Saturday, February 28, 2015

February Highs and Lows 2015

I'm never sorry to see February end. At least when it's March, we can say it's nearly April. There's just nothing nice about it, although I'll take February in southern Germany over February in Wisconsin. It's flippin' below zero (-18°C) in Wisconsin this morning and was colder earlier in the month! I definitely prefer "below zero" temperatures in Celcius. It's been around 2°C here lately, and even I am thinking it's time to start keeping the window open at night again.

Here are this month's highs and lows.


  • watching the miniseries Pillars of the Earth. I read the book a year ago and loved it, and the movie has now refreshed my memory so I can read the second book, after which I'll watch the second part of the miniseries. Ken Follett is quite a writer!

  • Monday afternoon phone calls with my parents, two of which lasted 2 1/2 hours!

  • this conversation in our living room, stemming from my reading of World without End:
    B: "M, do you know what the Latin phrase 'Caput tuum in ano est' means?"
    M: "Hm..." (works through words in his head) "Head of yours, in ass is."
    B: "Yep, it's translated here as 'Your head is up your arse.' How would I say 'Head of HIS, up ass is'?"
    M: (more calculating) "Caput suus in ano est."
    B: (writing that down) "Thanks!"
    M: "Benefits of a classical education..."           (<== bonus points if you can name that movie!)

  • receiving the final multi-thousand dollar bill for my daughter's final term in college! (She graduates in June.)

  • an insanely delicious three-course Valentine's Day dinner at our favorite restaurant

  • trying a new recipe that I didn't completely botch; Überbackene Schweineschnitzel, with peppers and onions, garlic, crushed walnuts, mashed potatoes, and Gouda cheese. I only made a half recipe so we wouldn't have leftovers in case we didn't like it.

  • having to stop at the crosswalk near our house to wait for a woman on a big black Friesian to cross! Horses make my heart stop. I may or may not have put the car in the garage, grabbed my camera, and run down the street to where I thought they were headed. Yep, got 'em (sort of)!

  • participating in our second Kochkurs (cooking class) at Straub's Krone ("our favorite restaurant"), which we are doing right now, on the last day of the month. I know it will be a highlight.


  • driving home from the store in a brief blizzard with a big truck in front of me struggling to make it up an incline in the road - I never got out of 1st gear, we were moving that slowly, his cab going kind of sideways-like. I worried when I saw another big truck in my rearview mirror, but not for long. He just stopped right in the road because he couldn't even get up the incline and disappeared from my view within a few moments.

  • seeing part of an episode of the American TV show "Moonshiners," starring three hicks named Tim, Tickle, and Jim Tom. Tim wears denim overalls, no t-shirt and a felt hat. Jim Tom makes stills. Tickle is...his name is Tickle. Why, for the love of mercy, is this show aired in Germany? 

  • catching the plague a nasty cold - though the first one since I moved to Germany 2 1/2 years ago - probably from the germ-infested train. Can't you sometimes just feel the bacteria or viruses crawling into you when you have to touch something on public transportation during Grippewelle season?

  • Finding surface mold on one of our bedroom walls just before bedtime last night. This came from having a virtually air-tight house and not doing Lüften every day, and/or not keeping our bedroom window open because I kept whining about being cold. They say the risk is especially high in the bedroom because of the humidity our bodies emit while we sleep. That's it - I'm sold on Lüften, and I will follow our neighbors' example and do it every day.

  • almost finishing World Without End. I put this as a low because I have really liked this book - all 1235 pages of it! - and I'm sad to come to the end of the two-book series. Luckily I have my next book lined up already, which arrived this week: die Stadt-Ärztin, the story of the first female doctor in Germany (16th century), Agathe Streicher of Ulm.

Other Moments

  • waking up one morning as whatever I was dreaming about faded away into the mystical sleep world, and hearing my own voice in my dream say, "Those darn sheep!" I'm still wondering what those sheep did, and whose sheep they were.

  • waking up in the early morning to M's teeth grinding and somewhat abruptly reaching over to rub his shoulder (which usually gets him to stop grinding at least temporarily). Unfortunately he was closer to me than I realized, and I ended up punching him in the back. Oops. He stopped grinding, though.

