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.

Friday, June 3, 2011

First Day at Work

I'm sorry to say I've probably waited too long to do my 'First Day,' but I will attempt to recreate it in my mind as best as possible.

I remember being uncomfortable, because I dressed up in my best clothes all day.  Everyone else was in the 'bluejeans' level of casual, and I felt overdressed.  I also walked to work, whereas I've been riding my bike recently.

I remember being introduced to dozens of people and not being able to remember most of their names.  I work with Stefan and Bernard on a daily basis, this guy named Valdemar introduced himself as, "Voldemort without the 't'" (how can you forget that?), Marcus doesn't speak English well--but I end up asking him for a lot of things anyway, and there was one other person I talk to who I don't know his name (but I thought it really was 'Bio" for a while before I realized that was just his department [Bernard would say, "Go talk to Bio."]).

I remember being afraid.  Bernard (my boss) took me upstairs, introduced me to Stefan, briefly explained the project outline, showed me the oscilloscope, and told me figure out what it was by tomorrow (pleasant dreams, I'll most likely kill you in the morning).  I spent three hours reading about electricity, oscilloscopes, waveforms, and pulse generators.  I had lunch, where someone took me to the end of the street to order a hotdog from a vendor (I haven't forgotten a sandwich since).  Then I spent five hours reading more about electricity, oscilloscopes, waveforms, and pulse generators.  I almost knew what was going on by the time I went home.

I remember being relieved the first day was over.


Germany is a land of alcohol, meat, cheese, and chocolate.  If I wanted to gain weight I wouldn't do it in America (no matter how efficient and cost-effective it would be), I would move to Germany buy out the cheese and chocolate sections.

In a typical Publix, I can imagine the candy isle.  It has sugary treats of all sorts: lemon drops, caramel, hard candies, fruity chewies like starburst and skittles, a dozen different candy bars, and a couple dozen other brands of flavored sugar.  Most of this isn't worth your time more than once.  Some people have a favorite (like snickers) they'll go for, but this is not what you reach for when you think of quality chocolate.  And yes, Publix will probably have a small secluded section for the high-quality imports of chocolate (Godiva).

In even the smallest German grocer, you see an immense relative reduction in the flavored-sugar candies and a lot more chocolate.  In their candy section, there are a dozen different brands, each with a dozen different flavors--there is full spectrum of German chocolate.  Milka (good), Aero (good), Sarotti (great), Ritter Sport (good) and others all have a wide range of chocolate measured by %Cocoa (going from what we would call White to Bitter Dark) each combined with either different kinds of nuts (hazelnut, peanut), or fruit (raisins, strawberry filling), caramel, corn flakes, coffee, marzipan (a personal favorite), nougat, praline, and flavors of yogurt.
Germans seem to be less strict about alcohol in chocolates, I've seen some incredible liqueur filled chocolates on the cheap.
I think, if you showed a German a Hershey's Bar, they would just stare at you and ask, "Why did you put cocoa powder in this wax?"
Actually, they do sell American candy bars--for two and three times the price of the (better) German chocolates.
I've also seen strange things, like the German Twinkie--a [get this] individual cheesecake snack (which tastes about as awesome as you'd imagine).

The cheese has been equally spectacular in its own way.  I'm enjoying Castello with some honey right now.  As Andrew no doubt remembers, it's actually cheaper to buy rounds of Brie (and other unpronounceable creamy cheeses) and cut squares of them onto your sandwich than to buy sliced cheeses.  The President camembert and the veritable chaumes has been especially good sandwich material, and I've got some slices of I-don't-know-what from the K&K down the street.

As for alcohol, Dr. Figura treated me to some Quakebruck Pils when I first arrived, but I've been concentrating on wine since.  I mostly get things in the 1.99E range.  The Dronfelder Rheinhessen was ok, I was disappointed in the Lambrusco (I must have gotten the specifics wrong, but I remember it from last year),  the Portugieser Weissherbst was all right and so was the Gerwurztraminer Tramini.  But the Stand UP and Shout 'Awesome' has been the Ume-Pflaume
which was an incredible experience in and of itself.  

My German Trainer

Ever since I started going to the University of Florida, I've been working out with fair regularity.  It was mostly just dieting before that but, with a free gym in walking distance, suddenly the effort it took to start was significantly reduced.  At first it was once a week, for about a semester, and then I began to increase sessions to several times a week (just last semester I was going to the gym two times a week and going to the martial arts club three times a week a night).

Over winter and summer breaks, I would work out at the Church gym with Andrew, who was more experienced than I was and all too happy to show me a few tricks I could fit into my routine.  A year ago, he actually convinced me to start running in Germany.  That didn't end up sticking, but I made it around Lake Hollingsworth once and--more importantly--I proved to myself that I could run if I wanted to.

