Saturday, May 23, 2009

Yeah, there's an app for that

Pope Benny the 16th now has his own Iphone app!

Sweet!

Here's a preview of his profile picture:

SuperSklar

Here, courtesy of Bob "Ironman" Lawson, is a short video showcasing the unique comedy genius of the Sklar twins (I am not ashamed to admit that I have actually done this more than a few times):




For any of you not familiar with the Sklars and their late lamented show, Cheap Seats, here are a couple of excellent clips from that series:





Friday, May 22, 2009

Confused on the concept

Wow. The house across the street from Chez Angus has had a long and bizarre history. Now it is up for sale again, but the sellers seem a bit confused about what kind of market they are facing as evidenced by this bit of signage we saw in front of the place this morning:



Have any of y'all ever heard of a 20 minute open house before?

A funny thing happened on the way to the coronation

What a great week for basketball, people! (Yes, Mizzle is not in the Dizzle so you are stuck with Angus over the holiday weekend). Somehow Orlando and Denver didn't get the memo about the Lakers-Cavs NBA finals.

After blowing the first game in LA, Denver looked disinterested and done in the first quarter of game 2, but turned things around behind the precision shooting of Linas Kleiza (!!!!) and evened the series at 1 each. My eyes were bugging out of my head at the sight of Carmelo Anthony chickenfighting with Kobe down on the blocks and overall giving a great defensive effort. Plus LA doesn't have anyone who can stay in front of Chauncey Billups.

In Cleveland, the Cavs were dominant in the first half, but in the second LeBron's supporting cast simply stopped playing and James actually ran out of gas at the end (though he had a spectacular game). Maybe it was the rust from 8 days off, but maybe it's gonna be a tough series. Either way, LeBron needs some help. Cleveland's bigs are helpless against Dwight Howard straight up and Orlando is very good at getting open looks at 3 pointers when help comes. I love to watch them get out on the fast break with the intention of taking a 3. It's just like when I used to play at GMU with Bob Tollison!

So far, the Association is 3 for 3 in the conference finals as all of the games have been compelling and exciting.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

So Proud to be a North Carolinian

As it happens, I am flying back to the US tomorrow morning. Won't be back to Germany until Thursday morning. I will be visiting the lovely Ms. Mungowitz, and we will celebrate (a bit early) our 23rd wedding anniversary. We have reservations at Shell Island, up on the northern end of Wrightsville Beach. Notice it really is on the northern tip. Above it, only a long sandbar and some birds. How quiet and romantic!

In anticipation of going back to NC, I did look at the paper a bit on-line. And this article....well, just read it. These are my people, folks.

UPDATE: I missed this at first. One of the commenters on the article said, "This is unbelievable, but it is so sweet..This is the first time i have ever heard about a love story like this...well, possibly love conquers all." Um....ma'am.... SHE....SHOT....HIM!

Barry Saunders: My Favorite NC Columnist

I really, really like Barry Saunders, columnist for the Raleigh paper. I admit, I have had him in twice to give talks in my classes, and he was great. Gracious, interesting, funny.

But the coolest thing is the columns that he writes. You actually don't know what he is going to say, or how he is going to react, to an issue.

For example, he recently discussed the "job" Mary Easley, the spouse of until-January governor Mike Easley. Ms. Easley had been given a 90% pay raise, for reasons that may be okay, but $170k is a big salary at NC State for someone who has never worked at a university before.

Barry Saunder's response
:

The question now becomes when will Mary Easley give up the ghost?

Her reluctance to voluntarily step down from a job paying her $170,000 is understandable, especially in this economic climate. They'd have to threaten me with the release of pictures of underage farm animals and me sipping piña coladas on the beach in a Speedo at sunset before I'd voluntarily go quietly -- and broke -- into that good night.


Barry is a large man, considerably bigger than I am. The vision of him in a speedo, with adolescent sheep, at the beach.....well, I am not going to get over it anytime soon.

Vivid imagery. That's all I'm saying. You don't get that from Krugman.

Hundesalons

There are some very interesting "hundesalons," or grooming and style shops for pups.

