Archive for the 'stupidity' Category


Vaginal cream chocolate bar. Yum.

For readers with small children in the area, this post contains words and pictures which acknowledge the existence of sexual organs, so you might want to make the print really, really small.

The red-haired girl has a job for a few months now.  Up to three times a week you can find her at a local pharmacy picking up prescriptions for delivery to customers in the broader neighbourhood.   She gets eight bucks an hour plus tips, which sometimes can be substantial.  I call her our drug-runner.

Yesterday she came home with a package I’m still puzzling over.  Take a look at this:

Vaginetten Myko Kombi chocolate bar Vaginalzäpfchen suppositories

What do you first think of when you see a chocoate bar named Vaginetten?  I know what I think.  Ewwwwww……

Especially when the translation of that fine print at lower left sinks in:

White Chocolate, tenderly melting like Vagisan’s Cremolum Myko Kombi.

Vagisan Myko Kombi white chocolate yumUh, now I get it.  The creamy-white anti-yeast-infection cream suppositories Vagisan vaginal suppositoriesthey’re pushing melt in your hoo-ha just as smoothly as this creamy white chocolate melts in your mouth.

Only people who graduated in the bottom half of their marketing class could have come up with this.    Seriously, what were they thinking?

“I know!  We’ll package up white chocolate bars to give away at pharmacies.  People will pick them up and wonder who could be dumb enough to market vaginal cream with white chocolate, they’ll take it home, take a photo and throw it up on social media.  Voilà!  Free advertising!”

They’re not so stupid after all.


German TV ad campaign F-bombs dieters

Even if you don’t speak German, you’ll understand what they’re saying at the 16-second mark:

This ad is on German television and is intended to sell over-packaged low-cal products.  You can also find it in print.

Of all the horrible advertising I’ve seen in my nearly 15 years of being bombarded by visual crap in this country, this slogan has to be down there with the worst.

The following is what a German website has to say about it.  The politically correct will now be excused.

We really don’t know what they’re trying to say with this adolescent-level slogan, beside which we ask ourselves how this is supposed to work.  You can literally translate “Fuck the diet” as “Shit on the diet” in German.  Why this company has sunk to using such ghetto talk is beyond us, but let’s have some fun with it.

How do you fuck a diet?  Is it code for, “Have sex with fat people, they’ll thank you for it?”  Or should you just have some Cola Light before having sex?  What about using sweeteners instead of Viagra?  It’s worth an experiment.

Well now.

If they really wanted to use such an offensive slogan as part of their ad campaign, at least they could have dropped the wannabe English coolness and used something equivalent in German.  But maybe that might have woken up what passes for an Advertising Standards Council, and it wouldn’t have been approved.


Facebook planking craze hits Hamburg!

Planking, the Facebook craze destined to last at least a few more hours one more week, has gone global.  Even the sleepy backwater of Hamburg, Germany has caught on.  We in Hamburg are more sensible than the rest, though.  Understated refinement is how we go about things here.

And because already at least one person has plunged seven storeys to his death in pursuit of the perfect planking position, in the interest of safety the editor and staff at Letters Home recommend you at least be sober before attempting your plank.

OK, so I bent a few of the official rules here.  But the penguin IS lying rigid on a 31-year-old German turntable.  Top that, plankers!


Routers, rug doctors, and getting inside my head

Have you ever had your router die on you?   I spent hours and hours on the Netgear user forum last month just trying to get some help on how to get it working again, because it was running perfectly for two months when suddenly – nada.  After re-setting and reconfiguring and calling my own ISP and being told that no, they can’t help me because I don’t have the router that THEY sell – I just gave up on them and ordered up a new ISP.

That’s the prelude to the apple story.

Midst that hassle I at least had two weeks off work, time enough to drag some dusty power tools out of the basement for a thorough sweep through the apartment taking care of various odd jobs that I’d neglected and were long overdue – a laundry list of sanding, varnishing, hole-drilling, screwdriving, stuccoing the ceiling, sawing, hammering, spackeling, painting – even rug shampooing.

Anyway, March 9 I took K. to the airport because she had a flight to Nice.  Little holiday by herself with a retired friend who goes there every year around this time.

She loves France and French culture as do I, and it would have been nice to be there with her, but as I said I had all these jobs to do and quite frankly all I wanted to do was stay in Hamburg and do some stuff with the little red-haired girl.  We ate at Mickey-D’s twice, made pizza, spareribs, popcorn and french fries, went to the zoo, the world’s largest model railway – yes, it’s right here in Hamburg –  watched a few movies, listened to music and generally hung out.

