Sunday, October 31, 2004

Happy Halloween!

We had our annual pumpkin carving yesterday. We all chose characters from

Here we are a-carvin' away at the pumpkins

And the results on our porch

And here they are all lit up at night.

Return of the TA5s - Golf @ Plateau

Today seemed like a nice day to go back in time - equipmentally speaking - so before my round at the Plateau Club with Paul, I pulled out my Nike Pro Combo irons and replaced them with my older Cleveland TA5 irons. The goal was to see how hitting some "easier" irons would do now that I was pretty consistent with the Pro Combos. For those who don't know, the TA5s are generally referred to as game improvement irons, they have a wider sole than my pro combos and are a bit bigger. This makes it a bit tougher to hit them fat and the extra weight under them should get the ball up quicker.

I started out at the range and was hitting them great. Each shot flew high and straight. I was able to work them left and right much better than I could before I used the Pro Combos. I felt really relaxed as well, which was nice. We started on the back 9 today and it started out pretty average. A couple of bogeys but good iron shots. Then on 12 I hit the green in regulation (something I didn't do at all last week) and two putted for a par. On 13, I missed the green in regulation by about 12 inches and still got the par. On 14, I sliced my tee shot but it bounced off a tree and back to the fairway (phew!). I was able to come away with a bogey there too so after 5 holes, I'm only +3. At this point, I'm actully tied with Paul. Whoa.

Now hole 15 at the Plateau Club is subject to some sort of weird voodoo. While it is only about 150 yards downhill, it plays closer to 160 and it is pretty narrow and requires a carry shot over a bunch of evil junk. Usually it is a 5 iron to make it to the green for me, but I don't trust my 5 iron that much, so bad things happen to me. Today I felt more confident with the TA5s, though, so I took my 5 iron and hit a beautiful shot... until it sailed the green by about 20 yards. At least it wasn't short and in the junk though. This is where the round started to fall apart for a bit. From this point through through 18 I lost my focus. I think I was just thinking about pizza or something but I had a hard time getting my driver or putter to work for me. At the turn, I got a snack and things came back into focus again.

On the first hole I again hit the green in regulation and got a par. By the end of the 5th hole, I was right at even bogey golf again and I wanted to do better than last week's 89 so I set a goal. 2 pars and 2 bogeys for the last 4 holes. On 6 I hit my second shot into the water and ended up with double bogey. So much for that game. On 7 I hit the green in regulation and 2 putted for a par. Same thing for 8. OK, I got the two pars, but now I need to get a 3rd par to make up for the double on 6. Sure enough, my third shot hit the green and I 2 putted for a third consecutive par and a final score of 88. Yeah!

I lost 4 balls during my "unfocused" holes but on the rest of them I was making good shots from the from tee to green, so I was pretty happy with today's round. The TA5s were a nice change of pace, I may try them again next week just to see how it goes. When it is wet on the course -- like it will be for the next 8 months -- having a more forgiving set of irons should be helpful.

Duffergeek Stat Zone:
Score: 88 (13.868 round rating)
Putts: 32
GIRs: 6 - much better than last week's 0!
Fairways: 5/14 - terrible
Interesting stat: 4 more penalty strokes than last week, but a slightly better score. If I hadn't been wild off the tee on the "unfocused" holes, it could have been a great day!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Red Sox Win The World Series!

Kick ass!!

Clearly this is a monumental event. The moon even disappeared for the last half of the game!

So now a Massachusetts team has won the Super Bowl and the World Series this year. Let's see. What other major event could a team from Massachusetts win this year...

The Red Sox victory causes a lunar eclipse!

Monday, October 25, 2004

380 tons -- that's a lot right?

OK, so according to the IAEA, 380 tons of explosives are missing from an Iraqi military facility. I'm pretty sure that is a lot. Let's see -- 2000 pounds in one ton -- that's 760,000 pounds of explosives. This isn't the box of dynamite that goes missing when some guy wants to dig up his back yard. Moving 380 tons of explosives requires -- a coordinated effort. Removing it from a facility that the US has known about for many years and was one of the places that the weapons inspectors visited time and time again -- man it must have taken thousands of people to get through all of that security.

unless -- it was unguarded.

But that couldn't be the case right? I mean we went there to keep terrorists from getting the weapons of mass destruction. This is the exact kind of thing that we would keep a close eye on, right?

