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Greetings from Vienna, #39

September 13th, 2004


In this issue:

Old Business

Bad Links
Many apologies about the bad links to the individual Tobias pictures in the last issue. As many of you noticed, you can get to full sized images from the Tobias pictures page. When in doubt, please go to the web version of the newsletter and click on the pictures. That should always work (unless I had a goof when uploading the images). When I send links to individual images, I can forget an entire directory level in the url, which is what happened last week. Sorry.

Two Left Hands Don't Make A Right[1]
Many of you suggested that the English expression for someone who is not "handy" is "all thumbs". Credit goes to Chuck Kubota (friend and former colleague), who was the first person to respond with the suggestion. Being a fan of do-it-yourself TV shows in the States, I'm just a bit ashamed for not having thought of it myself. One origin of this expression—from what I can remember—comes from the world of carpentry, and describe someone who is so clumsy as to always hit their own thumb when trying to use a hammer.

Friend and Zouave Mark Millman notes that "butter-fingers" is another possibility, though it also suffers from the in-exactness of "ham-fisted". One might define "butter-fingers" as being incompetent due to a lack of strength and dexterity (there's that "right" word again), and "ham-fisted" would be due to too much strength, or such strength misapplied. "All-thumbs" implies a general lack of skill, possibly tending towards being negatively skilled.

Several of you also suggested "two left feet", which has the same connotations in German as it does in English; right idea for the other half of the body. It seems that many of the words and phrases which suggests that a person is not "all thumbs" has to do with the right hand; e.g. dexterous (from the Latin "dexter") and adroit (from the French "droite"). In fact, being "ambidextrous" literally means to have two right hands. My friend Randy Matamoros notes that as a left-handed person, he objects to the negative connotations of "left-ness" associated with in-ability. (It's a good thing we're not getting into the word "sinister".)

Singin' the Blues
Many of you responded to the "blue" question by mentioning that "blue language" means profane language/swearing—at least in American English. There is also the musical connotation of "blue", from "the blues", which I won't even try to begin to define, except to suggest that it has something to do with those moods associated with unhappiness. Friend (and fellow musketeer) Matt Larsen suggested that "blue" meaning drunk has whole new implications for the wine "Blue Nun".


Greetings from Vienna (New City)
Part the Thirty-Ninth: Back on Schedule

Those of you who keep track of these things will have noted that this newsletter is showing on a Monday. This is not really an official shift back to my original, regular schedule. Rather, it is due to the fact that we have a pretty full Tuesday, and I don't really want to wait until Wednesday as we've had already had a full weekend, with many pictures that I'd like to share. So without further ado...

Happy Birthday To:
Ur, with only one further ado. Happy Birthday to two roommates this week, one current and one former: Richard Powers and Robert Duffield. Ok, on with the show.

Tobias' First Gig
This past Friday, Tobias got to hear for the first time (outside the womb) Karin play folk music. We were at a Heurige ("an inn with new wine on tap") in a neighboring village with the Brennofenmusi, Karin's Austrian folk music group (not to be confused with her Viennese folk music group, the Liechtenthaler Quartett). Tobias seemed to enjoy the whole thing, as can be seen in this picture:
I should note that the other band was playing a fairly energetic polka at this point, and Tobias actually slept through several songs later in the evening. We now think we have a new tool to get him to sleep, just put on some folk music. Of course, that could wake up Grandma Reißner. Hmmm.

While Karin couldn't play the whole evening due to logistical issues with feeding Tobias, she did get in a couple of songs:
And when the Brennofenmusi wasn't playing, the other band—a Latvian group which came to Austria on a cultural exchange program—played and their entourage danced. When the dancers broke out in spontaneous arches and tunnels:
IMG_5343 IMG_5344
I was all ready to be quite impressed at the level of dance knowledge in the average Latvian (especially as quite a few of the dancers looked like teenagers). I soon found out that the "entourage" was actually another music group as well as two Latvian folk dance groups. Much was explained, especially when they started doing figures which are obviously from folk dancing traditions. (There is one involving couples touching insteps—well, kicking, actually—which reminded me of a French folk dance I learned at the Louisiana Historical Dance Week in 2003.)

Sadly, Karin & I were not able to do any dancing that night. Juggling Tobias and the violin was about all we could handled. However, she has another gig in two weeks with the Brennofenmusi; and as the event has several other groups playing, maybe we can get a chance to take a spin on the floor. Watch this space.

Tobias' First Parade
The last time this newsletter mentioned the Military Academy in Wiener Neustadt was back in issue #9, when Karin and I added the annual Ball there. Well, this past Saturday was another annual event at the academy: graduation. As part of the graduation ceremony, there is a parade which involves the enlisted personnel of the barracks and military airport that are situated around Wiener Neustadt. The parade itself is in the center of town; but to get there, most of the troops and heavy equipment have to pass by our new house. So we got a chance to see a bunch Austrian military equipment pass by around one in the afternoon. I got some pictures, which included amphibious assault vehicles, tanks, mobile howitzers, and camouflaged jeeps (well, jeep-like vehicles; these are probably not made by General Motors):
IMG_5350 IMG_5352 IMG_5356 IMG_5358
If I've misidentified any of these vehicles, please let me know.

I also got a picture of some neighbors across the street, enjoy the almost parade with beers in hand:
And of course, I got a picture of Tobias (and Karin, her father, and Grandma) watching the almost parade:
Later that day, we went to Karin's aunt and uncle's place on the other side of town for coffee. Karin decided to walk with Tobias, and they got to see the first part of the parade, with the new officers and horses.

Tobias' First School Opening
On Sunday, we attended the opening of the two year old music school in Weikersdorf. The last time this music school was in the newsletter, it was back in issue #3, when Karin held her Christmas concert for her students at this school. Please don't ask me why a two year old building is getting its opening ceremony now. It's a mystery. In any case, it was an opportunity for more of Karin's students to see Tobias. We had the Hartmanns and the Hechers in my photos:
IMG_5151 IMG_5149
We also and rare appearance of yours truly in front of the camera:
just as I was unsuccessfully keeping the sun off of Tobias' head. (Don't worry, I got a cloth diaper to cover him just after that picture was taken.)

Of course, Tobias needed to be fed, which meant that some of the students had to settle with playing to Tobias' toys instead of Tobias:
The two older girls in this picture are Sophie and Magdalena, two of Karin's "recorder-tweenies". They have been added to the list of baby-sitters for Tobias. :-)


For more Tobias pictures from this week, go to:
That's all for now. See you next week.

Bis Bald,



[1] Everyone knows that "three" lefts make a right. Unless you're driving in New England, in which case three lefts can either reverse your direction completely, send you out of the state, or put you on a bridge.



Except where otherwise noted, all contents © 2004, Paul T.S. Lee.
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