How about tipping?

Wikipedia has this map of tipping customs in restaurants:

tipping map

This might be useful for those of you who like to do things as they are done customarily.

Me, I am rather skeptical regarding tipping. And it really pisses me off when people expect it or even add it to the bill, like I have experienced it in Chile and the US. If you run a restaurant and you can’t pay your staff a living wage, close the damn restaurant! Or if you know that you need to charge 10% more, amend the menu instead of luring customers with fraudulently low prices.

Also, I don’t quite understand why I, as a poor freelancer earning less than minimal wage should support people with a fun job that even comes with free food. And ain’t nobody never tipping me when I deliver a great translation (which does not come with free food).

No, I reserve tips for cases when I want to. For example when I spend more time than normal at a restaurant, reading a book and smoking a cigar for an hour after I have finished lunch, then I pay extra for the time that I occupied the space. Or when a hairdresser in Brazil or Romania has to communicate with me in a foreign language, then I compensate them for the added stress. Or when a taxi driver helps me carry my bag to the house. Or the guy at the hotel who patiently answers all my questions about where to find this and that.

But if you do run a restaurant or a shop and want tips, I recommend that you put up a jar for all tips for the whole crew. Otherwise, the practice is rather discriminatory, with young people receiving more tips than older people, beautiful people more than less beautiful people and big-breasted women more than their lesser endowed but probably equally hard-working colleagues. (Yes, there is a study on that.)

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Posted in Economics, Maps, Statistics, Travel | Tagged , | 5 Comments

The most beautiful time of the year

Well, by now it’s almost over again. But I sent out my father to take some photographs for you to enjoy the feast of colors for a little bit longer. Unfortunately, he doesn’t venture very far from home (I hope I don’t get the same disease or whatever it is when I’ll be old myself), so all the photos are from the Upper Palatinate and the Bavarian Forest regions in Bavaria.

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Because this is Bavaria, there must of course be castles, ruins and Medieval fortifications.

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The rivers and lakes are perfect for a walk or for relaxing with a book and a cigar at this time of the year. There is still sun (on some days), but the mosquitoes have already disappeared.

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And you can find mushrooms in all colors and sizes.

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I knew that my home county of Amberg-Sulzbach had a partnership with Argyll & Bute in Scotland and that there was a student exchange, but I didn’t know that there is also a cattle exchange.

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And when the weather and the mood turn more gloomy, there are always cemeteries, like the Jewish cemetery in Sulzbach-Rosenberg.

Jüdischer Friedhof Sulzbach-Rosenberg Andreas Moser.jpeg

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By the way, one of my father’s books about the Upper Palatinate region has also been published in English.

Posted in Germany, Photography | Tagged , | 20 Comments

Trump Administration Season Ending

I have to share this because the editing is so good. And James Bond fans will like the music.

Posted in James Bond, Politics, US election 2016, USA | Tagged | Leave a comment

New Facebook Notifications

Instead of ordering all notifications by time, Facebook introduced a new algorithm that (once again) thinks it knows what we are interested in.

See my response below.

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Posted in Facebook, Technology | Tagged | 1 Comment

Thoughts of the Day 17

  1. Now I know why it’s called CATalonia: it doesn’t know if it wants to walk through the door or not.
  2. Shouldn’t nobody sign no contract that they ain’t read before.
    (I am now giving legal advice in country lyrics, at no extra cost.)
  3. I never knew Luxembourg was a world power, but now I read that the Luembourgish Army fought in the Korean War.
  4. Why do the three Baltic states have such an uneven women/men-ratiosex ratio
  5. The numbers for different age brackets give a partial answer. Everything is fine until 55 years of age, then the number of men drops off. Above 65 years old, the ratio is a stunning 2 women for 1 man.
  6. From a program about bird migration on the BBC, I learned that storks returning to Europe with obviously African arrows and spears shot through their bodies were some of the first indicators of bird migration.
  7. I didn’t think that this advice might become relevant for my readers in the USA, but apparently the time has come: How to make fun of Nazis.
  8. I noticed that you can save a lot of time if you eat only one big meal per day instead of three smaller ones.
  9. Thanks to Ana Alves for sending me Human Rights after Hitler by Dan Plesch, The Non-Existence of God by Nicholas Everitt and Teaching Plato in Palestine: Philosophy in a Divided World by Carlos Fraenkel! 
  10. I give up on Venice. Each time I go there, the whole city is flooded, whatever the time of year.
  11. For the World Fair 1937 in Paris, an architect proposed this 700-meter-high tower that could be scaled by cars: 
  12. Thanks to the readers who alerted me to this dream job with the New York Times. But when a newspaper announces such a job, I am quite certain they already have someone in mind and only use the job advert to create additional buzz.
  13. Upon reading Paul Theroux’ The Great Railway Bazaar, I noticed that I could have saved myself the investigation to find out the longest possible train route. For he writes: “The way is clear, by rail, from Hanoi Junction to Liverpool Street Station in London,” but then makes a detour via Japan and Vladivostok.
  14. When I was young, we could still read and smoke for passport photosPass
  15. After taking up studying again, I still have to get used to asking for student discount everywhere.
  16. Did you know that I inspired a verb in German? “To moser” means to constantly nag and criticize, although not without reason. Quite fitting.mosern
  17. Every generation is entitled to its own Spanish Civil War.
  18. The #MeToo campaign is opening my eyes. Thank you! I hope it’s a bit easier for those speaking out because so many victims are coming forward (and absolutely no blame at all on those who don’t – I wouldn’t either), making it less about the individual stories, but about how widespread abusive, violent, demeaning and criminal behavior is. – It’s really shocking for me to read it from so many women whom I know, and I hope I will always keep this in mind when the subject comes up.
  19. How to scare Germans: Look people in the eye, smile and say “hello”.
  20. For Coming Out Day, I confess that I prefer books over people.
  21. How to spot difficult clients:
    “Hi Andreas,
    You might be rightfully charging your fees – but …”
    (I stopped reading at that point.)
  22. Life would be much more comfortable if it was socially acceptable to go to university in jogging pants.
  23. What if Bob Mueller arrests Donald Trump in exactly the same moment as Trump fires Mueller?
Posted in Books, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Law, Lithuania, Media, Politics, Spain, Statistics, Time, Travel, USA | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Studying history at University of Hagen

