Monthly Archives: April 2010


It is spring in Vienna–beautiful, amazing, spring.

I have to admit that when I first moved here, I wasn’t so sure about the city, which is awful because it’s a cultural capital of Europe and it’s amazing and blah blah blah. It was cold and dark, my feet were always wet, and the overwhelming impression I had was that things were Big, Old, Impressive, and Grey. Vienna in spring, though, is a whole different story.

Cafes have put their tables outside, street musicians are playing on every corner, even the buildings seem different. Now they gleam instead of glower. The parks are full of people sitting, walking, picnicking, drinking, playing music, reading… It’s just an amazing place to be. And there are ice cream shops on almost every street, which I definitely didn’t understand when I first got here, but now I get it. Every day is just better and better.

And now, best of all, it’s time for spring holidays. At Davidson, Spring Frolics was one of the happiest days of the year. Everyone set aside schoolwork and went to Patterson Court to frolic, which meant getting drunk laying out in the sun, eating barbecue, listening to music, and generally doing nothing except have fun. Today in Sweden, they are doing almost the exact same thing, except as a country. They’re having Valborg, some holiday that requires everyone to go to a park with all of their friends and get drunk enjoy each other’s company in the nice weather. In Vienna, there’s going to be a May Day celebration at the Prater, which I’m going to go to. I imagine that there will be a lot of people loitering around the park, eating, getting drunk listening to live music, and so on. I hope it’s awesome. Then, the celebration to trump them all: Grand May Day at Bryn Mawr College. Both my sisters go to Bryn Mawr College, my mom went, and my dad went to Haverford, so they’re all there for Sunday’s BIG DAY. Because Bryn Mawr is part sorority, part pagan cult, part feminist action coalition, they celebrate May Day in a really big way. And every four years they have a Grand May Day, so this is an even bigger celebration than usual. Parades, hoop races, dancing around a Maypole… you know, normal spring activities. Plus belly dancing, a screening of “The Philadelphia Story,” a Greek play, African dancing, henna tattoos, and a flute choir, of course. At least Davidson’s Spring Frolics had a slip ‘n’ slide. That thing was awesome.

So anyway. Hope you’re having a fabulous spring wherever you are, because spring is the most wonderful season of the year and everyone should be as happy as I am that it is here.

*   *   *   *   *


The parental unit on the ground at Bryn Mawr’s May Day sent these photos–looks like an amazing May Day. I want to go someday!

The may poles set up and ready for action.


Hoop races.

(The part of me that was secretly home-schooled/is a middle-aged dad can’t keep this one in any more: “seems like a whole lotta hoopla to me.” har har har har har)

I don’t know who these men are or what they are doing, but the next time I go to a Caribbean island I want my cabana boy to look like this. Do you think that can be arranged?

WAAAAAAA (this is a post about my FEELINGS so watch out)

This morning, I woke up at 3:45 to do A MOST HEINOUS THING: drop my sister off at the airport. You can watch this YouTube video if you want to know how I really feel. Otherwise, you can just keep reading.


There were two sort of redeeming qualities about the morning, though. One was that the most amazing check-in woman in the whole world allowed Emily to bring two bags on her AirBerlin flight to Milan instead of charging her 130 euros, which she was supposed to. That was so, so nice and so, so lucky, and Emily and I were both so happy that she could take both her bags with her that it actually offset the pre-departure trauma. The second was that it was a beautiful morning, and I got to see the sun rise over Vienna.

Now I am tired, and I am going to work, and… that is all for now.


Oh, sorry. Just my emotions running away from me again.

US Military Strategy

This is a real PowerPoint slide of US Military Strategy in Afghanistan. Just take a moment to soak it all in.

Mommy… it’s beau-ti-ful. (You can click on this picture to make it bigger.)

I didn’t even know this was possible using PowerPoint!

This picture makes me feel:

  1. In awe of PowerPoint.
  2. Respect for military graphic designers.
  3. A little worried about Afghanistan.

For more information about this and other military-PowerPoint contact zones, please see NYTimes article, “We Have Met The Enemy and He Is PowerPoint.” As General Stanley McChrystal said, “When we understand that graphic, we’ll win the war.”

