Leland Sklar… and a low two tumor!

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Yesterday, I wrote about our dog, Arran, who just had surgery to have a mast cell tumor removed. Last night, the vet called and emailed to tell us that the tumor she removed was “low grade” and she got excellent margins. This is very good news. I mean, the first mast cell tumor Arran had was rated a 1.5, which is very low grade… almost benign, actually. This one was a 2. A two is not as good as 1.5, but pathologists can be pretty subjective about their opinions, anyway. Another pathologist might have rated it differently. The point is, it doesn’t look like it was a particularly aggressive tumor and there’s a good chance the surgery was curative. I wrote more about this on my main blog.

I was impressed that the vet called and emailed, especially on a Friday evening. She said she would call today, too, since we missed the call last night. When we lived in Stuttgart, I remember getting the news at the appointment, rather than by phone. I was actually a little concerned when Bill said he got a call and an email. I thought maybe there was something urgently wrong. But, it turns out she probably just wanted to put our minds at ease for the weekend. I mean, mast cell tumors are shitty and they’re not good news as a general rule. But having now dealt with several types of canine cancers, I can say that I would take dealing with a mast cell tumor over, say, prostate cancer or the horrible spinal tumor our sweet MacGregor had in 2012. That was heartbreaking.

Last night, I also finally got something I’ve been waiting ages for… a book by the great bass guitar player, Leland Sklar. I am a big fan of his work, since he’s played bass for many of my favorite artists since the 1970s. Ever since the pandemic started, Lee has been posting videos on YouTube. He’s also started a “hangout”, which I would join if I weren’t so many timezones away. In the fall, he decided to publish a book called Everybody Loves Me. It’s basically a thick coffee table book full of photos of people flipping him the bird. Seriously, there’s very little writing in this book. It’s all famous and non famous people giving Sklar the finger. He’s got a broad range of people mugging for the camera, too. Off the top of my head, besides many people whose names I don’t know but give good face, he’s got photos of Phil Collins, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett, Jackson Browne, and David Crosby, among many others.

So what does this have to do with traveling? Well, it’s not so much about travel as it is life in Germany and getting stuff through the APO system, which is what we US government affiliated people get for US mail. Lelad Sklar mailed my book sometime in late November, I think. It just got to me yesterday. The mail has been slow lately under normal circumstances. When someone mails something through the APO system, particularly when they don’t pay for premium shipping, it can take many weeks. I’m not complaining, mind you. I was glad to get the book yesterday. It was worth the wait. I got a big kick out of it. Incidentally, I ordered Bill an Ancestry.com DNA kit for Christmas back in early November, I think. It just got here about two weeks ago.

The weather continues to suck, although I did read that at least reports of COVID-19 cases have gone down a little bit. I just got up and noticed that it’s snowing again, but I don’t think it’s cold enough for anything to stick. The ground is positively saturated, and every time Noyzi goes outside, he runs around like a maniac and gets mud caked in his paws, which he then tracks into the house. I need to vacuum, but I may just wait, because vacuuming when it’s so muddy outside is utterly futile. But Noyzi sheds all over the place, so I’m constantly sweeping. I’m thinking it’s time to buy a new vacuum cleaner that is a lot lighter and more portable, because I probably ought to vacuum every day. I know ex landlady thinks I’m a filthy slob, but I’m really not. I just love my dogs and they’re a step above toddlers when it comes to messes, especially when the weather is bad.

Again, not complaining… having Noyzi is well worth the trouble of sweeping and vacuuming more. He’s a ball of love who has made enduring the pandemic a lot easier. I love watching him evolve. He’s turning into a real character now. I think the ghost of Zane visits through him, as he plays keep away in the yard with a distinctly mischievous grin on his face. I also love to feed him snacks. He has such a big mouth that it reminds me of mailing a letter. He’s so adorable the way he sneaks up behind me quietly, like a shadow, and quietly requests a bite of whatever it is I’m eating. When we first got him, he wouldn’t eat anything but kibble, which makes training a bit more difficult. No food rewards. And he was too afraid to play with toys. Now, he loves his toys.

Anyway… now, all we have to do is wait for Arran to heal some more so he can ditch the cone.