  • Reading that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who is very likely going to run for president of the U.S., had this to say at a political conference: "If I can take on 100,000 [Wisconsin union] protesters, I can take the Islamic State." Really?  Really?!? I say we send him over there and let him have a go.  Please, please let that be his presidential campaign slogan.
    Washington reporter Chris Cillizza makes a good point: "As soon as you are comparing something that doesn't involve mass deaths and unspeakable atrocities to something that does, you've lost the argument."

I hope your highs outnumbered your lows this month.

Bring on March!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

In the News III

Time for another round of "What's been in the local paper lately?" 

Toads on Tour

It's still too cold at night, but soon the local frogs and toads will begin their annual migration across roads to...get to the other side, I guess. In areas with heavy frog and toad populations, commuters will have to reckon with traffic restrictions such as lowered speed limits (often 20 km/h, or 12.4 mph) and stop-and-go traffic as conscientious drivers attempt to squash as few of the slimy or warty beasts as possible. These road restrictions are expected to last until the end of April, when all the hoppy critters are either deceased or on the other side of the road.
26. Feb. 2015

Haben Sie....Kabelbinder?

The British builders' supply chain B&Q dramatically increased their supply of Kabelbinder (cable ties), Seile (ropes), and Klebeband (tape) in the first half of February, not because of a building boom in the U.K., but because of the release of the movie Fifty Shades of Grey. They want to be able to assist their customers who want to reenact various scenes from the film. To this end management also ordered hundreds of copies of the book to loan to their employees so that they can give good advice to customers' "sensitive questions".
12. Feb. 2015

Big Brother is Listening

The NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ used hacker methods to steal the codes to millions of Sim-cards manufactured by the Dutch company Gemalto, allowing them to listen in on private telephone calls of cell phone users worldwide. It sounds like this was done several years ago. Gemalto is one of the main producers of Sim-cards (the little device inside your cell phone usually under the battery that allows the phone to connect to networks), but there are others as well and the manufacturer is not identified on the device. Only about 50% of Sim-cards are made by Gemalto, and I'm sure the NSA/GCHQ didn't steal the codes to all of them, so don't worry. Your phone probably isn't one they're listening to. Besides, if you're not talking about something illegal, what difference does it make?

Hey, it's all in the name of national security and our safety, right?
21. Feb. 2015

I Lost My Key!

About a week after the Kabelbinder story above appeared, we got another peek behind a door most of us would rather not open. This one takes us to London, where the police have reported an increase in 9-1-1 calls (to the emergency center) since the release of the movie Fifty Shades of Grey. It seems many would-be Greys are not able to free their partners from the Handfessel (hand cuffs) they bought to use in their sex games. Each incident costs British taxpayers about €400, according to the London fire and rescue chief.

The writer of the article, D. Leibbrand, went on to say that Brits may have a reputation for being stuffy, but clearly they are more loose and casual than we pietistic Swabians are. The Stuttgart rescue squad has not been called to any such emergencies despite the movie having been released in Germany more than a week ago. Perhaps it's because of the price - here in Baden-Württemberg the handcuffed sex kitten or her partner would have to pay the cost of the rescue.

Ms. Leibbrand also suggests that the order-loving Stuttgarters - keyword Kehrwoche (weekly sidewalk sweeping) - probably simply make a point of remembering where they laid down the key...
21. Feb. 2015

Local Reminder

Hedges, thick bushes, and large trees may not be cut back after March 1st, so get it done this month. The purpose of this rule (I think it's a law) is to protect the Lebensraum (living space) of the local feathered community, who may have already taken up residence in such prime locations. On March 1st they start scoping out where they will build their nests, and it is unfair - not to mention unchristian - to reduce their options once they've started looking. The poor little bahstards have a hard enough life, so do them a favor and cooperate. You'll save yourself paying a hefty fine, as well.

That just about covers it for this round.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Size Matters in America

M and I decided to brave the Saturday grocery store crowd yesterday because we needed just a few things and wouldn't even need a cart to navigate through the slow-moving hoards. I remembered we were low on Toastbrot, so I grabbed a loaf. I've written about German bread before, as most expat bloggers have, but today I want to write about American bread as Germans see it.

