## Happy WordPress Birthday!

Today is the 1 year anniversary of this blog’s existence on the WordPress platform. In this year, we’ve had 641,000 hits on the blog. This is 41,000 more than I envisioned having ideally.

Here are the visits from just the last 7 days:

United States 4,735                     South Africa 1,635                             Canada 1,157

United Kingdom 567                   Germany 263                                        Australia 258

Belgium 101                                     Netherlands 98                                    Denmark 81

France 72                                         Israel 71                                                  Ireland 66

India 65                                            Poland 52                                                 Slovenia 49

Sweden 49                                        Switzerland 42                                      Philippines 40

New Zealand 39                              Croatia 37                                               Italy 30

Czech Republic 28                       Spain 27                                                 Japan 19

Greece 19                                         Romania14                                         Brazil14

Singapore 13                                   Argentina 13                                       Puerto Rico 13

Thailand 11                                      Latvia 11                                              Finland 10

Malaysia 10                                    Viet Nam 9                                             Saudi Arabia 8

Ghana 8                                            Mexico 7                                             Serbia 7

Norway 7                                        Turkey 7                                               Russia  7

Portugal 7                                     Albania 7                                              Indonesia 6

UAE 6                                              Bahrain 5                                             Iceland 5

Ukraine 5                                        Cyprus 5                                            Jamaica 4

Slovakia 3                                       Taiwan 2                                            Panama 2

Venezuela 2                                  Hong Kong 2                                     Uruguay 2

Azerbaijan 2                                 Estonia 2                                           Guam 2

Barbados 2                                   Mongolia 2                                      Nigeria 2

Colombia 2                                  Georgia 2                                             Rwanda 1

Chile 1                                           Netherlands Antilles 1                 Pakistan 1

Lithuania 1                                  Macedonia 1                                  Austria 1

Bosnia and Herzegovina 1

Overall, moving to WordPress has been a great idea, and I congratulate myself on making the move. In the past year, Blogger has crashed several times and has undergone an interface change that makes it a pain in the ass to use.

One reason to visit Germany is its amazing food and its great beer. Here is a slideshow I have made of my German culinary experiences. If you need more time to read the captions, you can always press the Stop button. I find that the speed of the slideshow depends on everybody’s own Internet and computer speed.

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## How Can the Course Be Improved?

On the evaluations of my Elementary Spanish course, one student answered the question of how the course could be improved with “Get Professor Clarissa to teach every section!” I know the student was trying to say something good about me but the idea of teaching 12 sections of Elementary Spanish per semester is not making me very happy.

## The Berlin Wall

As I was looking at the Berlin Wall memorial, I kept thinking, can there be a more obvious and humiliating symbol of a system’s defeat than the need to build a wall to keep people running away in droves? Remember that we are talking about a system that advertised itself as the only one that existed for the people and was run by the people. When it comes to the point where you have to announce the complete failure of this ideology by building the wall to keep the working people by force in the workers’ paradise, isn’t it time to give up on such a system entirely?

What is especially scary, however, is that there are still many people who cling to the senseless belief in the possibility of a Communist state where the people’s only dream would not be running away from it.

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At the Berlin Wall memorial, there are plaques dedicated to the people who died while trying to escape from behind the Wall. The last one of those people perished in March 1989, months before the fall of the Wall. I asked my friend Olivia, who is a Germanist and who was showing me around Berlin, why there was such a desperation to leave the GDR and cross over to the Western side of Berlin.

“In the Soviet Union, we saw the GDR as a consumer paradise,” I told Olivia. “The people there lived in impossible comfort compared to the way we lived in the 1980s. Why were the Germans so desperate to leave?”

As my friend explained to me, it wasn’t as much about poverty and the lack of consumer goods as it was about the general hopelessness of life in the Eastern Germany. The Stasi cultivated an environment of general distrust and suspicion where everybody was either spying on their friends are relatives or being spied on. There was a general hopelessness and a feeling that nothing had meaning.

I could really understand that. The greatest tragedy of the Soviet Union and the Socialist regimes it kept installing all over the world was not the absence of things to buy. It was the lack of things to want. A human being cannot live without a plan, a goal, something to work for, something to want. Of course, you can reduce your horizons to the attainment of simple material comforts, which is precisely what many people in the Soviet bloc did. What a sad, miserable existence that is, though. The crushing, hopeless materialism of the Communist existence bred cynicism and stupefied people to the point where their basic humanity was getting eroded.

## A Semi-Open Thread: What Do You Think of Francois Hollande?

I have to confess that I have been a little out of things recently. The end of the academic year, the grading, and the trip to Europe made it a little hard to follow the news. This is why I haven’t been able to form an opinion on France’s new president Francois Holland. So I am now asking those of you who have to share your impressions of him. Good? Bad? Better than Sarkozy? What are we to expect from him?