My two favorites so far:

1. Doggy Style, on Hauptstrasse in Elrangen (no, I not kidding. Doesn't seem to have a web site. But that's the sign in the window: DOGGY STYLE. And then some photos of dogs getting haircuts. I like it a lot.)

2. Queer Dogs, in Tübingen.

People are pretty serious about dog haircuts, I understand. But each of the above is a little surprising in its innocence.

"They All Seem So Nice...."

So, some time ago now I promised to give the story of the Munich walking tour taken by the EYM and me. We chose the "Hitler's Munich" tour.

Now, sure, a guided walking tour is pretty hokey, but this one looked quite interesting, and it turned out to be darned good. Our guide, Shadlich, was Tunisian-French, and spoke terrific, idiomatic English. He also had a very dry sense of humor, and liked to ask questions and stare at us sadly while we all stared at our large comfortable American shoes.

Anyway, we did in fact, as the name "walking tour" suggests, walk around different parts of Munich, to the Hoffbrauhaus, to a number of squares and plazas where events happened in the period 1923-1934. I liked it a lot, and would recommend the tour. For one thing, you learn a bit about the streets and major platz-es. So, good for the tour generally, good for Shadlich in particular. (Washington Post story of someone who took EXACTLY this same tour. So I will leave out most of the details, which are told better in that column).

The other tourists, all American....the review is more mixed, I have to say. One lady, in particular...well, let me tell you. First, some background. There are a little less than 80 million people in Germany who call themselves "German." In the U.S., there are nearly 60 million people who call themselves "German," in the sense of being a "I'm half German on my mother's side," or something like that.

There are some parts of the U.S. where the proportion is much higher. Cincinnati, OH, for example. That is one German city on the river. So, to paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, "If you are blonde, blue-eyed, and look like you like beer, bread, and kartoffeln, and you are from Cincinnati, then you might be German."

Well, there was one woman on the tour....blonde, blue-eyed, substantially zaftig, and from Cincinnati. And she did feel free to share her views on a variety of topics. She was one of those people missing a clutch; if the brain turned over, the mouth rolled.

So, after we had been looking at the place beside the Feldherrenhalle, just before the Odeonsplatz, where the Nazis had put up a placque and memorial for the 16 Nazi martyrs killed in 1923, the failed putsch, we turned back toward the alley. Shadlich told us that people who walked by the memorial without giving the Nazi salute were likely to get (at best) an involuntary meeting with the Gestapo as a result. So, many people took the Viscardigasse, or "dodger's alley," to avoid walking past the Nazi memorial at all.

At this point, the obviously German woman from Cincinnati is moved to announce, very loudly, "What is wrong with these people? They seem so nice? How can people from Germany be so evil?"

This outburst produced a reflective silence, while Shadlich stared at his stylish German shoes. Then we went on the rest of the tour.

I do want to pose a question, though. Or perhaps just present a list, a "top 5." You may have your own favorites.

1. Systematic genocide of Native Americans, followed by consistent violation of signed treaties and contracts, guaranteeing land rights.
2. Slavery, then Jim Crow and segregation, AFTER passage of Amendments to the Constitution that clearly outlawed same.
3. Rounding up and interning thousands of American citizens of Japanese descent, including many who had sons serving at that same time in the American military
4. Propping up of heinous dictators all over the world, teaching techniques of "interrogation" that are, by any standard, torture.
5. The war in Iraq, extraordinary rendition, Guantanamo, Abu Grahib, more torture.

What is wrong the THESE people, who would do such things? Well, there are other things, too. Good things. There is no "those people," ma'am. America has done a lot of good things. And some really awful things. So has Germany. Germany has faced up to its past. I am not sure that the U.S. really has. Partly because some of our "past" is so recent, as in #5 above.

So, I am still proud to be an American, proud of our people, achievements, and institutions. We can do better. But we may need a little work on the "dealing with self-criticism" front.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I Should Not Have Come.....

Clearly, it was a mistake for me to come to Germany.

I expected that the routine difference in availability and quality of beer would be a problem. And, sure, the universal quality of beer is higher, and the price is lower, than in the U.S. I can deal with that.