Toastbrot is the processed, packaged-in-plastic bread that has a shelf life of about three weeks and is really only good for making...well, toast. It comes in white or wheat varieties, the slices are 9 cm (about 3.5 inches) square, and they fit nicely into the toaster. No self-respecting German would eat that bread "raw", though this is the closest to what Americans normally use for sandwiches. Its quality is a bit better than Wonderbread®, but eaten raw it still sticks to the roof of your mouth.

Germans have this idea that everything in America is BIG. I wonder how they got that idea... Anyway, this is Toastbrot marketed for the benefit of visiting Americans, complete with American flag design on the packaging to draw us in:

Look! It's American bread!

Why is it American sandwich bread? Because it's....50% bigger than regular German Toastbrot. These huge honkin' slices of squishy packaged bread are 11 cm by delicious 11 cm of good ol' processed American goodness. The package says a special dough is used to keep the bread extra soft - just like Americans like it.

Here you can see a slice of the little German Toastbrot next to the big mother slice of American sandwich bread.

The whole bigger is better thing in America is widely known here, as seen in American movies and TV shows aired on German TV - SUVs and family vans, TVs, houses, garages, yards, hotels, beds, parking lots, super stores, garbage cans...

And it's not just a false perception of Germans. I bought this bottle of cold medicine in the U.S. last time I was there, but only noticed the "50% bigger" label the other day. Wait, this is medicine. "Bigger" medicine? Didn't they mean 50% more effective? Nope. Just bigger. As in this 8-ounce bottle is bigger. 50% bigger than what? Read the fine print.

"50% bigger than our 8-ounce size"
Thanks for the math lesson.

This bottle contains 12 ounces - not just 8! - of near-coma-inducing elixir. It tastes like shit (though with a little imagination the green flavor can taste vaguely like ouzo), but a dram of this and I can only hang on for about 24 minutes before I'm out cold for the rest of the night. Despite her many faults, America does know how to do cold medicine.

Back to the BIGASS AMERICAN sandwich bread, in trying to figure out what to do with all this Toastbrot I bought, I decided I could make french toast (Germans call that Armer Ritter, or "poor knight") for brunch this morning. I haven't made that in a coon's age, and I have all the ingredients I need including maple syrup, which is totally uncommon here (it's too sweet for the Germans). The only trouble is that I'll have to squish or cut the American sandwich bread to fit two pieces into my German pan.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Avoiding Messy Marketing

Yesterday when I took the photo for Wordless Wednesday, I realized I had another topic for a blog post, courtesy of Procter & Gamble, makers of Vicks® products for colds - VapoRub, Nyquil, etc.

If you'll notice in the picture below, the little green symbol identifying Vicks® is the same on the two products, one purchased in the U.S., and the other purchased in Germany.

But if you zoom in (click on the photo) you'll notice the product name in the little green symbol is different on the box of pills sold in Germany. It says "Wick" instead of Vicks®. Why is that?

First of all, the V in German is pronounced like the English F. So Vicks would be pronounced "Ficks." Not a big deal, right?  Well, "ficken" is a vulgar German word for "to fornicate," and I'm guessing the Procter & Gamble Powers that Be decided a product thus labeled would not market well here.

So they went with the change from V to W (Vicks to Wicks), but here we have another problem. The W in German is pronounced like the English V, so we should be back to the English name for the brand, "Vicks". True, but this also presents a problem because "Vicks" is too close to the German word "Wichser," which is equivalent to the British "wanker," or the verb "wichsen," which is "to masturbate." So they dropped the -s, changing the brand name to Wick - pronounced "Vick" over here. Close enough, and far less potentially controversial than the other options.

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during the meeting of the marketing team of Procter & Gamble the day they discussed what to call Vicks® VapoRub on their product packaging in Germany...

"This is critical, folks. We can't screw this one up! If our customers rub this stuff on the wrong body part(s), there will be hell to pay."

**Disclaimer: I'm just makin' this shit up - I don't really know the story behind the changing of Vicks to Wick. But what other explanation could they have, right?  :-)

Update: That IS the reason! M looked it up, and sure enough, in Germany the name Vicks was changed to Wick "to avoid sexual connotations." I just explained the issue with a little more detail.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Schmotziger Donnerstag, or Dirty Thursday

I wrote the following post last year, but I think it's appropriate to resurrect it for today with a few minor updates and new pictures.