So I don't want to lose all my progress going three months without working out, so I started looking for a gym as soon as I got to Quakenbruck.  My good fortune is that DIL has a gym-->in my building-->below where I work, so I can start  immediately after I'm done for the day.  Unfortunately, it's not free.  But it's cheap, which is nearly as good (something like 10 a month).

I walk in one day, after I'm established at my workplace, and talk to the person in charge.  He fills out the paperwork, makes me a plan, and gets me started.  Turns out, my trainer is (one of) the Artland Dragon's trainer.  His English is excellent (better than most at DIL) because he trains so many American athletes, and he is often willing to give me his exclusive attention.  He has me on the low-and-slow method of doing things slowly and with perfect form on low weights, and it's a lot more difficult than I thought it would be.

I've been working out by myself mostly for the last two years.  I've worked out with Andrew before and, though he is good, he's not a professional trainer.  I've also worked with a friend (Vernon) at UF a couple times, but it's the same kind of situation.  I realize I've never actually worked with a professional trainer before, and my first is a German Athletic coach--how cool is that?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Lebara Mobile, The Empire Strikes Back

Yeah!  It's Feast of the Ascension day in Germany, and also Father's Day!
Which means no work Thursday or Friday, "If you show up, no one will be here."
But it's a stay at home with your family holiday--I asked several people if there was anything going on in town today, but they just said everybody's going to be at home or with their family someplace and everything will be closed.
Everything is closed.  Nobody is anywhere.

No one can hear you scream.

SO, Jessica sends me a text and invites me to lunch.  I text her back.  "Text undeliverable" ???  I try calling.  "The number you are calling is not listed."  I send her an email, but she's not checking her inbox.

Finally, it hits me.  I've run out of minutes.  Ha ha ah, silly me, running out of minutes.  I'll just go to and top-up.  Yes, here's the English website, no problems here.  And here's the Top Up button to refill my account.  "Register Now" to Top Up?  Ok, I see no problems here.  Filling out information, and done!

"We're sorry, we're not up to standard and are having technical problems."

What?  Ok, I'll try again in case it was my fault.

Try to register second time...Same error message.

Gaah, fine, I'll try one more time.

"Thank you for registering."  Oh, so it works now...fine.  *activates account via email*
"Please Select a way to Top Up"  I choose 10Euro, and they want a "promotional voucher" number.
What's that?  *tries every number on the SIM card information there is, including phone number and pin number*

Nothing Works!  What's a voucher number?  Ok, I'll call help, it says the first fifteen minutes are free.
*dials number*  "The number you are calling is not listed."  WHAT? THAT'S THE HELP NUMBER!
*Tries FOUR more times*
"Welcome, to Lebara Mobile, you have 0,2 cents, press 1 to Top Up"  *press1*
"Enter your 16 digit Voucher Code"  What do I have that's sixteen digits?  Credit card number?
"The number you have entered is not valid."  How about a person, can I call the help desk?
"You do not have enough credit to make this call, arrange a Top Up."  GAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!

All right, I'll just run a search for 'lebara voucher code.'  See, they just want me to buy a voucher from someone else, fine, take my money, I just want my phone back.
Here's my credit card number and my email, now send me the voucher code.

"Hello Edward Carley,
Mobile Top-up Online just sent you a full refund of £12.50 GBP for your purchase."

NOnononononononononoNnnO!  DON'T send me a REFUND, keep the money!  I just want a voucher code!  Take my money, take my money, Why Won't You Take My Money!?!

My phone is broken so there's no one I can call.  It's a stay-at-home holiday so there's no one I can talk to.  None of this would bother me, I would just shrug the whole thing off on any other day, but I just missed lunch with a friend because of this.  Any other time this would be nothing more than a minor inconvenience to me, I still have internet so I can still be in contact with my family and friends so it's not even a big deal, BUT it had to be on the day when I was going somewhere and didn't know when or where to go and couldn't ask anyone.

So I ended up communicating with my parents through gmail, and they haven't figured it out yet--they might yet, but not in time for Lunch with Jessica (it's 12:35pm and it takes 40 minutes to get to Osnabruck) so my story is fairly much concluded.  If all else fails, I'll walk to the store in town tomorrow and they be able to help me for sure because I got it from them.  It's not a very satisfactory end to the story, I know, so I'll end it on a good (but unrelated) note.

I've been wanting to go to this cute little Chinese place in town, but I didn't know when they were open, and I just got a menu in the mail with their hours on it!  This totally brightens my otherwise gloomy morning.

It's like a Sympathy Card from God.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Second Explanation

My first explanation here was a load of techno-babble ment for my official report.