After taking K. to the airport I went home, turned around and biked off to a clinic for an MRT scan – I don’t know if that’s a CAT scan in real English but you’ve probably seen photos or even had one yourself.  They’re trying to find out why the smell of metal – more like copper – keeps wafting through my head since we got back from New York.

They put you on a narrow bed on a sliding tray, coo soothing words into your ear that it’s going to be a wee bit noisy, but not to worry dear, you get some ear protection and are shown a button to push should you find you just can’t stand one more second of its screaming, scraping, throbbing, grinding, pulsating bursts of pure aggravation.  It goes on for 20 minutes and my head was ringing even more than usual afterward.

Biked home from the scan with printouts showing bizarre slices of my head for the Ear Nose and Throat guy to hum and haw over some time later, plopped them down on the desk long enough to go to the router forum and get some more info, try it out only to bang my head on the chair in frustration.  Routers!  Why are they such a hassle?

But by then it was near closing time at the hardware store where I’d reserved a rug shampooing machine, so I dashed off to the car and fought rush-hour traffic to pick it up.

Paid for the rug doctor, packed it in the car, drove back through the narrow streets into our building’s underground parking lot so I could unload the thing right close to the lift instead of hauling it from a parking spot several streets away.  We don’t rent a space, you see.

Anyway, I took it upstairs, went online to the router help forum because something I thought of asking on my way home I didn’t want to just forget, had some dinner, kissed the little red-haired girl and headed out that evening to meet a friend from the writers’ group who’d invited me to join her weekly improv theater workshop.  I had a lot of fun, even participated in a couple of sketches, then went out for beers.

During the improv the little red-haired girl phoned three times, a little annoying but she said she was afraid, being all alone in the house and having someone first ring the doorbell and then knock on the door 10 minutes later.  I told her that because we weren’t expecting anyone, not to open the door.

Got home after midnight, hit the sack, and woke up around 5:30am for some strange reason asking myself how far I’d have to go to pick up the car again when I brought the rug shampooer back, because I could just carry it to the… OH FUCK!

Suddenly it dawned on me though a late lingering beer buzz that I had absolutely no memory of driving the car out of the underground parking garage after unloading that damn rug doctor.  Pulling on some clothes I threw myself downstairs, flung open the door to the garage – and the car’s gone!   At least it’s not in the spot it should have been.  Oh man…

I head around a corner and to my enormous relief it’s only been pushed a few yards down the way a bit.  Must have left it unlocked.

I get in, turn the key and it doesn’t turn over, because – cue Simpsons’ HA-HA –  I’d left the hazard lights on.  So I go upstairs and haul the little red-haired girl out of bed – it’s before 6 am – because she’s got to help me push it into an empty parking bay.  We struggle to edge the car through the crowded garage without scraping any BMWs,  I lift up the hood, disconnect the battery and pull it out.  I’ve got a charger and want to get it hooked up right away, because who knows how long it’s going to take to get the thing juiced up again?

So I’m downstairs carrying this heavy car battery with my daughter beside me and we’re waiting for the elevator to take us back up to our plac when my downstairs neighbour – a big, beefy guy with 3 kids who’s kind of the unofficial Hausmeister – comes lumbering down the stairs followed closely by two Hamburg cops – a police man and woman – who all look down at me from the stairway above.

My neighbour stops and, looking straight into me while taking a deep breath to pause for effect, slowly says: Huge problems in this house yesterday evening, Herr InHamburg.

Uh, yeah, well, you know I was just, uh, well…. you see it’s…. God, I wanted to melt to a puddle and trickle through some crack in the floor, never to be found again.  I apologised the best I could and he accepted it very well, adding that beyond the immediate problem of moving the car away so that neighbours could park theirs for the night, they were all worried about what it could all mean.

Was I somehow injured?  Had I suffered a sudden heart attack or stroke and for that reason could not answer the door?   You don’t just park a car in the middle of the garage and then leave it – it doesn’t make sense!  It could have been really serious, so that’s why he called the cops.  It also explains my daughter’s hearing the doorbell ring and the knocks late the night before.

I consider myself lucky nobody had the beast towed away, the router works perfectly with the new ISP, and that I’ve had a chance to take my own little holiday in the meantime.


A couple of reasons why German healthcare is in such a mess

From some of the highest drug prices in Europe to bloated bureaucracies, there must be a dozen reasons why healthcare in Germany is an expensive mess – about 8% of gross wages for those on the public plan, and rising.

trust me i'm a doctor buttonA few years ago, during what turned out to be the longest stretch I’ve ever had to endure in a hospital, I got a good look at two of those reasons.

