2008-03-18

How to be a superhero

I just thought of a little occurence that happened to me a few of weeks ago, while I was on my way to the indoor track meet I did here in Vienna.

I was standing on the sidewalk waiting for the straßenbahn (tram, streetcar) when I heard a yell coming from my left, further down the sidewalk. What I saw was a cliché Viennese dude (white pants, black coat, mullet-hawk) sprinting down the sidewalk with a sweatshirt-around-her-waist in pursuit. She called him a dirty word and he didn't look back, just kept sprinting, all out, as she gave up.

The first thing I did when I looked over was look to see if he had stolen her purse or something. I was preparing myself for the Hero Day of my life. I could have stopped this guy, at least temporarily, because he ran past about ten feet in front of me. I had about one second to decide if I was going to take a few steps forward and stick my foot out, straight up spear him onto the tram tracks and pin him down, or do absolutely nothing. I saw no stolen purse, and as a matter of fact I saw nothing indicating a crime other than the aforementioned not-cheaply-dressed dude sprinting silently from a girl who was yelling names. In my one second of thought, I either decided that the evidence was not there, or I ran out of time, because the guy sprinted away and around the corner.

But, I still had time to think because I had my running shoes on, and fewer than ten people in this whole country can get away from me over 3000m. So, I looked back at the girl, who had stopped, and was silent except for her heavy breathing. She wasn't close enough for me to immediately ask her if the guy stole something, and she was walking the other way. So, I stood there like every other person waiting for the tram, like nothing happened. I didn't like that. I assume that the guy had something in his hand, maybe money. I don't know. It could be that she was trying to buy drugs from him and gave him the money, at which point he turned and ran. Who knows? All I know is that this sort of thing doesn't happen often to me, and I don't like the thought of letting a crime happen right in front of me and not doing anything. Part of me wishes I would have tackled him, because I doubt anyone would have died because of it, and then I would have known.

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German word of the day: "Vorversicherungsdatenauszug." That's what I'm supposed to bring with me to pick up my renewed residence permit this week. It's a statement of all of my uses of the insurance plan that I have. But, according to my insurance company, I don't actually need that (it's takes a while to get one), but a Versicherungsbestätigung should be fine. That's a MUCH shorter word.

2008-03-11

Hero of the day

Some days restore my satisfaction with humanity, so to say. I'm not talking about some major occurrance, but sometimes I meet great people and they make me forget about all of the rude and inconsiderate individuals walking around. That happened to me today, and actually also on Friday. I'll start with Friday.

I was at a birthday party for a friend of mine, who in fact has impressed me a lot in the past couple of months both with his ability (intellectual and insightful) and his character. Suffice it to say that he's a great friend, and also surrounds himself with great people. I don't intend to self-righteously include myself in that bunch, but I actually do feel honored that I made "the list" for his birthday party, which I found to be a collection of the most honestly well-meaning people I have met. I can't really say that any one person stood out, but the fact that such a group of twenty or so exist, and were all in one place, is reassuring. There must be more! We have to find them!

And then today, I went for a run with the two guys I usually run with, and one of them brought along a young German guy who he happens to coach. The German guy is pretty damn fast, top ten in one or two European junior championships, and he said two things that made me feel good. The first, the more petty and self-indulging (for me) of the two, was that he noticed my calves as he was running behind me. No one has commented on my calves for a couple of years now. They are the pride of my running physique, and probably the only muscles on me that would warrant a compliment. Anyway, bragging aside, the German also said that I speak [German] with a half-Austrian accent. Okay, so that's bragging, too, and I should have expected that coming from a German, but it still feels good, and makes me want to compliment other people more because I know it feels good. And other people on Friday were complimenting my language speaking abilities. They were being really nice. I don't like talking all the time about languages and travel to the U.S., but it happens, and I have to deal with it, and sometimes I get compliments!

Then, the more interesting occurance today was that I had to wait at home between 10am and 12am for the utility guy (gas man) to come out and "check my pipes", if you know what I mean. Nah, of course you do. So he came to check my pipes, and he was being all brusk and to-the-point until he started talking to me about energy use in Vienna. Now, for each compliment I get for speaking German, there are ten sentences that I don't understand. So, keep this in mind while I am telling you what the gas man said to me. I'll write what I heard him say, and omit my own "uh huh"s and short questions. This is paraphrasing.

