians have the sunshine in our heart.

Picture of the Polonaise below.

Carnival in Cologne

The Dark Side of the Force: The Issue of Microplagiarism in Microlearning

January 31, 2007 at 7:28 pm | Posted in Austria, Friends, Learning English, Microlearning, Plagiarism, Teaching English | 1 Comment
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Surprise! At the end of the day, I manage to crank out another post, as I, even more surprisingly, managed to crank out a paper before the day ended.

It’s a proposal for the Microlearning conference in Innsbruck this summer. An old school mate pointed me to it, and its going to be nice to attend the conference with him. Provided they accept us.

The last conference (no surprise) was fairly male and age-dominated, even if they managed to push the lady on the left into the frame a couple of times.

Microlearning 2006

Anyhow, here is the abstract of my proposal:

The Dark Side of the Force:
The Issue of Microplagiarism in Microlearning

Based on the analysis of authentic examples of plagiarism in student assignments, this article proposes the term ‘microplagiarism’ to describe a new kind of plagiarism which uses relatively short sections of arbitrary sources and combines them to form a bigger, seemingly unified text. The authors examine to which extent learning through plagiarizing may be an effective strategy in some areas of language learning and discuss the difficulties in separating microlearning from microplagiarism. The current gap between the digital and the academic sphere and their methods of circulating and continuing knowledge is identified as a cause for the increase of plagiarism. While the hope is expressed that the Semantic Web will take care of this issue, it is suggested for the time being to minimize the risk by setting students tasks that don’t encourage plagiarism.

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January 18, 2007 at 7:08 pm | Posted in Friends | Leave a comment
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This is one cool shop in Cologne to satisfy the needs of all post-adolescent females who support a Hello-Kitty habit!

Red Rabbit Fashion

Red Rabbit Fashion
Händelstr. 37
D-50674 Köln

Teenagers may waste their money, too (but they shouldn’t!).

No, I don’t know the owner and she is not paying me for this link.

But lest I forget, I know the owner of this shop!

Gemischtwaren.com

His name is Thor and he started the Internationale Körnerstraßenfest on Körnerstraße in Cologne. Whether you need a gift for a friend, a colleague or a complete stranger – you can be sure to find something perfect there that you can also afford (provided they belong to or secretly sympathise with the arty-farty but impoverished crowd).

Special offer of the week: “Folding scissors”, made in China, for just € 1,50!

gemischtwaren.com, Koernerstr. 68, D-50823 Cologne, Germany

Living vicariously

January 11, 2007 at 5:17 pm | Posted in Friends | 4 Comments
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Suppose it’s time for another “F__ing Vorarlberg” post. If I give up my grudge against this place, I might be giving up my most important “constituting other”. These days, my thoughts are so much geared up towards leaving this place that I probably do not even try anymore to come to grips with it and the situation. I probably should do something about that. But except from commuting between work and my flat, there’s hardly any activity that I engage in these days (and I abhor the mere thought of social engagement, to be honest, although it would probably do me good). Tapping the internet for a few signs of life from distant friends, and that’s it. And it still seems to be the better alternative to me than beginning to hang out with the locals 😛

EDIT: commuting in this case means nothing more but a 15 minutes walk…

I’m back (and sick)

December 31, 2006 at 1:49 pm | Posted in Friends, Sick | 1 Comment
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This is going to be an odd new year’s eve. I had wanted to spent it with my boyfriend and his hometown pals in Gmunden… but now I’m sick and confined to my own four walls. It’s not the first Silvester (as it is called in German) I am going to spent by myself.

The other time was roughly ten years ago when I had gone home to the country side for new year’s eve only to find that everyone I knew had gone elsewhere. Even my mom and brother had decided to celebrate somewhere else, and I at the time was to shy to gate-crash a party to which I hadn’t officially been invited. Before going frantic about the prospect of being all my myself, however, I accepted my fate. I was lucky to have the cat though which was still alive back then.

In hindsight, it probably was the most peaceful new year’s eve ever. I roasted chestnuts on the stove in my room (yes, my room still had one at the time) and sipped a bit of port until I feel asleep around 11pm, with the cat dozing on my chest. At mind-night, when the (rather humble) fireworks started, the cat made a few louder purring noises which woke me up in turn, only to go back to sleep a little later. I wish I had a cat for this one, too.

Anyhow, what I have is Frank Schätzing’s novel THE SWARM, which has received not so complimentary reviews by the more science-literate crowd, but is actually quite thrilling to me. It has a whopping 987 pages of which I have only mastered 350 so far, in spite of having been an avid reader for the past three days. Some of the scientists and most of the equipment used exist in real life, too – for instance the Deep Rover, a submersible consisting mainly of a transparent globe on skis with two picker arms. Of course this is no warranty for scientific accuracy or literary excellence – but makes the read rather entertaining when most of the instruments are googleable.

Maybe it would have been wiser to go to Gmunden anyway, even if only being able to participate in a wee part of the celebration. Good thing is though that I rarely regret decisions I have taken (except those which were not really based on judgment, but the arbitrary result of not knowing what to do and not knowing any better – for instance, getting a degree in humanities 😉 So thankfully I’m not having a major grudge against fate today 🙂

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