Sunday, July 31, 2011

Last Post

My time at DIL has come to an end, and I'm on my last week in Germany--as such, this will probably be my last post.  Thanks to all who've posted comments, and to all who read this blog.  I've been toying with the idea of continuing with another blog after this but, considering how far few posts I made this past month, any kind of updating would be entirely sporadic.  If anything comes of it, I'll be sure to let you know.

Last time, I covered my trip to Goslar and the Welcome Party.  I'll go through, more or less, what's happened since.  Work ended up being relatively straight-forward.  I ran through trials with various chemicals (all common salts and things that wouldn't hurt if you spilled it on yourself) and compared the waveforms.  After that, I spent about two weeks working on the actual meat.  I bought four cuts of meat--a lean pork slice, a pork shoulder section, a beef slice, and a slab of pork-fat (not sure what you do with this).

Then I would perform three sets of measurements with the probe--one set of four raw, then I soaked them in salt water overnight and probed them again, then I probed the salt water they sat in.  That's twelve measurements; then factor in five different concentrations of salt-water and I end up with 60 waveforms sampled.  To try and get an idea of the random variation going on, I took two measurements of every step--giving me 120 all told.

So I had a mountain of data, and I spent the next month trying to come up with something useful out of it.  Just looking at the waveforms overlapped was interesting--I compared them by day, by cut of meat, and by set.  What I noticed was that a lot of places had parallel waveforms with slight variations, so I took differences between waveforms to remove the overall amplitude from the picture and just look at the variations.  I did that  for many combinations, and I also took the approximate derivatives of several waveforms to see if the rate of change was different for the samples.

After three months of effort, I was a little disappointed by how things turned out.  I was hoping for something clear and conclusive from the analysis, to be able to say one way or the other if one could identify cuts of meat by waveform.  What I ended up with was a lot of inconclusive information--the probe was influenced by so many factors (and there was so many un-isolated elements to the environment) that the differences between measurements of a sample over a period of time and between samples on different days were huge.

In the end, I had to say that there was no way to be sure the probe was doing anything more than a conductivity meter with the current setup.  I listed the changes which would have to be made to progress the project, and stated that I lacked the experience to say whether these changes were cost-effective and whether the chances of success were worth the cost.  However, Dr. Hucklmann seemed satisfied with my performance and I left on good terms.

Following are random-ish items and accounts (in no particular order).

The goat things.  On the way to work every day, I biked past a fenced mini-pasture containing an unknown species of some domesticated biped.  They were probably goats, but I just can't be sure because of their strange appearance.  They were kind of cute, and not knowing kind of bothered me a little.

The Chinese Restaurant.  Germany has the best Chinese food, and I think my fellows from last-year will agree.  I've had the best Chinese of my life in Germany without a doubt.  On my way home from the gym twice a week, I went into the Chinese place (with real Chinese Immigrants and their kids; they spoke better German than me) and ordered off a print-out English menu.  They had great stuff--I'm suspicious that their chicken was tempura fried, and their duck was fantastic.

Travel stories have become less interesting the more experience I gained--gradually it became a simple matter of deciphering maps and double checking with people going the same way.  I never actually made a mistake on my trip, the only thing was one time when I was trying to get home and I accidentally got into the first-class section.  I ended up having to pay there, but traveling was free otherwise.

All I wanted to say about Bremen, I think I've said with the pictures I posted.  Virtually everything I saw was out-of-context, so there's nothing I can say to add to my stream-of-conscious commentary.  The same can be said of Munster, with the exception of the fact that finding the City-map was much more difficult.  I ended up crossing the street twice before I found the person who knew where the map was (the first people I asked didn't think such a thing existed), and then I had to walk from one end of the terminal to other and back before I could orient myself to the map.  Once I got going, however, things went well.