Update: Jon Stewart covered the PowerPoint slide, too. Check it out here.

the käsekrainer experience

Today, I had a weird food craving.I don’t know why, but as I started walking across the street from the Ubahn to work, I just needed to have a cheese sausage. (It was 6 pm, by the way. Not 8:45 am.)

I had a cheese sausage once before when Simon came to visit in February. He bought a cheese sausage and I was pretending I wasn’t hungry (I don’t know why I do that) and drinking some hot apple cider when he offered me a bite and then I accidentally wolfed down 3/4 of this enormous sausage before he (or I) realized what was going on. Oops.

Look at how happy this man looks. You know why? Cheese sausage. 

So. The cheese sausage. Not a “käsewurstel” in Vienna, as you might expect. No. A käsekrainer. I’m going to go ahead and assume it’s dialect even if it’s not because käsekrainer doesn’t mean anything to me otherwise.

According to Wikipedia (fountain of all knowledge), the käsekrainer is a variation on a Slovenian sausage, thus further supporting my theory that there is no such thing as Austrian food from Austria, there is only Austrian food from Eastern Europe and Bohemia. And Turkey. And the Balkans. And then there are potatoes. Take it or leave it.

A cheese sausage craving, seriously? This is not like me. I am the kind of girl who likes to take whole grains and soak them in milk overnight before making a hearty and nutritious breakfast muesli delight that dairymaids from the 1800s would have killed for. But today… what can I say? Maybe I was just feeling the call of the cheese sausage.

Ok. According to Wikipedia,

“The Käsekrainer is a… sausage made with small chunks of cheese. Käsekrainer contains 10% to 20% cheese (e.g., Emmentaler) cut in small cubes. Käsekrainer can be boiled, baked or grilled. It is essential to keep them on low to medium heat otherwise the outside is burned and the inside is still cold. Care should be taken when preparing them because the cheese can become quite hot; the sausages are cut or poked while cooking to release the melting cheese.

The sausage can be served with curry on top; mustard, ketchup, and a piece of dark bread or in the most common form in Austria as a Käsekrainer-Hot-Dog. (By Hot Dog Austrians mean the bun not the sausage.) The bread used is very similar to a French baguette, but shorter (9 to 10 inches long). The bun is cut open at one end and a hole is poked into it with a warm 1-inch diameter metal rod.

The next step is to put sauce in the hole. Austrians usually select from the following three: sharp mustard, sweet mustard, and ketchup. Often the choice is ketchup and one—or even both—of the mustards.”

Yes. This brings me to my next point: the bread. They take a baguette (see picture above), pump some ketchup and mustard down the hole, and then stick the hot dog in after. Amazing. If you feel even slightly sickened—let alone nauseated—by this description, you are not ready for Viennese cuisine. (Otherwise known as Wiener Küche). (heh heh)

Back to my story. When Simon ordered the käsekrainer the first time (you’re all now sufficiently in the know enough to refer to it by its Christian name), I was not privy to the bread preparation. But let me tell you how it works. They take the bread, cut off the top, and then impale it on a stake, Vladimir the Impaler style. I was horrified. It was brutal. And then my Würstelstand man twirled the bread around on its stake, presumably in order to make the hole even. Horrors!

And then to pay. This is maybe the most hilarious part. There’s a sign propped up on the pavement outside the stand with prices and so on. Ignore that. The würstelstand man WEIGHED my sausage and then gave me a price. I almost died. Sausage by the gram, oder…?

So then I took my käsekrainer with me and set off down the walk, and would you believe it but it lasted me all the way to the front door of the office. At which point I realized that I was covered in bread crumbs and totally zufrieden. (Content.)


This is a fairly good representation of the insides of a käsekrainer, except that mine was in a modified baguette, which you know because you read the blog post this far, or so I assume. SIDENOTE: Yes, I really ate that. All by myself. Sober. On my way to work.

One more note. I tried to search for a good picture online (I would have taken one myself, but I was all alone and I don’t have enough hands to manage it all), but for some reason “show me the inside of a käsekrainer” did not yield any good results. I had to go to some WikiBooks cookbook to find out more… do you even trust these weird wiki-offshoots? I don’t know. It’s all very suspicious to me.

Must stop typing. Must go home. Auf wiedersehen.

