Monday, September 15, 2014

Marriott launches "tipping education" campaign...

Ah, Marriott hotels...  I generally try to avoid them because I don't like to support the LDS church.  It annoys me that there are BoMs in the nightstands and I can get drunk and watch porn while reading about Joseph's Myth.  Today, I ran across a news article about Marriott's new campaign to "educate" people about the need to tip hotel maids.

Now, I have worked in the service industry.  I used to wait tables.  I get that some people rely on tips to get by.  But tipping in hotels is one of those gray areas where people don't know if they are supposed to tip.  Hotel maids aren't paid like wait staff is.  People who work as servers only get paid a couple of dollars an hour, while maids get at least minimum wage and sometimes a lot more, depending on the market.

In some hotels-- usually cheap ones-- there are envelopes that make it obvious.  Marriott never struck me as a particularly cheap hotel chain, but I do think it's tacky that they are trying to get hotel guests to pay their people.  I've read that even when people do leave tip money, it doesn't necessarily go to the maid, especially if the money isn't properly marked as a tip.

Maria Shriver, who has likely never had to work a tipped position in her life, is helping to spread the word about this "custom" that many Americans apparently know little about.  I mean, if people don't know about it, how can it be "customary"?  And why doesn't Marriott just pay their people?  I'd rather pay a little more for people who are properly compensated than be asked to leave cash.  This just gives me one more reason not to stay at a Marriott hotel, at least not in the United States or Canada, which is where this campaign is being launched.

Apparently, Shriver is involved in this tipping business because of her organization, "A Woman's Nation", which aims to empower women.  So Shriver thinks that getting travelers to leave tips for hotel maids helps to empower women?  I think what she should be doing is encouraging Marriott to pay their people instead of buying BoMs for their hotel rooms.

Reading about this makes me glad I'm in Europe, where tipping is appreciated but not expected.


Zane and his "boot"...

Bill and I walked Zane and Arran the other day and evidently, Zane ended up stepping on something that cut his paw pad.  I later found him chewing on it and a large piece of skin missing from the main part of his right hind foot.  That happens to be the same leg where he still has a lump after his rabies shot.

We worried that the cut might get infected, so we looked to see where we could take him to get looked at.  Here in Germany, the local vets take turns with weekend office hours and it turned out our old vet in Herrenberg, Dr. Rupp, was working on Saturday.  Bill called and she said we could bring him in at 6:00pm.

Bill used to take our old dog, Flea, to Dr. Rupp.  Flea was like a smaller version of Zane with a Napolean complex.  In all seriousness, they look like and kind of act like brothers.  Sometimes I'd swear Flea took up residence in Zane and visits us.  We lost Flea to prostate cancer in November 2009, but they still had him in their records and when Bill brought Zane in, the receptionist wondered if it was Flea.

I'm not sure Dr. Rupp remembered Bill or Flea, but she took a look at Zane's paw and wrapped it up in a "boot".  Bill will take him back for a recheck this afternoon.  She also looked at the lump on Zane's leg where the rabies shot went.  She wasn't too concerned about it, though she did think it was weird that they gave him the shot in his leg.  I read somewhere that American vets were doing that because of the risk of needle sarcoma (which is more common in cats than dogs).  It's a cancer that develops near where rabies injections are given.  Supposedly, the rationale is that if a cancer develops in a leg, it can be amputated.  If it develops between the shoulders where the rabies shot is often given, the pet is more likely to be a goner.

She thinks the lump could be a fatty tumor, but I think it's odd that it would spring up right after a rabies shot, especially since rabies shots are notorious for causing lumps.  But we were told to watch it and bring him back if he goes lame or it grows.  I'm hoping it'll just go away.  It's pretty soft and round, though, and kind of does look like a lipoma.  Our dog MacGregor had a few of those, but he was kind of a roly poly dog.  Zane is a lot leaner.

My tooth is not annoying today.  Hoping it can hang in there a little longer.

I also found out there's a castle that is a restaurant, hotel, and riding stable near here.  I'm tempted to check it out.  It's been a long time since I was last in the saddle, though...

