29 December 2007

Weihnachtsmarkt Shoe Tips

This is way late, and I intended to publish this sooner, but it turns out I lost track of time and didn't get it out the door before the Christmas markets ended in Germany. Despite that, hopefully this will be useful to people for next year, because I think these tips will stand the test of time.

Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) Shoe Tip #1: Girls (and guys, in case the male foot fashion world eventually goes this way in some bizarro world) should not come to the market in spikey-heeled footwear. That is, no stilletto heels. Why? Well, you see, many German market squares, the traditional location for the Weihnachtsmarkt, are cobblestoned. I saw several girls this year lose shoes when the spikey heel wedged between two (or possibly more) cobblestones. In one case, a third party was required to extract the foot. So, just wear something flat on the bottom. It will help after a couple Gluehweins anyway.

Tip #2: Speaking of Gluehwein, one should avoid wearing those brand new, sparking white sneakers to the Weihnachtsmarkt. It is inevitable that someone will bump into you or your Gluehwein mug, and spill its contents onto your sparkling white shoes. Unless you like purple splatters on your shoes, then avoid white shoes. In fact, black rubber boots are probably the most practical. They don't show stains, they won't get stuck in the cobblestones and they protect you from the snow.

There you have it. Two important footwear tips to improve your Weihnactsmarkt experience. Chances are, I'll forget them by next year.

22 December 2007

Beer Warmer?


We popped into the Augustiner Brewery a couple times while we were in Salzburg, and one of the first things we saw when we walked in the door was the Beer Warmer. It's basically just a big sink full of warm water, and people soak their full beer mugs in it if it is too cold. I don't understand how a still-liquid beer could possibly be too cold, but I suppose Austrians are different Volk and they apparently have different strokes.

Augustiner Beer Fountain

The procedure at the Augustiner Brewery is interesting. Perhaps all Austrian (& maybe even German) beer halls are like this, I don't know. I guess much, much more research is in order. The whole deal is mostly self-service. You grab a new mug from the shelves near the door (your choice of 0.5 or 1.0 liter mugs), then wash it in the beer fountain, pictured above. Then you pay for your beer. Then you go to the guy at the keg, and he fills it up. Optionally, you can then go to the beer warmer, if you swing that way.

The first day we were there, they were serving only Märzen beer, but we came back a few days later when they cracked open the keg of bock beer. I wasn't a big fan of the Märzen, but the bock rocked.

The beer hall was pretty cool, there were 4 huge rooms, at least one of which was non-smoking. That was nice. There are several stalls outside the hall that served food. The first day I was at one of the sausage stalls, and I watched the guy put some yummy looking grilled sausages into a nice looking bun with mustard and what looked like curry powder for the woman in front of me. I asked what it was. He told me it was a "wadlfjkhao diuvkjhba" or something like that. This Salzburger Austrian dialect of German is pretty bizarre. I didn't see anything on the menu with the perceived first couple syllables, so I asked again. This time I heard a bit differently, he clearly said "wdlafhjkoa dovkjhab"! Aahh... Still not on the menu, and the woman didn't hand him much money, so I asked for one of "what she had".

It was the best €2.20 I ever spent. What I missed while watching him make the one for the woman in front of me was the toasting of the bread and, more importantly, the sauce that featured tons of onion and horseradish cubes that went into bun first. It was incredible, And I have no idea what it is really called. Jeannette was even there, and with her mastery of German and several bizarre dialects, she couldn't make it out either.

Allanimal & His New Drinking Buddies

The second day we came, the day that they served bock beer, was much more crowded. We shared a table with an Austrian couple, who told me that my German is pretty good. That was nice, but they don't have to lie like that... Maybe I should have asked them what the horseradishy toasty sausagey thingy was. They probably would have just told me it was a "woldajhogka vodhjkba". But I already knew that. Eventually they left (probably because Jeannette was eating oranges with her beer), and the group of Italian kids that were waiting for a table sat with us. We talked a bit, and Jeannette decided I needed to be in a picture with them. OK! We also were quite jealous of the guys at the table next to us. They were apparently throwing a bachelor party, and had brought in all kinds of great food. I wanted to join them. I'll have to get over my shyness
before I can do that.

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At most (all?) festivals in Germany, at least Southern Germany (I haven't spent much time in the North, especially Northeast), there are stands that sell Lebkuchenherzen - essentially gingerbread hearts with frosting and sappy phrases. Usually they say things like "I love you" or "my sweetie" or "Grandma's little sweetheart" or "my sunshine". They include holes & a ribbon so they can be worn around the neck, and everyone can see that you are daddy's little princess or treasure or whatever. Usually they are written in German too, but at some places, especially more touristy spots, there will be plenty of english as well.

