Germany Part 3, Augsburg – Getting Trampled by Beast Men and Adorable Baby

Although Augsburg, DE was never my home, it is a familiar place to the point it evokes a strange feeling of comfort.  That is — when I’m not getting trampled by large beast men.  Of course, it certainly helps that a very dear friend, his lovely wife and his adorable new spawnling also reside there.

Nevertheless, my buddies wanted to give me a real touristy tour type tour of the place, and I think we all got to see parts of Augsburg we’d never seen.

First up, we broke into this gaudy piece of architectural magnificence — the Goldener Saal in Augsburg’s town hall.  We stared up and around in awe of the detail and beauty created by ancient artists reaching us through oceans of time.

Goldener Saal, Augsburg, Germany

I especially liked these weird little carved dudes decorating the walls:


Looking out from the “golden room”, I spotted a rainbow spread across the town!  But…but, I’m pretty sure we’re inside the pot of gold.  What could possibly be over there?!

Rainbow over Augsburg

The next day, we went on an official, guided tour of Augsburg, and got to see the Goldener Saal again!  Yea!  This time we learned that the building was pretty much obliterated in WWII and this was a complete reconstruction.  Talk about a buzzkill…at least there was the Fuggerei on the tour to look forward to!

I half believe my friends took me on the Fuggerei tour because in German, G’s sound a lot harder than English G’s — it’s almost like a “K”…and…well, think about it.  My friends expected me to break into giggles everytime I heard the word “Fuggerei” or heard mention of the “Fuggers” – the family that runs the Fuggerei.

Ok, so maybe they were right.

The Fuggerie is a social housing project that dates back to the 1500’s and is probably the only successful one in existence…unless you count Cabrini-Green.  Oh, I just made myself chuckle.  Ha!  I was pretty impressed that such a thing existed.  Old man Fugger was a very rich dude and built some very nice, though plain residences for needy Catholics who vowed to pray daily and pay (something like) a buck a year.  Here’s a pic of inside the complex (and other tour-takers, not Fuggerei-ers):

Fuggers and the Fuggerei!

When we went inside one, I recall noting that it was much bigger than the last apartment I rented in Chicago.  My friends thought it was tiny.  PFFT.

There are a few factors I believe led to the success of this housing project:

1.  There is limited space in these things, and if you are lucky and blessed enough to get in, you really, really don’t want to screw that up.  People tend to live there until they die.

2.  It’s gated and if you come stumbling home after 10 p.m., you need to pay a guard to let you in, or you’re out in the cold that night.  That would serve as a pretty good deterrent for debauchery, too.

3. Back to point #1, there is limited space and so there are strictly abided selection criteria.  You have to earn/win a space to get in.

I don’t think any U.S. housing projects had such stipulations attached to them…

We continued strolling through the city center and right before we were about to take in the lovely sun-shiney moment below, I was bowled-over by a gigantic German dude on a steep hill who would have literally knocked me over if not for my friend breaking my fall.  And then gigantic beast man kept on walking without a word or hesitation…  There’s nothing more interesting to that story — just wanted to mention that that kind of shit sometimes happens in Germany, because… comparative social weirdness.   Oh look, the sun is out!

Augsburg, Germany

Our final stop on the tour brought us to this breathtaking statue which, when created hundreds of years earlier, mysteriously foretold the final game of the 2014 World Cup between Brazil and Germany.

Germany vs. Brazil 2014

Either that, or my brain was tired of listening to German and just made shit up.  Really couldn’t say.

Later that day, I scored my own VICTORY.  Much of this was brought home with me… NOM NOM NOM.  I don’t know why I got so much milk, but it tastes Totally Different in Germany, omagerhd. So good.

German Chocolate, Yogurt, Milk, Fat-licious Yogurt — These Are a Few of My Faaa-vorite Things!

And then another remnant of the World Cup victory, which I’m told is an absolute oddity in this anti-nationalistic country when it’s not a Cup year:

Winning in So Many Ways

Later, we went out to dinner, and I embarrassed my gracious hosts with the Sauberer Saubär when I was confused about the word “Saubär“.  It’s kind of like when you call someone a “dirty pig” or a “lazy dog”, but in a really cute way that you might admonish a child.  It means “pig bear”.  Trouble is, it sounds a lot like, “sauber” which is an adjective meaning clean.  WTF?  So I made the “clean dirty pig bear” because it’s just as ridiculous to my silly American ears.