Oh... wait... There's a loophole here. Do you see it? See our goal was to keep them from getting weapons of mass destruction but we didn't say anything about massive weapons of destruction. Do you see the difference?


Sunday, October 24, 2004

Live Diamond Cam!

Hey, this is cool. During the World Series, you can watch the Fox Diamond Cam live on the web.

Sometimes Technology Sucks

I am my own IT (Information Technology) manager at home. I don't like that job, but it is my own fault for setting up a network requiring 3 servers for various services (mail, DNS, web hosting, file serving, home automation, media server, blah, blah...) and a number of client machines and devices strewn around the house. As time goes by, the list of things I need to deal with gets so long that I need to take a weekend to fix as many of the issues as possible.

This was one of those weekends.

My DNS/Web/Mail server was running extraordinarily slow (15 minutes to boot). (WHY?)
Mail server didn't automatically start up when the server rebooted. (WHY?)
Desktop machine didn't have enough memory to edit lots of photos (easy to fix)
Media Center PC needed an OS update to the latest version (Ugh!)
My iPod wouldn't charge when connected to my PC (on the contrary, it would drain the battery quickly) (Why?)

Earlier this week I needed to repair the OS after my hard drive got corrupted (this is after that same machine was gone for 2 weeks because it stopped being able to charge its battery).

So I went to Fry's yesterday and ComputerStop today to get miscellaneous parts, spent hours last night rebuilding the server, and more hours this afternoon doing a complete reinstall of the server (it turns out the perf problem was the hard drive) then reconfiguring all of the services on the machine. Of course, it didn't go flawlessly. My ethernet port on the server is unable to connect to anything when it has a static IP address (WHY?) Mail server wouldn't start up (WHY?) There is a scripting error on one of my web sites but it doesn't show the right error messages (WHY?)

Anyway, most of these problems are either fixed, or worked around for now. Now it is time for some baseball and the Glenlivet.

Another first? Golf @ Plateau

I played at the Plateau Club with Paul today. It was a good round, puncuated by a remarkable statistic. Zero penalties/lost balls. None. Finished the 18 holes with the same balls that I started with. I don't think that has ever happened before. It helped that I hit 11 of 14 fairways. And even though my irons weren't doing great, they were at least pretty straight -- just a bit chunky from time to time. Unfortuately this led to the bad statistic of the day, zero greens in regulation. I was able to scramble pretty well and came away with 5 pars but no GIRs.

After a surprising par on 13 (thanks to a long one putt) I decided that I wanted to make 2 more pars before I finished. I made another long putt on 14 and was halfway there. Then on 15 I missed the par putt by about 5 inches. On 16 I hit a great tee shot and second shot and again missed the par putt by inches. On the par 5 17th I had a great tee shot to the middle of the fairway, then I nailed my 3 iron to about 67 yards. I had hit this <70 yard shot three or four times today so I thought I had it. I hit the wedge, it was perfectly on line, but it was a few yards too long and bounced off the back of the raised green. DANG! Just missed the par putt again. On 18 I had a great drive, but my second shot ended up in the bunker just short of the green. Bogey again. Didn't quite hit the goal, but I was glad to be putting for par on all of those holes. If I clean up those iron shots, it will clearly make a big difference.

Duffergeek Stat Zone:
Score: 89 (14.724 round rating)
Putts: 32
GIRs: 0 -- ZERO! This was the yucky part
Fairways: 11/14
Interesting stat: Zero penalty strokes!

Friday, October 22, 2004

From the buy high, sell low department...

I bought some shares of Google today. I meant to do it a while ago but it seemed a bit over priced. Then it went up 70%, so now seems like the perfect time to get in.

So if you own Google, now is probably the time to sell...

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Go Red Sox!!

I started watching the playoffs in the 5th inning of game 4. I figured I would watch it all end that game and grumble about the Red Sox blowing it again. Then something happened that was quite unexpected. It turned into a real game. A good game! I drove home listening to the 11th inning on my XM radio and then watched them win it in the 12th. Cool!

Then I was hooked. For the next 3 nights, I drove home listening to the game on XM and then watching them somehow pull it out. Man, that was fun! I love an underdog story, but it is much better when it is the Sox beating the Yankees!

Now I have to watch all of the World Series games.

