All I need is a pith helmet.

The more time I spend in South Florida, the more I feel like Uncle Travelling Matt.  So much of life here is just a little bit alien to me now.  Take this, for example-  the weird flavors that are appearing on things are just strange to me.  I’m pretty sure this is a Thanksgiving holiday flavor:


Speaking of flavors, I’m trying something I’ve wanted to try for months: Naturebox.  Naturebox is a subscription service that delivers healthy snacks right to your door. I first heard about this on a podcast while I was still in Germany, and I wanted to try it then, but I held off until I got back to the US because it’s not really an international service as far as I know.  (Administrative note:  I am not being reimbursed or compensated in any way for talking about Naturebox.  However, if any of you want to try it, let me know because I can give you a code that will give you ten bucks off your first shipment.)


So far, I’ve only opened a few of my snacks.  The guacamole bites are delicious, but wickedly salty.  I won’t be getting these again because I can only eat a few before I need to rehydrate.


The salted caramel pretzel pops are sweetly delicious, however.


And now for some random stuff… I’ve been having trouble this week coming up with a coherent blog post topic, so I’m just going with random stuff from my last seven days.  For example, Amelie and I went to the South Florida Ikea.  It’s a little different than Regensburg’s Ikea, but it’s similar enough in most ways to actually make me breathe a tiny sigh of relief at the sameness.

Neither of us can pass a display of stuffed animals without playing with them, by the way.  This is her with some bears.


Every time I passed a bin of stuffed animals in the store, I tried to give them all better vantage points.  This one was a joint effort.  We are roughly twelve years old.


I commented on one of my last posts about all the super nice cars in South Florida-  not a day goes by that I don’t see a Maserati or a Lamborghini or a Ferrari.    But not everyone in South Florida is rich, and sometimes you see the opposite end of the spectrum also.  For example, this clever usage of custom duck tape was spotted in the parking lot at Target.


Most of the time, it’s relaxing being back in the land of everyone speaking English.  However, speaking English doesn’t mean you can type it.  I promise, my name has never actually been spelled “STEVN” before, and I’ve no idea where the H came from.


In my search for a new tagline, I came up with the idea a few nights ago to use “Whimsy is my resting state.”  That wasn’t quite it, though, and so I decided today to rename the tagline at the top of the blog with “Sunshine.  Whimsy.  Tacos.”  I really couldn’t leave the tacos out.

As for the sunshine, it’s this-  it’s all to easy to forget during my day to day grind that in this part of Florida, I’m never more than a few minute’s drive away from this view:




Tacos! (Or maybe not so much.)

I’ve been trying all weekend to come up with a new tagline for this blog, since I’m no longer on the Donau, and virtually every tag I’ve come up with so far has involved tacos in some way.

Tomorrow night’s dinner is Taco Tuesday- perhaps I should try this again after I’ve actually satisfied the taco-lust.ninjas-dragons-tacos

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how to proceed with this blog, and I know that I need to change my direction a little bit.  I don’t travel now the way I did in Germany, for any number of reasons,  and the posts about repatriation and reintegration are interesting, but that material will only carry me so far.

I think I have a sense of what I want to do, though.  In the paleolithic era of the Internet, back when puppies were the oldest animals, there was a giant blogging community on a site called LiveJournal.   Livejournal still exists, and I actually have a permanent account there.  In the heyday, around 2003 or so, I was a very verbose LJ user, sometimes even posting two or three times a day if I had an idea.  Over the years, the community dwindled, and other things took the focus.  Many people moved to the dreaded BookFace, and some started writing their own off-site blogs.  I found it harder and harder to keep writing there because I simply got too busy.  In modern times, I go back there every May to write my thoughts about the Television Upfronts.  I watch a lot of television and I have many thoughts about it.  I briefly considered bringing those posts over to this blog, but I never felt like they fit here.

Since I started writing in this blog, though, I’ve gotten into a good habit where writing is concerned.   My tone has always been casual, but structured here.  I have only rarely talked about things on a personal note, and I don’t think that most of the people reading ever got a sense of my real personality through my posts, other than the ingrained wanderlust.

I think that I’m going to try to incorporate the type of blogging I did back on LiveJournal.  I spoke more about my life and the people in it, and I spent more time talking about the things that were actually on my mind.   I’ll still do trip reports from time to time, and I’ll still post pictures occasionally, but the content will be a lot more varied.    I don’t intend to implement a set posting schedule, but I will never go more than a week without a post. There will be times when the whim will strike me, like tonight, and I’ll write something up on the fly to be posted immediately. (I jokingly called this ‘blogging while the neuron is hot’ a few minutes ago, and I realized that this would be a great tagline for a blog about neuroscience.)

