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.

Parts

Thursday, May 22, 2003

I visited Frankfurt and Gießen, saw the mathematics museum, and stayed overnight in Heidelberg.

Friday, May 23, 2003

I saw Heidelberg, met and spent the day with Ana, and had a great time. I am home now. (Home in Ulm, not home in New Hampshire, sigh.)

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!

Saturday, May 24, 2003

I went to the local travel agency to get my plane ticket and reserve a London hotel. The woman there had the plane ticket information—no actual ticket because it is an "e-ticket." So why did it take so long? She also did not have a hotel recommendation. Her husband had recommended areas around two Tube stops, neither of which she had located on a map. I had reviewed the travel brochure hotel information and prepared my own preferences, so I asked for one of those. She made a request with the tour operator to book the hotel but cannot tell me if it is available. She asked me to wait three days! That's Tuesday, the day before I leave.

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!

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Kathy tells me the first package I sent home arrived. It look less than half the time of the packages sent from the US to Germany, although it cost somewhat more. That's nice, because it will make going home a little easier.

I took new pictures of the neighborhood stream to compare to the winter photograph.

Neighborhood stream in spring Neighborhood stream in spring Neighborhood stream in winter
Stream in Klosterhof in spring and winter.

Monday, May 26, 2003

Since I will be walking around Bruxelles and London in the sun, I bought sunscreen. Marktkauf has l'Oréal sunscreen in two sizes. Both contain the same product, with the same solar protection factor. The 150-milliliter bottle is €12.49. The 50-milliliter bottle is €12.49.

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:

  1. Go in with all information to ask for tickets and hotel reservation.
  2. Get plane information and ask again for hotel information.
  3. Get plane ticket and ask again for hotel information.
  4. Pick out hotel and request reservation.
  5. Get reservation approval and bank transfer form to pay.
  6. Get hotel reservation voucher.
This would all be done in one trip in the US, if the customer is prepared, and can be done on the web in minutes. I did not use the web because I wanted a ticket in my hands instead of ordering one and waiting for mail, and I wanted help selecting a hotel. They provided neither of those services (in addition to the wait for the plane ticket, it was only an "e-ticket"). Also, they wanted me to pay in cash for the plane ticket but by bank transfer for the hotel. At Deutsche Bahn, my bank card worked just fine.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

I am just about ready for tomorrow's trip. Everything is packed or laid out. I am a little worried that Thursday and Friday are holidays and all the chocolate stores will be closed.

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.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

I went to Köln and saw the chocolate museum and continued to Bruxelles.

Thursday, May 29, to Saturday, May 31, 2003

Bruxelles is killing me. On the first day, I think I visited or stumbled across 13 chocolate stores. I sampled nine, skipped one that refused to sell me my choice of chocolates from the display case, and found two closed for the holiday, one maybe moved, and one gone. It is too warm to keep chocolate, so I bought little, ate as I went, and walked eight hours to burn the calories.

Saturday, May 31, to Wednesday, June 4, 2003

I visited London, saw lots of tourist sites, and saw the modern construction of Charles Baggage's Difference Engine Number 2 in the science museum.

Wednesday, June 4, 2003

I have completed my circuit around the English Channel (once under it and once over it) and am home. There is just time for a quick note before I watch Buffy tonight. (I have not seen a Buffy episode in over a week, although I did see Sarah Michelle Gellar at Madame Tussaud's.) I took notes and partially wrote the journal during the trip, but it is going to take me a few days to complete the journal entries for the trip.

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.

Friday, June 6, 2003

Blue and white and black streetcar
Ulm's new Straßenbahn.
I finally got a close-up picture of one of Ulm's new Straßenbahnen. I should get to ride one within a month.

Golden cage in woods
Golden Cage.
When Simone was here, one of the artworks we encountered at the University of Ulm was a barren Golden Cage. We speculated it might look better in spring, illustrating a bush striving to escape its confinement. Nah. There is a plant in there that you cannot see well in photograph. It is growing through the top of the cage a little, but it is sad looking.

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?

Monday, June 9, 2003

It is another holiday here, so the shopping I needed to catch up on will have to wait until tomorrow.