About a month ago, there was a Goodbye Party for the Study Abroad students.  Travel had become easy by this point, and I easily made my way to the school by bus and walked back to the train-station afterwards.  The problem came when I had been told the building the party was in was the same as last year, and at (literally) the last minute they decided to change it and forgot to notify me.  So I walked around the plaza for a few minutes, calling people who had forgotten I was invited, and no one decided to pick up.  I had given up and was leaving when someone finally called back and walked outside the room the party had been changed to and led me in.  It wasn't of much note beyond that.

I had a quiet sendoff from DIL, (one guy who worked in my room one day a week left at about the same time as me, and after I said we'd probably never meet again [considering he'd be gone even if I did come back to DIL], he said, "Have a nice life.") except for Stephan--who helped me plan my way to the Frankfurt flight (I'd been having trouble finding the schedule for the X150 bus) and who got me a going-away present of a special Northern Germany tea.

I have learned a tremendous amount during my Internship, gaining new skills and confidence along the way.  As I've thanked Dr. Hucklemann and Dr. Werner, I also thank you one last time for you time and attention.  Thank you for reading my blog.

To those who noticed, clearly this is what I meant.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Trip to Goslar, and FLAWLESS VICTORY
Yeah, that's totally what I did to that trip.  Friday, I was actually worried about this trip because of the complicated navigational portion of the adventure.  At this point, I had never actually progressed from the station to CaprivistraBe by bus before--and the meeting point the following day was at a place I had never been before.  I can get away with saying it was a "Flawless Victory" of travel because I was never late to a bus, never got lost, and never got on the wrong vehicle.

I started with the Quakenbruck to Osnabruck train as normal, and made my way out and into the Hauptbahnhof.  I was looking for the 21 Atterfeld to CaprivistraBe, when I realized that Neumarkt and the Hauptbahnhof are not the same place--they are actually separated by a short stretch of roads.  I elected to walk the short distance, utilizing my map of Osnabruck--walking down Moser straBe, and then down Wittekindstr. to Neumarkt.

That was simple enough, and I found a 21 bus--but it was going to Kreishaus/Zoo.  I understood that the bus was going the wrong way, but couldn't figure out right away how to make it go the other way.  I knew I was in the right place, doing the right thing, so I knew there was a very simple solution I hadn't thought of--so I asked someone.  Sure enough, the buses across the street were all headed to the opposite side of town and it didn't take me long to get into position for the 21 Atterfeld to swing up.

Bus Drivers are cold and cruel, no matter where you are.  Just like gravity, death, and taxes.

I thought that cruelty was unique to the Gainesville 15 bus, but I learned my lesson.  I got on the 21 fine, right as it pulled up with my free pass.  The bus left the station, went five feet or so, and stopped behind five other buses trying to get onto the road waiting for a light.  Up runs a girl and knocks on the closed doors, talking German and probably asking the bus driver to open the doors while the light was still red.  Behind her run up twenty of her closest friends, all knocking on the bus and asking to be let on.

The bus is empty, I'm the only one on it.

But the bus driver just waits for the green light, for the other buses ahead to go, and then drives off leaving a group of over twenty people waiting miserably for the next 21.

The plan had been to show up and spend the night Friday in Osnabruck.  Then my phone broke.  I've previously blogged about that incident, so I'll leave it here as--I was in the middle of that crisis during this adventure.  I ended up waiting in front of the building (no one was in an I couldn't call anyone) for someone to come for about ten minutes.  Dr. Werner had just gotten off work, and showed up with his wife to let me in.  They offered to take me out to dinner, at one of the Italian places we went to last year, and we had a good time.  When we got back, the students were home.

I slept in Vincent's room in the space bed (the bed wasn't made and there were no pillows, so I went from room to room borrowing extra sheets and blankets until I had a reasonable setup), where we made a tolerable friendship.  I woke up at some ridiculous time, like six, and ran out the door before any of the students were up.

Waiting at CaprivistraBe for the morning bus, I was reminded of all the times our group waited here last year--and also the time Andrew and I waited here for our taxi home at 3:30am.  I got so choked up I had to take a picture, to commemorate the start of a new adventure.

