Friday, May 16, 2008

Summer is here?

Summertime, and the livin' is eaaaasy.... well, not exactly easy, but definitely way more pleasant! I was going to include a picture of the beach at Warnemunde, but the blog software isn't having any of that. This week my sister visited me and we biked out to the beach, went skinny dipping with the locals (very long stretches of "textile-optional" beaches where every age and body type just lets it all hang out! I can't remember the last day it rained and I have lots of "color" on my face.
Last Saturday, when my sister first arrived, we went out for "A Long Night of Schubert" at the Rostock Academy of Music. It was a wonderful 3+ hour long concert of piano masters. Susan didn't fall asleep, despite not having spent many hours in a bed the previous two days. ALthough it was beautiful, even I felt exhausted after a concert that long. A friend of mine who also attended later said (after raving about the concert) "classical music should hurt a little..."
I go to Stockholm a week from Monday and when I return, Peter will be visiting me again! Love to all....M

Monday, April 28, 2008

Good night, sweet princess

Fiona, our kitty rescued from the Sonoran desert, 1995-2008.

Last Tuesday our sweet and courageous little cat Fiona died from lung cancer. Peter had to euthanize her and bury her on his own while we wracked up many minutes on the transatlanic phone lines. We miss her terribly and I deeply regret not being able to say good-bye to her.
"God be with you till we meet again;
Keep love’s banner floating o’er you,
Strike death’s threatening wave before you;
God be with you till we meet again." (J.E. Rankin)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

In Like a Lamb, Out Like a Lion

After a really mild winter (rainy, but often in the 50s), March has decided to go out like a lion. I awoke this morning to the most snow I've ever seen in Rostock...about 2 inches. It is covering the blooming trees (see picture). Just when I was hoping to take Peter on long seacoast bike rides when he comes in....9 more days! Not much else newsworthy here, except I head to Mannheim tomorrow morning for a conference. Sounds like I'll be going to Stockholm in June to give a talk at the university there, then I'm going to spend two weeks in Luxembourg as a visiting scholar working with the Luxembourg Income Study data. So if you're planning to visit, think May or July! (And HOPEFULLY winter will be over by's feeling like Minnesota around here...)

Cheerio, M

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Happy Birthday Heidi Jean!

Today is the 21st birthday of my niece, Heidi Hartle. Happy Birthday! I've been innundating her with messages today and wish I could see her. Of course, her elderly aunt is undoubtedly the last person she would want to celebrate with today. I'm trying to remember my own 21st birthday...I turned 21 during my year in Scotland, when it wasn't so exciting because the "legal age" was 18 there. But my friends then took me out for an evening of drinks, a movie (some weird Robin Williams & Beau Bridges movie in 1991), a Baskin & Robbin's ice cream cake, and somehow there are pictures of that night with me wearing a Burger King birthday crown...but I don't remember that part. I do remember missing my then serious boyfriend Peter, just as I miss my serious husband Peter now!

Thanks for indulging me on that trip down memory lane. I'm sure it was of interest to no one but myself (isn't that generally the truth about blogs?)

Other than memories I haven't much exciting new to report. I've been spending long hours writing Stata code and running analyses, interspersed with jogging and watching season one of "Heroes" -- anyone a fan of that? The wind in Rostock has been incredible. Sometimes when I'm outside I think I'm about to be blown over and I start shouting "Antie Em! Antie Em!" But luckily no flying monkeys have appeared to kidnap me.

I've also been reading a great memoir about Arvonne Fraser, who was a high-level appointee in the Carter administration, an original DFL'er from Minnesota, a global feminist activist, and married to Don Fraser, former congressman from Minnesota and former Minneapolis mayor. My mother-in-law sent it to me for Christmas and it's been extremely fun to read about a Minnesota farm girl who creates a career in international women's issues.... good pick, Sally!

