Sunday, April 30, 2006

HDR

High Dynamic Range imaging creates some amazing photos. You can go to Flickr and search the tag, HDR, for more public images available. I find them truly amazing and want to know how to create such images.

Some of my favorite public images available from Flickr:





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The White House Correspondents' Dinner

Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central was so EXCELLENT in his performance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. It was all billed as comedy, but he said what everyone is thinking. You can see that the correspondents and invited guests were noticeably nervous and uncomfortable. The guests include military generals, Scalia of the US Supreme Court, other govrnment officials, including the supreme idiot/dictator--Bush.

You have to see this! I love it! He really challenged the President/Dictator Bush like no one in the media EVER will. Check it out.

For more details and commentary on the event, click here.

Here is a preview of the article:

Colbert, who spoke in the guise of his talk show character, who ostensibly supports the president strongly, urged the Bush to ignore his low approval ratings, saying they were based on reality, “and reality has a well-known liberal bias.” He attacked those in the press who claim that the shake-up at the White House was merely re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. “This administration is soaring, not sinking,” he said. “If anything, they are re-arranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg.”Colbert told Bush he could end the problem of protests by retired generals by refusing to let them retire. He compared Bush to Rocky Balboa in the “Rocky” movies, always getting punched in the face—“and Apollo Creed is everything else in the world.”
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Duesseldorf Neighborhoods


If you are moving to Duesseldorf or just want to know a little more about this nice city, this post is for you. By and large Duesseldorf is a safe city with excellent public transportation so where ever you live it will be great. I do not live in one of these eight areas, but I am two underground stops away from major shopping, restaurants and nightlife. So as long as you live in central Duesseldorf and not in a suburb, then you have no worries.

Are you wondering which neighborhoods are the best neighborhoods for quality of life? Here are my top choices:

1. Oberkassel/Niederkassel--Nice, quiet residential neighborhood with good restaurants on the other side of the Rhine, opposite Old Town.

2. Derendorf/Nord Strasse--Lively shopping, residential area within walking distance of Old Town and "downtown" shopping.

3. Altstadt--Bars and restaurants galore with quiet residential side streets in a central location.

4. Friedrichstadt--Convenient shopping and residential area just south of Old Town and Koenigsalle.

5. Golzheim--Upscale residential area in the northern part of the city, close to the Rhine, airport, Congress center/Messe, and easy Autobahn access.

6. Duesseltal--Clean, quiet residential area with good shopping and a little east of Old Town.

7. Unterbilk--Affordable residential area with a larger University student population with many bars and cafes.

8. Zoo--Quiet residential area near Duesseltal neighborhood. Several streets with big, expensive homes and the residents are on average a bit older.

There are some outlaying suburban areas that have good access to Duesseldorf. They tend to be of higher income brackets, families with kids and significantly higher rents and home prices. Such as Kaiserswerth in the north of Duesseldorf and Meerbusch in the west on the other side of the Rhine.
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Saturday, April 29, 2006

US Healthcare vs. German Healthcare

This is a long post because I am amazed about what I have discovered. I came across this information after researching this topic on the web. Continue reading for more info...

I have psoriasis, and it is an embarrassing skin disorder that turns your skin very red in certain areas, namely your legs and elbows. I cannot remember the last time I wore a short-sleeved shirt or shorts because of the appearance of my skin on my elbows and legs. There are many people in the public at large that are not aware of psoriasis and may believe it is contagious, so to save myself the embarrassment, I just do not wear short-sleeved shirts or shorts in public.