I made my way back to Neumarkt by bus, where I found the agreed upon street where the adventure bus would pick up the students.  I was horrifically early--a consequence of how rarely the 21 runs that early in the morning and the fact that 8:00am means 8:30am to everyone else in the universe.

The bus trip was uneventful.  We get to Goslar and a bus full of students marches out to the Town Square, me taking pictures on the way.  There's a tour set up and, after a quick vote, the guide agrees to do the tour in (mostly) English.  Talk about luck, pretty much everybody spoke English.  So we walk around the small town, hearing about the history of the buildings and Country, and I snap some more pictures.  We go into a Museum that used to be some kind of minor palace back in the day, and we see a huge room with all the walls painted with biblical scenes (no photography).  He shows us the "heating" which is really a hole in the bottom of the palace where they burned things.

More walking, picture taking, and lecturing later, we are back in the square and the tour is over.  We split for lunch, with an agreed upon time to reunite, and I'm faced with a choice.  I don't know anybody here, so I can eat alone or find a group to go with.  I walk up to a group of about six, and tell them I'm here alone and don't know anybody and can I joint you for lunch?

The square is filled with restaurants, but I don't offer my opinions or preferences (being effectively a guest).  We are able to get a table in the shade (hot day) and get down to introducing ourselves.  Turns out, all the students I'm with are study abroad as well (they barely know more German than I do) with a couple girls from Romania and some other hard-to-remember countries.  English is a second language for most of them but, with the exception of one, they were all fluent.

So the menus are in German.  None of us are particularly good at translating from Menu to English, beyond "pork" or "fish" but a helpful girl offers to help me make a choice.  What I want is a nice German schnitzel with potatoes and salad, but I can't seem to articulate that to the menu--which insists on presenting me with something interesting.  I'm trying to figure out exactly what this thing is when the waiter wants us to order.  I point it out and the waiter says something to the helpful girl, who translates to me 'it's cold.'

Cold?  Whatever, pork is good cold--and there's potatoes and salad with it so I'll be fine.  The warning should have been "Locals Only, this is a delicacy."  That's the kind of warning you can understand.  When the food came out, the girl said to me, "I'm so sorry."

I told it was fine, and it was, because the only thing you can do in those situations is acknowledge that the jokes on you and laugh it off.  Everybody else gets German hot dogs and schnitzel, while I get pork jello.

Please, if you have any positive connotations in mind when you hear 'pork jello,' remove them from the premises.  What we are talking about is the worst possible cuts of pork, completely uncuttable by knife and fork, too tough to chew, with little to no spices, suspended in clear gelatin, cut into squares.  I even tried to eat it--a mistake.  This must be a German delicacy.

Fortunately, the potatoes were fantastic.  We're talking about diced potatoes fried in bacon grease with pieces of bacon sprinkled on top.  The salad was decent too.  So, with a couple pounds of potatoes and bacon grease in my stomach, we resumed the tour.  In Town Square, the group gathered to watch the clock tower show--they had an actual mechanical performance to go with it.
I had an ice cream to get over that feel of having an uncomfortable lump of food in your belly, and felt better.

We continued to talk within the group and walk across town for about an hour, and I made friends with a pretty cool guy (who said he wasn't going on any of the other trips, so I'll probably never see him again).  We bused home, stopping at a special monument and overlook for pictures.  It was about two hours there and back, so I ended up finishing my book [Stardust by Neil Gaiman].

Eventually, I made my way home through buses and trains--navigating to finish my flawless victory.

Welcome Party

Hard to believe I've only just gotten to the Welcome Party--although, since this blog has been fairly non-linear, there hasn't been much recently I haven't mentioned at one point or another.  Back in May or June, I was invited to the Welcome Party for the Study Abroad students participating in the program I was in last year.  I train-ed to Osnabruck, where Dr. Werner picked me up and we drove to the on campus lodgings we stayed in before, and met the students.

There were significantly fewer people in the ground than last time: one girl, and three guys I think.  However, we got several University of Osnabruck students to participate (only one person the same as from last year).  So I introduced myself and what I was doing to the people I didn't recognize, and greeted the person who knew me from before.