But....the bread. There is just no comparison. The bread, the pastries, almost anything baked....it's as if it is just a different product. Not just what you get at specialty bakeries. I mean the bread on the shelves at the cheapest grocery. The crust, texture, and flavor are better than you could find in the U.S. at 5 times the price. (To be fair, this might not be true in the Northeast, in Chicago, or in San Francisco. But in the areas I'm used to, in NC, it's not close: Germany 1, US 0)

Unfortunately, this means that I am likely to be flown back across the Atlantic, at the end of my sojourn here (August 1) with ropes attached to me, like the Hindenberg. My arrival will blot out the sun for an entire zip code. I should never have come....

Altruism Harms the Economy?

Too much of a good thing? Why altruism can harm the environment?

Gilles Grolleau, Lisette Ibanez & Naoufel Mzoughi
Ecological Economics, 15 May 2009, Pages 2145-2149

Abstract: Success of eco-labeling schemes, broadly defined, varies among products and across countries. Based on a simple theoretical framework, we show that the nature of environmental attributes among products (i.e., private versus public) and the consumer type (i.e., egoist versus altruist) shape the overall performance of such schemes. In addition, we demonstrate that altruistic consumers exhibiting a too high willingness to pay for the eco-labeled product can inadvertently prevent egoistic consumers from purchasing it, leading to a sub-optimal outcome in terms of environmental performance. Several policy and managerial implications are drawn.


Do you mean that perhaps Fair Trade does more harm than good? Russ and I talked about that, a bit. And I wrote this up....

So more evidence continues to pile up for a simple proposition:

[E]very individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.


Perhaps that's not really surprising. The altruism folks, the tree-huggers and bed-wetters who want to force other people to act differently, are not really trying to help anyone. They are just trying to impose their own vision of "the good," using coercion instead of persuasion.

And, in fairness, I have to give props to Gavin K. The opposite of altruism is not "selfishness." It is honest self-interest, embedded in a community where charity is important, and in a bargaining setting where contracts are paid off. Further, I should quote Gavin's other point, on Smith's actual view of benevolence, from TMS. Quoting Kennedy, who then quotes Smith:

Anyone who had an interest in presenting a fair picture of Smith’s views of human nature, however, would also take account of the views he presented in “The Theory of Moral Sentiments”. For example: “The virtues of prudence, justice, and beneficence, have no tendency to produce any but the most agreeable effects. … In our approbation of all these virtues , our sense of their agreeable effects , of their utility, either to the person who exercises them , or to some other persons, joins with our sense of their propriety, and constitutes always a considerable, frequently the greater part of that approbation” (TMS IV, iii, 59).

Beneficence, benevolence, charity....all good things. Adam Smith clearly thought so, and I agree completely. Because those things, and the actions they imply, are MY choice, voluntary. Altruism-worshippers want to require me to sacrifice, because THEY think it is good for me. Poor A's need implies that altruistic B can rightly take from hard-working C to give to A, and then B gets to feel good about it! Quite a different matter.

(Nod to Kevin L for the journal reference, though he is emphatically not complicit in any of the conclusions I draw here)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Spargel

Spargel is the German version of fresh sweet corn, only moreso.

You know how sweet corn, from a stand or picked fresh, is a different product compared to corn you buy in the store? How fresh white sweet corn is just....the best....with a little butter and salt?

Spargel, if you buy it in the store as "white asparagus," in the U.S. or maybe even outside of the southern half of Germany, is at best okay. Woody, tough, tasteless, dry.

but, if you get it fresh, from a roadside stand, here.....man oh man. The EYM and I had it boiled, cold marinated in viniagrette, creamed in soup, and then sauteed in butter (different spargel; not the same spargel). Just a little butter and salt, and that's as good as it gets. Which is what Garrison Keillor said about sweet corn.

UPDATE: A comment makes it clear that I was quite UNCLEAR above. What I meant was not that asparagus is corn, or that corn is asparagus. Rather, I meant that spargel plays a culturally central role in south German gastronomy, at least as important, and maybe more so, as sweet corn in the southern and midwestern U.S.

PK gets one right!!

When he says:

"So I’m actually reading Hyman Minsky’s magnum opus,... And I have to say that the Platonic ideal of Minsky is a lot better than the reality."

