Monday, September 15, 2008

BP Gets my Biz

As infuriating as the price hikes are after Ike, it's nice to see local British Petrolium stations are not gouging, at least the cases that I've seen. I looked up the local gas prices down by our office and the lowest was a BP at 3.79. I wasn't sure if they'd still be low - or have gas. Zipped down and sure enough. They had gas and it was still 3.79/gal.

Nice - Kudos to BP Gas. You'll have my biz in the future.

(Of course, the question is - are they being altruistic/responsible or maybe those crazy Brits didn't realize a hurricane was coming to town :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Newsmap

I used to use this...forgot about it, recently saw a reference. It's pretty neat.

News Map

Sunday, August 31, 2008

BMW Lost my Vote

In this election season it might be good to ponder the other areas of our day-to-day that involve a vote of sorts. We choose to stop at a certain gas station, for example, not necessarily for the quality of gas, but the quality of service, convenience, and maybe the Quik Cup of Coffee. Every time we stop in they either work to retain our vote, or alienate it.

Car dealerships also get votes. I'm in the market for a car and as I review my options and update myself on the various offerings each auto maker has, there's a running vote in my head. In my early twenties I got cornered by the high pressure salesman and his bad-hair piece credit manager and barely escaped with my life. As a result I've never entered a Nissan showroom nor considered them an option. Their attitude has tipped my vote against them in an irrational and permanent way.

BWM of Roswell has also lobbied for a vote against BMW [Update: Yes, Grant - specifically, this is about this dealership, and the service department people. It might be about Friday afternoon too.]. My 91 Camry is on its last metaphorical leg. Though I've fixed this and that it sometimes doesn't want to start. I stopped by the BMW dealership on the way home to take a look at the new 1-series, which looked very nice on the web, and turns out looks very nice in person. The sales guy was helpful enough, though he did not offer a test drive. I guess it was the unshaven Friday face, jeans and loud Siveillance Orange T-Shirt. And maybe that was also why when my poor Camry failed to crank up I failed to get them to help jump start it.

In the end I spent an hour in the BWM parking lot, just outside their showroom floor, surfing the web looking at Audi, Lexus, Volvo and Honda. While they wouldn't help start my car, it sure was nice of them to give me free wireless to research all their competitors.

Upon telling this story to Joe Robb, my excellent Lexus sales rep, who has now received repeat business from me, he said I should have called him and that he'd have sent someone over or come himself. I actually don't doubt that he would. Even if it had been totally self-serving on the part of BWM to help me with a friendly attitude in order to sway me to buy that nice 1-series...it would have gone a long way in swinging my vote their way.

BTW, when I say BMW wouldn't help what I should say is that three people from their service department said they'd help and then left me waiting in the very hot car while they went to get something...or a car... or did whatever they did. Fortunately, after I was done using their wireless and my battery was getting low, I expertly (er, randomly?) jiggled some wires under the hood and she started right up.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Trip to Wasserburg

We travelled to the town of Wasserburg last night. This is the hometown of Ralf, one of our hosts in the office. We were not disappointed. It's wrapped in the Inn river and there is only one bridge entering (there's another road through the mountains). The town is rich with history, with shops and cafes and great cobblestone roads. As usual for Bavaria it has a large historic catholic church.





Biergarten!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

English Garden in Munich

Today we headed into Munich and stumbled onto, as they say locally, Englisher Garten. We had been told that it was worth visiting but due to language barriers were having trouble figuring out how to get there. We headed to the general direction and found ourselves there. It was worth the trip - a totally awesome park. Largest in Europe, it's massive. We really didn't walk the whole park but we saw most of it.

One of the first sights was the river. We saw it from the road as we entered the park. It was very soothing after walking through the hot Munich streets. The water exited a tunnel through the road into a nice waterfall.

The river was very relaxing as we walked along under the trees. There was a proud mama (I assume) with curious babies. As she swam over to me she puffed up her wings. Karl thought she was expecting food. I wondered if she expected to peck my eyes out. I backed off since I had no food and like eyesight.

This little baby was much more brave than I - well, ok, the little ducklings were quite harmless.

One of the most unique and surprising things was the local surfing scene - yes, Surf Munich.



The river is very impressive - the speed and the volume of water was both peaceful and (ask Karl - he jumped in) invigorating. There is also these massive open areas that as the day went along filled with people. The park is described as having as many people during a good day as a medium sized village - it's true.


Overall, a very impressive park. Yes, we saw other parts of Munich but spent most of the day here. I think Karl wanted to just camp out... I'll post some video later.

