Separate the Colors, Leave the Lids On

The local news visits the largest glass recycling facility in Europe, in Dormagen. The report clears up a few mysteries about the ubiquitous glass-recycling boxes you see in Germany.

First of all, separating glass by colors actually does matter. You typically hear Germans saying it doesn't, because the trucks which clear the containers seem to dump everything haphazardly into the trailer compartment. Wrong! What bystanders can't see is that the trucks have separate compartments for each color of glass.

Glass of the wrong color, as well as non-glass items such as ceramics or even gun parts (according to the plant manager) are removed from the stream by hand. The rest is automated.

Oh, and although every box has a warning sign tells you to remove the lid before you recycle the bottle, this turns out to be wrong. The machines can easily remove lids, which are recyclable themselves, and intact bottles with lids are "more hygienic" for the human sorters to handle.

This has been your public-service post for the month of October.

Ulm Minster "Coated in Urine and Vomit" Thanks to German Videophobia


The Washington Post reports on the Ulm Minster:

The spire atop Ulm Minster, the world’s tallest church, juts 530 feet into the air above the German city for which it is named. In its 639th year, however, the Gothic structure could be laid low by a gross and unfortunate hazard: Too many revelrous Germans are ducking into the church’s alcoves to relieve their full bladders and queasy stomachs against the ancient walls.

“I’ve been keeping an eye on it for half a year now and, once again, it’s coated with urine and vomit,” Michael Hilbert, head of the local building preservation agency, told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

Those charged with maintaining the building, like Hilbert, worry that abrasive chemicals in the bodily fluids are abrading the sandstone blocks that form the church’s foundation. Making matters worse, the potential damage to the stone comes after the church recently completed an expensive renovation....

To stanch the flow of expelled waste, police patrols have increased in the area. Ulm also doubled city fines for public urination to 100 euros, or $110.

But neither the increased fines nor the extra patrols appear to have curbed the acidic eliminations. (Most sandstones are able to weather acids, like those in acid rains, without significant damage, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Certain sandstone types, however, contain carbonate cements that dissolve when exposed even to weak acids.)

This is another instance of the curious German aversion to video surveillance. Like nuclear power, inflation, and debt, Germans have an intense cultural aversion to video surveillance. This is largely explained by the Nazi excesses in monitoring the population, as well as the European culture of privacy, which gives you rights over your own image, even in public. But these legitimate concerns are endlessly exaggerated and hyped in public discussions here, so that there is an organized lobby against video surveillance even where it would be a cheap, obvious, and effective way to solve serious problems.

As here. This is not a hard case. Just set up a bunch of obvious video surveillance cameras and signs where the problem is worst. Post images of the offenders online.

The predictable riposte from Green Party members, the most strident opponents of video surveillance, is that this won't stop everybody from pissing on the church. I've heard this argument literally hundreds of times from Green Party member about virtually every proposed expansion of government or police power. 

One of the strange defects in German debate culture is that almost nobody makes the obvious counter-argument to the Greens: that a measure doesn't have to be 100% successful to be worth doing. We have laws against murder, yet murders happen nevertheless. Some people will still piss on the church after the cameras are installed, but there will be many fewer of them. Perhaps the cameras might catch people who are engaged in innocent activity (although what that might be is a bit hard to imagine). Of course, nobody would see these images except the people who monitor the camera feeds.

The idea that this miniscule infringement of the privacy of people who know they are in a public space outweighs the importance of preserving the world's architectural heritage is, frankly, ludicrous. I'd be willing to bet that all the privately-owned businesses within a kilometer of the Ulm Minster already have video surveillance. The notion that a masturbation video emporium (g) in Ulm can manage to protect itself, while one of the world's greatest Gothic churches cannot, is, well, beyond ludicrous.

Grow up, Germany. We're counting on you.

German Word of the Week: Schlammbeiser

Schlammbeisser 1

And now, to keep things classy, we move from public masturbation to feces. This is from a recent Atlas Obscura post:

Until 1913 the town Giessen, Germany had one special profession. It was the "Schlamp-Eiser," the men who walked the city and collected the feces of the citizens of town. 

