Eric's Germany Journal

This is part of a journal I wrote while living in Ulm, Germany, from December 12, 2002, to September 17, 2003.


Sunday, July 27, 2003

It has been a while since I started a new journal page. Entries have been accumulating for two months, and I moved those to journal page nine. It is likely this will be my last journal page, as I expect to finish the encryption work in August and go home.

Monday, July 28, 2003

A guy just came to my door selling potatoes and apples. Door-to-door sales like that still exist?

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

I found good pictures of the Light Serenade on the Danube here. In fact, it is a whole Internet domain for the events surrounding Ulm's Oath Monday.

The Guardian had a distressing news story today, about US forces recklessly killing civilians in Iraq. I looked for other information about the events in other news sources briefly but did did not find anything.

On a happier note, I am going to plug a computer game called Slay at Sean O'Connor's Windows Games. I have had it for a while on the PocketPC and just got the Windows version. It could use a little more documentation about how to use the program, but the game is very nice. It has an elegant design with a small number of rules but gives rise to a great variety of situations. In the course of trying to win against the computer opponents, I have been compelled to employ a number of strategies at different times:

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

An Associated Press article mentions the raid described in the Guardian article but is silent about other events in the raid, such as whether US forces recklessly killed civilians.

Thursday, July 31, 2003

The local mall changed its hours. Now it closes at 6 p.m. on Saturday. The mall used to close at 4:30, and the downtown stores closed at 4. I always found it weird that downtown was largely deserted at 5 p.m. on a Saturday. I wonder if the downtown stores will change their hours too?

The mall also changed the opening times and the weekday closing times, with the net effect of reducing the total time by 9½ hours per week. That is a lot, so maybe it is a money-saving thing.

I read an interesting paper today, Privacy, Economics, and Price Discrimination on the Internet by Andrew Odlyzko. The paper's basic thesis is that the financial benefits of being able to charge customers more if they will pay more create a huge incentive to collect information about customers. However, it includes other interesting points, among them the history of price discrimination and subsequent regulation in railroads. I suspect the factors Odlyzko mentions contribute to Deutsche Bahn's complicated pricing. In fact, it could be worse. One estimate is that there were 43 trillion railroad and trucking rates on file with the US Interstate Commerce Commission in the 1960s!

Friday, August 1, 2003

Well, that was a bit odd. As I was entering the Deutsche Post office, a guy pulled up in a small Deutsche Post van, jumped out, dropped a letter into the mailbox, and drove off.

I have most of the C code for the encryption work done. The encryption and decryption are running, and all of the test programs are running. I need a timing program, and I may make the C code a little faster even though that is not in the contract, and I have to get the assembly code running. That is all the software, and then there is some documentation to write and an assessment of optimization possibilities.

It won't take all of August. However, I do need to get to the point where I can say I will definitely be done in August, so I can buy plane tickets. That will probably be when I have assembly code running on EADS' target system.

Saturday, August 2, 2003

The sparrows keep coming—I found another one. It is behind the Bread Museum. I must have been too absorbed in the pretzels to notice it before. I have to go back with my camera.

I also saw another new Straßenbahn. This one is numbered 48 and has no name. Are there only seven Ulmers worth decorating a Straßenbahn for? (The other Straßenbahnen were numbered beginning with 41.)

The carnival at the fairgrounds has been replaced by some französisch (French) food thing. There is a mini Eiffel Tower, a bunch of food stands painted like French buildings, and picnic tables with red tableclothes, white tableclothes, and blue tableclothes. (Note that französisch is not capitalized—German capitalizes all nouns but does not capitalize proper adjectives.) Some of the stands are selling things that resemble French food on the outside, like baguettes and crêpes. Some of them are selling German food described in French. A few may actually be selling French wine or cheese. Several are selling beer.

Monday, August 4, 2003

EADS tried my IIR code in their application. The part that uses the IIR took most of the execution time before, and now that part runs 18 times faster.

Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Sparrow sculpture with blue body and beak, red tail, yellow and green head, and primary-color pipes piercing it
Rohrspatz (Pipe Sparrow).
Sparrow sculpture in bushes and trees
I went into town to do some errands, one of which was photographing the sparrow to the left. I do not know if it is supposed to mean anything or just look interesting. The picture to the right shows some of the greenery the sparrow is in, just a little nook near the center of town.

Below-left shows the setting from another point of view. The big image (click on small image) shows the Brezman in Ulm (Pretzelman in Ulm) poster pretty well, as well as a sign for the Bread Museum. I think the door is actually around that corner. I must not have come around this side, because you would think I would notice a brightly colored sparrow like that.

Bread Museum behind sparrow sculpture
Bread Museum behind sparrow. says the Deutsche Post returned the package they sent me. It was addressed correctly, so the delivery guy made a mistake. I think the letter carrier is different from the person or people who deliver packages, which is good, because at least I have not had problems getting letters. But even if the delivery guy did not see my door (which is on the street), he should still have been able to find the other door on this building, which is for my landlady, and she would have given me the package.

I need those books, because I will go nuts with nothing to read on the plane on the flight back. Maybe I will reorder them and change the address to insert a line saying in German, "Address is correct! Near the tree in the street."

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

The encryption routine in assembly language is working. The decryption routine will not be hard. I am tempted to buy a plane ticket. Still, I would like to get code built with the Diab tools running on the actual hardware instead of the simulator, just to be sure. Other than that, there is a good deal of work to do, but it is all framework stuff—sometimes time-consuming, but low risk.

Thursday, August 7, 2003

I did reorder those books Tuesday evening. mailed them yesterday, and they arrived today! The first order took twenty days from mailing to notice that the books were returned.