I was hoping that the Astros would make it into the World Series as well, then it would be a big metaphor for the presidential election. That means, of course, that the Cardinals will win game 7 tonight.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Jon Stewart Shakes it up

Leslie said it best -- Jon Stewart is my hero.

Here's what he did: - Choose or Lose - Headlines

and here's the transcript:

And the actual video clip:

Jon Stewart's Brutal Exchange with CNN Host

Unexplained goodness - Golf @ Plateau

Tony, Paul, Rick and I headed out for a very wet round at the Plateau Club today. I haven't played with Tony for a while and since he used to be a member there, it was fun to get him back out on the evil track of lost balls we call the Plateau Club.

But today was different for me.

I started out at the range and couldn't hit anything very well. When we headed to the first tee, though, after taking advantage of a flexible "start of round" ruling, I had a nice tee shot to the left half of the fairway, followed by a three wood across the junk to the fairway and a wedge onto the green. Whoa. Two putts later, I was off and running at even par. On the second hole, I had a good tee shot to about 150 yards. Lately, I have not been getting my normal distance off of my irons, and with the rain I figured that I should take an extra club to make sure I got to the green. I nailed the 6 iron and it flew past the green and up onto the hill behind the green. Huh? I was making really good contact and getting good distance even in the yucky weather. Neat! I got out of 2 with a bogey. The rest of the front 9 was pretty consistent. If I hit a bad shot (like the crappy little dribbler on 5, I would make up for it in a later shot. Putting, in particular, was really working for me today and I turned a lot of potential double bogeys into singles on the front 9 finshing with a 45 - perfect bogey golf and right on my handicap at the Plat.

Side note: I have a nice Gortex jacket that keeps me warm and dry when we play in the rain, but I have found it is really hard for me to do a full swing when I am wearing it, so for the first 9 holes I kept taking off my jacket in the pouring rain for each full shot, then putting it back on after the shot. What a pain! At the turn I stopped by the pro shop and picked up a short sleave rain shirt and that made it much easier for the second half of the day.

On the back 9, things started to click.I had a great approach shot on 11 from about 170 yards which stopped about 9 feet from the pin and I made par there. Same thing on 13. Even when I had some really bad shots on 14 and 16, I was still able to come away with double bogey and offset it on the next hole with a par.

So I came to 18 at 15 over. Now 18 is where many good scores have gone awry and today looked like it would follow that pattern. I pulled my 3 wood into the trees and while it is possible for it to get through if it misses all of the trees, I heard a couple of "click"s as it went through. I figured I would go look and see if I was lucky enough to make it through. Sure enough, the ball made it through and was sitting in the fairway with only 150 yards to the pin. I got a bit distracted with Amsterdam stories and messed up my approach shot but my next wedge flew between a couple of branches and landed softly 10 feet from the hole. As it had happened earlier in the day, the putt rolled true and while it tried to lip out, it ended up falling backwards into the hole for back to back closing pars and a total score of 87. This is my second best score from the golds at the Plat. Despite the weather, I was feeling pretty relaxed all day long and that paid off. Having only 30 putts and one penalty helped a lot as well.

Duffergeek Stat Zone: (Oooh! New Feature!)
Score: 87 (13.012 round rating)
Putts: 30
GIRs: 4
Fairways: 8/14
Interesting stat: 75% GIRs on par 5s. Just missed the one on 9 by about 2 feet.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Spam Victim

Some moron sent out a crapload of spam with my work email as the return address so he didn't have to deal with the bounces. I've gotten about 3500 bounce mails so far today and they are still coming in.

Just for that, I'm not going to go visit his website.

Update - 10/12/04 8:45 am. Now up to 6500 bounce mails. There should be a special place in hell for these people.

Update - 10/13/04 6:45 am. 9000. Thank God for filters.

Update - 10/14/04 4:30 pm. 11,100. It is kinda slowing down...

Saturday, October 09, 2004

It's a Sa-Holiday -- Golf @ Sahalee

Sahalee Country Club was the site of the 1998 PGA Championship tournament and the NEC World Golf Championship in 2002. It will host the 2010 PGA Championship. It is also practically in my backyard. Given this, it is odd that even though I have lived here for over four years, I had never played there until today. Alex's friend Kat (who is now Paul's and my friend as well) arranged for us to play with a co-worker of hers who is a member and past president of Sahalee. Today was that round and it was a lot of fun.

