Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Henny Lady

I saw something in a documentary on YouTube yesterday that I thought captured the American entrepreneurial spirit very well.

The documentary was about a rapper who lives in an impoverished area of California, near Los Angeles.

In the documentary, the rapper, who is a gangster rapper, one could say, was taking a film crew around his neighborhood, showing its members all the important spots and explaining just how people in the area live.

At one point, when this rapper and all his friends were partying, he told the film crew that the lady with whom he had just had an interaction was the Henny Lady.

At first I had no clue what the rapper was talking about. However, when I finally got it, I was in awe.

As a service, the rapper says, a woman in this California neighborhood will deliver Hennessey to your doorstep. Not only that, she will do this at any time, day or night, and “she’s faster than Dominos.”

Moreover, the Henny Lady will not only bring the cognac, but also a liter of fruity soda, the kind  often mixed with Hennessey, as well as red plastic cups.

After getting straight exactly what this woman does, I rewatched the part in the video with her in it to see her again in action. After she completes the transaction, she just blends back into the scenery, her actions nothing more than prosaic.

At first, the Henny Lady and the service she provided seemed absurd to me. But after some consideration, I thought she was quite smart, and after even more consideration, it actually seemed to me that she embodied the American entrepreneurial spirit!

I would say that to posses the American entrepreneurial spirit, one has to have brains, gumption and discipline, and this woman totally had all three.

Here's to the Henny Lady!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Lucky Day

I saw him on my way in, and I hadn’t given him much thought.

But on my way out, I had just eaten creamy lentil soup, which I had continually dipped my falafel into. I felt revived, and this time he was making eye contact with me.

It had been raining and had lightened up, but more substantial rain was starting to fall again. I walked a little bit past him, almost like I was going to pass, but then I stopped and opened my backpack and began rooting around in the pocket where I keep my money.

Two euros, no. Another two euros, no ... Don’t I have, like, 20 or 50 cents? Another two euros? God, I've never had so many two euros pieces. Is that all I have? 

Come on, Chad. Sometimes it’s just that way ... We all have lucky days. 

With a two euro piece in my hand, I walked over to the man and dropped the money into his cup.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Reread List

So have you heard of this book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”? It’s by a woman named Marie Kondo, a life coach/organizational master from Japan, and the main tenet of the book is this: If anything you own does not bring you joy, throw it out.

Among the things Kondo thinks we own too much of are books.  She thinks that we could probably throw out about nine-tenths of all the books we own and never feel it. Her rationale: People hardly reread books, despite what they say.

When I read that line, it got me thinking. How many books have I actually reread in my life? I thought I'd create a list of them, just to see if Kondo had a point. (Spoiler alert: she does.) Here is that list.


“The Catcher in the Rye” 
by J.D. Salinger
“The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway

“The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People”
 by Stephan Covey
“The Stranger”
 by Albert Camus
 by James Joyce

Wow, that’s really pathetic, considering that I read every single day. I guess maybe I should really think twice before I again say, “I might read it” as an excuse not to throw out a book!

Thursday, September 20, 2018


Here is something that I thought was cool.

A few weeks ago, my girlfriend and I were on a train heading to Frankfurt. The train was beautiful, an Intercity Express, better known as an ICE, and we had been fortunate enough to get a great seat, one of those with a table in the middle.

About 15 minutes into the ride, a woman and her daughter stopped in the aisle right in front of us.  The woman told us that two of the four seats facing the table were reserved for her and her daughter.

Neither I nor my girlfriend saw anything that said that the seats were reserved – usually, it’s posted – but we took the woman’s word for it and began rearranging our things and making room.

As I was putting my duffel bag on the overhead rack, I asked the woman if she would like to sit in the direction that the train was moving in. Sitting in the opposite direction doesn’t bother me, so I figured I’d ask. The woman said yes and then took a seat on the aisle.

Later, my girlfriend told me that she really liked that I had asked the woman if she would like to sit in the direction of the train.

So what did I think was cool? That my girlfriend had taken note of, and liked, my gesture.

Sunday, September 16, 2018


Here’s something I’ve noticed: Artists, all kinds of artists, often use little tricks -- maybe call them tricks of the trade -- to make their art better. For example, a painter might elongate a shadow more than necessary in one of his paintings to fool the eye and make the object look truly three dimensional, or a poet might reuse a certain preposition only because it’s versatile.

Musicians have tricks, too. One, in my opinion, is harmonizing. Harmonizing, the type that I’m talking about anyway, is when one musician sings one melody line while his band mate, or whoever, simultaneously sings one that is nearly identical but different by a note or two. When the technique is done correctly, it produces a rich and intriguing sound.

I call harmonizing a trick, though, because it can be very hard to do if you’re just one person. You obviously can’t sing two melody lines at once, which can be frustrating and may often lead you to wonder, "Why does the song sound so much better when they sing it?"

I mention all this because recently I had been trying to sing the chorus to the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down” and had noticed that something was a little off. Was it “Don’t let me dow-n” that was sung or was it “Don’t let me dow-ooh-ow-n”?

Well, the answer is . . . both. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were -- you got it! -- harmonizing. One was singing “Don’t let me dow-n,” while the other was singing “Don’t let me “dow-ooh-ow-n.”

