Archive for the ‘life’ Category

The problem with overt propaganda is that half an hour later you are hungry for more.

August 8th, 2008

Just spent a long wee-while watching the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Olympics on TV. I think its the longest stretch I’ve had in front of the TV for ages. And even then I was at the Dining Table doing my Hausaufgabe, and otherwise inspiring people. The Irish contingent looked really small on TV. Right now I am watching the Simpsons…

There are, of course, videos up on YouTube already. And I imagine there will be many more in the next few days. I am almost disappointed that none of the athletes/officials who had cameras in the opening parade have posted anything yet!

I don’t actually subscribe to the idea that these Olympics are just propaganda for China. Or at least I don’t believe that China is abusing them for propaganda purposes any more than anyone else ever has.

Sandal Knitting

July 22nd, 2008

It was a busy weekend around town. Munich is celebrating its 850th birthday this year (about as old as Cork says Chuffy) so there was a street party type thing and associated bands and events. I didn’t get to see a lot of what happened in town,  but I managed to roam about a bit here and there.

I would like to say I started the weekend early, but I don’t think that a post midday club sandwich and rugby in Killians counts as much an achievement. Although one could consider it to be more than South Africa managed! In any case the street party festivities didn’t start until after 2pm.

Street parties in Munich seem to mean beer. And more beer, With sausages and bread as ballast and soakage. And so many of the traditional Bavarian arts were on display. Like brewing, and glass blowing, and cask making and horse breeding. And beekeeping for some reason. Its unusual to see two or three hives more or less on the main street and lots of people milling around.

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While there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of overt Bavarian nationalism, there does seem to be an appreciation of Bavaria as a place and a history. So there were a lot of people in Lederhosen and other costumes, including some medieval re-enactors, Napoleonic military dress, Viennese Dress and 1920s attire. Basically covering every period except for the World Wars.

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I didn’t get to wander around town as much as I wanted to as some of us had arranged to go to Tollwood, and that happened a wee bit earlier than I expected. Tollwood is ok, but I wouldn’t go crazy for it. Its supposed to be a cross between a music festival and a hippy get together. Its not really either, being too commercial for the second and not music-y enough for the first.  So more of a trinket-fest with bands and there was a lot of people hanging around, buying shiney things. Overall the atmosphere was good and there was plenty to eat and drink so that all worked out well.

Sunday we went to a real “knit your own sandals brigade” event, and weave, smith and braid them too, if so desired. The Kaltenberg Knights Tournament is essentially a renaissance faire; with jousting and a mediveal market, although without the, come for the stink, stay for the plague; authenticity of the real thing. The jousting is about as real as professional wrestling, but its fun in a twee, disney kinda way. The bad guys wear black, the good guys wear white and der Bayrisch Ritter always turns up on time to save the day.

The market was much more fun with plenty of people selling genuine modern home made medieval stuff including clothes, armour, jewellery, glass and fly swatters. Here’s a tip, if you ever got to a medieval market with a couple, who subsequently buy a fly swatter. It would be handy to know the German for “I’m not with them” or “I’ve never seen these people before in my life. Officer”.

The food and beer was very good and we had fish on a stick and bbq’ed meat (no name just ‘fleisch’) and beer and mead. We attracted some bees with the mead and some of them hung around to get drunk with us.

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Afterwards there was whisky and late trains home and no homework done! And care packages from home. Chuffy had been away for the weekend, and I conspired with John and arranged that he would bring back books. Hurrah!

Gardeners World

July 13th, 2008

Did a wee bit of gardening yesterday. Chuffy did most of the digging and being in charge, I did most of the raking and helping. We rolled out some grass and laid some patio stones and generally did a lot of levelling and tidiying up. Its a small garden so it was 3-4hrs work including rain breaks, only for torrential downpours – of which there were 3! Here is an after photo.

I don’t have any before photos, but the nascent flower bed in the centre should give a good idea of how it was – think ongoing trench warfare with the neighbours and you won’t be too far wrong.

Covered in plastic in the bottom right is the rotovator which was used to do some prep work during the week. And the new flagstones, well the pulled up and reused flagstones, were positioned along the right wall and by the back gate.

The shovel and the rake are being used to keep the hose to the sprinkler off the new grass. Apparently when new sod is laid it should be watered generously for a few days, which shouldn’t be too difficult given the weather we are having and expect to have for the next week or so.


July 8th, 2008

The amount of homework (hausaufgaben) we got doubled again today! There are vocabulary and worksheets and workbook exercises, all oriented around er/es/sie, der/das/die, ein/ein/eine, and so on. And of course some stuff to keep us on out toes for ich heisse, sie arbeitet, …

…yes of course I should be doing my homework instead of bitching about it here. But where is the fun in that.