I’ve already taken the first step toward resetting the blog by changing the URL from to   For those of you who have linked to me in your own blogs, don’t worry:  the redirection is actually handled by’s back-end, which means that any links to my old posts on the .de domain will still load properly; they’ll just load with the .com version of the URL. I still need to find my new tagline, though.  And I probably won’t keep closing my posts with a question-  they’re good conversation starters, but sometimes I have no idea what to ask, and I think it shows pretty clearly when I’m grasping at straws.

In the spirit of blogging more about the things that actually make me tick, I’ll leave you tonight with three things that are on my mind.

Thing the first:  Senator Ted Cruz is a willfully ignorant butthead.  I don’t usually get too terribly political, but sometimes I’m enraged enough to comment.  Senator Ted posted this to Twitter:

The Internet immediately went aflame, including The Oatmeal’s awesome response, and Gizmodo’s thoughtful analysis.   The reason this enrages me in particular is partly that it’s a false equivalency:  Net neutrality doesn’t equate to a government takeover of anything, it just prevents the telecoms from being evil dickheads.  The other reason this enrages me is that Cruz has taken tons of money from the telecoms, so you can intuit that he is either being entirely uninformed about the issue (unlikely) or he’s shilling for the telecoms, saying what his corporate sponsors tell him to say.  Dude might as well be wearing Comcast and XFinity patches on his jacket.

Go back and read those two things I linked if you want to know more; they explain it much better than I do.   Seriously, though, grr.  Just grr.

Thing the second: This post about Charles Dance being cast as Karellen in the SyFy miniseries of Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End” excites me in a way cannot be described without using words like squeeee and ohmygodohmygodohmygod.  This is not because of the actor-  I don’t watch Game of Thrones, so I don’t really know the man’s work.  Rather, this is because Childhood’s End is a fantastic classic sci-fi story about a peaceful alien invasion that takes place over the span of more than one hundred years.  If you like good, thought-provoking science fiction, you should read this.   I expect the SyFy network to completely screw this up, but I’m still a little hopeful that this will be one of the rare adaptations that they actually get right.

Thing the third:  My reintegration back into life here in the US has been dotted with both successes and victories.

  • My brain has been failing me at odd intervals, causing me to lose the English words for things, and occasionally replacing them with strange and unrelated words.
  • I’ve noticed that I still grocery-shop like I’m in Germany, only without the canvas bags.  By this, I mean that I tend to only get as much as I can carry myself in one trip.   The stores themselves are somewhat overwhelming, and I find myself distinctly uncomfortable in them.
  • I reaffirmed my American-ness this weekend by restarting my Costco membership, but then promptly had what I can only describe as a mild panic attack from the chaos of the Saturday afternoon Costco shopping experience.  I still bought a box of Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownie Mix.  Don’t judge me!
  • I continue to be a patently ridiculous and silly person.  Last night, we had a birthday dinner for my dad and step-mother.  Her birthday was Friday, his was today.  Having the family gather to celebrate in the weekend in between them was a no-brainer.  While I was getting ready, I momentarily forgot how button-down shirts work, and I closed the cuff on the tighter of the two buttons.   Astutely noticing that my left cuff was significantly tighter than my right cuff, I asked aloud, “What the hell, did my wrist get fat?”  Amelie gently reminded me how shirts work without too much laughing.

I’m having trouble maintaining an election.

I wrote last year about election time in Germany, and one of the aspects which fascinated me the most was the incredible variety of poltical parties in the race.

In the US, there’s a wide variety of parties, but only two that get enough votes to make a difference in most races: The Republicans and the Democrats.  Not that you’d know it from the election mailings and Robocalls.  Here’s a small sample of the incredible stack of mailings received by this household in the last month:


Throughout my time in Germany, I had made arrangements to vote by absentee ballot.  The Broward County supervisor of elections office e-mailed me a PDF of the ballot for each election, and I printed it out, filled in the dots, scanned the result, and faxed it back. I still voted by absentee ballot in Tuesday’s midterm election because it was simpler to just follow through that way than to change my voting status this close to the election.

