24 December 2015

A New Chapter Begins

For the next 5 weeks, I am unemployed.

On Nov. 30th, I turned in my notice to Intel that I was leaving, giving plenty of days according to my contractually required notice period.
I was supposed to transfer to a new project at the start of 2016 anyway, so most of my duties were wrapped up and already transitioned over to the people who would be taking over my current roles.

So, on Tuesday my manager and the leader of the team I was working on both agreed that I didn't need to keep coming in, so I turned in my laptop and badge. And now, a bit earlier than expected, I am enjoying my freedom, until February 1st, when I start a new job.

I look forward to the new opportunity, but even more I look forward to the time off. I have some things planned for that time, some of it involves moving back to Germany, but most of it will be "me time". It will be grand - I will do some exploring, reading, photography and gaming. Oh, and remembering German...

Looking Up!


Krampus Parade in Bad Goisern
This is what Wikipedia has to say about Krampus:

In Austro-Bavarian Alpine folklore, Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic figure who, during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards the well-behaved with gifts. Regions in Austria feature similar figures and, more widely, Krampus is one of a number of Companions of Saint Nicholas in regions of Europe. The origin of the figure is unclear; some folklorists and anthropologists have postulated a pre-Christian origin for the figure (see Germanic paganism).
For several years now, I have heard about the Krampus festivities, mostly in the Salzkammergut in Austria, and have wanted to make the trip in early December to take part. The reminder has been in my calendar 3 months in advance of Dec. 6th for the last couple years, and this year I finally decided it would happen. We had done some research, and found out that the Krampus festivities were happening across several days in many villages throughout Austria, and they seemed to culminate in a huge parade in Bad Goisern on Dec. 7th. With that in mind, we booked flights to Munich arriving several days in advance, rented a car and drove towards Salzburg.
Krampus at the Schloß Helbrunn Christmas Market
In Salzburg, there was a Krampus parade happening at the Schloß Helbrunn Christmas market, which was our first taste of Krampus. This was a very theatrical Krampus parade. There was music, and the red glow of road flares as the beasts burst into the courtyard of the castle grounds, flowing around the festively-decorated Christmas market, circling a few times, scaring children and adults alike, before the crowd converged awards one end and a cramps dance of some sort proceeded. Since we didn't know this would happen, we were not well positioned and I couldn't really see what was going on. After this, the various troupes of Krampuses were herded off to another part of the castle grounds for a massive group photo. We barely made it there in time before it dispersed. The crowd seemed to know where and when things were happening, but we apparently didn't get the memo, so we were always barely catching the festivities.
The next day, we moseyed through Salzburg, and were surprised with how much Krampus stuff we saw - the bakeries had Krampus pastries. Like gingerbread men, I suppose, but more puffy. I didn't taste one, so don't know what it was like. There were also people selling Krampuses made from plums, dates and raisins.
Krampuses, St. Nick & an Angel Making House Calls
After we left Salzburg, we went to Bad Gastein, which was up in the Alps in the center of Austria. Here, we were told, the Krampus costumes were more traditional, the masks made of wood and the costumes were made from real pelts and horns. Here, as the sun went down, St. Nikolaus would travel from house to house with an angel and a few Krampuses. The Krampuses would dance in the streets, outside the house, until they were let inside. We don't really know what happened in the house, but St. Nikolaus and the Krampuses would eventually come out again, and move on to the next house.
Bad Gastein Krampus
The next day, we went to a Krampusrummel in Dorfgastein, a nearby village. There, the people in town waited in the central park for St. Nikolaus and the Krampuses to arrive. Nikolaus would give a little speech and then the kids would get chased by Krampus or given candy.
We really liked these small village Krampus festivities - they were very fun, encouraged participation, and they could be scary, without getting mean.
Krampus in Bad Goisern
We ended our Krampus tour with the massive 1000+ Krampus parade in Bad Goisern. Here, the fire department barricaded off the street that this throng of demons would amble through, and we drank Glühwein while waiting in the chilly weather for the festivities to start.
Krampus Parade in Bad Goisern
Eventually the "Kinderkrampus" started - several young children in Krampus costumes marched down, and for a moment there we thought, oh, isn't Krampus cute.
Krampus in Bad Goisern
Soon, the real thing started. Hundreds of monsters, each costume different, flooded the streets along with flares providing eerie illumination, fireworks crackling and Rammstein blaring. At the beginning, the antics of Krampus were more subdued - they would playfully steal kids hats and the swats from the switches were light taps. As the night went on, the Krampuses were more bold, grabbing for people farther back in the crowd, with the fire department members having to pull them off the barricades.
Krampus Parade in Bad Goisern
Krampus Parade in Bad Goisern
Krampus in Bad Goisern
At the end of the night, we were cold and slightly bruised from the whips of various Krampus incarnations, but I was quite happy to see this display. The Bad Goisern parade had Krampuses from all over the country, and many were reaching Hollywood SFX levels of scary masks. It was interesting and amazing to see the crazy things they wore, did and got away with. But I think I like the traditional village Krampus better.

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17 March 2014

Sierra Nevada Brewery Gauges

Gauges - Steam Heating & MoreGauges - RetardGauges - WaterGauges - SteamGauges - VaccumGauges -

No trip to the Sierra Nevada Brewery is complete without a trip to the old gauge collection.

27 November 2011

Welcome Back?

I know it has been nearly 3 years since I last wrote anything here, but as we are preparing to move to Ireland in a few weeks, I thought maybe I should start again and chronicle the experience and our new life in the new country.

Anyone interested?