Ludwig's Tribute to Louis XIV

We visited a pretty impressive Castle yesterday. On an island in Chiemsee there was this enormous clearing hosting this castle, Herrenchiemsee Palace. King Ludwig II was pretty infactuated with King Louis XIV and with absolute monarchy so he built this castle as a tribute. The courtyard and the castle are a replica of the Palace of Versailles. While we were in the courtyard the fountains came on, which was very impressive.





As impressive as the Castle was, I couldn't help wondering WTF. I guess Ludwig spent a whole 10 days there and that's it. The project was never completed due to lack of funds. Ya think? Hauling all those materials out to an island? Ah well, as Mel Brooks quipped: "It's good to be the King".
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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

No Business like Milk Business

Every morning we have our breakfast in the hotel overlooking the street. Our hotel is right in the center of this farming village. There are at least three working farms withing nostril distance from the hotel.

This ole boy drives his tractor out every morning around 8am, disconnects the trailer, leaving two large canisters that are filled with raw milk - I assume cream and all. Around 8:30 a very large milk truck pulls up and the guy pulls out a large hose and "vacuums" up the milk into the truck. He pulls off and sometime soon after Farmer Dell backs up his tracker and returns the canisters to the ready position for the next morning.

There are a lot of these smaller district operations - from mills, to bakeries and the many farms. All around us are fields with wheat, oats and hay. Very nice community. Very slow pace of living. Still dangerous to cross the road because slow translates differently with the drivers here.


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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dinner in Haag

Dinner in Haag last night was great. I ordered a Pesto spagetti and Karl a pizza with some dead animal, an egg in the center, and creatively partitioned with cheese. As the 2nd picture reveals - he liked it. We've eaten very well here so far, which is exactly what we expected. The Italian restaurant we had lunch at today was great. The owner was a total character. No one could figure out how to translate a German word for something that was with tomatoes on a salad. He dashed off to the kitchen and returned with a half a cucumber: "Gerken" he declared. Ah, replied I: "Cucumber". After slaughtering the English word he resorted to insulting it and returning to the German. Seems it sounded just too silly to him. As well it does... Gerke



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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Germany or Bust

I arrived to the Airport in Atlanta to find Karl already hard at work. Well, ok, maybe charging up the new camera.

On the plane, Puggie and I are all ready for the long flight across the pond.
Ah, arrival at the hotel. Charming and set in the country. This is a view toward the front of the office across a nice garden...
Turn just a little to the right and the garden turns into the farm.

The weather is very pleasant. It's cooler than Atlanta by far. All in all very beautiful. It's fortunate that Karl had the forethought to order GPS/Navigation with our little Mercedes B170 rental. Yes, iPhone plotted a correct trip, but the roads were not marked well enough to follow the directions.

Update: Pictures
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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Local Greek Construction

It looks like the economy here in Greece is doing pretty well, judging by some of this new construction that is going up. This looks like it will be a nice temple with a great view of the sea.



More pictures from Greece can be found here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Room with a View

Our meeting room here in Greece has one flaw - a gorgeous view. Difficult to focus sometimes.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tivo no phone home

For the past (well, see for yourself) few days I've run my Tivo without the pleasure of an attached phone line. Tivo can't phone home to report to Tivo Central on my viewing habits. (It can't update it's software either - fun when changes happen like different Daylight Saving times.)

I wanted to get a picture right at 1000, but I just don't watch enough TV. The cause of this rebellion isn't just my not wanting to feed stats to Tivo (I don't much care), but this Tivo device won't work over my Vonage.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Musical AirPort (Express)


I've been wanting to stream music @home from my iTunes to my entertainment system. I didn't want to run a long cable, and didn't want to get too fancy or spend too much. Today Blake and I were spending the afternoon in the mall, and did our weekly trip to Mecca (i.e., the Apple Store at Northpoint) and I picked up an AirPort Express. Since I already have 4 or 5 wireless routers I hadn't considered a need for the AirPort. However, I noted that it had a mini jack out for music, a USB port for printers, and an Ethernet jack - and iTunes will send music its way just like any other speaker.

In short, it works great. I understand it will work over my normal wireless, but I just set it up as a network on the iMac for a peer to peer configuration. Setting it up was brainless (good for weekend projects). What rocks is the range - I put it up in Blake's room which is on the 3rd floor, and on the other side of the house from the Mac. It shows full signal in the status bar. Sweet. He's all excited, too - he can stream his music to his room (of course, he has all the CD's in his room already, but this arrangement is more fun!)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Bumper cars on Hammond

There was another accident on Hammond tonight. This one looked pretty serious, with a couple of firetrucks, a gaggle of police and a wrecker. Sure was lots of perty lights... I'm starting to hate that intersection...