Me and Rusty circa 1988...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Review of I'm No Monster: The Horrifying True Story of Josef Fritzl

If you've been reading this blog recently, you know I've been reading about Austria's infamous Josef Fritzl, a man who imprisoned and raped his daughter, Elisabeth, in an underground cellar for 24 years.  Fritzl had seven children with his wife, Rosemarie, and seven more with Elisabeth, not including one that was miscarried.  Six of Elisabeth's children are still living.  One of the seven, a twin to her son, Alexander, died just a few days after he was born in the cellar.  Three of Elisabeth's children were raised above ground, while the two eldest, Kerstin and Stephan, and the youngest, Felix, stayed underground with their mother.

The first book I read about this case was Secrets in the Cellar by John Glatt.  I followed up with I'm No Monster, written by Stefanie Marsh and Bojan Pancevski.  Overall, I think I'm No Monster is the better book, although I did notice there were some typos and errors in it.  For one thing, the authors repeatedly refer to St. Poelten as St. Pollen.  I almost wonder if the word was "spell checked" as they wrote it and they never noticed it.  For another thing, there are some awkward sentence structures in the book that could have used editing.  The writing is also frequently somewhat repetitive.

The information presented within the book, however, is very interesting.  The authors go into more detail about Fritzl's upbringing that Glatt omitted.  For example, I didn't know that Josef Fritzl's mother had spent time in a concentration camp for not housing German officials.  She had been a very cold and abusive woman before she went away, but was much worse when she came back.  Fritzl was supposedly beaten bloody by his mother until he finally got big enough to fight back.  He was left with emotional scars that supposedly drove him to violate his daughter.  He has been quoted as saying he was "born to rape" and having Elisabeth gave him someone to victimize, as sick as it is.  I didn't get as much of a sense that the authors of I'm No Monster were injecting their own opinions about the case as much as Glatt did, although obviously neither book paints Fritzl in a positive light.  

The authors of I'm No Monster also write about the community of Amstetten, where this crime took place.  It is apparently a very straight-laced kind of town at a perfection junction between Germany and Italy.  It even sounds like the kind of place I might want to visit sometime.

Now that I've read two books on Josef Fritzl, I think it may be time to move on to another topic.  I hate to say I enjoy reading about true crime, though I do find the people involved in these cases fascinating.  Josef Fritzl is a liar and a narcissist.  According to this book, he wanted to be studied by the top psychologists and psychiatrists and was even working on his own memoirs...  As if being infamous gives him the right to become a celebrity of sorts.  Maybe reading books about Josef Fritzl is counterproductive in that sense, since it gives criminals notoriety that they don't deserve.  For me, personally, reading these books offers a glimpse into the mindset of criminals.

Anyway, I would recommend I'm No Monster, though I do think it could have been better written.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

My teeth again...

It's time to find a new dentist.  Bill is in the process of signing us up for dental insurance, which I think is generally a waste of money, but since I may need to get another crown, it's probably smart to get it anyway.  We'll be going back to United Concordia, which we had for most of our Army time.  I liked it better than MetLife, though it wasn't any more generous.  I just thought the service was better and more efficient.  Of course, this will be a civilian policy, so who knows?

I was surprised to hear that there are German dentists who accept American dental insurance of any kind.  I guess it's worth their while to do so, though.  It may turn out that we have to file for reimbursement rather than get the direct payment.

Anyway, I've had a toothache for the past couple of days.  It's not really painful and doesn't hurt when I bite down.  Basically, it's a vague ache that is getting on my nerves.  I'm due for a cleaning next month anyway.  I'd like to hold off on getting dental work until then, especially since my car isn't here yet.

It's not as easy for Bill to haul me around as it was last time we were here because now he has to account for his hours on the job.  He was told that the work is based on deliverables over hours, but he still has to work 80 hours every two weeks.  I think that's kind of dumb.  I mean, why tell someone deliverables are more important than actual hours worked if you're going to make them account for their time?  Especially since they don't get paid by the hour.

Last time we were here, I used the dental clinic on Patch to get a cleaning and one small filling done. I was actually pretty impressed by what was offered there.  In fact, Bill had to get a couple of crowns and he said the American dentist who did them was one of the best he's ever encountered (he was also quite a hottie).  This time, we can't use the dental clinic.  That's actually alright with me.  I'd rather find someone I like and have somewhere to go.