At the Bad Canstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart this year, we spotted, amongst the German "I love you" and "I'm easy" hearts, the classic English "I have the tits, so I make the rules". Jeannette grabbed the camera and ran over to take the shot.

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Greatest Town Name. Ever.

No More Fucking

Yeah, the town is Fucking, Austria. We think that we should open a hotel there and call it the "Fucking Hotel". And maybe a bar attached - "The Fucking Pub".

It puts this one in 2nd place:

Where Wankers Come From

Conversations must be interesting in nearby towns. I can just imagine someone saying: "I'm going to Wank with my friends tonight."

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21 December 2007

Salzburg at Night

Salzburg at Night

We were in Salzburg over the long weekend of Nov. 1st.

I don't know why it has taken so long for me to get some pictures out, because it is a beautiful city and I got some great shots there. I guess I've just been busy lately.

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20 December 2007

6 Months With Ipernity

So, it has been about six months since Flickr loved me so much that I had to leave for Ipernity. For the most part, it is a good alternative. It has many of the same features as Flickr, and one can post documents other than photos (though I primarily use it for photos, and will comment based on that), but there are some long-standing issues that I have that would make it so much better. I have brought most of these to the attention of Ipernity or the appropriate 3rd party developer, and hopefully someday they'll get fixed.

First, the good stuff:

* Works quite well as a photo sharing site. Great metadata support, commenting (and nested comments), search-ability, licensing options,
* No annoying animated gifs to invite your photos to groups.
* Well tuned in to the world outside the USA from the start.

The bad:
* No automatic geotagging on upload. If I have GPS EXIF metadata in my photos, they are not automatically placed on the map. I have asked about this, and was told it doesn't make sense to have automatic geotagging because it just adds too many points. Uh, why support it at all if you don't want us to have multiple points on the map??? This is my #1 gripe. Either support it or don't, don't wrap a lame excuse around a half-baked implementation!
* Ipernity supports additional metadata about your geo points. Click the little dot on the map, and you get more info in addition to the photo. It is cool, except that for some reason whenever I upload an image, and geotag it by hand, for some reason the location name and country are automatically filled in as France (yes, both of them) no matter where the photo was taken (or where it was slapped down on the map). This is such a simple thing! Use the IPTC location information already provided in the photo for this stuff. If it isn't there, just leave it blank! Or, if they want to get fancy, they could grab the location from the map and query the GeoNames database. It's free and creative commons licensed.

Update 21.12.2007: I uploaded some pictures with GPS metadata this morning, and after manually geotagging them, the location metadata showed up correctly - no longer is everything located in France! However, I have noticed that on the few older pictures I checked, which were right in the middle of Stuttgart, the location metadata says they are in Ghana, not Germany. Hmm...

* There is no batch editor for the location information I mention above. And one must be zoomed in quite close, and only in the geotagging part of the doc manager, before the option to edit it becomes available. Makes editing a lot of information a chore, so a lot of the time I don't even bother. Why not let me change it from the doc's "home" page"?

Update 21.12.2007:One can now edit location properties while zoomed out all the way (assuming the selected dot has only one location in it). A good start. Hopefully they'll address the other issues as well.

* Stop nagging me about not using Firefox in the DocManager. I know Firefox is great, but I chose to use OmniWeb instead. Along the same lines, when I am looking at geotagged photos, why do you insist on saying "the mini-map cannot be displayed in this browser", which is 100% false. When I change my browser identification to Firefox, it displays just fine. I know you are a small team and can't try it on everything out there, but why not give it a try? Most browsers out there are not that broken.

* This isn't Ipernity's fault, but there are no (that I know of) fun sites like Big Huge Labs' "Fd's Flickr Toys" for Ipernity.
* Again, not a fault of Ipernity, but the variety of upload tools is lacking. I really, really, like Connected Flow's "Flickr Export for Aperture" a plugin for Aperture that really makes it easy to upload photos from within my preferred photo management and editing software. Picturesync from uVerse is a decent stopgap measure, but it is an extra, clunky step along the way. And the interface, IMHO, is quite horrible. Maybe I just need to write the Aperture to Ipernity export plugin myself...

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04 December 2007


Corte Zappa

14 years ago on this date, the great musician & composer Frank Zappa died.
I don't know if this street in Venice was named after him or not, but I definitely thought of him. I don't like all of Zappa's music, but most of it is great when I am in the right mood (like a lot of music), and it is all better than the typical radio tripe you hear these days. Although I think there are more Frank Zappa CDs in my collection than any other artist, I still long for new music from this creative genius.

Well, this isn't much of a tribute. I'm not erecting any statues or anything, but (and I know it isn't saying much under current circumstances) he would have made a great president.