|Path: Eric's Site / Eric / Travel / Germany / Journal 2||Related: Germany, Journal 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10, Visits (Site Map)|
Ah, the new schedule is correct. I can hear the trucks. Today is garbage day. Specifically, Biotonne und Restmülltonne day. Gelber Sack day isn't until next Tuesday.
Oops, I failed to plan. I spent my change in the farmer's market. Then, when I went to Marktkauf, I did not have a euro coin to unlock a shopping cart. I had to make do with the bags I had. I have to remember never to spend my last euro. In Marktkauf, I found a second brand of soy milk. There appear to be no summer/yellow squash here. On the other hand, there is currant juice. Maybe that means I can find fresh currants somewhere.
I miss the motion-detector light switches I installed in my apartment. There, I
could walk from room to room without thinking about light. Here, I have to turn
light switches on and off whenever I walk around.
I have encountered five new types of container openings. Plastic bags for bread have either a firm pliable cinch or an adhesive wrap. Compared to a US twist-tie, the cinch is stronger, wider, and shorter. It is not long enough to twist. You just put it around the bag and squeeze. The adhesive wrap is a minor puzzle. About two inches of a narrow adhesive tape was put around the constricted bag, and the two sides of the tape were brought together to stick to each other. However, the ends were not pressed together. Instead, they were splayed out, and a piece of paper was put across them. So the end result is a circle of tape around the bag, a short segment of face-to-face tape, and another segment perpendicular to the first made of tape and paper together.
Now, if you were just meant to destroy the tape, the arrangement would not be this complicated. So I deduce it is intended to be reusable. If you split the paper where the two ends of the tape meet and pull it apart, you get a length of tape that is adhesive in the middle but has paper-covered tabs at the two ends. So you can, with some practice, put the tape back around the bag.
As for juice and milk cartons, I have seen three openings so far. One is the puzzling push-something mechanism I reported earlier. The other two have plastic lids on the box top. Pulling open the lid reveals in one case a prepared seam in the carton that is pushed in to make an opening. At that point, the carton loses some of its structural integrity, and the force applied to the sides to provide friction to support the container against gravity also squeezes the carton, reducing its volume by an amount greater than the volume of air inside the carton. Then the liquid contents are expelled in an uncontrolled manner.
The other carton is similar, except that opening the plastic lid reveals another bit of plastic that punctures the carton when pushed. My first attempt to operate this mechanism broke it off after opening the carton, yielding plastic floating in the contents. There must be something else to it.
All this goes to show the amount of work required to live in a foreign country. Tasks that would be so trivial as to be unnoticed at home require investigation and thought. When you first encounter a new mechanism, there are all sorts of questions to be asked: Is it pushed, pulled, rotated, or slid? Is it punctured or torn? Is it operated by itself or in conjunction with other components? Is there more than one thing you can do with it? Is it reusable or intended to be destroyed? Which garbage category does it belong in? Even if the answers turn out to be simple, determining that there are no complications still takes time.
Speak of opening mechanisms, many windows here have a handle that controls a complicated latch mechanism. When the handle is down, the window is latched shut. When the handle is turned to the side, the window opens from the side. When the handle is turned up, the window opens at the top.
One of the new exercises they had me do at the gym really did a number on my legs. It was a machine where you push your legs apart. Those muscles are now very, very sore. That is rare for me, because I am in excellent shape, and most of my muscles complain only a little when they are pushed to new limits. I had to tell the trainer repeatedly to raise the weights on some machines. (She started me at 25 kilograms on one machine that I do with 55 at home.) These particular leg muscles must not have gotten any use in my previous treadmill, bicycling, weightlifting, stretching, leg exercises, and walking. That means I never use those muscles and do not need them, so there was no point in using that infernal machine.
A neighbor, Herr Franz-Leopold Kling, and his son Thomas invited me over, so we
talked for a while. Among other things, I learned that people aren't saying
Cheers, they are saying Tschüs. At least they think they are; my
dictionary notes it as a colloquialism meaning the British colloquialism
cheerio. The pronunciation is very similar, so I bet it did come from
The showers are different. I do not think German showers are meant for long, comfortable showers. They are small. There is little or no provision for storing soap, shampoo, and washcloths. The water controls are not designed to give fine temperature control.
There are some differences in renting apartments. The security deposit is two months' rent instead of one. The renter pays the agent's fee instead of the landlord. The agent's fee is one month's rent for terms under six months, 1.5 month's rent for six months to a year, and two months rent for a year or more. In many cases, the tenant is required to paint the apartment when moving out. In some cases, the tenant may be required to purchase improvements made by a previous tenant, such as installed kitchen equipment.
In menus, beverages are listed by the specific volume, such as .4 liters, and the glasses contain lines showing the measured amounts.
