Olli’s Saturday School – Einkommensteuererklärung

This was sort of what I did today. Except, being German, my taxes are different. I guess.

Let’s start with a few explanations: I am working full time, so my employer deducts my taxes directly from my salary. Taxes, payment for some social security stuff. They don’t deduct health insurance stuff because I’m in private healthcare. So in fact they pay me a little more because they’re obligated to pay half of my health insurance costs. To a certain degree.

The biggest chunk they keep from my salary is the earnings tax or Lohnsteuer.
They give that directly to our equivalent of the IRS, the Finanzamt.

Since the taxes of employees are paid in advance, we have up to four years to file our taxes, depending on the exact situation, which I wont bore you with. But because I hate keeping track of documents and want it to be done as soon as possible, I usually do it end of February every year.

My Einkommensteuererklärung (literally income tax statement). I could do it by hand, filling in forms the Finanzamt provides, but I prefer to do it via a software that costs me 15 bucks a year. If I wasn’t so bad at keeping track of certain invoices, I could claim a refund for that, too.

The software tells me where to find the information on the paperwork I get from my employer, so most of it is pretty easy to fill.
I tell the Finanzamt how much money I made. How much in income tax and church tax my employer already paid. How much money went into benefits. How much money they gave me to cover costs driving to and from work.

Then I have to tell them (and in some cases file receipts) about my professional expenses or Werbungskosten. Which is a nasty words because it translates to advertising cost and should be Erwerbskosten. Costs related to me making a living.
Clothes or work materials I have to by, travel expenses for business trips, that sort of stuff.
Any other tax allowable expenses like certain types of insurance, maintenance costs for my living arrangements, costs related to the care of sick or old relatives, etc etc etc.

Why we do that? Well, in my case, in a few weeks or months, depending how busy the Finanzamt will be, I will get what we call a Lohnsteuerrückzahlung. An income tax refund. I’ll probably get mine in April or May.

This year I’m expecting something in the very low four figures, which is pretty good.


Oh, and you should totally check out Goat Milk Stuff on Youtube or Twitter. Don’t forget Brett Jonas herself, singer and star of the video this blog post started with. ;-)

EFF YOU! – Check who you send your mails to.

The following happened at work a couple of days ago. The whole mail exchange was German, of course, translated for your convenience.

Names changed.

Email from Ray Etherhall, purchase department, around 1500 hours to sales dept: Please make sure to check all important orders in time, I’ll leave at 1640 today.

Tim Shaker, sales, replies to him and several others in sales: Elvis has left the building, huh?

Ray, replying in a local dialect: Thou basterd!

Tim: That’s bastard. With an a.

More coworkers join in the playful email banter, prodding Ray…

Ray sends a mail to all of them, in 72 point font, bold:


He literally wrote EFF YOU!

Everybody in the sales office starts laughing. Everyone but Tim.


He hadn’t gotten the mail. Ray had manually typed the adresses, but autocomplete hat made TS into Tom Sure. Tom Sure is one of our three CEOs.

So Tim went into Ray’s office, just to catch him typing frantically, apologetically1 and very very pale.

No worries, though. Everyone involved kept their jobs, no hard feelings. Not even from Ray who was actually kidding with the mail. Nothing unusual, really.

Just remember to proofread your emails. Even the to- cc- and bcc- entries. Be always sure who you’re telling to go fuck themselves, even if you abbreviate it.


  1. something about the horrible derailing of stupid banter []

Olli’s Saturday School – The Wayne Train

We all have been in that situation, when some obnoxious person you can’t really tell to sod off is talking to you. They’re talking about things you just don’t care about. You’re not interested.

Good news: We have a couple of phrases in Germany that exist solely for that purpose.

Say Hier ist ein Groschen while handing someone a small coin.1

This translates to: Here’s a dime.

Wofür? – Why? What for?

Für die Parkuhr! – For the parking meter!

Hä? – Huh?

Für einen Groschen hört die dir eine halbe Stunde zu. – For a dime it will listen to you for half an hour.2.

In short, you’ve told that person to go away and tell their “interesting” story to the parking meter because nobody else cares. Feel free to adapt, change coinage, shorten or whatever.

Another way of stating your obvious disinterest is the following.

Kennste Wayne? Wayne interessierts!

The translation Ya know Wayne? Wayne cares! only makes sense if you know that Wayne sounds like the German word Wen, a form of who. Wayne interessierts = Wen interessierts? = Who cares?

This led to the following fun phrase, blending German, English and puns together.

Tschuu tschuu!
Hier kommt der Wayne-Train zum Mount Whateverest. Nächster halt: Miregalistan.

Choo choo!
Here comes the wayne-train to Mount Whateverest. Next stop: Idontcaristan.

Or maybe ask them: Wo ist der Bus? – Where’s the bus?

Welcher Bus? – http://www.ollicrusoe.net/?p=749

Der Bus voller Leute, die es interessiert. The bus full of people who care.