Work was fun today. Actually, the morning was a nuisance, fighting tools that were not working properly. But in the afternoon, I found unexpected ways to improve the encryption routine. I do not have to do that; it is not part of the contract, but it is fun, and I have time (although I should get the grunt work done so I can be sure), and it will make EADS happy.

Friday, August 8, 2003

I started work on the decryption routine today. One thing about working with cryptographic routines—the data does not give you much help figuring out where a bug might be. With ordinary math routines, if you are expecting 3 and get 3.1, 6, or -3, the result gives you some clues about the problem. With cryptographic routines, you are expecting random-looking data, and random-looking right data looks quite similar to random-looking wrong data.

Martin asked me to consider doing more work for EADS. This time he said working from New Hampshire is a possibility.

Saturday, August 9, 2003

Brick labeled "Einstein" in building
Ein Stein für Einstein.
Fountain, a column with a seashell top and an Einstein face
Einstein fountain.
Fountain with statue of a person holding an umbrella
Umbrella fountain.
It is a quiet Saturday. I did a little shopping, not much more than groceries. While I was in town, I photographed another Albert Einstein memorial in Ulm I have not shown you before, a single stone (Ein Stein). That appears to the left. It is in the city health office building, which is also where the Einstein fountain is. I showed you that when I first got here in winter, but the water is running now.

Many of the water features in Ulm and elsewhere in Germany are open. That is, there is no distinct barrier between the viewer and the water. This one has a basin, but its sides slope continuously from the pavement, with no curb or rim. Other fountains spill water onto the pavement before it runs into a drain.

The second fountain to the right is not one of those, but it is a bit unusual.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Andreas found a web site with photographs of all the Ulm sparrow sculptures. [2021: Link is dead.]

Work has been a bit of a pain this week. I have been fighting all of the tools. I want my assembly code to work in both the GNU assembler and the Diab assembler, but they require different syntax. Cygwin is reading a file in text mode (mangling newline characters) even though I open it with the binary flag. GNU C fails to align vector variables on the stack. Embedded assembly code breaks in GNU C if optimization is changed. Diab's simulator reports AltiVec instructions as illegal.

I have been dealing with it, and all the assembly code is running. Most of what I have left is (or ought to be) documentation, but I may have to fight the tools some more. If things were working now, I would be buying a plane ticket.

Meanwhile, one of the engineers at EADS asked me to change the IIR code, which is finished, accepted, and signed for. My code works according to the specification, so I could say no. The change actually removes an aspect of the code that was a misfit in the first place and that was annoying to work around, so it would have been simpler to write it that way in the first place. But now it will take work to remove it. If it only takes a few hours, I may do it for free.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Office building under construction
Building under construction on Einsteinstraße.
Mailboxes on fence
Across from my supermarket, there is a building that has been under construction for a while. In spite of not being done, it appears to be open for business. A doctor's office opened a while ago, and this morning I saw a Deutsche Post carrier (on a bicycle) delivering mail to the mailboxes on the construction fence by the side of the building. The new tenants must be in a hurry and won't wait for anything.

In the supermarket, I noticed they are selling tuna in foil packs, as they started doing some time ago in the US. I do not recall seeing them here before.

At the farmer's market today, I noticed there were at least 15 varieties of potatoes on sale. I didn't even know there were 15 varieties of potatoes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

The encryption work is nearly done, and plane ticket prices changed not for the better, so I decided not to wait longer and bought a ticket home. On Wednesday, September 17, I will fly home on Lufthansa 424, scheduled to arrive at Logan at 1:55 p.m.

That leaves a couple of weeks in case work drags on. If the work finishes cleanly, I will have some time for vacation and maybe a little final travel.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

It figures: The day after I buy a plane ticket, leaving time to handle any problems, I solve the last problems and finish the work. I will have plenty of leisure time over the next three weeks. I could deliver the work I have now, since it meets all the requirements, but I will probably polish it some next week. Tomorrow I will look at the IIR work and see if that is small enough to do for free.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Today was a fun day. I stopped in the post office to ask for a Nachsendeantrag, the form for forwarding mail. I wanted to take the form and read it, but the clerk wanted to process it there right away. Well, I asked to make sure it could start September 17, not right away, and she said Ja, so I went ahead. I managed to answer a series of questions in German, and now I am signed up for mail forwarding for six months.

It cost €14.80. I do not know yet what that pays for—letters, certainly, but it couldn't be enough for packages, and one would think there is some limit on how many letters. I have to look through the 58-page booklet she gave me and figure it out. Fortunately, I can skip much of it—pages on moving tips and advertisements—and just read about the forwarding service. There is even one page in English.

I bought a train ticket to the airport for the flight home. Arranging for forwarding and buying the ticket set me to thinking about returning home and some of the things I will miss in Ulm. I'm not nostalgic yet, but I'm planning on it.

That web site about the sparrow sculptures offers a book, Die Spatzeninvasion in lm/Neu-Ulm. [2021: Link is dead.] The page is old and not maintained, because the price is in Deutschmarks. I ordered a copy anyway, and the computer sent me an acknowledgement, but probably somebody just left the computer running.

Poster of all Ulm's sparrow sculptures
Spatzeninvasion poster.
I am waiting to see if the book shows up in my mail, but I also asked several bookstores if they had the book. None did, but one of them had the Spatzeninvasion poster! Yay! That's a great Ulm souvenir. I bought six. The bookstore has about a hundred. Okay, I know I'm fond of the sparrows only because I've lived here, but this is a spot-on Ulm thing. If any of my readers are interested in having one of the posters, the bookstore is Jastram Ulmer Bächerstube, +49 (07 31) 9 60 96 88, Schuhhausgasse 8 / 89073 Ulm.