Because I would never be able sing the chorus as I had wanted, I thought I’d get creative. On my phone, I have two voice recording apps. How about, I thought, making a super rudimentary two-track recording?

So that’s what I did. On one app, I recorded “Don’t let me dow-n” on a loop and then, while it was playing, I opened the other recording app and started singing the other melody line over it, so the final track has both melody lines, just like on the record.

Here is the result. Enjoy.

Saturday, September 15, 2018


Have you ever been frustrated?  Of course you have. I used to be frustrated whenever a German person would use the word “beziehungsweise” — and they use this word often — and then not be able to explain to me what it meant.

Well, I finally understand what it means, and I'm super proud that I do.

“Beziehungsweise,” sometimes abbreviated to "bzw.," simply means, “or rather.”

I absolutely love big boats, or rather yachts.
He was one of the most famous men, or rather infamous men, from last century.
I love Indian food, or rather Indian food that is popular in the U.S.

We use “beziehungsweise” when we want to be more precise in our wording.

Here is how those examples above look in German:

Ich liebe Schiffen bzw. Yachten.
Er war einer der berühmtesten Männer bzw. berüchtigten Männer des 20. Jahrhunderts.
Ich liebe indisches Essen bzw. indisches Essen, das in den USA beliebt ist.

How novel this little "bzw." thingy is. I really like it and look forward to using it!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Total Chad Moves

Total Chad Moves. This is what I call actions of mine that are totally idiotic but are characteristically me.

For example, putting the toilet paper pack in the refrigerator or an empty bag of chips back in the cupboard are Total Chad Moves.

Usually, Total Chad Moves, or TCMs, as I sometimes call them, don't serve me well, and anyone who witnesses me make them thinks I might have screw loose. But yesterday I did a TCM and it wound up being very much to my benefit.

I was in class and I had wanted to make copies of an article for my students. However, when I got to the copy room, I noticed that I just had the first page of the article with me. I didn't want to go back to the classroom to get the magazine because I felt as though the students would think I was an idiot.

I was just standing there wondering what to do, when for some reason, I decided to open the copy machine, and, boom, I suddenly had my answer.

Another Total Chad Move had saved me.

It turned out, when I had been in the copy room earlier in the day, making copies for another class, I had left the magazine in the copy machine.

So, I figure now that the mathematics of TCMs goes something like this: When you add one TCM to another, they cancel each other out!

Chaos and Control

Here is a very interesting story from my past, one that shows that life truly is chaos and that we really never have all that much in our control even though we think we do. 

In the summer of 2015, I had been giving English lessons regularly at the airplane manufacturer Airbus, in Finkenwerder, Germany. One day after class, one of my students, a mechanical engineer, asked if I’d like to have a deeper, more thorough look at one of the planes in the Airbus fleet, the A-320 passenger jet. I said I would, and he and I then set off to one of the many massive hangers Airbus has on its sprawling premises.

Inside the hanger, we walked up to the A-320, a sleek, single-aisle aircraft known for its versatility. After pointing out a few recent advancements that had been made to the plane's tail and wings, we climbed a set of metal stairs and went inside the aircraft.

Right away, I was attracted to the cockpit and wanted to have a look inside it. The cockpit was small, smaller than I had imagined, and filled from top to bottom with all kinds of buttons and screens and gears. It was pretty cool.

As we were leaving cockpit, my student put his hand on the cockpit door. “It’s very strong,” he said. “Once the pilot locks it, no one’s getting in.” I knocked on the door myself, appraising its sturdiness.

Of course, my student -- who really had become my tour guide -- mentioned the door due to 9/11. I'm sure he had thought it would be interesting for me to know that cockpit doors nowadays were super sturdy. And it was interesting. I was glad that improvements had been made to airplane cockpit doors, so that nothing like 9/11 could ever happen again.

Sadly, though, this experience with the student was thrown into a totally different light when only a few months later, the copilot of a Germanwings plane en route from Barcelona to Düsseldorf locked the captain out of the cockpit and crashed the aircraft into a mountain, killing himself and the other 143 people on board.

Life truly is chaos.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Self-fulfilling prophesy

Here is a good example of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Let's imagine that we have bus driver, a discontent bus driver. Let's imagine that one of the reasons why this man is discontent is because he thinks that everyone who gets on his bus is an idiot. Perhaps many people don't board properly or they generally make too much noise. Whatever it is this bus driver, right off the bat, doesn't have too much respect for the people who board his bus.

Now let's imagine that the bus driver not only thinks bad things about his passengers, he radiates his negativity through his actions. If the bus driver let’s it be known -- perhaps by failing to make eye-contact or just grunting when asked a question -- that he holds the passengers in contempt, there is a better chance that a person boarding the bus will make some kind of mistake when buying a ticket. Don’t you agree? Isn’t it fair to say that when we feel uncomfortable, we are more prone to mistakes?

So let’s imagine this exact scenario: A person gets on a bus and asks to buy a ticket. The bus driver makes no eye-contact with the person and just looks grumpy. The person senses bad vibes and tries to get away from the bus driver and into the bus as quickly as possible, but in doing so, he forgets to take his change. The bus driver notices the oversight and says, "Please take your change, sheesh!" The man takes his change and after he does, the bus driver thinks to himself that this passenger, just like all the others, is an idiot.

The prophecy has been fulfilled, and the cycle continues.