Saturday, April 30, 2005

Water should not have as many bubble as Pepsi

For some totally unknown reason, if you just order "water" in Germany you are presented with a bottle of bubbly soda water. I have confirmed this at 3 locations. Tonight I finally figured out how to get around it... you have to order "Still water". Huh? I mean.... I want scream at these people "If you pull water out of a well, is it carbonated? 'No'. Then why should I have to specify that I want normal water????" Ahhh, the fun of traveling abroad. It wouldn't be that big of a deal if the other stuff wasn't so vile.

Anyway, I took the train from Berlin to Munich today, which was very cool. It isn't like the US where taking the train just helps you see all the ghettos along the way. Here the countryside is lush and gorgeous, which small towns and villages along the way. The tallest building in all these old towns is always the church, generally with a 3 or 4 story high tower. It would have been nice to be able to get some pictures, but the train was always moving too fast.

My original plan was to take a direct train, but one of the guys I met on the train pointd out that if I changed trains once, I could get in at 6:30 instead of 8. So, by 7 I was checked into my hotel and by 7:30 I had a ticket in my hand for a ballet show that started at 8. What an efficient big city!! It turned out not to be a ballet... it was something cooler. It was called the Enchanted Gardens, and was a sort of middle-eastern dance revue hosted by a husband/wife couple. She was totally hot and did some awesome belly dancing, but I think he was a little bit better dancer---according to the bio he was a soloist with the SF Ballet for 8 years before starting this show up. You can see the Oriental Fantasy website for more information.

Afterwards, I asked the taxi driver to take me to a "nice" restaurant. The one he picked was closed already, so I went to the one next door. I had garlic bread, french onion soup (which is bested only by a hunting lodge on the New Hampshire border), and pork loin wrapped in bacon, washed down with Merlot and STILL water. All of it was very good.

Tomorrow I'm going to head down to the Hofbrau House which is the famous Munich Beer Garden where they have Oompah bands and liter steins. I'm not super confident that I'll find any good concerts to watch on Sunday night, but we'll see what happens.

Friday, April 29, 2005

5 beers is too much

If you ever come to Germany, and you've never had German Beer before, and it is a weeknight and you have to work the next day, do not drink 5 beers. We went to a micro-brewery at Alstadt-Spandau, and the food and beer were excellent. There were a lot of people there, so it was really good to hang out and get to know people without talking about any of the technical/work stuff. I had bratwurst and french fries. Of course here they dip french fries in mayonnaise, which is actually pretty good (and good for you!).

Today is the last day of work, and I plan on heading down to the Berlin Jazz Festival tonight. I have no idea if the venue will be crowded or what.. hopefully I can get there and get a seat. I just bought my train ticket to Munich as well; I leave tomorrow (Saturday) around noon and get in around 7. Here's my hotel information:

Drei Lowen Hotel (30 April 2005 - 4 May 2005)
Schillerstr 8
Munich, Germany
+49 (89) 55104808

(To dial from the US, dial 011-49-89-55104808)

From everything I've read Munich has a lot going on. Because people here love classical music so much, Munich has 3 full-on professional symphonies, not counting the Opera and Ballet. I imagine I will go see at least a couple of them while I'm there. They also are supposed to have amazing Beer Gardens and Bratwurst... hopefully my stomach handles it! ;-)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


... is all I can say. I just saw the finest performance of Stravinsky's Firebird Suite that I have ever seen. The first two pieces performed were modern Shizer, but Firebird was absolutely fantastic. Especially cool were the extra 3 trumpets that came out 2 minutes before the piece ended just to create an extra loud, brassy Finale. The crowd went crazy as soon as they finished playing, and wouldn't stop clapping. The maestro left and came back 3 times, and eventually he just told the concertmaster to lead everyone offstage (there's probably some wacky union rule that they have to be offstage by a certain time). Then after the orchestra left, everybody was still clapping so much that the maestro came back out again by himself for even more bows. Just for reference, I never saw this happen while I lived in San Francisco.

