May 2006

1 May 2006 [link to here]
scavenger chairs

Another game people play at French wedding receptions is sort of a cross between musical chairs and a scavenger hunt. Twelve people and twelve chairs are set up at the front of the room. The ref announces what they need to find (e.g. a spoon, a pencil, a shoelace) and blows the whistle. Everyone bounds away and while they're gone, a chair is removed. The last one back with the item is out. For extra fun, as each person is knocked out, they're assigned a favor they need to do for the couple, and also assigned a month in the coming year when they have to do it.

2 May 2006 [link to here]
the opening band

I had no trouble using my triband GSM phone in Thailand, but here in rural France, service has been spotty. It often has no signal and when it does, it's usually restricted to emergency calls only. I'm using a locally purchased sim-card on a major network, but people around me are not having problems. A friend of mine is having much better luck with his triband phone, and when I put my sim card in his phone, everything is great, so I finally figured out the problem. He bought his in Italy, so it's got the two European frequencies (900MHz, 1800MHz) and one US (1900MHz) and I bought mine in the US, so it has the two US frequencies and one European (850MHz, 1900MHz, 1800MHz). 900MHz has been in use much longer and is more widespread, so out here in farmland it's not holding up.

My options are: live with it, get a new phone (quadband or local triband), or stop hanging out in the middle of nowhere.

6 May 2006 [link to here]
RAM tough

I just dropped my laptop down the stairs. It appears to be fine. Join me now in a rousing chorus of Thinkpads Rule, in G Major.

12 May 2006 [link to here]
Deutsches Museum review

I'd heard that the Deutsches Museum was not to be missed, if ever I was in Munich, so when I got off the train, I went straight there. At least that's what I thought I was doing. Of course, I didn't have a map, and while I'm not completely opposed to asking someone for directions, I generally feel I should have the decency to get lost first unless I'm in a hurry.

Their web site described the museum's location in a variety of ways and gave all sorts of options for getting there. I was surprised to see coordinates listed, but this seemed like a fine opportunity to use my GPS for actual navigation for a change. The museum wasn't far, the weather was nice, and I had lots of time, so rather than take the subway, I walked. I punched in the coordinates and figured as long as I was walking in the museum's general direction, I'd get there eventually. That's generally true, but turned out not to be as relevant as I thought.

I stopped in a park, ate breakfast (French bread and French cheese; guess where I was until yesterday), and walked the direction my GPS told me to. I should probably mention that my GPS has no maps in it at all, other than what came installed, so it has a vague notion of where Munich is, but can't be bothered about any details.

On my way, I passed a rather ornate building. There were dozens of tourists taking pictures of it, so I thought I'd better take one too. Maybe it's Munich's famous singing and dancing clock I'd never heard of before this morning. It was just fifteen minutes past the hour, so rather than wait to 45 minutes to see the clock do a jig, I moved on. Past Starbucks (sigh), past San Francisco Coffee Company (curiosity tempts me), over a river, past the waterfall, and over another branch of the river. Off in the distance, I can see the dome of an observatory. That seems like the sort of thing that might be part of the museum I'm after, but it's in the wrong direction.

I walk aimfully through pleasant neighborhoods, and just when I think I've screwed up somehow (were they not using WGS84?), I'm turning a corner and I see grass and flowers ahead of me. Is that part of the museum grounds? Alas, no. But I buy a drink and sit for a while, finish reading an article I'd almost finished on the train, and just enjoy the day.

The GPS claims I'm just 50m from the museum, which means it's just one block over. This seems unlikely, given the neighborhood. Really, the bank of that river would have been a much better place for a museum. Maybe, say, where that observatory was.

Finally, suspicion drives me to action. I pull out my notepad and check what I copied off the site. Oops. I entered the longitude wrong. It's off by one minute, which at this latitude means about 1.2km, back the way I came. But I've come this far, so I figure I might as well see what I've been walking toward all this time.

