Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Every day is like Sunday

Why isn't Morrissey right? Every day is like Sunday, every day is silent and grey. That's grim but it would have been better than what today was actually like! In fact it was a **** day. My least favourite collegue from oversease is here. It took him an amazing 60 seconds to make me want to strangle him. He has brought along his new collegue, whom I took an immediate dislike too. I swear, I entered the room determined to like her! But... I should have gone to have dinner with them tonight but "unfortunately" my boss found some things that needed changing in a presentation he is going to give tomorrow. I owe him for that.

Markus has sent me another big pile of copies of interviews etc. with SD. And on top of it he included a single (7'') of In Inverna Gardens/Dreaming! I really do not know, how to thank him for this. So I have spent a couple of hours now reading and drinking red wine to forget what happened at work.

As a lullaby I will listen to The Cure. Probably The Top. Although that always makes me slightly aggressive, so maybe I should chose something else instead.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Eats, Shoots & Leaves

It started snowing again a coupe of hours ago. Bliss! The heating in the living room is on and the cat is lying right in front of it on his fluffy pillow, fast asleep. He is oblivious to the cold outside. I wonder how he managed to get through winter before he met me?

Listening to The Vanity Project (Steven Page of The Barenaked Ladies and - yes, you've guessed it - Stephen Duffy). Check it out, it's really good:

I have no real command of the English grammar, especially punctuation rules. So I have started reading "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" by Lynne Truss. The book comes with a punctuation repair kit and maybe after I have finished reading it, I will come back here and fix some of the mistakes I have made in previous posts. But then, why bother?

A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air. "Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder. "I'm a panda," he says, at the door. "Look it up." The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation. "Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves."

Saturday, November 26, 2005


It snowed over night and outside my home there is a winter wonderland. Beautiful. This is one of the reasons why I prefer living in the country to living in the big city. The snow does not melt the second it touches the ground. You can go for winter walks and enjoy. I wish I already had my digital camera. Then I could post some pictures. But that will have to wait until after Christmas.

The Christmas markets have opened and I have paid my first visit to the one near the Cathedral, after spending some of my Christmas bonus on clothes for the office.

I am listening to U2's "Achtung Baby". "One" is one of the best songs they have recoreded ever.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Alcohol headlines

To fight the binge drinking problem English pubs are now allowed to open for 24 hours. And today George Best, one of the great footie players of years gone by, is going to die of an alcohol induced illness. He had a liver transplant after his own failed following years of alcohol abuse. He did not manage to stay off the booze after the operation. So now his kidneys are failing and his doctors are saying he won't survive the day. Sad.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

This and that

So, Germany has its first female Chancellor. As a woman I cannot but think this is not a bad thing. Politically I remain sceptial, whether she will be able to get anything other out of this big coalition than compromises on the least common denominator.

Today the Finance department moved offices. In addition to the four floors our company had already occupied, we have rented the ground floor in the building. It previously housed the journalists' school operated by a large television company. But a couple of months ago they moved out. This morning my desk, telefon, books, files and myself moved from the second to the ground floor. Notably my PC did not, because I finally got a new one! (The old one I had was handed down to me from my boss' secretary!) Happy day! I spent the whole afternoon unpacking and generally making myself feel at home. My new office is nice, much larger than the old one. The only thing that worried me, was the note that was sent round, asking us to shut the blinds securely when we leave in the evening because of drug-related crime.

I have found out why "Duffy" has not yet arrived. Together with it I ordered two other records, both of which are not readily available and have been place on special order with the supplier. Argh!

Atec Moon Issue 7 is out. You can download it for free or order it from

Sunday, November 20, 2005

99 is not 100

I have just finished running for 99 minutes at a speed of 9:02 min/km. Should have done 100 minutes but the maximum duration the treadmill accepts is 99. Oh, what the ****! My knee feels funny again. Now that IS a problem!

Yesterday I received the back issues of Aztec Moon ( that I ordered. They are great! You can see that Cecile and the others put a lot of work into them. They could go easier on the colour thought. Sometimes the texts are hard to read because of all the patterns and pictures. Looking forward to the next issue, which is coming soon, Cecile says.

Still no sign of "Duffy". It was released on Monday, so they should have shipped it to me by now. The UK is not THAT far away.

