|Path: Eric's Site / Eric / Travel / Germany / Journal 9||Related: Germany, Journal 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10, Visits (Site Map)|
My iPAQ batteries died during the trip. They lasted only two days. In Paris, they lasted four days, so they have gotten worse. Also, in Paris, the iPAQ shut down but still retained memory until I got home. This time, it lost the notes I took. One of the batteries is internal and not replaceable. The other is a big expensive external battery and is not very old. It is a shame. The iPAQ is a neat gadget that initially inspires a gee-whiz feeling, but insufficient power and losing data are serious flaws. After some experience with it, I think the features are not worth the price or the flaws. I will probably try a Palm device instead of a PocketPC next time.
Belgium heard I was coming, and I have been offered a private tour of a
chocolate factory, the one where they make the chocolates with mathematical
expressions. Okay, not all of Belgium, just Kim's Chocolates. They are picking
me up at the train station!
I checked online and found that Deutsche Bahn can reserve me a cheaper hotel
not much farther from the city center and near a Tube station, so I went back
to the travel agency to cancel. She says she cannot cancel, that the "request"
is binding. She is going to give me a yes/no answer Monday morning at 10 a.m.
Obviously, that will be the last time I ever go there. I will make sure she
knows I also plan to arrange tickets to and hotel rooms in Genève, Lyon, Paris,
Surdon, Berlin, and possibly other cities, but not with her!
I took new pictures of the neighborhood stream to compare to the winter photograph.
|Stream in Klosterhof in spring and winter.|
The travel agency stinks. They still cannot give me an answer.
The FFT project is done! Martin signed the final milestone acceptance form.
Foo, the factory that makes the mathematical chocolates is closed on the days I will be in Belgium. Oh, well. They have given me a list of retail stores that carry their chocolates.
I called the hotel in London and confirmed the reservation was made. Now I can finish my plans for London. In the future, I will use Deutsche Bahn's Hotel Reservation Service. You can even book US hotels with it, and it seems to be a good, simple service—clear information such as distance from city center instead of fluff or advertising, and good rates.
Argh, I have to go back to the travel agency again. The hotel voucher would usually be mailed to me, but then it would arrive Wednesday. The minute I walked into the agency last Tuesday, I handed the woman a list of my trains, which begin this Wednesday morning. She knew from the get-go that I would be leaving Wednesday. They can have a voucher faxed to them or can print it there (and I do not know why that is not the usual practice). Their computer will show them the reservation now but refuses to print it until tomorrow. So I have to go back. This is insane. I walked in with a complete list of what I wanted, but it is taking six trips to get everything, not counting the times I went back to try to cancel or get an answer:
I am going through the Buffy series for the third time, and, I have to
admit, three times in six months is enough. I need other entertainment. I did
just see the episode where Buffy's school records were shown briefly. Actually,
three different views were shown in a span of about seven seconds, and the
show's creators managed to get inconsistent data into each of them. The first
shows her GPA as 3.4, but the other two show 2.8. The second shows she is a
sophomore, but the other two show senior. The third shows her birthdate as May
6, 1979, but the other two show October 24, 1980.
While I was away, the travel agency sent me a London map and information about
London tourist attractions. Aside from arriving after I left, it is in German.
|Ulm's new Straßenbahn.|
As you will read when I get the web pages about my Köln-Bruxelles-London trip online, I caught a cold in Bruxelles and bought cold medicine in London. The last time I caught a cold was when I came to Germany, and it seems that traveling is almost the only time I catch colds nowadays. So I thought it would be prudent to buy cold medicine in advance of the trip to Italy, and I went to an apothecary.
To my surprise, the apothecaries in Germany have very little medicine on the
shelves. Most of what is on the open shelves is vitamins, folk remedies,
cleansers, and so on. You have to ask an employee for medicine. I asked, and
they only had two things for colds. One seemed to be little more than an
analgesic with vitamin C. The other I think includes a decongestant and an
expectorant, but it is a powder that you have to dissolve in liquid. That is
pretty primitive—why aren't time-delayed capsules available?
State Farm tells me I have to actually be in the United States before they can
sign me up for health insurance. I cannot give them a date when I will be back
and ask for it to start then.