Allow me to explain the waveform thing better, perhaps more clearly. The outgoing pulse from the generator is a simple wave (one vertical peak). The outgoing pulse passes by the oscilloscope (EKGs use a modified kind of these, they display the heartbeat on an amplitude-versus-time graph), and gets read as it passes. The outgoing pulse travels through a wire, reflects off air or water or meat, and the reflected pulse returns to the oscilloscope (the trip separates the reflection from the outgoing pulse). The reflected pulse is a complex wave (with wierd shaps and little molehills around it), because it contains information about what it reflected off of. 
The oscilloscope does 100X10^6 samples per second, but it's just barley enough to read this wave. The result is that the data I work with is about 200 samples long, and about 8 of those data points will describe most of a wave. Because there are so few points on any given reflected wave, there's way too much opportunity for variation on one temperature/concentration setup.
So I've told the program to do an averaging of 1000 waves--so in my final data set each 8 points of interest are an average of a 1000.
Because my 'waveform' is really the scientific equivalent of some kid's Connect-the-Dots drawing (or maybe a Cubist trying to paint a tree), it's going to be practically impossible to regress linearly, with polynomials, or even non-linearly because any equation acurately describing the shape as a whole would be too bulky to work with.
My idea to deal with this is to take those 200 samples for one wave, and compare each point individually with another wave at a different concentration. So I take 10 waves for ten concentrations, and I take 1 position (out of 200 positions) and regress how it changes over the 10 concentrations. What I get is a much more simple relationship between amplitude and concentration.
It is this simple relationship I want to regress--to find an equation describing one point on the wave. With a spreadsheet program I can do this 200 times, and be able to describe the waveform as a whole using 200 equations.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

German Keyboards

So you all know I have a job at DIL, more on that later, but what you may not know is that it's a desk job and I spend eight and a half hours each day sitting in front of my computer (I just got mine, more on that later).  Normally, this would be inconsequential--I have a long association with computers and, though I don't know much in the way of programing, I'm pretty good and I continually make efforts to learn more [Minecraft has actually been a minor course in the technicals of how computer filing works, I have to manually place the texture packs into the proper folder {took me forever to figure out *windows button + R* and search appdata}]--but in this case it amounts to something because I have to use a German Keyboard.  

What did I just show you a picture of?  This is what I have to deal with every day.  At first glance it actually looks normal, the F and J are in the right places so you don't have to alter your hand positions or think too much about where things are on the keyboard.  But, before you say anything, do me a favor--look down at your keyboard, and back at the picture.  Notice the "y" and "z" positions are reversed.  Just those two.  Zou have no idea how annozingz this can be.

That being said, I submit my further observations on the design.  The "up arrow" key can be correctly inferred from relative position to be the "Shift" key.  "Down arrow" is similarly "Caps Lock."  "Strg" is "CTRL," there are some extra letters you don't use, but they're not in the way (and end up being downright convenient when you have to type "Quakenbrück").  The ' key is aggravatingly hidden behind the #, whether you can see that from this image or not.  

But the only thing you might really be confused about is something called "Alt Gr."  Notice the upper row, with the numbers.  There are three symbols per key.  The "Alt Gr" is a kind of 'second shift' key, that lets you  stack numbers and letters in groups of three--actually a good idea if you desperately want to fit all the German letters and symbols onto an American style keyboard.  But it makes hunting down "[" "(" and "@" very difficult.  

I don't know how many 'alternate shift' keys you'd need to fix this, 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Deutsches Insitut für Lebensmitteltechnik
Edward Carley

This report documents the process through which I went to find a usable setup for a pulse signal and the subsequent tests I set up in preparation for calibrating the probe to the analysis of meat. 

Initially, I thought the TGP110 10MHz Pulse Generator would supply the pulse, but the setup was somewhat complex and the analog knob for the amplitude was libel to change accidentally.  Also, the pulse it generated had secondary peaks besides the desired reflected pulse, which were probably pulse echoes from the apparatus.  Since extra signals are undesirable, it being unclear where they come from, I continued to look for other ways to generate a pulse. 

The Handyscope HS3-100 has a function generator feature, but no pulse function.  However, by setting the square function to the max 12.0V DC Offset, max 12.0 Volt amplitude, 0.2MHz Frequency, and 0.1% Symmetry, I achieved what was effectively a pulse.  The Out cable was attached to a coaxial T adaptor at the CH1 In port, leaving a long cable out the other side attached to the probe.  The Handyscope displays several measurements a second, resulting in turbulent appearing data.  To reduce random error, I set the program to perform an averaging of 128 measurements before wiping the results and I record the waveforms generated by the probe only when they are over 115 measurements averaged. 

A long cable for the probe is needed to separate the pulse from the reflected pulse and the accompanying signal.  At first I connected several smaller cables together with female to female coaxial adaptors, but concerns were raised about possible error due to cord arrangements.  It was supposed the close contact of coiled cables could create a small magnetic field, affecting the pulse.  So, as the experiment in the Excel spreadsheet ‘Cord Arrangement’ in the ‘rn’ folder of ‘Eddie Data’ shows, I set up an experiment to compare positions of the cable and the order of the individual cables. 