I circle the block, seeing how close I can get to my pot of gold, and I end up back at the grassy and flowery park, pretty much right where I was sitting. The precise goal is inside the block of buildings, so I take a photo of the nearest storefront, fix the GPS target, and head to the real museum. It was ok, but I enjoyed the walk more.

I thought using the GPS was a good idea because it would help me go right where I needed to be. I turned out to be right, but not in the way I expected. Sometimes accidents know best.

15 May 2006 [link to here]
pretty good day

I slept late, went for a run, exercised some more, showered, walked into town, sat outside at a cafe, drank fantastic hot chocolate + espresso, ordered mysterious (but excellent) food in a language I don't know, watched the world go by and let my mind wander around projects I couldn't work on in the sunlight. Then I hiked around town for a couple hours, stopping to sit on a park bench and write this. And to work on my photo management tools and listen to some music (Richard Cheese, Cadence). Then an hour in a park for some good devil stick practice (with Joe Jackson jamming in my headphones), some handstands, and finally a cold drink, another shower, and a cookout with friends.

Things learned today:

  1. German people stare a lot, and they're not shy about it. I think they're staring at the devil sticks slung over my shoulder, but they're really not that weird. Using a laptop outside is also pretty weird apparently. Honestly, you'd think I was riding a unicycle.
  2. In Germany (or in Freising, at least) you can get biodiesel at the gas station, right from the pump.
  3. I like being outside, and I need to get a laptop whose screen is more visible in bright surroundings and whose polarized screen is oriented the same way sunglasses always are, rather than being 45 degrees off. But I knew that.

16 May 2006 [link to here]
buttons on sale

The instructions on the ticket machine said, "If applicable press half price button", but made no attempt to explain who it might apply to. I watched other people buy tickets for a while, trying to figure out the rule. I never did figure it out though, nor did I manage to ask anyone who could explain it. The safe bet would be that if you don't know whether the half price button applies to you, it probably doesn't, but most people pressed it, so I did too.

The thing about trams in Zürich, like many other trains, is that to reduce costs and hassle, tickets are only checked occasionally, after you are on board, and if you don't have a valid ticket, you pay a big fine. Presumably they set the frequency and fine so that the expected value for cheaters is negative, or at least make it seem that way. This system works well if you know the rules, but there's no way for the clueless to get timely feedback.

Once on the tram, I heard someone speaking English and asked her about the button. Turns out it's for kids (up to 16 years old) and people who bought some special half price pass. I spent the whole ride anxiously watching for The Man, ready to disembark if I saw a conductor checking one of the other cars.

17 May 2006 [link to here]
Three Card Monti

I got my first glimpse of snowy mountains from Birrwil, on the train from Lenzburg to Luzern. But that's neither here nor there. This morning I was in Zürich, which I like to write about as often as possible because it looks really cool with that umlaut. I'm not sure why anyone else would go from Zürich to Lenzburg, but my excuse was Circus Monti.

For weeks now, I've been keeping an eye on their tour schedule, saying things like "If I were to leave here tomorrow and go to Switzerland, I'd need to go to Rheinfelden." But as it happened, Lenzburg was the lucky concordance, so after crashing at the hostel in Zürich, there I went.

It's not often (yet) that I can say I have a friend touring with a circus, so when I heard that Bronkar, beatboxer, juggler, and acrobat would be doing just that, I knew I had to go check it out.

We got in some quality time, and I really enjoyed hanging out with the performers in their camper village. I caught the afternoon show, and then it was time to get out of their way. What I thought was a good time to drop in (just before a day off) turned out to be their busiest time (tearing down, moving, setting up). Ah, well. The price of wisdom is foolishness, and while I only got to hang out with the circusfolk for a couple hours, now I know more about such things.

So it was time to go, but go where? The original plan B was to go back to Zürich. I got as far as standing on the platform, ticket in hand, watching the train arrive, before I finally decided to devise a plan C. So off I go to Luzern, because there's a train going there, it's next to a lake, and it's a big dot on the map, so I'll probably be able to find a place to stay. I admit to a little trepidation, and I'm wishing I grabbed a list of all the Swiss hostels, but I figure if Pak Chong worked out, this should be easy.