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.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

EADS, LA International, and I are frenziedly discussing additional work to do, trying to get something mostly settled this week. The IIR specification is done, if EADS has no more changes, and we could agree on that. I have finally seen the description of the encryption work, and it is very open-ended. I doubt we will agree on anything soon, and I am not even sure I can give a fixed-price offer for it. (EADS cannot pay my hourly rate because it is too high for their accounting folks.) EADS also has some other work I could do fairly simply, but we have not discussed it much yet.

Meanwhile, I have a preliminary telephone interview with Amazon.com tomorrow night.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003


Sculpture of a sparrow with a human face and a body decorated to show two people jousting over water
Fischerstechen.
I found another sparrow. I do not know if the face is supposed to be anybody in particular. The sculpture is in a small square named for Albrecht Wallenstein (1583-1634), but that may be unrelated. Hmm, I found a picture of Wallenstein, maybe the sparrow is supposed to represent him. He was an important commander during the Thirty Years War, and there is a Wallenstein board game.

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.

Small river running between city buildings
A scene on the Blau.
While photographing the sparrow, I noticed the scene shown to the right.

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.

Chocolate pastry, a mound sprinkled with some chopped nuts Chocolate pastry cut open, revealing mousse and wafer
Hamburger.

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.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

I just called the hotel in Roma to confirm our reservation. I found the hotel through the German train company, Deutsche Bahn. The Deutsche Bahn web server claimed a double room in this four-star hotel in Roma was available for €55/night. That includes breakfast and is the price for the whole room, not per person. Other web pages suggest the hotel is very nice and asks up to €255/night for a room, so I was not sure the Deutsche Bahn offer was not the result of a data error. However, the hotel itself confirms the reservation.

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.

Friday, June 13, 2003

I agreed to do the IIR work, so that will keep me here another month. I might agree to do the encryption work later, which might be another month. That's it, though. I am coming home in September at the latest.

Lufthansa's web site says Alex's scheduled plane landed, ten minutes late.

Empty space
Former location of sparrow.
I went to the Hauptbahnhof to meet Alex, where I had told him to meet me under the sparrow. When I got there, I found the space to the right instead of the sparrow. The sparrow is gone. Well, it is a small train station, so it should not be hard to find anybody there. But Alex did not show up. He was not on his scheduled train. I waited an hour for the next one, and he was not on that either. Finally, I went home and called our mother to check for messages, and it seems he missed his plane connection and will be late.

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.

Monday, June 23, 2003

Alex has left for home, and I am back in Ulm. I have 398 pictures taken since we left for Italy, so it will be a few days at least before web pages about the trip are available.

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.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Green sparrow sculpture with pegs all over it and bits of colored plastic stuck onto the pegs
Charlotte sparrow.
Last week, I took Alex to the local mall and saw a new sparrow there but did not have my camera. I was worried it might be a temporary display and would be removed before I could get back there with my camera this week, but it was still there. This is the Charlotte sparrow, named for the Charlotte jewelry store it is associated with.

The fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer arrived, so I will be able to survive here until August.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

I bought an Ulm-sparrow-insignia shirt at the Ulm tourist bureau, and they gave me a pamphlet with detailed information about the Ulm sparrow story. Among other things, it describes the Fischerstechen, the title of an sparrow sculpture I reported earlier. It is indeed a competition—It is a joust on the Danube in traditional boats and costumes. In particular, Ulm has somebody in a sparrow costume contending against somebody in a tailor costume. The pamphlet also reports research into historical development of the sparrow story. Much of it may be a relatively late (late 1800s) adaptation of earlier appearances of sparrows in Ulm lore.

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.

Friday, June 27, 2003

After all these months, I still have little cultural differences to report. Most door locks here can be locked from the inside only using a key. There is not a knob you can turn to lock and unlock the door. You have to insert the key for the door to lock or unlock it. I think that would be illegal in the United States, as it makes it difficult to exit in an emergency if the key has been removed from a locked door.

I wonder if US-style door locks would catch on here. I started a list of US imports Germany could use.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

I had a scare this morning. My computer's disk drive may be failing. After some initial problems reading from the drive, the system would not boot. I was able to boot in safe mode and run a low-level disk scan, and now the system seems to be working normally. I backed up the entire system to a second drive. (Of course, I always maintain backups, but I may increase the frequency now.)

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 Langosch.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Ulm University has a picture of the Fischerstechen. It is held only every four years, so I will not get to see it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

I started work on the new project yesterday. I am only doing framework stuff so far, not the core performance code, but everything is falling into place, and this project might be over quickly. There is a chance I could return to the US in early August. That is good, because I am fed up with grueling seven-hour workdays, two-month vacations, and touring European cities.