Sauberer Saubär

The next day, my gracious hosts, presumably pissed about the “pig bear” thing at the nice restaurant, tried to finish me off.  They thought they would take my fat American ass for a hike around the world and up and down mountains.  OK, not quite.  I survived, afterall!  It was an absolutely picturesque trip to the Ammersee:


I could have sat and stared at this beautiful lake all day:


Unfortunately, my friends wanted to get to that killing-the-American part of their weekend.  So, they took me half-way up this mountain thing — the castle circled shows the tippy top:


I couldn’t be agitated though, ’cause I was too busy trying to keep from giggling as they tried to push the all-terrain baby stroller up an Alpine mountain.  😀

It was sad to leave the next day, especially the part where I had to say goodbye to my new surrogate niece.  She was Not Happy and “couldn’t even”.  🙁   So heartbreaking!  At least I had one last beer garden at the airport to console myself with:

Memmingen Airport Beer Garden
Memmingen Airport Beer Garden

And also, the flight to Ireland was pretty entertaining, or at least the part where I tried to imagine the badass they needed to make this caution sign for:

Please No High Heels and No Lighting Up a Cigarette Before You Jump From the Burning Aircraft
Please No High Heels and No Lighting Up a Cigarette Before You Jump From the Burning Aircraft. Vielen Dank.

There’s a sign.  You know it happened at least once.

Hoping to see you all again soon, my Germany-residing darlings.  I’m missing you already so very much!



Germany Part 2 — Kirchheim, Ye Olde Stomping Grounds

Ahh, Kirchheim.  Ahh, Owen, Germany.  When I left you, I wasn’t sure I’d ever see you again!  I knew it would have taken some extraordinary coincidence to again delight my eyes upon all those sweet, smiling co-worker faces I left.

…or, to give the fates a break, a stupid-expensive plane ticket…so… screw fate!

My dear, sweet old friend and former co-worker picked me up from Stuttgart and whisked me back to Kirchheim.  And then, off to Reutlingen to have dinner with another former co-worker who escaped and the other 1.5 fabulous people in his new family.   It was then that I learned I’d be trying Croatian food for the first time, as my buddy is from Croatia and knew of an authentic place to grab eats.  I was so excited to try cevapcici for the first time; can’t you tell?Cevapcici

It was actually pretty damn delicious!  Although the digestifs our hostess kindly passed out to us not-pregnant people at the end nearly ended me.  A younger me would have tried to finish it anyway…but older, wiser me thought ahead to the dark, winding, zig-zagging road ahead of us still that night…and begged my Croatian friend to finish mine.

On the journey back to Kirchheim, the navigation system shot out this image, and, maybe it was the turpentine I just tried to choke down doing something to my brain, but I died laughing:

Kitten Schade

For some reason, the word, “Kitteneshalde“, got turned into “Kitten Schade” in my mind, and all I could think of was that most epic scene in Boondock Saints… you know the one I’m talking about.  Anyways, though, the real word doesn’t mean that at all.  🙁

The next day I had to myself to get into trouble as my old friend had to go to work…at the office where I used to go to work… it was a very strange feeling.  It almost felt like I was playing hooky.  Luckily, though, I knew the town I was in well and had a list of souvenirs to pick up (read: chocolate), so I made good use of my time.

As I strolled into the town center, I came across this marvel.  Now, the definition of irony tends to be an often debated topic in some circles I travel in.  May we now lay the topic to rest with this?  This.  This is the definition of irony:

Forbetter your English
Forbetter your English

Yeah.   Looks like they took German words and phrases and just…directly translated them, e.g. verbesser –> Forbetter.  The only thing funnier than this sign was probably the lone American hysterically laughing in front of it to the point of tears in the midst of a busy public square.  See, then we all get to enjoy!

There were a couple extremely important items to pick up besides chocolate, and one of them was the contact solution I was running dangerously low on.  Damn you international fluids-on-airplanes police and me not wanting to check a back ever during my entire galavanting trip.  Damn you.  So there I was… looking forever for contact solution…when I found this:

Eenie, Meenie, Miney....
Eenie, Meenie, Miney….

Shit.  Well, which one would you pick?  Apparently, I did O.K., ’cause I never went blind.  Yea!

The other essential item on my list was one that made me extremely thankful to be trotting around a place I once lived: it was gelato, and my mental map of where to get the stuff had not faded whatsoever.  BOOM!

If you're in Kirchheim and need gelato, I can help...
If you’re in Kirchheim, Germany and need gelato, I can help…

It was all too soon time to leave my mini day-trip, but not before I snapped this pretty pic of this familar town hall and grimacing German faces.  Aww… I miss you.

Kirchheim Rathaus

Back at my friend’s house, a surprise BBQ was being prepared!  And the surprise turned out to be me.  He invited the office of old coworkers and new ones I hadn’t met and told no one I would be there.  Little trickster.  And there was meat!  Lots and lots of meat.  And bruschetta.

How To BBQ in Germany Properly

I’m so lucky.  I paid back my gratitude by getting into an argument in German with the first guest to arrive — a new guy I’d never met.   My buddy laughed about how I didn’t know what he meant by the “Hugo” store when he told me about it earlier (then he showed me the Hugo Boss website… and…ohhh… yeah).  New guy decided this was a keen opportunity to lecture me on how Americans have a shitty, myopic worldview.  I retorted with something like, “maybe our worldview is made up of more important things than brand names”.   And then there was silence and I noted that his face was turning red and asked if he was ok.   (He was ok, thank God.) WINNING.  “GERMAN FLUENCY LEVEL  +1”, I said in my own head.