It is difficult to photograph a glossy poster without diffuse light sources away from the camera. You have to choose between photographing straight on (and getting glare) or at an angle (and getting distortion). I chose glare this time, and the image to the left is the best I could do. You cannot see the sparrows very well even in the full image, but you get the idea.

2½-winding bicycle helix seen from outside 2½-winding bicycle helix seen from under bridge
Bicycle ramp.
Later, I took a walk to the Recyclinghof. I had only some batteries to throw away, but I wanted to know where it is for when I get ready to leave. The walk back took me through some new territory not far from home.

There is a highway bridge with a helical bicycle ramp connected to the middle of it. I suppose they needed 2½ loops to get the gradient they wanted. It says something about how much bicycle riding is valued here that they built that massive a structure just for bicycles, especially when there are alternate paths to either end of the bridge.

More pictures from the walk follow.

Path by a stream going under a train bridge View from under the train bridge Some ducks and a swan flapping its wings
Approaching a train bridge. Under the train bridge. Swan flapping its wings.
Pond with ducks and swans Ducks and swans in the shade Some ducks and a swan preening
Pond with ducks and swans. Ducks and swans in the shade. Swan preening.

Hmm, well, I looked through the Deutsche Post's moving brochure, and I do not see anything limiting what or how much will be forwarded, except a mention about the destination country's rules. I think I have learned enough German to know what things I can safely ignore, so I am not going to read the rest. Much of the booklet is filled with useful tips like Umzugshilfsmittel besorgen: tolle Kiste!, which means "Get moving remedies: crazy box!"

I am not expecting any packages, just a few final account statements, but I am tempted to mail a package to myself to see what happens. Perhaps things will arrive in the US with postage due?

Sunday, August 24, 2003

The book Die Spatzeninvasion in Ulm/Neu-Ulm is out of print, and the several bookstores in Ulm I asked do not have it, but does!

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

It is chilly some mornings, and people are already getting ready for winter here. Herr Kling had some firewood delivered.

I told EADS the encryption work is essentially done, and I am waiting for their review. I asked the phone company to terminate service on the 17th, and they will, but I think they require longer notice. Actually, I think they do not have any problem shutting off service whenever I want, but they have a problem shutting off the money.

Tomorrow I will go to the Einwohnermeldeamt and tell them I am leaving, and Thursday I will return my gym access card, and that finishes up all the notices I have to give before leaving. I will close my bank account after I am home and the account receives my apartment deposit refund and pays my final phone bill.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Straßenbahn 48 has been named: Sophie Scholl. Sophie Scholl taught kindergarten in Ulm and later did compulsory war service in a metallurgical plant in Ulm. She was arrested while distributing White Rose anti-Nazi leaflets, sentenced to death, and executed. She was 22 years old. There is more here.

I went to the Einwohnermeldeamt today to deregister. I have been here so long I can say and spell Einwohnermeldeamt without stumbling. It has also been so long I forgot where the office is. (It is just south of the high school, which I went to twice a week for months.)

I added a feature for EADS today that was not in the contract and that I probably could have gotten a little money for, but it has been on my mind and was easy enough to do, so I did it. They will probably have other things for me.

Oh, this is freaky, there are pictures of other people living in my apartment. With the same furniture! [2021: Link is dead.]

Thursday, August 28, 2003

While I was riding the Straßenbahn to the office today, Straßenbahn 48 passed by, and it caused a bit of a stir among three elementary school girls. One of them shouted out its name, and the others said something about it, but I could not tell if they were just excited the Straßenbahn has a name, or they recognize the name from a room or something at their school, or they know who Sophie Scholl was.

I saw two people in different parts of the city wearing shirts that said "BOSTON" today.

Galeria Kaufhof lengthened its Saturday hours, so it is open until 6, like the mall.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Since my gym membership is ending, for exercise I walked across town today. Mutschler Center is on the far side of Neu-Ulm, and the walk there took me through Söflingen, the shopping center of New-Ulm, and over to the mall. It is strange how familiar things look now.

Two copies of Spatzeninvasion in Ulm/Neu-Ulm arrived. Parts of it are in English and clear up the question of how some businesses ended up with their own theme sparrows, given that the sparrows were auctioned off. Each sparrow blank cost DM 1500, had a sponsor who put up DM 2000, and was decorated by an artist (possibly the sponsor). After the sparrows were decorated, they were auctioned off, with a starting bid of DM 2500. If the sparrow sold, DM 1500 was returned to the sponsor (whose net DM 500 payment counted as charity and advertising), 20% went to the artist (DM 500 at the minimum bid), and the rest went to the Münster renovation fund (DM 500 at the minimum bid and 80% of any excess). If the sparrow did not sell, the sponsor kept it and did not recover any of their DM 2000 stake.

The book has the names of all the sparrows, and some of the names clear up questions about what the sculptures are supposed to be. I have entered the names on the sparrow page. That black sparrow in a wire-frame is named Faraday. A frame made of conducting wires is a Faraday cage—it blocks electromagnetic radiation (at certain frequencies) from passing in or out of the cage.

The book seems to have been published too early to report the amount raised for the restoration fund, but I found a web page that says it was DM 260,000, about $145,000. That is about DM 1020 per sparrow. If all of them sold, the average winning bid was DM 3150, about $1750.

Monday, September 1, 2003

Ottmar Bender, for whom I did the last project, returned from vacation today, so I stopped in to see about wrapping things up. He asked me to write up a an acceptance test form, so I did that, and we will perform the acceptance test sometime.

