27 March 2009

Arrival in München

I am going to blame the delayed post on jet lag; although, some procrastination may be at work too. I rarely have a problem with jet lag when I go somewhere unless Brad keeps me up. The second or third night we were here, he woke up around midnight and, after walking me up, instead of trying to go back to sleep or reading, he proceeded to talk about beer school, people, and our future plans for nearly three hours. Every time I would try to go back to sleep some new topic would keep me awake. When I finally did go back to sleep, he got out his book. We were both even more useless the next day than we had been the day before.

And on that next day, I had an accident with a glass at the Hofbraühaus. I was telling a story, gesturing about something, and down it went. It shattered; I left embarrassed. Last time I was in Munich, I walked into a glass door of a shop as I was leaving. The glass spidered from two impact points - my head and my knee. I had a huge bump on my head and a bruise on my knee, the shop had to close for the day and tape a big yellow "x" over the glass to keep it from shattering into the street. They wouldn't be able to repair the door for a few days since this happened on a weekend. I am trying to pay more attention to my extremities while around glass objects in Munich, because the only thing I can blame the Hofbraühaus accident (and the store incident 5 years ago) on is my own clumsiness.

We're staying in a gästehaus hotel six S Bahn stops from the center of the city. Our room/apartment has a closet kitchenette (see picture), which means we get some veggies alongside the German winter diet of meat and potatoes with a side of potatoes. The apartment is a vast improvement over the one in Chicago. The best part is the lack of loud, obnoxious, and inconsiderate neighbors.


17 March 2009

Chicago & St. Patrick


I have a strange fascination with everything Irish. The land, the people, the culture, the food, the history ... everything is captivating and irresistible. And, I could listen to someone with an irish accent talk all day long, especially if he's cute. I find very little to dislike about people who sing at funerals and are always up for a pint and a chat. I am also always up for celebrating something, anything.

We joined the masses Saturday morning at the greening of the Chicago River (see the comic-book green color they turn the river in the picture). Then we celebrated St. Patrick's day with some whiskey, some beer, some good food, and lots of laughs. The entire town was out in green shirts, happy, and ready for some fun. And half of the town is out again today. More green, more beer, more fun. What could be wrong with a culture that inspires so many non-Irish around the world to celebrate its national holiday?

09 March 2009

Twisted Sister

The best thing about Chicago is Twisted Sister Bakery - a small bakery on Wells Street in Old Town. We have been going there every Saturday and Sunday for coffee and a treat. On cold days, they light a real fire in the brick fireplace, and we can sit at a table, enjoy our confections, and chat.

Early in our stay here we tried other bakeries, wanting to give all deserts an equal opportunity. We've given that up. Twisted Sister's corny lime cookies have turned Brad into an addict; he's disappointed almost to the point of depression every night after dinner when there is nothing but fruit to eat for desert. "What about a corny lime," he always asks, dejected when one does not appear. These thin little cookies are packed full of lime flavor, crunchy from the corn meal, and tart from the thin lime sugar glaze on top. According to the bakery's manager, they have quickly become one of their most popular items, along with the new key lime cupcake. I am going to have to learn how to make them. Brad, no doubt, is looking forward to taste testing each batch to see if what I make is as good as the corny limes at Twisted Sister. They also make the best carrot cake I have ever eaten out. In cupcake form, it's moist, well spiced, and does not include any silly things like raisins or coconut. Seriously, who would ruin a carrot cake with such crap?

But, life is not all corny limes and cupcakes for Twisted Sister Bakery. They will soon have to change the name of the bakery. Twisted Sister, the heavy metal band, has demanded that they stop using the name. Not that anyone would confuse an '80s hair band with a small bakery in Old Town Chicago. But, the band claims that the bakery is making money off of the Twisted Sister name. And, apparently, they're not gonna take it.