"People all over Vienna and Austria are using lots of energy and resources. We should try to keep the waste to a minimum... From your accent I guess you're English or American... Ok, if you're American and you guys have big cars like... like Chevrolet or whatever... that are not like cars in Austria, or Europe... but if you go outside of Vienna to smaller towns... big triple-M cars that use more gas... You're from Ohio? That's the place that voted for Hillary Clinton... actually none of the candidates are that bad... Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan... we have some of the same enemies... if you flew over the Atlantic twenty years ago, you would have been on a Boeing, but now some major contracts are now at EADS. Boeing's main competitor is EADS, but only in the last few years... EADS is huge, and is partly controlled by the military... Euro-fighters... huge transport planes, like if you needed to carry a 500-ton tank over the ocean and didn't have time for a boat... there are some really big planes... you can see some big planes, and also air shows, at a few places in the U.S. You should go if you get the chance. There's also a show in Austria... You're a student at the natural science university? You can take courses like water management, forest management, and natural resources..."

So, it was a little bit heavier than small talk, and I wish he would have slowed down and enunciated a little more. I think I could have contributed a lot more to the conversation. But, I was able to throw in some valid (if not dumb) questions when I could follow him, so he had the impression that I was with him the entire time. I sincerely apologize to him that I couldn't, but I also couldn't ask him to repeat himself much more than I did. That would have probably hurt the conversation a lot. I think he enjoyed himself, and actually looked a bit reluctant to leave after the half hour or so we had together. Very nice guy. I award him Hero of the Day for being a thousand times better than most of the service guys that I have dealt with. And, he is very well-informed.

Bravo to all these guys!

2008-03-10

German word of the day

The German language word of the day, found in the book "Hard-boiled Wonderland und Das Ende der Welt", but also used quite commonly, is... drumroll please...

"entgegengegangen"

which is the past participle of "entgegengehen", which means "to come to meet". German scientists are currently working around the clock to figure out how to fit another "g" in there, but even they admit, five out of sixteen letters isn't too bad.

2008-03-07

The writers' strike has been called off

It's been a while, yeah, so this'll be one of those "sorry I haven't posted in a long time" blogs. So self-infatuated. I actually had a few ideas for blog posts, but never got around to writing them. One was about how I saw a lady while I was running near top of one of the hills to the northwest of town. As a reference, this is one of my top ten favorite places to be in Vienna, because the view of the city is awesome, and in the foreground are some of the coolest-looking fields of grapevines. It's an awesome place. But, this lady was walking her two dogs, carrying her Nordic-walking sticks (like ski poles for hiking, but she was on pavement, everyone here has them) in one hand and not using them, and she was talking on her cell phone. I find that
ridiculous, not to mention that she was fully decked-out in tights and a visor, colorful of course. She looked overstimulated to say the least, but for all I know she could have had an iPod in her pocket and a PDA in her other hand. Whatever.

So, just now I was having trouble thinking of what to write for this blog entry. I don't like whining, I don't like egoism, and I don't like people who think they are interesting, but that's what blogging's about, right? That, or passing judgement on something. Ok, so there are wonderfully useful blogs with real topics, but I don't have one of those. I just have a topicless drivelbasket into which I throw my thoughts ever now and then. And I haven't even done that in a few months. So maybe this time I'll just keep it real. What have I done since my last blog post?

My parents came to visit. I broke up with my girlfriend twice. I went home to Ohio for Christmas. I've read four or five novels, gotten a library card for the main library here, went on two dates with two different girls, one of whom is very busy and doesn't like calling me apparently, the other presents no such problems. I am getting deeper and deeper into liking books. I joined and now use www.goodreads.com for book finding and reviewing books, and have decided I want to write some sort of fiction myself. I have advanced my German to the point where I'm not afraid of any situation any more, but I still have trouble understanding movies and TV shows when they speak quickly. I went skiing twice, sledding once, ice skating outside once, and attended a birthday party in a tent in the woods. I have run a new personal best in the 3000m indoor, and I hurt my knee doing it, but not too bad. I have made lots of friends, and become closer with others. I have gone from very sad one day to very happy the next, and written misguided emails to unsuspecting people, and received very welcome and comforting emails from many more people. I have submitted my first scientific paper to conference organizers, but have not heard if it got accepted. I moved into my own apartment, I think a lot about friends in other places, and I am almost positive that Catcher in the Rye is the greatest book ever written.

I hope you (whoever you are; is anyone reading this?) are having a good time.