Next step is getting the dogs to the vet.  Last time, we used the clinic run by the military.  We could do that again, but it's a real pain to get them in because they handle pets on a Space A basis.  We also used a German vet in Herrenberg, which is a town not too far from us.  We could go back there or use one in the town where we now live.  The vet in Herrenberg was pretty good, even if she did diagnose my Flea (RIP) with prostate cancer.  :(

Bill got time off for Thanksgiving, so now it's time to arrange for flights and lodging.  Will be glad to get that over with.  I hate transatlantic flights.

Friday, September 12, 2014

More on Josef Fritzl...

The other day, I posted a review of John Glatt's true crime book, Secrets in the Cellar, a book about Austrian madman Josef Fritzl.  I started reading another book about Fritzl called I'm No Monster.  I think Glatt must have also read this book, which seems to be more comprehensive and original than Glatt's book was.  I'm not quite finished with the book yet, so I'm not ready to review it.  I'm just writing about Josef Fritzl today because the more I read about him and his double life, the more creeped out I am.

Here was a man who appeared to be completely normal and respectable on the outside, yet he had all these dark thoughts and bizarre desires.  What would drive a man who imprison his own daughter for twenty-four years in an underground cellar?  How could he live with himself, knowing that another human being was underground bearing his children all alone, deprived of sunlight, fresh air, medical attention, decent food, and social interactions with others?

I know Josef Fritzl is not a normal person.  He's definitely narcissistic and almost certainly a sociopath.  He clearly saw his daughter, Elisabeth, and the children he made with her as objects that belonged to him.  While I can understand how the three kids who lived in the cellar with Elisabeth coped-- they knew nothing else-- how in the world did Elisabeth not lose her mind?

Even in prison, when prisoners go to "the hole", they come out after a few weeks or months.  Elisabeth spent twenty-four years in an underground cellar, where she was subjected to constant rapes by her own father.  He tormented her with lies about how if she tried to escape, poisonous gases would kill her and her kids.  Or she would be instantly electrocuted.  He beat her and the kids, but then he'd also beaten Elisabeth's mother, Rosemarie.

To me, Elisabeth endured a far worse ordeal than any prisoner.  It's a testament to her strength that she was able to survive and not be completely crazy in the aftermath.  There she was in an underground cell designed by her father, right under the apartment block where he housed transients for years.  

And yet, to hear Fritzl explain himself, he did Elisabeth a favor and "saved" her from drugs by banishing her underground.  It's terrifying to think about how believable and respectable this monster appeared to be.  It makes one wonder how many more people are like him in the world.  

I also wonder what it must have been like for Elisabeth to emerge from that prison after twenty-four years.  She missed out on her youth, sequestered in that hole with rats and other vermin.  How did it feel to have the warm glow of sunshine on her face and wind in her hair.  What was it like to breathe fresh air?  She had known all of these things before and had taught her children about them, but when they finally experienced it, it must have been like walking in space with no space suit.

What was it like for Elisabeth's mother and siblings and the three kids she had that were allowed to grow up above ground?  I especially wonder how Rosemarie coped when she found out that her husband had been imprisoning and raping their daughter for so long.  It's bad enough to be the spouse of someone who cheats with someone not in the family and doesn't commit felonious acts in the process.  How could she deal with knowing her husband had been abusing their daughter, making babies with her, imprisoning her daughter and her grandchildren underground, and this had been going on for twenty-four years!  How did Rosemarie not lose her mind?

I'm sure that if Josef Fritzl had committed his atrocities in the United States and he was in a death penalty state, he'd have been executed by now.  While I'm no fan of the death penalty, I'm not sure I would feel sorry for him.  On the other hand, being incarcerated for the rest of his life might be the most fitting punishment for Josef Fritzl.  However, due to his advanced age when he was finally caught, it's unlikely that he'll be in prison for as long as he kept Elisabeth underground.  And his time behind bars is no doubt less traumatic as well.  He won't be forced to give birth alone in the dark, cut the umbilical cords of his own children, or watch and worry helplessly when they get sick.  