Relatively early in the Middle Ages Giessen came up with a latrine innovation: They built small wooden boxes on the outside of the walls of the houses which included a pit latrine connected to a wooden pipe, which led feces down into a wooden bucket placed in the small spaces between the houses.

When the buckets were full, the feces had to be brought somewhere, but the spaces in between the houses were extremely narrow and it was hard to reach the buckets. Hence the Schlamp-Eiser was born. Using a long bent iron bar, men pulled out the filled buckets, collected the feces in a large cart, and transported the waste to the Rodtberg outside the town.

Word of the strange innovative waste system spread fast and spiteful onlookers started calling the citizens of Giessen "Schlammbeiser," which roughly translates to shit-eater.

...Normally the old-fashioned profession would be forgotten by now, if it wasn't for the obnoxious nickname the profession brought to the citizens of Giessen, which stuck up until today. For decades people were unhappy with the insulting term, but over more recent years citizens came to embrace the nickname, and today the Schlammbeiser name is used in cultural facilities, clubs and other places around the town. There is even a statue dedicated to the old Schlamp-Eiser. The bronze statue, built in 2005, is located right in the city center in front of the house where the last Schlamp-Eiser lived. 

This seems a bit odd to me: Schlammbeiser isn't any sort of German word. Schlamm is, but -beiser is not. Schlammbeißer would be approximately "mud (or sewage) biter".

Is this just a matter of some regional dialect, or is there another reason for the odd spelling of Schlammbeiser? Perhaps just a elision of Schlamp-Eiser? But then again, Schlamp isn't a word in modern German either, as far as I know. Schlampe is, but not Schlamp.

Any theories?

They Wended Their Way to Texas


Reading an interesting blog post about Danish genetic structure (they're very homogeneous), I came across mention of the Wends. Ignorant clown that I am, I had no idea what they were. It turns out the Wends really got around, as befits Slavic nomads. In fact, there's a Wendish Heritage Museum in rural Lee County, in South Central Texas:

The Museum is a complex of buildings which are connected by porches. In the center is a new facility with a display interpreting the history of the Wends. It also houses the Offices, Gift Shop, Library, and Archives. To the right and left are the old St. Paul school buildings. Exhibits include relics from the old country and Texas. Folk dress of Lusatia, the traditional Texas wedding dresses, and the beautiful Wendish Easter eggs are a few of the colorful exhibits.

Outdoor exhibits include two log buildings and farming equipment.The 1856 log room, built by the Kurio family, originally part of a dog trot home, is furnished as a bed room. A section of the earlier 1855 room is also preserved on the Museum grounds. The Mertink family log room is used to exhibit carpenter’s and farming tools.

The Lillie Moerbe Caldwell Memorial Library specializes in the history and genealogy of the Wendish people. It welcomes donations of family histories and genealogies.The Archives includes rare books in Wendish and German, manuscripts, personal papers, and a photographic collection.

The Texas Wendish Heritage Museum preserves the history of the Texas Wends, Slavic immigrants from Lusatia, an area in eastern Germany. Today the Wends of Lusatia are called Sorbs.

Wendish families began arriving in Texas in 1849, followed by a group of 35 in 1853. In 1854, a congregation of over 500 Wends immigrated on a chartered sailing ship, the Ben Nevis. This group founded a new homeland on 4,254 acres in Bastrop County (now Lee County) and named their new town Serbin. Other Wendish towns and congregations were soon organized.Many more Wends immigrated during the second half of the 19th Century.

The Museum is located in historic Serbin, near the St. Paul Lutheran Church, school and cemetery. The present Church building, built in 1871, is one of the painted churches of South Central Texas.

It's heartening to see how active the site is: the Wendish fest is coming up on September 25. Some highlights of last year's fest:


And here's a recipe for Wendish noodles from 'The Noodle Lady':

[The] following is the recipe for homemade Wendish noodles that Hattie Mitschke Schautschick learned to make as a child cooking alongside her grandma – Anna Matthijetz Mitschke – and her mama – Louise Mertink Mitschke. Hattie, as I’m sure you well know, is known around here as the Noodle Lady and the one in charge of producing the noodles we sell in our gift shop.

