Sunday, February 25, 2007

Counting has a theme song ...

... and this is it (it's a lot longer than I remembered).

It's almost unbelievable to me that 1.) after a few decades, this still pops into my head randomly and while, well, counting and 2.) this must be true for a large fraction of Americans in my age bracket.

And just for kicks, here is the Family Guy version.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Karneval (Monday)

So I won the fight against my intrinsic laziness and made the trek to Cologne. Here are some pictures; I'm a little short on text, but maybe I'll add more later.

Leaving the train station, I saw a bunch of bumblebees. You can't tell but they've stopped for a beer and a smoke.

I was worried about finding the parade route, but it turns out the parade route seems to snake all around the old city. We crossed the route twice just to get to this spot.

A float.

Some sort of bubble blowing dragon?

My favorite, the chicken people.

At our spot, the crowd wasn't overly drunken (although there was plenty of beer) and there were significant numbers of kids (and the paraders made a particular effort to give candy to them). It also didn't seem to be particularly German (many Chinese faces and I heard plenty of English), but certainly German enough to yell the appropriate cheers and sustain singing along with the music.

These people have a good spot on the roof of a nearby building.

The floats throw out candy and flowers and sometimes toys to the crowd. Women tend to get a flower along with a kiss.

The nurses on the float are men, I think.

And what exactly is going on in this float?

The floats seem to satirize politics and current events. Also, I saw one float which I won't describe, but the point of which can be summarized by 'Köln rules, Dusselfdorf drools.'

We called it quits after nearly three hours, although the parade was still going strong. Closer to the Cathedral, there were a lot more people in the windows of the buildings and barricades to prevent us from crossing, making it a long, confusing trek to find our way back to the train station.

The groups sometimes throw candy with the name of their organization (and their president's name).


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Karneval (Sunday)

I'd heard that on the Sunday of Karneval, there was some sort of symbolic storming on the old Town Hall. When I got the appropriate plaza, however, not much was going on and there was no sign of when the action would really begin, so I took a couple pictures and went back home.

Here's a bunch of marchers, getting ready for their act -- which was rather cute.

Here's the building I thought was to be stormed -- they've cleared the area and set up a platform, but nothing is happening.

Remember my praise of Feuerzangenbowle? Well, here's a picture of two large vats of it being made over a fire (yeah, those lumps on top are giant chunks of sugar).

I found this website which describes the Karneval activities in Bonn and has pictures of previous years festivities.

So, Cologne is the place to be for Karneval in Germany, or at least so it seems. Do I have the energy to take the 30 minute train ride there tomorrow for the big parade, just so I can get trampled by drunk Germans? I'm not feeling it right now, but we'll see.


Karneval (Saturday)

On Saturday, I went across the field to Messdorf, visiting some friends and getting pictures of the neighborhood Karneval parade. At the end of their street is a car dealership which keeps its bathrooms open for the parade, and, hence, the spot for all the local kids to stand around and drink. Here's the crowd:

Right in front of our spot on the sidewalk were a bunch of obnoxious teenagers, but what is that guy on the left dressed up as?

As the floats are driven very slowly by, the guys on top throw out candy to the spectators, who shout "kamelle!"

This kid seems to think he's totally cool for having found a spot to sit above the crowd. He's also wearing a tiger suit.

In addition to floats, there are a bunch of marching bands and an adorable little kid dressed as a jester.

Pig costumes.

What do you think those guys on the right are discussing?

After the parade passes and the crowd dissipates, there's an incredible amount of broken glass on the ground.

Saturday was also the eve of the Chinese New Year, so I caught the most crowded bus I've been on in Germany (there was drunken Karneval singing and the bus passed many a stop, surprising and annoying the people waiting for it) and headed across town to Tannenbusch for an incredible meal made by a bunch of Chinese and Taiwanese students (and assorted people).


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Karneval (Thursday)

Sadly, no pictures today (my camera's out of batteries and nothing is open until tomorrow), but I've been told that today marks the beginning of the Karneval madness that lasts through Monday (but oddly enough, not Tuesday). Today is Weiberfastnacht, the women's day. I've read that the women symbolically take over the town hall across the river in Beuel. I missed the big stuff (all events start at 11:11 in the morning), though, and by the time I got out (beautiful day today, 50 F and blue skies) to look around, all there was left was people in costumes, crowded around the pubs, eating and drinking. Today is also the day that women can go around and cut off the ties worn by men (I did see one man wearing the remnants of a tie at the train station!).

As for the costumes, rest assured I will get pictures this weekend, but it seems like people will dress as a group with their friends, with popular costumes being animals (full animal suits!), clowns, soldiers, and monks. I also saw a bunch of Pippi Longstockings. I also saw at least one group carrying fake handguns, which seemed really odd to me (I'm pretty sure waving around a fake handgun on the street in the U.S. will get you shot). Also no sign of any public drinking laws in Germany.

One more thing, at the pub this week, one of the students explained to me that while Karneval had a religious component and origin, a good portion of the festivities are designed to make fun of the French. So it's not just an American thing.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

I'd Like My Parade Now ...

Yesterday, there was a PhD defense (actually, there were three in the last two days, but only one on this side, the astronomy side, of the building). The actual thesis defense in Germany sounds pretty grueling -- 60-90 minutes of questions from your committee after your talk -- but in compensation, there's this:

Before your defense, your friends get together and make you a hat and decorate it with stuff about you (e.g., poker or weak lensing). Then, when all is said and done and the congratulating begins, they put a ratty old academic robe on you and put your hat on your head. There's a cart (really a dolly with a chair on top, decorated with colored paper and balloons) and you sit in the cart and they push you all around the building, as everyone follows behind making noise (mostly jangling their keys). That's right. You get your own parade.

Now it's too late for me, but not for all of you: go demand your own parade, now, while you still have chance.

Anyway, I would have taken more pictures to illustrate the awesomeness of the whole thing, but I felt a little ashamed to be using someone's celebration for anthropological purposes; I'll try to get more at the next defense.


Friday, February 02, 2007

I'm Not Even Sure What To Say About This

George Washington

Maybe when my brain recovers I'll think of something.