Up until December 2005 I had Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, an HMO, as my health insurance provider. As a sufferer of psoriasis, I had to visit my dermatologist at least once every six months. Every time I had an appointment with her, I would tell her that the lastest cream she prescribed was NOT working and my psoriasis is negatively impacting my life. (I could not wear short sleeves, I cannot wear shorts, I can not go swimming--which I absolutely loved). I would inquire about a new treatment or drug that was approved by the FDA, and she would just say something like, "Oh, well, Kaiser doesn't approve of that drug." She would then prescribe a new cream that did not clear my psoriasis in any way and worse, would actually burn my skin to the point where I could not use it. So I learned to live with my psoriasis and could never go swimming or wear shorts, even if it was 110 degrees Farenheit (or 43 degrees Celsius) in Arizona. [I visited Arizona frequently because I lived there for 6 years and still have close friends there.]

All of that history brings me to the main reason for my post. I visited the dermatologist here in Duesseldorf yesterday for the first time. The doctor was very friendly and obviously cared about treating my condition effectively. He wrote me two prescriptions, and I went to the Apotheke (pharmacy, for those of you in America) to have them filled. I went home and immediately applied the cream to the affected areas. I could see a noticeable difference after only one application. The intense redness begain to subside almost immediately. Today is day two, and it is continuing to improve dramatically. I am even optimistic that by the time two weeks have elapsed and we're in France on vacation, I may be able to wear shorts and a short-sleeved shirt.

Now tell me, why did I not receive similar results from Kaiser back in the US??? I can tell you why. Because Kaiser Permanente is the most corrupt, careless, money-grubbing machine in the US. The patients are treated like cattle. For more information on how bad Kaiser really is, click here.
I am glad I was able to receive treatment that really works here in Germany! Kaiser is about maximizing profits and minimizing costs. Who suffers because of this greed? The patients. Patients are human beings with their lives being severly impacted by the greed of Kaiser.

My German dermatologist was so friendly. He was really busy and I was not even a patient with an appointment. He had this caring aura about him. It reminded me of the old days when I was a child. I remember the doctors being friendly and they really cared about providing quality healthcare for their patients. Sadly, today it is all about MONEY in the US.

I invite other expat bloggers to tell me what they think of the German healthcare system vs. the US healthcare system. I can say, thus far, Germany has the US beat! Of course, any one and all are welcome to leave comments....
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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Madonna Tickets On Sale Friday Morning!



Madonna's "Confessions On A Dancefloor" tour begins this summer. The tickets will be on sale starting Friday morning. We will be going to see her in Duesseldorf on August 20th, Sunday! Let's keep our fingers crossed that we get excellent, front-row seats!

UPDATE: WE WERE ABLE TO SECURE THE SECOND-BEST CATEGORY, ROW 13 even though we logged on the moment tickets went on sale for those that had signed up for a pre-sale special. We are going to try again tomorrow morning for the first general sale. We will aim for the highest category, the best seats, which are 193 Euros each. That may seem expensive, but we have not been to a concert in quite a long time....(M said he hasn't been to a concert in 10 years. His last concert was Tina Turner in Switzerland in 1996. My last concert was Depeche Mode in Miami, Florida and I am not going to even give the year. (wink, wink)

Update II: My partner received a follow-up email from eventim.de advising some more tickets have been released. We logged back on to the website and were able to secure Category I tickets. We even have Category II being sold to new fellow bloggers in Duesseldorf. Check out his blog here.
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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Today in Duesseldorf

Today M and I strolled around Duesseldorf enjoying the mild weather. Here are some impressions...

This one is titled: "German Advice." It is on the side of a bank in Altstadt Duesseldorf. (Old Town) The translation: This fairytale will never come true. Life teaches us to be wise and save (money).