Two things to know upfront about making noodles: (1) If you use yard eggs, you can usually eliminate the water; and (2) try to avoid making noodles when it’s damp outside – the weather affects how fast they’ll dry.

  • 3 eggs
  • Water to fill half-eggshell 3 times (about 6 tablespoons)
  • 3 cups flour plus additional for rolling out dough
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Chopped parsley (optional)

Break the eggs into a large bowl, saving the most intact half-eggshell. Beat eggs and water together. Add 3 cups flour and the salt to form stiff dough. Roll out dough into a rectangle about 1/8-inch thick on a well-floured cutting board or countertop. Allow dough to dry about 10 minutes, turning occasionally.

When dough is dry but still pliable, cut into long sections about 3 inches wide. Take 3-inch sections and cut into thin strips about 1/8-inch wide. Cut strips into preferred length for cooking. Place cut noodles on a dish towel and fluff noodles so air can circulate around them. Allow cut noodles to dry thoroughly, at least overnight or longer if necessary. If noodles won’t be cooked right away, store them in a sealed plastic bag in either the pantry or the freezer for up to six months.

When ready to cook noodles, bring chicken broth to a boil in a large pot. Stir in butter, parsley and dried noodles. Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until tender. Be careful not to overcook. Remove pot from heat, leaving lid on, and let sit another 10 to 15 minutes. Do not drain. Makes 1 pound of noodles or 20 servings.

I love tiny museums, and I plan to visit this one next time I'm in the Lone Star State.

ULT FTW: "Us Runs the Water in the Mouth Together"

English shop

A literal translation of the German phrase 'mouth-watering'. This is part of the thriving ULT (ultra-literal translation) subculture, whose patron saint is Heinrich "Equal Goes it Loose" Lübke:

The term Lübke English (or, in German, Lübke-Englisch) refers to nonsensicalEnglishcreated by literal word-by-word translation of German phrases, disregarding differences between the languages in syntax and meaning.

Lübke English is named after Heinrich Lübke, a president of Germany in the 1960s, whose limited English made him a target of German humorists. For example, it was alleged that Lübke said to Queen Elizabeth II when they were waiting for a horse race to start:

  • Lübke's statement: "Equal goes it loose."
  • The sentence Lübke had in mind: "Gleich geht es los."
  • Meaning of the statement: "It'll start very soon."

In 2006, the German magazine konkret unveiled that most of the statements ascribed to Lübke have been coined inside the editorship of Der Spiegel, mainly by staff writer Ernst Goyke.

I once saw a woman wearing a T-shirt saying "With me is not good cherry-eating". I told her "Your T-shirt favors me."

Bayer buys Monsanto: 'Und es mag am Monsanto'schen Wesen Einmal noch die Welt genesen.'


[One of countless German anti-Monsanto memes; 'Tod' = is German for 'death'. Source

That faint popping sound is heads exploding all over Germany, as Bayer -- known to Germans as that Solid, Responsible, Traditional German Company Which Practices Soft, Gentle, Humane Rhineland Capitalism™ -- buys Monsanto, known to Germans as the Soulless American Hyper-Capitalist Death-Juggernaut Which Drives Indian Farmers to Suicide, Forces Frankenfoods Down Our Throats, and Poisons our Children's Ice Cream, Mandrake™.

In America, this would be the equivalent of the Little Debbie Snak Cake Company merging with the Church of Satan and the North American Man-Boy Love Association and announcing a line of Little Debbie Sphincter-Shaped Sweet Sugary Sodomy Stars™, to go with this other product:

Little debbie devil squares

Germany, I love you, I really do. But the only way to stop me from mocking your disingenuous faux-naïveté will be to pry the jokes... 

There's Vegans, and Then There's German Vegans


American public radio highlights a recent report by German nutritionists warning about the potential risks of a vegan diet: 

Berlin resident Moza Kabbar ... says there's a huge boom in enthusiasm for veganism in the city.

