Monday, July 9, 2012

11 Months Later, We've Finally Finished The Move

Whazzat?  You thought I gave up blogging?  Nope, though this layoff was mostly intentional, albeit somewhat comically protracted.  You see, I was prepared to do some a few wrap-up thoughts as soon as we officially finished the move-- when the final papers were shuffled, the bank account fully drained and closed and so forth.  Honestly, I assumed it would only be a couple weeks after the last entry.  Well, a couple of weeks turned into a couple of months which turned into a couple of seasons.  The main culprit was waiting on a single sheet of paper from the bank regarding our measly 2011 interest.  The first request to get this mailed out was January 13.  I received it today-- almost 6 months and innumerable emails later, and the only reason we have it now was that some bank rules were broken just to shut me up and make me go the hell away.  Hey, whatever it takes.

So really, this whole move from start to finish took exactly 11 months to perform-- in other words, one-third of the actual time we spent IN Germany.

More thoughts soon, and then the transition into a Stateside blog.  But for now, I'm going to savor my small victory.  It's good to finally be home.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Professors of Americana

Nearly 6 months after the move home, and things are finally settling down here.  While I will devote an upcoming entry to the 6-month phenomenon that is curiously a near-universal experience amongst expats (both coming and going), I'm pleased as punch to say that our old neighbors from our Nuremberg apartment building, A&C, just relocated to Portland this week.  A&C are Brits, and while I think they will have an easier time settling in than, say, Germans, moving to any country is a process-- and let's face it, the good ol' USA counts as a sensory overload.  So while they will have some access to a dedicated relocation agent to get some of the basics taken care of (bank accounts, cell phone carriers), the trials of moving to a permanent place, figuring out where to eat and shop, and a myriad of other issues will soon surface.  Actually, we're sort of looking forward to helping-- for a start, it will help us to reacquaint ourselves with Portland, and it's always a gas to look at things through a newbie's eyes.  Plus we can help them to blend in quicker-- English or not, they need to know pronto that nobody in Portland carries an umbrella (Gore-Tex baby!), that a quick way to spot a tourista is they pay to use public transit, and that Pabst Blue Ribbon is considered a serious beer here-- really, you can find it at the best restaurants (irony rules here in Rip City).  We also plan to introduce our friends to the wonders of trash TV-- sure, we never miss an episode of Downton Abbey (and isn't O'Brien the worst person ever?), but we have Survivor, The Bachelor, and Toddlers & Tiaras to warp their minds with.  As with all things immersion, we plan to take this slow, but we're going to have a fun time doing it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Kickin' It Old School: '81 Style

Note to self:  remember that I have a blog.  Sorry folks, it's been a whirlwind, and I've just returned from another trade show, this time in Salt Lake City (no, I didn't attend Sundance; that was in Park City).  I've said it before, but it bears repeating:  as an exhibitor, a person routinely faces sleep deprivation, malnutrition, dehydration, mental and physical stress, and (given the Salt Lake climate) exposure to extreme heat or cold.  In short, trade shows violate most of the Geneva convention, yet I sign up for the damn things to the tune of at least 2 appearances per year.  I'd also like to point out that my rather dubious streak continues-- I always manage to get sick going to trade shows (it's 21,000 people from over 40 countries in a sealed room for 4 days-- do the math), and this time I got bronchitis for my troubles.  A few too many fever dreams and some lovely antibiotics later, I'm on the mend.

So while I'm gearing up for more blogging tales, I'm going to give a quick throwaway.  In honor of the Ferris Beuller teaser commercial going apeshit viral right now (spoiler alert: it'll be a Honda Super Bowl commercial), I figured I'd take a trip to my past and post a distantly related song.  The song fragment heard in the commercial  (and made famous by Ferris Beuller's Day Off) is "Oh Yeah" by Swiss band Yello.  Yello are an interesting band-- they are still active, and comprise of musician Boris Blank (cool name) and lead singer Dieter Meier (the third guy in the video, Carlos PerĂ³n, left the band after this album, and has enjoyed a very prolific career as a solo artist).  Meier has a varied CV-- millionaire industrialist, professional gambler, one-time member of Switzerland's national golf team and artist.  Yello have had a few club hits here and there in the States, but are pretty influential in electronic music circles in the rest of the world.  Anyways, that's a v-e-r-y long setup for this video, 1981's The Evening's Young.  It's skittish, jumpy, never quite settles into its groove, but still makes for some fascinating listening.  And the video is, well, a product of its time-- glossy neons, glowsticks(?!), and a budget less than a weekend bus pass.  But I recall as a lad being absolutely transfixed by this vid when it aired on the late, great Night Flight TV program which showed all sorts of oddballia like this.  Take special note of the vocals-- this cat can give Tuvan throat singers a run for their money.  Enjoy the weirdness, Oh Yeah:

Knowing that the YouTubes sometimes do not allow videos to air in all continents, if the screen comes up blank where you are, EU readers can (hopefully) see this either here or here.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays Everybody!

Well, lessee... last year at this time, we were sipping wine in a Paris cafe, and 2 years ago we had a singularly crappy experience in a faux Scottish bar in Rome (as I recall, our Italian waiter was incensed we tipped him "only" 20% that evening for his gag-awful service). This year we're back in our hometown of Portland eating take-n-bake pizza, cracking open a $10 bottle of wine, watching A Christmas Story and enjoying this view from our balcony-- that's Mount Hood which you can see from downtown Portland (look to the Northeast, and you may even see Mount St. Helens on a clear night too).