Josef Fritzl evidently has no conscience anyway, so even if he were a mother of a sick child, it's unlikely he'd do anything about it except to maintain his control over someone he saw as a possession.  Much like maintaining a vehicle or a household, he'd take care of those kids only out of obligation, because if they died on his watch, he'd cease to own them anymore.  It would represent a loss of power, not the loss of an emotional connection.

The more I read about this case, the more horrified I am by it.  At the same time, it's morbidly fascinating.  Josef Fritzl evidently had an abusive mother who was sent to a concentration camp for refusing to accommodate authorities during World War II.  She was always a cold, abusive woman and came back from the camp even weirder and more abusive.  Josef never knew his real father and didn't get to bond with his father figure, so he was influenced by his mother, who by all accounts was not a nice person.  While that's no excuse for his behavior, it does go to show how important empathetic parents are to their children and how abuse can lead to the formation of monsters.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Starting the day off on a shitty foot...

I woke up this morning in need of my usual constitutional.  One of my molars is giving me a slight twinge, which tells me it may be time to go back to the dentist.  I started to brush my teeth and went too far back in my mouth, then took a couple of Advil.  Then, because my gag reflex was activated, I started to hurl.  After a few minutes of heaving,  I figured I was done and got back in bed.  The sun wasn't quite up yet.

Bill came into the room and asked if I'd been throwing up.  I guess he could hear it downstairs.  I said I had.   Then he said he got an email from our old property manager.  As soon as he started telling me about this, I said "You're not going to piss me off, are you?"

He said he wasn't, but explained that there must be quite a fear culture at D'Ann Harper.  The property manager wrote that she hadn't wanted to charge us but had to cover her ass for a broken window.  But the window was broken before we moved in.  Apparently, there was some confusion over our terminology of the room.

There was a cracked window noted in a room we used as a bedroom.  That's what we labeled it as on the paperwork.  The inspector had called it a "family room", because it's very large and, I guess, that was what it was originally intended to be, even though it's upstairs.  So Bill wrote back, explaining that we used that room as a guest bedroom and that was how we had notated it when we did our move in inspection.  He will also send a copy of our move in report and accompanying photos, which notated all the issues for which they charged us.  We are not responsible for anything they charged us for-- the cracked window, the Christmas lights in the back, or the holes from the moved towel rack.  Furthermore, they didn't see the house before we moved in.  I promise, it was left better than we found it.

So then as Bill was about to leave, he started cussing.  Evidently, one of the dogs had left a pile on the carpet we just bought.  It's a dark carpet, so the poo blended in and Bill didn't see it before he stepped in it and tracked it all over the place.  So I got up and started helping him clean that up.

Now I'm fully awake, so I just got started on the massive pile of laundry that has built up.  It's probably going to take all day to get it all washed because the washing machines in Europe have longer cycles than they do in the US.  Also, the dryer takes longer.  We do have a clothesline now, but no clothespins yet.  I may also try out our new vacuum as I continue to try to put the house together.  I have a bunch of art I want to hang, but the walls are so hard that I fear messing them up with nails.  I didn't hang a lot of pictures last time I was in Germany for the same reason.  I think I may need to go shopping this weekend and, once and for all, pick up some items we need... preferably in a place that takes credit cards of the American persuasion.

We need some drawers or a schrank or something so I can put away our linens.  German houses typically don't include closets, though our last one did have them.  Our former landlord was very American friendly.  He worked for IBM and had spent a lot of time in the US.  He also built his house himself.  I loved his house, even though it had four levels and was way too big for us.  It had a huge kitchen with a masonry heater, heated floors, toilets that would run on rainwater, and a small wine cellar.  It also had an amazing view of Wurmlinger Chapel.  The house we're in now is not bad and I like that it backs up to a field.  It also has a really nice little yard that has been kept up, unlike the yard at our other house.  It would be hard for this house to compare to the last one... though it is cheaper (especially given that we left our last house five years ago), and it does back up to a beautiful forest.

This was the view from our last house...