But not everyone in Germany is on board. In a new paper, the German Nutrition Society says a vegan diet can't provide everything your body needs.

"With a pure plant-based diet, it is difficult or impossible to attain an adequate supply of some nutrients," states the German Nutrition Society's new position on the vegan diet. "The most critical nutrient is B-12," which is found in eggs and meat. The group says if you follow a vegan diet, you should take supplements to protect against deficiencies.

According to the German nutritionists, other "potentially critical nutrients" that may be a challenge to get in a vegan diet include omega-3s — found in fatty fish — as well as minerals such as calcium, iron, iodine, zinc and selenium. So the group recommends that vegans get advice from a nutrition counselor and be "regularly checked by a physician." In addition, the society recommends against a vegan diet for pregnant women, women who are breast-feeding, children and adolescents.

Advocates for veganism say the new position from German nutritionists goes too far.

"With a little planning and knowledge, rest assured, you can get everything you need from a vegan diet for great health ... at any age," Jimmy Pierson, a spokesperson for the Vegan Society, based in England, told us by phone....

But to make sure you're covering all your bases, "I would recommend [taking] a standard multivitamin," [U.S. dietitian Lisa] Cimperman says. It's a good insurance policy for vegans.

As for putting kids on vegan diets, the American Academy of Pediatrics says children can be well-nourished on all kinds of vegetarian diets, "but nutritional balance is very difficult to achieve if dairy products and eggs are completely eliminated," the position states. The academy recommends that if your child is following a vegetarian diet, "you need to guard against nutritional deficiencies."

Allow me to engage in some armchair sociologizin' here. Notice that this American news source quotes a Brit and an American, who both say perfectly sensible things about veganism. The target audience for the German nutrition report is not people like this. The target is German hard-core ideological vegans. These exist in the UK and US also, but I'd wager there are more of them here in Germany.

Why? Because Germany is the land of philosophical Idealism, deontological moral absolutes, and sayings such as "To be German means to do a thing for its own sake" (g, Wagner) and "A German is someone who cannot tell a lie without believing it himself." (Adorno). And, since the late 1960s, a public discourse which is drenched in moral judgment.

Many German vegans are vegans not just because it's healthy, or because they don't want to see animals exploited. They think in rigid ideological categories. They are fundamentally convinced, like fundamentalists, that mankind was fundamentally never meat to consume animal protein, and that doing so is fundamentally immoral. Not only that, taking supplements would be an admission that a vegan diet is not fundamentally sufficient, weakening its claim to be the only fundamentally morally acceptable way to feed oneself.

You encounter the word fundamentally a lot in German. Also the word konsequent, which describes someone whose actions align scrupulously with their stated principles. I have met many German vegans. The majority are sensible and take supplements. But there's a pretty large minority who absolutely refuse to do so, seeing it as an unacceptable ethical compromise. The notion that they would change their habits when they have children is also seen unacceptable ethical compromise. After all, what is more important than passing on your own fundamentally morally superior values of absolute nonviolence and sustainability to your children, so they will continue the lonely, voice-in-the-wilderness crusade for a better world? Assuming, of course, that the neural tube defects leave them able to communicate.

These are the people the German nutritionists are trying to reach. Of course, hard-core ideological German vegans will ignore the message, because that's the kind of people they are.

As Wickham Steed put it: "The Germans dive deeper -- but they come up muddier."

Behold! I Shall Fish the Bottles Out of the Düssel

Take a look at this:


This is the Düssel river, the local Rhein tributary that gives Düsseldorf its name. Some rivers are so big, cities are built around them, not over them. The Düssel isn't that big. The city fathers of Düsseldorf did actually keep the river, mind you. However, it flows underground most of the way through the city, only popping into view occasionally. But when it does come into view, it's a refreshing change. And as here, near the Karolingerstraße, a bit of riverbank has been preserved, creating a nice park-like atmosphere.