A plaintiff (the '80s hair band) in a trademark infringement case has the burden of proving that the defendant's (the bakery's) use of a mark (the Twisted Sister name) has created a likelihood of confusion about the origin of the defendant's goods or services. Again, I am not sure how anyone would think that the bakery is in any way associated or connected with a band that reached its peak in 1985, and is clutching on to a 20 year-old reputation by making Christmas albums. Or, how the image of aging sweaty drug shriveled men, still sporting mullets and sleeveless shirts, would in any way entice customers to try cakes, tarts, or cookies.

The bakery, even though they know the claim is totally baseless, has decided to change its name. They will spend thousands in re-branding only because they don't want to spend tens of thousands defending a ridiculous lawsuit.

The only one that benefits in any way from this situation is the band's lawyer. The band gets absolutely nothing. In fact, they lost money paying a lawyer to make up some reasons why they should sue the bakery, and then make some long-winded threats. Once again a lawyer proves that all of the jokes about lawyers being scum are indeed based in some truth.

04 March 2009

Bikram Says

"Is that the one that made you a bitch?" That was Brad's initial response when I told him I was planning to do Bikram yoga in Chicago. Not only was I going to sign up, I was planning to go 31 days in a row. Which prompted his next response: "yeah, right." So, with that, we made a bet (more than just the hand shaking we often do).

I chose Bikram yoga because I wanted a cheap exercise option in Chicago, other than walking into the wind. We had just spent over two months snow shoeing and skiing in Vermont, and I wanted something challenging to do in Chicago. So, Bikram was my answer. For $29 I could suffer through 31 days of unlimited Bikram yoga classes.

True, last time I signed up for Bikram yoga I was a bitch every time I came home. Not a raving bitch - I didn't have enough energy to be raving. And, I spent most of the class thinking: "fuck you Bikram," "take your happy smiling face and shove it you stupid bitch," and ... well, you get the picture. Not exactly the intended effect. But, in my defense, I cannot stand heat, and humidity makes me melt. Bikram yoga is a series of 26 postures done for 90 minutes in a 105 degree 40% humidity room with a bunch of other people dripping sweat. Obviously a challenge for someone who thinks it's getting too hot out any time the temperature rises above 85 degrees.

Bikram yoga is also scripted - only Bikram approved dialogue is allowed. The script is painfully grating at times: I want to vomit each time I hear that I should want to look like a "Japanese ham sandwich" when I am sweating in 105 degrees. Bikram has copyrighted his style of yoga, and aggressively enforces his copyright. It's a well paying franchise for Bikram, who apparently collects Bentleys and Rolls Royces in Beverly Hills. Scripting and franchising what is supposed to be a spiritual practice makes the entire experience seem gimmicky. Which annoyed me more and more with each class last time.

This time around, however, I am surprised with myself. I don't think I told anyone (mentally) to shove anything. And, I think I only cursed Bikram a handful of times during the first few classes. Part of the reason I liked this time better is the instructors. They keep the Bikram-isms to a minimum - in 31 days I've only heard the "ham sandwich" bit once, and I have not once heard "Bikram says." They focus on the form of the postures instead, and each one has a different way of going through the Bikram approved script. It works. It keeps me from wanting to kick the instructors in the head repeatedly, or, to take a more reasonable course of action and just stop going.

Another reason I might even say that I enjoyed it this time is the studio itself. Last time the yoga room was carpeted. I cringed every time any part of my body touched the carpet. I would imagine all the other bodies that dripped sweat all over the carpet before me, and I could feel the slimy germs multiplying and spreading up my limbs the longer I stayed in class. I don't think the carpet was shampooed, or even vacuumed, very often. Here, the floors are a fake wood, and are cleaned before I get to class in the morning. Going every day makes the heat easier to deal with as well.

I do admit that I would have stopped going a week ago, out of boredom, if it had not been for the bet. Today was my last day, and by far the best and easiest class to get through. I think that's because I chanted "this is the last time I have to do this" during every posture today. And, because I win $100.
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