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27 March 2009

Made it to Egypt

Some of you may have heard. Jeannette and I have been planning on going to Egypt since, well, my employer told me in January I had to take at least 1/2 of my vacation in the 1st half of the year, and at about the same time I found a dirt-cheap flight from München to Cairo.

After a couple of weeks of preparation, everything was set. Finally, the day came. We actually stayed overnight in München (Munich for the German illiterate), since the flight left at noonish. We could have made it from Heilbronn, but it would have meant leaving home at like 4 in the morning, and who wants to do that on the 1st day of vacation?

Anyway, after a fun time in München (despite the gloomy weather), we packed up at a reasonable hour (9-ish) and headed for the airport.

As a fun aside, the München airport is a punny place. Like the shop selling stereotypical Bavarian memorabilia called "Buyern". Ha ha ha! Oh, you didn't get it? What if I told you that "Bavaria" in German is "Bayern". Pronounced "buy-urn". And it is a store. Where you can BUY stuff. Stuff that is related to "Bayern". Fine. Jokes (and puns) just aren't funny when you have to explain them.

Anyway, we got to the airport in plenty of time to make the 2 hour cutoff for international flights (Aren't we perfectly trained by the wonderful TSA?), and played cribbage to w(h)ile away the time. The flight was quite turbulent, but nobody in my vicinity reached for their barf bags (although Jeannette looked ready to strike...). The landing was rough.

We got to Cairo, bought our visas (which, of course, was a completely different procedure from that described in our 1-year-old book), got into the country, hit the bank machine (withdrawing its maximum amount, or about 300 Euros - not quite enough to pay for our hotel in Luxor in advance), made our way to our new terminal (how many times did we tell people, "No, we don't need a taxi, we're just waiting for the bus to Terminal 1"), checked in (again) more than two hours early for our flight to Luxor, and again sat down to play cribbage and wait. Since we flew two different airlines, and we had to get the visas, I planned a 4-hour layover, though things were pretty smooth and we could have done it with merely 2.

As good airline passengers, we shuffled off to our gate with time to spare before the designated boarding time, but that time came and went. We are seasoned travelers, so we are no strangers to flight delays, but there was no information anywhere, and no "two girls behind a counter" (as Jeannette called it) to ask questions to. There was only two guards at the gate with machine guns, that gave me shit the last time because supposedly I had too many AA batteries. Since when has a bundle of AA's brought down a plane?

About 20 minutes after our scheduled departure, a lady in an EgyptAir outfit came in and started yelling something. We hadn't tuned our ears yet to "English with a Cairo accent", so it took us a while to realize she was saying "Flight 201". Our thrill to board was short-lived however, because it turns out she was just passing out juice boxes to help us cope with the delay.

Eventually a man in an EgyptAir uniform came in and made a long announcement in Arabic, which seemed much shorter when he eventually got to English. Flight delayed due to bad weather in Luxor, but it is getting better so maybe we would fly in an hour. OK, that would mean we're 90 minutes late, not the end of the world.

Well, the hour came and went, without any further announcements. It was a waiting game - the guards warned us not to leave, because we could go at any time. So we sat and waited. I finished my book I had hoped to stretch out most of the trip. Jeannette managed to sleep a bit on the uncomfortable chairs. At one point, the brought us sandwiches, and no sooner had we finished them, did they announce that they were boarding our flight! Woo hoo!

The flight was uneventful, though instead of landing at about 21:45 we landed at 3:00 the next day. As we entered the baggage claim area, we saw lots of people picking up passangers with their little signs. Eventually we saw ours, outside the security area. Stupid me, I thought I would tell him we're here and realized too late that I couldn't go back to help Jeannette with the bags. Ooops. I should have known. I blame it on the tiredness.

She managed to lug everything out, and we got to the hotel at a brutal 4:00 am. But the storm had knocked the power out, so we climbed into bed via candle light... The next morning (actually, the same morning) we awoke to braying donkeys and sun streaming in the windows. It was only about 7:30, but the sun was already bright, and the sugar cane fields next to the flat were bustling with activity (much of it involving the previously-mentioned donkeys). The power was still out.

We showered (there was still hot water) and headed downstairs, and met Gamal, one of the housekeepers of the flats and the resident cook. We had mentioned that we wanted to rent bikes to get around, and he made some phone calls, and within 20 minutes or so, we were pedaling away on some old skool Chinese-made bikes that have seen some serious action in their lifetimes. They, for the most part, handle the rough roads of the West Bank fairly well.

Our first destination: The temple known as Medinat Habu. And as proof that we have arrived, I present you this:

Allan's in Egypt!

Notice the book. It says very clearly, "Egypt", so I must be there. You can also note my awesome new European-style glasses, my ultra-nerdy photographer's vest, and the floppy green hat that protects my pasty-white nerd skin from the harsh Egyptian sun.

Sorry it took so long for this. The WLAN has been spotty since the power outage (which wasn't really reliably back online until the 2nd day).

Well, I need to go for now. Since the WLAN doesn't quite reach our flat (yet?), and even when I go to the lobby to use the internet, things are slow (Egypt must have a small or clogged intertube), getting updates will still be a bit sparse. Feel free to check on Ipernity for my latest photos from Egypt.

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18 January 2009

Water Droplets on a Cigarette Machine

Water Droplets on a Cigarette Machine


17 January 2009

Ken's Buddy

Found this while surfing around a bit.

It's surprising because the name is spelled right. And it looks just like me. OK, add about 50 pounds and glasses & a beard - then he looks just like me. Back when I had more hair.

At least I know that I can always borrow clothes from my buddy Ken.