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.

Wednesday, July 2, 2003

My German teacher has been using a sponge throughout the course to erase the blackboard, so I have added blackboard erasers to my list of things Germany needs. Writing on the blackboard when it is wet does not work well.

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.

Thursday, July 3, 2003

A lot of little things happened today. A few blocks had gone bad on my troublesome disk drive (fortunately in a Windows file used only for installing and that I can easily replace from backups or CDs). I left for work later than usual because I was investigating the drive. Yesterday, the city notified me that the power would be out from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Sure enough, the power went out at 8 a.m. sharp. From the blinking clock when I got home, I saw that the power came back at 9:55.

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.

Saturday, July 5, 2003

I bought that disk drive just in time. Friday, the old drive developed new failures. First a block here, then a block there. I tried to get one final backup done to get all the latest data, but Drive Image complained of a checksum error and quit. (Backup software should be more robust and should continue beyond a few bad blocks. It should report at the end which files it could not read, but it should read everything it can, not quit.) ScanDisk found a few bad blocks, replaced them, and then reported it could find no more errors, but Drive Image still failed. Finally, I just copied all the files to an external drive using ordinary Windows copying. I spent last night and most of today installing everything on my new drive. I lost a lot of time, but I do not think I lost any data.

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.

Sunday, July 6, 2003

I have been reading Ulm: Charming City at the Danube, which tells about the city and its history and has lots of nice pictures. Ulm is more important than I knew. On page 44, the book reports, "The big bang took place in Ulm." Wow!

Monday, July 7, 2003

The new Straßenbahnen are air-conditioned, but only slightly, like other European air-conditioning. I rode Albert Einstein today.

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 not Romania.

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

I got an important piece of the IIR done today. There is one more significant part to do, after which the rest of the task is straightforward.

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?

Students and teacher
German class.
German class is over. We had a party at the teacher's house. The party included an international cultural exchange. Do you know that trick where you put the tip of one thumb next to the base of the other, cover the gap with your forefinger, and make it look like you are pulling the tip of your thumb off? That trick is not widely known in Poland or Romania. There are still adults you can fool with it.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

I finished the remaining significant part of the IIR today, and the routine is performing well. If EADS did not have another job after this one, I would be looking at plane tickets now. However, I will consider the encryption work.

Friday, July 11, to Tuesday, July 15, 2003

I visited Genève for a few hours and saw the Jet d'Eau, stumbled across Le Tour de France in Lyon, visited Emery and Adele near Mountain of the Dead, and arrived in Paris for Bastille Day fireworks over the Eiffel Tower.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Wallplate
Deutsche Post panel.
Do you remember the mystery panel in my apartment that I discovered when I moved in? The one with the Deutsche Post symbol? Emery and Adele tell me it is part of a communication system used around the 1950s. The post office would call you when you had a package. If it is for voice communication, it seems odd that the panel is near the floor. Also, I cannot say that it looks that old, and it is part of a wall insert that includes a cable outlet, so there have been opportunities to replace or remove it in the past half century.

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.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Ulm has at least three new Straßenbahnen, because I rode Albrecht Berblinger this morning. Berblinger was Ulm's hang-gliding tailor.

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
Tree in the middle of the road.
Empty lot
Former house.
I took the photograph on the left to show you the tree in the middle of the road in front of my apartment, but it got more interesting while I was in France. When I came back, the house on the left was gone. There is a machine in there now, cleaning up the debris. Update: The debris is gone too, as you see to the right. [The family that had the house demolished posted pictures.]

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.

Friday, July 18, 2003

More Straßenbahnen seen: Max Eyth (engineer and writer) and Johannes Kepler (who lived in Ulm from 1626 to 1628).

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.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Another new Straßenbahn is Otl Aicher. Otl Aicher was born in Ulm and was a type designer, graphic designer, writer, and teacher.

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.

Ulm carnival Ulm carnival
Ulm carnival.
I visited the carnival again today. These photographs are from early afternoon, before it got crowded. I had some more Schupfnudeln, and it was served US style—with a disposable dish and fork. Actually, the dish was edible (something like an ice cream cone), so they have not totally degraded to the US level.