Together in the van, we drove out into the German countryside--out to a farm near the Artland Breweries (with the Artland Dragon mascot, which you may remember from the basketball team) which we went to last year.  The "Farm," as it was called, was actually a little 'Bed and Breakfast' type place with a working restaurant, a sculpting class, a pool, a mini golf course, and archery.  There were lots of people there not associated with us; we were told they were having a family reunion of some kind.

Lunch was fantastic.  We stated with shots, some sort of slightly sweetened green vodka if I remember right, and an epic bread bowl (thick pretzels and seedy breads).  Our plates had a fine mix of meats, cheeses, and fruits, which is really my favorite kind of meal.  So we mixed-and-matched our lunch items for a while, and then divided the party for activities.  I chose the group going mini-golfing first, and I was able to get into an enjoyable group of three semi-competitive individuals.

I did well, winning a few holes and generally providing enough of a challenge to one without alienating the worse player.  After golf was archery which, to be honest, I get board with incredibly fast.  Sure, the first five arrows I shoot are interesting as I try to concentrate on the directions and hitting the target.  But, when I'm hitting the target every time and I've repeated the same sequence of movements twenty times, my mind tends to wander--and that's about the time I'm ready to head home.  Sure enough, we quit eventually and we split ways as I'm taken directly home (it's quite close) while the students are taken to the Brewery.

Probably got the short end of that stick.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Party with Julia

Sorry for taking so long, the only thing in my defense are the pictures I posted--though it's not really an excuse for two weeks without an entry.

On a Sunday after my first week, I went to the Flea Market with Bernard and his family.  It's really much less than it sounds--it was just down the street, really.  I left my coat at home, thinking it was plenty warm (a mistake).  I got there early, and wandered around a bit by myself.  The Flea Market was a somewhat special occasion (as in it doesn't happen every Sunday) and I found it most notable for what I did recognize rather than what I didn't.  I saw quite a bit of 80s and 90s nostalgia, some VHS, a few Lego sets and other oddments--besides the German dishware, decorations, and clothes.  
I met up with Bernard, had a coffee, and got rained out--people started packing up as things turned cold and started drizzling.

On a nearby Monday, I went to Osnabruck to see Julia.  It certainly wasn't difficult to get in contact with Julia, or to find her, but I don't have any particularly strong memories of her from last year.  Which is interesting, because I found her to be such an agreeable person this year.  She the kind of person who will ask you about yourself, but will also swap stories with you about living in Scotland with a German accent.  I found myself able to laugh freely around her, which is something rare among people I don't know well.  

We, and two girls I didn't know, went grocery shopping together and had entirely too much fun buying dinner.  I got a Deconstructed Donor Kebab from across the street (a big tray of meat shavings swimming in red sauce, with a side salad and bread strips).  We ate at one of their apartments, where there were five girls and I was the only guy--but I felt remarkably welcomed.  It was mostly talk and a few smokes, before I had to try and leave on the last train out of Osnabruck.  

I'm sorry to say I caused some trouble for them--this was only the second time I'd gone to Quakenbruck by train.  The trains are labeled by destination, Oldenburg and Bremen (Bremen going off in the wrong direction) and I knew that one of them was wrong.  I also saw the train pull up, and it appeared to be going the wrong direction--but it turns out Osnabruck is an End Station (didn't know that) and the trains turn around here (before, I didn't see the train pull up and I was just pointed at it and told it was correct--so I was missing that crucial piece of information).  The arrival and departure times were different, so I thought this train would leave and my train would come after.  But I asked people nearby anyway, who didn't understand my question--I even called Julia and co. but by the time they understood my question the train had pulled away.  I had to impose on Julia to drive me home (thank goodness I could direct them through Quakenbruck, I'm not totally useless), and she was very nice about it.

Julia went back to Scotland, and I'm not sure she'll be in Osnabruck again while I'm here--but she's a good friend to have.

Eat your heart out.