Meanwhile, I have a preliminary telephone interview with Amazon.com tomorrow
The title of the sculpture is Fischerstechen, which means
fishermen-stabbing. I conjecture this is the name of some game or competition.
The body of the sparrow shows two people with poles over a body of water.
|A scene on the Blau.|
After taking those pictures, I got a haircut, perhaps my last in Germany, and
then bought a Hamburger to show you how they are different in Germany.
Meanwhile, everybody is making plans for me to stay in Germany. EADS and LA
International are settling a contract for the IIR right now. I will have to
make a decision soon.
I instructed the company in Cyprus that holds the bulk of my pay from this
contract to transfer the money to my New Hampshire bank. All German taxes and
management fees have been paid, and now I will see the final result after
currency exchange and transfer fees.
Lufthansa's web site says Alex's scheduled plane landed, ten minutes late.
|Former location of sparrow.|
The train signals for the Straßenbahnen leave something to be desired. Coming back from town, my Straßenbahn had a signal to proceed (a vertical line) after leaving Westplatz, but one of the new Straßenbahn was on the track ahead of us and facing in our direction. Not the right time to proceed. It was taking a switch to go back to the depot.
My money reached New Hampshire from Cyprus, and at a good exchange rate.
Lufthansa's web site says Alex's rescheduled plane landed, five minutes early.
Alex is here.
I told EADS I will return to the US after completing the IIR work, so I will likely fly back around the middle of August. I will not schedule a flight until I am fairly certain about when the work will be done.
I bought a July Monatskarte for the Ulm transit system. That could be my last Monatskarte, depending on whether I am able to schedule my return home before the last quarter of August.
I went back to German class tonight. It has gotten hot enough that Maral gave
up wearing a headscarf.
The fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer arrived, so I will be able
to survive here until August.
I had a second telephone interview with Amazon.com. I definitely have the
skills they are asking me about, and I think it is more likely than not that
they will proceed with me. The biggest issue I see now, for me and for
Amazon.com, is that the work they are considering me for is a change from what
I have been doing. My work has been largely finely detailed machine-level
computing. The work Amazon.com has involves larger-scale processes. The skills
they are looking for are basic software engineering skills: true understanding
of language semantics, logical reasoning, ability to design well and clearly,
and so on. Those are skills useful in almost any software domain, and I have
them. The question is whether I will find their particular domain interesting.
Answering that will have to wait until we get further along and can discuss
specific job tasks.
I wonder if US-style door locks would catch on here. I started
a list of US imports Germany could use.
My computer is critical; I use it for everything—negotating contracts, planning and doing some work, getting news, translating German, making travel plans, communicating with friends, managing my schedule, banking, ordering books, doing research, watching Buffy and movies, and more. Ideally, replacing a failing disk drive just means buying a replacement, installing it, and restoring the data, all of which might be done in a day. Completely reinstalling and reconfiguring the system would take longer but is still doable. What worries me is that some compatibility problem will turn up, and I will have to spend days or weeks procuring a completely new system, extracting data from old backups, configuring new software, converting files, and so on.
So, I am glad I decided to go home after the IIR work. At home, I will not be as dependent on the computer, and replacement parts will be easier to obtain. Plus, I have been planning to set up a second system for some redundancy. Ideally, I would like to have files stored on a multiple-disk server that does not lose data when individual drives fail. However, then I have to find space for it, give up having all my data on a portable notebook computer, spend time configuring and managing the system, and so on.
I am trying to discuss my telephone service account with Verizon, and they asked for the twelve-digit account number from my bill or the three digits that appear after my phone number. My bill has a 17-digit account number and seven digits after the phone number. Why do they not know what their own account numbers look like?
Ulm's City Fest was today. The festival fills Münsterplatz and spreads out from there, going around buildings and down several streets. For the most part, the entire city hangs out for the evening—there is a lot of sitting at tables with friends and family, with drinking and some eating and music and a few rides for kids. One sign for the festival says "Essen—Trinken—Schwätza" (Eating—Drinking—Chattering). There were at least three bandstands. Some of the music was in English. (The music at my gym is often in English too.)