It started out as a routine blood test at my family doctor.

“This doesn’t look good” he says when showing me the results.  “You’ve got to see a specialist about this as soon as possible.”

So I get an appointment at a specialist who performs an ultrasound, along with another blood test.   When the tests come back he hums and haws, says it could be this or that, but to find out for sure, we have to take a tissue sample.  Jab a hollow tube through my liver and rummage through what they pull out.

“Just a couple of nights in the hospital,” he tells me.

I get sent to a third doctor, the one who’s going to be taking care of the hospital visit, who performs the third blood test in about three weeks, which comes back with the very same results.

Upon admission to hospital a couple of weeks later, they take another two blood tests, one on admission, another the next day.

“Look,” I tell them.  “I don’t understand.  I’ve got an arm like a junkie’s with all these needles.  Why do I have to get a new blood test every time I’m sent to a new doctor?”

“Because that’s the way we do it here,” they tell me. “You may be referred to another doctor, but they have to take a new test each time.  They can’t take the results of the former doctor at face value.”

I wondered how many billions each year are wasted that way, but it was the hospital visit itself that really opened my eyes to the way the system is set up to rip us all off.

Not only did they only perform the tissue sample the morning of my third day after admission, already forcing me to stay one more night than I’d planned for, but they also arranged to have me undergo a colonoscopy a few days later, because the tissue sample showed nothing abnormal, and they wanted to “make sure we aren’t missing anything.”

That was on a Friday, and they told me I’d have to spend the entire weekend in the hospital waiting for the colonoscopy to get underway the following Tuesday.

What?  Wait f0ur full days in hospital when I feel perfectly healthy just to prepare for another procedure that might not even be necessary?

“Screw you,” I told them.  “I am not spending five minutes in this dump more than I have to.”

Dump?  More like an asylum.  My time until then had been spent enduring the ravings of an attention-starved recovering alcoholic in the bed beside me, who, completely oblivious to the impact his constant ramblings and interruptions had on the rest of us, actually woke me up the night before the tissue sample, because he couldn’t sleep and so was watching his personal TV at 3 in the morning.  Mostly to get away from him, I packed up and left that Friday afternoon, signing a waiver on my way out saying that whatever happened to me that weekend was my own doing.

After a beautiful weekend hiking the storm-swept mid-winter beaches of St-Peter-Ording with K and the little red-haired girl, I showed up Monday morning at the hospital, spent a day drinking gallons of some vile solution turning my backside into a storm drain, submitted myself to an invasion by a 12-foot black plastic snake, and spent a day and a half recovering.  The only thing I was grateful for was their generous application of Demerol.  I liked it so much, I’d have let them do it again just to get more of the stuff.

I told my family doctor all this and he replied with what I’d been thinking all along.  “I’m really sorry you had to go through all that, but hospitals do that all the time..  Every night you stay there is worth a lot of money to them.  They maximise the time you have to stay so they can turn around and bill the health funds.  There’s really nobody checking to see if what they do is really necessary.”

To top it all off, I received a bill from the hospital for the daily user fee we all have to pay.  They completely disregarded the two nights over the weekend I had left the hospital, billing me for the full nine days.

I paid for seven with a note and a letter explaining why, with proof I wasn’t there and all the rest, but the bureaucrats ignored it.  Instead I received a nasty notice threatening me with legal action and all associated additional costs if I didn’t buck up for the two days I did not stay in their comfortable surroundings.

So I paid for those two days just to get them out of my hair, only to find out a few weeks later from my healthcare people that I shouldn’t have, and that I could get the money back if I applied for it.

But by then I was so glad to have the whole sorry mess behind me I didn’t bother.


We all get to play the terrorist on the security theatre stage

You never know when you’ll be called upon to play a minor role in life’s ongoing stage of security theatre.

I found that out yesterday morning after printing out a boarding card at my hotel the morning I left Nuremburg, where I’d been sent for a seminar.  I’d asked the front desk if I could use the lobby computer terminals, but they told me that before they could give me the access password, they’d need a copy of my ID.

OK, I thought – maybe they think I’m going to damage their computer, stuff the wide-screen monitor into my back pocket or cram the desktop tower into my carry-on – whatever.  I just needed to print out that boarding card, so I handed them my passport to copy.

After five minutes online I returned to the desk to say I was through, and could I please have the copy of my passport back.

“Oh, I’m sorry, we can’t do that,” said the cheery young woman behind the counter.  “Under German law, we’re required to hold on to it.”

“But I’m finished,” I said.  “Why do you have to hold onto it?”