Now I've played Sahalee many times before if you count the Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 video game on XBox. In fact, I played it this morning and shot a 63 so it was a bit of a shock to play it for real and not be able to hit the ball 380 yards like I can on the XBox. This certainly had some impact on my score. In fact, I have a whole list of excuses why my score would not be so great today in "real" golf:
1) It was raining
2) I haven't played for 3 weeks
3) I was on planes for 12 hours this week and I'm stiff and sore
4) It's a new course that I don't know that well (unless I have an XBox controller in hand)
5) I'm a whiny golfer and my shoulder was tight
6) I don't like playing in my rain jacket
7) George W. Bush. Not sure why, but I'm sure it is at least part his fault

Paul and I warmed up a bit at the Plat before heading over to Sahalee. We then met Bob and had lunch and then warmed up some more. The course, the clubhouse, the practice facility are all top notch. It is a beautiful course in excellent condition and it really was a joy to play. That said, I had a ton of double bogeys today. Many of them were because my driver was consistently right for the front 9 and my irons were a bit chunky. I was mister 2 putt though and my chipping was not bad. My overall score was 99 which included only 1 par (on 18), hitting 2 GIRs and only 5 fairways. Yuck.

The fun part, though, was that even playing like I was today, I did not lose balls. When I hit a bad shot, I would find the ball, just in the trees somewhere and I would need some sort of interesting recovery shot to get back into the fairway. That is much more fun than just having to drop a new ball. On the 4 holes where I needed to hit a provisional, I always found my ball and didn't need the provisional. In fact, the only time I lost a ball was when I hit a fat tee shot into the water on 17. If I had played like I did today at the Plateau, I would have lost at least 2 sleeves of balls and scored much worse with the penalty shots. The good news is that I know I can do a lot better at that course. It is extremely fair and if I just had a better game off the tee today, I would probably have shot something closer to 89.

Paul, on the other hand, was on fire today. 3 double bogeys, 1 bogey and 14 pars for a 79. He had a great day.

The net is that it is an excellent course in fantastic condition and I am looking forward to playing there again at some point. Hopefully soon :)

The Mosel Valley tour

A panoramic view of the Mosel River at Cochem from the Castle Reichsburg.

Castle Reichsburg through the grape vines.

The town of Alken, Germany and the castle on the hill.

The vineyards climb the hills behind the town of Alken.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Germany Pictures

This is the cathedral (dom) in Cologne. It has been around since the 12th century and unlike the rest of the city, it survived World War II.

The Mouse Tower in Bingen.

An old castle just across the Rhein from the Mouse Tower

The town of Bacharach

Amsterdam Pictures

There are 750,000 bicycles in Amsterdam for 1 million people. 3000 bikes are stolen every day.

Boats along the canals. They say the canals are three meters deep. One meter of crap, one meter of bicycles and one meter of water.

Apparently, you need a sign for this. Since it is the only sign like this we saw, I'm assuming the rest of the city is fair game.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Best Disney Ever!

While we were walking around the various towns along the Rhein and Mosel rivers in Germany one thought kept occuring to us. This is the best Disney ever! Everything looks so authentic, yet we never saw the cast member signs or anything that was obviously animatronic. The food was so much better than the usual Disney park restaurants and no matter how far we walked, I never could see Spaceship Earth.

In general, everyone kept to their accents and nearly everyone spoke German. The buildings were huge and didn't display the forced perspective that you usually see at Disney theme parks.

I don't know how they made the rivers appear so long! It seems like we drove for miles and miles and we would occasionally see the same boats but the scenery always was new. Truly a feat of imagineering excellence!

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The last 24 hours

This is Boppard, Germany - the last pit stop on our whirlwind tour of Germany and it was here that our remaining three teams spent the last twelve hours resting and socializing before the final leg of the Amazing Photokina.

Each of the teams was up by 6:15 am local time. Team Rick was the first to leave at 6:55 am because they chose to skip hotel breakfast and get an early start.

Team Duffergeek was the next to leave at 7:30, followed closely by Team Tomasz in the giant van. Due to space constraints, Team Duffergeek needed to transport two of their suitcases in the Team Tomasz 'swat van'.