Hope springtime is coming quickly to all of you buried under snow....
Love, M

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spring has sprung

Fields of blooming crocuses, especially in Linden park, are announcing that spring has sprung in Rostock. The days are almost 12 hours long (just two months ago they were only 7 and 1/2 hours long!) and it's feeling like a whole new place. I'm grinding through a long month of work, as I'm working extra hard so that when Peter makes his first trip here (in only 25 more days, but who's counting?) I can take time to play.
But speaking of hard work, I have to brag about my nephew, Sam Budig Hartle. Sam, a recent graduate of Washburn College and a budding journalist, was given FIVE awards for his reporting from the Kansas Press Association for his work on the Kansas City Kansan. The newspaper garnered 8 awards total, so Sam was responsible for the majority of those. I'M SO PROUD OF HIM! You can read about it at:
Other good news (but much less important) is that the Italian leather winter boots I've been admiring in a shoe store window went on sale for the ridiculous price of 3 Euros this weekend (that's abou $4.50). They had been $90 previously, so of course I had to snatch them up! It's too warm to wear them, but they sure look good walking around in my apartment.
It's been a quiet week in front of my computer otherwise, and unless you'd like to hear the details of harmonizing data coding for 12 different nations, it's best I leave it at that. I'm doing this for a report I'm writing for the United Nations Research Institute on Social Development, the report is about the pay penalties associated with working in jobs that involve "caring labor" -- meaning work that improves the capacities of the recipient (like teaching, nursing, child and elder care, protective services, etc.) While this work has human welfare payoffs, it typically isn't fiscally profitable. So unless social institutions support this kind of work, wages are less than they are for other jobs with comparable training requirements and care recipients struggle to pay for services. Anyway, I'm comparing this "care sector" in 12 nations to see whether and how different governments and policies reduce or exacerbate these problems.
Well, I'd better get back at it. I hope all of you are doing well this spring....
"Now that spring is here again, comes the season joyous,
Love is in the midst of us, life awakens victorious,
In the meadow sings the lark, caroling from dawn till dark,
Gone the sorrows from my heart,
Spring is here again!"

Monday, March 3, 2008

Willkommen Home

I landed in Hamburg yesterday and am safely home in Rostock. After sleeping 14 hours, unpacking, jogging, and scraping the fuzzies off my teeth, I'm also at work. My friend Elke was happy to see me due to scary weather patterns yesterday. Apparently, during the high wind storms through which I slept most of yesterday, 15 people were killed by falling trees in Germany, and a plane tried to land in Hamburg but could not settle down on the tarmac after touching down, due to wind, and had to take off again. Thankfully I was blissfully unaware of all of this. I do remember waking occasionally during my long sleep and hearing the wind howl outside and thinking drowsily "'s windy" "snzzzzzz"

Now that I've passed the half-way mark on my time in Rostock I realized with mounting anxiety all the research I have yet to cram in during the remainder of my stay. I have had some moments of hyperventiliation this morning, but apparently that hasn't stopped me from blogging! Of course, I just wanted to let you all know of my safe return. Now I've got to get back at it. As my sister reminded me on the phone yesterday "there's no rest for the what does that say about you, Michelle?"

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity-Jig

I'm in Massachusetts tonight packing up to return to Germany tomorrow. This has been a whirlwind visit. I had fun in NYC...I got a personalized tour of the Google east coast headquarters in Manhattan last Friday night. The pic to the left is of Kate, Sanjiv (colleague of mine at UMass), me, Kai (Google engineer), and Natasha (former UMass grad student).
The Google workplace was amazing. It's so big that employees ride scooters around the floors of the skyscraper Google occupies in lower Manhattan. There are playrooms containing foosball (yippie!), ping-pong, bouncy balls, pool, darts, drum sets, pianos, and other toys. Google has a rule about employees never being a certain # of feet away from a food source, so there are kitchen stations everywhere stocked with froo-froo water and juices, candy, nuts, snacks, fruit, you name it. The Google cafeteria hosts Manhattan chefs who come in to cook meals for employees. Work-wise, they have a system where employees devote 80% of there time (M-Th) to assigned projects, then on Fridays, they get to spend the final 20% of their time on special projects of their own choosing. It's truly a dot-com atmosphere with a highly creative and dynamic work place geared to pamper software engineers who rarely leave the building.

Peter and I went to Harlem and heard the best jazz of our lives at a club called Lennox Lounge last Saturday night. My days were spent at the conference in NYC, but since Sunday I've been in Massachusetts meeting with graduate students, chairing defenses, speaking with colleagues, and playing with my friends and my dogs (in that order). It's cold and snowy here, I can't wait to return to Rostock to warm up again. But I'm also glad that the next time I return home it's for good...five months from now on July 27th. It's painful to just visit and leave and go through the homesickness period repeatedly!

I shall write again from the other side of the pond....

Monday, February 18, 2008

Off to the Big Apple

Hi Everyone!

Well I'm off to the Big Apple tomorrow for a conference and unfortunately woke up sick this morning! It might have something to do with staying out very late on Friday after the great AbbaMania concert. Because we knew one of the lead singers, we got to party with the band until the wee, or not-so-wee, hours in the morning. By the end of it I felt very old and in need of a hot water bottle. Some of us (like me) embraced the 70s spirit of the evening with retro-clothes. And of course we played silly games like "scary-face" making at the bar. I post a picture of 3 women trying to look scary. Only two succeed. For some reason I couldn't muster "scary" with all that 70s karma floating around me.

