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Greetings from Vienna, #16

April 6th, 2004


Old Business

Vallytalk. Not!
As quite a few of you pointed out, the post sentence interjection, "not!" comes from "Wayne's World" in it's various incarnation: initially skits on "Saturday Night Live", two movies, and a host of appearances of "Wayne" and/or "Garth" at MTV Music Awards and rock videos. Now I feel totally bogus.[1usa]

Spring Forward, Link Back[2usa]
Last week, I gave the link for issue #14 to issue #15. I hope that you all noticed the error and then just fixed my typo in the address bar of your browser. In case you did not, here is the correct link to issue #15:

Weingarten vs. Wine Garden
It turns out that a "Weingarten", which translates to the English "vineyard" is not typically a place where wines can be purchased. Unlike most vineyards that I've been to in the States, where wine making happens in the same place as the grape growing, Weingartens in Austria are literally just the "gardens" for the grapes. The affiliated Restaurant/Gasthaus/Wirsthaus would harvest the grapes from their Weingartens and bring it back to make and eventually sell the wines, hence the signs at the Weingartens letting passers-by know where they can taste the wine made from the grapes they see.

Beware the Ideas of March[3eng]
Ice cream parlors in Austria do not, as I stated in the last newsletter, re-open every year on March 15th. They do re-open on a Monday in March, though we are not sure which one. The current best guess is the first Monday before the "official" start of Spring, the 21st.


Greetings from Vienna
Part the Sixteenth, April in Paris. Not!

Site for Sore Eyes[4eng]
I have begun the process of converting my old newsletters into HTML format and posting them on the web. From now on, links and photos for the latest issue of the newsletter can be found at: And links to previous newsletters can be found at the newsletter archive page: Not all the newsletters have been completely converted yet. But you can check out the first four newsletters as well as #15 to get an idea of what I am doing. One definite advantage of the HTML version is that footnotes are linked, and are not nearly so complicated to view. I will send out an update once all the newsletters are online.

Spring Redoux
The weather has turned quite temperate again over the last week. The temperature keeps trying to edge up into the high 10's (C, 50's-60's F) with occasional drops to 5 degrees C. After Karin read my comments in the last newsletter about my sighting of trench-coats, she mentioned that I'd missed the shorts and short skirts. I must agree that body baring clothes seems to have made a sudden return to the Vienna fashion scene, but I've been seeing knee length skirts for quite a while now, even during deepest winter. And of course there were always fashionable young ladies wearing acid-washed jeans and what looks like mere windbreakers[5usa] against sub-freezing weather. I remain entirely mystified at how they can not be cold.

We're in the midst of Easter Holidays, so Karin is off from both teaching and learning duties, aside from some make-up lessons (of the replacement for ones missed kind, not the face decorating kind) she'll be giving. Karin and I are decidedly not making Easter Eggs. The extended family is due to visit Grandma Reißner on Easter Sunday and we are sure to get our fill of Easter Eggs there. I see egg salad in my future. While Karin is teaching, I expect to go work on the house, unless the rains interfere. That's another sign of Spring: rain instead of snow.

For the non-American readers of this newsletter, a quick overview of Easter time in the States: the separation of Church and State has changed the official designation of Easter holidays to the non-religious "Spring Break," when teeming hordes of college students descend on the warm beaches of Florida, Texas, California, and the further off Caribbeans in search of sun, sex, and un-sobriety, not necessarily in that order. Religious Christians do what religious Christians do everywhere else in the world around this time. Most Jews celebrate Passover. Buddhists of all stripes wonder what the fuss is about, as they eat another chocolate bunny. Conservative TV stations show "Jesus of Nazareth" and more liberal ones show "Jesus Christ Superstar". They will all show "The Ten Commandments" (and perhaps some non-Jews will recognize in it the origins of Passover). Cable TV will show "The Last Temptation of Christ". Newspapers around the country will carry a comic strip called "B.C.", in which some reference has been made to the risen Christ since the strip began decades ago. Meanwhile, we await the annual Easter Egg Hunt on the White House lawn, where our president plays the part of the overtly Christian and barely covertly Pagan Easter Bunny. There will a renewal of debate over the legality of having government sponsored Easter Egg hunts, which will produce some new opinion pieces in newspapers and magazines. This year's debate is no doubt sharpened by the success of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ", but will fall back into uneasy slumber, as it does every year, until Christmas time. Welcome to America.