Mungowitz and I can attest to this from personal experience, but let's let PK elaborate:

"The rest is a long slog through turgid writing, Kaleckian income distribution theory (which I don’t think has anything to do with the fundamental point), and more."

Hyman P. had one of the best 15 minutes of wisdom ever, but that was pretty much it.

Oklahoman Synechdoche

I read PSJR sometimes. And then I read this, and shudder for our future. These are the scholars of tomorrow, in Poli Sci.

Let me reproduce the brilliant repartee:

is all of Oklahoma a bit slow?(11 posts)

Anonymous Unregistered
I just got my sorry but no thanks letters

Anonymous Unregistered
Oklahoma is a different kind of slow

Anonymous Unregistered
Yes. Once you cross the Red River, you're in trouble.

Anonymous Unregistered
Because Texas is known for its brilliance.

Anonymous Unregistered
everything's relative, yo.

Anonymous Unregistered
everything's relative, yo.: Don't let Bovine see this.

Anonymous Unregistered
Since one of the schools (I forget which) hired a President who had been fired from TTU, I would say that, indeed, Oklahoma is sloooooooooooooooooooow.

Anonymous Unregistered
Let's have Cameron and McCarty fight this one out.

Anonymous Unregistered
I like where this discussion is going, but it needs more Jas.

Anonymous Unregistered
Lib elitism is always such a wonderful sight.

Anonymous Unregistered
Right, liberal elitism caused them to take seven months to send out the letters.


When one university bureaucracy (dog bites man) is very slow, then one should conclude that the entire state is slow. So, no liberal elitism did NOT delay the letters. Liberal elitism caused the OP to confuse a university with an entire state's population. The places s/he flies over between New York and San Francisco...none of those universities hired you....again. It can't be because your work sucks, right? It has to be because "those people," all of them, are slow. They don't DESERVE you, pumpkin. You are much too good for all those slow Oklahomans. Keep telling yourself that. Maybe it will help.

Zotero?

Has anybody used Zotero? Does it work? Is it useful?

Monday, May 18, 2009

What is the antonym of "analysis"? ITEP Has Published That

Holy tax ripoff, Batman!

The amazing shills at Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy delivered this still born baby, right here.

Wow, that is one appallingly ideological analysis. If the state government were worried about the middle class, they wouldn't have socked it to them so hard over the last 17 years.

In 1992, MO state spending was $16.5billion (in 2009 dollars). The population was 5.2 million. So, in real dollars per capita, they were spending about $3,100 per capita.

In 2009, MO state spending was $25.1billion (in 2009 dollars). The population is now about 5.9 million. So, in real dollars per capita, the might MO state government is spending $4,250 per capita.

Remember, that is controlling for inflation, and controlling for population. MO has increased spending by nearly 40%, over and above any conceivable underlying explanation for growth. I don't know the comparison across states, but that is a truly gigantic increase. No wonder so many businesses have left Missouri; it's a freakin' banana republic!

Over and over in that ITEP document, the "analysts" say that cutting taxes will "cost" the state money for "needed expenditures." Two questions: How do you figure that letting people keep money they earned is a "cost"? The money belongs to the people, not the state. Cutting taxes is the opposite of a cost.

Second, is ANY expenditure unneeded? This document is clearly written by a bunch of shills who make their living off the people's taxes. (And you know that they just exactly...what the facts is).

It's possible that some middle class people will have their taxes increased slightly as a result of the Fair Tax legislation. But I would hope that having a chance of being employed by a private company, which might consider moving to Missouri if its tax structure were less like Nicaragua's, would be more of a concern for the enlightened state government.

Henry Waxman is a LOT more powerfull than I'd suspected

People, it appears that he can make laws in China!

I garner this from the latest column by the world renown environmental scientist Paul "the planet won't wait" Krugman. Writing in support of Waxman-Markey cap and trade PK says:

"One objection — the claim that carbon taxes are better than cap and trade — is, in my view, just wrong. In principle, emission taxes and tradable emission permits are equally effective at limiting pollution. In practice, cap and trade has some major advantages, especially for achieving effective international cooperation.