When Norbert Aldiek arrived at my friend’s door, I heard his familiar and extremely distinctive voice and got so excited that I forgot to play along with the game of me being a surprise.  I shot up and ran to the door shouting, “ich kenne diese Stimme!” (I know this voice!)  He stared, mouth agape with his hands up ready to catch something.   For the first time since I met him, he had no words.  Norbert told me later that he was mustering every brain cell to conjure my name through the shock of it all without success until finally, “ahhh.. McDermott!”

I try to keep the friends I mention on here anonymous out of respect for their Google factor…and other things…but…I mention Herr Aldiek because he is a famous author now and celebrities should just expect this type of thing.  Here is the wunderschön optics book I begged to see which Norbert contributed to:

Handbuch Bauelemente der Optik by Naumann, Schröder, and Löffler-Mang
Handbuch Bauelemente der Optik by Naumann, Schröder, and Löffler-Mang

After some time spent pondering the parts he created,

Survey says?
Survey says?

I decided I was super proud of my old friend!

Optische Abbildung – Norbert Aldiek

In case you happen to need an excellent optics handbook auf Deutsch, well, you’re welcome:

I left Kirchheim and its castle Teck (at the tippy top of the mountain/hill in the top image, btw, how the hell did I ever walk up there before, that was crazy), with my belly full and my heart full to overflowing.  I felt so happy and blessed to see all these beautiful souls again and congratulate them on marriages, babies, books and their own epic vacations…  Yeah, sometimes you just have to stop hoping for fate to reunite you with amazing people and go visit your family, already!  Thank yous guys again for all the additional joyful moments you gave me this time around.   Ich liebe euch!


My Light Fixture Baby Won Awards!

Just found out a lighting fixture I worked very hard on designing and making badass  — Juno Lighting Group’s T259L Wall Wash — won national recognition by 2 organizations!  That’s my girl!

One is recognition of excellence in the wall wash/graze luminaires category of the Next Generation of Luminaires Indoor Competition:

Juno Lighting Group's T259L Wall Wash is My Baby
Juno Lighting Group’s T259L Wall Wash is My Baby — Makin’ Momma Proud


And to the judges’ comments on glare: it’s a whopping 4,400+ lumen fixture constrained within ~1 inch source-to-exit-aperture length — FFS, don’t stare into that! 

The other is inclusion into the 2014 IES Progress Report which is not officially announced until next month.

What made her so awesome?   Well, my optical design yields high efficiency plus superior uniformity of color and illuminance distributions over competitive products using COB arrays and a custom, painstakingly, digitally sculpted high-reflectance reflector.  I turned 2 circles of light into a square-ish pattern on wall…when shined at an angle.  Just thinking about the basic geometry of it all, she’s pretty awesome.  Except she looks better in white…or silver…anything but the black.  I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN IT WAS PICTURE DAY AT SCHOOL!  I AM A HORRIBLE MOTHER!  Fortunately, she’s still a great kid, regardless…and launching soon: fall 2014!

Germany – Back Again, Drinking All Their Beer – Part 1 – Hamburg

FYI:  I’m not still in Europe… but just getting to finishing posts from that time…

Arriving in Hamburg, Germany and getting picked up in a mini-van felt a lot like climbing out of a Wonderland rabbit hole compared to the wild weekend in London I’d just left.  I went from drinking at all hours with near strangers and seldom sleeping, to regular meals, hanging out with a 3-year-old and getting re-acquainted with a real bed!  Disorienting to say the least.  And wonderful!

My dear friend and former (6 years prior!) co-worker when I worked near Stuttgart invited me to his beautiful home to stay with his even more beautiful (and new-to-me) family.  He now lives in Hamburg, which I never visited before.  That made this stop on my itinerary the only new place I would see during my 12 days bouncing around Europe! As a result, my buddy insisted on some tourist-like sight-seeing…

After I awoke from my (probably London-roofie-induced) coma the next morning (afternoon), my friend drove me and his young daughter to the city part of Hamburg.   Oooo!  As we walked over a bridge, he informed me that Hamburg has more bridges, than, say, anywhere, more than even Venice!  Woah!  So either that’s true or my friend is full of shit.  I’m not a reporter; you can fact-check yourself.  Here’s the view from that bridge:

Hamburg, Germany.  Bridges.
Hamburg, Germany. Bridges. Oooo!

There were lakes or rivers that look like lakes with sailboats and stuff, too (far, far in the distance, but I swear, they’re there).  I approved.  It reminded me of Chicago for being a rare place where you can sail while still being butt-up-against the heart of a huge city and its big buildings.  If it only had a beach, too, with beautiful, half-naked people playing volleyball in the sand…. AHEM.  Hint, hint, Hamburg, hint, hint.