Lovely Day At The Prater

Yesterday, Emily and I picnicked at the Prater, which I am fortunate enough to live close to. It was amazing weather, and Emily and I packed a tub full of risotto, one beer to split, a bottle of water, 2 bananas (which went uneaten), iPod, and speakers.

Emily with her beloved bikers behind.
Grassy knoll + picnic = delight.

Speakers, strategically located on top of my German notebook
and thus prohibiting its use. Weird how that works. 
After our picnic, Emily and I wandered through the Prater theme park, which was totally full of people in every kind of outfit and state of drunkenness. (The children seemed mostly sober, at least.) The best way I can describe the Prater is if you took an American theme park, added in 19th century freak show culture, slapped a few symbols of different European regions on to various stands, and then added some creepy clown figures. If that sounds trippy, it’s because it is.

Entering Prater theme park.
Paying a special visit to a special friend.
Gorilla, caught in the midst of peeing.

Sidenote about the damn gorilla. It peed on me!!! I was taking a picture of it when all of a sudden this stream of water erupted with some force from its nether regions. Needless to say, I was not pleased. I took solace only in the fact that it wasn’t real gorilla pee, although Emily acted as though it was for the rest of the day.

He’s got me! He’s got me! AAAHAHHAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!
Bronze casts of forks,
roses, and croissants buried in the pavement. Why?
Flower Ferris Wheel.


More clown action.
Me: “Emily, show me what a clown looks like.”
Emily: “Ok, wait a minute, I’ve got to feel it.”
And then this is what happened.

One more sidenote. As we were leaving, we walked by this ride, which seemed pretty tame. Notice, for example, how few people are on it. As we walk by, Emily says, “Now this is the kind of ride that I could go on. Except that we’re in Austria, and I don’t know what the litigation culture is like here.” At which point I burst out laughing.

This man has trade-up written all over him. As in, dump your boyfriend for him,
because he would be a trade up.
That’s all for now. I am feeling pretty tired and therefore not up to writing much beyond photo captions. Stay tuned for more, though.

weekend roundup and an homage to my sister

“Homage” in the above title should pronounced as oh…majjj, as the snobbiest, most pretentious, most honorable way possible in order to fully dignify my sister.

My sister has been staying with me for two weeks now, and it has been pure, unadulterated heaven. I mean, seriously. One of the things I was dreading about April was the return of German class, not for the German (I swore not to complain) but because of the horrible workday schedule it forces on me: leave the house at 8:30, work from 9-5, then class from 6-9, then come home with no open grocery stores, no clean laundry, and more German homework to do. Blecch. Emily has made all that pain go away just by being the best sister ever. She helps me by grocery shopping while I’m at work, she meets me in my short time between work and class, and she even does laundry. Clearly, I am hosting a goddess on temporary leave among mortals. My life is so good. I just can’t get over it.

Needless to say, I am hoping that volcano “Ejyflskjfyyfsouerlsakdjflsakfjall” or whatever it is erupts again in exactly six days when Emily is supposed to leave.

(Hee hee, Emily. Just kidding.)


But anyway, today we had a fantastic day of walking around the city. We ate lunch at the Naschmarkt at the Palatschinken place (Palatschinken = Austrian pancakes), and we both had crepes stuffed with rucola, pecorino,  pine nuts, and tomatoes. And then we were still hungry so we split a dessert crepe with strawberries, topfen (not my favorite in this context, unfortunately), and gallons of liquid chocolate. And then because we were going to be sick, we went and had some coffee. And then we went to Neubaugasse for some fun boutique window-shopping, then we went home… and my sister made me dinner. Again. And it was risotto. With fresh zucchini and cherry tomatoes from the Naschmarkt. Did I mention that she is a goddess? Who controls the volcano? Oh yeah, and we figured out how City Bike Vienna works, and we rode a bike for about a block, but it was a glorious block. And then we made all sorts of resolutions about the remainder of our weekend, and then we went home.

So anyway. Here’s the weekly blog post roundup:

  • Tuesday: the deep kinship between Sarah Palin and me, and how much we have in common, and how much I respect her, and straws.
  • Wednesday: a teeny-tiny rant about people who don’t bring dictionaries to German class, and how stupid that is, and how much I hate them. but it wasn’t hateful, because I am actually full of inner peace.
  • Thursday: I discover a blog about vocabulary, and then I lose my shit.
  • Friday: I write a fan letter to the vocabulary blog blogger, and he writes back. And then I lose my shit even more.