To determine if these differences were significant beyond random error, I created the experiment which can be seen in the nearby Excel spreadsheet ‘Random Noise with Air.’  I took measurements of air with the probe, isolating temperature and cord position, approximately every thirty seconds to see what error could be attributed to random noise.  What I found was that the probe in the most consistent environment I could create has differences on the order of 0.1% of the amplitude.  Comparatively, the cord arrangements have differences greater than 1% of the amplitude, over an order of magnitude increase. 

When I switched to the new cable, which is one line of cable with no adapters, the differences between the arrangements shrank dramatically.  While the doubled over and quadrupled over cable arrangements had differences with the straight line greater than 1%, the other arrangements had much smaller differences.  The differences between the straight and jumbled cables were on the order of 0.1%.  I used the jumbled arrangement for subsequent experiments.

I began using the probe on solutions of salt in water, beginning with the Open Office spreadsheets ‘Salt Test Range,’ ‘Salt Test Range 2,’ and 3.  I wanted to examine the reflected signal waveforms generated by high and low concentrations of salt in these experiments.  Later, I also tested how the waveforms responded to changes in temperature at different concentrations, with tapwater as a base of comparison.  I have yet to mathematically analyze these results, but it currently appears there is no interaction between the variables of concentration and temperature. 

I note here that it matters where in the liquid solution where you hold the probe, but this is not a problem as long as you are consistent.  The probe senses less salt, and the waveform rises, when it is in contact with the sides or bottom of the container.  Holding it in the middle of the solution seems to give a consistent reading, but this is conjecture and will be tested.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Yeah, Artland Dragons.  Andrew may remember the Artland Dragon, considering we had lunch in their brewery a year ago.  The Dragon on the side of the beers we drank is the symbol for Quakenbruck's Basketball team.  Why not a frog?  I'm not sure.

But Dr. Figura had an extra ticket, and I was in a mood to do whatever anyone gave me the opportunity for.  Anyone who knows me, knows I don't talk about sports much.  That's because I'm not much into them, and my greatest exposure probably comes from a Baseball game with Gompie.  That was until a year ago, when I watched the World Cup in the bar beside the Manneken Pis.  Sports are nothing to be afraid of, they might even be a little fun.  So I'm feeling pretty good about this basketball game, despite not knowing many of the rules.

I get directions to the Stadium from Oliver, and end up following the general masses anyway.  I meet Dr. Figura, his wife (whom I met the day before at the Lowen Apotheke), and his college-age son.  Figura buys me a drink, and his son leads me into the Stadium.  Through the cave of aluminum benches he leads me, while the speakers pump Katty Perry's ET (Do they understand the lyrics?  I wouldn't have if I hadn't bothered to look it up), a beer in one hand, my jacket in the other.  It's hot in this room, and my jacket is worthless, an unfortunate burden.  I discover later that Quakenbruck's stadium is the loudest in Germany.  Apparently, they've hit the golden mean of building volume and crowd density--the Stadium is enclosed, small, and always packed with people.

The Artland Dragon runs out, does a flip, and lands on his butt with the costume's head staring up at him.  Not sure if they could have rehearsed that.  They have cheerleaders, the floor is lined with scrolling advertisements, and the crowd is wild.  About 1/10 of the audience is cheering for the other team, the Phantoms.  The other 9/10 is fiercely devoted and carries a clapping noisemaker meant to distract the opposition during free throws.  I'm told that this is where the American players who couldn't make it into the big leagues go, when I ask about the American flags next to several of the players on the handouts.

The game begins.  The Artland Dragons shoot into the lead early on, leading by fifteen points at the peak of their game.  Eventually, the Phantoms begin to catch up.  At the first sign of the Phantom's strength, they stop the game and deploy the cheerleaders.


Did I just hear Freddie Mercury in Germany, with the whole crown singing along?

The Phantoms tie the Dragons at half time, and Figura talks about how this is one of many games between the two teams this season and how last time the Dragons won by thirty points as he buys me another beer.  The Artland cheerleaders put on a brave front, but the Phantoms smell weakness.  They pull ahead slowly but, by the long and short of it, the Phantoms are leading near the end of the game.  EMERGENCY CHEERLEADERS!!  but it's not enough.  The game is lost, and vengeance is promised Tuesday.

Figura takes me out with his family to a local pub near my home, whose owner I recognize from the game, and my jacket finally comes in handy.  We have a couple beers with peanuts, which is incidentally one of the first times beer has really and truly come together in a way most wonderful with food--the icecold beer, the warm and salty peanuts, the sunset view over the train tracks--it was all good.

Sunday passed sweetly, yet uneventfully.  My next blog will be about Monday.