With a big smile and a double head-bob, she cheerfully said, “Because just now, you could have been planning a terror attack.”

I was stunned.  Flabbergasted.  I’d say blown away, but the slaughterhouse floor scenes from the smoke-filled Moscow airport terminal suicide bombing are still too fresh in the mind.

“I beg your pardon?” I said. “My passport contains vital personal information.”

“Your document copy is safe with us,” crooned her male colleague.  “We have a locked safe.”

“That’s not the point,” I said, but decided not to press it further, leaving for the breakfast buffet shaking my head.

But while gathering my plateful midst the morning crowd I couldn’t just forget it.  I got to wondering if somehow my information might be stolen sometime over the next 10 years.  I wondered how long they’d hold onto it, whether it would one day be destroyed, and whether I’d receive any notification of that.

So I went back to the desk and asked them how long they intended to keep my passport copy.

“We have to keep it for 10 years,” she chirped.  “It’s the law.”

Stunned again.

“Do you mean to tell me that for five minutes of online time you are going to keep a copy of my most important personal document for 10 years?”

What seemed like farce to me they took as routine.  “It’s the law,” she repeated. “We have to do it.”

“Good,” I said, not wanting to debate the existence or strict interpretation of a law I’d never even heard of.  “In that case, I think you should inform your customers before they use the terminals that their personal information is going to be on the files of your office for 10 years.  If I’d known that, I’d never have bothered.  Never.”

I returned to my breakfast – chewing over the screenplay and script of yet another production of security theatre and how I could have played my role better –   and suddenly realised that I had no proof that I’d logged out.

Carrying out their absurd scenario to its bizarrest extreme, I wondered: what if someone were  sitting at that terminal logged in under my login and password – the one with a hard copy of my passport copy attached to it – and were in the process of sending coded messages to fellow cell members to blow up another airport?  I had no physical proof that my session was over, nor that I’d logged out.  What if nine and a half years from now someone stumbled upon the connection and I’m hauled before a judge and sent to prison for the rest of my life?  Hey, and what if there were some sanity in the way we live our lives, and is it any wonder people my age get nostalgic for times when we all weren’t assumed to be guilty before proven innocent?

Overcoming my desire to just forget the whole thing, that it was nothing but trivial bureaucratic bullshit and really doesn’t matter anyway, I went back to the front desk and said, “Look, I don’t want to belabour the point, but about the Internet thing, could you please print me out some proof of when I actually used the computer, and confirmation of the time I logged out?”

The woman with whom I’d mainly been dealing overheard my request got up from her desk in the tiny office off the main counter.  As she turned to face me I could see her face was bleeding red with rage.  “All right,” she said. “If that’s the way you feel about this, we’ll do it a different way.  You can have your passport copy back.  I’ll just take down its number.”

As she was searching for my passport copy she added, “Never before have I had to deal with anyone who objected so vehemently to this procedure.”

I resisted the urge to remind her that Germany is full of people who put up with crap simply because someone in authority is shovelling it.  But picking up on the word “vehemently” I pointed out to her and the other two desk employees  looking on that I had dealt with them throughout in a calm manner, never once raised my voice, spoke with them in even tones, and was merely asking for something that I felt was my right to possess: my personal information.  “Data protection and privacy is a two-way street,” I told them.


Canada in Dire Straits: Ban this!

Canada bans radio play of Money for Nothing after receiving complaint.

I want some…

I want some Sa-ni-ty….

Now look at them losers, that’s the way you do it
They ban a song and say it’s good for me
Now that’s just stupid.  That’s a load of bullshit
Banning some music – next they’ll come for me

Now that’s just senseless. Still they’re gonna do it.
Lemme tell ya: they’re just plain dumb
Maybe save a sister from some hurting feelings
Maybe save a sister from some bum

A lotta pissed off radio DJ’s
Can’t play that music any more
Gotta groove on shit like Patio Lanterns
That kinda music make you wanna just heave

That little redneck with the earring and the make-up
Yeah buddy, that’s what he wears
That little redneck’s got his own pickup truck
That little redneck he’s been puttin’ on airs

Canada should learn to drop the PC
They shoulda learned that songs don’t kill
Look at that loser, he’s gotta whine to some bureaucrat, man
And we all pay the bill

And he’s up there.  What’s that? More whining noises?
They say it’s to protect sensibilities
Now that’s just stupid.  That’s a load of bullshit
Banning some music – next they’ll come for me

The banner photograph shows the town of Britannia Beach, BC, Canada, where I grew up. It's home. But I don't live there anymore.

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A few reasons why I sometimes get homesick

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