This is what we have now...  still not bad... and it beats the ever loving hell out of the view at our Texas house.

This was one of the more inspiring angles from our Texas backyard.

We did finally get the three boxes we mailed in July.  They were pretty battered, but they had all the stuff we packed, including some spices, bedding, towels, dog beds and meds, inflatable air beds (which, thank God, we won't have to use) and a few odds and ends of clothes.  The last thing we're waiting for is our cars to be delivered.  That should happen sometime within the next week.    

We still need to prepare for our trip to the States in November.  I'm kind of dreading it, mainly because the flight will take forever and we probably won't be there long enough to get over jet lag.  I'd really rather be going somewhere in Europe for Thanksgiving, but if I miss my dad's memorial, I will never hear the end of it.  Besides, my extended family can be fun and I haven't seen most of them in awhile.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What a morning...

Fair warning.  I'm in a foul mood.  If you read this blog on a regular basis, you've probably already come away with the idea that I have a tendency toward bitchiness.  Today I am in serious bitch mode.  It's a wonder I have any friends, given my penchant for crankiness.

This morning, I started putting together a cart I bought for the kitchen.  Well, it's for the kitchen, but I'm putting it in a back room with the refrigerator I just bought.  The fridge that came with this house is really small... it's only slightly bigger than what one might find in a college dorm.  We're pretty lucky to get even that; a lot of times when you rent a house in Germany, you have to furnish the kitchen yourself, right down to the light fixtures.  Bill and I quickly determined that we needed more fridge space, so I bought a bigger one.  I also bought a washing machine and a dryer.

Now... the washing machine wasn't supposed to get here until Friday.  I was expecting the dryer and fridge today and since I ordered them directly from Amazon, they came with delivery service.  That meant the delivery guys would bring it in and set it up for me, plus take away the packing materials.  Unfortunately, I unwisely purchased the washer from a third party seller.  The guy showed up unexpectedly this morning as I was putting together my cart, which was not so easy to assemble.  I was kind of preoccupied with that task.  The delivery guy rang the bell.  The dogs went crazy.  He was going to leave the washer under the carport, but I persuaded him to at least bring it into our foyer.

Knowing that the Amazon guys were coming later, I knew I had to get the washing machine to the basement because otherwise the delivery guys wouldn't be able to get the fridge and dryer into the house.  So as the guy who dropped off the washer departed, he didn't close the front door all the way.  I was momentarily distracted by the washer and didn't immediately notice my two little shithead dogs run outside.  I looked outside and the next door neighbors confirmed my worst fears, that the dogs had gotten loose.  I was barefoot and Bill had moved my shoes, so I had to look for them before I could chase the dogs.

Swearing profusely, I quickly found my shoes and the keys to the house, grabbed the leashes, and ran outside in pursuit of my dogs.  Arran was easy to catch.  He just went next door.  Zane, on the other hand, took me on a whirlwind tour of the neighborhood.  I was calling him, chasing him, and noticing that he was very delighted with himself as he almost got hit by a car.

I know it's best not to be upset or frustrated under those circumstances, but I couldn't help it.  Zane has selective hearing and doesn't come when I call him because he's an undisciplined, untrained hunting dog who is obsessed with smelling things and loves to run.  One good thing is that he rarely gets out of eyeshot, so he doesn't get lost.  He just scares the hell out of me by running amok through heavily trafficked places.  So I chased him through the neighborhood until we finally got to a grassy area with lots of chestnut trees right next to a busy main drag with lots of car traffic.

A young woman with two little boys was sitting by a fountain, completely unconcerned and unhelpful as I chased Zane through the area.  There were several instances in which all she would have had to do was grab his collar and then I could have caught him and been on my way.  But she seemed to be doing her best to ignore us.  I couldn't help but hope that, some day, those two boys in her care take off in two different directions and no one helps her.  I know my problem wasn't her problem; but seriously, she could have made things a lot easier for me by just grabbing the dog's collar.  She didn't seem to be afraid of him.  But maybe she enjoyed watching me chase Zane.  

I was really scared Zane would cause an accident or get hit by a car.  Of course, I was also very annoyed by the situation.