Hamburg, Germany, Some Lake
See?  These people wish they were in bikinis and Speedos in the sand.  Hamburg, Germany, Some Lake/River/Inlet Whatever I’m Jetlagged and Unsure Which Language To Speak

We all had dinner at a nice restaurant/beer garden.   This is where I learned that Germany is now picking up the American trend of craft beer brewing!  “Wunderschoen!” I exclaimed within my own mind.  “This can only be amazing!”  We ordered a flight of the establishment’s own craft beers:

Hamburg, Germany's Craft Brews
Hamburg, Germany’s “Craft” Brews

Never has my thumb been so inappropriately placed.  Never.  (Hey, c’mon now, get your mind out of the gutter.)  These were the worst craft beers I’ve had aside from Chicago’s own finish-less Goose Island swill.  Fuck, Germany, really?  Don’t… ugh.. don’t copy us, especially in beer.  I mean, you remember how horrible that mandatory Budweiser tasted at your World Cup games in 2006, right?  YOU’RE BETTER THAN THIS.  THIS IS YOUR THING.

The next selection made up for that, however, when I went back to an ever-faithfully lip-smacking Schneider Weisse, FTW.  Oh, yeah!  Yes.  Mm-hmm.  When given the choice, do yourself a favor, and go for what Germany truly excels at:

An Ever-delicious Schneider Weisse In Its Element and Also In Mah Belly
An Ever-delicious Schneider Weisse In Its Element and Also In Mah Belly

At least I remembered the best version of one of the most important German things I needed to indulge in: it’s what I call fat-licious yogurt.

Fat-licious German Yogurt
Fat-licious German Yogurt

My thumb is pointing towards “10%” which, translated into English, means, “10%”.  That’s 10 PERCENT FAT.  Mmmmm.  If you ever tried this stuff, you would take all your low-fat, no-fat, froyo horseshit -gurt and THROW IT AWAY.   This stuff will forever ruin you for yogurt.  And you won’t mind.

As far as sights to see, there was just one thing I had on my list for Hamburg.  This is where the Beatles started, you remember.  (I actually didn’t remember, my Welsh buddy’s wonderful sister reminded me.   Ahhh, serendipity.)  Lucky for me, my optical engineer friend, who is also a creative musician, knew exactly how to get me to their musical birthplace.  There’s kind of a square down the alley from where they used to play with these metal figures below, as some sort of…memorial, I guess:

Beatles Tourist Thing, Hamburg, Germany
Beatles Tourist Thing, Hamburg, Germany

Hey Germany, remember what we said about not copying ‘Murican trends?  Well, you’re pretty shit at public art memorial marker things, too. That’s ok, though, because, as I told myself, I didn’t come to see the reclaimed steel crap art in the street, I came to see the establishment they used to rock!

Beatles' Old Haunt, Hamburg, Germany
Beatles’ Old Haunt, Hamburg, Germany

That thing on the right.  That was it.  We stood for a minute staring, and my friend let me soak in the moment best I could.  It was hard to imagine what it would have been like in those days, though.   For one thing, the bar wasn’t even open.  For a second thing, the place to the left of this picture had an 8-foot-tall German version of a sequin-ey RuPaul noisily hustling people into the gay club there.   In hindsight, I guess that would have made a more interesting picture.

Aside from the old Beatles haunt, it was actually pretty damn busy out — especially considering it was a Tuesday night!  Hamburg is definitely a city full of life.  Here’s a pic to illustrate — please pardon the blur:

Just Cuz It's Tuesday Don't Mean the Partying Stops in Hamburg!
Just Cuz It’s Tuesday Don’t Mean the Partying Stops in Hamburg!

There were amazingly cool buildings along the river — the likes of which I’ve never seen.  Here are some prime examples of the more wild ones:

Weird-ass Casino Joker Thing!
Weird-ass Casino Joker Thing!

And then there’s this vertigo-inducing marvel.  The arches in front of it lead to an underground bar/concert venue!

Leaning Tower of Holy Shit Apartments!
Leaning Tower of Holy Shit, Don’t Look Down Apartments!

The river itself was also a spectacular spectacle with this old navy ship all aglow:

Massive Ship in the Elbe at Night
Massive Ship in the Elbe at Night

The one thing I regret not having photos of is the graffiti found everywhere.   They would have been very difficult to obtain, though, because either I or the graffiti was always moving very fast.  You can see it on the typical locations – buildings, tunnels, bridges, but you also find it frequently on train cars!  And it was all beautiful.  It was all art.  Hamburg is an artist’s city and you can even feel it in the defacement of public property!  These weren’t just tags put up by hoodlums to advertise their ego.  It was All Art.

From the Internets, I bring you:

Check out this Facebook page for more:

At the end of the night, we gnoshed on some Currywurst.  This time, we got the thumbs right:  an in the middle, “meh” sign.  It wasn’t bad for Currywurst; it was just that it was Currywurst… and we weren’t at the intoxication level needed to enjoy it to its fullest.

