29 November 2004

Causes of Traffic Jams on the Autobahn

Since arriving in Germany, until we move in to our permanent apartment, my company has provided me with a rental car, and we have taken full advantage of it by travelling to several places in Germany. Because of this, we have been listening to the traffic reports, and we're often amused by some of the explanations for traffic problems. Here is a short list.

Causes of Traffic Jams on the Autobahns (excluding accidents and road construction)
1. Defective vehicle (not too unusual)
2. Stuff (yes, the radio just said "there is stuff on the road")
3. An exhaust pipe (again, not too strange)
4. A bag of concrete (did someone check to see if it was really concrete?)
5. Dead wild boar (very specific, as opposed to the next)
6. An animal. (No indication of living, dead, size, species, potential to make a good lunch, etc.)
7. A large bird. (More specific than 'animal', less than 'dead wild boar'. Still, no status of its living-ness, or, more importantly, whether it might get off the road)
8. People. (OK, please be more specific. Are they people too dumb to know that they are walking on the autobahn? Are they walking? Camping? Living? Some guy picking up his bag of concrete that he dropped a few kilometers back?)
9. The literal translation is 'light machine'. Not sure what that is. Jeannette & I had a great time trying to figure that one out. And we still don't know.

OK, maybe that's not so interesting to you. For me, it is like a fun game, trying to figure out what they say (since the traffic reports are always said so fast).

27 November 2004

Jeannette has a Blog Too

So, Jeannette has a blog too, where she talks about some of this stuff.
Sometimes her perspective is a bit different than mine. And she doesn't get as silly as I can... Plus it has nice dots.

http://xhiler8ion.blogspot.com/ is the place to be.

25 November 2004

Experimenting with German Food

Jeannette is still laughing. Why, you ask? I ate tripe for lunch. Why would that make her laugh, you ask? Well, we weren't sure what it was, and she said "Oh, just try it". Later, she told me she thought it was squid. It was OK, I didn't much like it.

Then, later that day, I mentioned it to my German teacher. She told me it was a common dish in this area. I though that was strange, because there are no oceans anywhere near here. The my German teacher said to me something that roughly translates as "that's not a fish. That's from somewhere inside a cow."

Oh well, at least now I know.

24 November 2004

More Silly Nonsense

The German Tourism Organization asked me (despite my rant about the
keyboards) to write an ad slogan for them. Here is the best I could come
up with.

Enjoying Germany. You should come visit sometime.

21 November 2004

Ducks in Germany

A Duck!

There are a lot more ducks in my life now that I am in Germany. Almost every menu I have seen in the last 6 weeks has had some sort of duck on it. And, my new apartment is right on the Neckar, so I see plenty of ducks there. And, this resourceful duck in Tübingen, will poop on your shoe unless you give him 5 euros. I showed him the menu of the place down the street and he withrew his threats of blackmail.

He later went on to be a standard of measure in several witch trials.


20 November 2004

Signs In Heilbronn, Part 1

Come On, It's Funny!
Originally uploaded by allanimal.
Here is the first in the series "Signs in Heilbronn". The good old "Dick Mann Pub".
This one makes me laugh, in that Beavis & Butthead "you said 'dick'" kind of way.

18 November 2004

The awful German keyboard

Mark Twain wrote a great little article called The Awful German
, where he commented about some of the more interesting
and difficult parts about the German language. While I am nowhere
near as eloquent as Twain, I would like to voice my opinion that German
keyboards are total crap when it comes to programming.

Let me explain why I say that. It's not because Y and Z are swapped. I have gotten used to that one already. It has to do with all those special programming characters. Personally, I usually program C, perl or HTML. In C and perl, I use the curly braces { and } as well as [ and ] a lot. And don't forget all those backslashes for printf and whatnot. And, in Unix, I pipe a lot of stuff (that's | for those unfamilar to unix), and since I am currently referring to another guy's programs in his home directory, I like to use the ol' ~username trick to get there.

It turns out that the characters { [ ] } \ ~ and | all requre the use of the 'Alt Gr' key, which is the right-hand ALT key, and very inconvienent to get to. That's the major annoyance. But there are little things also, like the > and < characters are the same key, one with shift, one without. I really don't know which uses shift and which doesn't, and I'll probably never learn because I am trained that both use shift on a US keyboard. It makes so much sense on the US keyboard - The one pointing left is on the left and the one pointing right is on the right. On my German keyboard, they are on top of each other, and right next to the pipe symbol, and it just makes my brain explode trying to find what I need. And why aren't the { and } keys next to each other like the [ and ] or ( and )?

Other important programming characters ; / and ' all require a shift on a German keyboard but no modification on a US keyboard.

This is really slowing down my coding. I have gotten used to the swapped Y and Z and several of the different locations for things, but my fingers just haven't figured out the different modifiers required to make a lot of the symbols I need to write code.

I have decided that the 'Gr' in 'Alt Gr' really should be 'Grrrrrrrr' because it makes me growl when I have to reach for that key and huntdown a common programming character.

And don't get me started on the @ symbol.... That's why nobody gets email from me anymore - I just can't find the darn thing.

So, if you were making a keyboard layout that needed to make life convienent for programmers as well as german typers (which means we need the umlauted u, a and o, plus the s-z and, or course, a euro key), how would you do it? I think it would help to put the 'Alt Gr' modifier key on both sides of the space bar like the shift and CTRL keys. It probably should be moved farther away from the space bar too, like swapped with that useless and crappy window key.

That's about the dumbest key on any keyboard. Of course, that's a different story entirely.

11 November 2004

€1.00 = $1.30

One Euro is now equal to 1.3 dollars. Ouch!

That means every €100.00 I pull out of the ATM from a bank in the US withdraws $130.00 from my account. There are money changing fees as well, so the rate is actually a bit higher.

Luckily, starting Nov. 1st, I am being paid in Euros.
Unluckily, I don't get that first paycheck until November 30th. Which
Unluckily, I have to live off of dollars converted to Euros until then.
Luckily, my pay was negoitated based on the exchange rate several months ago, which was closer to €1.00 = $1.20.
Unluckily, that's still not a great exchange rate.

To end this looking on the bright side (despite more "unluckilys"), if you
look at the value in dollars only, I got an 8% pay raise.

08 November 2004

Woo Hoo!

We found an apartment in Heilbronn! All the papers have been signed and we can move in on Dec. 1st. It is in an excellent location and is in great shape. We just need to figure out how to buy a kitchen, have it delivered and install it.

More later...