Because the Broward SOE has my (former) German address, I received these campaign mailings in Germany as well; big glossy cardboard fans of fluff and nonsense.    I did notice an interesting trend:  the mailings that I got while overseas were more often Republican than Democrat.  I assume that’s because the Republicans know that deployed military families are more likely to vote Republican and the Dems probably choose not to spend their money in that arena.  That’s just a guess, though, because Jenny (who has been receiving my postal mail since I left) made an observation that it’s very difficult to determine their party just from the mailings:  They often show no outward sign of which party affiliation they hold.

That didn’t affect the sheer volume of them, though.  If you have enough registered voters at your postal address, you could easily wallpaper a room with the mailings.  The Robocalls are prolific and awful if you have a land line, like my father.  I received none of them on my cell phone this year, however, which was nice.

That didn’t stop me from seeing the television commercials when I got back, or hearing the radio commercials.  Or hearing the endless discussion of the midterm elections on the news.  The elections went on this past Tuesday, and the Democrats took a pretty substantial hit.  The Republicans have been making pretty, empty noises about working with the Democrats to get things done, but the very next breath included things like repealing Obamacare and impeaching the President-  that doesn’t seem very cooperative to me.  Now that the Republicans have control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, I expect Presidential vetoes to hit an all time high.  One of my Facebook friends commented that now would be a great time to buy stock in Mont Blanc.

I’m just glad the election is over.  For all the Sturm und Drang about the massive shift in power, I really don’t think that anything will change:  Our Congress will still accomplish very little, and the state legislatures will continue to quietly remake the country in their ideological image.

But at least the mailings and the commercials will stop, at least until 2016′s Presidential election starts to ramp up.

Were you annoyed by this year’s campaign ads, flyers, brochures, signs, and zeppelins?


Around Town

I haven’t taken the dslr out for a spin since I got back to the United States, but I do carry a good camera everywhere I go, in the form of my phone.   I snap pictures all the time, at all kinds of things, because I still have a tourist mentality even though I live here.  I’m not sure whether that’s good or bad, but it does allow me to write up a post showing you some of the things that are a regular part of my life back in Florida.

I spend an enormous amount of time on Interstate 95, the large North-South highway corridor that goes all the way up the Eastern seaboard of the US.   The place where I live and the place where I work are both relatively 95-adjacent.   That being said, I despise I-95.  It’s always full of people who don’t know how to drive.  I often wind up in stop-and-go traffic because a car is pulled off to the side of the road and everyone passing by feels that it’s their moral imperative to investigate thoroughly what the reason is for the blockage, even though it doesn’t actually block traffic even a little bit.

Oh, and those famous blue skies of Bavaria?  They’ve got nothing on South Florida on a cool day.  (Cool is relative; we just had a “cold snap” and it’s down to 75F.  That’s 23C for my German friends.)


South Florida is a pretty wealthy area, so it’s not uncommon to see luxury cars like this Ferrari.    I see Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Teslas on a regular basis.  Also, Boca Raton (where I work) is just lousy with Maseratis since I got back.  I’ve seen more Maseratis in traffic in the past month than I would have thought possible.


I went to Target to get a birthday card and I was again presented with the incredible amount of choice that shopping in the US gives you.   This picture is as much as I could fit into frame of the four whole aisles of greeting cards.


With that variety comes the godawful marketing that America is famous for.  From right to left here are Halloween cards, Thanksgiving cards, and Christmas cards.  It’s only October, so the Christmas card section is still quite small.


Not so in the Walgrees, however, where they have given up entirely on the illusion of waiting to put up Christmas and just basically said, “fuck it, we’re gonna throw Christmas stuff right across from the Halloween stuff because people will buy it.”


I’ve worked at Mr. Company for more than twelve years. (I always refer to my employer as Mr. Company; I rarely talk about them because that’s not what this blog is about.) I’ve been with the company so long that I still remember when this sign was put up, and when it actually contained a message about not smoking.  That sun bleaching doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s left a comical tiny blank sign in front of the building that always makes me giggle.


There’s a running joke that my office is just like every first-person-shooter video game ever made.  You can see why.


I work at a company with a server room.  (Lots of my friends have no idea what I actually do, Barney Stinson-style.  Please.) This isn’t important to know, but I thought this was kind of a cool picture.


One of the restaurants here that I missed the most during my time in Germany is Tijuana Flats.    They always have interesting wall art, and they always have delicious food.  I love Taco Tuesdays so much that I had the first Taco Tuesday after my return to the US marked on the calendar six months before I actually got back.