Currywurst — not the worst, but, a solid “meh”


So how was my German holding up after all these years, I hear you asking?  Well, I thought it was comparably crap, and I was timid about speaking it again — most especially when in front of the 3-year-old.  I was so afraid my beschissene Deutsch would rub off on her!  It turns out, I should have been more afraid of her.  “Why?  Were her German language skills terrible?”  No, of course not, she’s 3, so that means I was envious of her skills.  The thing was… well, let me just tell the story.

One morning, while still 3/4 asleep (because I’d only just had the first real nights’ sleep in probably a good 6 days), her and I were speaking alone.  Everything was going great until a massive brain fart exploded in my head.  I was trying to come up with the past tense infinitive version of the word “essen”, to eat.   Out loud, I wondered if I meant to say, “gegessen?  Gegisst?  Ge—-isst?”, trying out to words on my ears since my brain was apparently not going to do me any favors that day.  She cocked her head up halfway from the book she was showing me, glanced at me from the corner of her eye, and lazily concealed a smirk on one side of her sweet little face while slowly saying, “ja, ge-isst”.  I tried that one aloud again and realized she had picked the most ridiculous sounding thing I’d thrown out there.   You little stinker!  Yeah, my fear was definitely ill-placed, although justified overall.

I leave you with another blessed gift as I sign off this post…  One morning, I spotted the back of this trashy Enquirer-type Hamburg magazine and it reminded me of a game the radio station 98 PXY in Rochester, N.Y. used to play in the mornings — “Florida or Germany” — or something like that.  They would read a news story synopsis and callers had to guess whether the crazy, sick, unbelievably messed-up thing happened in Florida or Germany.  It was a lot harder than you imagine…  Anyways, this paper I noticed (how could you not?) made me believe that maybe all those Germany-tagged stories happened right there in Hamburg:

"Morgen Post" Clipping, Hamburg, Germany.  I...I don't know either. Don't ask me.
“Morgen Post” Clipping, Hamburg, Germany. I…I don’t know either. Don’t ask me.

You’re welcome.

Day 3: Surviving London and the Welsh

I didn’t think I could feel what I did, being back in England.  It’s been over half a lifetime ago that I was here last, but when the Tube doors opened above ground, the air rushed in, and some subtle smell in it, plus something distinctive in the way the breezes push around the leafy branches here brought it all back for a second.  It was a heady rush of primal feeling.  A dizzying spell as all history between those two times dropped out and brought me face-to-face with my 18-year-old self.  Then, I exhaled, and forgot it.

My schedule was already full-up with survival.  Ain’t Got Time For That!!  Indeed, I was off to celebrate the 40th birthday of a crazy Welshman…for 2 days straight.

On my way there, it turned out maybe my jetlag wasn’t totally conquered, as I’d wrote I hoped in my last post, because I remember taxiing to the runway, but it seemed a take-off never occurred.  Or, maybe I was inoluntarily passed out cold.  Maybe.  In any case, I wasn’t too sure how I was going to hold up.

A large group of us hopped from venue to venue and people swirled in and out who were (mostly 😉 )kind, wonderful, witty, and interesting characters above all else. Here is one of the few shots I feel I can show without anyone going to prison:


There was also a kind of music fesival at Tobacco Dock we attended – a bit of a cross between a tame rave and human circus act.  When we walked in, my eyes rose up and up through all the layers of industrial-framed craziness.  Masses of steel, bodies and the invasive buzz of bass pulsed from every music tent.  All I could think was, “WELCOME TO THUNDERDOME”.


Half-naked, beautiful people in their 20’s and 30’s pressed against each other.  A smile was plastered on my face constantly watching all the wonderously weird displays of humans at their best — aside from when some little punk grabbed my hair, and I restrained myself from giving him the verbal beating of his life… but, I digress.  It was definitely a spectacle to behold.  Groove Armada was going to be at one of the tents.  It was a gorgeous day.  Naturally, immediately after entering, we said “fuck this”, walked out and found a chill pub to relax at.

Again, I have a much prettier pic of our alternate venue, but this is the only one that protects the innocent…and the others.  Mostly the others.