There were dozens and dozens of food stalls. The longest line I saw was for
Langosch. In the US, I avoid lines, but I had tried most of the other
things around, and I figured there must be a reason for the line. So I joined
the line and waited. Langosch is fried dough, and it is pretty bland,
even with sour cream and cheese. I learned that you should not wait on a long
line for Langosch. Also, you should not wait on a short line for
On the way home, I saw a new vehicle on the Straßenbahn tracks. At first, I thought it was an old Straßenbahn, which is particularly odd since I have been expecting the new Straßenbahnen to enter service. But it turned out to be a service vehicle of some sort. I am not sure what it is for. I saw it spurt water to the side, but I do not know what that is about. It was raining today, but I do not imagine they need to remove water from the tracks, and it did not spurt a lot of water.
German class has gone further than I want. You will recall that articles have to be declined for gender and also for cases such as accusative or dative, with different prepositions using different cases. Now they are trying to teach us which prepositions to use when. For example, a journalist works at a newspaper, but a teacher works in a school. So, to say somebody works at a newspaper, you have to remember what preposition to use, what case the preposition takes, and what the gender of a newspaper is—none of which are really related to what you are trying to say.
And they are trying to teach us something about sentence order, but the lessons so far are bad, because they just show examples without explaining, and no rule is apparent. For example, we are asked to put words together to form a sentence such as "Eva will with Klaus to the cinema go" or "Eva will to the cinema with Klaus go." I can narrow the possibilities down to those two, but I cannot select between them. They might both be permissible, but I have no means to tell from what we have been shown.
The thing is, I do not need this. I do not need complex sentences because I can break statements into simple sentences, and I do not need to get the right preposition as long as the idea gets across. What I do need is information that will broaden what I can say, such as explanations of how to form the past tense, the future tense, and the subjunctive mood.
Also, I need more practice, but I will not get enough of that in class. With
only a month left to stay in German, there is no point in putting much effort
into it. Three more classes, and I am done.
A lot of the little fast-food shops have tables where customers can stand while eating. I noticed today in a Kebap shop that they had rudimentary seats. Attached to the walls were cushions you could lean against, and they had seats that stuck out just a few inches—enough to lean against, but not enough to sit on.
I bought train tickets earlier today. I am going to Genève (adding another country, Switzerland, to my collection) and Lyon. I will visit chocolate stores in Genève and Lyon and see the cities very briefly, and then I will go to Surdon to visit Emery briefly. My route back, like every train route in France, passes through Paris, so I will stop over for a day to visit a few chocolate stores I missed on the first trip.
An airplane ticket home will cost more than twice what it cost me to get here,
due to the season and the market I suppose. It may be a little cheaper to get a
September ticket instead of an August ticket, but I do not know if that will be
enough to make me stay.
It was chilly enough this morning that the heaters were on in the Straßenbahn.
I got an assembly-language version of one of the IIR routines working, which is a major step in the project. Engineers have been coming in the last few days asking me questions: How fast does this go? How fast will that go? What can we do about this? You are leaving after July? The fact that I am valuable and am leaving is hitting them.
After work, one of the new Straßenbahnen came by in regular service, so I got my first ride. Since I am accustomed to the old Straßenbahn, riding in the new Straßenbahn with its floor much lower feels odd. Ulm's Straßenbahnen show the next stop but do not have the fancy displays showing the upcoming stops that Heidelberg's Straßenbahnen do. In addition to the red button to open the doors, there is a lower blue button that I think activates some mechanism for wheelchairs. There are cameras in the passenger compartment but no display of their images for the driver, unless one of the screens can be switched.
I went to Arlt.com and bought a new disk drive.
They had a special today: Disk drives are priced like sunscreen. A 20 GB
notebook disk drive cost €104.99, and a 30 GB notebook disk drive cost
€104.99. The new drive works in my system, is twice the size of my old
drive, and is faster. I started the system installation on the new drive, and
now I am at a point where I could get it working with all my data and software
in about an hour, so I feel safe. However, rather than just do a plain restore
to the new drive, I will probably reinstall all the software from scratch and
merge my data, thus getting rid of all the cruft that accumulates in a system.
I discovered I did not bring all the materials I need to install my software from scratch. I did not bring the scanner, so I left the scanner CD home, but it has the photo editing software I was using, along with Adobe Acrobat. Acrobat is easily available, but the photo software is trickier. Fortunately, restoring its directory from a good backup seems to be sufficient, along with setting appropriate links and file associations. It is not complaining about any missing DLLs and refusing to run. Yet.