Meanwhile, Martin is talking about me doing the next project in the remaining two weeks I am here. I don't think so! We do not have a proper specification yet, I would need to prepare new test and timing programs, there are only eleven weekdays left, I already plan to travel on at least three of them, and I have to spend some time shopping and packing and shipping.

I have not seen Mohnstreizel in the bakeries for a while. Is it seasonal?

Four sparrow sculptures embedded in the ground in various poses
Behind the Münster are four sparrow sculptures embedded in the ground. I read somewhere this work is supposed to represent sparrows swimming, not being drawn into quicksand. I have seen it many times, but did not include it as one of the sparrow sculptures because it was so different—not mounted on a pole, not associated with a business, and not decorated. However, Spatzeninvasion reveals it is one of the group, number 124. Although the work is named Spatzen-Duett, there are four sparrows (visible in the big picture, click on the small picture to see it). Behind the sparrows, you can see the work going on to renovate the Münster's south towers.

I bought most of the games that were finalists in this year's Spiel des Jahres. The few I did not buy are available in the US in English versions. In addition to being fun games, these will be souvenirs of my life in Germany. It may be hard to be nostalgic about them, though, because I have been buying German games for years. They get imported because German publishers are making good, interesting games, while the US publishers have been weak.

Tuesday, September 2, 2003

I went into town today for some final souvenir shopping. On the way, I stopped to take some pictures.

The Münster with a white train in front of it The Münster with a red train in front of it A view of the Münster, part of Ulm, and the Danube
The Münster with an ICE train. The Münster with a regional train. Ulm an der Donau (Ulm on the Danube).
A willow tree in front of the Danube A man fishing in the Danube
Danube with willow tree. Danube with fisherman.
The souvenirs, by the way, are one reason to be on time for my party on September 27—the first people there get first pick of the souvenirs.

A black sparrow sculpture inside a sparrow-shaped metal cage
When I got into town, the sun was poking out from behind the clouds, and it was in the right position to illuminate Faraday, the black sparrow sculpture, fairly well. That does not happen often, because Faraday is between two buildings. This picture turned out well, which is gratifying since I had to take it from about 40 feet below the sculpture with no tripod.

There is a memorial to Hans and Sophie Scholl in Münsterplatz:

Im Haus Münsterplatz 33 lebten von 1939-1942 Hans und Sophie Scholl mit ihren Eltern und Geschwistern.

Mit ihrem Freundeskreis "Die Weiße Rose" widersetzten sie sich dem Terror des Nationalsozialismus und wurden am 22. Februar 1943 vom Volksgerichtshof zum Tode verurteilt und hingerichtet.

A memorial in one tile of a public square. The base is a black tile with five large circles around five small circles around a smaller circle. White stone shows through the circles. Out of opposite corners rise two very tall L-shaped columns. One column is pierced with the same circle pattern. The other column bears the inscription in the text.
Scholl Memorial.
In the house at Münsterplatz 33 lived from 1939 to 1942 Hans and Sophie Scholl with their parents and siblings.

With their circle of friends "The White Rose," they opposed the terror of the National Socialism and, on the 22nd of February 1943 by the People's Court, were sentenced to death and executed.

While I was in town, I also bought round-trip tickets to München next Tuesday. The Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial is near the city, and I will visit it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2003

I returned to Frankfurt and Heidelberg today. To my surprise, I understood almost all of the loudspeaker announcement for my train: The train departs at 7:51 on track 1, it is headed to Berlin with stops at various cities, the next stop is Stuttgart, class 1 wagons will stop along the platform from A to C, and class 2 wagons will stop along the platform from D to G. That is more than I understand on many poorly functioning US loudspeakers.

It is kind of neat to revisit cities where I know my way around. It's like I live here or something. No pictures today, because you have seen the Frankfurt and Heidelberg before.

In Frankfurt, I visited the Jüdisches Museum. The museum tells the history of Jews in Frankfurt. It is fairly detailed in the century before Nazism, including descriptions of specific people in the community. It also covers Medieval history. The museum has a thorough English translation of all panels and displays in a loose-leaf binder they give you at the desk.

One thing the history shows is that nothing new happened in the 1940s. It had all happened before in one form or another. The museum relates incidents of persecution dating back hundreds of years, even more than a thousand. At some times people were required to wear insignia. There were long-lasting limitations on where in the city people could live and how many there could be. There were laws regulating the number of marriages each year and regulating what occupations people could have. Ghetto gates were closed at night. There was organized killing by burning people to death.

The Holocaust is sometimes related as an exceptional incident in history. But that loses sight of the fact that it is not an aberration, it is long-standing human nature, and people could act that way again. The degree may be exceptional, but that is largely a consequence of ephemeral events. The underlying forces are enduring. Events elsewhere in the world with other groups over the past decade show those forces are still with us.

There were several school groups in the museum. I wonder what learning about Jewish history is like from the German students' perspectives?

I spent the rest of the time in Frankfurt doing some shopping. I got a sixth Hard Rock Cafe shot glass for Cathleen. This is the first one from a "renegade" restaurant. Some of the Hard Rock Cafe restaurants are not part of the chain that includes the original London store. I do not know what their relationship to the chain is or whether they are truly "renegade" in any historic or legal sense. They use the Hard Rock Cafe logo and sell Hard Rock Cafe merchandise, and they are well known yet are not shut down by the chain. I suspect some rights or licenses got sold in the past, and the chain might regret it but has no say in the matter now. That is just a guess, though.

One store in Kleinmarkthalle had a scary-looking vegetable. The sign near it said Löwenzahn, but that is dandelion. This looked related to broccoli, but the crowns were arranged in protruding spirals and were pointy.