Today is Schmotziger Donnerstag ("Dirty Thursday") in Swabia. This day is similar to "Fat Tuesday", which some Catholics in Wisconsin celebrate the day before Ash Wednesday. Even at my former (Catholic!) school in Wisconsin we teachers organized a "Fat Tuesday" luncheon, a potluck of sorts, so we could pig out before settling in to the guilt and penitence of Lent. We had that in the staff room during the lunch period, and then we went back to our classrooms to finish the day.

Here in the Catholic communities of Swabia, the lead-in to Lent is quite different. It starts in earnest today. The Narrenzünfte (fools' guilds) put on their costumes, take over the towns, ceremoniously take the key from the Bürgermeister (who cheerfully gives it up because he has no other reasonable choice), set the school children loose at noon, and wreak havoc in good fun. The town keys are humbly and sheepishly returned on Ash Wednesday by those who can still walk, as the local beverage store owners gleefully count their tills. It's like Black Friday for the venders of beer, wine, and liquor.

The Narrenzunftmeister has the key to the town

crazy witch-creature on the town hall

Our Bürgermeister says a few words imploring the Narren to be good

One of the three Fasnet costumes of our town consists of black skirts with black and yellow striped stockings. They are the witches. We also have a group of Blockstrecker who wear white costumes, black hats, and bells. The third group, which I hope to catch a good photo of next year, are the Wildschweine (wild boars). They have a special name, but I didn't catch what it is.  Each town has such groups that identify their allegiance, but there are other common costumes as well - witches, devils, and other scary figures intended to chase away the demons of winter, which was the origin of Fasching/Fasnet/Karnival, after all.

the masks are made of wood
This is one of the witches standing in the Hexenwagen (witch wagon).

Last year I was invited to the after-school reception for teachers at the school where I teach the Englisch-AG, so after giving the students time to disperse, I headed over there. The headmaster, a friend of mine, greeted me wearing Lederhosen and a felt hat and playing the accordion, his brother (also a teacher and a friend of mine) was dressed in overalls and funny glasses, and most of the other teachers were in costumes as well. It's a bit like Halloween in Wisconsin. The work was over for the day, so they had donuts (Fasnetsküchle , which are like Berliner but diamond-shaped and lacking the jelly filling), cookies, and Sekt (sparkling wine) spread out on the conference table. Back in Wisconsin, at least during my years at the school, we had to relocate from the school grounds to a nearby bar to toast the start of a break.  Not here!
Fasnetsküchle (Swabian for "little Fasching cakes")
These are homemade! Our wonderful neighbor just brought them over!

The group sang Swabian Fasnet songs as the headmaster accompanied with his accordion, danced or clapped along, and generally just had fun. They then brought out a contraption that made me a little nervous at first - but all it was was a mini-catapult that they loaded up with a Schokoküssle (large chocolate-covered marshmallow). You had to throw a ball at one part of the machine, and if you hit the right spot, the Schokoküssle was flung at you to catch. Each of us had a go, and most of us successfully caught the Schokoküssle (and then had to eat it).

My teacher-friend explained to me that Fasnet (called Fastnacht, Fasching, or Karnival in other parts of Germany and Mardi Gras in N'Orleans) is and has traditionally been mainly a Catholic thing. In traditionally Catholic towns like Bildechingen, Eutingen, Horb, Rottenburg, etc., Fasnet is very popular, and you're kind of the odd-one-out if you're not in costume. In Protestant communities like Mühlen (3 km from Bildechingen), Tübingen, and Freudenstadt, business goes on as usual. In Horb if you're not into all the shenanigans of Fasnet, you might want to pack up and get the heck out of Dodge until Ash Wednesday. If you live in Freudenstadt and want to party, you pack up and settle someplace more Catholic and fun for a few days.

As if on cue to illustrate his point, a man came in with a delivery of something and briefly said hello as we were singing, dancing, and toasting with Sekt. As he was leaving my friend called enthusiastically with a twinkle in his eye, "Schöne Fasnetszeit!" ("Have a nice Fasching-holiday!") The man replied, "Nein, nein. Ich bin aus Freudenstadt. Zum Lachen gehen wir in den Keller." ("No, no. I'm from Freudenstadt. We go into the cellar to laugh.")  The point being, if that wasn't clear, that when Protestants have fun around here, they do it in the basement so no one can see or hear them behaving so shamefully.