Have bought a ticket to see the Robbie Williams concert next August. I will probably be the only one with a "Stephen, here I am" sign amongst all those women holding "Robbie, let me be your angel" etc. signs. :-) Markus says, I should at least wear a Stephen Duffy t-shirt. Will certainly do that, but I have to make one first. There is not a lot of The Lilac Time merchandise to be bought.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Working hard

We are preparing the supervisory board meeting, which will take place on Dec 1st. Lots of work and a CFO that keeps changing presentation slides. I am tired. Will need to do my running units over the week-end.

Fine display of the fair play spirit during and after the game between Turkey and Switzerland. Apparently one of the 1. FC Köln players, who is Turkish, was involved, too. Who said, that football is two nations going to war in times of peace?

Monday, November 14, 2005


Oh, the disappointment! We stayed for the whole meeting and in the end there were no free tickets, only a calendar for 2006. I feel deprived! The calendar is huge, I have no room for it anywhere in my home. I will probably throw it away.

But at least the "show" was good. We re-elected the board for a four year term only two hours ago and it is already in the teletext news on every channel. The usual questions were asked about players (why did you buy him, why have you not sold him, why is he always injured) and the manager (will he be fired if we relegate). It is the members that make the whole event entertaining. One guy, who sat not far away from me, reminded me of a suricate. He stood up every couple of minutes, looked around the room nervously and than sat down again. When he finally asked his question, I did not understand a word he said. Neither did anybody else. Some get up to ask a question and start by telling us the story of their life. Others just restrict themselves to shouting abuse at the manager and the board. Most fascinating! Free ticket or no free ticket, I will go again next year.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


Today my training unit was 90 minutes at the relaxed pace of 9:00 min/km and an average heart rate of 146. Afterwards the machine told me that I had run 9.88km. So somewhere on the way I lost 0.12 km, but where? And how?

My right knee feels funny. It is not hurting but it definitely feels strange. Will keep an eye on it.

We went to our favourite Chinese restaurant today for lunch. The service was not as good as usual, because the restaurant was unusually full. Since they have opened their Sunday buffet, more people have started coming. Cannot blame them, it is good value for money.

Tomorrow evening is the annual meeting of our football club. A very entertaining event! I am a connaisseur of human folly and there is always a lot of that to be seen there. My father and brother are members too, but my brother has to give a lecture at university, so he will not be able to attend. But dad and I will go, not least because of the free tickets we will get for one of the next home games. I reckon we have paid for it with our annual member fee. Nothing in life is for free.
Another thing that happens tomorrow is the re-release of "Duffy" by Stephen Duffy. I have pre-ordered it from HMV, so hopefully it will be in my postbox within a couple of days! Looking forward to that.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The cat...

... is the proud owner of a brand new transportation box. He is so big that they did not have the right size in store, so we had to order it. And today after three weeks it arrived and I went to pick it up for him. He loves it! Ok, I made it more attractive by sprinkling his favourite drug - valerian - all over it. Valerian has the most astounding effect on him. It's some kind of cat's ecstasy. He would drink the whole bottle if I let him. Now he is exhausted and a couple of minutes ago he fell asleep on the sofa.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Kölle alaaf!

So, here it is again. Cologne has put on its red cardboard nose and started to "schunkeln". The fifth season of the year officially started today at 11:11 am - Karneval. This morning on the train into town I saw clowns, nurses, cowboys on their way to the Alter Markt, where the official Karneval opening party takes place every year. On my way back home I saw the same clowns, nurses and cowboys. Only this time completely drunk.

I was born on one of the "important" days of Karneval, Weiberfastnacht. That is the Thursday on which street carnival starts (the actual date changes every year, depending on Eastern). So you would expect me to get more excited about the whole thing. But I cannot help feeling that it is used by too many as an excuse to get drunk and have sex with as many people as you possible can.

But to honour this important day we started today's team meeting at 11:11 am. And I can report that the team has got its priorities right. Top 1 on the agenda was fixing a date for our Christmas party (now to take place on Dec 9th) and Top 2 agreeing our Christmas holidays. We cannot all be out of the office at the same time, but we managed to sort it out.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Sankt Martin

Aaah, every year it is the same thing. It is Saint Martin's day and the streets are full of singing children. Soon they will knock on my door and I am totally unprepared! No sweets in the house whatsoever, because my bum is as big as that of a Shire horse and the less temptation there is here, the better. I guess the only thing I can do, is to pretend I am not home. How embarrasing!