B and I would like to thank our readers (and all you lurkers too-- hey, why not subscribe?) for stopping by over the year.  It's been a dynamic one to be sure-- we really were not prepared to head home quite yet, but hey you gotta play the hand you've been dealt.  We'll spend our post-Christmas rekindling an old tradition with our friends-- heading out to the rugged Oregon Coast, and planning our first "real" getaway for 2012.  Not to jinx it, but look out Canada!

We wish everybody a happy holiday season and a great 2012.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Computer Problems, Please Stand By

Not much happening here at ExpatUSA HQ. Well, actually there are, it's just that I haven't been chronicling very well. The biggest news is that my laptop died in a spectacular flame-out, and I've been struggling to pick up the pieces.

The short version is that my laptop computer (a Dell XPS, which was temperamental almost from the beginning and is now known to have inherent cooling and hardware design issues) destroyed its internal hard drive LITERALLY as I was scrambling to download everything to an external hard drive. Everything-- and I do mean everything-- from the last 3 years was basically lost. All photos of Europe, my work portfolio, bills, tax information, every document, and all the rest... gone. And the external drive? Well, despite backing it up on a semi-regular basis (but not nearly enough, natch) it was found out post-mortem that the last data it had dated from April(?!) and there was something inherently wrong with THAT as well. The good folks at Geek Squad told me that they could rescue the data from the toasted hard drive for the low low price of around $1700, then cautioned that they had zero idea of just how much they could find, but I'd be on the hook for the total no matter how large or small the recovery. Submitting the external drive for recovery will cost about $850 with the same non-guarantee of the amount of data that can be rescued. So folks... like an IT guy told me: data isn't safe until it is in 3 different places (the computer itself, external drive, and a third storage method like cloud data services). Word to the wise: don't be like me. Computers are not infallible, and the best way to approach them is to assume all will be gone in a puff of smoke.

So instead of paying in to my retirement accounts and buying a lot of Christmas gifts, more pressing concerns arose-- like getting a new computer, and salvaging the remnants of the "old" laptop. The "new" system was a relative bargain, but still more than I was wanting to pay (especially at this time of the year), and the old laptop was outfitted with a new $65 hard drive and is consigned strictly to light web surfing and entertainment duty. I simply do not trust it for anything else-- this is the computer's 3rd hard drive since 2008 (readers with good memories will remember this post from 2010). On the bright side, seeing as I work from home, I can probably get this new computer deducted from my taxes.

Regarding the old laptop, I decided to have a bit of geek fun and try out a more experimental web browser, one that wasn't a bloated pig (cough cough, Firefox) given the computer's temperament and annoying desire to destroy itself every 18 months. Into the breach, I downloaded the nerd-rific open platform Arora browser, which is really REALLY bare-bones, but just about right for the computer's current usage and second-tier status. All in all, it's an OK browser, and does almost everything that other web browsers do with a few quirks along the way (it doesn't recognize or load certain web pages about 5% of the time), but overall it's pretty good. Light and fast, plus its logo (pictured) looks like the bear is dirty dancing with the globe, so it has that going for it.

More adventures soon, including the unexpectedly long road to re-integrating back to the USA lifestyle.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Nuremberg Book Swap This Weekend

This one's for my German readers in the Nuremberg 'hood.
By all accounts, she's doing a bang-up job herself, but my ol' buddy Katherine With a K (and if you're not reading her blog, what's stopping you?) has picked up the mantle and is currently hosting the Nuremberg Book and Media Swap this coming weekend (November 20, 2011) at O'Neill's Pub in Nuremberg. Projected turnout looks VERY promising, which means the pickings should be really nice. Bring your pre-loved books, magazines and DVDs for exchange, have a beer and hang with the Nuremberg expat community. You can read more about it here.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


OK, so we're living in a condo here in Portland. The place is pretty small, but really really nice-- the construction materials are absolute top notch, our patio looks out onto the Willamette River (the body of water which bisects Portland), and from here we have views of Mount Hood and the impressive Fremont Bridge (pics to come). It's a tony kind of place, and we really lucked out on getting it-- our landlord sees the condo as something of a lucrative nuisance he doesn't want to deal with all that much, so he vets his tenants well and sets the rent at FAR below market value so he doesn't have to deal with a lot of turnover. And our neighbors? Well, we are amongst the youngest folks in the building, and (judging by all the Audis, Land Rovers and BMWs in the parking garage) probably don't make quite as much salary as these high fliers, but whatever.

Like I said, we rent. The Portland housing market is rather fluid right now and shows no signs of settling down, so we have made the conscious decision to wait-and-see before we commit to home ownership. I also said we rent in a very upscale condo on the waterfront. And because of this, some of our neighbors treat us like dirt. Interestingly, our previous place in Portland (6 or so years ago, and pre-Germany) was a similar situation-- the smallest house on the block of a fairly upscale neighborhood, and we rented that as well. In both situations, when the neighbors first heard we were bottom-feeding renters, you'd have thought I told them that that we were running a puppy mill with the proceeds from our meth lab. Hey folks, sorry we don't have crazy amounts of cash lying around to actually purchase these places, yet still have the gall to want to live in these nice neighborhoods. In the end, we proved to be excellent neighbors when we lived at the house, and it had better curb appeal than some of the other places on the block-- I made sure of that personally. I expect that our current neighbors will find that out as well. Eventually, anyways.