Both nights, I imbibed things with these most interesting groups until some point when I would see the first rays of the sun.  Then I would collapse on the cot in the midst of them I’d previously claimed, and contently snore loudly away as the partying continued around me.  It’s amazing I was able to fall asleep, but I guess that may just be a solitary good side effect of jetlag — at least if you handle it like I did.  Hell, I bet they could and did step on me without me waking up.  And… possibly other things.  I can’t wait to get back to the States and order up a battery of medical tests!  😀

In any case, I got the food pretty damn right, with help from my new and old friends!  Well, my single Day 1 Meal was a kebap, which is a lot better in Germany, but was still good considering I was starving and had been drinking for half a day.  Single Day 2 meal was fish ‘n chips.  Of course.  Did you know that despite American food’s reputation, the amount of deliciously fatty, dripping fatness in our copycat fish and chips cannot compare with that of the oily, heart attack enducing English version?  I’ve been craving the real thing for sooo long.  This was almost worth the trip in itself:



And my final meal with my dear buddies was this morning — it was a treat capable of completely ruining me in one go.  One of these dears just happened to be a fantastic chef.  And we were hungry.  Bleary-eyed and dying of hunger, we managed to come up with an idea to use these two facts to our benefit.  I am such a lucky girl.  So lucky.  Traditional UK breakfast — BOOM:


One more fun thing before I dig into YET ANOTHER ROUND OF FISH AND CHIPS at the airport…My host this weekend is a property guardian.  This means he resides in and maintains buildings landlords would otherwise want to abandon because they’re just not financially worth the bother.  It also costs money to demolish a building, and if you don’t, you get all sorts freaks moving in and squatting and shooting heroine all over the place, wiping their own poo on the walls, starting cults, etc.  So, my friend fights bums off.  He’s like Batman.  Or something.  Hopefully, that’s enough to explain this note I spotted on a neighboring door as I left today.  I was told by my friends they don’t believe their own kind to be genuine typically.  I think we can all agree, however, the Brits are polite.



Fleeing the Country — Day 1: Shannon, Ireland

I’ve escaped!  Yesterday, before my flight and after waking up around 2 a.m. and not being able to get back to sleep, I got a head start on my jetlag battle.  It lead to a full day of pain upon think attempts, but I think I’ve beaten this time zone war in a single day!  It’s noon in Ireland, 6 a.m. in Chitown and my body is not in a cold, lifeless heap on the tile.  Winning!

But…you know… it may be too early to tell.  Let’s go with I’m winning for now, though!

I’m on a long layover in Shannon, Ireland on my way to London, where I will celebrate the birthday of a wild Welsh gent, in what I can only assume will leave me and parts of the world scarred and broken forever, but in the best ways… yeah.

Btw, if I forget to mention, Jesus fucking Christ, these Irish women are making Me blush with their torrents of profanity.  I love Ireland.

One thing I didn’t love, and which you didn’t love either (because I’m pretending you are here, of course) is when we witnessed one of the cruelest, vilest offenses the world has ever known.  I’d heard a rumor of it, but could barely believe it was true…  Baggy, multi-colored pajama pants are now in style in Ireland for women… to wear In Public.

Exhibit A:



Exhibit B:



“What the fuck.”

That’s what I said to you when we saw it.  Then you gave me a look back that just silently said, “what the fuuuuuck?”  And then I made this face as a way to purge myself of the horror and confusion within me:



Mostly the confusion.

Ireland, we all know you are home to the most beautiful women in the world.  Got it.  Check.  But you really don’t need to be so kind to give every other population the upper hand.  You’ve gone too far.

On the upside, your Guinness, chowder and soda bread are still “grand”!


And, bonus: your cider taps have friggen videos on them.




I’m about to board for London.  I will see you on the flip side of this trip, Ireland, in a couple weeks.  I expect to see some wardrobe improvements.  But, please don’t run out of beer.


Why Do We Dream? NSFW

Why do we sleep?  More interestingly, why do we dream?  If fortunate, we spend 1/3 of our lives captive in a state in which we are unable to purposefully interact with our tangible surroundings!  One Third!

Or maybe that’s not true at all.  Maybe when we sleep it’s like coming up for air after being submerged for a long time deep in the ocean, and dreams happen when we open our eyes above the surface.   Maybe we sleep and dream because otherwise, we would drown in the fantasy of day-to-day life…

Researchers, biologists, military Q’s and the like have many of their own theories on the purpose behind why we all turn to useless slabs of drooling meat each day.  Of course, there are the known side effects from sleep deprivation which range from irritability to inability to concentrate, right up to hallucinations and Bat Shit Craziness as in this The Atlantic article by Seth Maxon.  Yet, that still doesn’t explain why sleeping and dreaming is needed to keep your marbles all in the same place.   Recently, it was also discovered that toxins Occupying your brain are flushed while you snooze as your brain cells shrink to make way for the biological fire hoses.  I’m no neuroscientist, but I would imagine it would be difficult to think with shrunken brain cells if that process happened during waking hours.  This starts to approach a reason behind why we psychologically need sleep, but still doesn’t explain all of the weird surrounding sleep and dreaming.

Like, for example, did you know you can problem-solve in your sleep?!  In this Livescience article, studies are highlighted in which students solved math problems in their dreams.  It goes on to submit that problem solving while asleep is a rather common occurrence documented throughout history and it can sometimes solve problems our awoken mind cannot.   Psychologist Deirdre Barrett’s hypothesis boils down to dream as a thinking tool which takes advantage of looser, sometimes less logical connections of dots …because sometimes our brains work best when we are not in full, conscious control of how we use them… because sometimes they work best when we are not behind the wheel…  But then, who or what is behind the wheel?