Hey, look at that, a sixth type of container opening: a juice carton that you are supposed to cut. There's a bit of extra cardboard folded down along the side. You lift that up to form a spout and then cut off a corner.
My measuring spoon problem is solved. I thought about it and realized I might
have prepared for it, so I checked my luggage. Sure enough, I had packed a set
of measuring spoons. I packed one plate, one fork, one spoon, one table knife,
one cutting knife, one tumbler, a small mixing bowl, a can opener, and one set
of measuring spoons. Most of that I packed so that I would be able to do basic
food preparation as soon as I had a place, even before I had the opportunity to
shop for equipment. The measuring spoons I must have thrown in because I
expected that German measuring spoons would be metric sizes, although I did not
expect they would be unavailable. I used some of the equipment in the hotel,
but I never unpacked it in the apartment because the apartment already had a
stocked kitchen. Except for measuring spoons, of course, since those do not
exist in Germany.
Today it was back to work. The project is going very well. I wrote four important assembly language routines before mid-afternoon, which is well into the third milestone. I can't test them yet because I have yet to write the routine that is going to call them. That will take a little while. I got in early and left early so I could go to the gym.
Sometimes it is harder to cross the street here than catch a streetcar. As I approached the stop, a streetcar left. I waited for the signal to cross the first section of road to the stop, and then I thought about going to the bakery across the street, so I waited for the signal to cross the next section of road. However, another streetcar came along. Hmm, the streetcars run more frequently than the complete crosswalk cycle? Well, they are scheduled about six minutes apart, but I think the first streetcar was a minute late and the second was a minute early.
Germans seem to come by to say hello to the new person in the office without
introducing themselves by name. That has happened several times.
Actually, with work so close to home, it is easy to get in by eight, put in a standard German seven-hour day, allow a little time for lunch, and be done not much after three o'clock. Well, at least I can get to the gym before it gets crowded.
It is official, there are no measuring spoons in Germany. I mentioned measuring spoons to several people, neighbors and coworkers, and the uniform response was to go to Abt, a kitchen and more store in the center of town. I had already checked Abt carefully, but, even though I have my own measuring spoons, I wanted to satisfy my curiosity, so I went and asked a clerk. First, I had to ask if she spoke English. She did not, so she got somebody else who spoke some. He understood English well enough that I got the idea across, but he went to get somebody else to be sure, and that person came out with a dictionary, which wasn't needed. They understood I wanted spoons for measuring specific amounts. Like measuring cups, but smaller. They don't have any. I asked at Müller too, and they don't have any either. It is a good thing I brought my own. I did that because I thought it would be convenient to have English sizes to match my recipes, not because I thought I might not find any measuring spoons here.
It wasn't easy to find a potholder either, although I did. I bought a few things today, and it is still a chore. Even though I have some idea where things are, it is necessary to check several stores to find a good match for what I want. I suppose the situation is better now because at least the problem is usually to find a good match rather than just to find anything that will do.
My electric shaver recharges faster on 240 volts. I bought several power
transformers with me but haven't used any yet. My computer, my Pocket PC, my
external disk drive, and my shaver all work on 120 or 240 volts. They only need
plug adapters. The rechargeable battery charger seems to be the only thing that
doesn't work on 240 volts, and I haven't had to recharge anything yet. (The
camera batteries are still working.) The printer on its way to me might need a
Many of my New England correspondents have been telling me about the record snowfall there. For those of you dealing with snow and traffic, here is the commute I had today. It took 98 seconds to get from home to the streetcar stop. That is from inside, mind you, including locking the door. Then it was 123 seconds until the streetcar arrived and 79 seconds until it left. The ride to Westplatz took four minutes and 37 seconds, almost longer than it takes to cross the street sometimes. The walk to the EADS gate took three minutes and 44 seconds, and then it was another 85 seconds to my office door. Total time: 14 minutes, 46 seconds. No shoveling or scraping, no matter how much it snows.
On the other hand, the walk to the cafeteria takes eight minutes. It is all the way across the complex (west to east), and you can't walk straight there; you have to go from the south side to the north side and back. If things were laid out just a bit differently, it might be faster to leave the complex, take the streetcar one stop, and go back in to the cafeteria.
After eight days of work, I have completed three milestones originally scheduled to take 15 weeks. There is some hard work coming, but I will have plenty of slack for it.
measuring spoons in
Germany. By comparing the English and German pages, I find the word for
measuring spoon is Messlöffel. Mess is measuring and
löffel is spoon, so the concept isn't unknown to Germans. Why aren't
there any in stores? Now that I have the word, I may try asking again.