I hope that if you missed even a single moment of my exciting blog, you go back in the archives and search it out. Why? Well, ok, besides the obvious added pleasure in your life, it will register as added stats on my Google Analytics statistics, and let’s be serious, I get a whole lot of happiness out of seeing that people have visited my blawg. I check Google Analytics constantly. Need validation much? No. Not at all. But I have to say, my friends in NYC and Brooklyn especially are kicking some major you-know-what (tushy) in terms of reading my blog, and… I am starting to like them better than other people. I just can’t help myself. It’s a team effort–I know. But I like each and every individual person from Brooklyn that much more. Eeesh. I’m sorry.

Schön Wochenende, alles! And if you’re going to be in Charlotte, NC or Davidson over Fourth of July weekend, let’s talk. xx kate

I think I have officially lost my mind (the next best thing since freerice, part two)

The subtitle for this post is “Hello, genius.” Why? Because yesterday I wrote a fan letter to Ben Schott, the author of Schott’s Vocab, a NYTimes blog on vocabulary, and I made the subject line of my email “Hello, genius.” (See yesterday’s blog post for more details). I didn’t really expect him to answer his own mail, but I thought I’d make it compelling just in case. And then he responded within forty minutes. Like I said, I have officially lost my mind.

Anyway, now that I have officially made contact with him, I would like to add that my success rate of fan letters receiving responses is still 100%. I wrote a fan letter to Marian Schembari last week, and she also responded. (You can find her website at, and you can follow her on Twitter, and you can also write her fan letters. I’m pretty sure she’d love it.) At the moment, my success rate is unbeatable. I shall never write another fan letter again in order to maintain my stats.

Anyway, here’s the fan letter that I wrote. Like I said, I have no idea where my sanity went, but my best guess is that I lost it somewhere in my transatlantic flight in January.

From: Kate Wiseman
Date: Thu, 22 Apr 2010 09:16:09 +0100
To: “
Subject: Hello, genius.
From: Ben Schott
To: Kate Wiseman
Date: Thu, Apr 22, 2010 at 11:56 AM

Dear Mr. Schott,

I just came across your blog yesterday, and I love it. I graduated from college last year and therefore lost my university access to the online of the Oxford English Dictionary, which was a crushing blow to my life and one that time has not yet healed. For etymological pursuits alone, it was indispensable. However, your blog is a ray of light in my otherwise lexicographically weak state, a beacon of hope for my inner vocabulary enthusiast. Thank you for filling this gap in my otherwise tedious workday.

I just wrote a blog post on my own blog about you and your blog, and if you would like to read it, you can find it at under “the next best thing since freerice.” Are you aware of freerice? The URL is simply, and it brings you to a vocabulary challenge game that becomes increasingly difficult the better you do. The site claims to donate 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme to end hunger. I don’t know if they actually do this, but I like to think so.

Anyway, thank you for the fine work, and carry on!

Kate Wiseman

(itinerant vocabulary enthusiast)


And then he replied!

Subject: Re: Hello, genius.

Gosh. Well, thank you.

I am delighted you like the blog.




Tee hee hee! AMAZING. This just goes to show that you can reach for your dreams and try to speak to your idols, and maybe they will speak back. Whattup.

the next best thing since freerice

to all the word people out there

Did you know that the New York Times has a blog devoted to vocabulary? VOCABULARY, of all things. I think I’m in love. It’s called “Schott’s Vocab,” and according to the webpage,

Schott’s Vocab is a repository of unconsidered lexicographical trifles — some serious, others frivolous, some neologized, others newly newsworthy. Each day, Schott’s Vocab explores news sites around the world to find words and phrases that encapsulate the times in which we live or shed light on a story of note. If language is the archives of history, as Emerson believed, then Schott’s Vocab is an attempt to index those archives on the fly.

Schott’s Vocab is a repository of unconsidered lexicographical trifles — some serious, others frivolous, some neologized, others newly newsworthy. Each day, Schott’s Vocab explores news sites around the world to find words and phrases that encapsulate the times in which we live or shed light on a story of note. If language is the archives of history, as Emerson believed, then Schott’s Vocab is an attempt to index those archives on the fly.

Ok, yes. This just in: I’m in love.