My imagination conjures a strange answer to all these questions and the seed of it lies in the Christian lens through which I perceive all things.  There are over 100 instances of variants of the word “dream” in the bible, and God uses dreams to: convey information — “But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife,” –Genesis 20:3  (“she already got a man!”); to piss other people off — “And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more,” –Genesis 37:5; to freak people out — “Then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions,” –Job 7:14; to speak directly to prophets — “…if there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream,” –Numbers 12:6, and a bunch of other stuff.  Mix that with: “…the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters,” –Genesis 1:2, and “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters,” –Genesis 1:6 and we get to the point where my brain starts coming up with weird shit.

So, God uses dreams for a variety of communications with man, and the Spirit of God dwelled on the surface of the waters in the beginning.  That water was separated between aboveness and belowness by a gigundous gap.  We live in the below part separated from the water above.  Does the part of God’s spirit in the above part perhaps meet us halfway when he wants to drive an idea home?  Do our spirits get pulled into that limbo while we sleep by His messengers who have the ability to traverse that separation?  Do we get a chance for part of our daily life to press our hands up to the glass of that divide as if a prison visitation to find our bearings again?  Does God sometimes or always reach out to touch the other side of that divide?  …much like Michelangelo’s famous painting on the Sistine Chapel?


I don’t know.  But it’s kind of a neat idea, don’t you think?  I picture it with God’s messengers, naked and pure as children, hauling the man they’ve been given charge of into that meeting place… whether we sleep peacefully or whether we are towed into that limbo still bound by despair, our spirits guarded carefully while allowed a time-out from the most exhausting of races.  I picture it just like this, the “Firmament”:

"Firmament" - mixed traditional media by Erin McDermott


Prints of this piece can be ordered here: The Untapped Source  Matting and framing options can be set to “No” to reduce cost substantially.

Special thanks goes out to one little girl’s parental unit who gave me permission to use her as the perfect model I’ve been lacking for the 14 friggin years since I started this composition!

Surface Pro 3: I Can Haz Digital Art?

This week, I had the privilege of dining with some tech celebs in Chicago (no really, they were stopped on the way out by a fan), and afterward, we walked by a billboard for the Surface Pro 3 — “The tablet that can replace your laptop”.  They mocked the Microsoft product for its ability to run horrible Microsoft Office programs, and perhaps their tech snob tastes were as refined as their excellent tastes in beer, but I had to defend the 3.  Secretly, I’ve been lusting over that little machine since it was unveiled, and on June 20th, when it was first available to purchase in stores, I even went to drool over it in person.

Surface Pro 3 at the Microsoft Store
Surface Pro 3 at the Microsoft Store in Chitown


I’d been searching for a lightweight laptop that could also create digital art well.  Like a cat to its first cheezburger, I was (and am) a total newb in the digital art arena, so I first turned to my friend Marc Grunert for some expert advice.  Marc is not only someone I’ve known for many years to be a talented artist, he also makes his dough that way!  You can check out some of his amazing illustrations here:  Marc directed me to Wacom’s Cintiq Companion which soon became my first digital art hardware crush:

Wacom’s Cintiq Companion


Wacom’s products are widely known to be in the Cadillac class of digital art hardware and reviewers commonly remark on the realistic feel and responsiveness of the drawing tools.  I knew if I were aiming for the best product for creating art, Marc had steered me straight. Unfortunately, along with being crazy-expensive (over $2k for the higher memory version + keyboard accessory), it was also a bit heavy and bulky for lugging on the trains and buses during my 3+ hour daily commute.  I needed something powerful but lighter and smaller, and I’d be willing to sacrifice a bit on drawing performance to get there…

And then the Surface Pro 3 was announced, and I dropped my Cintiq Companion crush faster than Romeo dropped his obsession with that Rosaline bitch.

However, it became clear before it even was available, the Surface Pro 3 had its own flaws.  There was the immediate concern that the drawing capabilities would be a little more than a little shittier than that of Wacom’s Companion or even that of its own earlier version.   The previous Surface Pro actually used Wacom technology in its pen and it came with 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity.  The Surface Pro 3 moves to N-Trig technology with only 256 levels of sensitivity.  I was largely skeptical that a human needed over 1,000 levels of pressure measurement.  As an engineer with a bunch of experience under her belt in several industries, I thought it all smelled like a lot of marketing B.S..  And based on this lengthy explanation from a Microsoft scientist, that assumption was probably correct:

The other big concerns came from this awesomely candid review by Gabe, artist from Penny Arcade:

I was most alarmed by the lag Gabe noticed while drawing and the fact that the HOME BUTTON was PERFECTLY LOCATED to KICK THE ARTIST BACK to the HOME SCREEN.  REPEATEDLY.  That’s just aces, Microsoft.