Team Duffergeek headed off north, missing the turn to the highway but based on previous explorations knew that the more scenic route was just as fast. After a few kilometers, they turned west and headed across the countryside to meet up with highway 61. Once on 61, the fun of Germany highway driving really took effect. Averaging in the 160 to 170 kph range Team Duffergeek was in the zone and the Mercedes wagon was happily humming along. Through some excellent navigation and a series of accidental optimizations, Team Duffergeek was able to avoid much of the traffic that slowed the other teams.

Team Duffergeek arrived at the airport only about 3 minutes behind Team Rick and could have made a beeline to the finish line at the gate, but they needed to wait for Team Tomasz to get to the airport and collect their bags. An unfortunate yielding that could spell doom to TD's chances of winning. Team Tomasz rolled in about 15 minutes later and the Team Duffergeek contingent was off and running for the airport.

They checked their bags just behind Team Rick and headed for the gate. Team Rick chose this opportunity to eat breakfast, leaving the perfect opening for Team Duffergeek to race to the gate and the championship!

It's a good thing we defined the finish line as the gate -- and that we didn't tell anyone else we were racing.

The flights that followed were long, though uneventful. The flight from Dusseldorf to Copenhagen was on a turbo prop and the vibrations made my seat feel kind of like an iJoy. My iPod slid across my iTrayTable from the vibrarions, dancing to it's own rhythms.

When we got to Copenhagen, everyone had their own seats on the flight back to Seattle, except for the Poo. He had to wait for a seat assignment while the rest of us got through to the gate. Still no sign of the Poo as we boarded the plane. I did see the other Davids who were in Economy Plus get bumped up to business class but it wasn't until after we had taken off that Lara and I headed up to see if the Poo had also been afforded such luxury due to his name also being David. Sure enough, there they all were, looking quite content with their business class socks on.

Throughout the flight they would occasionally come back to the slums and visit (and gloat). We did guilt them into bringing us back a couple of cookies. The rest of us in cattle class would meet in "The Spa" between movies. The Spa was the back galley of the plane -- part of the floor next to the emergency exit was very warm and just a few steps away it was much cooler, so we would take turns warming and cooling our feet while chatting. It sure beat sitting in the chairs for 10 hours.

We arrived back to Seattle a bit behind schedule, did the Seattle Internations luggage dance (pick it up at baggage claim #1, walk it through a door, put it back on a conveyor belt, go to baggage claim #2 and claim it again) and headed our separate ways.

12 days
4 countries
tens of thousands of pictures
hundreds of beers
one Amazing Photokina.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Boppard, Bacharach and Bingen - Eurotrip 2004

A bunch of us took a couple of days after the end of Photokina to drive around the Rhein valley area of Germany and take a bunch of pictures. There were actually 12 of us and we rented 3 cars and split into groups of 4. We left Cologne on Monday and headed down to Boppard, a small town on the Rhein river just south of Koblenz. Once we all checked in to the hotel, we had lunch together to figure out where we would go next. We decided that each car would head off in their own direction because each group was looking for something a little different.

David (the Poo), Rob and Lara were in my car and we decided to drive down along the Rhein to the town of Bingen because we read about a tower called the Mouse Tower. Apparently, many years ago the archbishop of Mayence, who was a pretty evil guy, escaped to this tower and was there devoured alive by mice.

Along the way, we saw many castles and at first we would stop and take pictures of each one. After about 10 or so, it started to lose its novelty and we would just call out "castle!" whenever we saw one. We made it down to Bingen and found the Mouse Tower and we took many pictures of it. The sun was getting ready to set so we waited a while to see if the light got better but it never really did. Across from the Mouse Tower is a large vineyard growing Reisling grapes. Not surprisingly, we took a lot of pictures of that as well.

On our way back, we took a random turn towards the town of Bacharach. No idea why we decided to turn here, but we were glad we did. Bacharach is a beautiful little town with lots of little alleys and walkways that go to interesting shops and restaurants. Up on the hill above a church is the ruins of the Werner chapel (Wernerkapelle) and the town is also surrounded by vineyards. We found a little restaurant along a raised walk that seemed to be hidden down a back alley. I have no idea how one would ordinarily find this place but it looked pretty good and we could sit outside and watch the river (and trains) go by so we gave it a try. We ordered 4 dishes and passed them around. The highlight was a wild boar dish that was fantastic, though the pork chop with bacon was also really good. The only dish that was so-so was the salmon and that is probably because we are pretty used to good salmon in Seattle.

