A Refugee's Story: Andrew H. Speaks

German newspapers have graciously conferred refugee status in every foreigner here, so I would like to publish the story of Andrew H., whose story stands for so many.

Andrew H. in his state-subsidized apartment reading one of his favorite books"My name is Andrew H. I'd rather not give you my last name or where I live, except to say it's near the Rhine river. 

I arrived in Germany 10 years ago with nothing but two suitcases and a few college degrees. I was fleeing my home country. Perhaps you've heard of it -- it's called the United States of America. A backward and foolish leader had just taken power. He promptly plunged the country into several different wars at once. He ran a huge budget deficit, and appointed corrupt cronies to important government ministries. He was finally removed from office in 2008, but just as I thought it might be safe to return, a massive financial crisis enveloped the country, so I decided to stay.

The trip over was harrowing. I had to pay a shady outfit called "Air France" a small fortune for a tiny, cramped place among hundreds of other people. To add insult to injury, the in-flight 'entertainment' was Police Academy 3. I kept looking out the window in terror, wondering whether we would end up on the bottom of the Atlantic, like so many other Air France flights.

At first, Germans were welcoming. I found a job at a college, but it was only a temporary position, which needed to be renewed every 6 months. It took a long time getting used to the local customs and conditions. Attractive young female policewomen, seasons, crappy television, front-page tabloid tits, fantastic public transportation, the baffling omnipresence of kale, legal drinking in public, the constant grumbling and bitching -- all these things were new to me.

I found out that Germans had many prejudices about my people. They thought we Americans were loud, fat, arrogant culture-free boors who knew nothing about the rest of the world. They kept asking me why the rulers of my country were so violent and paranoid. People would call out: "Hey Ami, where's your SUV?" or "You can take your Big Mäc and shove it up your big fat white ass, Ami!" That really hurt. They were also concerned about the effect Americans would have on the job market. Time and again, they asked me: "So, you're an American, eh? Did you come here to give us jobs?" 

I soon realized I would need to learn German. I was kind of ambivalent. Not speaking German insulated me from the stupid things people said and wrote in my new homeland, significantly improving my mental health. Yet I knew that I needed to learn the language to advance my career. I won't lie to you -- it was hard learning German. But eventually I managed to scrape together enough German to get by. I found out that the natives here can't even begin to pronounce my first name correctly, and my last name actually means something not very flattering in their language.

I guess you could say I've fit in, sort of. There are still many things I miss about my homeland: Twinkies, twinks, 64-ounce sodas, random gun violence, Hummers, American Gladiators, chocolate-covered bacon, BaconBits, and bacon-flavored mayonnaise, just to name a few. But I've found lots of new things to like about Germany, including Sex-Kino 'Wichskabine', Schlager festivals, Heino, Sido, and Kotzbecken. All in all, it's been a rough transition, but I feel I've learned a lot as a human being."


Integration Failure: Imam Refuses to Touch Extremely Good-Looking German Woman

Julia-Klöckner

During a visit to a migrant shelter, a German Imam refused to shake hands with this German politician, Julia Klöckner, because she's a woman.

This raises myriad sensitive and complex issues of equal rights and cultural integration, such as: "Dude, can this majestic Nordic MILF get any hotter?!", and "WTF Abdul, are you freakin' blind?" 


Presidential Candidate Says Muslims Shouldn't Be President

I haven't blogged about the American Presidential race because I don't live there anymore and don't really care who runs it, as long as it's not a very silly person like George W. Bush. For the record, I support Bernie Sanders, have donated to his campaign, and would vote for him if I still bothered to vote in American elections, which I haven't done recently. The last place I was registered to vote was Texas, so I can only vote there. I don't care who runs Texas, and my Texas vote never has the slightest role to play in national elections. because of the silly Electoral College.

But this is really something else. Ben Carson is a retired neurosurgeon. By all accounts a gifted one, he was the first to separate twins conjoined at the head. He is also a Seventh-Day-Adventist (that's one of those shiny new American religions, by the way) and is running for the Republican Presidential nomination. Here's a short excerpt of a recent interview: 

Carson thinks a Muslim shouldn't be President because Islam is inconsistent with the Constitution of the US. US Constitution, Art. VI: "[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

Now, Ben Carson will never become President of the USA, not even in the darkest alternate timeline where the zombies join up with the aliens. But still, the fact that millions of Americans think he should be is rather sobering.


Will a German Doctor's Snake-Oil Doom America's Carnivorous Plants?

It's the golden age of podcasts, everybody, and I've just discovered a fine one: Criminal. Each episode is 20 minutes long and has something to do with some sort of crime. The first episode profiled a man convicted of killing his wife who may be freed by proof an owl actually killed her. From this podcast we learn that 'owlstrike' is a word, and that owls usually attack humans on the right rear side of the head, and that owls are strong and silent and can really fuck you up if they want. There's also a story about the late 1990s inkjet currency-counterfeit trend, and a profile of one of Wyoming's three female coroners, who talks about a man who kept himself alive during a cold winter by drinking antifreeze.