Not to put too fine a point on it, think about how hard it would be to verify whether China was really implementing a promise to tax carbon emissions, as opposed to letting factory owners with the right connections off the hook. By contrast, it would be fairly easy to determine whether China was holding its total emissions below agreed-upon levels."

So either US laws written by Waxman automatically apply to China as well, or the just the sheer majesty of the bill will induce the Chinese to rapidly follow suit?

Yikes!!

The Worst Mexican Restaurant on Earth

I do need to make known the identity and location of the worst Mexican restaurant on earth. Yes, I am sure that there are worse places, in health terms, and maybe even quality of food (since some of the food we had there was, in fact, very tasty).

No, the reason that Chilli's (UPDATE NOTE, SINCE 10 COMMENTERS MISSED THIS: IT HAS TWO LL's; It is not the American restaurant chain. And just try to pronounce Chilli's, in Spanish; you will pull a muscle in your throat) on Spardoferstrasse in Erlangen is the worst Mexican restaurant in the world is that it claims to be a Mexican restaurant. It is not. I don't mean on the scale of Taco Bell in the U.S., where it is just Americanized Mexican food. Someone from Mexico might still recognize some of the things served at the Taco Bell (rice and bean, for example, some of the spices).

The EYM and I were pretty excited about going to Chilli's, since I speak Spanish a little, at least for ordering in a restaurant, and he speaks Spanish better than I do. So, no confusion over what is going on with the menu, for once. And, we will be able to talk to the wait staff, all of whom presumably are Latino, right. (I may have been fooled by the fact that in the U.S., even the Japanese people at Benihana are actually Latino. My bad.)

We go in, and are told (in good English, btw) that there aren't many tables open, and that we should sit by the bar at one of those tall tables. Fair enough. The waitress comes, and I say, "Querríamos nachos, numero once, and para bebir, un botello de agua con gas." (If you don't know what that means, then okay, because you are not a waiter in a Mexican restaurant. And if you know that I used the wrong form of the verb querer, then you DO speak Spanish, but still my order was pretty simple and clearly understandable by the standards of ordering in Spanish. The point is that nachos were #11 on the menu, and we wanted some, and some water.)

She stares at me as if I suggested something quite deviant. I try English, and that works better. The "nachos" come. They are chips two steps down from Doritos, with nasty nacho cheese powder (Mungowitz family joke: "That's MY cheese; that's notchyo cheese!"). Flat, really bad, nearly inedible. At least the dips are....awful. One cup of sour cream, and one cup of ketchup, with stewed tomatoes added. No cheese, no toppings...incredible.

Waitress comes back, and I try again. "Es verdad que estan abierto in las dias laborables? Para almuerzo? " We had come by for lunch, the previous day, and the place had been closed. Waitress says, "I'm sorry, I don't understand." I realized she really, really didn't speak Spanish. Asked again, and she said (a) they don't open until 17:30, and (b) the day we came, there must have been a really big party, so they were closed. Since we had come at 12:30, which is before 17:30, that didn't make much sense to me. But, okay, fair enough.

We ordered. I ordered camarones al chipotle. The EYM didn't really look at the menu. He just wanted quesadillas, and assumed. Mistake. When he said, "quesadillas," waitress frowned, looked at menu, and said "where is it?" He looks, takes a while to find it, a little flustered. To be fair, it is SUBSTANTIALLY misspelled in the menu. Waitress says, "Oh, you mean [strange word nothing at all like quesadillas]. What do you want on them?"

The EYM's eyes are starting to bug out a little. "Um...just pollo is fine." Waitress turns, goes back, asks guy behind the bar. They talk for a second. She comes back, a little testy: "Pollo is the Spanish word for CHICKEN!" Her tone implies that this is about the stupidest thing she has heard: chicken quesadillas? Unheard of. As Vizzini kept saying on "Princess Bride": Inconceivable!

The EYM and I are both amazed. I ask, "What DO you have for meat for the quesadillas?" As if speaking to a child, waitress says, "TURKEY!" (Okay, so there are quite a few recipes for turkey quesadillas; 7k+ mentions on Google. But... chicken quesadillas gets nearly 250k Google hits. I'm just saying that pollo was not an absurd answer.) (UPDATE: And, no it is not ridiculous for the wait staff to speak no Spanish. It just says that I had ridiculous expectations of feeling at home, instead of my usual total ignorance of the menu. A typically Americentric response, I think. I should get out more....)