Then I went to Heidelberg. My first stop, since it was nearest the Hauptbahnhof, was a vegetarian restaurant named Waves. It is only open for lunch, and I got there just about half an hour before its 4 p.m. closing. The menu is mostly Mexican, and I had a burrito that was nice.

I got the seventh and last shot glass for Cathleen. The Heidelberg Hard Rock Cafe is also a renegade, and it is a hole in the wall, and neither of the two renegades stores put the shot glass in a box, as the chain stores do.

Next I went to the funicular to ride to the top. Unfortunately, most of the route is closed. Taxi service is available to get you to the top, where there is a fairy-tale park, but that is not the same as riding the train, so I passed.

Instead, I spent the time shopping and wandering. That worked out well for Dad, because he was looking for plays by Nestroy, and I found Nestroy's complete works in six volumes. I also found Buffy im Bann der Dämonen: Die Angel Chroniken 1. I will never be able to read it, because German class did not teach us important words like "vampire," "fang," and "undead." However, the book will be a fun memory of Heidelberg, and it was cheap.

If any game players visit Heidelberg, you must go to Heidelbär at Unterestraße 28. It has a large selection of games, including all of this year's Spiel des Jahres finalists in the front window.

Oh, I have to get out of Germany. I laughed at a couple of postcards with humor drawn from German culture.

I returned to Ulm to find advertising defacing the new Straßenbahnen. Oh, well.

Thursday, September 4, 2003

I got asked for directions again. A couple pulled over to the sidewalk to ask for directions. I did not know where the doctor's office they were seeking was, but I pointed out the streets they needed.

The new Straßenbahnen doors do not open until the computer is satisfied that the Straßenbahn has fully stopped. That is a couple of seconds after the riders at the doors are ready to get off, so many of them push the buttons a few times. I experimented a bit, and you only have to press the button once, and then the computer will open the door when it is good and ready. The thing is, you have to press the button sometime after it switches from its in-motion function of signaling the driver to stop to its stopped function of opening the nearby door. There is no indication of when that occurs, so you have to estimate.

The Ulm City Autumn festival begins tomorrow. That lasts ten days and will probably be my last festival here. Even Germany would be pressed to start another festival before I leave on the 17th.

There are some compound words in German that suggest a very old connection to English. One is Teilnehmer, which means a participant or partaker. Teil is part, and Nehmer is taker. If "partaker" and Teilnehmer were the same word at one time, there must have been a lot of change over the ages.

I mailed a box home Tuesday and another today. They contained a lot of souvenirs, books, some kitchen equipment, and some clothing. I have a box of games mostly packed. After that, I have to send my printer and maybe one other box. So, I am starting to close up shop here.

The last envelope of forwarded mail is on its way to me from New Hampshire. So at the moment I have mail traveling both ways across the Atlantic.


Friday, September 5, 2003

I went to Legoland. On the way home, I took a picture of the Münster from the train.

Monday, September 8, 2003

Marktkauf changed its hours this week, so it too is now open until 6 p.m. on Saturdays. It's a cultural revolution sweeping Germany. Two more hours! Perhaps in a few decades, stores will consider opening on Sundays.

I saw two parking inspectors writing tickets today. A long time ago, I mentioned the cardboard clock faces—you set the clock to the time you park and put it on your dashboard. When the inspectors come by, if the clock shows you have been there longer than the allowed duration (which is posted), they give you a ticket. If you park before the business day begins, while there is no limit, you can set the clock to the start of the regulated period.

I went to the office to talk to Ottmar about the acceptance test. We will do that on Wednesday. If all goes well, I will return EADS' badge and key Thursday.

I talked to Martin about scheduling the next routines he would like me to work on. I cannot give a schedule now, because I have to return home and look into buying the computer I will need for the work and setting up a development environment, and I do not know how long that will take. But he would like the routines finished by the beginning of November. That is not a lot of time to squeeze in another project.

Danube overlook Plaque
Site of Berblinger's hang-glide. Plaque.
Here is where Albrecht Ludwig Berblinger tried to hang-glide across the Danube. The plaque says that here in 1811 Berblinger attempted his first hang-gliding flight with self-made wings, and Max Eyth immortalized it in his book The Tailor of Ulm.

Tuesday, September 9, 2003

I toured the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial.

Our tour guide was a native English speaker who has been in Germany over a decade and professes not to speak much German and has not taken a course in it!

Dachau is near München, so I did a few things in München after Dachau. Lonely Planet suggests visiting the Zentrum für Aussergewöhnliche Museen, the Center for Unusual Museums. [Closed in 2005.] It contains the Pedal-Car Museum, the Sisi Museum (in memory of Empress Elisabeth of Austria), the Chamber Pot Museum, the Bourdalou Museum, the Museum of Scent (perfume flasks), the Easter Bunny Museum, and temporary special exhibits. It used to contain the Padlock Museum too. For the most part, each museum is a single room, and I did not find them interesting. They have a great number of perfume flasks and more chamber pots than anybody ever needs to see.

I did some shopping. I surveyed a model train store for Alex. I visited a game store (much more interesting here than in the United States). I restocked at two known chocolate stores and happened across a third store. I looked for t-shirts with German writing for Cathleen. Finally, I ate at Buxs Restaurant-Cafe, a pretty good vegetarian restaurant. Vegetarian dishes are served in a buffet and charged by mass, €1.85 per 100 grams. I learned of it from Lonely Planet. It is at Frauenstraße 9, immediately adjacent to Viktualienmarkt, so I passed by or near it on at least three previous trips to München. And now that I have learned where the good stuff is, it is time to go home.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

The acceptance test is done.