I mean, clearly this man (Ben Schott) is a genius of our times. Some of his blog titles include “The Panzhihua Pain” and “Snoo-Bo.” Snoo-Bo is apparently “the portmanteau term for a threatened duet between Susan Boyle and Snoop Dogg.” Love. And he refers to other wordies as “co-vocabularists.” Thank you, sir. I will take the title willingly.

But anyway, the whole reason I found this blog in the first place is because of his (also genius) competition from last week, called “ Whelmed by Outendo,” in which he poses the following questions:

  • Surely, unsubtle innuendo is outuendo, and innuendo that goes too far is innuendon’t.
  • Is one who hates all married women a mrsanthrope?
  • And, how many of us have ever been gruntled?

All very good questions, although he certainly loses points for asking why one can be overwhelmed and underwhelmed but never whelmed. I mean, seriously. Have you never seen “10 Things I Hate About You?” It’s not a good sign when you inadvertently but earnestly quote Bianca and Chastity. Although maybe it wasn’t inadvertent, and he was genuinely intrigued. Or maybe it’s because he’s British (serious cause for doubt, in my book, but I’ll try to get past it), and they’re still stuck at that point in their lexicographical debates.

Anyway, some of the responses were hilarious, and I’m including a few here for your viewing pleasure, but if you want to see more you should follow this link and read on.

  • I’m neither convinced nor unconvinced about this competition. I’ll just have to stay vinced and leave it at that.
  • Spreading false rumors about the Wii is nothing more than Nintenuendo.
  • Since we generally lie to cover ourselves after something has occurred, shouldn’t prevaricate be postvaricate?
  • You’ve misdefined “outuendo” – it’s a statement subtly implying that the sexual orientation of its target is not as represented.
  • When he pretexted a lame excuse for canceling their plans, she realized he’d been subtexting her all along and she’d missed it.
  • Due to a sudden case of claustrophophilia, I spent the evening in the closet.
  • I was underjoyed to see that the postcursor to the event was a dessembly of overdeveloped nations.

Well, I hope you enjoy THAT. And if you have more, feel free to leave them here.

Ein kleines RANT-chen for all the German-language learners out there

This is just a brief rant. A Rantchen. In German, to make things small, they add “chen” to the end of the word. For example, Brot is bread; Brotchen is a bun. Unless you’re in Austria, of course, in which case it’s a Semmel, just to make things interesting. That aside… Rantchen. Capitalized, as all good Nouns ought to be. Ok. Back on track.

I am taking a beginning level German course right now, and some of the people in it make me CRAZY. And I understand that people come from all sorts of linguistic backgrounds and that learning languages is harder for some people and all that, but some of these people have to be trying not to learn. Several of them have been in Vienna for more than a year, and they have no clue what’s going on. And worst of all (and here’s the main point of my rant), more than half the class doesn’t bring a dictionary.

SERIOUSLY, people? You live in Austria, you’re taking a beginning level language class, and you can’t be bothered to bring a dictionary?? And you’re annoyed because you don’t seem to be learning that quickly???! Ma dai.

Here’s a piece of advice to anyone learning a new language: buy a dictionary, and then keep it on your person at all times. It should be one of the things you don’t leave the house without. Wallet, phone, map, dictionary. Everything else is optional. (Except maybe chocolate. Yeah, bring some chocolate too. You never know when you might need it.)

But anyway… you will never learn a foreign language unless you have a dictionary. Or maybe you will. I could be wrong. Maybe you have a friend or significant other who will walk next to you all day long and then sit next to you in class and translate. Or maybe you learn by magic. In which case, I don’t understand why you’re in my class in the first place, because German class costs money and learning by magic is free (as I understand it). Basically, there are a thousand language learning theories out there, but all of them involve actually learning new words. Even Rosetta Stone, which claims to teach you entirely through pictures and repetition (as a baby would learn, supposedly), doesn’t teach you the thousands of words you need to become proficient in another language very quickly. I used Rosetta Stone to learn Swedish, and while it was great for getting the basics, I had to supplement it with another book to cover more ground. Rosetta Stone is thorough, but slow.