The German connection comes in Episode 5, 'Dropping like Flies'. The carnivorous venus flytrap plant grows naturally only in a 90-square-mile of North Carolina:

Problem is, the market for flytraps is booming. Poachers can get between 10 and 25 cents per plant, and local flytrap nurseries make a healthy profit selling them on. The plants aren't yet listed as endangered, so the penalties are relatively low.

'Criminal' goes on the hunt for who is buying all these plants, and quickly arrives at the door of Carnivora. Carnivora is a U.S.-based company that sells a product based on extracts from the Venus Flytrap plant which it claims boosts the immune system. They're not allowed to claim that it cures cancer under U.S. law, but that is the main selling point in countries where they can make this claim. The man who came up with the formula was a German 'country doctor' named Helmut Keller. This 1985 article (g) from Der Spiegel records the frenzy surrounding the then-new preparation, as desperate cancer patients begged Keller to treat them.

Now, as the podcast reports, Keller's been dead for four years ('still here, but on the Other Side', claims the company's new director), the company is under new management, and is not being accused of breaking any American laws, since it only calls Carnivora a dietary supplement, not a cancer cure. Also, the current owner of the company claims it doesn't buy any flytraps from North Carolina, but instead gets them from laboratories in Holland and China. But if Carnivora isn't behind the huge recent increases in demand for flytrap plants, who or what is? As you might expect in the area of carnivorous-plant-poaching and alternative medicine, there are a lot of gray areas. A fascinating listen.


Everyone in Indonesia Will Want U.S. Style Air-Conditioning Soon

The Washington Post reports that 87% of American homes have air conditioning, and as every European knows, they don't just have it, they use it, baby, to create nipple-shattering indoor Arctic coldscapes (see how accurate stereotypes are?):

Overall, it's safe to say that Europe thinks America's love of air-conditioning is actually quite daft. Europeans have wondered about this particular U.S. addiction for a while now: Back in 1992, Cambridge University Prof. Gwyn Prins called America's love of air-conditioning the country's "most pervasive and least-noticed epidemic," according to the Economist. And according to the Environmental Protection Agency, it's getting worse: American demand for air-conditioning has only  increased over the past decades.

The U.S. has been the world's leader in air-conditioning ever since, and it's not a leadership Americans should necessarily be proud of. According to Stan Cox, a researcher who has spent years studying indoor climate controlling, the United States consumes more energy for air conditioning than any other country. In many parts of the world, a lack in economic development might be to blame for a widespread absence of air-conditioning at the moment. However, that doesn't explain why even most Europeans ridicule Americans for their love of cooling and lack of heat tolerance.

Of course, Northern Europe is still colder than most regions within the United States and some countries, such as Italy or Spain, have recently seen an increase in air-conditioning. "The U.S. is somewhat unusual in being a wealthy nation much of whose population lives in very warm, humid regions," Cox told The Washington Post in an e-mail. However, the differences in average temperatures are unlikely to be the only reason for Europeans'  reluctance to buy cooling systems. It's also about cultural differences.

...

"The bottom line is that America's a big, rich, hot country," Cox told The Post. "But if the second, fourth, and fifth most populous nations -- India, Indonesia, and Brazil, all hot and humid -- were to use as much energy per capita for air-conditioning as does the U.S., it would require 100 percent of those countries' electricity supplies, plus all of the electricity generated by Mexico, the U.K., Italy, and the entire continent of Africa," he added.

That's not at all an unlikely scenario: In 2007, only 2 percent of Indian households had air-conditioning, but those numbers have skyrocketed since.  "The rise of a large affluent urban class is pushing use up," Cox explained.

"I have estimated that in metropolitan Mumbai alone, the large population and hot climate combine to create a potential energy demand for cooling that is about a quarter of the current demand of the entire United States," Sivak concluded in a paper published by the American Scientist.

"If everyone were to adopt the U.S.'s air-conditioning lifestyle, energy use could rise tenfold by 2050," Cox added, referring to the 87-percent ratio of households with air-conditioning in the United States. Given that most of the world's booming cities are  in tropical places, and that none of them have so far deliberately adopted the European approach to air-conditioning, such calculations should raise justified concerns.

Nope, Brazilians, Indonesians and Indians are definitely not going to adopt a 'European' approach to air-conditioning, because those countries don't have European climates. Anybody who lives in a humid climate falls in love with air-conditioning the minute they experience it, and never go back. So we'd better get crackin' on much more efficient air-conditioners yesterday. Some Indian zillionaire should sponsor a contest: $10 million to the first team that develops an 80% more efficient air conditioner. The Future of Humanity™ could well at stake.


Can All Germans Swim?

There's a heat wave going on in Germany right now. Trains are screeching to a halt, asphalt is melting, and people are flocking to local lakes to cool off. Yesterday, in this part of Germany alone, four adults drowned (g) in those lakes, and one six-year-old boy almost drowned.

This is pretty shocking. Four people in one day! Is this because they can't swim, or can't swim well enough? I wonder whether Germans routinely learn to swim during their education. This is standard in most parts of the USA, where hot weather and swimming pools and beaches are a fact of life. Maybe not so in Germany, where there are perhaps 15 really hot days in any given year.

Or perhaps it's a combination of (1) no lifeguard supervision; (2) alcohol consumption; and (3) murky water and uneven surfaces. Any other theories?