Tonight I had the opportunity to join a local games group for the evening. It meets every second Wednesday, and, for many months, I was in class Wednesday evenings. Other times, I was traveling or occupied. The group meets at a local game store, Spieleladen Morgenland. We played Robo Rally, which I have played before, and then Vinci, which I have not. Everybody understood English well enough that the basic rules were read aloud in English (translated on the fly). Still, most of the discussion after that was in German, except when I asked a question.

The game has a number of tiles with symbols on them, and there is a reference card with a key to what effects each of the tiles has. The reference card is of course in German. I was getting along somewhat okay with the German reference card, figuring out what the German tiles did. Then I tried to find a "Ports" tile in the key, but it was not on the reference card. For some reason, they printed the English word "Ports" on the tile (it was actually French, but it is the same word) instead of the German Häfen. Häfen is on the reference card. So, I was doing okay in a foreign language but the English confused me!

That was a fun four hours. It is a shame I wasn't able to go earlier in my stay and get to know the people in the group.

I just got email from Wai Chu, who operated el Eden Handcrafted Chocolates. He tells me the store is closed, and he is on to other projects. Foo, it was a good store. He also told me that many people who visited the store mentioned my web site. That's fun, there are people who read my chocolate store reviews and act based on what I say.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Today was much busier than scheduled. I packed up another box of stuff and mailed it. That is the last box I have to send except for the printer. If, when I pack everything, I find there is room left for the printer, I might take that on the airplane instead of mailing it.

I was supposed to go to EADS today just to say good-bye and turn in my badge and key. However, Martin called and said he had a problem with the FFT (which I finished four months ago). So, I helped debug that while I was at EADS. The problem appeared on a system inside their secure area, so Martin had to shuttle back and forth. In addition, the system had no significant debugging support. We had to probe what was happening by inducing different errors to occur. It turned out to be a problem in a Sky Computers routine—it was altering registers we had been told it did not. So, that is fixed, and I do not have to spend my final days here working. I returned the badge and key and am all signed out.

I said good-bye to folks, and Herr Rabel, the manager, was enthusiastic about how much they appreciated my work and about opportunties for working with them in the future. So, if nothing turns up in the US, I may be able to get more contracts here. Negotiating the first contract was a tremendous effort largely because of how much money I wanted, but, now that they have seen how much work I produce, they think I am cheap.

Andreas told me about two locations with three more sparrows, so I will try to get to those before I go. Two of the sparrows are out of town, so I do not know.

Deutsche Telekom is being obstinant. They require three months notice to close an account, apparently including terminating service. I might have been willing to write off the few months loss if they would terminate service but still bill me. But they refuse to terminate service, which exposes me to the possibility of the next tenant running up my phone bill. Their three-month notice period is not required by any technical, administrative, or labor issues, because they were able to start my service with less than three weeks notice. The notice requirement is purely for their financial gain. So, perhaps I will close my German bank account as soon as Frau Moser returns my apartment security deposit and the last phone bill Deutsche Telekom deserves is paid, and I will send Deutsche Telekom a letter asking how they would like me to pay them.

Frau Moser just showed the apartment to a prospective tenant. He probably will not take it because he was looking for an unfurnished apartment and may need more room to put in a computer desk and other furniture. He could miss out on a good deal—I got lucky with this apartment. It is comfortable, furnished, and conveniently located, and the rent includes power, water, heat, and trash service. Frau Moser did raise the rent; I am paying €540 per month, and she is asking €600. That is about $660.

Lars told me the age of the building when we first inspected it, but I had many other things on my mind and forgot. I have been meaning to ask Frau Moser again and took tonight's opportunity. The building is about 300 years old, maybe 360. The United States was not a country when this house was built. It was not even a country when two or more generations had passed through the house.

Frau Moser gave me a gift and a postcard with a note. Not only can I read large parts of the German note by sight, I am much more able to deduce ambiguous letters. You might recall I had trouble reading her first note in January. To be sure, I think she took more care with her handwriting in this note. Also, Frau Moser has used more English recently. I suspect she has been brushing up. The note is very nice, and it seems I was a good tenant. The book is Zeit zum Träumen (Time for Dreaming)—also in German, but it is short sayings by various authors presented with pictures of paintings. I can read some of it, but I will need to go through the book with a dictionary.

Oh, I just remembered. At the office today, I was typing something Andreas was dictating into Outlook, and I typed ö, and Martin and Andreas asked how I did that. They didn't know the key combinations for accented letters. So I got to show Germans how to type German. (German keyboards have separate keys for the accented characters, so they do not need combinations except when using English keyboards.)

Friday, September 12, 2003

I just found a statement at the US Customs web site that says the duty-free exemption on accompanied goods when returning to the US was recently raised from $400 to $800. Time to go shopping.

Today was also busier than expected. I set out to photograph three new sparrows Andreas told me about. One is in Neu-Ulm and two are at a car wash in Senden, a town about 10 kilometers south of Neu-Ulm.

Sparrow sculpture decorated like a chef
Chef Sparrow.
I left the house a few minutes before 9:00, rode the Straßenbahn to Ehinger Tor, and took a bus to the Neu-Ulm Bahnhof. There, I planned to take a train to Senden. The printed schedule said there was a 9:28 train, but the machine did not. I waited, but no train came. The next one was at 10:30 (and the machine agreed), so I had time. There are buses to Senden, but they are slower and wind through other stops. So I changed course to the Neu-Ulm sparrow. It is the chef sparrow at a restaurant. I partly walked and partly ran there and back and got back to the Bahnhof in time for the train. The restaurant was closed, so I had to take pictures of the sparrow in its Biergarten from the sidewalk.