Believe it or not, another person showed up during a song when we were all swaying side to side in unison, and stood for a moment in the doorway. She was wearing bright green shiny pants, so I thought she was a teacher and that was her costume. We stopped the song and the swaying and the headmaster gave her a "'S'up?" look. She said "I'm here from the school in Dornstetten (my friend whispered to me that that's another Protestant town), and I'm supposed to pick up [something I didn't understand]."  My friend offered her a Fasnetsküchle while the headmaster went to look for the thing she was supposed to pick up. He came back with it, and the woman pointed to her pants and said, "Well, I'm somewhat dressed up..." The headmaster replied, "Yeah, that's close enough for Dornstetten." He serenaded her with the accordian as she left to return to her boring little Protestant village, where the schools are still in session...

In the interest of accuracy, I wasn't really correct when I said that the lead-in to Lent starts today. It actually started in Swabia on Jan. 6, with the 12th day of Christmas. Every year right after the local children go around and write the Epiphany blessing on everyone's doors, the villagers get ready to party. There are mask-dusting-off gatherings, anniversary celebrations for various Narrenzünfte, a parade now and then, Fasching-themed parties, dance shows, and so on from January 6th to Faschingsdienstag ("Fat Tuesday"). But the heavy stuff (including, for some, the heavy drinking) begins today.

One of the things that fascinates me here is that nearly everything from the local customs, the architecture of buildings, the habits, the rules, and the fun-and-games have a rich history. One way to look at Fasnet is to see a bunch of drunk costumed fools running around causing traffic chaos, a mess, and a nuisance. But I'm learning there's much more to it than that. It's not really my thing (I grew up Protesant, after all), but I am starting to see why it is fun for others. I can't get excited about drinking and partying, but I can get into anything where there is something to learn about local traditions.

Happy Dirty Thursday!  Bleibt sauber!  ("Stay clean"!)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Four Things

I saw this "Four Things" post on a blog  I often read (a Different Piece of Sky - isn't that a lovely title?) and through that writer found several others who did the same thing. They were fun to read, and I thought I'd do one too, especially since I'm in a writer's slump again.

Four Names People Call or Have Called Me

  1. Bethy Boo (my grandpa called me that)
  2. Nervous Nellie (friends)
  3. Betty (only a special select few, because I hate the name)
  4. Mom

Four Movies I Have Watched More Than Once

Goodness gracious - just four?! I'm more likely to re-watch a movie I know I like than watch a new one.
  1. The 13th Warrior
  2. Nirgendwo in Afrika
  3. Dances with Wolves
  4. The Man from Snowy River

Four Jobs I have Had

  1. Counter Person at McDonald's (can I say "Customer Service Professional"?)
  2. Cashier & Assistant in a pharmacy
  3. Customer Service Coordinator at Allied Van Lines
  4. High School English and German Teacher
I'm not working here - but I hired Allied to move my stuff to Germany,
and this was the day they loaded it all up!

Four Books I Recommend

  1. The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran
  2. Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett
  3. Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen
  4. The Razor's Edge, by W. Somerset Maugham

Four Places I've Lived

  1. Sheboygan, Wisconsin (USA)
  2. Appleton, Wisconsin
  3. Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
  4. Horb, Germany
Horb am Neckar

Four Places I've Been

  1. Vienna, Austria
  2. Berlin, Germany
  3. Concord, Massachusetts (USA)
  4. Rome, Italy

Four Places I'd Rather Be

Sorry, this one I really can't do. I am exactly where I want to be.

Four Things I Don't Eat

  1. Beans
  2. Coconut
  3. Nutella (anything with hazelnut flavor)
  4. Snails, oysters, or sushi

Four of My Favorite Foods

  1. Beef tenderloin
  2. Lamb chops
  3. Geschnetzeltes und Rösti
  4. Cheese
    Geschnetzeltes und Rösti

Four TV Shows I Watch

  1. The Big Bang Theory
  2. die Kochprofis
  3. The Mentalist
  4. Any Quiz or Trivia Show - especially German ones where I learn something!