Half Way There
This week begins the 20th week of Karin's pregnancy. As we'd just had an appointment with her ob-gyn (obstetrician-gynecologist), you all get to see a new picture of the not so little one:
The baby is now 20 cm long, and weighs 300 grams. We got to see it's little hands and fingers (which it appears to be sucking on). While Karin has been able to feel the baby move for several weeks now, I am still unable to do so ex utero. You can be sure of an update once "papa" can also feel the baby. We are due to meet with a midwife next week, and we hope that she'll be the one for us. (Our first two choices are on vacation either in August or September, which would've meant having two part-time midwives; not a good situation.)

Ever since the "official" announcement of the baby, many of you have asked about where we're having it, when we're coming to the States, if we're coming to the States, etc., etc. As I have lost track of who I've talked or emailed with about our schedule, now is a good time for a full update. First of all, we will come to the States. This has been my goal and, more importantly, Karin's goal all along. However, for various health and logistical reasons, we will not do so before the baby is born. The baby is due on August 26th, which most likely means that it will be a week late, if all goes well. We will hold off on traveling for at least a couple of weeks to a month, which puts our departure date from Austria sometime in October. We currently plan on coming through Boston before going to San Francisco. While in the States, we will make at least one visit to Houston to see my family, as well as visit people in southern California. We will head back to Austria in July 2005, as Karin prepares to go back to work and school. Plans after that will depend on where we decide to settle. I hope this clarifies our plans, at least for the next 18 months or so.

That Which Does Not Kill Me Makes Me Stronger
Another week, another floor removal at the new house. This time, we tackled the straw room, so-called because it use to contain, wait for it...straw! You can see in the following pictures that the straw room was in pretty much the same shape as the other two rooms.
straw_room_before_cleaning_pano straw_room_clean_pano

I wasn't around to do the actual cleaning, and am not sure when my father-in-law tackled it, but I was definitely going to be there for the floor demolition. As luck would have it, the floor in this room had the weakest concrete of the three rooms we were working on, so it was back to sledgehammer, pick, and shovel work for the day. The floor was cleared out in under four hours, which made us pretty pleased. The floor-less room now looks like this:

An Interlude
When we're working on the house, we're given coffee and some kind of dessert by Grandma Reißner. If she's not going to be around at coffee time, she'd leave us a pot in a thermos. This was the case two weeks ago, when we had the really tough concrete and needed the jack from the wagon. As we were finishing our coffee that day, Rudolf, my father-in-law, decided to drink some water out of his coffee cup. Grandma Reißner, being the person she is, would certainly not put up with this breach of etiquette, and I mentioned it to Rudolf. We had a good laugh. Fast forward to this past Thursday. We're back at coffee in the enclosed patio, but with Grandma Reißner joining us. Rudolf decides to have water in his coffee cup, and Grandma Reißner begins to sputter at him. While I can't tell you the exact words she used, I'm sure that it was along the lines of "what do you think you are doing, young man, drinking water out of a coffee cup like an animal or some low class person...." And I can see that my father-in-law is grinning like a madman, and I am doing my best to keep a smirk off of my face. Meanwhile, Grandma Reißner has brought out a water glass, which I decide to use, discretion being the better part of valor. After coffee, as we head back into the straw room, we both broke out laughing.

Window Shopping
While all of this demolition is going on, Karin & I needed to make some decisions about our new place. We already kneo that the big room will become our living room/bedroom/office, and the former straw room will house the bathroom, toilet, kitchen, and dining nook. So the next important decision is the size and number of windows each room. After much discussion, we settled on a three section window in the main room, at around 160 cm wide, and a two section one in the kitchen, both on the street side of the house. We are also going to get a small window with frosted glass in the bathroom, which will vent out to what is now the workshop, but will become a covered porch. The tractor shed doors will be replaced with patio style glass doors. The small window in the stables will be replaced by a larger window, and the stables door will get walled over. In all, we're looking at four new sets of windows, two new exterior doors, and at least two new interior doors.