The EYM is just trying to make this stop, at this point. He says, reading from the menu, "Just the chili, then." I order the shrimp, and the agony is over. (They did, I should note, and like pretty much every restaurant in Germany, have a very nice weissbier on tap, and so that helped us over the pain.)

The waitress brings the food. The "quesadillas" were rock hard, and filled with chili the clearly came from Chef Hormel-ito. Appalling. This was served with rice and beans and quacamole. NOT. It was served with some purple lettuce and cabbage, with a big dollop of mayo, and then some canned corn and canned navy beans. More of the sour cream, and more of the ketchup salsa.

On the other hand, my shrimp curry was quite good. The sauce had a very nice Asian tang, and the shrimp were crisp and seemed quite fresh. How "camarones al chipotle" became a shrimp curry dish, I'm not sure, but I have to give the chef credit there. Still, though, no rice, no beans, no cilantro, no trace of anything that I would call Mexican.

For the next two days, either the EYM or I could make the other laugh by yelling, "Pollo? POLLO?"

Here is the menu. Note that quesadillas is first spelled "quasadas" as an appetizer. (There is no known food called "quasadas," I want to point out). Then it is spelled with an "e", "quesedillas," as an entree. Note then the use of English all over the menu, in strange places.

Clearly, this is not a Mexican restaurant. It is a German restaurant trying to be like an American restaurant that serves food with Mexican names. Sort of.

(CLOSING UPDATE: As a commenter notes, "It sounds like you made an ass of yourself in public, and now you are bragging about it." Well, I don't mean to brag. But it is true that almost NO ONE is better at making an ass of themselves in public than I am. It's a special talent. Not just anyone can do it....More specifically, though, of COURSE it was dumb, and unreasonable, to expect the waitstaff to speak Spanish. Especially when my own Spanish is so awful (though better than my German). That's part of what I thought was funny about the incident. It says more about my narrow and parochial mind than it does the restaurant. But isn't it a little surprising that CHICKEN quesadillas was such an outrageoous suggestion?)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Some Observations.....From Dland

Got the EYM on the train this morn, bound for the FRA Flughafen. Quite a week. We did our best to support the local beer and restaurant industry.

Some random observations:

1. Witnessed a fantastic, operatic dust-up between the Parking Enforcement guy and a woman who wanted to park. She had a piece of paper, and he kept alternating between refusing to look at the piece of paper and insisting that there was a specific line on the paper, to which he would point triumphantly, which meant that the woman was out of luck. They actually alternated in JUST the way an opera would have gone. She would wave her arms, and yell, with him standing with arms folded and then sing, "NOOOOOO!" to punctuate her questions. Then he would have a go, pointing behind her, pointing down the street, pointing at the cross bar that he refused to raise for her. Fantastic scene. The best parking argument I have EVER seen, made better by the fact we couldn't understand what they were saying. Getting shut down by the parking Gestapo is a universal human experience, one that transcends language.

2. The DBahn should have a disclaimer on their tickets, for the sake of full information. To wit: "The traveller should be warned, because of our combination of simple imcompetence and aggressive indifference to your need for timely travel, that you should completely ignore any ticket with a connection of less than 20 minutes. You will not make the connection, because we will probably dawdle and delay without warning or explanation."
If they would give you that warning, then you could try to make shorter connections (now the default, and withOUT warning), but it would be at your own peril. The problem is the discontinuity: there is an enormous difference between just barely making your train connection, and just barely missing your train connection. ESPECIALLY if you are trying to go (for example) to an airport. The regional trains, as far as I can tell, are ALWAYS ten minutes late, and probably more. You can guess what this means for the 8 minute connection that the DB "planners" (who probably drive to work, so they are not late) schedule as the default. I'm just asking for a sporting chance here, a little information.