What? You don’t care? Fine, I’ll go tell it to the parking meter.

  1. Groschen was the German equivalent of a dime, back when we still had the Deutsche Mark as currency. []
  2. of course this isn’t true anymore []

The roadtrip plan thickens!

If you’re a regular or follow me on twitter you’ll probably know that my vacation is drawing closer and closer.

Yay, vacation!

Up until a while ago I was still looking at what to see and do while passing through Oregon. I was delighted when I found out about Crater Lake, and a bit disappointed when I read that it was likely to be closed and still snowy in May. Same for other neat things in south Oregon.

Turns out that this year’s weather is favoring my travel plans, though. I spoke to some people and apparently the snow is already melting over there. Barring and snowstorms in the next few weeks it looks like I’ll be able to get to the lake!

So I booked the remaining accomodations, planned the route and crossed my fingers.

I’ll also be watching this website very closely:

Those webcams are a heaven- or hellsent. Watched a sunrise on them, decided to try and get there at ass-o’clock (4AM or so) to watch the sun rise.  Let’s see how that works out.

Olli’s Saturday School – The fifth season

Somehow Germans ended up with a reputation of being humorless. Part of that might be, because we put aside a certain time of the year to be funny.

While neither is true, I’m not here to debunk both myths, I’m just trying to shed a light on what we sometimes call Die fünfte Jahreszeit – the fifht season

Fastnacht (Fassenacht, Fasching, etc)

Both words seem to derive from lent starting right after it. Karneval is often attributed to the latin words for meat and farewell, while Fastnacht can almost literally be translated to lent-eve. Or, if you want to pun: Almost night.

It is celebrated in most catholic reagions of Germany, namely the Rhineland. The most well-known and widely spread variation is the Rheinische Fassenacht (Rhenanian Carnival) with the biggest celebrations in Cologne and Mayence.

The season traditionally starts on November 11th at 11:11, or am Elften Elften um Elf Uhr Elf. The eleventh eleventh at eleven past eleven. The number 11 is considered a wacky number in Germany, the first Schnapszahl1 and plays a big role in Karneval. It also has sort of history roots especially for the rhenanian Carnival, related to the French Revolution. Elf. E-L-F. Ègalite, Liberté, Fraternité.

The first parties and celebrations start then but are suspended during Advent and Christmas until February and the Carnival week starting with the main events on Weiberdonnerstag (Wench Thursday) going through Rosenmontag (Rose Monday)  and Fastnachtsdienstag. (Carnival Tuesday).

During that time the Elferrat reigns. This committee of eleven with a president at the top and in most places the Prinzenpaar (the prince couple) are the rulers of the carnival activities and will often judge comedic performances at the carnevalistic sessions. Their costumes and those of their gards and pages are often a mock-up of late medieval and Napoleonic or Prussian uniforms and clothing, closely related to the tradition of making fun of the government during the season.

Each village and city in the region has their own Elferrat, their rulers and Prinzengarde or Funkengarde and of course the Funkenmariechen (Sparkling guard and Sparkling Mary) trailing them and dancing during the celebrations.

This is what they look like performing a mix of dancing and acrobatics at a carnival session:

Depending on where you are the uniforms look pretty much similar, but the color scheme can vary. Red is traditional in my home area.


In addition to their costumes pretty much every village, town and city has their own carnevalistic battlecry and using the wrong one, especially in rival cities is a very serious faux-pas.

The most well-known and wide-spread are Helau! and Alaaf! but the list is pretty much endless. Just look at these examples.

Now in the primetime of carnival people tend to go wild. During celebrations a lot of people take time off, businesses in the active areas often just close shop and people exhibit a What happens in Vegas attitude. If you join the activities try to retain some common sense though. Don’t go assuming anything when you get a Bützchen (a kiss) from a total stranger at a Fastnachtsparty in Cologne.

A big part of the tradition are the Kappensitzungen, sessions named after the Narrenkappe (the fools hat) worn by the Elferrat and Karnevalsprinz (see picture above). Sometimes they can also have other names, often mock-militaristics due to the Napoleon/Prussia-merrymaking.
Those sessions are basically big comedy shows with music (we have our own genre for that thing), acrobatics and comedy. A bit like a themed circus. A lot of brilliant political cabaret was born in carneval.

A big carnevalistic comedy tradition is the Büttenrede (tub-speech).

Someone enters the tub (a decorated speakers pult) and delivers a comedic, mock-poetic speech with bad rhyming, usually bitterly sarcastic and centered around current events and politics. The punchlines are usually marked by the traditional Karnevalstusch.

But there’s more.

There’s Weiberdonnerstag when women storm the city hall, cut off men’s ties and generally go apeshit. Just like men during that time.

The climax of the whole season is the Rosenmontagszugm the Rose Monday Parade (usually neighboring cities, town and villages time it so some are actually on Saturday, Sunday or Tuesday, so groups and spectators can go to more than one).