I should have given more details about the concert I saw last night. As I said, it was in a separate auditorium that was designed for Chamber Music (small ensemble) concerts. I bought the premium ticket (around 40 Euro), which got me in the 6th row, absolute center. Awesome seats. The hall is a small, intimate setting, with seats going very close to the stage. The stage would probably hold about 20 musicians at the most.

Rotary trumpets are apparently the norm in Germany. Ludwig Guttler's piccolo trumpet was a 4-valve rotary piccolo, and all 6 trumpets at the Firebird performance were using rotary-valve trumpets. I suppose if I ever moved here I'd have to re-outfit my entire collection. I've never actually played on a rotary trumpet before, so I don't really know what the big deal is. Kind of interesting that they aren't really that popular in the US. I suppose it could be a totally meaningless fad.

Today was the first day of the SAF conference (the actual reason why I'm in Berlin). There was a session for new members, so I learned a lot about SAF in general, how the body works, what all the different parts of it are, and who's who. I also got to meet several HP people that I'd heard of but hadn't met before.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A Day in Berlin

I spent today walking around central Berlin and visiting various sites. I started by walking through Tiergarten, which is the main central city park. It is huge, and the green spaces are very well maintained... walking trails, open grassy areas, wooded areas, flower beds, ponds, etc. I would probably spend a lot of time there if I lived in Berlin.

From there I went to the "Philharmonie", which is another word for the Symphony Hall. I bought tickets for a concert in the Chamber Music Hall, and also tickets for tomorrow to see the main symphony. The concert tonight was a small group (about 9 musicians), featuring a famous German trumpet player.... it was all Baroque music, and was EXTREMELY cool. Tomorrow's concert is Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, which is one of my favorite pieces.

Connected to the Symphony hall is a Musical Instrument museum, full of all kinds of weird instruments that nobody plays anymore (as well as the standard instruments that we all know and love). Old baroque trumpets, early trumpets with valves, the original flute crated by Boehm... all kinds of cool stuff. I spent several hous in here looking around and taking pictures.

There is a big touristy place called the Sony Center, which is kind of like the Sony Metreon in San Francisco only mostly outdoors. Here I had dinner, which was Bratwurst and a baked potato at the Hofbrau house. German food seems to be fairly simple, mostly boiled meats and various cabbages or potato dishes. It was quite good.

Check out the Pictures of my day.

Monday, April 25, 2005

New York City is the greatest city in The World

You're probably thinking "But Chad isn't in New York City right now". Which is correct. So why am I talking about New York City? Because they have awesome tomato-salsa! No, not really. Because they speak English there and are nice to foreigners! Yes, although that really isn't my point either. New York City is cool because they have a 24 hour subway system. Subway systems are one of those enabling technologies that nobody cares about in and of itself but that lets you accomplish all sorts of cool stuff (like getting home safely from a jazz club after staying for the last set).

Tonight was my first night out in Berlin, so I went to a jazz club called B-Flat. It was a really nice club inside; the only downside is that everyone in Germany smokes. Including little babies. The band was good, and the German vocalist was even singing jazz standards in English.

Of course, like all good centers of nightlife, there was a middle-eastern restaurant on the corner where I went to eat the obligatory post-drinking shawerma. It wsa kind of a weird setup... the middle-eastern business shared a building with a fast-chinese-food business. While I was there I met a Dutchman that was fairly intoxicated and hanging out with his German friends. He was being obnoxious and constantly asking the Vietnamese proprietor of the fast-chinese-food counter if he had any sushi. Kind of funny actually.

Why is it that so many people around the world have a bad view of americans? All the dutchmen that I know are ruder than most americans that I know.

Then, I found out the hard way that the Berlin subway shuts down at 1am. I have composed a Haiku to voice my thoughts on the Berlin subway system:

Lame lame lame lame lame
Lame lame lame lame lame lame lame
Lame lame lame lame lame

If the berlin subway system were a work of art, it would end up in SF MOMA.

OK, enough about that.

I am an American. An American whose body is running on Sydney time. An American whose body is running on Sydney time in Berlin. Yes, I am extremely confused. My laptop says it is 8:30pm, my hotel clock says it is 4:30am, and my body says it is 12:30pm. I can't figure out whether I should be eating Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner right now. How does the infamous traveling salesman visit all of his cities and stay sane?