Luckily and surprisingly, Microsoft brought the gemba to them by inviting Gabe over to observe him (trying to) draw:   After a couple rounds, the engineers had a fix for the home button problem — it would be disabled while the pen was in contact with the screen.   Unfortunately, the drawing lag issue appears to remain unsolved for the moment.

Here’s what I found from my personal observation of the Surface Pro 3 in downtown Chicago:

1. After a week of being on display for the public’s grubby fingers, there was some significant wear.  The type cover was already approaching filthy, and take a look at the pen’s already worn nib (pardon my shitty phone pics, I was feeling too self-conscious to pull out my camera under the watch of an already raised MS employee’s eyebrow):

Surface Pro 3 Worn Pen Nib


2.  I love mechanical keyboards.  I have these awesome fingernails that I can use for peeling oranges, opening packages and attacking assailants like the mutherfucking Wolverine.  They’re not going anywhere just so I can use a shitty touch keypad.  Nope, screw you, Apple.  I’m really happy the Surface Pro line is continuing with physically moving keys!

Even Clawed Animals Can Use Surface Pro 3's Keyboard
Even Clawed Animals Can Use Surface Pro 3’s Keyboard


3.  The FreshPaint app is stupid-addictive.  I read this warning in other reviews, but I Had No Idea How Bad it really was.  I kept telling the MS salespeople, “yeah, yeah…uhh…I’ll be right off of this…thing…ooohh, wow…”.   Check out my modern art!

Surface Pro 3 FreshPaint App
Yeah, I Made This. Hard to believe, I know.


4.  See that screen?  It’s pretty shiny.  Not sure how much of an issue the veiling glare would be in different ambient light conditions.

5.  The software fix for the home button location issue seemed to be already in place!  It still kicked me back to the home screen once though, when one of my drawing strokes continued a tick after the pen left the surface.  It was an extremely irritating moment.  Grrr.  I feel you, Gabe.

So for now, I’m holding off on purchasing anything to see if Microsoft finds a good fix for the drawing lag and also to see what the competition might have to add to the better-than-decent-drawing-plus-better-than-decent-computing arena.  I hope my tech pro friends and art pro friends will forgive me, whatever choice I ultimately make.

I don’t want to disappoint anyone who may have been expecting a cat pic in this post based on the title — even though cats really, really aren’t my thing.  So, here.  I present to you, The Ranger, my roommate’s saber-toothed mountain lion of a cat who is:

The Ranger



Scoring Affections at the World Cup

Whenever people heard that a couple of my 24-year-old male friends were going to Brazil for the World Cup, they said, “they’ll never make it back alive,” or, “well, say, ‘goodbye’ while you can”.  I’d retort with a “don’t be silly, they’ll be fine!” or a, “Brazil is not that scary, stop it!”.

While I didn’t worry about their safety, I did worry about them failing to capitalize on their greatest asset: they were about to become exotic foreigners in a world full of hot, Brazilian women.  Before you say, “what the hell are you talking about, Erin, Americans are totally lame everywhere they go, except for maybe Canada,” hear me out.  (Apologies in advance to my Canadian buddies.)  When I studied in Germany, I carefully observed one American exchange student in particular: a dorky, annoying, narcissistic dweeb-weezle of a specimen.  When he displayed himself in public, many of us were ashamed to be associated.  One afternoon, while he was surrounded by gorgeous German babes who seemed somehow interested in his terrible German grammar, I remarked to my German friend who’d previously studied in the U.S., “what the hell is that?!”  My friend scolded me and said, “don’t you realize you’re the same?  You’re special just because you are different.  It’s the same for you and it was the same for me when I was in the U.S. — you get attention only because you are foreign.”  Although it was saddening at the time, if true, this factoid could hold the key to unlocking the potential of one of the most amaziballs times in my young friends’ lives.

But how would the Brazilian babes know they were exotic ‘Mericans?  I mean, aside from their dashing, ‘Merican good looks?  They would need to be told.  On a t-shirt.  In Portuguese.

I enlisted the help of my expert friend, Jessica, who speaks a bit of Portuguese, and who, moreover, hosted Brazilian exchange students and visited Brazil.  She was quick to reply with a suggestion for what to write on the t-shirts and also turned to her Brazilian “sisters” for their expert opinions.  After much deliberation, a phrase was arrived at they were sure was, “going to work”: Gringo na área! Quer me beijar?  Then I spent a lot of time creating t-shirt art in Photoshop and going back and forth with the astoundingly fantastic Rachel of Barrel Maker Printing to perfect it.  All of our efforts resulted in this masterpiece:

"Gringo in the House! Who wants tah kiss me?"
Translation: “‘Merican in the House! Who wants tah kiss me?” Or something like that.


As the boys prepare to ship-out, we wish them good luck!  Make ‘Merica proud!  It was nice knowing you…  You will be missed.