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My New Year's resolution for 2012 was to get my weight under control again. Life in the USA seemed to cause weight-gain almost automatically. At a BMI of 26 I wasn't really that much overweight, but I found it scary how the scales just kept on going up and up and up, ever so slowly.

It took me some time and research to design a plan that works for me. Whatever I do has to be simple, inexpensive, logical, and comfortable enough for me to be able to keep it up forever. I don't want to have to count calories, eat special and expensive "diet-food", take any "miracle pills", or put myself through strenuous exercise.  

The changes in my "routine" are minimal, there are very few "rules" - and I am sure that I can keep this life-style up for the rest of my life. Today my BMI is within the normal range, at 24.45, halfway down to where I want it to be at 22.5

Curious about my "tricks"? It's really easy!

  • Eat a big breakfast
  • Wait 5-6 hour after a meal before eating anything else
  • Stop eating 3 hours before going to bed
  • Sleep 8 hours every night
  • Walk for 30 minutes every day
  • cut back on sugar and salt
  • never eat anything that contains corn syrup, hydrogenated oil, MSG or yeast extract, or any artificial sweetener (not even Stevia)



My 2,450 Alien Days are over!

It's been 6 years, 8 months, and two weeks from the day we filed the first piece of paperwork, a form I-130 petitioning for my immigrant visa, until today when I was sworn in as a new US citizen.

Everybody is an alien most everywhere in the world, but being an alien in the country where you happen to live is a challenge. There is, of course, the language - which you can learn - but more importantly there are the laws - which you have no control over.

Some countries go easy on their immigrants, some others are very strict. The USA is somewhere in between the two extremes, leaning a little to the 'strict' side. There were two things that I personally found intimidating: the process of being admitted as a resident, which is almost impossible to accomplish for 'average' people - and the process of coming home from a vacation abroad, where they take your fingerprints every time.

It's all over now, and I will be allowed to participate in this year's presidential election!   


Property Tax Appeal

For the most part taxes in the USA are lower than in Germany. With the exception of property taxes, which are so high that some people have to move out of their homes because they can't pay the taxes anymore.

In Indiana people voted a tax cap into the Constitution last year. Property tax on people's homes can now be up to 1% of the assessed value. Which means the counties have to raise the property values if they want to collect more taxes.

That explains why, in the middle of an ongoing deep recession and a dead housing market, our property's value miraculously went up a whopping 18% from what it was last year!? I wasn't just going to accept that, so I spent three hours searching for similar properties in our immediate neighborhood that sold within the last 12 months for a price significantly lower than our new assessment.

I went on the Allen County Tax Assessor's own website, entered names of streets in our addition on the search page, and then clicked on every single link that came up. Hundreds of them. I found five properties that sold recently. We submitted an appeal based on my findings - and they really lowered their assessment!

It's now 'only' 9% above last year's - still way higher than what we could sell for, but at least within reason.



I got my wallet back!

On March 19th, 2010, my wallet was stolen out of my purse out of my desk drawer at work:

The banks reversed all unauthorized charges, and I didn't really miss those $20 and change that I carried, but the loss of that wallet hurt. It was a souvenir from Munich, bought only half a year before the incident. Real leather, made in Germany, very expensive and unusual colors. I tried to find one like it the last time we traveled to Munich - no such luck. 

Wallet.jpgToday, almost 15 months later, I got that wallet back!

Somebody had to go check on some data cables above the ceiling tiles in the men's restroom. And there it was - my wallet had been hidden less than 50 feet away from where I sit.

Call it coincidence, call it luck, call it a miracle,
I call it:
'automatic justice'.



Dealing with the Price of Fuel

Let me think. The last time a barrel of crude cost just below $100 gas was running at around $3.80 per gallon. So why are they charging $4.14 now? Of course the big oil companies will have no shortage of explanations for the current situation:

First it was the switch to 'summer mix', then there was the civil war in Libya, and don't forget the weakening US-Dollar, and right after that the Mississippi river flooded, currently it's some pipeline problem in Canada...... Whatever it is, us little people can't do much about the price of gasoline. But we can still attempt to lower our personal cost of transportation, even whithout much of public transportation available.

We can scrap unnecessary driving, consolidate trips, look for options closer to home or on our way. We can also ride our motorcycles to work whenever we get the chance. The latest trick we learned is getting a new fuel-efficient car, like our Hyundai Elantra which hit the 40.0 m.p.g. mark recently.