The train to Senden costs €2.35 and takes six minutes, so that is an average speed of 100 kilometers per hour, about 63 miles per hour. It does not feel that fast on the train. It is a nice way to travel.

The Neu-Ulm Bahnhof is a small station without a ticket counter, but the schedule says the Orient Express stops there! Sure enough, the EN 263 from Paris to Vienna stops in Neu-Ulm, but I am not sure that is really the Orient Express.

I am getting bolder; I went to Senden with no dictionary and no map of the city. Actually, my Ulm area map includes part of Senden, but not the Bahnhof. However, Senden is a small town, and I knew my destination was north of the Bahnhof. There was a map posted at the Bahnhof and another at the place I had to turn, so that worked out. The north side of town is a big Einkauf Zentrum (shopping center).

I found the car wash and went in, and the attendant let me take some photographs. Andreas was wrong; they do not have two sparrows, they have three. They are standing in a row with some fake trees, so you see a forest scene as your car comes around a turn in the carwash.

Mostly-blue sparrow with decorations Green sparrow sculpture decorated with flowers and a heart Blue sparrow sculpture with light blue and yellow at wingtips and tail
Blue Sparrow. Flower Sparrow with Heart. Spectral Colored Sparrow.

Now that I have the Spatzeninvasion book, I am able to give you the numbers and titles of almost all of the sparrows. They are in my sparrow page. The "Spectral Colored Sparrow" above is one of the exceptions. It is similar to the four Spektralfarben sparrows in the book but not the same as any of them. I do not know if it is an extra made after the book was prepared or is a modification of one of the Spektralfarben. (Update: Checking the online pages shows it is Spektralfarben 3. It looks purple in the book.)

I started walking back to the Bahnhof and changed to running when I realized I might make the next train back and not have to wait an hour. As I approached the Bahnhof, a train pulled in, and I ran into Agnesé, from the German class. Not literally, but I was running. We greeted each other, but she asked if I were running for the train, and I said yes and had to go. I started for the Ding machine, but a train station attendant commented about getting on the train, so I ran to the conductor and asked if I could pay aboard. Some trains you can, some you cannot. This one you can, so I got aboard.

That was the first time I bought a ticket aboard the train, and it was the second new ticketing thing I did today. I am still learning the ins and outs of the system. The Deutsche Bahn machine would not sell me a ticket to Senden. It said there was a local tariff, and tickets were available from the local transit machine. So I had to use a Ding machine to get a ticket for a Deutsche Bahn train. I bet there are politicians and lawyers mixed up in that.

Small blue sparrow sculpture Small white stone sparrow sculpture
Small blue sparrow sculpture. Small white sparrow sculpture.
I went back to Ulm, bought a souvenir mug at a store in the Hauptbahnhof, bought some Cluizel chocolate to bring home (another reason to come to my party), got asked for directions again, and went looking for Kultur Consulting. That is the company that set up the sparrow sculpture program, and I wanted to see if they had any more of the Spatzeninvasion books. They had one left, so I bought that. They have some small sparrow sculptures on display.

Then it was lunchtime. All that before noon! I got home to find email from Martin, who had discovered two more problems. Then Martin called, and I arranged to go in later that afternoon. However, I did more important things first (eat lunch and watch Buffy).

At EADS, we found one problem was a recurrence of something discovered before, a bug in Sky Computers' cos routine. Martin had misremembered the routine involved and inserted a replacement tan routine, but the program needs a replacement cos routine. We have not figured out the second problem yet. We got the program working by changing some things, but we do not know why the changes worked around the problem. So there is probably some error lurking in the software, and I may go in Monday to work on it more. After I pack.

EADS is going to have a hard time maintaining my assembly-language code. I know of nobody there who knows PowerPC assembly language. My code is likely to have few bugs, but bugs will appear in the software around it, and they will have to work with my code to find those other bugs.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

I started packing everything and then went to buy one last box. I will have to mail that and my printer.

I left a loose end a while ago with regard to the sand reservoirs in the Straßenbahnen. I had seen the reservoirs in the back but not at the front. There are indeed reservoirs at the front.

The weather was better today, so I got slightly better pictures of the place where Albrecht Berblinger tried his hang-glider. Those replace the originals under September 8.

Tonight, I am finishing my fourth viewing of the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I have been here, and then I am packing it for shipping. The last few days, I will watch Angel episodes.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

I returned to Stuttgart.

Monday, September 15, 2003

The last load of laundry is done, the computer printer and the last box are mailed, and everything I do not need in the next two days is packed.

I bought four more Spatzeninvasion posters from Bücher-Stube Jastram for gifts. Since I bought the first six, they brought the posters down from storage and put them on display.

Martin and I exchanged email this morning, and he just called. We figured out the problems, and I do not have to go in. Except I have Spatzeninvasion posters for him and Andreas. Well, that leaves me mostly free. Tomorrow I back up my computer and make sure that everything fits in my luggage. Then I either run to the store for one more box to mail or I walk around town for the day.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Recycling yard with people putting things in bins
Everything is packed now. I had a spray can that had to go to the recycling yard, so I walked over. The picture shows just one side of the yard. The other side has large dumpsters for wood and other materials and a shed for problem items, including spray cans.