Tomorrow I hope to go out during the day and travel around the city. Perhaps traveling while the sun is out will give me a different perspective on the Berlin subway.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Ruminations on Traveling

All of this traveling has led me to think about how awful it must have been traveling in older times. Sure, a 22 hour flight at 600 MPH from Sydney to Vienna isn't all that fun, but think about the horrible things people had to endure 200 years ago, for example. I'm not talking about horse-wagons that average 50 miles a day or the tendency to get scurvy if you're on a boat too long. I'm talking about arriving in a new country for the first time and not being sure if that order you just placed with the local coffee proprietor will be any good.

Yes, I just arrived in Vienna, and what was the first thing I did? I ordered a Vanilla Frappucino from the airport Starbucks. It was just as good as the ones I used to get from the El Camino/Lawrence Expressway Starbucks in Sunnyvale.

God Bless American Corporations, for now we are not forced to endure the surprises springing from business heterogenity.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Australia has an Army?

It turns out they do. Actually, its called ANZAC, or the Australia-New Zealand Army Corps. I hopped on a tour bus for a couple of hours today and went to the Australia War Memorial. After walking through the museum, I remembered having to watch the movie Gallipoli in High School so I could get extra credit. There is a big celebration coming up on Monday which is similar to our Memorial Day. The only other person on the tour bus was an Indian lady named Jigna who is currently working on a Biology PhD in Sydney. We took turns using each other's camera so that we could have pictures with ourselves in them.

After the War Memorial was a tour of the Australian Parliament. They took the name "Parliament" from England, but they took the actual structure from the US. There is a House of Representatives and a Senate. The House building is green, apparently representing Eucalyptus leaves. The Senate building is Red, apparently representing changing color of Eycalyptus leaves. Lots of symbolism in the Parliament building.

Take a look at the Pictures of my morning of tourism.

Tomorrow morning I fly out to Berlin, which should be a long enough flight to make me never want to fly on a plane again.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Underwater Photos Added

I added some underwater photos from the dive trip, courtesy of Heath and Sue Culp from Austin, TX. Their photos are totally awesome... crisp and colorful. Kind of amazing... expensive gear and training actually does help!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Canberra is Cool!

I started to like this town even as my plane was approaching the landing runway. With 300,000 people, Canberra definitely has an urban, sophisticated feel to it. Just walking around looking at all the restaurants (they're everywhere!) I have seen people of many nationalities. The Quest hotel is right in the middle of downtown, so we are walking distance to restaurants and the University (where Linuxconf is).

I stopped at a Thai restaurant for dinner and ordered my usual dish, Basil Chicken. I asked for it "Hot", assuming that their hotness levels are generally pretty weak. It turned out to be perfect. The weird thing is that they don't have Thai Iced Tea. When I ordered it the waiter looked at me like I was speaking another language, and asked if I meant [Insert some kind of beer starting with the letter 'T']. So I slowly said, "Thai. Iced. Tea." He repeated it to the proprietor who just shook her head. They did happen to have a huge beer and wine list though. Who in the hell drinks Wine with spicy thai food? I guess people who drive on the left side of the road. This incident, hereafter known as the "Missing Thai Tea Incident" is so far the first problem I've seen with Canberra.

The conference starts tomorrow, which should be a lot of fun. I've never been to a technical Linux Conference before, and I'm hoping I will learn a lot and meet people with whom I've only dealt with over email. I'll try to walk around and take pictures of stuff during the day. Someone told me that the area where all the Foreign Embassies are is a neat place.

5 whole nights without having to be on a plane, so I'm definitely looking forward to the downtime. My apartment has a kitchen, so I even went and bought some groceries so that it is a bit more like home.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Enroute to Canberra

Pronounced "Can-Brah", Canberra is the capitol of Australia. You might think it was a major city like Sydney, but no. My flight leaves the Brisbane airport in about half an hour, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to post the above-ground photos from our stay in Cairns and the Dive Trip.