And now here’s part two of my teeny-tiny miniscule rant, because really I’m a person full of inner peace and not full of inner rage, so obviously I only have Rantchens. In a class full of people from all around the world, it is not fair to ask the teacher to translate into English. I don’t care if you speak 15 languages already and German will be your 16th and English is only your fourth. It excludes the other students, and besides, when the teacher explains a word in the language you’re trying to learn, you learn other words that contextualize it… thus FURTHER increasing your vocabulary. And since people from all around the world speak English (I do love that it has become a global language), someone else can translate for you. It hurts me when I see the annoyance and frustration on a non-English speaker’s face when the teacher resorts to translating in English. It’s not an equal playing field, and it’s not nice.

So get a dictionary before you come. If you’re going to pay 250 euros or more for a class, plus the cost of the books, the dictionary is only a small cost on top, and it’s actually a CRUCIAL part of your language learning process. And it will empower you to learn on your own and to understand the newspaper and to situate yourself in another language-universe. And that can only be good.

See this? Get this. Done.

Sarah Palin and I just might be kindred spirits.

I never thought I would say this, but…

Sarah Palin and I have something in common. Something deep, dark, and fundamental.

We both have a thing about straws.

I know this thanks to the intrepid investigation work done by two students at Stanislaus College, which is apparently somewhere in California. They snuck into a campus building and liberated the last six out of nine pages of Sarah’s speaking contract out of a trashcan. (I’m calling her Sarah now, in honor of our newly forged friendship. She would want us to be on a first name basis.) And now we can all read it, at least in part.

In the contract, they found out that Sarah flies to her speaking engagements in a Lear Jet, that black SUVs or town cars drive her from the airport to town, and once in town, she stays in a deluxe hotel with internet access in her room and a printer, “fully stocked with paper.” (Hmm… makes you wonder what happened at the last hotel). Which is not to mention the straws, which is where I really start to be on board with the operation.

I mean, the whole thing is pretty amazing. If I could command $100,000 per speaking engagement, of course I would request straws. Sarah does. Under “A/V Requirements,” she writes that she must have two bottles of still water available next to the lectern with flexible straws besides. Who would have imagined that Sarah would have recognized the sheer genius inherent in the straw? And even better: to recognize the unique capabilities of the bendable straw.

But, Sarah. Isn’t that a lot of water? Don’t you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of your talk? Or are you even more super-humanly than I thought you were?

Oh, sorry, Sarah. I didn’t mean to get so pushy there.

I do admire her foresight in specifying still water, however. Have you ever tried to leave a straw in a carbonated beverage? It bobs up and out. The bubbles are just too much for the poor, weak straw. It would be a disaster. Sarah’s lips unseeingly seeking out a non-existent straw in the middle of making a devastating point like a camel eying its next victim before spitting… If the straw fell out of the bottle, would she leave it on the ground, or would she pick it back up and put it back in the bottle? Thank goodness you specified still water, Sarah. It could have been horrific.

Lest you all think I am just ruthlessly mocking poor Sarah for her altogether understandable love of straws, I’m not. I myself am a straw aficionado.

My mother and sisters regularly give me nice straws as gifts (for some reason my dad seems to resist indulging me on this one), the most recent being a nice plastic straw with a man with frothy beer hanging on it—a gift from Italy—and a sort of sippy cup on steroids from my mom this past Christmas. It is giant, shiny, and ever so practical. It has a cap that screws on so that I can leave it next to my bed and not worry that I’m going to flood my bedroom when I knock it over while flailing around in my sleep.

It is so near and dear to my heart that I brought it with me when I moved to Vienna. I said goodbye to books, high heels, jackets, and spices, but the sippy cup came. I packed it in my carry on so that I could use it in the Amsterdam airport. Like I said, serious obsession.

My sippy cup. Admire.
My straw collection, nestled among the silverware.
A close-up of my most recent acquisition, a present from my sister, Emily.

So anyway, just when I least expected it, I found true common ground with a former enemy. While I formerly derided her for her public interviews (I still love you Katie Couric), belittled her social views as narrow-minded and intolerant, and resented her for her political stances on, well, just about everything, I found that I had to change my mind.

Sarah isn’t just a good ol’ gal from Alaska who’s made it big on luck, hard work, luck, hair, opportunity, luck, family values, luck, and her hair, Sarah is a connoisseur of the finer things. A guru of social graces. A citizen of the world.

Here’s to my good friend, Sarah Palin.