Adventure Time

Saturday was a good day.  I woke up late, refreshed and peaceful.  I decided to walk around the city, going over some of the places Dr. Figura had showed me before, maybe plan my route to the Stadium that night, definitely walk by DIL.

So I set out with my backpack, camera, and jacket.  I put my jacket in the backpack five minutes later, it can get hot in Germany.  It was a beautiful day, by most standards (I kind of like the drizzly gray sky and spooky howling wind through the balcony of today), and I took advantage of it.  I intended to walk in a U around DIL to see the neighborhood, I ended up to the right (from my front door facing the street) of where I started walking towards DIL when I expected to come out to the left.  See, when I look on the mapquest guide to the city, I find there's a road the crosses diagonally past the road I started from--I made only two left turns but found myself to the right of where I started.  Don't worry, I figured it out and I never made the mistake again.

I saw some interesting houses, and then took a walk through the center of town.  I stopped in the K&K, a larger version of the Netto (a German Kwik-E-Mart, basically), grabbed a few things, and took some pictures of the river.  The frogs you see in the pictures are similar to the Lakeland Swans, each colored differently as variations on a theme, in reference to the frog origins of the town's name (explained previously) which you also see in the frog-feet tiles in the road occasionally.  It was a fun little excursion with not much more to tell.  I saw a gym, interestingly enough, but found out later DIL has a private gym (something like 10$ a month and I can't think this other place is cheaper or easier to get to).

Oliver and Company

My sincere apologies to those who checked this site multiple times a day over the last week.  I feel like a blog is a promise, and that I have been neglecting one of my (self imposed) responsibilities.  The only thing I have in my defense is that I've never before worked a proper eight hour day in my life, and the subsequent exhaustion of thinking for someone else has left me spent in the evenings.

Minecraft has been a small, yet significant, blessing during these times--it's a simple form of artistic expression, allowing you to make things out of polygonal blocks, yet is complex enough for talented individuals to craft fascinating spectacles (I'm certainly not spending the kind of time it takes to do that on it)--where I can relax with something not mentally challenging but still artistically stimulating (ultimately, Minecraft is a toy, like Legos, but just youtube 'lego sculptures' to see what, exactly, can be done with a toy).

Returning to the evening of the 6th, a Friday, we meet Oliver--my roommate.  Or flatmate, as you might think of it.  We have a rather spacious flat with four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a large kitchen, a large living room, what I can only guess is a second story gazebo, a hallway that could pass for a dance floor, a mysterious locked staircase going down outside my room, and a staircase going *literally* nowhere outside Oliver's room.  It's a second story flat, overlooking the Netto and the Rewe (pronounced 'Rever'), and is rather nice.  It just doesn't have many pillows, a dryer, a wardrobe, or a tv, not that I'm complaining.

Oliver.  Oliver was mostly out when I arrived in Quackenbruck, but he was there Friday.  We talked some, and he wanted to go out to get acquainted.  I had been warned against the local 'disco' by Dr. Figura, who believed there might be some unsavory Russians hanging around the dark road home late at night, so I politely refused that idea.  Initially I rejected his other offer, it was crazy.  But I really did want to socially extend my hand to my flatmate, so I accepted.  We saw Fast and Furious 5 in German.

He led me through the eleven o'clock Quackenbruck easily enough, and we came to the Theater--nothing really special about it.  We met a friend of his, who wanted me to travel to another city Sunday, and wasn't sure when we'd get back Monday (the day I would meet my employer).  The potential disaster of being late to my first day of work is what gave me my reasonable excuse to Oliver later, at the moment I avoided it with my best, 'maybe,' meaning, 'no.'

We sat down in the dark, each row had a bar with dim lamps on it attached to the row ahead for setting down drinks and snacks, and the movie started.  It had only been one night since I arrived from my long flight, and the "The Rock" Johnson  and Vin Deisel were speaking in German with no English subtitles, so I nodded off.  During the parts of the first half I was awake for, you didn't really need words to understand what was going on.  These guys are mad at each other.  This guy wants that girl.  We love fast cars.  We love fast cars.  They like fast cars, but don't love them.  And so on with a few minor shootouts.

What I wake up in time for is the real reason people came to see the movie at all, an action scene so over-the-top it should win the gold in pole vaulting, that can be summed up by the words, "Wrecking-Vault-Car Fu."  Two masters of Car Fu lock their fast cars to a multiple-ton safe (large enough to house a small family) and drive it through the city, using momentum to crush pursuing police vehicles in the most imaginative manners.  I was downright impressed.  Even if I slept through half the movie, I got my money's worth.