<some time later>

Yep! That took about 2hrs, which is a lot longer than usual; if four days can be considered enough of a sample size to yield a usual. And I did read somewhere that one had to be prepared to put 2 hrs into the course each evening to make the most of it.

There was a lot of double checking vocabulary, gender and plurals so that accounts for most of the time – German does not seem to have any easy rules for deciding on the gender of a word, or what its plural will be. And I am sick and tired already of making (and getting marked down for) silly spelling mistakes and leaving out commas ‘,’ and question marks ‘?’, so I tried to be extra good. So we shall see how that goes, maybe I’m just as well off rushing through everything in 70 or 80 minutes.

And anyway in the meantime I had a beer AND a coffee, got some other work done and spent some time chatting with Chuffy, who is now asleep on the couch.

Hair of The Dog

July 5th, 2008

Went to a bbq last night out in the sticks, well not quite the sticks. But it seems I can’t remember the S-Bahn we took or where we got off, which is what happens when you run after people through a busy hauptbahnof and on to a train. I seem to recall looking at a map of Eicheanu sometime last night, so it was most probably there. The S-Bahn is quick, clean and convenient, and runs late, the all-but-last train is at 12:15 and there is a late train at 02:15 so not too shabby. As we got the 12:15 train back to the city centre, the U-Bahn was still running and I was able to get that home.

The BBQ was meat oriented, which is good and alcohol oriented which is equally good, if not better. Argentinian beef marinaded in red wine, blood, garlic and peppers worked out really well as did everything else. There was even salad and fruit for dessert to make up for the not quite cholesterol friendly meat course. I like to think I am watching what I eat so that I can eat Argentinian beef (in moderation) when the occasion arises.

We had a few beers before dinner, and then a Chilean red and a German red with the meat. After dinner we had whisky. Lagavulin is a single malt I hadn’t had before. Its an Islay malt so its a bit peaty, and the minimum age is 16 years old, so its a bit more subtle than say Talisker, which is typically 10 years old. Its a lot more subtle than Laphroaig, but then again so is being hit in the back of the head with a peat briquette. Anyway Lagvulin seems to be available at the same price as the 10 year old single malts, which indicates either its competing against the 10 year olds, its a bargain or that whisky is cheap here in Germany. I expect experimentation lies ahead…

This morning I was up early, but not early enough for the South Africa v New Zealand match. But I made it into the city centre in good time for to watch France get hammered by Australia, A few beers wasn’t the best idea, not on top of a breakfast of yogurt, juice and a bananananana. But alls well that ends well. A club sandwich worked wonders and anyway this is Bavaria so I wasn’t the only person walking the streets after lunch with a few beers in them.

Bought a few bits and pieces and a book, which only goes to show that I shouldn’t be allowed out on my own drunk, or sober. There was an orchestar rehearsing in the collonade of the Feldherrnhalle on Odeonsplatz so I grabbed a coffee and sat there for a while.

So not bad for a first weekend in Germany. Sunday I have to do homework and chores and generally be domestic. I am also planning a couple of hours in the Olympiapark with my camera, weather permitting. So here’s hoping for cooler than 30 degrees and less than 90% humidity.

Germany calling: Ich Heisse

July 2nd, 2008

First lesson today. Everything kicked off well, even if a few people were late. So being in Germany isn’t rubbing off on everyone. There are 22 people in the class, 8 boys and 14 girls. There were 23, but one girl was in the class by accident and ended up leaving us for one 2 or 3 levels more advanced! People seem to be from all over with Canada, Ireland, the UK and the US making up the native English speaking contingent.

We didn’t do much, but at the same time we did a lot. The class in entirely in German, so it takes a lot of concentration and time to adapt to that – both for us and the teacher. So as well as what was in the syllabus we picked up a whole lot of other stuff that makes the lesson go smoother; like “doodlezac”. With 22 people in the class it is difficult to make sure that everyone gets equal time speaking, but it all worked out well.

There are two 1.5 hr classes per day with 25 minutes between. So far everyone is speaking their native tongue at break, or else English. We need to do better than that.

We got homework. On the first day! It turned out to be slightly more difficult than I expected, but I was just being lazy and not concentrating. Once I gave it my full attention it came together fairly easily. Another of my rent-jobs here is to get the scanner and the printer working together and with the house PC. Once that happens I can share my homework with everyone :-)

One of the CDs that comes with the course seems to be an interactive guide to the book. But have had trouble accessing it as its based around a windows program. Its only a set of xml, mp3, swf and jpegs but you need the right .exe file to out it all together. I’ll do what I can with what I have.