Granted, it's only a little brook, and the riverbank is only about 5 meters on either side before the streets and buildings begin. But even a small bit of nature and green in the city does a surprising amount to make a place more livable. Trust me, I've lived in cities which don't know how to do this.

But here's the thing: you see those shapes in the water? No, they're not fish. There are fish in the Düssel, but they're much smaller. Those things are bottles. 

Fucking bottles.

Over the years, subhuman fucksticks have finished their bottles of cheap beer and casually tossed them into the river. Even though there's a bottle deposit in Germany, which poor people rely on, scouring the city for deposits. You could simply put the bottle on the bridge over the river, and it would be gone in literally 5 minutes, collected by some retiree living on a miserly pension. Also, no more than 2 meters from where I shot this photo, there are not only trash bins but a fucking glass recycling box.

But did Jackass McShitforbrains (or perhaps Güldüz Al-Antisocial) use any of these opportunities? No. He just threw the fucking bottle into the cool, clear, pristine water of the river. So every single time a human crosses this bridge and pauses to enjoy a nice view, he's reminded of the fact that certain humanoid entities exist who would fuck up a nice little view out of sheer laziness or spite.

I have never actually seen anyone throw a bottle in the Düssel. Actually, that's pretty fortunate, because if I did, I would probably fly into a rage and try to beat them to death. I'm not joking. One of the reasons Northwestern Europe is such a nice place to live is that people take care of public spaces. One of the many curses of the developing world is that people in those countries have no understanding of why it's important to keep public spaces clean. They are often scrupulously neat in their private homes, but think nothing of throwing garbage anywhere in the open. This is one of the key conflicts that arise when immigrants from the Third World arrive in Germany: they go picknicking in the park and leave a mound of dirty diapers, trash, bottles, plastic bags, disposable barbecues, and food remains just sitting in a pile in the middle of a pristine meadow of luscious green grass. 

Now, part of this is because the countries they come from don't have functioning garbage-disposal infrastructures, etc. But there's also a cultural component, as anybody who's ever lived in a country like India can tell you. Even in middle-class families, there's a sense that the interior of the home is a focus of pride and should be kept spotless, but if you don't own the land -- especially if nobody owns the land -- then it's fair game to just throw anything away there. As a 2013 book call The Concept of the Public Realm puts it:

Take something as simple as streets and public parks. Since they lie outside the family home, they are seen as a no-man's land, an empty space, almost a wilderness. While the Indian home is clean and tidy, streets and even parks are unacceptably dirty. Streets are used as garbage heaps, and rubbish and leftover food is thrown around in parks. Even the front of the house is sometimes turned into as a garbage heap. Since public spaces are not seen as theirs, Indians generally take no care of them and expect the civic authority to do so. And if it does not, as is generally the case, things are left as they are. It is striking that few Indians protest against dirty streets and lack of pavements and zebra crossings, almost as if they cannot see how things can be otherwise (Kakar and Kakar 2007, p. 21).

Not that India deserves to be singled out. The problem also exists all over the Arab world and even in Italy, although it's much less serious there.

In any case, I've had enough. I already have a really long pole which I use for certain camera shots. I just ordered a pool net strainer. When the weather cools down, I am going to go out there and clean out those bottles. You'd think some German would have done this already, but there's an old German proverb -- as accurate now as it ever was -- which goes: "A German is someone who, when he sees a mess, sneers in disapproval (die Nase rümpfen) instead of cleaning it up." 

Well, fuck that shit. Just as Tyrell Corporation's motto is "more human than human", mine is "more German than German". I am going to clean out those goddamn bottles, and post before-and-after pics to prove it. If that doesn't earn be the German Service Cross, I don't know what will.

How Germans Make Way for Emergency Vehicles

This video shows you how Germans create a "rescue path" in a traffic jam. The cars pull over to both sides of the street, letting the rescue vehicle through.

I've seen it happen; it's a small miracle of spontaneous social co-ordination. One of the many inspiring aspects of living in an orderly, well-organized society.

Of course in this video, morons fuck everything up and the accident victims die horrible deaths. There's a message in there for all of us.