I can hardly wait to see Peter in New York, meet friends and colleagues at the conference, eat Mexican and Ethiopian food (not at the same time) and do some shopping. After my presentation on Sunday, Peter and I are headed up to Massachusetts where several of my students are defending their theses later that week. Then it's back to Rostock on March 1st.

One thing I hope to bring back with me are some measuring cups. I've started impressing my friends with rough attempts at baking banana bread, but since English measuring units aren't used here, I've been guessing at how much of various ingredients I'm putting in. This isn't always successful! My recent result was more like banana stone than banana bread...

I'm also looking forward to longer daylight hours in Rostock. Each day between Dec. 21st and June 21st our day length increases by 3 minutes. While the sun was rising close to 9am and setting before 4pm in December, I'm awaiting the long days of June with 18 hours of sunshine.

Hope you all are well.....

Monday, February 11, 2008


We had a gorgeous ride on Saturday, the day was AMAZINGLY beautiful with bright sunny skies, crystal clear visibility, little wind, and LOTS of miles to ride. We misjudged the distance and rode at least 90 kilometers. I've posted a pic of the cycle team on the blog here. Our friend Sutay cut his day short about half-way through, and Elke and I are still giggling over leaving the boy in the dust....Today I am relaxed and thinking about laying down some more (that might also have to do with the fact I can barely sit on a chair, my rear is so bruised from the bike saddle!) Today we're socked in with fog that is thick as pea soup and it's cold. So all the stars must have been in alignment for us Saturday.

Yesterday I took a big step and ordered a pizza from the local pizza parlor to be delivered to my house -- all in German! I've been terrified of making phone calls in German b/c people might ask me questions I can't understand. But the pie arrived, was delicious, and I'm feeling very worldly today. :-)

Well, other than number crunching, paper writing, and buying two train tickets, two subway tickets, a plane ticket, a bus ticket, and a couple hotel reservations (all for my trip next week to NYC), it's been a quiet day! I just found out I was invited to present research at a conference in Mannheim, Germany, next month, and will be taking a night train with a sleeper car as part of that trip. I've never done that, but it looked so fun when Rosemary Clooney and Vera Allen did it in "White Christmas" that I had to try.

Hope all y'all's weekend was lovely too, M.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Dear Friends and Family....welcome to my blog from Rostock. I always thought I was on the cutting- edge of technology until I turned 30. Nowadays I realize what a dinosaur I am, compared with my nieces (whose prowess I've witnessed on facebook). So although I never thought I would use facebook, and I certainly never thought I'd be one of those annoying eglomaniac bloggers who think all the world is interested in the inner workings of their I am!

I intend to use this blog to share my life in Rostock with those whom I care about and are interested in such things. Yes, I realize I'm almost half-way through my time here, but for the next 5 and 1/2 months, you can get the latest updates of my wild and crazy life on my blog. (I know everyone is pointing at might picture and is yelling "she's such a dork!" at this point. It's ok, I can take it. Remember I typically teach 20-somethings who are super cool and think I'm the biggest nerd on the planet....)

So whazzup around here? I have a fun month planned....tomorrow I'm going on a 75 kilometer bicycle ride along the Baltic sea coast with two friends from work: Elke (from Munich) and Sutay (from Turkey). We're going to a hanseatic sea village called Wismar. And a week from today I'm going with some other friends from work to a big-deal concert called "AbbaMania" -- yes, it is an ABBA-impersonating band from Scandinavia that's apparently very popular. The director of my institute's daughter is one of the lead singers, and we are excited to go. Yes, I will be wearing bell-bottoms and the craziest shirt I can find in downtown Rostock. Finally, on Feb. 20th I go to New York City for 5 days for a conference (oh yeah, I've got to write the paper and presentation before then) and will be meeting my sweetheart in the big apple...Peter's coming down to see me and catch some Harlem jazz and some Broadway musicals.

In between the long hours at my desk crunching numbers and writing papers, and the bouts of homesickness I seem to continually feel, I'm slowly learning to speak German, drink Weiss bier, and relax. I think for the first year since I started graduate school I'm not having eyelid-twitches and insomnia. Ah yes, everyone should take a retreat to the dark, rainy northern coast of Germany in the winter....

Auf Wiedersehen,