EADS set up a repository for my source code, so now they will have a record of the development progress. That means I can go faster, as explained above. I was also able to run my code on actual hardware today, instead of the simulator, and it works as expected.
Deutsche Telekom sent me a letter. At first, I thought it was trying to sell me something, but it is telling me about features that come with my phone service. The most useful one would be voice mail, but I cannot understand the prompts to turn it on. Also, I think it may require an "R" button, which isn't on the US telephone I am using. If I asked somebody to help me turn on the voice mail, I'd also have to ask them to explain all the menus and commands, so I think I'll pass. If you want to call me, try after 1 p.m. your time; I will be home most evenings.
|Second-season cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.|
I may upload a photograph of some of the chocolate I am buying at various
stores, but it generally does not seem to last long enough to get a picture.
|Grooved wheels of a shopping cart on an escalator.|
|The Ulm sparrow.|
|Ein Einstein Stein.|
I am collecting the items I need to bake raspberry-chocolate-chip macadamia brownies, so I bought a baking pan at Kaufland. I got a pan just about the size I use back home, 9 inches (23 centimeters) on each side. However, it is clearly labeled as 26 centimeters by 27 centimers. I measured it, and those are the exterior lengths of the pan, including the rim and handles. That is useful if your primary need is to plan storage space, but it doesn't tell you how much the pan will hold, which is important both for recipe size and thermal flow. I would have assumed baking pans would be labeled with interior measurements. That's one more assumption violated. (I suppose it is not really an assumption, since I did measure it rather than rely on the stated dimensions.)
An oven thermometer is also proving hard to find. Again, I have checked several
kitchen stores without success. I need a thermometer because the dial on my
oven is worn, and the only legible number is 100°.
It snowed here for real today. The previous snowfall was little more than a
dusting. Now we have gotten about two inches, so far. If I had had my camera, I
would have taken a picture of the stream on my route to and from the gym. By
the way, the rechargeable batteries finally finished their charge. They took
around 200 pictures on one charge. Now I get to see if the electric power
transformer works... Okay, it's on, and nothing is exploding, smoking, glowing,
popping, or squealing, so I guess it is okay.
I got a lot done at work and didn't even touch the source code—just writing documentation, which I did on my own notebook computer. Oh, more differences between German and US cultures, or part of them anyway: The building I work in has large offices. There are four people in mine, and the space per person is bigger than a typical US cubicle, I think. The office doors are kept closed. I do not know whether that is to cut down on heating costs, keep noise out, or some cultural thing. The deadbolt locks are different. The lock on the office door and the lock on my apartment both take two full turns, 720°, thumping once on each revolution.
I got home to find new garbage information for 2003. No fair, I did all the work to translate the 2002 information! Hopefully, they are similar enough that I can compare them side-by-side to see what changed. I also have a note from my landlady. This is excrutiating; most of it is unreadable. When reading a language you know, you can make out words from a few letters. However, I cannot make out the letters or the words. If I cannot read at least the first three letters, I haven't got any hope of finding the word in the dictionary, and I can't read a lot of her letters.
I think not only is her handwriting hard to read, but Germans write letters with a different style, if not truly different characters. I finally figured out those things that look like Ws are actually Ms. The Vs are Ws. The thing I thought was a d is actually ch. I can only figure out about half the words, but the idea seems to be I should leave the washing machine door open after using the machine to avoid metal parts rusting, and I should avoid using the washing machine and the dryer at the same time to avoid tripping the circuit breaker.
Sigh, I think she is worrying too much. The washing machine came with English
instructions which I read thoroughly, and the maintenance says nothing about
needing to leave the door open or avoid rust. It has a filter to be cleaned
every four to six months, along with the detergent tray occasionally, and
that's it for maintenance. And I have used the washer and dryer together, and
the circuit breaker hasn't tripped. And so what if it did? Then I would reset
it and use only one machine. But if it isn't necessary, it's helpful to be able
to use both at once. At one to two hours per load, and small loads, doing a
week's laundry can take an entire day if you can use only one machine at a
Lunch itself was interesting. I am only going once a week (to avoid calories, I usually bring something smaller most days). I try to pick a day when there is a vegetarian option besides salad (only twice this week). Today, the vegetarian option was soup, "grandmother's style" Dampfnudeln, cheese salad, and dessert. The soup had matzo-ball-like things in it, except smaller. The Dampfnudeln seemed like a large hunk (maybe a cube three inches on a side) of soft bread with a cream sauce poured over it. The cheese salad was strips of cheese (think linguini, but shorter) with a dressing and a few vegetable shreds thrown in. Dessert was strawberry slices swimming in a very slightly tart sauce.