As I said in an earlier post, most of the pictures that I took underwater turned out horrible... I should have gone with the regular film camera, because that worked really well on my last trip. Oh well, live and learn. I hope to be receiving pictures that other people (with better cameras) took on our dives, so I'll post those when I get them.


Sunday, April 17, 2005

Still feels like I'm on a boat

Rhett and I just got back to the Colonial club after 4 nights on the boat. The diving was really nice, with sharks, eels, turtles, and tons of colorful fish. I ended up doing 10 dives. Now that I'm back on land, it still feels as though I'm on a moving boat.... quiet disconcerting.

There were 17 guests on the boat, plus about 10 crew. We started out of Cairns, and headed north through the Ribbon Reefs, finally ending up on Lizard Island. From Lizard Island we took a low-level (500 ft) flight back to Cairns, which is beautiful as you can see the reefs from a totally different (above water) view.

I rented a digital camera to take pictures with underwater. I have to say, I'm really disappointed with its performance. Because digital cameras have a 1-2 second delay while they autofocus, it is extremely hard to take pictures of moving fish. I did get a few good pictures out of it. Also, all the guests exchanged emails, so I'll be receiving pictures that other people took on the same dives, and I'll post those on my blog when I get them.

The food on the boat was really really good. Evenings were typically spent hanging out in the lounge and just chatting to learn more about people. There was a couple from Paris that were honeymooning, and we plan on getting together for dinner when I get to Paris in a couple of weeks. There was representation from the USA (Florida, Redding-CA, SF-CA, Ft. Collins-CO, Austin-TX), Japan, England, and Brazil. A really interesting mix.

Diving is very exhausting, both from physical extertion as well as the body is working hard to expel the excess nitrogen that builds up in your tissue. Today is mostly a rest day, doing laundry and lounging around the hotel. The weather is much better in Cairns now with sun instead of rain. Thats about it for now, and I'll post underwater photos later once I receive them from the other divers.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Falling off the McWagon

Well, I've done it. I fell off of the McDonald's wagon. After watching Super Size Me, I vowed to never eat McDonald's again. But here I am, starving at the Sydney airport, and the Australian version of Panda Express doesn't open until 11:30, which is an hour after my flight leaves.

For those of you that haven't seen Super Size Me, I highly recommend watching. All kinds of interesting information comes from this movie. For example, eating fast food can pickle your liver just like going on a severe drinking binge. And schools that feed their students healthy food instead of re-heated junk from Sodexho have more attentive students.

Anyway, I'm diverging. If you're playing along, you know that I'm at the Sydney airport, where I've just witnessed the second most disgusting thing I've ever seen (second only to watching Jack Aguire help a cow give birth). Without going into the gory details, let me just say that if you crap your pants, please do not leave the dirty underwear lying on the floor next to the toilet. At the very least THROW THEM AWAY IN THE TRASH.

I should be meeting up with Rhett in a couple of hours at the hotel in Cairns, where we can lounge by the pool and get plenty of liquor from the swim-up bar while we gaze upon the various exotic birds and mammals roaming through the rainforest. We'll probably have a crazy night out in Cairns, eating South Pacific white fish called Hoki and drinking copious amounts of Sake, which is of course the traditional send-off party before getting on a SCUBA Diving boat.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Leaving Las Vegas

Just finished up a week in Lost Wages. I'm at the airport, waiting for United to start boarding my flight to San Francisco. I'm in an exit row, so I should have plenty of leg room.

We had a great time in Vegas! This was Michelle's first trip, so no doubt she was amazed at the excessiveness of Vegas. She'll probably post a comment, so you can see her thoughts in there. We saw lots of shows... Rita Rudner was my favorite. Cirque Du Soleil was pretty cool too.

We spent some time gambling... I stayed pretty even at poker (played at Binion's, Aladdin, and The Orleans), and made some good money playing Blackjack. Michelle did very well at Blackjack considering she'd never done it before, but she's gotta learn to kick that slot machine habit. She even lost our lucky dollar! (It was lucky because it was the only dollar we didn't lose playing Keno)

We took a set of pictures which you can see on my photoblog. Check out our Las Vegas pictures.