The Netto Has Everything

A common conversation between Oliver and myself would go something like this,
"Hey, Oliver, where do you find X?"
"At the Netto."
"But I was just there, and they didn't have it."
"Try again.  It's there.  The Netto has everything."

or maybe

"Hey Oliver, where do I buy Y?"
"At the Netto."
"Oliver, buddy, I swear to you I looked those isles up and down and I didn't see anything like Y, just Z--lot's of Z."
"Try harder, it's there.  The Netto has everything."

This is not a problem you have when visiting other states in the US.  In America, there are national brands, and certain algebraic constants of 'style' 'color' and 'formula' that you are trained to that helps you find things.  Even though the 'placement logic' of milk-nextto-butter-nextto-yogurt-nextto-cheese-nextto-meat stays constant, I've found it incredibly difficult to see things.  This is not me going blind.  I'm reminded of a Doctor Who episode where the Doctor rigged it so he and his friends had the same kind of protection field as the TARDIS--making them invisible not by distorting light, but by making them unimportant to the human mind.

I would literally walk by the milk, ignoring it, reach the meat and think I've walked too far, walk back the other way--past the milk again--to the bread and think I've walked too far again, but I know it has to be between here and there!  The problem is that the shapes, colors, and names of all the products are completely different.  Scanning the shelves doesn't work--period.

I can't imagine why this wasn't a bigger problem last year, but I think it may have to do with how I didn't have to buy many groceries last year (I ate in the cafeteria)--but now I have to buy and prepare everything I intend to eat.

So I developed a technique to combat the illusion--just keep staring.  When I've found the place between the bread and meat where I know the milk has to be, I just keep staring at the shelves until I can sort out the barrage of strange shapes and colors.  I found the milk, not in plastic bottles like at Publix, but in cartons in crates on the bottom shelves.

I have found butter in the oddest of shapes.

Chocolate is its own timezone.

Ume Pflaume is still the best thing ever made.

There is no mayonnaise in Germany, only Miracle Whip, no matter what they claim.

But, in spite of that, I've come to find The Netto Has Everything.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

First Week

I did my 'first day' blog recently, and I was just thinking how I don't have much more to say about my first week at work--and then it started coming back.

Somewhere around Tuesday or Wednesday, I asked about a once-promised bike.  Johanna gave me her's (one of her's ?), a rundown, slightly rusted bike with a pink deflated balloon and some dead leaves in the carrier basket.  Also, the brakes didn't work.  At least, not the brakes I'm familiar with.

See, the only bikes I've ridden in the last ten years are mountain bikes where the left and right hand levers control the front and back wheel brakes.  So, when neither of those worked [there was a 'dead' kind of feeling in them, and a kind of 'exhausted' sound coming from the wheels when I tried], I just decided that I would ride really slow.  It worked, coming home the first time (I got it at work)--I would slow-ride up to an intersection, or any place someone could possibly be coming from where I wouldn't be able to avoid them, and stop.  Then I'd look around, see nothing, and continue forward.

I got home faster than by walking (and no injuries)--so it was a 'win' for me.  As for where to put the thing, remember the exceptionally large hallway for our flat?  Well, that's not what happened--but I thought of that too, so good guess.

Actually, I've seen an appalling lack of bike-related-security in Quakenbruck (having come from Gainesville, the bike-stealing capital of the world).  I imagine that, around here, the lack of chains, locks, or indoor housing is a result of a) No bike thieves; and b) No bikes worth stealing.

So I get home, pick up the bike, and carry it up the stairs to the front door.  Then I carry it upstairs to my flat and hit Oliver.  He sees the bike and tells me there's a storage space under the staircase I can use (right next to his bike), so I carry it back downstairs and put it under the staircase.