Oliver walked us back, and all we saw were a couple of Russians riding their bikes at 1am.  It was a decent Friday.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Lost in Osnabrück

I'd been invited to a guest lecture at 9:00am in the University of Osnabrück (I've learned that "Osna" comes from the phonetic pronunciation of a river that runs through this part of Germany [something like the 'Hausna,' I'm not sure how to spell it], and the 'brück' means bridge, so it means 'bridge over the Hausna river') so I had to wake up at 7:00am.  I probably wouldn't have done it, considering the hour and coming so close after my flight, but I realized how much I would be needing Nadine's help, so I went anyway.

I followed the directions, boarding the 7:52am train (free for students), and expecting to get off at 8:33pm at the Osnabrück Hbf. stop.  It's 8:38pm, I'm jumpy from the frequent stops and feeling like I should already be there, and I see Osnabrück Hbf. out my window.  So I get out, and I'm in the middle of Osnabrück--just not the middle I wanted to be.  See, when I saw 'Osnabrück Hbf.' I was seeing the next stop, and I didn't know there were two stops in Osnabrück.

My first clue was that I couldn't find the 21 bus.  The nearby leaderboard showing approaching buses and their times didn't have the 21, so I started walking in the opposite direction--hoping I'd see something familiar.  Osnabrück is a much larger city than Quakenbrück, and it's that much more difficult to find a part that's familiar.  So I get to the bus stop on Nonnenpfad, and I admit to myself I'm lost.  I call Dr. Figura, my new best friend, and he gets Jessica to call me (since I can't get my phone to work for her number yet) and I tell her I'm on E.-M. Remarque Ring at the Nonnenpfad bus stop and she says she'll pick me up in 15.

I take the time to study the map on the board I'm standing by, and I have a revelation.  I don't have to actually understand the names, as long as I can memorize them to the extent of visual recognition.  I follow the colors to their ends, and see the numbers identifying them.  I check a list of stops by name (in order) to make sure I'm reading it right.  I see I can take the 31 to Neumarkt and then the 21 to CaprivistraBe to get where I need to be.  Right then, Jessica walks around the corner.

I apologize, attempt to be charming, we chat, she drives me to campus, she comments on how DIL will probably be willing to buy me a wardrobe, we arrive at the guest lecturer.  He's a Japanese man speaking in English with a thick accent (I started wondering if it was more difficult to understand a Japanese accent if you had a German accent), talking about the Nuclear disaster after the earthquake and tsunami.  Apparently, they had assessed the probability of a significant earthquake and a tsunami happening at the same time as being very small.  He showed statements showing concerns for this sort of disaster from 1975, and how people didn't much care to do anything about it.

Afterward, Nadine and I went to lunch.  Not either of the cafeterias we went to last year in Osnabrück, but the nicer one they'd been hiding from us the whole time (they raised a wooden portcullis when it opened [really, a portcullis]).  The food was fantastic as expected (fried fish filet with dill sauce, feta cheese salad, cherry/chocolate pudding, apfel juice).   I'd never even been in the area, but it was somewhere practically in the middle of town because we walked to the inner city area where they hold the Mayfair (we went there often, even after Mayfair, to shop) and looked for something to hang my clothes on.

Yeah, my room is kinda sparsely furnished.  Nadine said there really wasn't anything like what I was looking for in Osnabrück or Quakenbrück, but there was an Ikea outside of town.  We bought coat hangers (8 for 4euro).  When we were done she took me to the train station so I could go back to Quakenbrück, and told me a little late that it only runs once an hour.  We have ten minutes.

Nothing like adding in a little drama.  We hop on a bus, get to Neumarkt, run up the stairs, down the stairs, and get there right on time ("Wow, excellent planning to get us here on time."  "Plan?  Yeah, I totally planned this.")  I make it back to Quakenbrück with no trouble.

At 6:30pm, I leave the flat for the Lowen Apoteke (Lion Pharmacy, AKA 'Golden Lion') to meet Dr. Figure.  His wife owns the pharmacy, and he introduces us briefly.  Dr. Figure and I make our way around town, and he introduces me to the owners of all the restaurants and bars.  He shows me the Im Eimer, and explains how it means 'in the bucket' and how people say 'Ich bin im Eimer' for a laugh--'in the bucket' being a similar phrase to our 'to kick the bucket.'  We have pizza and beer at a local place, which is fantastic (I get the ham and cheese pizza, but the cheese is definitely different from what we're used to).  He shows me the Coat of Arms on the restaurant, going back to the seven orders of knights who guarded Quakenbrück hundreds of years ago.  Ya just trip over history here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sleepless in Quakenbruck

The hours before my delayed 1:10pm flight pass easily in the Amsterdam Airport.  I decide to wait by the gate.  But I can't find it.  Gates 15-30 one way, Gates 10-14 another, Gates 1-7 somewhere else.  Where are 08 and 09?  Near the security exit of the Terminal, there is a smallish sign that says, "Gates 08-09 -->" pointing to a door sealed with a key-card lock.  An employee comes along, opens the door, and when I try and follow he says, "No, no."  Apparently, the door to Gate 09 doesn't open until an hour before the flight leaves.