3. Nuremberg. Very, very nice. The old part of the city: extraordinary. Albrecht Durer's home town. Very fine beer pretty much everywhere. "Drei im Weckla" means heaven for the those of us who work represent Herb. "Drei im Weckla" is three very fine little keyhole brats, in a most excellent weckla, or hard roll. A fine selection of spicy senfs, or mustard. All for 1.20 Euro. Or you can get six brats, a weckla, and a big pile of sauerkraut, for 3 euro. Food fit for kings, if the king is Herb Munger. I should explain the brats: the rule was that the butchers had to close, and that the city walls of Nuremberg had to close. But travellers still wanted those (really, really great) sausages. So, instead of obeying the state, or confronting the state (neither of which is the way of German business), they made the brats really skinny, so they would pass through the keyhole of the main gate. A kind of food-oriented glory hole, if you will.
4. Bamberg. Not what I expected. I had expected it to be smaller, for some reason. It is quite a large city. But the old part of the city, the extremely cool medieval part that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, begins when you cross the SOUTH branch of the river Regnitz. Many people had said "you should go!" to Bamberg, and they were quite right. Plenty of travel guides, so I won't go through the obvious things. But I would say this: If you are on a budget, and want to go early enough for a nice breakfast, just walk south on Luitpoldstr., straight from the Bahnhof, and stop at Nico's bakery and coffee shop on the right, right after you cross the North branch of the river, which you come to first. Enormous, fantastic pastries, and you will have trouble spending 6 euro for two people, for more than you can eat. The cafe looks out over the river, and it is steady but not crowded. Lots of locals come in to buy bread and stuff, but it is very pleasant to sit there, too. Then go ahead and cross the second (south) branch, and look around. Very, very steep. Wear comfy shoes. Two more things to do: (1) make sure you go up to the old Benedictine monastery on the Michaelsberg; (2) even if you are tired, make sure you leave a little time for the breweries up on Konigstrasse, north of the north branch of the river. (You can't go wrong, but here is my choice.) Little, local places with small beer gardens and lots of families just out for the afternoon. Didn't see a lot of tourists up here, just serious beer fans and local folks. (A photo of the BG at the Spezial...)

Our favorite beer, though, was the Mahrs Dunkel Weissbier. It helped that we enjoyed this most excellent beverage in the courtyard of the little restaurant behind the old Benedictine monastery at the top of the Michaelsberg. If it looks like a long way up, it is. But once you get up there, it is a long way down. Very, very fine view, very very fine beer.

5. Also in Bamberg, but deserving special mention....E. T. A. Hoffman. I had, to my shame, never heard of E. T. A. Hoffman, but the EYM is a big fan, both on the merits and because ETA Hoffman was a big influence on Nikolai Gogol, the author that the EYM studies and follows most closely. We tried to visit the Hoffman house, and museum. And the museum had a sign saying that it was "geöffnet," or open. But it was locked tight. The explanation was that it was open only 10 - noon on Saturdays. Since the time was then 10:45 am, this seemed like a pretty bad explanation for being both "geöffnet" and locked. But I do have to say that MOST of the places I have tried to visit in Germany have this attitude. The operators and employees are simply MUCH too busy and important to wait on customers. It's like that Monty Python skit, where if you try to get served, or try to get in the door to a place that is supposed to be open, then Eric Idle yells back at you, "You think YOU have it bad? When I was growing up we would have BEGGED just to be turned away from a museum. We were turned away and TORTURED! You are just SOFT, complaining that the museum should actually be open during the hours it is supposed to be open!" So, we had a good laugh, because it had taken us an hour to find the place, and we actually arrived in the two hour geoffnet window, and it was STILL closed. THEN, we noticed a series of semi-guerilla griffiti stenciled on the sidewalk, marking the path in the "E. T. A. Hoffman" tour. If ol' ETA had ever walked in a spot, then that seemed to be a spot on the tour. The stencils appear in strange spots, nearly a "Kilroy was here" anarchist blotch on the old city. We loved it, and made an effort to keep track of the strange places (there were DOZENS) where the E.T.A. Hoffman logo would turn up, on cobblestones or ancient roads. Someday, I'm going to try and go back and visit, if the curators of the museum ever decide to actually open the doors during open hours.