Thus begins my twice daily bike ballet routine.  Every morning I go to work: I go downstairs, open the door-behind-the-front-door-under-the-staircase, knock up the kick-stand, pick up the bike by the seat and handlebars, bring it back from besides Oliver's bike, maneuver it sideways over the staircase without falling down (there's a staircase under the staircase inside the storage space [I've never fallen down]), choose not to deal with the finicky latched second door (the fewer doors you open the less enemies you have to battle), turn the handle bars so the front wheel goes through the doorway (using the tire to fight the door trying to close on me), wheel it out into the hallway beside the staircase and the front door and the pediatrician's door (sometimes I'll have to fight the sick German children to get out the front door [they'll cut ya down if'n yer not car'fl]), open the front door (which is big, heavy, and tries to close on you before you can get out) while trying to keep the bike upright, wheel it out onto the landing, carry it down the stairs, and finally wait for traffic to die down so I can cross the street.

Oliver taught me how to peddle in reverse to activate a rear-wheel brake, and it worked well.

All that being said, most of my first week at work was spent studying the Waveform Generator, the Oscilloscope, and the German version of Windows (I think some commands are moved around so you can't go completely from memory, also I'm pretty sure you can't get an English Microsoft Office without buying another OS) [thank God the internet is still in English].  I ended up not using either of the Waveform Generators because the setup of interlocking all the cables was overly complicated and the analog knobs were too-easily skewed by a wayward hand (making a uniform testing setup impossible).

The Oscilloscope had its own generator, this seemed to do the best job of separating the outgoing from the incoming pulses.  I ended up going to the tech-place a dozen times over the first week, continually asking for more and longer cables ("We need to separate the signal more!"), getting wires cut and new connectors attached, soldering things, it was all really very fascinating to watch.  In retrospect it wasn't that much time, but  living through it was a very long time before I ever got around to sticking a probe into anything.

I finally got the Oscilloscope's generator working consistently, manage to do some simple analysis techniques with German Excel, and got a constant setup of cords and software settings working.

At least, I think that all happened in the first week...

Next time, "The Netto Has Everything!"

Monday, June 6, 2011

Commenting Comments

I've heard that most people are having difficulty commenting on Blogger, the first free blogging website I could find the day before I left--and sure enough, I started having problems commenting on my own blog today.  

For our benefit, I looked up the *Help* instructions for commenting on Blogger.  
It's as easy as 1, 2, 3, ...10-11-12
But seriously, one or two of the following solutions should be enough.  Also, you may want to make a Blogger account (for which you need a gmail account, which works great with youtube by the by) so you don't have to remain anonymous.  

Are You Having Trouble Posting Comments On Blogger Blogs?
I have been hearing about issues form so many people over the last week. People can't comment on blog, and we even had some that couldn't comment here. If any of you experienced those problems here, I apologize. It is completely out of our control. BUT, I do have a solution, thanks to our dear Farrah! She searched around and came up with an answer for you all.

DarkUFO has posted an answer to the question "Please help. When I try to comment on blog posts I get kicked out over and over again- sent back to the Blogger login":

Known Issue
Here are some things that worked for a couple of people.

1) Before attempting to Login in Make sure the "Remember Me" Checkbox is UNTICKED
2) Make sure you are running the latest version of your browser, if not, upgraded it.
3) Make sure you REALLY have cleared both your COOKIES and CACHE
4) Once Cleared shut down the browser
5) Then Open it again and CHeck that the Cookies and Cache are indeed Empty. This is very important. The problem seems to be with corrupt cookies and cache files
6) If that is OK try going to . Don't login yet, press CTRL-F5 and then try logging in again
7) If that still does not work try logging into Gmail first and then go
 and try again
8) If that does not work try going to this address
9) If that does not work try going to
10) If you use IE8 or IE9 try pressing the compatibility button (at the end of the address bar) when you're on your blog page.
11) If all those fail, try installing another browser to see if that works eg Firefox, Chrome, Opera etc
12) If you comments box on your blog is not appearing, change from Embed Comments to Popup or Full-Screen until the issue is fixed. Also try. Or you can try , but backup your blog template first, is to try resetting all your defaults. see screenshot. You do this from the Design, Edit HTML screen. ( This fixes about 99% of issues with the missing comments box.