Friday, February 15, 2008

Catnip anyone?

So it seems that cats are really, really determined where feline crack is concerned. Yes, that simple herb called catnip. I put it up on the top shelf and must have left the doors to the cupboard open, cause the cat -- the neighbors cat, and not even my own -- found his way up there. He was looking downright stoned when I found him.

He climbed...


Need to leave the espresso machine on to see just how determined he is... Of course, you have to love a cat that is sophisticated enough to show a preference for Apple - Blake's iMac in this case.

Ah cats. I should take some videos of them and upload them to YouTube. I'm sure no one's done that yet.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

NY Giants?

I left Kim's house while the score was 7 to 3 New England. I'm now looking at 17 to 14 Giants? Wow. Just goes to show you the talking heads don't know it all.

Of course, the best part of the Superbowl party was the rock stars:

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Amazing underwater critters

I was on Ted.com this a.m. watching a video by Murray Gell-Mann and downloaded the HD version of this video on underwater astonishments. I love seeing how various forms of life can so well adapt themselves to their environment as to be invisible. The HD version is very cool and you can watch it through iTunes. There's even a pretty cool BMW commercial at the end.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Day 1 in the Refridgerator

I will say, the hotel does provide a nice breakfast. They'll whip up a batch of eggs any way you want, and there was a nice assortment of fresh fruit, muffins, cereal and juices. It was "free" which made it all that much better. As Grant noted, the coffee in the atrium area was far better than that brewed in our little underpowered room machines.

We piled onto buses for the trek to the Siemens motherland. There was at least three small buses the a packed in an assortment of Siemens folks destined to become more educated in the Siemens way or on Siemens equipment. What I could see of the snow-covered city reminded me of my childhood days in Michigan, and of why I got sick of living in the fridgid North.

The training facility was quite impressive. Rooms held an assortment of equipment mounted to the walls. Our teacher was very good and had just the right mix of enthusiasm to make the coursework enjoyable but not annoy. We all discovered our strengths of personality while understanding why some of us display certain annoying tendencies in the perception of other personality types. My DISC profile suggests that I'm perfectly evolved to get on a certain QA Manager's nerves. Ah, we all have our strengths :) Of course, he's perfectly adapted and positioned to make my life a living hell, so I'll behave.

We ventured out in the evening in search of pizza, and once again Jeff displayed superior winter driving survival skills - once we had dug the car out of the snowdrift and cleared the ice from the windows: once from the snow-fall, and yet again after he decided to hit the washers shooting a stream of water that instantly froze on the window. The pizza was nice, but IMHO somewhat bland.

After the previous night devoid of sleep I went to bed around 8:00 local time. We're now filled with coffee and breakfast ready of another day of indoctrination - er, training... The fun part will be returning to Atlanta to try all our new voodoo on our unsuspecting office peers (queue dramatic music and fade with demonic laughter...)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Welcome to Bulls Country

We landed in Chicago (finally) after a pleasant pause on the tarmac in Atlanta for 2 hours. Seems a little snow up north got everything backed up so we just sort of hung out for a couple of hours waiting for a window into the sky headed to Chicago. The flight was smooth and uneventful, with the possible exception for the Mile-Highers sitting next to Grant on the plane.

As we came in over Chicago we were greeted by a white and wintery world. Everything was covered in snow and it was still coming down at a good pace. By the time we found our way to the curb waiting for our never-to-show-up bus to the National car rental depot it was dark, cold and nothing like it was for Rich in Florida. Brrr!

Jeff didn't kill us driving on the snow-covered roads, which is always a good start to an adventure. It was neat seeing everything covered in snow, but dang is it cold. We arrived at the hotel at around 1:30am Atlanta time - the good new is the hotel is quite nice and has free wireless.

Well, it's 5:55 and time to head down the the "free" breakfast...then off to become a trained drone of the machine :)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Gatling gun...for rubber bands?

Holy Crap this is the ultimate in nerdism. The vid's a bit long but very cool.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Rock star, eh?

Kim, can you hear me? Hello?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Traffic's "backward travelling wave"

Under the title "Exeter mathematician solves traffic jam mystery" the short blurb describes how the math nerds from Exeter school of engineering have modeled traffic problems and discovered the source of all our nightmares here in Atlanta traffic (and elsewhere, presumably). It's just as we suspected - all those "maroons" (as Bugs Bunny likes to say) that pull right in front of someone causing a series of breaking events resulting in what they call a backward traveling wave (of frustration as well as slowdown).

I wish the title of the article suggested that they've solved the actual problem rather than described it. That's no doubt going to be the subject of the physics department as part of the study of large forward-facing particle guns we can mount on our cars.