It has been chilly the past couple of days, cold enough that you would want a jacket even in the middle of the day, except when the sun was shining directly on you. I think that may be more common weather here than the hot sunny days we had when Alex was here.
Söflingen is having a summer night party. Ulm's City Fest was just last week, and I am not much of a party person, but the Söflingen town square (a parking lot most of the time) is just a hundred meters from my door. I ran into Herr Kling and hung out with him and a few of his friends and neighbors for a couple of hours, and I got to speak a little German (very little).
The party was still going strong at 11:30 p.m. I noticed that children, about
elementary school age, were still there, and I realized the crowd seemed to be
a complete cross section of the population, with the whole community
participating. Not that I saw teenagers talking with adults, you understand,
but still everybody was enjoying the event together.
German class is over, except for a party on Wednesday. Incidentally, it seems
the game Paper, Scissors, Stone is well known in Vietnam and Latvia but
In places in the new Straßenbahnen, there are windows to reservoirs of
sand. The windows are about 1½" by 6", and the contents are very coarse sand or
very fine pebbles. They are over some of the wheels, so I might guess they have
something to do with traction or braking, and I figure the windows are there so
it is easy to see when the reservoir is getting low. Do any of my readers know
more about this?
|Deutsche Post panel.|
The Ulm Straßenbahn has a special schedule for Schwörwoche (Swear
Week). I will go see the Light Serenade on the Danube Saturday night and maybe
the mayor's oath on Monday, and I have to find out what else is happening.
I looked at the encryption work while riding the trains this weekend, and I think I may accept it. The algorithms and tasks are well defined, so I can plan the work without worrying that it will drag on. The encryption algorithm itself is very nicely designed.
I am happy to be well paid for writing high-performance software, because I am really good at it, but this encryption work will not be as demanding of my skills. I was even considering telling EADS they could have any software engineer who knows an assembly language do it, but it occurred to me that is not true. This work requires assembly language on a specific processor and designing for high-performance and some abstract mathematics (field theory). So, while the encryption work will not require a great effort from me, it will require my rare combination of skills. That is worth money, and I'll take it.
|Tree in the middle of the road.|
If you read about my trip to Roma, you know I did not like how the Vatican
treated its visitors, with regard to helping them with the dress code. It seems
I am not alone, and the story is at least
a little newsworthy.
The Ulm Volksfest (carnival) started while I was away. It is a bit larger than Neu-Ulm's carnival. There are some hot-air balloons there, I arrived at night, and the balloons really light up when the flames are ignited. One of the carnival games was marked Lose Lose. Perhaps that sounds exciting to Germans, but it did not make me want to play.
It seems like I am just going from celebration to celebration. Le Tour de
France in Lyon, Bastille Day in Paris, the Ulm carnival, some events in
Söflingen tomorrow followed by the Light Serenade on the Danube, and the
mayor's oath and the Danube Nabada Monday. Plus there has been the
Christmas Market, the Neu-Ulm carnival, May Day, Ulm's City Fest, and
Söflingen's summer night party. And whatever that holiday was in Bruxelles.
Alex says the sand in the Straßenbahnen is used for traction. There is sand on the tracks that matches that in the reservoirs. However, Alex says sand is usually used for the leading wheels at least, and I have only seen the reservoirs in one of the rear trucks. (The Straßenbahnen are articulated and have multiple trucks.) I will look around for more.
I have been looking for one to hang from my balcony when I get home. Italian is traditional, but the first one I found had English, so I will use that.
Mostly I just passed through the carnival to get to the Danube downstream of Ulm, so I could walk upstream and be sure of intersecting the candles. Lots of people were lined up along the Danube for several kilometers and on the bridges, waiting for the candles. There are foot and bike paths along the Danube, but they are not lit, so you can imagine walking past and among lots of people in the dark.
After a while, I heard and then saw some fireworks. A fireworks boat was moving
downsteam, leading the candles (mostly).
|Light Serenade, candles on the Danube.|
After the candles passed by, I walked through the square next to the Rathaus
(below, middle) to get back to the Straßenbahn. The square was full of
people. The rightmost photograph shows just one section, but the entire area
was full of people, with all the cafés open. It seems like the entire town
turned out to eat and drink. This was around 11 p.m.
|Blue-lit bridge.||Rathaus, with Münster in the background.||People.|
By the way, although it was crowded, it was not mobbed. German celebrations may have crowds, but they are largely orderly. Also, the festivals are not generally noisy.