Sometime later I return with the door open, and descend a flight of stairs to the secret gate.  We bus to the plane, and I realize my sense of déjà vu stems from the fact that Andrew and I were delayed to this same gate a year ago.  Uneventful Flight.

In Munster I head to the help-ish desk to find my delayed flight luggage, making friends with the old German woman I saw back in Frankfurt being delayed to the same flight.  To my astonishment, the luggage followed my progress perfectly and I walk out in time to catch the 2:30pm bus.  But the bus costs money, and there's no Currency Exchange in this airport either.  I ask around, find a Geldautomat, and bus to Osnabruck.

Nadine meets me at the stop, and we bus to the secondary campus--which I remember from the barbecue party last year--where I meet Dr. Figura.  He drives me to Quackenbruck--which I learn comes from the onomatopoeia of the German frog croak, "Quack," (I don't mention we think that's what ducks say, but I do say we think frogs go 'ribbet' [much smaller frogs in Florida]) and the "Bruck" which means "bridge," together referring to the noise made by crossing a bridge sounding like a frog (he didn't show me a specific bridge so I don't know if it's a certain place)--while I try to stay awake.

He drives me all around Quackenbruck--literally, the whole town--in under an hour while pointing out restaurants and shops.  He shows me where I live, and how to get to DIL.  I'll show you in a picture, there are signs up in the shape of arrows so I can't get lost on the way to work, they knew I was coming.  Inside DIL I meet several people and the janitor/caretaker, who hands me the keys (1 for the outer door, same for the inner door, 1 for my door, 1 for the balcony [really], and 1 for the mailbox [I'd say, 'send me letters,' but I'm not sure of my address]) and shows me around my new home.  It's quite nice--I'll send pictures--and he proceeds to show me around town.  All of it.  Again.

But, I'm tired and probably need to see it again to remember anything, so I welcome it.  He shows me the train station, which I'll need tomorrow (this morning), and a local pub where we drink a coffee.  He leaves, and I realize what my room is missing.  A closet.  (more on that later.)

I spend the rest of my time that night trying to unpack while fighting waves of intense sleepiness.  I manage, mostly, and go to bed early enough to wake up at 7:00am the next morning.  You'll see why soon.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Endless Day