Here are some photographs I took on the way to the gym.
|A waterwheel. It isn't turning.||A fork in the stream.||Fuzzy ducks.|
|Residence permit certificate.|
Herr Weing at the Auslanderamt told me to register with the Entsorgungs-Betriebe der Stadt Ulm (EBU, City of Ulm Disposal Operation), so I did, and now I have a Restmüllmarke, a sticker to put on the everything-else trash can. If I had an everything-else trash can, I could throw trash away in my own personal, government-authorized trash can. But I don't know where to get one, so that's my next project. I am not sure I needed to register with the EBU, because I thought using the house's containers was part of the rental agreement. Something I translated in the Müllinfo said garbage partnerships were permitted. But I asked the woman at the EBU desk twice about using Frau Moser's cans, and she said no. But her English was poor; it may have been a communication problem, and she was unable to reach Frau Moser by phone.
The fee for a 35-liter Restmüll can emptied every four weeks and a year's supply of yellow sacks is €31. If that is right, I'm not going to bother figuring out if I should have signed up or not. One of my office mates, Martin Lang, who does not live in Ulm, thinks that is low and €31 per month is closer to what he pays in his city. If that is the case, it may be cheaper to mail my garbage home.
Martin also translated my landlady's note. I got the first part right; she wants me to leave the washer door open. The second part says to turn off the valve to the hose to the washing machine after doing laundry. That is because the insurance company will not reimburse you for damages if the hose breaks because you could have avoided them by turning off the faucet.
|EADS' Airplane Sparrow.|
|EADS' Airplane Sparrow.|
Also at the office, I worked hard on a proof. I had equations, a page of material, proved one aspect of what I needed to, and was still working on the other. After hours of labor, I finally figured out an easy way to demonstrate the result, in only five lines of text. You want to see it? Good, because I put a lot into it:
|The element with index k is read once and written once per value of p, specifically when k0 has the value floor(k/2N-n[p]). As p increases, the values of k0 form a non-decreasing sequence. Then we can easily see that lexicographically sorting the pairs of values (p, k0) first by p and then by k0 (the original loop order) yields the same order as sorting the pairs first by k0 and then by p (the new loop order).|
At the government offices, I picked up a catalog for the Volkshochschule, to see if they have any German classes. Last weekend, I stopped by Inlingua, a commercial school, but I wasn't impressed. Among other things, I think they only teach German in German, and I'm not sure that will work for me.
I also have a phone bill I can't understand. It doesn't seem to show the numbers I called, which are almost all to my Internet service provider. Either they were lumped together into one charge, or Lars signed me up for some phone company service I do not want. Wait, there should be a connection charge this first month. However, the first letter from Deutsche Telekom said it would be €51.56, and the charges on the bill are each less than that. The monthly charge is different too, but that may have changed on the first of the year. Well, I will be busy this weekend translating the phone bill, the two pages of statements on the back of the residence forms, the statement with the social insurance card, and the school catalog. I also have to find a Restmüll can. If you want to know why I am not exploring Europe on weekends, that's why.
I have gotten several calls tonight from a computer. It doesn't seem to be telemarketing, though; the computer says my telephone number (yes, I can understand German numbers, if spoken slowly and clearly) and asks me to press one for something. My best guess is that it is the telephone company asking me if the service is okay. If the computer calls again, though, I am disconnecting the phone for the night. I wouldn't want the phone to ring in the middle of Buffy.
I ordered Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Third Season on DVD! It
was just released. Amazon.com is going to send it directly to me in Germany. It
should be here just as I finish watching the second season.
For slow transactions like mailed bills, it is fine to pay by account transfers, but for fast transactions like purchases in stores, you use things like debit/credit cards. That works when the merchant has a terminal and can verify the transaction with the bank. What happens when one person sells another a used car? The seller wants to see the money, or evidence they will receive it, right away, but they do not have a terminal. Do they go to the bank? Do they use cash? Is there something like a check? A money order, perhaps?
One nice thing about working here is that I don't have to go to meetings. Partly because I am a contractor, not a direct employee, and also because my contract is quite specific about the work to be done. But also because the usual staff and status meetings are in German, so it wouldn't do much good for me to go.
Andreas, another of my officemates, tells me there is a law in Germany that merchants must accept the packaging you do not want of any product you buy from them. That makes it their problem to dispose of, according to the rules of their city and so on. Merchants don't like expenses, so they tell the manufacturers to cut down. As a result, excessive packaging has decreased. More things come in simple wrappers, they aren't layered in boxes-within-boxes, and so on. In addition to the resource savings, it decreases puffery—you don't get much of the little-product-in-big-box tricks that you see in the US, like containers with raised bottoms, transparent plastic only in the bottom of bags of chips that don't show the empty upper half, big boxes that hold the product up for display but are mostly empty, and so on.
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© Copyright 2003 by Eric Postpischil.