Blue sparrow sculpture with white streamlines and "Peugeot" lettering
Peugeot Sparrow.
On the way to the recycling yard, I passed another sparrow sculpture. I cannot tell you the official title of this one until I get home and unpack the Spatzeninvasion book, but I suspect it has something to do with Peugeot. This sparrow is the closest one to my home, but it is on a street I walked down only once before, before I was sparrow hunting.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Doorway with vines at the top and parts of the sides
Doorway of Im Baindtle 21.
I got up early and set out near 6 a.m. Those vines you have seen in exterior pictures of Im Baindtle 21 are prospering under Frau Moser's care, and, as you can see in the picture to the right, I may have left just in time—a little longer, and they might have overgrown the doorway. Some mornings, a spider tried to string a web across the doorway, and, when I left the apartment, I felt like I was in that Gary Larson cartoon with the playground slide.

I lugged my 130 pounds of luggage to the Straßenbahn, into and through the Hauptbahnhof, on and off the train, through the München Hauptbahnhof, on and off the S-Bahn, and through the München Flughafen. Next trip, I get luggage with wheels.

München airport is now my favorite airport. I came up from the S-Bahn to see no lines, just a row of self-service check-in stations available and a Lufthansa employee desperate to help people use them. Elsewhere in the airport, there were some attended counters with short lines. The self-service machines even let you check in luggage. The only complaint I have is that they are slow to respond to user input. The rest of screening and boarding proceeded well too. The security screening personnel appear efficient and competent, unlike US screeners.

Airplane home.
Here is my plane home. The flight went pretty well and landed the minute they predicted before take-off, ten minutes before schedule. Lynn was busy, so only Paul picked me up and took me home, with stops at the Chocolate Truffle and to see Lynn.

My apartment is unfamiliar. More specifically, the contents are unfamiliar. I moved a bunch of stuff out of the way before subletting to Kathy, and Kathy moved stuff more, and I don't remember exactly where everything was. Also, for the first few hours, I was reaching for a light switch on the left in the bedroom, but it's not there. The door lock feels unfamiliar because the locking and unlocking motions are different (turn part of a rotation and back instead of turning two whole rotations). Driving is still familiar, including the feel for the clutch on my car. English may take a little practice—in the grocery store, I turned and almost bumped into somebody and habitually said Entschuldigen.

I expect to enter a few more reports about wrapping up my German adventure, such as closing my German bank account, but this should end the regular journal entries.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

I opened the packages that arrived already. One of them arrived with several items missing, three broken mugs, and a small shampoo bottle that was not in the box when I mailed it. The loss looks like about $80 and includes nothing of great sentimental value, although I may never get another shopping bag from the Parisian sewer.

I suspected theft since some of the missing items were pretty, new games, but other items, like a power outlet splitter were also missing, and I am leaning toward an accident followed by negligence. The box is torn along a seam as if caught in a machine, and one of the mugs is more thoroughly destroyed than dropping would account for, so it may be the result of a machine. But the proper procedure for accidental opening or damage includes at least putting a note in the box. In addition, my detailed packing list would have made it easy to sort out my box's contents from those of other boxes. Anyway, now I have to report it to the Postal Service so they can have their computer generate a letter telling me there's nothing they can do.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Back on Wednesday, I woke up at 3 a.m. in Ulm, due to apprehension about the trip that day, and I managed to half-sleep until about 5. After getting home, I stayed up until 10 p.m. Nashua time, a total of 23 to 25 hours. Then I went to bed but slept for only four hours—I woke up around 2 a.m. (8 a.m. in Ulm). Last night I also stayed up until 10 p.m. and woke up around 2 a.m. I hope I adjust soon.

The US soy milk called Silk is thinner than the soy milk I was using in Ulm—it feels more watery. I don't like what I used to like before I left! Maybe I will readjust in a few days.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Two more boxes arrived today. These are the last two I mailed, just one week ago. The only two not delivered yet are those containing more than $200 in foreign goods, so they are probably in the country and being processed by the customs office.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

My last two boxes arrived, one yesterday and one today. Yesterday's arrived missing a few street maps that I put in the box and containing a small plastic card calendar that I did not put in the box. Somebody in the customs office screwed up. Today's box arrived with no apparent damage or alterations. It contained the rest of my games, so I am happy about that.

Tuesday, October 7, 2003

London-Paris-Rome t-shirt with Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua
The t-shirt at home.
Bill helped me finish off my t-shirt photograph collection today. The Nashua symbol on the shirt represents Pheasant Lane Mall.

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

One day in German class, the teacher brought a game, Ulmer City Memory. Memory, also known as Concentration, is the classic game where you turn two cards face up, keep them and take another turn if they match, or put them back if they do not match. The goal is to collect the most pairs. Playing in class provided opportunities for small conversations with other players and for describing the cards. Ulmer City Memory features scenes of Ulm on the tiles.

This would be another great souvenir of Ulm—pictures of the city in a game. After seeing it in class, I looked for it in stores, but it was out of print. One turned up recently in The seller was only shipping within Germany, but I offered to pay more to have it sent to the US. We finished negotiations and closed an auction today, and Ulmer City Memory should be on its way to me soon. I will post pictures after it arrives.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Game box 36 pairs of cardboard tiles with scenes of Ulm
Ulmer City Memory.
It's here!

Oddly, I remember other pictures from the class. I wonder if there is more than one edition.

Monday, July 3, 2006

Today is a rare day when Apple is closed and the German consulate is open, so I went to the consulate to have some paperwork certified for my Antrag auf Beitragserstattung, application for refund of (social security) contributions. It went smoothly, but I learned I am supposed to return my Sozialversicherungsausweis (social insurance card) with the application. That is a shame. It is a souvenir I carry in my wallet. It is the ideal thing to have when somebody asks you for government-issued photo identification.

⇐ Earlier entries

© Copyright 2003 by Eric Postpischil.