Tijuana Flats has a pretty awesome hot sauce bar, if you’re into that sort of thing.


If Tex-Mex isn’t your speed, there’s always another burger joint in the US.  Since I left Regensburg, I’ve learned of at least three new burger places that weren’t in Florida before I moved to Germany.  And one that opened in Regensburg after I left.  As of this weekend, I have been to Shake Shack for the first time.  The burger wasn’t the best burger I’ve ever had, but it was damn tasty.  The shake, on the other hand, was unqualified bliss.  It was crack in a cup.


Of course Amelie has been talking up Shake Shack for months.  It was everything she said, made better by being able to try it for the first time with her.


Which do you prefer, burgers or tacos?  Do you hot sauce?


The readjustment continues.

As I readjust to life here, some things are going very easily and some are taking a little bit more time.  Today’s post will be short and a little random.

I’ve been slowly working my way through a list of restaurants that I wanted to visit again after my return.  I spent an entire week during my last month in Germany dreaming and drooling about a hot corned beef sandwich on seedless rye bread from Toojays Deli, and I still haven’t made it there.  I did find that the gyros at Gyroville are not that dissimilar from Döner in Germany.

I said in my Last Looks post that I was looking forward to video without geo-blocking.  This goes double for audio.  It’s fantastic to be able to stream Pandora to my phone again!

While it’s nice to have that, I’m finding myself falling further and further behind in the new fall television shows.  I watch a lot of shows, and it was easy to stay up to date on them when I was in Germany, because I had no life.  Now that I’m back in Florida, I’m easily 20-25 hours behind on my television watching because I’m simply too busy to watch most of it.This isn’t a bad thing, because being busy can be wonderful.  Outside of travel,  I really didn’t have that much going on for the last few years, aside from going out to eat with friends on weekends.

For the last three years, I spent the majority of my time alone.   Since I got back to Florida, I’ve been the exact opposite of that.  The only time I’m usually alone now is when I’m sleeping.    I’m staying at my brother’s house for a while – I need a car before I can get an apartment.  One thing at a time.

Dinner most evenings is a group event, with my brother and his boyfriend.  On the weekends, and at least once or twice during each  work-week, I spend oodles of time with my girlfriend, Amelie.

I used to write my blog posts with a nice cup of mint tea while sitting at the San Francisco Coffee Company in Regensburg.  Mint tea and bloggery go together, in my brain.  It’s really nice to add Amelie to the mix, though. Even now, I’m writing this post on Starbucks Wi-Fi with a cup of mint tea while she’s sitting across from me, reading a Queen & Country trade paperback.  (I totally won the girlfriend lottery- she’s smart, sexy, funny, and she reads comics. And for some reason, she’s really into me.   Score!)

I’m still not in anything like a regular routine.  I get to work a half hour early most days because I still haven’t gotten the hang of I-95 traffic levels all this time.  Even when I think I’ve got it, any traffic issues or small rainstorms change the transit times immensely.  There was one day last week where part of I-95 was closed because of both an accident AND a brush fire-  the resulting traffic snarls affected the entire city and much of the surrounding area, so it took me an hour and twenty minutes to travel what would normally only take twenty or twenty-five minutes.  Oh South Florida, I didn’t miss this part of you.

I need to redo the catch-phrase for this blog.  “Doin’ Time on the Donau” is no longer relevant, because I’m not there any more.    Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to come up with anything catchier than “Farting Around in Florida,” and that’s just… no.

I’ve been looking at new cars, because after three years without owning a car, I’m back in a place where cars are a requirement to an uncomplicated life.  My dad loaned me his car for a little while, so I haven’t had to rush into getting a car.  It’s not an open-ended loan, though, so I do need to buy a car in the next month or so.

I’ve spent hours looking at details about different cars that are available here-  that was necessary, because after three years in Germany, I didn’t actually know what they sell here.   I liked some of the Opel and Seat cars in Germany, but neither of those is available here, at least not under those names.I’ve test driven a number of vehicles already.  I wanted to love the Toyota Prius C, but it’s really not a good fit- literally.  I couldn’t roll the seat back and I just barely fit.  Speaking of fit, the Honda Fit (called the Honda Jazz in Germany)  was actually quite nice, but I like my cars with a little bit more zip.

After all of that, I’ve whittled my decision down to two cars:  The Mazda 3 hatchback and the Honda Civic sedan.  Now I need to decide whether I want manual or automatic transmission…

Which do you prefer, stick or automatic?