We walked around a bit more after dinner, with Rob trying to take some night shots of the town square, then we headed back up to Boppard for the night.

On Tuesday, we decided to drive down along the Mosel river. Again there were many cute small towns and vineyards where we stopped to take pictures. One of the highlights was lunch in Klotten. There was an Italian Restaurant called Pizzeria de Giovanni mentioned on a sign and since that sounded pretty good, we headed that way. The pizza was really good -- authentic Italian pizza like I had in Rome a couple of years ago. The best part, though, was the fly. David ordered a latte and when he finished it, a fly landed on the edge of the cup and started drinking. Shortly afterwards, it started running around the edge of the cup really quickly. The caffeine was kicking in. Then it just sat there drinking more foam. We even moved the cup around to get a better picture of the fly but it would not leave the foam alone. Giovanni came by and shooed the fly away and at that point it started landing on us and not wanting to fly away. I'm pretty sure it knew we were from Washington and it was asking us to take him home with us so he could go hang out at the numerous coffee shops in Seattle. He was really quite insistant but alas we left him behind and headed south towards Cochem.

Cochem is somewhat larger than Klotten. The main thing that made us stop there was the Reichsburg castle high on the hill above the city. The castle was built in the twelfth century and was blown up in the 17th century but was rebuilt from the original plans in the 19th century and is now owned by the city of Cochem. We walked up the back way to the castle, past more vineyards and up to the castle gate. We took the tour, which was in German though they gave us a sheet of paper in English which explained pretty much what the tour guide would say about each room. Not surprisingly, we took a lot of pictures including panoramas of the Mosel river from the castle itself.

After the tour, we walked around the town for a while and did a bit of shopping. While we seriously considered heading over to Belgium for dinner and dessert in Luxembourg, we instead headed back up to Boppard where the groups all met for dinner and relayed stories of our trips.

This kind of trip is the best way to see Germany. We could go where we wanted to on our own schedule and there are so many interesting things to photograph. I could definitely see doing a much longer trip like this in the future, perhaps heading further south to Munich and into Switzerland. I was surprised at how easy it was to get around and to communicate with people even though we had heard it was harder to find English speakers outside of the big cities. The fact is, though, that we could figure enough German out to order food and go shopping and the roads and towns are well enough marked that it wasn't hard to figure out where we were.

This was definitely a highlight of the Photokina trip. I wonder where we'll go in 2006 :)

Monday, October 04, 2004

Driving in Germany

I picked up a rental car in Germany yesterday for our fototour-2004. About 12 of us are taking 2 extra days here to drive down the Rhein valley and take pictures of the people, countryside and castles.

Renting a car in Germany is different than what I am used to. It took a while to find the Avis office since it is tucked away in the train station but once we found it, signing up for the car was no problem. We rented 3 cars so there were 3 of us picking them up. The guy at the counter said "ok, let's go find your cars." We walked out of the train station and walked a block down the street. He handed me a key and said, "Your car is down this street and around the bend, it is at a gas station. The next car is down a different street, then left and then another block or so. The third car is about two blocks that way. Good luck!" and he left.


It turns out that he was right and I found my Mercedes station wagon waiting for me (nice car!). I unlocked the door, plugged in the keyless key and started it up. Then I stepped on the gas and was driving in Germany. Now the roads here are crazy. They don't go straight but they are often one way, it is kind of like driving in Boston, only with all of the signs in German. I was trying to get back to my hotel which on a map looks like you take a right and then a left and you're on a bridge. Here, though, I needed to take two lefts and then two rights to get on the bridge. I did the first 3 steps correctly but took the first right instead of the second one and ended up going the wrong direction. Oh no! I'm lost! The street is one way, there are no left turns, I can't even see where the traffic that wanted to go in the other direction is.

When you are going the wrong direction, the signs don't ever mention where you want to go. After a little way, I found a left turn light and then I made another left and started to see signs with the word brücke which means bridge. OOOooo... good sign! I eventually wound my way over to the correct bridge going in the right direction and I did a little celebratory dance in the car. From that point on, it was no problem getting back to the hotel.

Today we head out on our journey. Should be interesting. :)


Sunday, October 03, 2004

Mt St Helens go boom?

Mt. St. Helens has started erupting again, and I am on the wrong continent to follow it, but the forestry service has a webcam at the Johnson Ridge Observatory that let's you see the latest pictures from the volcano.

I went to the Johnson Ridge Observatory with Kate's class a couple of years ago. It is one of those places that gives you a sense of the power of the volcano. One of the rangers pointed out a discolored piece of rock on a hillside about 8 miles from the volcano. He said that the discoloration was actually a large piece of the top of Mt St Helens which was blasted all the way over there during the 1980 eruption.

Johnson Ridge is definitely a great place to visit -- but not today.

Saturday, October 02, 2004


Some of us had a free day on Friday so we took the train to Amsterdam to see what it was like. Some other people from our group had been the day before and regaled us with their adventures at some of Amsterdam's more 'scenic' locations. Eric said that while they all brought their passports, they had never needed to show them so we might not even need to bring them.

So five of us headed out early on Friday morning on the express train to Amsterdam which took about 2.5 hours to get there. About 1/2 way along the trip, the passport control officers came through the train asking for our passports. I had figured that I should bring mine in case of emergency, so did Lara and David (the poo) but Jordan and David (skippy) didn't bring theirs. The look of panic on their face was priceless. We showed them our passports, Jordan explained that he didn't have his but he showed them his drivers license which seemed to be ok but David, had absolutely no photo id on him at all. After a minute or so of us vouching for him, they gave up and continued on. I also brought up that the EU website mentions that you don't need a passport to go between EU countries but logic would state that you would have some sort of photo id in this day and age...

Since Eric had mentioned that we didn't need passports, we decided to let him know what was going on, but have a little fun with it as well since he had kept us informed with the progress of his trip to Amsterdam the day before via SMS. The following was the SMS conversation that ensued:

Me: Ugh! They made us show passports in Holland. Jordan and Skippy didn't have theirs. Do you have the number for the consulate?
Eric: are you serious or joking?
Me: Yup. Passport thing real I was both serious and joking -- the passport part was real
Eric: Us embassy #020 575 5309
Eric: How can I help. And who is skippy? Are they getting sent back?
Me: Crisis averted. Arriving in Amsterdam

Later, I sent the following messages to Eric as a status update on what we had seen.
Van Gogh... yup
Pigeons... yup
Lots o' bikes... yup
Being serenaded... yup

So we got to Amsterdam and started to walk around. Wow, what an amazing city for taking pictures! Open squares, small alleys with tons of character (and characters), canals, museums, hundreds of thousands of bicycles... and that doesn't even include the more "unusual" aspects of the city. It seemed like there was a cool picture to take around every corner. I'm still working through all of the pictures I took but I'll post some later.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Do I look German?

On the first day of the Photokina tradeshow in Germany I was working in our booth showing off the editing features of Digital Image Pro. Now, at a tradeshow in Germany you get a lot of German speaking people (weird, huh?) so there was also a person at the booth with me from one of our international groups who spoke German. As the crowds began to grow, people would continously come up to me and start talking to me in German. This happened all day and while I would say that perhaps it isn't that strange given my location, it started to get more common at places outside of the show.

After the second night we took a tram to a restaurant in a different part of town. There are about 8 people from our group on the train and only a few other people. After a pretty short trip, a woman who appears to work for the train system gets on the train, looks straight at me and begins saying something that sounds pretty official. I have no clue what it is and as she leaves we all look around to see what other people do. One person gets off the train but everyone else stays seated. Odd.... Why did she look at me as she said this and not the rest of our group? We press on. When the train gets to the next stop it stops. And the sudden lack of engine noise kinda indicates it isn't going to start anytime soon. This must have been what she was trying to tell us about though I still don't know what she said.

After a minute or so, the train driver comes out and is about to get off -- bad sign ;) We ask him what is going on and he says that the train can't continue because there is a cathedral across the bridge that is broken. Huh? How do you break a cathedral? We get off the train and start walking towards our destination. Sure enough, we come to an intersection with a lot of emergency and constuction vehicles and a church tower that is distinctly leaning towards the road. We, of course, walked around that and eventually found our restaurant but the "Leaning Tower of Cologne" was on the front page of the newspapers the next day.