Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The End of Clothes

After three weeks living out of a suitcase I have reached the end of clothes. My furniture's position is still uncertain and I still don't have a car. But I am making progress: I have a bank account, social and health insurance, and I managed to convince my new roommate to clean out my desk so I can mess it up with my own stuff.

Buying a car turned out to be a real challenge. It seems I can't buy a car without having an insurance, and I can't get an insurance without a local drivers licence. Please don't ask me why, I have given up to expect the world to make sense.

So, yesterday I went to change my California driver's licence to an Ontario licence. Since I almost failed the written test in California, I actually read the driver's handbook to see how many laws I have broken in the last years. This was one of the most entertaining reads I have had lately. The book contains an enormous amount of valuable information. For example, while driving you should not shave or use a laptop.

Also, the handbook has an extra section how to deal with emergency situations where you learn "If your brakes fail and you manage to stop the car do not drive away." The same section also clarifies what to do in case you have to stop on a freeway. Since I had to do that repeatedly in Arizona when the water began to boil at an outside temperature of 112 F, I am relieved that I eventually know the correct procedure: After stopping the car, I was supposed to knot a white cloth to my antenna, and as the book says explicitly "Do not open the hood".

You see, I was really prepared for the test. The only problem was that they weren't able to access my Arizona record. As I had to learn, Ontario has graded driver's licences. And without the Arizona record I have driving experience that qualifies me as a beginner, despite the fact that I have had my licence since 12 years or so. Which is of course great for the insurance.

But even better, I called the Motor Vehicles Department in Arizona, and they aren't able to send me my own record because I can't recall the drivers licence number. Now what I have to do (!!) is to find an US-notary who confirms that my signature is my signature. Then I can fill out form 46-4416 and request to have my record sent.

Bottomline is that I spend every day running around from one office to the next, filling out forms, treating in forms for other forms, arguing with employees, spelling my name over and over again, sending and receiving faxes, exchanging numbers for other numbers, and cards for other cards.

August/September seems to be the postdoc's depression time. Its like all my friends are constantly in a bad mood in these weeks, either busy with preparing applications for the coming year, or with organizing their move and settling somewhere else. I had a friend who used to call postdocs 'the homeless people', and I think there is some truth in it.

However, it seems that Americans are much more used to moving around than Europeans. And I admit there is some fun in moving. At least I have something entertaining to tell you :-)

"We spend our time searching for security and hate it when we get it."

But being European I have to say I am looking forward to staying in one place for some years. I actually think about buying a couch and flatware. Seriously!


  1. Do the Canadians as well recommend to lock you in in your car in case of a break down?

    What are you supposed to do when the police stops you? In Europe, I would consider it polite to leave my car and walk up to the police car and greet the officers. In the US, I have been adviced to stay in the car and clearly put your hands on the wheel while they check your license plate over the radio. And never ever even think about opening the door or reaching for the glove box to find your drivers licese....

  2. Hi Robert,

    yeah, I have been told the same thing about leaving the hands on the wheel. As to Canada, the book is kind of unclear about what to do after you stop the car. But it repeats several times that it's the most serious violation of traffic regulation there is to ignore a police car that tries to stop you, minimum fine is $ 1,000.

    Now that I think about it, I am not even sure what a police car looks like in Canada.



  3. Wikipedia states that Ontario has bilingual STOP/ARRET signs (unlike "your ;-)" South African sign, or the STOP signs in France).

  4. Car-sharing programs are common in Canada, if I recall correctly Waterloo has one called
    People's car co-op. For an occasional and temporary car-use it is a better option than buying and eventually selling one.

  5. Hi Bee,

    How frustrating it sounds to deal with all the forms and stuff. It's no wonder so many choose not to do them legally. Though I've heard horror stories from American friends moving from state to state that changing driver's licenses can be very complicated. I hope you get settled in comfortably!

  6. Hi Anonymous,

    Since I have a blind spot at exactly the point where stop signs usually are, I actually went out on the street and looked really close at the next three stop signs that I found. None of them was bilingual.

    Hi Rae Ann,

    Thanks for the kind words. It is very tiresome. If you look at the bureaucracy there's no such thing as a global village. The worst examples are the credit history and insurance records. Who cares over here that I have had a credit card and drove without accident since I was 18, if it was in Europe? Actually, when I applied first for a credit card in the states, they were surprised to hear that we have credit cards at all in Germany...

    Anyway, I hope things are clearing out by next week and life will get back to normal. Should find some more time then to write something sensible...

    All the best,


    PS: I absolutely loved your butterfly post :-)

  7. Canada has police "ghost cars." It is your diverse ethnic right to converse in German only. English escapes you when under duress.

    A fast car owner pays for sins of productivity by Confederation extortion. Buy a complete radar/laser detector. Radar and laser detectors are illegal in Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec. Remember the Eleventh Commandent and keep it wholly - THOU SHALT NOT GET CAUGHT.

    Socialism is viable until it runs out of other peoples' money.

  8. Hi Bee, Thank you for the GSI link.
    I'm well aware that Germany has been and is a world leader in many fields.
    See Graph: dosisvergleich

    To date (June 2005), about 250 patients have been treated successfully at GSI. The new therapy led to a significant reduction of the tumor in all patients without any signs of relapse.
    Based on the studies at GSI, a therapy centre in Heidelberg is being built where up to 1,000 patients per year could be treated.

    In Germany, about 350,000 people per year develop cancer. At the time of the first diagnosis, about 60 percent of the tumors have not formed metastases. These localised tumor states are potentially curable by local treatment – surgery, radiation therapy or a combination of both therapy forms. But with roughly one third of the patients with localized tumor diseases, amounting to about 70,000 people per year, every kind of treatment presently available fails. Therefore, improvements of the established local treatments, as well as the development of new therapies are urgently needed. The application of ion beams in radiotherapy will provide a substantial improvement in the treatment of patients for whom medical treatment has not been possible or who have had unsatisfactory treatments - especially patients with inoperable tumors at the base of the skull or brain tumors, soft-tissue sarcoma and prostate carcinoma. According to demographic studies, in Germany, about 10,000 patients annually may benefit from radiation therapy with ion beams.

    Uncle Al, perhaps we need more Socialism, with the power to write blank cheques and provide higher education, treatment, homes, jobs & decent pensions for everyone, not just the self-appointed 'chosen' few and/or the selfish & the greedy

  9. ***
    Oops Bee, Try this link
    See Graph: dosisvergleich


  10. Hi Uncle,

    the Germans also have some kind of police ghost cars, usually called 'Blitzer'. These are the completely inconspicously looking cars parked in the downhill 30-zone on a for-lane road, equipped with two blue-jeans-and-sweatshirt-guys pointing at you with the radar. They never wear suits. The cars are never black. You can have their location sent to you as short message on the cell. I suspect they bring the 30-signs with them ;-)


  11. Hi Bee! thanks for liking the butterfly post. It was a lot of fun to do, but it did take a long time. lol

  12. What is the health insurance or the health care like up in Canada. In America everyone wants Canadian health care and I am curious what its like there.

    Thanks for your response.



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