Orchestras, clubs, carneval associations form up a parade and throw candy (Kamelle!) , hand out oranges and snacks, fling confetty and paper streamers. Well, not the orchestras, those play music. And the dancing groups dance. But you get the pictures. Mind you, this is not an official holiday. But in most places where it’s celebrated, business just close down for the day or a couple of hours, because nothing would get done anyway.

How big is this? The largest one in Cologne has been around since 1823. The parade is more than 4 miles long. Yes, 4 miles of parade floats, groups and orchestras one after another. They hand out about 300 tons of candy, snacks, flowers and little presents. About 12.000 individuals are involved in organizing it, there’s about a million spectators. In 2014 there were 82 orchestras, four of them riding on horses. In 2014 the parade was longer than the path it took, so the first group was already done when the last one hadn’t even started.

Here’s an example for a parade float (and it’s actually a pretty small and cruddy one, compared to what you occasionally see) critizising a German Cardinal opposing abortion.

You get all kinds of stuff on the big ones. Polititians, church figures, TV scandals, literally NOTHING is safe from satire on a Rosenmontagszug.

And now, to wrap things up, I give you THE traditionall carnevalistic music, the Narrhallamarsch. The March of the Fools Hall, which is played by orchestras on the parades, wherever the Prince is due to appear or when a new performers enters or exits the stage on one of the sessions.

  1. booze number, a number considering of all the same digits []

Vacation planning!

Hey! First of all, to those whoe care and expected something: sorry for not posting anything last Wednesday, but I was totally knackered from work, had a horrible week and couldn’t think of anything fun, interesting or uplifting to post.

So, what now…as my vacation draws near, it’s probably time to start thinking some things through, planning stuff, booking hotels for the nights I haven’t yet. Maybe. Or maybe I’ll just wing some of these, but I don’t exactly feel comfortable with that unless I KNOW I’ll find something in time.

My great U.S. west coast road trip is booked. The plan is more or less fixed.

I will start on May 11th, flying into Seattle, picking up a rental car and staying there for three nights. I’ll try to meet up with a few twitter friends there who shall remain nameless.

On one of the full days I’ll spend there, I’ll be treating myself to something special.

I booked a whalewatching trip including a flight from Seattle to San Juan Islands in back with a seaplane!

Besides hopefully spending a lot of time with awesome people who I will pester some more soon, what else should I do in Seattle? Anyone know if it is worth to go up and have dinner on top of the Space Needle? Maybe someone wants to join me? If the weather is good, I’ll want to go up anyway, not sure if dinner there is nothing but a tourist trap, but then…who cares? I don’t mind doing stuff just because it’s a novelty.

Suggestions and commentary is appreciated!

After Seattle I’ll drive south past Portland (unless I find an absolute must-see before fixing this part), probably down to Grant’s Pass or Eugene, Oregon. I thought about doing a detour to Crater Lake, but their website led me to believe that this early I’m at a serious risk of too much snow and everything being closed. Although I’d LOVE to see it.

Then on to Eureka, CA and Sacramento a day later, a bit along the coast and through the Redwoods State Parks.

From Sacramento I might go gold panning or even do a probably exhausting day trip to Yosemite with another twitter friend! After that it’s San Francisco for a few days, Alcatraz, maybe meet the final twitter friend for this trip, the Golden Gate, that sort of stuff.

Thus ends the road trip part of this vacation and I’ll fly to Maui. Snorkeling and exploring the island. Take billions of pictures. That sort of stuff.

As I write this, it’s 89 days and 17 hours to wheels-up!

Olli’s Saturday School – where to put your stuff

Hey everyone! I don’t have any special topic around, but I thought about some words while tidying up my place, so why not.

There are many words in the English language for one German word that you’ll find in many houses and appartments.

Cabinet. Closet. Cupboard. Wardrobe. Locker. Safe. Armoire.

All of these can be translated with the German word Schrank.

Usually some sort of qualifier is added, as to the location, content or built of your Schrank.

Küchenschrank – cupboard, literally the kitchen cabinet
Kleiderschrank – wardrobe – clothes cabinet
Schlafzimmerschrank – a wardrobe that very specifically resides in your bedroom
Badezimmerschrank – the one in the Bathroom

The fun starts with the fridge and freezer. Those can be a Schrank, too.
A Gefrierschrank (freezing cabinet) or Kühlschrank (cooling cabinet)

And you thought German was hard and complicated? Doesn’t get easier than that. If it is large enough and contains stuff, it can be a Schrank.

A server rack where you install all the 19″ computer equipment is called a Serverschrank.
If it’s one that only contains say patch panels and maybe a few switches, it’s a Netzwerkschrank. A network cabinet.

A gun locker? Easy: Waffenschrank. A weapon-cupboard. ;-)

Worried about shoe storage? Put them in a Schuhschrank.

Another example where German is a lot easier than English would be the hoover or vacuum cleaner. Jeez, don’t make it complicated. We just call it Staubsauger. Literally: dust sucker.