Sunset in Half Moon Bay, CA

Here is a second favorite vacation picture from Eileen. She wrote:

The sunsets were taken at Half Moon Bay in Santa Cruz, California. I was with E and K (a young couple that I know), and we’d been staying with one of her sisters in the Bay Area. It was Thanksgiving weekend, and a bunch of her family decided to go together to look at the tide pools because they are really good in that area. The sunset was more amazing than can be captured in photos, but I still think they came out rather well!

Yes, the whole spectrum of colors displayed on the waves is amazing. I am sure the sunset was more amazing than my painting, too.

Half Moon Bay, California
Half Moon Bay, California

Sunflowers in Arizona

Here is the second painting based on a vacation picture. Eileen who sent it to me wrote that it was taken “just outside Williams, Arizona, the gateway town to the Grand Canyon.”

It is a beautiful view of a field with sunflowers in the foreground, and another yellow field further back. I am not sure if these could be sunflowers, too, or rapeseeds, or gorse. Even further back a slight hill with different kinds of trees and confers. Complemented by a beautiful blue sky this makes a wonderful inviting vacation picture.

Sonnenblumenfeld * Sunflower Field, Arizona
Sonnenblumenfeld * Sunflower Field, Arizona

A piece of cake

A piece of cake

In this cake filled season, let me add some trivia inspired by a personal experience.

This story started more than three years ago, to be exact on my birthday (at the end of September). A German colleague brought a wonderful cake for coffee break – one that I can eat, namely without sugar and white flour. I thoroughly enjoyed it. At one point I noticed a little discussion among some colleagues, most of them American. The question was whether what we were eating should really be called ‘cake.’ I found this very amusing and decided to do a little research, which later helped me to explain what cognitive anthropology is about.

So what was the problem?

coffee banana bread with chocolate and nutsSchwarzwälder Kirschtorte

My birthday ‘cake’ was what we call in German ‘Kuchen.’ In school we learn that the English word for ‘Kuchen‘ is ‘cake.’ This is beyond controversy but what most English teachers and dictionaries don’t tell you, is what English speakers consider to be ‘cake’ and what not.

Just look at the two pictures above: On the top one a Banana bread (click on the photo and you will find a recipe), on the bottom one a Black forest cake. I have always wondered why ‘Banana bread’ is called bread, when in my understanding it is a cake. My birthday cake was fairly similar, which is why my German colleagues and me called it cake, while the American and British colleagues considered it to be ‘sweet bread.’ In contrast, the Black forest cake is for me as German speaker not a cake but a ‘Torte.’ Now it gets even more complicated because American English has no equivalent for this category. The Brits use at least a French loan word – gateau. The meaning of the French word is very close to the German word ‘Torte‘ but this does not mean that all people using either of these two words (German speakers, Brits, French) necessarily put the same things in this category.

This is probably more than enough information for most people.

However, for those who know some German or want to know more, the following charts might be interesting. They are based on my conversations with two colleagues – one American, one Brit. I asked them to categorize certain types of cake or bread that they knew, including several Austrian specialties. Below you can see what we discovered.

It was most amusing to realize how different you can categorize everyday items in three cultures that are not so far from each other and even have some common roots.

Germans might be puzzled by the heading ‘Mehlspeise’ which is a typical Austrian word, unknown to most Germans, except maybe in the south of Germany, and often misunderstood because it literally means ‘flour dish’ – which could be all kinds of things for Germans but is reserved for sweet ‘flour dishes’ in Austria. The other deviation from Standard German shows that there are even differences in cake categories between Germany and Austria: ‘Topfentorte‘  – note the word ‘Torte‘ in it – is called ‘Käsekuchen‘ (lit. cheese cake) in Germany. ‘Topfen‘ is the Austrian equivalent of ‘Quark‘ in Germany but in this case the end product has the word cheese in it. Who knows why? I did not research these differences.

Whatever you call the things you baked for Christmas, and no matter whether you celebrate Christmas on the 24th in the evening (German/Austrian tradition), or  on the 25th in the morning (British/American tradition) – I wish you a joyful celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ, Yeshua Ha-Mashiach, Isa Al-Masihu. His coming to earth is the greatest miracle and the reason for our eternal hope. Don’t let this get lost in all the other things connected to Christmas.

Inaugural prayers

I had not planned it, but since my other plans for today did not work out, I eventually decided to join some collegues and watch the inaguration of Obama Barack on TV. It was a first for me in many ways. I realized that I had never seen an inauguration before, maybe because I hardly ever owned a TV. It was interesting for me as non-American but here I only want to comment on the two inaugural prayers:

I had not been aware of the discussion that seemingly has happened before the inauguration, whether Rick Warren will pray in the name of Jesus or not. From what I read and hear now (here and here), I get the impression that no matter what he would do, somebody would critize him. I thought he did a great job in many ways. I really liked that he pronounced Jesus’ name according to different languages and traditions:

“We now commit our new president and his wife, Michelle and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, into your loving care.

I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Isa, Jesus [Spanish pronunciation], Jesus, who taught us to pray: … ”
(quoted here).

I did not know the guy who gave the final benediction, Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, but I was quite intriged by him. It seems that he has the same problem as Rick Warren – no matter what he did, he would be critizied either from one side or the other. I liked his humorous rhyming refrain at the end, but  some people seem to take offence with it, especially the reference to the white people (see comments here):

“We ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to give back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right.” (quoted here).

I am glad to have watched it, as I, too, feel that it was a historical moment.