For those of you outside Germany, the legend of Sankt (= Saint) Martin says that he once shared his cloak with a poor man and thus saved him from freezing to death. On his saint's day every year little children go from door to door and sign songs in return for sweets (a bit like trick or treat at Halloween).

New York, New York

Jimbo has run the New York marathon in an amazing 4h 20min net time! Chapeau, my friend! I can only dream of a time like that for my first marathon in April.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


I've been busy. The whole year I have been on an international accounting standards training programme for the insurance industry. It consists of five modules, which take place roughly every two months with a longer break during summer. Each module comprises a three day seminar, which ends with a written exam at the end of day 3 and a self study, which has to be prepared after the seminar (usually 10 questions to be answered in six weeks time).

This week was the last of the five modules and today I wrote what I hope was the last ever exam of my life! (But I have thought that before, so who knows.) One more self study to do and then I can add a fancy title to my business card: Certified International Financial Accounting Specialist or CIFAS. Are you impressed? Well, you shouldn't be. It doesn't mean anything. But it has been the best training course I have ever been on. They have taught me things that have relevance for my work and helped me getting my job done better. This is not a matter of course! Most other courses just cost lots of money and are a waste of time.

After the exam today Thorsten, who had been sitting next to me for the last three days (in fact, he has been sitting next to me in most of the other modules too), said that I was "the most emotional woman" he had ever met in his life. I am not entirely sure, how this was meant. Is it a positive or a negative thing to be emotional? I guess, he said it today, because during the exam he had to witness my first ever complete blackout followed by a nervous breakdown. Questions 1 and 2 were easy. So - in hindsight - was question 3, but during the exam my mind went completely blank and I forgot how to add and substract numbers. I am a mathematician for Christ's sake! I do hope that I managed to get the necessary 65 out of 100 points to have passed the exam.

Tomorrow is my first official day back at work after the holidays. This little terrorist called Blackberry tells me that the whole day apart from one hour in the afternoon (and I am honestly not exaggerating) is made up of meetings. I do not know what the are about and if they really are all necessary (I will probably play Bullshit Bingo all day long; do you know this? it's fun). All I know is, that I will not get any work done tomorrow.

Since I will also not come home early, I have done tomorrow's marathon training unit today. Running fast also helped me get over the exam frustration a little. I should have taken some more upbeat music with me though. The Lilac Time is not really something for fast running. Have to keep that in mind for next time.

Will open a bottle of wine now and listen to The Devils. Need some food intake too. Take care everyone!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Carreer girls and Jimbo in the NY marathon

So, now I know what "movies in which nothing happens" are: Carreer girls, Tree's Lounge, Smoke. But before the movies there was a leathal mix of Flensburger Pils, Port, red wine and espresso. In the kitchen Carsten revealed another one of his many hidden talents and made pizza. Delicious! All of this took us so long that I had to leave after the first of the movies, "Carreer girls", otherwise I would have been stranded in the big city. The movie was to my surprise quite good. Two women meet again for one weekend after they haven't seen each other for six years. They used to live together during their student days (in the 80s) and over the weekend nothing really happens apart from their trip down memory lane. I probably liked the movie because the soundtrack is by The Cure! And the way they dressed and their haircuts reminded me a lot about the way I looked back in the eighties. But do I really want to be reminded of that?

Right now I am watching the NY marathon on Eurosport. Jimbo is running and he has promised to wave into the camera, when he sees one. Well, actually he said, he may moon into the camera. I bet, he doesn't! But with him, you can never be really sure.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The last day of my holiday

So, the last day of my holidays is almost over. Have I relaxed? No, not really. Thanks to that devilish littel gadget called Blackberry I have checked my emails daily (and answered more than I should have), my boss has called me, I have been to the conference to the office a couple of times. Bad, bad, bad...

Pascale's exam yesterday went ok. She scribbled away like mad in the morning session and by lunchtime she was exhausted but also not too unhappy. In the afternoon session however, she struggled a bit and was rather depressed when I had to call time at 16:40. We went for a couple of drinks afterwards and the alcohol cheered her up a bit. She has to wait until January before the results come through. Torture.

I spent the whole day sitting on the floor of the meeting room we used for the exam, reading Bob Dylan's Chronicles and trying to disturb her as little as possible. I even fell asleep for a couple of minutes after lunch.