Zane finally ran into someone's fenced backyard.  I closed the gate and cornered him, got him on a leash, and stormed home with him and Arran in tow.  On the way back, some old guy started trying to talk to me.  He no doubt saw me chasing the dog and seemed to be expressing his (unwelcome) opinion about it.  I managed to tell him in German that I don't speak the language, then walked off.

Zane knows I'm pissed at him and is making himself scarce.  The good thing is that he and Arran are now tired.  So am I.

I finished the cart, got the washing machine to the basement by myself, and put together a couple of lamps.

This took all morning to assemble...

To make today's epic suck factor complete, we finally got our security deposit back from our shitty Texas property managers.  They deducted $400 for shit that was there when we moved in.  $350 was for a window that we did not break.  $25 was for Christmas lights that were up when we moved in.  And $25 was for nail holes caused by a towel rack being moved... that we did not move.  So they sent $1300.  Bill has a copy of the move in report we filled out before they were our property managers, along with photos of the condition of the place.  He's going to ask them to give us the rest of our deposit.

Fuck them.  Screwing with me will cost them a lot more than $400 in the form of lost prospective tenants who will be warned away from doing business with them.  The people at D'Ann Harper Coldwell Banker of San Antonio are the worst property managers I have ever had to deal with.  What really sucks is that I tried so hard not to rent from them and ended up having to anyway when our lease got taken over by their worthless, greedy company.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Don't disrespect my religion, bro...

This is an official Oklahoma diver's license issued to a follower of the Flying Spaghetti Monster faith.  Yes, that is a colander on her head.

Shawna Hammond, the woman in the photo above, was just featured on KTLA's Facebook because she's both an atheist and a follower of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.  She says the colander on her head represents freedom either of or from religion.  And I say, as long as it doesn't break any rules, why the hell not?  I mean, her religious preferences or lack thereof are no more ridiculous than anyone else's.

Naturally, if you check out the photo on KTLA's Facebook, you'll see lots and lots of comments.  It's always interesting to see people come out of the woodwork when someone dares to do something kind of goofy like this.  But hell, if people who follow other religions can wear headgear as an expression of their faith, why can't Shawna wear her colander?  She's not hurting anyone and her face is clearly visible.  In fact, I had to look closely to even be able to tell that that was a colander and not some kind of stylish hat.

One comment that struck me as kind of funny came from a woman who claimed that another person was "overeducated" because he wasn't sure Jesus Christ existed.  She said he needed to stop reading books and just live life for awhile.  While I don't claim to be an atheist, I do think one of religion's biggest failings is not encouraging people to read and educate themselves, just because if they do, they might stop believing.  Any belief system that encourages a person not to think for themselves or tries to scare them away from education is not one I'd value highly.  

Anyway, the comments on this photo are pretty funny and surprisingly interesting.  If you check them out, have a look at what Christ Opher has to say.  Right now, he has the top comment and it's the first one you'll see when you click the link.

Our furniture arrives today, which makes me very happy.  I don't actually enjoy the process of moving in or moving out, but I am glad that we'll have a real bed tonight and my beloved desk will be here so I can stop sitting on the floor.  Tomorrow, we'll have a new fridge and dryer and Friday, I hope to be able to wash my clothes.  Things are starting to fall into place.

On a sadder note, my mom is going to have a simple single mastectomy this coming Monday.  I talked to her last night and she said her doctor told her they weren't certain they got all of the cancer when they did her lumpectomy a couple of weeks ago.  So, given that she's 76 years old, her kids are grown, and my dad is dead, I guess she decided it was better to go ahead and part with her breast.  My mom is ridiculously practical and didn't seem at all upset or worried about the surgery.  I found it hard to talk to her about it, because when it comes to my body, I'm easily freaked out.  I don't even like having dental crowns done.  But I guess if I were presented with a choice of losing a body part over getting very sick, I'd choose the surgery.

Yesterday, I met the people who live next door.  They are a very nice couple.  I had a letter for them that was mistakenly put in our mailbox.  Our new landlady introduced us and said the letter came from a vicar who used to be their neighbor.  I was kind of charmed by that.  People don't send handwritten letters anymore.  It's a lost art.