Another new Straßenbahn took me home: Jörg Syrlin (the elder), a carver
who lived over 500 years ago. Apparently his connection to Ulm is that he
produced the choir stalls in the Münster.
Here is the longer version. On my way to the Constitutional House, I crossed Neue Straße, where construction of the underground garage continues. The pedestrian bridges move from time to time, and today I crossed between the old excavation and the new construction. On my right were ruins being excavated, and on my left a modern garage was forming. It looks like the garage construction is moving in a wave down the street, transforming the ruins as it goes. They must plan the archeology schedule to get it done before the construction comes. When Alex was here, he noticed a bone sticking out of one of the old walls, possibly a human bone. Maybe it was an archeologist who did not move out of the way fast enough the last time the construction came through.
|The Ulm Lord Mayor speaks from the balcony of the Constitutional House.|
At 11 a.m., the band played. Then the band played again. Then the mayor came
out on the balcony and spoke. He used some words I learned in German class and
a lot of words I did not learn. The mayor said things about tens of years and
hundreds of years, about Ulm and the sparrow and Germany, about war and Iraq
and Afghanistan, about finance and money, and something about 65%. None of the
words I learned in German class formed a sentence, so I got bored and left.
|Albrecht Berblinger's flying device.|
Martin told me the Nabada, the boat procession, started around 3:00 or
4:00, so I left around 3 to go see. There were a lot of boats and one submarine
tower. It took about an hour and a quarter for them all to pass by. Some were
pep-rally boats, some were arts and crafts, many were just people having fun,
some were political statements, and a few were advertising. I did not
understand most of the political statements, but I got a few. I have written
before about the complexities of the Deutsche Bahn fares, and it seems I am not
the only one annoyed by them (see the ICE train boat at the bottom).
|Stadt Ulm boat. Several other boats featured this black-and-white pattern, and some had full bands.||The flying tailor of Ulm. This costume represents Albrecht Berblinger.||The Ulm sparrow. The full picture also shows Die Donau Vixen.|
|Dousing spectators. Watching from shore does not mean you will not get wet.||Lots of boats. Most of the Nabada was like this.||Perplexed ducks. These ducks would like their quiet river back.|
|Castle.||Picnic table.||Deutsche Post mailbox.|
|Sparpolitik (Savings Politics). The "mayor" opened and closed a curtain saying lights out after 10 p.m. A complaint about the library hours?||Some sort of political statement.||Musikverein Grimmelfingen (Grimmelfingen Music Club). Several boats had bands playing and rocking the boats at the same time.|
|Unser einsatz für kranke Kassen. Kranke Kassen (sick cash registers) is wordplay for Krankenkasse (health insurance).||Another political protest I do not understand.||Ulm fordert: Freie Sicht aufs Münster (Ulm requires: Clear view of the Münster).|
|ICE train boat alternating between train and jungle. The sign in a window complains that the Bayern ticket price rose from DM15 (under €8) to €30. I had no idea why they were raising and lowering the jungle scene until I got home and translated Tarifdschungel (Tarif jungle).||Duck. After the river parade, I found this fellow on the far side of town. He decided if humans were taking the river, the sidewalk was his.|
There are better photographs of some of the boats in the Nabada here.
After the river parade, I went home, and then I went to Marktkauf because I
needed groceries. I expected Marktkauf to be closed, because almost all other
stores in the city had closed early, but I was happy to find it open. As an
added benefit, there were no lines for the cash registers.
I also bought an August Monatskarte. This time it is my last one, for
sure. I am going home in September. The price went up one euro to €38.
I recently bought some sodas in one-liter bottles. On every one of them, the
bottom ring on the twist-off cap has not completely detached—it stays
attached to the cap. I thought it was a defect, but maybe it is designed that
way so people are less likely to litter with it?
I finally finished the web page for my visit to
Genève, Lyon, Emery in the Surdon area, and Paris again.
|Path: Eric's Site / Eric / Travel / Germany / Journal 9||Related: Germany, Journal 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10, Visits (Site Map)|
© Copyright 2003 by Eric Postpischil.