Here are a few photos from Leland Sklar’s book. When I ordered, I got a funny little animation that flipped me off as it thanked me. I thought to get a screenshot of it, which is today’s featured photo. This book was $65 unsigned, $85 signed. I got it signed because Leland Sklar is so entertaining and kind that I figured he deserved the extra cash.

Coffee talk…

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An interesting question comes up from time to time for those of us who live in Germany courtesy of the American government.  Why aren’t we allowed to have coffee shipped to us via APO?

Well, lemme tell you, when Bill and I lived here from 2007-09, we didn’t know about the coffee rule and we used to have Peet’s coffee sent to us all the time.  I know it’s coffee you can get in the grocery store, but we’d have it mailed right after a roasting.  More than once, the post office people commented on the heavenly aroma.  Not once did they ever mention the ban on having coffee shipped.

In the five years since then, they’ve apparently gotten a lot stricter about coffee coming through APO.  I haven’t tried to order coffee from the States, but I have heard that people have lost their APO mail privileges for having coffee mailed to them.  I have also heard that some people do it anyway and haven’t had any problems.  Knowing how great Peet’s smells, I’m not going to risk it.  That still begs the question, though.  Why is it a problem for APO users to buy coffee through the mail?

First of all, the rules…

Host nation custom regulations prohibit the importation of medication, vitamins and nutritional supplements through the Military Postal Service, in unaccompanied baggage and household goods.

The rule also applies to alcoholic beverages, animals, plants, cheese and cheese products, cigarettes and other tobacco products, coffee and coffee products, meat and meat products, and milk and milk products.

All incoming and outgoing mail is subject to inspection by German customs officials, and violators may be subject to fines and penalties.

For more information, see Army Regulation 550-175, U.S. Forces Customs Controls in Germany, or call the Stuttgart Customs officer at 431-2731/civ. 07031-15-2731.

I imagine the ban on cheeses, milk, meat, and plants have to do with agricultural risks.  The medications, vitamins, booze and supplements rules have to do with legal risks.  I’m not going to expend the effort right now to find out for sure.  When it comes to coffee, though, it’s all about money.

There is a coffee tax in Germany.

It’s called the Kaffeesteuer.  When you buy coffee in a German store, the tax is included in the price.  When you buy it in the commissary, at AAFES or in the Class VI, you have to present a ration card so they can make sure you aren’t buying up a bunch of it and selling it to host country nationals.  If you have coffee sent to you, you avoid both the Kaffeesteur and the rationing and that’s a no no.

The link I provided above offers a simple explanation of the tax, which has been collected since Germany was Prussia.  I’m sure the coffee tax is useful, since it surely provides revenue.  For those of us Yanks who have a favorite type of coffee, the tax is kind of a pain in the butt.  I wouldn’t mind paying the tax if it meant I could have my Peet’s.

I know other people think Germany has an equivalent to Peet’s coffee (or any other brand Americans like), but I sure haven’t found it yet.  I hate to keep buying coffee that doesn’t cut it for me.  Starbucks, which used to buy Peet’s coffee in its earliest days, just doesn’t thrill me, though I could probably live with their Pike Place blend.  On the other hand, I am not a coffee fiend anyway.  My husband is the one who is passionate about his coffee.  With me, it’s more of a case of only liking what I like, not that I can’t live without a good cup of joe every day.

I did find an interesting Web site that sells raw coffee beans in Germany and other EU countries.  You buy the beans and roast them yourself.  Given that my husband enjoys this kind of a project, I may try ordering from Rohebohnen.de just to see if it’s worth the effort.  According to their site, it’s not too hard to roast your own beans and it’s even less expensive to do so, since you don’t have to pay the Kaffeesteuer for raw beans.  Keep in mind that if you do choose to home roast, you can only do so for your private use.  No buying the beans, coming up with a great flavor, and selling it to your American friends!  And you’ll need a grinder, of course.  We recently bought a good one from Amazon.de.

Click here for an explanation of the home coffee roasting process…  It looks pretty easy, actually.  Maybe I’ll do it just to give myself something new to do.  Will have to update once I pull the trigger.