Flag with white PEACE on stripes of purple, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red
Peace flag.
I found a peace flag at the carnival. That is another bit of culture I have not mentioned before. Peace flags are not uncommon here. They are rainbow-striped flags with PACE, the Italian word for peace, in white lettering. They are not all over the place but do dot balconies here and there and an occasional storefront, which is more expression for peace than I see in the US.

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.

Ulm carnival Ulm carnival
Ulm carnival Ulm carnival
Ulm carnival.
I went back to the carnival in the evening. You can see there are many more people there then.

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).

Red and yellow candles floating in the Danube A boat among candles floating in the Danube
Light Serenade, candles on the Danube.
The candles are shown to the right. A few boats were going downstream with the candles. One bridge, below, was lined with blue lights.

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.

Bridge with bottom of arch lined with blue lights Rathaus with Münster behind it Hundreds of people at picnic tables
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.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Here is how today went in brief: I went to work and wrote some documentation. I left and watched the mayor renew his oath. I went back to work and finished the IIR except for some documentation. I am free to get on a plane now, if I choose not to take the encryption work. I went back to town. A lot of boats floated down the Danube. A lot of things that float but are not boats floated down the Danube. Everybody started drinking. There was a concert in Münsterplatz. I watched an episode of the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

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.

White sparrow with musical symbol in its beak and decorated with music notation lines and bird representations formed with multicolored handprints, human faces, and black-line legs
Music sparrow.
After crossing Neue Straße, I found another sparrow scultpure. This one is at Musikschule der Stadt Ulm (Ulm City Music School), and I am pretty sure I would have seen this one if it had been there before.

The Ulm Lord Mayor speaks from the balcony of the Constitutional House
The Ulm Lord Mayor speaks from the balcony of the Constitutional House.
A crowd was gathering in front of the Constitutional House. It was a pretty big crowd for a routine political speech. The square was full. I am not sure what the attraction was. What would make one teenager on summer vacation turn to another and say, "Hey, lets go hear the mayor give a speech"? One young woman had baggy pants, a studded belt, a nose piercing, tattoos, and huge holes in her ears. She gave all the overt appearances of a social rebel. However, turning up at a mundane civic event lets the cat out of the bag. She's an active and concerned citizen.

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.

Hang-glider with rounded red-and-white wings
Albrecht Berblinger's flying device.
At the Rathaus, I found and photographed Albrecht Berblinger's hang-glider, which is hanging in the stairwell. Then I went back to the Constitutional House, and the mayor was still talking, so I left again. After walking to the Danube and back, I found the mayor had moved from the balcony to the podium in front of the Constitutional House, and he was still talking. He finished in about an hour, and the crowd dispersed. Whatever was going to happen afterward on the Danube did not seem to be starting soon, but I waited some, and then I went back to work.

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).

Long, low, black-and-white striped boat Man wearing red-and-white striped wings on raft Person in sparrow costume on raft
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.
People in a boat throwing water on people on shore Lots of boats and rafts in the Danube Ducks amidst the chaos
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 on a boat Picnic table on a raft Huge mailbox on a boat
Castle. Picnic table. Deutsche Post mailbox.
Person in a mayor costume inside a tent on a boat Some politician coming out of a volcano Band on a boat
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.
A boat with some sort of political protest A boat with some sort of political protest Boat with mayor and Münster
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).
Boat showing ICE train front, old-style locomotive, and a goat Same boat with ICE train now showing jungle Duck on sidewalk
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.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

I wrapped up the IIR documentation today. Now I have to wait for EADS' review. The engineer who is going to use it will not be back until next week, so I get a few days to goof off or to get a head start on the encryption work.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

I made a shopping trip into town today. I went into Reichart looking for chocolate and found Snyder's of Hanover flavored pretzel pieces. Now that I am used to the products here, it was bit odd seeing something from the US. It is not just the US product imported, though—the package is partly labeled for Germany.

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.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Greeting cards are sold here in protective plastic covers, like little book jackets. It seems strange when so much other pointless packaging is reduced. Maybe the covers are needed because many stores display their card carousels outside the store, and the cards would get dusty without covers?

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?

Saturday, July 26, 2003

I was looking for one item among several rows of similar items in the supermarket, and I realized that for speed I was looking at the Germans words on the shelf labels rather than the pictures on the packages. I have been here too long!

I finally finished the web page for my visit to Genève, Lyon, Emery in the Surdon area, and Paris again.

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© Copyright 2003 by Eric Postpischil.