So Karin's father suggested that we go window shopping, or rather, shopping for windows. (The figurative sense of "window shopping" translates to the German "Schaufensterbummeln".) So we went into a home improvement store last Saturday and shopped for windows and doors. After a bit of wondering around, we left with an armload of catalogs, none of which had prices listed. We'll be discussing our options with my father-in-law, then we'll set down some actual measurements and try to get price quotes. (Had we gone on Sunday, we would've had to settle for window shopping for windows.)

J'accuse[6] German is hard. I felt this three weeks ago, when I first wanted to write this item, and three weeks of German class has only reenforced this view. This last class I attended was the "A2" class, and was really the first class where I felt like I was getting all the grammar that I'd been missing in earlier classes. Of course, I realized that without all of the practical German from the earlier classes, it would've been hard to teach this rather advanced material without resorting to one of the students' native languages, but I guess I'm just glad to have really gotten my teeth into the meat of the material.

We had six people in this class: Maila, the Italian girl in Austria on some sort of national service program; Mohammed, a Palestinian mechanic who I'm sure is either dyslexic or at least needs new glasses; Alesya, the Ukrainian language teacher from my first class; Sandra, a Brazilian woman on an extended visit; Dubravka, a young Serbian nurse with the somewhat alarming last name of "Milosevic", and myself. Our teacher Andrea taught German as a second language as well as Arabic, which came in handy when needing to work with Mohammed.

We began this session with the use of the accusative case. Having learned in the previous course that the accusative is used when describing movement, we now add things like direct objects of verbs which can take both a direct (accusative) and indirect (dative) object. Example: I gave my wife (dative) a book (accusative). Now add a dash of pronouns and the fun really begins: I gave my wife (feminine singular dative: "ihr") a book (neuter singular accusative: "es"). Of course, if both pronouns are used, then their order switches so that the final sentence would be: Ich gebe es ihr, "I gave it (to) her." Articles are also declined, of course, unless they are indefinite and followed by adjectives, in which case they are not declined as much as they would be when alone, and the adjective gets fully declined. My brain hurts.

Verbs, on the other hand, are rather straightforward, except for remembering all the conjugation rules for the classes of irregular verbs. We also had some interesting discussions about the fact that in Austria, the past participle is used in place of the simple past tense in speech. E.g.: "ich habe gesprochen" (I have spoken) instead of "ich sprach" (I spoke). This would explain why the past perfect was the second verb construction we were taught in our classes. The best thing in this session was getting the "big picture" of present, preterite (past), perfect (past participle), and subjunctive tenses, and some idea of how they are used. While not (future) perfect, it at least lays the groundwork for getting a sense of how the language fits together. Now if I can only learn my genders.

More German Vocabulary Fun



[1] "Totally bogus": (ocean) surfer-speak for "what a terrible situation" or "that is really wrong". Commonly preceded or followed by the word "dude". E.g. "Dude, you took my last piece of pepperoni pizza! That was totally bogus, dude!" While Bill & Ted (of the movies' fame) are perhaps the best know utterers of this phrase, we must concede to one drugged out surfer-dude named "Jeff Spicoli", played to perfection by Sean Penn in "Fast Times at Ridgemont Hight".

[2] "Spring Forward, Link Back": a play on "Spring forward, Fall back": a phrase Americans use to remember which direction to re-set their clocks when the time changes. Don't know what the British use.

[3] "Beware the Ideas of March": a play on "beware the Ides of March", a warning to Caesar, made famous by Shakespeare's play "Julius Caesar". Caesar was assassinated on the 15th, or "ides", of March.

[4] "Site for Sore Eyes: a play on the saying "sight for sore eyes", meaning

[5] "Windbreaker": light jackets, usually unlined, mostly worn (sensibly) by people in Spring and Fall. "Windjacke" in German.

[6] "J'accuse": French for "I accuse", it is the name of an open letter by the writer Emile Zola, which accused the French government of anti-semitism.



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