My next posting will probably be after scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. I'm not sure whether I'll be able to take my digital camera underwater, so there may or may not be pictures of sharks until after I arrive back in the states. I'll see what I can do!

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Itinerary For My Upcoming Trip

If you're reading this, you probably already know that I have a monster trip coming up. I'm attending two technical conferences (one in Australia and one in Germany), and I've added vacation time to the beginning and the end of the trip. I will have access to the internet along the way, so feel free to send me email. I'll be posting pictures here as well so check back every few days if you want to see what I've been up to. My itinerary is:

  • (Flight) 8 April 2005: Fort Collins (FNL) to Las Vegas (LAS)

    • Allegiant Air Flight 465

    • Departs Fort Collins 2:50pm

    • Arrives Las Vegas 3:45pm

  • (Hotel) 8 - 11 April 2005: New York New York Hotel and Casino

  • (Flight) 11 - 13 April 2005: Las Vegas (LAS) to Cairns (CNS)

    • Leg 1: Las Vegas (LAS) to San Francisco (SFO)

      • US Airways Flight 6647

      • Departs Las Vegas 7:55pm

      • Arrives San Francisco 9:29pm

    • Leg 2: San Francisco (SFO) to Sydney (SYD)

      • United Airlines Flight 863

      • Departs San Francisco 10:30pm

      • Arrives Sydney 13 April 2005 6:10am

    • Leg 3: Sydney (SYD) to Cairns (CNS)

      • United Airlines Flight 9511 (operated by Virgin Blue)

      • Departs Sydney 10:05am

      • Arrives Cairns 1:15pm

  • (Hotel) 13 April 2005: Cairns Colonial Club (link)

  • (Activity) 14 - 18 April 2005: Great Barrier Reef diving on Mike Ball's Supersport (link)

  • (Hotel) 18 April 2005: Cairns Colonial Club

  • (Flight) 19 April 2005: Cairns (CNS) to Canberra (CBR)

    • Leg 1: Cairns (CNS) to Brisbane (BNE)

      • Virgin Blue Flight DJ870

      • Departs Cairns 10:45am

      • Arrives Brisbane 12:50pm

    • Leg 2: Brisbane (BNE) to Canberra (CBR)

      • Virgin Blue Flight DJ562

      • Departs Brisbane 3:10pm

      • Arrives Canberra 5:05pm

  • (Hotel) 19 - 24 April 2005: Quest Canberra (link)

  • (Activity) 19 - 23 April 2005: (link)

  • (Flight) 24 - 25 April 2005: Canberra (CBR) to Berlin (TXL)

    • Leg 1: Canberra (CBR) to Sydney (SYD)

      • Qantas Airways Flight 1424

      • Departs Canberra 2:05pm

      • Arrives Sydney 2:55pm

    • Leg 2: Sydney (SYD) to Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Vienna (VIE)

      • Austrian Airlines Flight 2

      • Departs Sydney 4:50pm

      • Arrives Kuala Lumpur

      • Continues from Kuala Lumpur to Vienna

      • Arrives Vienna 25 April 2005, 6:10am

    • Leg 3: Vienna (VIE) to Berlin (TXL)

      • Austrian Airlines Flight 271

      • Departs Austria 7:30am

      • Arrives Berlin 8:50am

  • (Hotel) 25 - 30 April 2005: Holiday Inn Esplanade

  • (Activity) 27 - 29 April 2005: SAForum Members Meeting

  • (Flight)4 May 2005: Munich (MUC) to Paris (CDG)

    • Lufthansa Flight 4246

    • Departs Munich 2:40pm

    • Arrives Paris 4:15pm

  • (Hotel) 4 - 8 May 2005: Le Grand Hotel Des Gobelins

  • (Flight) 8 May 2005: Paris (CDG) to Denver (DEN)

    • Leg 1: Paris (CDG) to Washington DC (IAD)

      • United Airlines Flight 915

      • Departs Paris 1:00pm

      • Arrives Washington DC 3:25pm

    • Leg 2: Washington DC (IAD) to Denver (DEN)

      • United Airlines Flight 903

      • Departs Washington DC 5:25pm

      • Arrives Denver 7:15pm

  • Home!!!