Good news: I am a student again!

Because I am constantly reading, thinking and writing, I thought that I might as well study once again. After all, I always enjoyed university more than work, and everybody needs a hobby. I prefer browsing books over bar brawls and lounging in libraries over listening to loud Latin lyrics.

I had always wanted to study history. Immediately after high school, I only didn’t do so because other subjects had attracted my curiosity as well. Due to family imprint (to blame somebody else) and the neoliberal zeitgeist of the time, I thought that job prospects had to be a relevant factor when choosing one’s field of study. Thus, history was relegated. The finals between law and economics were then decided by a fear of higher mathematics and probably also by a predisposition for arguments and discussions.

The possibility of studying two subjects at the same time had not even crossed my mind back then, for I was under the misguided impression that I had to finish my studies as soon as possible in order to become a productive member of the national economy. Well, that’s how we thought in the 1990s. You have to remember that back then (at least in Germany), the radio played songs every day encouraging you to “increase the Gross National Product”. But, dear young readers, take your time! It really doesn’t matter if you start sitting in an office or standing at the assembly line at age 24 or age 26. Study as long as you can!

After the end of the Cold War, maybe history didn’t seem that interesting for a while either. Coca Cola had won against Vita Cola, the Berlin Wall had come down, and that was it. End of history.

But now it’s 2017, the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, the peripety of World War I and the actual beginning of the 20th century. I have also regained an interest in pursuing the academic study of history because I find it misinterpreted and misrepresented in political debates more and more (“slaves came to America looking for prosperity”, “terrorism is a new phenomenon”, “this area was always Armenian/Palestinian/Hungarian”). Whether we are talking about monuments to Confederate generals or to victims of the Holocaust, the future of Palestine or Abkhazia, we can hardly discuss such issues seriously without an informed look into history.

As you know, my life is modeled on the Migration Period, so I didn’t have the heart to make a decision for one fixed location for several years. Therefore, because of flexible time management and because I didn’t want to sit next to giggling teenagers, the best option was the University of Hagen, Germany’s distance university.

Apart from MA and PhD (but we don’t want to think quite that far this semester), this university only offers history as part of the BA in Cultural Studies with literature or philosophy as a minor.

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I don’t mind that at all, I thought – until I held the introductory course books for literature in my hands and stumbled, or indeed tripped and fell, over such seemingly unliterary concepts as self-referential closeness of the theory of structuralism and donquijotesque transfers of the text to decontextualized allegorical dimensions. I like literature and I would like to enjoy it further. The first and possibly overhasty impression tells me that to this purpose, I better stay away from the study of literature. Maybe it’s like food, which also tastes better when you don’t know how it was prepared.  So I will choose philosophy as a minor and hope that my MA in philosophy will be recognized to a large extent, allowing me to focus on history in the coming years.

The majority of you who don’t read this blog as an ersatz-Bildungsroman but for its travel reports, will now worry and wonder if the roving reporter will only be sitting at his desk for the next four to six years and not experience any more noteworthy adventures.