I’m writing this in a word document because, as expected, there is no free internet at the Frankfurt Airport.  We begin at Tampa Airport, early afternoon of the 4th. 
I was packed, forgetting nothing, and prepared for anything.  I had my touching goodbyes: friends and family over the weekend, Dad the night before, and as my mother clutched me for the final hug she said, “I’m not leaving until you get through security.”  I hop on the monorail to the Tampa terminal, and see the line.  “Sorry, mom,” I think to myself as I walk to the end of the line separating me from my 1:35pm flight. 
The only advice I can get is to beg for a spot further in line.  I talk to the woman in uniform, she can’t do anything.  I ask a person twenty people ahead if I can move up, he says yes but the woman in uniform says it’s unfair to the other people in line if I move up without their permission.  She tells me to ask everyone in line for their permission individually.  Did you bring enough gum for the whole class?  Sure, this is the fair way to do thing.  But as I’m standing outside of line with my backpack on and clutching my jacket, feeling slightly humiliated, asking people one at a time in the stock-still line, I get several comments on how I should be asking someone far enough ahead for it to matter.  Yes, I know, but the lady wants me to do this. 
Finally I hit someone, twenty five people ahead, who won’t give up their spot.  I wait a few minutes, the line moves forward, and that same woman in uniform isn’t happy about what I’ve done.  “That’s not fair.  Did you ask everybody?”  Yes, I did, and it is fair if everyone willingly gives up their position.  But she doesn’t pull me out or arrest me so I continue forward. 
I talk to people who are also on my flight and are equally time-pressed and equally stressed by the painfully slow security check.  I know there are whispers about Osama’s death going around, but it’s not just the size of the line.  It’s the full-body spinning scanner that’s on the fritz.  I get pulled for the scanned, and I wait as people who I got permission to skip in front of pass around me and walk through the free-standing metal detector that I’m not allowed to go through.  Finally, a guard pulls me out of the full-body chamber spinning scanner and puts me in the walk-though. 
I run to the Gate with shoes untied and a backpack half open—only to wait in the huge boarding line for five minutes.  So I guess it didn’t really make that big a difference.  I switch seats with another group of people at their request, the flight in uneventful.  Charlotte Airport is uneventful, a simple deal—though I don’t have any time to grab something before boarding. 
The eight hour flight is uneventful; I catch an hour of sleep in the dark.  Hitting Frankfurt Airport, I’m feeling good—like a 100%—like I’m going do everything right.  I do everything right.  I’m still five minutes too late.
If I felt any small lingering traces of resentment at Andrew for leading us astray last year at the Frankfurt Airport, which I shouldn’t because it was equally my fault, it was burned away today by my conviction that it is completely impossible to make that connecting flight. 
I walk out of the airplane; all I know is my destination and my flight number, and I need a boarding pass.  I don’t know what gate I’m supposed to go to.  So I ask the guy giving everyone else directions in English, this guy looks like exactly the person I need to talk to.  I hold this is not a mistake.  If I hadn’t spoken with him, how would I have learned what my Gate letter and number was?  He tells me my gate is probably in A (vague) but I should go to B to be sure.  So I go to B, and I hurry past the big Passport line down the other hall. 
Minutes of walking later, I’m talking to a woman at a desk in front of the Lufthansa signs.  I’m actually not all that afraid of international travel now, because I’ve realized that 90% of all survival-related communications are entirely possible without a common language.  I’m choking.  I’m having a heart attack.  I can’t swim.  I’m in a foreign country lost and confused trying to communicate in a language I don’t know and I just want to know how to get to my connecting flight.  All that last one takes is a facial expression, which the woman at the desk knows very well.  “Shh, I know,” she says, or seems to say, as she interrupts my explanation and takes my paper.  She writes A17 down and sends me on with a, “They give you a boarding pass at the Gate.” 
I’m back at the passport line, and there are fifty people waiting on two guys looking at passports at a rate of 1 per 45 seconds.  There’s no CONNECTING FLIGHTS sign here to mark it—it’s rather easy to miss next to the unguarded hallway.  There’s nothing I can do, there’s people in similar situations all around me, the whole thing just stinks.  I pass through and hit the main room—the familiar and enormous room that connects the different wings and has enormous leader-boards.  Perhaps I could have looked on there for my flight, but I question just how much time I could have saved using it. 
So now I know to go down A, and I hit the Lufthansa security.  Why I need to go through a second round of security I’m not sure, but it takes about as long as the Tampa airport’s.  The line is enormous, but moves fairly quickly so I’m still optimistic about getting there on time.  I get pulled over for my laptop, “This will just take a minute,” and we get taken to a special room where it’s dusted and I’m told to continue on.
I run to A17, but it’s still a hugely long way away.  I come up just behind an old German woman, who is in the exact same situation as myself.  We’re told it was moved to A18, so we go there.  We’re told we’re too late, by however many minutes, and we have to go to the service desk do not pass go, do not collect $200.  
At the service desk, the woman cannot believe I had an hour and it wasn’t enough time to make the connection (like it wasn’t ever more crowded than at eight o’clock in the morning), so she asks me twice to be absolutely sure I’m a lazy American idiot.  Asking why you didn’t make the flight is company policy; the tone and double-take are freebies.  But she gives me the 1:10pm at no charge, so that works out fine—except now I have to call Nadine and let her know I’m not making it to Osnabruck by 11:00am, and I can’t figure out the US exit code.   Turns out what I thought was a ‘busy’ signal was someone’s idea of a ringing phone, and I was able to get to Nadine, with a little help from the family awake at 3:00am. 
All that aside, Frankfurt is the place you want to be delayed.  An hour isn’t enough for the place regardless of circumstances.  I was trapped on the other side of security, so I couldn’t even do a currency exchange, but I was on the side with the panini.  Rows of stacks of them, piled up with nametags and descriptions in English, meat + cheese + tomato.  I pick out one, they panini-press it on the spot and I say, “To go.”  I walk out with a hot gooey meal and when I open the bag to eat the cheese gets everywhere—and I love it.  If they made paninis like that in America, crystal meth would be out of business in a week. 
I picked up a cherry tart because, what harm could it do?  Staring at it after the panini, I wonder if it was really worth it—it doesn’t look quite so spectacular as I thought.  Let me tell you—if the panini was crystal meth, this stuff was hard cocaine.  I had not imagined there was such a crunchy yet tender, mildly sweet yet tart, crumbly buttery treat (without a custard filling or a filling of any kind beyond a half-dozen cherries baked into solid crust) in existence.  I thought, “I’m back, baby!” 
There’s way more to tell about this day, so I’m already lagging behind as I call it quits for the day here in Deutschland.   

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

German Trip Eve

As the first post on Eddie's free blog, I'd like to welcome you to a warm place of honesty, frankness, and discussion--but I'm an inanimate collection of words and letters.  The following posts will chronicle Eddie's journey to and journey(s) within the country of Deutschland and his semi-exciting job as an Intern at the German Institute of Food Technology (Deutsches Institut für Lebensmitteltechnik e.V. - DIL) and all the ensuing difficulties and/or exultations therein.

On this German Trip Eve, Eddie will pack and prepare himself with the traditional Last Meal.  Good evening to you, and safe travels.