February 23, 2006


Filed under: Random — Alex Ravenel @ 8:31 am

Probably the weirdest thing I’ve experienced since getting back is also one of the things that you would never expect to really notice. Since getting back, I’ve felt like I was a giant, much taller than my very average 5′8″. It seems that everything back home–from chairs to tables to doorknobs–is placed a bit lower than they were in Germany. I find myself almost falling when I sit down from expecting the chair to be higher than it is, grabbing at empty air when I reach for the doorknob, and other funny incidents.

Just one of those random differences that you never think about.

I’m still jetlagged, and woke up at 6AM this morning. Though I can’t say that’s really a bad thing–I’ve always loved being up early, it was just the getting up early thing that was hard. Now I find myself jolting wide awake at 6AM, ready to go. I wonder how long it will last.

February 18, 2006

New Search

Filed under: Random — Alex Ravenel @ 12:37 pm

Thanks to a very good tutorial I’ve added an AJAX search to the site. Try it out with the search bar above–it’s very, very slick.

Hating America

Filed under: Travels, Random — Alex Ravenel @ 11:15 am

I’ve just found the most incredible comparison (for lack of a better word) between the US and Europe. Bruce Bawer managed to put into words the feelings I’ve felt since getting here, that despite Europe’s benefits–respect for learning and culture being primary–there’s just something about it that doesn’t quite jibe with me. I couldn’t put my finger on it, couldn’t quite figure it out… But he nailed it.

It’s a pretty long article, but if you have any interest in Europe, be it for study abroad, having lived there, or wanting to live there, check it out. It’s worth every minute.

Here’s one paragraph that sums it up very well:

“Living in Europe, I gradually came to appreciate American virtues I’d always taken for granted, or even disdained—among them a lack of self-seriousness, a grasp of irony and self-deprecating humor, a friendly informality with strangers, an unashamed curiosity, an openness to new experience, an innate optimism, a willingness to think for oneself and speak one’s mind and question the accepted way of doing things. (One reason why Euro- peans view Americans as ignorant is that when we don’t know something, we’re more likely to admit it freely and ask questions.) While Americans, I saw, cherished liberty, Europeans tended to take it for granted or dismiss it as a naïve or cynical, and somehow vaguely embarrassing, American fiction. I found myself toting up words that begin with i: individuality, imagination, initiative, inventiveness, independence of mind. Americans, it seemed to me, were more likely to think for themselves and trust their own judgments, and less easily cowed by authorities or bossed around by “experts”; they believed in their own ability to make things better. No wonder so many smart, ambitious young Europeans look for inspiration to the United States, which has a dynamism their own countries lack, and which communicates the idea that life can be an adventure and that there’s important, exciting work to be done. Reagan-style “morning in America” clichés may make some of us wince, but they reflect something genuine and valuable in the American air. Europeans may or may not have more of a “sense of history” than Americans do (in fact, in a recent study comparing students’ historical knowledge, the results were pretty much a draw), but America has something else that matters—a belief in the future.”

Perhaps part of the reason this hits such a chord with me is that I see a lot of my own changes in it. When I left to come here, I was looking very much forward to it–it’s Europe, there is so much to see and do, the people are smart, cultural, and tolerant, it’s going to be incredible. And while in many respects it has, I now see a certain naievity in those thoughts. This guy has latched onto those thoughts that were stirring in my head and managed to make them into words–that while Europe has many things going for it, in the end, it’s not the promise land, and America, for all it’s multitudes of problems, has what are in the end the more important things going for it. I feel like I could quote the whole article just because every paragraph has me nodding my head at how accurately it sums up my feelings.

I’ve been saying it for a while, but travelling in Europe and living in Europe are two totally different things, and this does an amazing job of explaining why. For all of America’s faults, I can’t wait to get back.

Also of interest, Donald Sensing has an interesting post series going on about why Europe is going to have some serious problems in the future, stemming from its incredibly low birthrate and massive influx of immigrants. It’s actually where I learned about this article and got the paragraph quoted here.

Hating America, by Bruce Bawer.

February 17, 2006


Filed under: Personal, Random — Alex Ravenel @ 11:31 am

She’s just done it again. To give an idea of just how quiet my music is, when I turned it down one notch, I was unable to make out the words anymore, and I’m sitting less than three feet from the speakers.

I’m not chalking this one up to cultural differences anymore. I’m just going to call a spade a spade and say that she’s being totally unreasonable.

February 15, 2006


Filed under: Personal, Random — Alex Ravenel @ 11:41 am

I like to think that I’m quite respectful of my suitemates. I pick up after myself, make sure to do my part of the cleaning chores, and am careful to be quiet, especially during hours when people might be sleeping.

Apparently that’s not enough. I was listening to music in my room, at a very discrete level, at 11:30AM, plenty late enough. Nothing loud at all, no booming bass, the music was quiet enough to be only lightly heard at the other end of the room. The girl that lives next to me came over and asked me to turn it off.

Excuse me? Last I checked, I lived here too, and if I want to listen to music at a completely acceptable level, that’s my prerogative. It was 11:30AM. If it was 11:30PM, or 8AM, I might understand it, but it’s lunchtime for goodness’ sakes. And her obsession with pure silence certainly doesn’t extend to her–slamming doors as she runs out of her room at 7:30AM, or talking loudly on the phone and laughing even louder at any hour she pleases. I’ve been awoken by her more times than I can count, but when I listen to my music quietly during the day, apparently that’s not acceptable.

I’m going to try to chalk this up to cultural differences and the German need for everything to be perfectly in order, but I’m still a bit miffed.

February 13, 2006

Photos Back Up

Filed under: Random — Alex Ravenel @ 7:17 pm

The photo gallery is back up, albeit with a different look. I still don’t know what happened, but moving to this new theme apparently fixed it, so I’m just going to let it be.

February 8, 2006

Whoops - Photo Gallery

Filed under: Random — Alex Ravenel @ 11:02 pm

The photo gallery seems to have inexplicably exploded. I don’t know how or why, but I’m trying to figure it out…

In the mean time, use Flickr I suppose.

January 25, 2006

Gone to Prague

Filed under: Travels, Random — Alex Ravenel @ 8:43 am

I leave for Prague this morning, meeting a few friends from London there. I’ll be back on Sunday.

January 23, 2006


Filed under: Random, Germany — Alex Ravenel @ 4:00 pm

Languages I’ve heard today:

  • German
  • English
  • English with a thick Scottish accent
  • French
  • Italian
  • Spanish
  • Turkish

How wonderful. It’d take you a year to hear that many languages in the US.

In other news, after having a bit of a warm streak for the last week, temperatures are cold again. When I left my dorm at 1PM, it was 25 degrees out. That was pretty much the high for the day. I’m hoping the Neckar river will start to freeze over again. Before our warm snap–warm being above freezing–the Neckar was completely frozen over, though it was a very shallow freeze. How nice it would be to see the whole thing frozen. When it gets 8-10cm thick, people can start to ice skate on it…

January 19, 2006

The Different Photo Galleries

Filed under: Random — Alex Ravenel @ 12:50 pm

I thought I’d quickly clarify why there are two photo galleries for this site–the main one, and Flickr. The difference is simple. The gallery here, on this site, is for the better images–ones that I think are technically or artistically good, or ones that offer a significant and different insight into my travels. The Flickr gallery is for the rest of them; repetitive, flawed, or just plain bad photos, but ones that still can give a good idea of the subject. Personal photos will also go here. One is more like a portfolio; the other, snapshots.

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