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You needn’t worry about this, please, because:

  1. Most of my travels haven’t been journalistically exploited yet. About a dozen notebooks with chocolate stains and bullet holes are still waiting for a hungry audience that they could feed for years.
  2. I should remind you that many of my travel reports have already been enriched with historical knowledge, which sets my blog apart from the standard sun-beach-caipirinha travel blogs. This information shall henceforth be even better researched and substantiated.
  3. Because I can carry out the distance studies from anywhere, I will move around a few times during the project. The next move will probably be to Eastern Europe again.
  4. Although most classes are virtual, the university also offers regular seminars in person. For example, I have just been to a whole intensive week of history lectures and seminars in Hagen. After Haifa and Hanga Roa, you are surely dying to read something about Hagen in North Rhine-Westphalia. For the next seminar in December (“Crisis of European modernity – changes and departures: the epochal year 1917”), I will have to go to Frankfurt.
  5. In June 2018, there is even a field trip to Krakow (“Politics of remembrance and of history in a Polish metropolis 1900-1970”). I am looking forward to that in particular because, to my great shame, I still haven’t been to neighboring Poland. (Heck, even my grandfathers have been there, albeit on invasion.) Maybe I will add a few extra extra months there.
  6. Because of a seminar on Mesopotamia (this one without an excursion, unfortunately), I’d like to travel to Iraq. But unfortunately, international flights to Kurdistan were suspended after the independence referendum (take note, Catalonia!), making everything more complicated and expensive and thus less likely. We’ll see if I find a way. I’ve already discovered that there are regular buses from Amman to Baghdad, and now that ISIS has gone bankrupt that should be super-safe.
  7. And then there is the Erasmus program! When I was sharing a flat in Bari with Erasmus brats who were partying more than they were studying, I was still making fun of it. But now I am looking forward to EU subsidies for one or two semesters abroad. I don’t need to go to the stupid parties, after all.
  8. I am confident that I will also think of something interesting and exotic for the internships. You know me. I can’t stay glued to my desk for that long. I haven’t put the backpack in mothballs yet.

Studying can be a thrilling journey of discovery, too.

Because I have already been writing about history in this blog, you hopefully won’t mind if I report from a seminar from time to time or turn one of my term papers into an article. And maybe some of you can be motivated to return to university yourselves. I notice that there is a trend to a second or third degree. (Or maybe that’s mainly among my lawyer friends who are hit with a burnout.)

Lastly, I have extended my wishlist with a list of books specifically for my studies, which may be more useful for Christmas than yet more socks with elks. 😉

(Hier geht es zur deutschen Originalfassung dieses Artikels.)

Posted in Education, Germany, History | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Why travelling with little money is the best

Dan Kieran writes in The Idle Traveller:

If you have to rely on other people, you are forced to be open and engage with them, which quickly spreads the notion of friendship and community. One person leads you to another further along your path or pushes you in a slightly different direction from the one you were imagining. It is a loss of control, but an entirely life-affirming and liberating one.

If, on the other hand, you have plenty of money and no need of anyone’s help, you can venture all over the world without meeting a single local person.

And I agree.

If I had enough money to stay in hotels all the time, I would never have tried Couchsurfing, where I met plenty of inspiring and helpful people. They often made my trips much more interesting than they would have been without local contacts. This summer for example, I stayed with a young Couchsurfing host in Abkhazia, who took me to galleries and exhibitions and introduced me to artists, academics and even the former Foreign Minister of the country. If I had stayed in a hotel, I wouldn’t have experienced any of this. (In my experience, AirBnB hosts don’t have as much time/interest as Couchsurfing hosts, but that may also be due to the travelers’ preferences.)

If I had enough money to rent a car, I would never stand by the side of the road and hope for a stranger to invite me into their car. A particularly nice driver in Montenegro even invited me to his home, prepared a meal and drinks and gave me a bunch of presents before taking me exactly where I needed to go. In Bolivia, I was walking in the mountains when a truck with miners stopped to take me through a breathtakingly beautiful valley. The most hitchhiking-friendly place so far was Easter Island: cars, quads, pick-up trucks sometimes even stopped without me trying to hitchhike. “Jump in,” the drivers said without asking for my destination, because all roads lead to the only town on the island anyway.

In Brazil, I even caught a ride on a helicopter.

If I had enough money for a car, I wouldn’t have spent a freezing night at the train station in Romania that lead to a very memorable encounter.

If I had enough money for restaurants all the time, I would never buy food from the market and eat in the park, where people sit down next to me and chat me up. It is this contact with random locals, not only with members of my own profession or my own social class, that makes traveling most interesting.

If I had enough money for intercontinental planes, I wouldn’t have found myself on a ship crossing the Atlantic.

If I had enough money to fly from one capital city to the next, I would never see the little towns and villages in between, the ones that are forgotten, where the waste dumps and slums are, where development lags 20 years behind. In other words, I wouldn’t have seen reality. I would know and understand less about the world.

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(By the way, I don’t want to recommend Dan Kieran’s book. Except for a few interesting thoughts, it’s rather boring and free of substance. You’ll be entertained better by reading this blog. – This story also appeared on Medium. – Hier gibt es diesen Artikel auf Deutsch.)

Posted in Books, Economics, Philosophy, Travel | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments