Friday, December 28, 2007

It's too late for shopping, but never too late to criticize other folks tips!

After returning from a day visiting the ruins of ancient Pompeii at the science museum, I came home to update myself on the goings-on of the world by browsing through the interweb's most popular stories on Digg. Of course, Digg tends to be hit-or-miss when it comes to relevance. Sure, it's generally pretty accurate about news stories and whatnot. But in the end, it's a site by nerds, for nerds. Typically, this doesn't bother me too much since I too am a nerd. However, whenever a story about "How to do [x] for your girlfriend" gets popular I know to take it with a grain of salt, because let's face it - most nerds have no clue how to deal with actual (i.e. non-World Of Warcraft) women.

Case in point, an article on Digg's top 10 at the moment detailing all the presents you should and should not get your girlfriend at "any stage" of your relationship. Written by a women who is obviously trolling for Digg traffic to her site selling medieval jewelry*, some of her ideas are accurate, some are incredibly obvious, and some are just weird. Let's examine, shall we?

Starting with some of her tips for "first gifts" for a girl you've just recently started dating. Here, she hits the low hanging fruit in the "don't buy" list. Obviously, lingerie is out because of the game men and women play when they first start dating - men must never indicate that they want to see women in lingerie, and women must never indicate that they already know men want to see them in lingerie. This "mutual plausible deniability" helps keep conversations from becoming awkward early on, and let's you try to get to know each other as people without having to try and figure out her bra size by "best guessing" or rummaging through her drawers while she's in the bathroom.

She continues nailing the easy ones by advising against the trite and the cliched (e.g. chocolate, candles) and the outright idiotic (e.g. gag gifts? Seriously? Men *do* that?). In general, her ideas aren't too horrible with one exception - lottery tickets in a card with a witty saying. Men, do not buy your girlfriend a lottery ticket. This is for two reasons: a) she will lose and then throw it away because it has no intrinsic value and b) it's cheap and therefore it gives you the impression that you are cheap. I mean, they cost what, a dollar? Think of all the other stuff you could get for a dollar - does any of it sound like a good gift? "Here honey, I got you a Snickers bar! I know I spent up for the King Size, but you're so worth it, baby!".

Moving on to her presents for when you're in a casual relationship. The interesting thing about this section is her continued rant against giving bath products because "they send the wrong message". Really? What message would that be? Is she actually concerned that someone you've been dating for a few months would interpret such a gift as a way of saying "you smell bad"? Or is she worried that the readers are actually dating Mogwai and don't know it? As someone who has dated actual women, let me tell you, bath products are safe provided you get an idea of what kinds of smells she likes first.

By the time she gets to the "Serious Relationship birthday gifts" she's still holding her own with a reasonable amount of normalcy. She also points out the fact that "some people see lingerie as the guy is buying himself a gift and giving it to his girlfriend, in other words it is more for the guy" - which is almost 100% accurate. To make that statement perfectly accurate she'd have to re-write it as "All women see lingerie as something the guy is buying for himself, and if you'd be honest with yourself a moment so would you, dude". Not that there is anything wrong with that, though, so long as everyone's honest about it.

At the end of her list though it becomes painfully obvious that her "gifts for people who've been seeing each other a while" is either completely imaginary or entirely hypothetical. I mean, her first suggestion is an *engagement ring*. And not because it's the right time to get engaged either, but rather because "If you have been together long enough that it is hard to come up with gift ideas getting married would seem to be the next step". Yeah, I'm sure *that* is when your girlfriend would want you to propose - when you've run out of other gift ideas.

The other suggestion in that list is the "coupon book". Not that it is a terrible idea, but the way she framed it was that this dude basically wrote down everything that his girlfriend complained about and gave her 1 coupon for each thing. Somehow, I can't imagine this going over well. "See honey? Remember how I always watch sports all day and hog the remote all the time? Well now, you can use this one coupon for one day and I won't do it for that whole day!". Hey, sluggo, how about just listening to what she is actually saying and not being a douchebag so much? Go ahead and give her the coupon book, just replace all the "I won't be an asshole" ones with extra foot massage ones. In the end she'll be a lot happier.

*About 90% of her posts look like top 10 lists of "stuff to buy for [insert target demographic]". Not that all top 10 lists are traffic bait, but when nearly all your recent posts are such - it's suspicious.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

It's an entire Saturday morning's worth of viewing, all in a half-hour!

Those of you who never saw this in elementary school - here's your chance.

I know it's long but if you keep watching eventually you'll see every single cartoon you ever watched coming together to tell you about the dangers of drugs. It's amazing how effective that is, when you think about it. In fact, that's probably why Linsay Lohan and Britney Spears never met a drug they didn't like - simply because they were too young to watch this program when it originally aired!

And now what?

It seems so weird that I'm already over halfway done with my holiday voyage back home for the holidays. After spending last weekend at my Aunt's in Iowa (arriving in the middle of a blizzard of 8" of snow) and the beginning of this week at Grrrmom's (where, no kidding, I watched a squirrel attack a flock of ducks at the birdfeeder in the backyard) I'm now at Grrrdad's in Minneapolis. I continue to catch up on sleep like a crazy person (9.5 hours last night) but since it's so late in the week both my dad and stepmom have to go back to work so I'm free to flit around town wherever I want to!

Today, I'm thinking I'll head over to see Juno at the local Cineplex before moseying over to the mall for some post-holiday bargains. Yes, that "mall" *may* be the Mall of America, which even though it is located completely on the other side of town, still holds a bizarre attraction for me. Something about the peoplewatching there is so great! Yet, it's not quite the same as it was when it opened my senior year of high school. The Minnesota Picnic store is closed, which means no more Walleye-on-a-Stick and cheese curds in a basket for lunch. Oh well, life moves on I guess.

In the end it'll all depend on what time I finally get showered and out the door. And considering how it's already nearly a quarter-past-11, maybe I'll just do the local mall and hit up the MoA tomorrow. So long as I do it before Saturday because that's when the crazy crowds show up.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Xmas everyone!

Yes, that wonderful time of year when we all gather with our families and celebrate the birth of our lord and savior - Jesus X...

Well the last-minute scramble to get all my shopping done before the holiday came true again. It never fails, no matter how good my intentions are to get my shopping done by August, craft an elegant and witty holiday letter to all my friends, finish all my work stuff up by the week before, and make delicious holiday treats before I leave - somehow it never manages to turn out the way I planned.

This year, though, was complicated by the fact that I bought a new car last week. Friday, to be exact. Granted, I had been researching cars pretty regularly for the few weeks leading up to that point. But I finally managed to find a good deal on a BMW 328xi that was a loaner car at the dealership and haggled the guy down almost $8000 from his list price, which I feel good about. Even better, it's only got around 6500 miles on it, and comes with almost 3.5 years of free maintenance left! I know! After spending $4-6k a year on maintenance of my car each of the last two years, I'll now have to figure out something else to waste that money on. Maybe I'll have to buy the GF a pony.

Although after seeing that Verizon commercial, I think ponies scare me now...

Anyway, hope ya'll have a grand Christmas!

Friday, December 14, 2007


Something fun for the morning. I suppose this is handy to know. I always figured I could have taken down my entire kindergarten class. I just never thought I'd get to the point where I could do it all at once.

This is totally what the internet is for - warning us about things we would otherwise never have considered threats.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

In case you hadn't heard

Those of you familiar with the fiasco at Gate D during halftime of Jets games may be interested in hearing that the team is at least attempting to stop the hyjinks there. Of course, given all the added publicity, the number of idiots there for "the show" was even greater than usual this past week, thus overwhelming the additional security that was brought in for the event. For me this is no real surprise because honestly, take 32000 men, add 3-4 beers per guy, shake well and then tell them there's a good possibility of seeing boobs within easy walking distance and this sort of thing is going to happen. It doesn't happen just at Gate D either. When I went to my first Cleveland Browns game (the first preseason game at the new stadium) I was sitting in the "Dawg Pound" with all the rowdies - and believe me, they were chanting for boobs* at women walking down the aisles to their seats during the game.

Anyway, the reason I find the whole thing interesting (as usual) has nothing to do with the original story. The original video showing the ridiculousness was posted on YouTube some time ago. Once that was leaked, various news outlets picked up the story. What is interesting is that the video is no longer available. Why? Because the NFL has claimed that the content of said video is copyrighted material and demanded it be taken down.

Seriously? The NFL has copyrighted flashing boobs? Since when? Don't you think they would have mentioned something about this when Girls Gone Wild was in its prime?

* Well, the term they used wasn't exactly "boobs" but it made for better chanting, having more than one syllable. Guesses anyone? Hint - it's kind of an odd euphanism...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The sounds of silence

I officially have laryngitis, which tewtally sucks. After discussing it with my doctor's nurse yesterday, I'm under orders to rest my voice as much as possible over the next few days. Those of you who know me personally understand how difficult this is for me.

Mercifully, my boss is out of the office today and I have a half-day vacation this afternoon. So it's just a matter of keeping my head down so nobody tries to involve me in a conversation.

Man...I'm already bored...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Any day now he'll be a judge on "American Idol"

Can someone please explain why Michio Kaku is on *every* science-related documentary on television these days? Did someone pass a law? Did he hold hostage the wife and family of the CEO of Discovery Networks, only releasing them when the guy promised to put him in every show across their spectrum?

It's not that I actively dislike this guy - I barely know him, after all - but because he's on all the shows that I've started to become skeptical about everything he says. Sure, he's a PhD and all, but I really struggle to lend credibility to someone who claims to be an expert on both theoretical physics *and* "futurism"*. I can buy into the theoretical physics, but is he the *only* physicist in the US who can explain it in a way that normal people can understand?** Whatever happened to Brian Greene?

Maybe in the end my real issue is that I don't have any faith in anything that is claimed by anyone claiming to be a "futurist". It just find it incongruous that any disciplined scientist would dabble in fortune-telling. You want to know what's going to happen 100 years in the future? I'll tell you - you're dead and your grandkids hate you because a) the world is covered in pollution that *you* caused and b) nobody can afford any of those nice Chinese luxury products because we're all working as their indentured servants.

* Whatever the heck that is.
** If so, the state of our current higher education in physics is pretty darn sorry.

Fashion Nightmare


Not scared, you say? Did you scroll down to the bottom? Ah, yes...*now* you see...

Big presentation for the departmental bigwigs tomorrow, so no time to post much more. But lots to say, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

First tooth's free. Second one's free if you bring a friend...

I know I've blogged about the ridiculousness of the market for children's crap before, but I think I may have found something that takes the cake - a keepsake tooth that stores all your child's baby teeth as they fall out and also serves as a piggy bank* for all the money they collect. Allegedly, it was created by "a sentimental Tooth Fairy" who wanted to give the children of earth a place to store their baby teeth after they were lost. The website also implies that it helps promote good dental hygiene because it "...can help The Tooth Fairy determine how much money to give for a fallen baby tooth**. A cleaner and whiter baby tooth will probably get more money."

Maybe it's just me, but I see a few "issues" raised by the existance of such a device:
  1. It implies that The Tooth Fairy is disorganized and sloppy. The website states that she invented the Tooth Bank so that "baby teeth will not get lost or misplaced in Tooth Fairy Land". So what happened to all *my* baby teeth that she took away when I was a kid? If she did have such poor business practices, how did she get enough profits to afford to give me a quarter for my first tooth? And how did that manage to grow to a dollar for my baby molar? I suspect that after doing this for thousands of years, the Tooth Fairy knows what she's doing. Frankly I woudn't be surprised if she sued this website for libel.
  2. Doesn't it send the wrong message to kids that The Tooth Fairy will judge your teeth before deciding how much to give you? What sort of black market tooth chop shop is she running? Why does the Tooth Fairy need to view it in a display stand to make that assessment anyway? Wouldn't she just look at it when she takes it from under your pillow?
  3. Most importantly - who in the heck wants to hang on to their old baby teeth in perpetuity? Isn't that the whole reason they fall out? Isn't that the whole reason for the Tooth Fairy to begin with? Aren't we supposed to be recycling those teeth? What will the Tooth Fairy do once her supply of raw materials dries up? Will she start pulling adult teeth while we sleep? Will I wake up one morning next summer in desperate need of dentures? Scary...
* "Toothy bank"?
** "Fallen"? What, are baby teeth like WWII veterans now?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Support your local obvio-scientist!

Hey ladies!

Do you know how sometimes (say, every 28 days or so) you get to feeling cranky, or sad for no apparent reason? Ever wonder why after having a kid your mood can suddenly go into the crapper? Are you curious about why menopause sucks so much?

Well, recent research by some innovative scientists has discovered that there is something called "hormones" which cause these bad moods. So it's *not* your fault after all - you're victims just like everyone else! So quit blaming yourself, feminists - it's just the patriarchy!

In other news, Big Macs make you fat, the Earth does *not* actually sit on the back of a giant tortoise, and hot waitresses make better tips.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Almost enough to counter the Nicole Kidman factor

Have ya'll seen the trailer for the "Golden Compass" movie coming out next weekend? Seriously? Polar bears in suits of armor battling similarly-clad wooly rhinos? That might be the coolest fight scene I've ever even *heard* of in a film! Yet I'm still hesitant, because there are so many counterbalancing things about this film that both attract and repulse me at the same time. Here's how I see it:

  • Aformentioned bears vs rhinos in full armor scenes
  • Daniel Craig
  • Sam Elliott in full cowboy hat + bushy mustache regalia*
  • Nicole Kidman kind of weirds me out. I can't explain it, but everything she's done since "To Die For" has left me feeling like she's been replaced by an android.
  • The protagonist is a 12 year old orphan girl, who let's face it - is not really capable of kicking any sort of serious ass. This is probably why there are armored bears.
  • Speaking of which, the bears aren't real. Yeah, CGI is all right but it's nowhere as cool as if they were *real* trained polar bears who just also happened to be trained fighters.
So in the end it all nets out for me and I'll probably just throw it in the bottom of my netflix queue. Right after about 140 or so other movies...

*What is it about Sam Elliott that allows him not only to do this in every movie that he's ever in but also to pull it off with such aplomb?

Yep, tonight I'm totally cleaning up all the pictures on my cell phone...

Look! It's Greenland!

Taken from the airplane on the way back from Germany last September. It was really beautiful, all sorts of mountains and glaciers, and the ice sheet itself is amazing - it actually looks a mile thick, even from 40,000 feet.

Another sideways picture, but

Who ever knew that this book existed? I saw in a used bookstore a couple months ago, and *almost * bought it. I mean, Asimov + Shakespeare? I can't even imagine...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Not sure if it's funny or sad

My neighborhood of Bucktown recently got a new library branch a year or two ago. And this morning, as I was walkign around the neighborhood, waiting for my car to get repaired* I finally got around to visiting it for the first time. This was a first for me, because despite the fact that I was a library junkie for most of my childhood, I hadn't held a library card for nearly 20 years.

So I took advantage of my free 20 minutes to explore my local branch. It had only been open for about a half hour, and as I was browsing the shelves, I saw an interesting social phenomenon. While I was wandering through the stacks, I noticed that all the other people in the building were not looking at books, but rather sitting down and surfing the web. So now I'm even more exited about going because I'm apparently the only person in my whole neighborhood who actually reads books. While I find this a little sad, I'm also optimistic that any time I want to check out a book, it'll probably be on the shelf rather than checked out by someone else, score!

* Again...more foreshadowing for the upcoming new car adventure!

The GF has a ring!

Yup, yesterday I presented the GF with the biggest ring I could find. She's been so good to me I figured I had to come clean and make an honest woman of her.

Want to see it?

Hee hee hee...

Actually, I *did* buy this for her. She needs one for a shoot she's working on at work and I can buy them at cost. Oh the benefits of working for a distributor!

Speaking of which, I know things have been quiet lately. I'm slammed up against a deadline next week so I've been bringing a lot of work home and had no time to blog. But things should smooth out come the 11th, so hang in there, I'll be back on track in time for the holidays, blogging all about my new car buying experience - coming soon!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Quickie - Seriously? A *dog* made that sound?

Okay, the GF and I have been laughing our butts off at this video all freakin' day today. Had to share...

Who knew dog parks were *so* exciting?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I'm back!

Well, my two week stint as a road warrior is pretty much over now. And while I do have a number of interesting travel-related stories to share, I also have a desk and inbox covered in crap that I need to get to. Not that I wouldn't prefer to blog all morning, but I'm kind of getting paid a lot more to do the whole "work" thing than I am to blog*. Mercifully my weekend is almost entirely open so I'll get a chance to get caught up by the end of the week.

In the meantime, to keep ya'll entertained, here's a little clip I saw that web-video geeks like myself will find not only funny, but also pretty darn accurate. Especially the one.

* at least that's the case currently.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Ah, Sweet Justice...

I'm on the road again this week, taking a trip out east to New England for business. Earlier this week I was in Nashville just long enough to eat some barbeque and check out some Honky-tonk bars. Oh, and I had my flight back home cancelled - just because of a few tornadoes! It was a little odd to have the power go out at the airport every few minutes though.

Anyway, naturally, any time I travel there's almost always a story, and the flight out here was no different. In order to knock off Rhode Island from my list of "States I've been to", I flew from O'Hare into Providence. It was one of those small Embraer jets. I don't typically mind those because I can usually score one of the single seat rows where it's one seat on one side and two seats on the other. And I managed to do so on this flight too. Sitting across from me were two businessmen who left me alone* most of the flight.

Except for one moment, about 40 minutes into the flight. As I was sitting there reading, I suddenly heard the "" sound that only came from one source. Someone on the plane was trimming his fingernails - and it was the businessman in the window seat across the aisle from me.

There are two kinds of people in the world**: those who believe trimming your nails is a disgusting matter of personal hygiene best kept hidden away from the general populace, and those who think it's perfectly acceptable to do just about anywhere, preferably in public***. These are the people who trim their nails at their desk in the office, in the car on the way home from work, at the food court at the mall, etc. I can't stand these people. They are an unsightly barnacle on the otherwise smooth, silky surface of my life. Of course, I didn't say anything. I knew that God shared my opinion about these people, and knew his wrath would be swift and terrible.

Sure enough, about 10 minutes later - after the beverage service - Mr. Nail-Trimmer knocked over his glass of tomato juice all over his tray and pants and seat. It was everywhere, wonderful red stain-y vengeance for his lack of social conditioning - yay! I gleefully watched as he tried to summon the attendant for more napkins while the seepage of justice slowly spread over more of his jeans and shirt.

Like I said, God hates public nail-trimmers.

*Except to ask how the Stephen Colbert book was that I was reading - a present from the GF!
** Other than "Those who think there are two kinds of people in the world, and those who don't."
*** Note: this does not include those people who break a nail and need to trim it - those people are simply making the best of an unfortunate situation.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My annual Halloween Rant about Slutty Costumes

On the way into work each morning, I pass all kind of little mom-and-pop retail establishments – the number of which only increases as I move west into less affluent neighborhoods. On the way in this morning, I happened to notice a clothing store at one of the corners that was showing a bunch of new styles of dresses. Typically, this wouldn’t be of much note, except that all the mannequins were sporting hemlines that ended well above the knee – in some cases as much as six inches so.

Now, I’m (obviously) no fashion expert. As much as I try to understand women’s style choices there are always moments where I am confused. It’s like just when I start to feel like I understand it – they pull something like this and I get all befuddled again. No doubt, this is all part of the plan.

So here’s my confusion. It’s nearly November…in Chicago…last weekend it got down to the mid 30’s overnight. Why would a woman want to wear something so short that even sitting down would be a risky endeavor? And why would a store want to offer nothing *but* that as an option? Is this just a continuation of the “slutty [insert profession here]” costume trend* – only now it’s extending into real life? The only explanation I can guess stems from the visit to the party store that the GF and I took last night. We had to get some decorations but while I was there I saw a full line of “frilly underwear” style women’s undergarments**. How slutty were the models on the packaging? They were basically turned around and lifting their skirts to show off the frills of the underwear inside said packaging!

My friends, we have truly come to a turning point where costumes are being designed so sluttily that there are now “special Halloween costume panties”*** on the shelf designed purely to take advantage of that fact.

* This year’s most ridiculous one? “Slutty Dorothy” from the Wizard of Oz – picture the dress that Judy Garland wore in the movie, now remove about 2 feet of hem and drop the d├ęcolletage down about 4”.
** Remember, this was in a card and party store, not Fredricks of Hollywood
***In multiple styles, mind you…

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Moderation - it's not just for booze anymore

Riding the el this weekend I found myself in a pretty full train, heading out towards O’Hare. In situations like this, it’s nearly impossible not to peoplewatch. And in due time soon I found myself fascinated by this one guy who boarded the train and sat across the aisle from where I was standing. He was notable for one main reason – he had very recently applied some sort of lip balm.

By itself, this would not typically be something I picked up on. I mean I recognize that men sometimes apply chapstick like everyone else. Myself, I rarely go anywhere without my tube of Neutrogena lip stuff*. But I found myself unable to look away from this guy because not only had he applied the lip stuff to his lips, but he had very obviously, applied it to the entire area around his mouth too. His jowls featured a “ring of gloss” around his lips which reflected any light that passed near it, particularly so considering it was about 1:30 and the sun was positioned “just right”. At moments, it was blinding.

So parents - remind your children that lip balm is for the lips, and is not intended for use as a general facial moisturizer. If you don’t, they’ll end up on a train someday looking like a leech in search of its next victim and people will stare.

* This post sponsored by Neutrogena: “If you put stuff on your body and it’s not Neutrogena, you’re probably going to give yourself mange!”

Friday, October 19, 2007


Obviously, things haven't been working out as well as I'd like with respect to my week-daily witticisms here. Honestly, it's been a combination of a lot of things including (but not limited to):
  • A level of crazy-business at work that borders on mad-stupid
  • A lot of TTC-related stuff as we kick off the new season (adding a fourth show - woot!)
  • A plethora of weekend guests lately
  • Having to do my own laundry after needing to cancel my cleaning lady the last two times* due to scheduling conflicts
  • In general, there's not much interesting going in in my life lately

Even if I were to blog, my entries would be mostly along the lines of "Today I woke up and went to work until late. Then I had a meeting. Then I had some cereal for dinner. Don't feel bad, you're not missing much.

So I guess I'm saying I'm taking the next week off just to get through this latest gig playing host and try to get my life organized again. After next weekend I'll have all sorts of adventures to share from the getawway that I'm taking the GF on, so at least I'll have material.

* Which I think is irritating her, understandibly

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Quickie - Five of these things are not like the others...

Not a lot of time today (obviously) but I needed to pass along a neat game I found over the weekend. I can't make it past the "park sign" level. Anyone?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Pretty + Rich = Happiness, right?

By now, many of you have already heard about the Craigslist posting from a woman in NYC requesting information about how to find rich men to date. And you may have heard about the hullabaloo that her posting created. All over the internet this posting was repeated to much ridicule. Pretty much everyone decried this woman as a gold-digging idiot. And as you can see in the link above, there were a number of responses to the posting where various "witty" men replied how there was little "business sense" in making such an arrangement. Obviously, the woman pulled her posting down, but it was too late. Caught up in the internet version of a "b*tchhunt", the woman's story got passed around on Digg, Reddit, etc until it became a 'net legend.

The way I see it, the woman made just one main mistake: she posted her inquiry on a site full of nerds. Sure, Craigslist has become a pretty commonplace site these days, but it's still full of regular people - the ones who were awkward in high school, who were afraid of talking to the pretty girl, who went to prom - but maybe not with the girl they spent four years dreaming about. Maybe *that* girl was cruel and snobby, maybe she just ignored him. So when this woman made her posting, describing herself as "beautiful" (but acting incredibly shallow) it was like throwing chum into shark-infested waters. Suddenly, all the nerds (who, in true nerd form had been successful post-high school) couldn't wait to get back at her, with predictable results.

Why do I bring this up? Well, I've been fascinated by how visceral the response was to this woman, who had done nothing more than honestly describe what society knew anyway - there are some women out there who are attracted to rich men. It's not like this is some terrible secret, after all. But her only mistake was in doing it so openly in a space that is largely considered public. She would have been much better off (and had much better results) had she done this in a more selective space. For example, consider this link, which I saw an actual ad for on some news site I was reading. When I first saw the ad, I was pretty sure it was a joke - a comic parody of some of the sites out there that claim to be dating sites, but are really just hook-up, escort, or outright hooker sites*. But looking around, as ridiculous as it appears, it's also kind of disturbing. But at least that site claims to be a dating site. If you look up at the corner, you'll see a "sister site" which is basically a site for young attractive women to find rich men who will just give them money becaus they are hot. The amounts vary, but range up to "over $20,000 monthly". Because even shallow girls, apparently, have standards.

In the end, that is what makes the whole thing with the Craigslist posting so interesting for me. Because that girl did nothing wrong other than apparently picking the wrong website to start her search. If she had just found one of these other two sites first, she'd probably be pulling down $20k per month for nothing other than being a "personal secretary"! Sweet deal huh?

* I'm looking at you, And no, I'm not going to link to you, who knows where you've been?

Friday, October 12, 2007

I wore out those old boots by now...

On the way into work this morning, I heard a story on the plight of corn farmers in Illinois on my local public radio station. It was all about how tough things are because everybody think’s they’re rakin in cash hand-over-fist due to the ethanol boom. And while some have done well this year, next year all their suppliers are hiking prices to try and get a piece of the action.

What struck me about the story was how the reporter mentioned that the farmer who was being interviewed was “having trouble with his GPS system”. Now, I understand that some of these farms can get pretty big, but really? A GPS system? Is it that hard to navigate from one row to the next? Sure, it might be harder to figure out whether a portion of soybeans had been harvester already, but corn’s pretty easy to figure out whether it’s been done already – either the stalks are 8 feet tall, or they are stubble. The whole thing seems kind of excessive to me.

Speaking of travels, because I’ve been doing so much for work lately that I’ve been slowly whittling down my “unvisited states map” that I did a few years back. Thanks to work, I can add most of New England and Nevada to my list. Delaware and Virginia were side trips taken during work, but I think they totally count, even if I was just driving through them. Here’s the new map! Woot!

Better yet is that I’ve already got trips coming up to Utah and Rhode Island in the next few months! Of course, my world map is still pretty vacant, but still – I’m pleased with my progress.

Quickie - More than meets the eye...sorta

No real time for a real entry today, again. But here's something neat to make up for my lack of an interesting life.

Note: It's not *actually* a transformer, as it doesn't transform into a giant robot heck-bent on world domination/saving our human asses. But it's still neat-o!

Unbelievable! Paper Toy Transformer ... - Click here for another funny movie.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fell off the blogwagon for a while...

Among the many things I missed about my trip to Europe upon my return to the states was the amount of time I had to blog while I was there. After being gone from work for two weeks, I naturally returned to find two weeks worth of work sitting in my in-tray. Plus, I had to write up all my findings from the show and visits, and publish said report to the company intranet while also getting back up to speed on the strategic planning project I’m heading up for TTC* and the board meeting we had earlier this week. Oh, and my dad and stepmom dropped in for a *super* fun visit this past weekend, which somewhat limited by available time for blogging then too.

All things taken into consideration, I’m feeling like a *total* blog-slacker the last couple weeks because I’ve been so busy that my life has had little to nothing happening that would even remotely be blogworthy. I’ve been so busy that I’ve even failed to email people my usual “Happy birthday” wishes – and that’s bad for me because I’ve got a lot of friends with birthdays in September**. Nor have I been visiting my usual blogroll of friends to stay up to date on everyone. But this weekend I had a business trip get cancelled, so I’ll hopefully be able to catch up this weekend. Yay!

Now, back to work. On the bright side, at least I’m not as bad off as these guys in China:

* The Theater Company. I figure it’s just easier to call it this, so NEW BLOGTERM ALERT everyone!
** Including J.Po. Happy very belated birthday dear friend!!!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Back to business

Arriving home over the weekend was tough. Not in the “Oh, I miss Europe” sort of way, but rather in the dealing with jet lag sort of way. It took me two days to adjust when I got there, and three days to adjust once I got back. And considering how I was pretty much over jet lag in a single day the last time I went to Europe, I am pretty sure this is another sign I’m getting older.

When I arrived one of the first things I did was to get caught up on all my pop culture news. Shockingly enough, BBC doesn’t carry a lot of coverage of the entertainment scene in the US – I didn’t see a single episode of American reality television. Not that I really minded. But I was excited to see that the new Wes Anderson movie was getting ready to come out. I was even more excited to see that he had made a short film called “Hotel Chevalier” involving one of the characters from The Darjeeling Limited (played by Jason Schwartzman) and Natalie Portman and that it was free on iTunes. Even more intriguing was when I read that Natalie Portman got nekkid in the first few minutes of the movie!

Being a fan of Ms. Portman’s body of work, as well as all things Wes Anderson, I immediately headed over to iTunes to download it. It took a while* but once I watched it, a few things came to mind:

  • I still really like Wes Anderson. Sure, it’s not his greatest work ever (for me, that is The Royal Tennebaums) but it’s better than Bottle Rocket.
  • It’s kind of short. Only a scene or two’s worth of material and there’s a lot of backstory that is (probably intentionally) left out.
  • The nekkidness barely qualifies. Yes, she does take her clothes off, but you never really see anything. It’s “artful” nudity, which actually helps make Natalie Portman that much more attractive – she doesn’t need to flash anyone to show she’s got mad acting skills.
  • Speaking of which, something tells me because the nekkidness was so disappointing that the whole thing was a publicity ploy for Darjeeling Limited. “Visit the website to see Natalie Portman’s first nude scene in film**!”. Judging from the buzz I heard I suspect it’ll work. I mean, it got me, right?

It just goes to show the lengths to which studios will go to build buzz. I’m still a little suspicious about the Hotel Chevalier thing though. Maybe Natalie and Wes really hit it off, maybe they offered her a wad o’cash***, I don’t know. But at the end of that short I found myself thinking “She took her pants off for *that*?” I mean, were *I* Natalie Portman, I don’t think I would have taken the role purely based on the script.

I think I’ll deal with it by simply believing that she really wanted to get into the exclusive “Wes Anderson Movie Regular Cast” clique, and this is what they make pledges do as part of the hazing. I can only thank God that they didn’t publish Bill Murray’s initiation on iTunes.

* It’s a 150MB file, after all.
** Technically, I don’t think that is accurate either, because I know there were some scenes in “Goya’s Ghosts” where she’s not clothed in the asylum, but again – tasteful nudity. And I never actually saw the film, so those scenes may have been cut from the final edit.
*** What with her being so short of cash at the moment only making 2-3 films a year and the residuals from the Star Wars prequels probably only being in the mid-six figures…

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wrapping up

Waking up this morning was not the greatest experience. In the interest of diversity, I am staying in a different hotel than this weekend. It's only for one night, thankfully. Copenhagen is still great, but this hotel is located right next to both a construction site and also the main rail line headed north from the main station. The bad thing about the construction is that apparently the Danes like to start work at 6:00 in the morning. The bad thing about the rail line is it's on a curved part of the line, so every few minutes a loud screeching of the trains echoes through the neighborhood. The odd thing is that my previous hotel is only about two blocks away, but I didn't hear any of either of those while I was there. Go figure.

Yesterday was my day trip up to Sweden for a business trip. Even though it was only for a day, the town is pretty small so it only took an hour or two to walk around pretty much the entire area. I took some pictures, but will get to those once I get back as I need to go get some breakfast and pack. In a couple hours I'll make my way down to the main station where I'll catch a train to the airport. Then I have a direct flight from Copenhagen back to O'Hare. Yay for direct flights! Of course, I'm not all that excited about air travel again after being spoiled after two weeks of pain-free train travel. But on the bright side I'll be on my way back to a place where English is the main language again. So I've got that goin' for me.

All told it has been a great trip. Did a lot of good stuff for work but also had my first change to tour a foreign country on my own and I totally survived. I also learned a lot of things that Americans should know:
  1. Ladies, get ready for incredibly tight pants! That's right, assuming that all fashion in the US comes from Europe, I can safely say that this fall and next winter you'll be wearing pants so tight that they look like they are body paint. Because that's what all the women over here are wearing. Now you all know what to ask for for Christmas/Hannukah!
  2. People here are just as interested in the presidential election as we are.
  3. If you're coming, take trains. Screw air travel, get a Eurail Pass and go crazy.
  4. European chocolate makes American chocolate taste like wax. Sure, we all know that already, but it's still true - just so you know.
Two hours until the airport. Five hours until I'm on the plane. 14 hours until I'm back home. Then I'm taking tomorrow off. After last night I'm gonna need it. There sure as heck had better not be any construction on my street once I get back.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Copenhagen - I'm lovin' it!

Sunday, I hooked up with a friend of mine from Chicago (who moved here recently) for a day-long guided tour of Copenhagen. While we didn't really get started until about noon, I managed to cram an awful lot of the city into a single day. So let's go!

First stop was the central square. First thing you notice is the number of green roofs on various towers. Sure, I've seen the green patina form on copper structural forms before, but never like I've seen it here. Seriously, it's like every other roof has the copper roof with the green patina. The other thing one noticed in the main square is the amount of advertising on the buildings. If you click on this picture and look closely, you'll even see "McDonald's - I'm Lovin' It!" on one of them. Sigh...

Then we wandered down a little pedestrian area. It's an interesting thing about European cities - they've all had a little area in the city center that acts more like an outdoor shopping mall than a street. But here was another one, again full of musicians and people walking around. Honestly, I love it and I'm going to miss it when I get back home. Sure, lots of people are walking around North Michigan Ave, but it's not the same really. Also - note more of the green patina rooftops? See? I *told* you so...

Then we got to another little square that I think was called the King's Square (only, you know, in Danish) where I saw the old Opera House. Like the opera house in Hanover, it was beautiful. Unlike the one in Hanover, it was no longer the actual opera house. But more on that in a minute.

Just another shot of more architecture with the green patina roof....

Eventually, we had worked our way though thte city down to the harbor front, where T introduced me to the "new" opera house, which was apparently funded almost entirely by Copenhagen's richest man. Obviously an eccentric, the design of the building is quite modern in comparison to the old one. So much so that when T. pointed it out to me, he referred to it as "the building with the Samurai hat".

Across the harbor from the Samurai Building is the home of the Danish Royal family, including Queen Margarethe. Here's a view looking from the harbor up through the palace. Notice the big domed building (again with the patina, see?), it's not a part of the palace but we'll get to it in a bit.

Denmark has it's own version of the famous palace guards in England. They come complete with the big beaver hats. As T was quick to point out though, the Danish version isn't obliged to do the whole "stoneface" routine like the Brits are - if you mess with the Danes, they'll just arrest you. Seemed like good advice, so I just took my shot from a distance...

Here's the Queen's house. It's identical to two others that are located right next to it. that form a little circle o'identical houses. We weren't quite sure why they were all built exactly the same, but the best theory we could come up with was it's a way to fight terrorism.

After walking through the Queen's front driveway, we made our way over to the big domed building from the earlier photograph. It's a big church called Fredrick's Church, or "The Marble Church". The largest dome in Scandinavia, it's pretty darn big.

A little video clip of the inside:

Next up was the old fortifications known as the Kastellet ("Citadel"). These are intact old fortifications on the north side of the city proper. While the military value of the fort is a little questionable, it's still held by the Danish military and used as a home for the Home Guard, Judge Advocate's offices, and some other administrative functions. Soldiers still live in some of the buildings, but the grounds around it are known more as being a big park that is open to the public during the day and where people bring dogs to run along the ramparts.

Just outside of the Kastellet is the famous statue of The Little Mermaid. Yes, it's much smaller than you'd think. Yes, it's very popular with Asian tour groups. And yes, it was still in possession of its head that day.

Just a little ways up from the little mermaid was a little monument. Leaning in to examine the plaque on it, I was a little shocked to see that it was a memorial/fundraising tool for raising money for "Aged Seaman and Seamen Widows".

Why was I shocked? Simple, take a look at what the memorial is made from. That's right, it's a defused mine - the exact thing that probably turned some of those women into widows to begin with. Irony anyone?

Another picture of the area around the Kastellet. Is it any wonder people walk their dogs there?

After touring the Kastellet, we walked over to the "King's Park" where we saw the king's "old place". I mean, after seeing *this* dump, who *wouldn't* want to move into three of four identical houses on their own cul-de-sac? Sheesh...

Conveniently enough, fairly close to the old castle is a grave full of famous Danes! No, not Hamlet, but just about everyone else including Neils Bohr, Hans Christian Andersen, and Kirkegaard! So, obviously, a picture of at least one of those is pretty much obligatory:

After checking out the cemetery, we made our way to an area of Copenhagen called Christiana. This is another former military base that was abandoned by the military and taken over by squatters in the 1970's. Since then, it has essentially functioned as an independent geopolitical entity within the borders of Copenhagen. The people there live basically in a hippie society with their own metalsmith, bike repair shop, and a few booths selling tchotchkes to tourists. Of course, it's most famous economic engine was the hash trade, which pretty much functioned in the same open air market for decades. But of course, that attracted the uncomfortable attention of the police who cracked down until they agreed to take the hash trade underground (see the entire history of Christiana here). Of course, the people of Christiana don't take kindly to strangers with cameras taking pictures, so I don't have any of the area. But it was really fascinating. Like a combination Grateful Dead theme park, abandoned neighborhood, hippie commune, and that part of the playground where the "misunderstood" kids hung out.

After walking around the area for a while, we pulled into a little live music venue where there was a blues jam session going on. Who would have thought that everyone in Christiana was a blues musician? But apparently, they are as the signup sheet was about a mile long. We listened over beers for a while and then headed back into the city.

This is one of the most well-known churches in Copenhagen - the Von Frelsers Church. That spiral around the spire is a staircase with 400 steps that goes all the way up to the top. Unfortunately, it was closed on this day, so I had to figure out a different way to see Copenhagen from up high...

Hello, Tivoli Gardens! Fortunately, they have a ride (much like the Kite-Eating Tree at the old Camp Snoopy in the Mall of America - only about 250/300 feet tall) which helped me satiate my love of things up high.

Of course, this video is *highly* taboo according to the rules of the ride. But I was subtle about it so I escaped!

The rest of Tivoli Gardens was an odd combination of Disney World and Central Paris. It felt old, but still had a bunch of entertaining and modern rides. And good food. So it was a great place for my day in Copenhagen to wrap up, over beer, tapas, and good conversation catching up with a good friend. Yay!

More pictures of Tivoli Gardens:

The last thing we did there was watch a little bit of the final concert of the Tivoli season, featuring "Nephew" which is a band that really wants to be Duran Duran plus the Police. Only the lead singer plays key-tar. They weren't terrible. Kind of poppy - sort of the boy band of Denmark.

Finally, on the way out, I passed by the Hard Rock Cafe. Yup, just walked by. It's amazing that those are so blahse now that they are ubiquitous. I remember being in junior high and beign *so* healous when one of my friends woudl come back from vacation with s Hard Rock t-shirt. Now I couldn't take one if they were free.

Of course, it didn't help that it is located right next to a "Build-a-Bear workshop". Yeah, honey. I went to Copenhagen and I got you a Hard Rock t-shirt and a Build-a-Bear. *That* will score you points...

On the rails again II - the revenge

I do have a *ton* of pictures and stories from my wanderings in Copenhagen, but at the moment, it's taking longer to assemble than I originally anticipated. For now, here's a few interesting points about Denmark to tide ya'll over until I get into Sweden tonight as I'm about to leave for the train station.
  • Danish is a *weird* language. And for the life of me I can't figure out what *anyone* is saying. Actually, to me people talking in Danish sounds an awful lot like English being played backwards. I keep expecting to hear satanic phrases pop up in conversations on the street like in a Black Sabbath album.
  • In Denmark, while they have "Danishes" (the breakfast pastry) they do not call them "Danishes". Instead, they call them "Vienna Bread". Potato, po-tahto - either way they are pretty damn good here. Except for this morning when a ginormous Japanese tour group cleaned out the free breakfast buffet before I could get down there; at 8:30 in the morning, too! Grrr...
  • Finally, I saw this on Geekology yesterday and could not believe my eyes. They really are transforming clothes. (Warning - there is fashion model nekkidness at the very end of the clip, but it's pretty tasteful for fashion nekkidness. The outfit itself is much less tasteful, and WAY less utilitarian. I mean, when would one *ever* need a dress that can retract all the way up into the hat?). Anyway, the rest of the clip is so fascinating I'm posting it anyway.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The trip from Bremen up to Copenhagen felt much quicker than it actually was. First, I had to take a train from Bremen up to Hamburg to catch a connection to Copenhagen. But what I hadn't anticipated is that since it was Saturday it was football game day in Germany! And apparently, Hamburg had just played a match in Bremen that morning, which they had won. So the train platform was not only populated with people traveling to visit friends and family, but it was also full of very happy Hamburg supporters. It was a much different experience from anything I'd ever seen in American sports. Beer and Champagne was flowing freely, not only on the train, but also on the platform as we were waiting for the train. And, of course, every few minutes, the songs would start up:

Sure, I could have taken a longer shot, but you get the idea.

As for Hamburg itself, well, I didn't really get to see a lot of it, as my connection only left me with about 30 minutes between trains. In fact, I barely had enough time to walk around the station a little bit before making my way to my train to Copenhagen. And that part of the trip was one of the most fun because I got to take a ferry from Germany to Denmark - while still on the train! It was neat because the whole train just drove right onto the ferry:

Note: the face that appears a few times in that clip is not, indeed, a ghost. Rather she is a very nice English translator I sat across from who was returning from a conference in Germany. She was really friendly and spoke incredibly clear English, which was refreshing after a week of German.

Once on the ferry, I had 45 minutes to wander around on deck, exchange my Euros for Danish Kroner* and wander up on deck to watch the transit. It was beautiful:

Then, once we were docked on the other side, we really started to make time. As fast as the trains I rode in Germany were, they were pretty much all short-run trains. Now that we were on a long-distance train, we were really moving!

Pulling into Copenhagen after six hours on various trains, I was more than happy that I had chosen a hotel a block away from the central station. Yay for short walks.

* Denmark is in the EU, but like the UK it has an exception from switching to the Euro.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

On the rails again, just can't wait to get on the rails again....

After a week in Bremen, I'm suddenly finding that it's a lot harder to pack everything back into my suitcase than it was before I left. Hmmm... Good thing I've got an "expandable" suitcase and an extra duffel bag packed away. Otherwise there's a bunch of stuff I wouldn't be able to bring home.

Yesterday on my last day here I finished up some touristy shopping and managed to catch a glockenspiel show back in the little Bottcherstrasse (fake Diagon's Alley) before I left. Yeah, when they rebuilt the area after the war, the installed a full-size glockenspiel at the top of one of the houses.

The show only plays three times a day, but it goes on for a *long* time. And, oddly enough, it is accompanied by an interactive display that sings the praises of various famous people in the transportation industry - including Robert Fulton and Charles Lindbergh (who is also apparently famous in Germany):

But this morning, I'm packing. I leave for the train station at 11:28 on a trip that will take (allegedly) six hours by train. Suddenly, I find myself wishing that I had brought more reading materials with me, because I doubt I'll be able to find a new book to read at the station that is in English...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Day 5 - Wandering Hannover

Today I was able to finally spend a few hours wandering around Hannover. Sure, I've been coming for almost a week, but most of my time has been spent at the show. First, coming out of the subway, I wasn't all that impressed. Like many cities in Germany, most of the town was leveled due to allied bombing in WWII. So much of the architecture is 1950's and later. And let's face it - the architecture of the 50's doesn't do anything for me. Case in point, this is the maing shopping area in downtown. Kind of like Michigan Avenue in Chicago, it's full of pedestrians walking around with shopping bags. Unlike Michigan Avenue - none of them were carrying American Girl Store bags.

Yet just down the street from this intersection is the Hannover Opera House. Allegedly, it's one of the best opera houses in the world. And it was rebuilt in only 5 years after the war. Those Hannover folks suuure love their opera!

In the Market Square is the old City Hall ("Rathaus"). Similar in function to the one in Bremen, this one is a lot more Gothic in design - without having the Renaissance facade that was added to the Bremen Rathaus.

By this time, I had finally found my way into the Old City ("AltStahdt"). After block after block of 1950's modernism (and yes, opera houses) I was finally back in the Old German city with all its Gothic gorgeousness.

Of course, one can never completely escape America when in Europe. And while I was expecting to see McDonald's, Subway, Pizza Hut, etc while I was here I was shocked to stumble upon a Big Boy statue. Especially one with an arm being held up by duct tape and advertising a restaurant called "Route 77". Something tells me whichever German restaurant owner bought this statue off of Euro-eBay has no idea which restaurant these came from.

Back to the old city. Not all of it completely escaped the bombing. This portion of the neighborhood consisted of old buildings that were re-built from timbers when they collapsed in the war. They were all collected from a variety of parts of the city - wherever they could find buildings that were damaged, but still pretty much all there. Then they moved them and reassembled them along this one street so people could see what old timber fronts used to look like. It looked pretty convincing to me!

A few blocks away from those old buildings is the oldest standing house in Hannover. Built in 1422, this building escaped the bombing and is full of character. Click on the (I know, sideways) picture and look at the woodworking between the windows and between the floors. I know, it *looks* like it's just painting, but the wood was carved, then painted. It's really gorgeous.

Then, of course, the requisite picture of another example of freakin' weird German sculpture. This time it's a dude sitting in the antlers of a deer. Go figure.

Then, because I only had about an hour to explore, I made my way back to the Hannover Hauptbahnhof ("Central Station" for you non-TOWWAS readers). It's actually much bigger than Bremen's station, and architecturally, more impressive. I couldn't even get it all in one picture.

I have more pictures, of course, but I didn't want to bore you all with more sideways pictures of outrageously tall church steeples which I could only take sideways. Besides, the architecture here is pretty representative.

One amusing story from the day is my quest for a "Hannover" magnet. A friend of mine at work requested magnets from each city I visited to add to her collection. It was a reasonable request, so I was running around the train station before my train came trying to find one. But what I discovered is that apprently Germans have a lower tolerance for cheap tourist tchotchske than Americans do. Despite the fact that the Hauptbahnhof is basically a shopping mall in addition to a station, and despite the fact that it had something like 50-75 different stores, only one had a magnet that said "Hannover" anywhere on it. And it only had *one* of them. And I hadn't seen any stores during my wanderings that might have carried them either. Sure, I had found three different stores where I could buy dildos, edible underwear, and furry handcuffs. But there is only one "Hannover" magnet in the entire city - and I bought it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Quickie - The joys of language

Funny story about my commute out to "work" this morning. As I was taking the subway from the train station to the show, I was sitting in front of three men who were speaking spanish. It was a joy to hear a language that I actually understand for once. And as much as I didn't *want* to eavesdrop, they were right in front of me, and I couldn't understand anything that anyone else was saying anyway. They were mostly talking about business and negotiations*, and after about 4-5 minutes, they suddenly all switched to English. It was weird. For a second, I thought my Spanish was so good that I was understanding it as English.

But no, they were actually just speaking English. And they were talking about some pretty saucy stuff. Maybe that's why they switched to English, I don't know. but it sure seems like the wrong language to switch to to discuss dirty stories in a country where pretty much *I've* encountered speaks English anyway.

Anyway, about 4 minutes from the show, one of them was discussing a particularly interesting negotiating tactic - claiming that "And then, as she was gently manipulating my private parts I suddenly became much more interested in making an offer!"

The other two laughed heartily at this. Me, I was wondering what line of work these guys were in.

* It turns out they were businessmen who were goign to the same place I was

Day 4 - On with the show!

After a few days of bustin' my hump to try and cover all of this ginormous show, I'm doing pretty well, and was able to throttle back and take in some of the floor shows at the various company booths here. And let me tell you, it was worth it. You see, some of the companies roll out new products at the show. Others (who may not have anything terribly new or innovative) rely on extravagant, overproduced, occasionally comical entertainment*.

Let's start off with something simple. Since we're in Europe, how about some dancing Benny Hill girls!? Or better yet, Benny Hill Girls who play their own instruments?

If dancing girls aren't your thing, how about girls bouncing from ginormous rubber bands?

Maybe that didn't do it for you either. Maybe this is all pretty conventional to you, typical of what you'd see at your locak Halloween parade. Well how about three Robin-Hood-type dudes in primary colors battling an army of Euro-Matrix Ninjas in a battle to the finish!?!?

Yeah, I thought the same thing. Wow. On the way back I passed by the giant Lowenbrau lion that I showed the picture of a few days back. What wasn't captured in that picture is that is animatronic. And it roars! ROOOAARRRR!!!...well...kind of. To me it sounds a little more like a giant cow, but maybe Lion roars sound like cows in German:

When all was done and I'd finished up another 11 hour day, I stopped by the lounge to take a video that would actually upload. Too bad the pianist wasn't there this time...

* Think the orchestra-cum-keytar pop group from earlier.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Day 3 - Myths dispelled and confirmed

Remember back when I knew nothing about what this trip was going to be like? Well, after two days walking the show and four days (basically, including my travel day) living here I can say that Pretty much everything I thought about Germany was true (pretty much everyone speaks at least passable English, the weather is for hte most part great, and taking the train is really easy), but a lot of what I had heard about the show was pretty far off. The booth babes are not, actually, nekkid and covered on body paint. In fact, they are more professional here than they are in most American shows. They are dressed quite professionally, but they basically act as a waitress in most booths - serving to bring cookies, sandwiches, and water when one is meeting with the actual company reps. Actually, the only stereotypical booth babe that I was was the "Eve" character that some cutting tool company in America uses at all it's trade shows. I felt kind of bad for her actually. Walking past, I could see this look in her eyes that was something like "Got in himmel! Why did *I* have to be hired by the pervy Americans..."

Anyway, I got two short clips to share today using the higher resolution setting that I discovered today. Of course, now I discover that Google downgrades it as part of it's "processing" step. Stupid Google. Anyway, first, ride with me on the super fast train! Wheeee!

Then, a little view of the grand lounge area in my hotel. Yes, TOWWAS, that is an actual piano player down there.

All right forget the lobby. I'm tired of waiting for the friggin video to load Stupid Google. I'll try again tomorrow. Maybe. In the interim, here's a completely non-trip related video that I ran across while waiting for *my* video to load. It's way funnier anyway:


Other than that today was pretty dull actually. Not for me, I was meeting with different companies all day, including one meeting that went for about 3 hours straight. But in terms of blog material it's been pretty dry.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Day 2 - Back to work

Ow, my feet...

I went to the biggest trade show I've ever experienced today. Not that this was a terrible shock, after all this *was* the reason that I was sent over here to begin with. After waking up this morning, I moseyed down to the Bremen station and caught a 8:18 am train to Hannover. This was my first experience with German trains and it was pretty awesome. The train showed up *right* on time and whisked me away to Hannover, nearly 90 miles away. The trip was incredibly smooth and stunningly quiet. As someone who rides Chicago's commuter rail system every now and then I can now say that I am filled with shame by comparison. Best of all it was ridiculously fast! Wheeee!

By the time I got to Hannover and figured out how to use the subway system, I found myself in a huge campus of exhibition shows that were populated with some very odd examples of architecture (I know, again with the sideways-ness. Blame Apple, I've tried everything I can think of). For example, here's a building on campus that looks remarkably like the Starbases from Star Trek:

After wandering through the first massive exhibition hall, I found one of hte aisles blocked up for a few minutes by very tall and intimidating security men, wearing the ear microphones that secret service agents wear. For a second, I was beside myself thinking that maybe Angele Merkel was going to show up, but instead it was a bunch of guys that I didn't recognize. If you can recognize any of these guys, you're more knowledgeable about German politics than I am:

This picture is for the GF: It's a Japanese rock orchestra that we saw on Public Television during pledge week. They play very pop-sounding music on violins, viola, cello, and yes - keytar. Classic stuff...

By the time I walked through the first two buildings, I had spent nearly Eight hours on my feet walking mile after mile. So when I saw the giant robotic lion swigging a huge mug o'beer, you'll understand why at first I thought it was a hallucination:

So then I made my way back to the train station, because allegedly there was a DB train that went directly from the trade fair area back to Bremen. Better yet, it was an ICE train, so it went even faster than the one I was on this morning. But then something happened that I never thought I'd see in my lifetime. My scheduled 5:27 train didn't show up on time - it was late! When the train finally did show up at around 6:00, the funny thing was that the whole DB system was basically just in denial about the whole thing - referring to the train as "the 5:27" and saying that it was still arriving at 5:27. Oh well, I suppose if a train is late but the entire country still believes it's on time, then the train isn't actually late.

Still, as long as the train gets me back to the hotel, I'll believe whatever they want me to believe.

About last night

So, after all my posting yesterday, you probably thought I was too tired to do anything else, right? Well you'd be wrong!

About the time I finished last night, I had dinner reervations for actual dinner at the Ratskellar. on my way out the door, though, I got caught up watching a little bit of the free orchestra concert taking place in the rear of the hotel. Like in America, the people gathered around had brought their own torches. Unlike the US, where the sight of a crowd with huge beeswax torches would elicit cries of a riot or legal liability, here, it's just a bunch of people sitting out with huge candles.

Of course, by the time I pulled myself away and made it down to the restaurant, I was a little late for my reservation. But since it was kind of a slow evening, I was still able to get into an available dining closet! Obviously, all the dining closet types were busy sitting on the lawn, imperiling their children with torches and non-flame resistant clothing.

I, on the other hand, was enjoying some kind of traditional dish involving a kind of German version of Corned Beef hash involving ground sausage, some sort of cous-cous like pasta, a ton of butter, and some fried potatoes with a side of applesauce. This, of course, was coupled by a nice big stein of beer. Mmmm...

I swear, as someone who grew up eating meat and potatoes, this was friggin' awesome meat and potatoes! Man, it was so filling even I couldn't eat the whole thing. Then I finally got a good picture of the huge wine barrels that populate the dining room. I'm not sure whether or not those are original, but they looked like it. I could almost stand up vertical inside one.

Of course, then I had to haul my stuffed belly all the way back to the hotel. But given how many calories I had just consumed, it was probably all for the best.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sights and sounds of my trip

Because pictures just aren't enough to capture my time here

Short clip inside the Ratskellar:

In the pedestrian area just north of the market square:

Finally, I ran across a street crew doing a video shoot near the pig sculptures. They weren't interviewing anyone, just sitting around using the pigs as benches. In fact, everyone was using the pigs as benches, it's a very popular thing to do with them, apparently. I think I did end up in one of their shots. So if you're watching MTV Europe tonight, look for the bald pasty guy!

Bremen - In Color! Pt. 2

After walking around the market square for a while, admiring the charm of the buildings and being slightly confused by this one drain opening that had been wired with a speaker so that occasionally, the sound of a cat meowing would eminate from it* I headed south, past the old Guild Hall, another old and gorgeous example of medieval architecture:

Off on the left side of that picture, can you see a little square of yellow? So did I, so I meandered down that little alley and discovered it's a pretty big bas-relief sculpture, covered in what appears to be gold leaf (again with the sideays thing - damn you blogger for not having a way to display these picture correctly!):

The scultpture is right above the entryway into an even smaller alley. In fact, at first I would have sworn this is where they got the design for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter movies:

This street is called "Zur Bottcherstrasse" (street of the barrelmakers) and is a half-actual, half-recreation of the way streets used to be laid out back when only people needed to get around. It's full of little curio shops and places where people can buy touristy stuff. I picked up some stuff for myself and some friends, but didn't go overboard, since there is still a lot to see. I figure I'll load up on my way out of town anyway and whatever I can't get then I'll just come back.

More examples of the buildings in Zur Bottcherstrase. Initially, these were all houses, but since they were built most of them have been turned into shops or hotels. Naturally, the Hilton is in this area. And, as I thought, lots of the buildings were from the 1950's and just made to look like they were old, with some more contemporary decorative touches, like these stained glass windows next to a coffeehouse:

More of the buildings, this one was a little older

And this house was the only original one left in the area, from the 1400's. I think it's a bar now.

By this point, I was starting to get a little hungry, so I made my way out of Zur Bottcherstrasse and headed over to the Ratskellar, which is a 600+ year old restaurant located in the basement of the Rathaus. It's particularly well known for having a ginormous German Wine list, and you end up sitting around these huge wine barrels from god-knows-when. The picture's a little fuzzy, since I didn't want the flash to bother the people at the table next to me.

You can kind of see the ceilings in this place, which are vaulted just right that you can completely overhear people sitting directly opposite you in your portion of the room. Because the vaults are shaped just right, they act as reflectors, collecting and bouncing people's voices so well that it's a little disturbing. So I suppose the odds of anyone eating there at lunch today being an international superspy was fairly low. For privacy, there are also these little dining booths which look more like closets than anything else.

Sadly, the kitchen was closed for lunch by the time I arrived, but I did score some strudel and coffee, which was good:

I did make reservations for dinner tonight**, and from what I saw of the menu, I think I will be pleased. Although I haven't really eaten much on this trip so far. Something happens to me when I go overseas, I stop feeling the need to eat altogether. I'll go for days without eating because I don't really get hungry. This is probably due to a combination of me not feeling comfortable ordering food in other languages as well as my constantly being distracted by other things to do and see. It was a real problem for me the last time I was in Europe too. But the strudel was enough to keep me going through the afternoon, but hopefully I'll be actually hungry by the time I go back for dinner.

* Seriously, it was weird.
** And I scored one of the closets. I'm stoked!

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