Tomorrow night a couple of friends and I have one of our regular movie nights. We watch two or three movies with a common theme. Or maybe one common actor or director or something like that. Tomorrow it is "movies in which nothing really happens". Whatever that may mean. I will let you know Sunday.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Supervising Pascale

So, now I am back home. Tomorrow I will be in the office but not for work. It is a favour to a good friend. Pascale is taking the North American actuarial exams. We have registered our office as an official exam centre, so that she does not have to travel to Canada, where she is from. She needs to be supervised by an actuary and has asked me to do that. She is a good friend and a lovely person, so of course I said yes. Plus she promised that I would receive a pen from the actuarial society (yes, I can be bought). Tomorrow is the third time I am supervising her: the first gift I received was a little clock plus thermometer, the second gift was a bag; both of course had the logo of the actuarial society on them. This time I do want that pen!

It is the final exam Pascale has to take and she has failed it twice already. The observant reader will have noticed that this means she failed every time I supervised her. I hope, this does not mean that I bring her bad luck! I took the German actuarial exams and failed non-life insurance twice. I have a pretty good idea of how she is feeling right now. But in less than 24 hours she will be feeling fine.

I will use the time during the exam to do some work and read a book. I have finished the very funny "Diary of a C-list celeb" by Paul Hendy and have started reading Bob Dylan's "Chronicles". Well worth reading!

Meet the experts and Jack, the Ripper

The conference started Monday morning. It was called "Meet the experts" and for once, this was really true. The speakers were top!

Robert Herz was there. He is chairman of the FASB, the American standard setting body for SEC listed companies. This is argueably the most powerful and prestigous job in the accounting profession. Probably not the best paid one. But to become chairman of the FASB you have to look back on a brilliant career and do not need to worry about money, I guess. Another speaker was James Leisenring, who is a member of the IASB, the international standard setting body. To hear those two was actually already worth the trip.

Wayne Carnall, who used to work for the SEC and is now a partner at PWC, entertained us with the tale of a porn star, Marilyn Starr. The video clip of her work "Marilyn whips Wall Street" he wanted to show us was censored by the prudish Brits (his words, not mine) but he did bring along a picture. Her story served as an example for the SEC enforcement activities. Marilyn was involved in insider information trading, sleeping with two man, who needed to exchange information. And you thought, accounting was dull! In another example Penthouse International was charged with not disclosing enough details. Interesting, given that the magazine's subject matter is one of utmost disclosure. Carnall then played Elvis Presley's Jailhouse Rock while listing the sentences that CEOs and CFOs (eg of ENRON) have received in the USA over the last couple of years. Some have gone to prison for longer periods of time than you get for murder here in Germany. Should I tell my boss about this? He is the CFO of our group.

In the evening I decided to go on the Jack, the Ripper walk instead of the cocktail reception. I can take only so much of accountants per day. Unfortunately hundereds of other people had the same idea, especially since it was Halloween. But although the group was huge, it was a very good walk. Highly recommendable!

Learning English - Lesson 2

I did go on the Haunted London walk on Sunday night. You should not have too high expectations regarding the "haunted" bit but it is nevertheless a very entertaining walk. Plus I learned more interesting facts about the English language, which I will gladly share with you. So here we go, Learning English Lesson 2:

"tips" is short for "to insure prompt service". This was written on a board in the first coffee house in London. The men doing business there would pay the waiter extra to bring contracts or other papers to somebody else sitting in the cafe.

"to go to the loo" was derived from people shouting "gardez l'eau" when emptying their chamber pots into the streets through the window a couple of centuries ago. They did not have sanitation but the spoke French back then.

We owe "saved by the bell" to an invention in the coffin industry. Apparently the number of people that were buried alive was rather high, so someone invented a device inside that would ring a bell if the "corpse" started breathing again.

So, there you have it. Lesson 2 finished, no homework.

If you ever wander around London and come along Philpot Street in Whitechapel, take a minute to look up the wall of the Cafe Nero. You will see a couple of mice on the wall. The story goes that builders working on a scaffold along the building accused each other of stealing their lunch cheese until they saw the mice running down the wall with it. They therefore decided immortalize the little rodents.

We also came along Lloyd's f London in which I took a professional interest, working in the insurance industry. The building is very modern and next to an old-fashioned market hall. As Shaughan, our guide, put it: Blade Runner next to Harry Potter.

Another interesting piece of trivia I picked up on the walk regards Michael Caine. After my unsuccessfull attempt to stalk him last week in Chelsea Harbour, I was interested to hear that as a young man he unloaded fish from ships in the old fish market, which was then still up and running.