Four Things I'm Looking Forward to This Year

  1. A week on the Isle of Mull and some extra days near Edinburgh
  2. My daughter's college graduation from my alma mater in June
  3. Twelve days with family and friends in Wisconsin in June
  4. Day trips to new towns in Germany

Four Things I'm Always Saying

  1. "Thank you" or "Danke."  (I'm not just being sappy - I say it all the time!)
  2. "Ich liebe Dich."
  3. [In answer to "What are you doing?"] "I'm writing an email to your mother."
  4. "I'm cold."

Four Things I Do Almost Every Day

  1. Nap
  2. Read the newspaper
  3. Read new blog posts by my favorite expat bloggers
  4. Write

What about you? Pick a category and leave your list in the comments, or write your own "Four Things" post!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Shoveling, German-style

Here on the edge of the Schwarzwald we've been getting a fair bit of snow lately - for us. I realize it's nothing compared to the recent blizzard that shut down the city of Boston, and also really not much compared to a normal winter in Wisconsin. But we've had plenty for this winter and I want it to stop.

I should say that I am glad for the businesses and people who rely on snow and cold for their livelihoods - ski hills, snowshoe salesmen, etc. And yes, the snow is pretty when it sticks to the trees.

But I'd just as soon have a snowless winter, personally.

I'm using the photo below to illustrate what makes a few inches (say 12 cm) of snow a pain in my ass here. Notice that the street is just wide enough for two cars to pass each other - unless, of course, there is a car parked on the side of the road, which there usually is. With a car parked on either side of the street, a Wisconsin snowplow wouldn't get through. Also notice that there is no patch of grass between the sidewalk and the street. You don't miss it 'til you ain't got it. More on that shortly.

Lastly, that hedge. That's our hedge down a little ways on the left, but it's not that high anymore. We had it cut back two years ago, and now it's about chest-high on me when I'm standing on the sidewalk. After today I may suggest we cut it back again to about knee-height.

This was today, just after I'd finished shoveling the first time:

My Wisconsin readers are thinking, "Wait, you call
that a snow storm? You can't be serious."

You can see that the street is now a single-track (but two-way) road, and there's a pile of snow all along the sidewalk in the street. Germans - at least in this area - tend to shovel the snow from their sidewalk into the street for the plow to take with it when it passes. And the plow does take about half of it. The other half is, of course, pushed back onto the sidewalk. To be shoveled back onto the street... This cycle continues until it gets warm enough for the snow in the street to melt and drip into the sewers. The plow makes one or two passes, and the plowed path is the width of one car. Driving, which I already hate even when the roads are dry and obstacle-free, takes on a whole new level of fun when the already-narrow streets and roads lose half their width.

I can't get on board with the shovel-it-into-the-street method, and I want a clean sidewalk. So I throw the snow over our hedge into the yard. It's additional exercise out in the fresh air, right?

This was the street I lived on in Wisconsin:

Things I miss:
  1. residential streets that are 5 cars wide
  2. 65-gallon (246-liter) garbage and recycling bins - collected every week
  3. that beautiful, wide patch of grass between the sidewalk and the street that may have no purpose beyond being a place to collect plowed and shoveled snow in the winter
When the plow comes by in Wisconsin, he pushes the snow off the street onto the grassy patch and across the end of the driveway. You have to then shovel out the end of your driveway again, but you don't have to worry about the snow on the grassy strip unless it covers your mailbox - then you have to dig that out too or wait until spring to get your mail.

Here in the Schwabenland, since yards are bordered by fences, six-foot hedges, and/or high stone walls, there's just no place for the snow to go - hence the shovel-snow plow street battle, which in Wisconsin is only a problem at the end of one's driveway.

Speaking of driveways, ours is made of bricks and there are two deep tire grooves where the car comes and goes. If I had a dime for every time our shovel has a head-on collision with a misaligned brick... "Sccrraaaaapppppeeee.....BAM! 'Shit!'" I get impaled in the stomach by the handle of my shovel.

In the end, big deal. It's snow. Shovel it and shut up, right? I started writing this blog four hours ago, and as I sit here now I'm looking out to blue sky, sun shining on the snow drifts, and snow throwing itself off the tree branches and dripping from everywhere. The snow in the street has already melted, and now the sun is going after the piles of snow on the side of the street.

So the joke's on me. The snow that everyone else pushed into the street while I was heaving it over our hedge like an Amazon? Melting as I type and dripping into the sewer.

Is it spring yet?

Yes, yes...lovely, if you like that sort of thing.