This was so beautiful I had to take a shot:


More Spring flowers to enjoy:


This sign was so interesting to me. You would never see such a sign in America. At most you would see a sign that reads: Please do not feed the animals. The Germans are very precise. Bread for Ducks is Death for Ducks:

Another Mexican Restaurant in Duesseldorf


Last night we dined at one of Duesseldorf's other Mexican restaurants and let me tell you, it is not worth a visit. I ordered the "enchiladas." What I received was two miniature burritos, side-by-side on the plate covered in a flavorless, red sauce. The beans were the kind of beans that the British eat for breakfast (not very good to say the least), the rice was ok (you really can't go wrong with rice), and the saving grace was the margarita. It was very close to the real enchilada, let's say. ;)

If you live in Duesseldorf or if you're ever in Duesseldorf and want good Mexican food, skip El Paso's and go to Zapata's in Oberkassel, just across the bridge from Altstadt (Old Town.)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sad and Funny Story

BERLIN Apr 20, 2006 (AP)— A retiree in northern Germany flushed some 30,000 marks (euro15,300, US$18,900) down the toilet, believing the old bank notes were worthless, police said.

Officials were alerted by a blocked pipe in the northern city of Kiel. A cleaning company employee extracted soggy bundles of bank notes, but more money got away as the water started flowing again......(click link for the rest of the story from ABC News)
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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Volkswagen Commercial Airing on American Television



My sister-in-law recently arrived in Germany due to the family emergency I mentioned recently on my blog. She brought to my attention a series of funny Volkswagen commercials airing in America now. They are hilarious. You can go to Google Video and do a search for "vw commercials" and see the entire series.

Hilarious Berlitz Commercial

Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter Weekend

We are back in Duesseldorf now. Over this past weekend we spent time with M's family in Nuernberg and Kulmbach. Here are a few photos from our weekend. More postings this week.

We went to the Nuernberg Volkfest and here is what we enjoyed:


We also visited M's relatives in Kulmbach. Here is the castle in Kulmbach:


I don't remember ever seeing this in America, but it is all over Germany. As you can see from the photo, people in Germany decorate bushes in their yard with Easter eggs. Those without yards will place some branches in a vase and place it in a prominent place in the home during Easter:

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Holiday Weekend

I am back in Nürnberg with my partner and his family. It is Easter weekend and it is a 4-day weekend in Germany. We visited family today and ate lots of food. I understood maybe 50% of what was said today, but it was nice meeting the family...More later...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A Complete Lesson on the Word Fuck

If you are easily offended, please do not click on the link.
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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Thank you, ITALY!


OUT WITH BERLUSCONI !!!!!!! Thank you, Italy!

Now if only we could get rid of Bush in the US...

Update: Good morning, Beverly in Orange County, California! Thanks for reading my blog!
If you have any thoughts or suggestions, please e-mail me at james.ashburn@gmail.com.

Hunde Verboten (No Dogs Allowed)

As you may know from earlier posts, I was out of town on a family emergency. While in Nuernberg I was walking in a park and stumbled across this cute sign. The sign was placed by the entrance to a soccer field enclosed by a chain-link fence. The sign is warning that no dogs are allowed in the soccer field so as to keep it free of....well, you know. :)

Monday, April 10, 2006

How to Operate a German Window

I have some useful information for those of you who are going to be visiting Germany in the near future. It may seem trivial, but I assure you it is not. After talking to other expatriates and fellow German language classmates from around the world, the windows in Germany are a little tricky.. If you do not perform this task correctly it can have some serious side effects, namely a bump on the head.
It took me probably a month to learn this. I am not sure what that says about my mechanincal abilities, but here ya' go:


How to Operate a German Window:

1. If you want it to be closed and securely locked, be sure the handle is in the 6 o'clock position like so:




2. If you want to open the window inwards and have it pivot from the wall, turn the handle to the 3 o'clock position like so:




3. Finally, if you want to open the window inwards and have it pivot from the bottom window sill, turn the handle to the 12 o'clock position like so:



It seems simple, but wait until you operate your first window.....you'll see what I mean!
GOOD LUCK!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Back in Duesseldorf

I am back at home now. I just endured the most emotional, saddest 11 days of my life. I will post some more starting this week. I am going to my Berlitz class tomorrow, but I don't know how I can concentrate on learning German right now....

Monday, April 03, 2006

Family Emergency

I am out of town on a family emergency....