After classes I treated myself to sushi for lunch – from the supermarket – and salad. I made up a dressing from the included wasabi, soy sauce, chilli, garlic and lime juice. That worked equally well with the salad and the sushi so I shall have that again.

The weekend is beginning to fill up. I have been invited to a bbq on friday night and there is rugby on Saturday, And there are more bookshops to discover as well!

Interesting Times

June 30th, 2008

Setting up a new machine is something of a mix between a chore and a challenge.  Especially if you happen to be jumping manufacturer and OS as well. This time I have acquired an MacBook Pro (Its shiney) Throw in a country change and stuff can go odd; like the Internet defaulting to foreign. And I am (will be) migrating domains too, well nev is doing the migrating. I am just complaining that nothing is working. I should be keeping better notes on what I am doing. You never know, someone might be interested or stuck doing something similar. Its a big wide Internet after all.

So in no particular order, I am no stranger to various mac OSes, even if its been a long time since I did a lot of work on a mac (in my co-op days; well before Intel based macs). And these days OS X has a lot of common with unix, which is fine by me. So far various incarnations of OpenOffice, TeX and firefox seem to work well. Instant Messaging has been less successful and I shall probably end up using pidgin and skype as my main ones. My skype a/c is new so drop me an email if you want to swap contact details. I have also installed a bunch of widgets and more for the mac based around macports which is a shortcut to compiling your own X11 and unix programs; like ns2 or dia. macports is quite good but depends on volunteers to keep stuff up to date, so some things (ns2 again) can be quite broken.

I’m migrating domains to, which you should probably know about if you are reading this. When its more-or-less presentable I shall turn it on and close down the other blogs and the page. At the same time I am migrating email addresses etc around the domain, even if I am accessing them through gmail. This type of thing will (should) be transparent to the average blog visitor and commenter, but should (will) allow me to separate life and work and whatnot away from a catch all address. Next I need a flicker a/c for photos etc. Until I do get a flicker a/c the blog wll probably be more verbal and literate than before. But once the option of throwing a blog post togther with merely a picture and a few supporting words comes around I’l use that too.

So far so good. Otherwise I am busy(ish) getting my bearings in Munich and meeting new people and the usual. My diet (food plan) hasn’t been great this weekend, I blame the stress of moving. And the drinking. Last night at the Germany-Spain match  I had Bierbratl, which is essentially roadkill in gravy served with what seemed to be suet dumplings and accompanied by sauerkraut. At least there was plenty of beer to wash it down. And the walk home after the match couldn’t have hurt. And we got home BEFORE the thunder and lightning, which is always good. It would have been difficult to get home after the bad weather unless we had been willing to stay out all night. Sleeping in hot, humid, thundery weather isn’t great!

Wandered along to the German school and they were a wee bit odd. They hadn’t expected to see me and said so. But I hadn’t heard from them in six week and better safe than sorry. Everything is fine for starting on Wednesday. They did give me a booklist so I ordered those and have to pick them up at 9:30 tomorrow. An early start, and one that should get me into the city centre before the weather becomes unbearable and I have to hide from the evil sun in a coffee shop until 4pm. There are some Englisgh language bookstores in Munich so I may go searching for them. I promised myself that I wouldn’t buy too many more English books than the ones I brough t with me (all on the Sony book reader). So I am going to limit myself to the books I would have bought if I was at home. That should only be 10 or so :-)

I have a few more small projects on the go to keep me busy in my spare time. I’ll blog them if they go anywhere.

Instant Training

June 19th, 2008

Its been quite a while since I have had a cup of instant coffee. We don’t keep any in the flat and its easy enough to avoid elsewhere.
As well, I have, more or less, trained myself to take coffee without sugar or milk in the last while. I am not at the stage where I can taste subtle differences between coffees yet, but neither is black coffe just a horriblly bitter got beverage any more either.
So I can tell the difference, or at least tell there is a difference, between coffee from javas cafe, or the shop, the common room and so on. Upping my coffee intake towards 4 or 5 cups a day has probably helped.
And so my first cup of instant for ages, train coffee… (insert ominous music) instant coffee is horrible when taken black. At least the stuff they sell on Irish Rail is anyway. Its weak and witery and cold. And suprisingly bitter, .almost in a “what do you expect its only instant” kind of way. Its enough to put one of instant for good. Or at least between trains!
This is also a training post in that its my first post here, .as a sort of test of the system before I formally move over. Its also my first time posting from a mobile phone, although Opera Mini is a good enough browser that the only real difference is the keyboard. And its my first post from a train.