Tuesday, November 09, 2004

No Fast Internet, But Tacos You Say?

Last week, Qwest was saying DSL is available in my area. This week it's not, apparently. So when I used their web site check my "availability", it said:

"Product not available. View residential products available in your area"

The first item on *this* list was:

10 Cents to Mexico

Cool.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Back In The Grain Belt

Picture this... Sunday afternoon. Properly built fire in the fireplace. Chilled "football" beer (read: not expensive, Minnesota-brewed, easy-to-drink). Bratwurst and baked cheesy potatoes. Now, add 10 consecutive hours of America's best TV sport, professional football. What a Sunday!


Friday, October 15, 2004

Running The Race...

I don't even think I'm in good enough shape to *watch* a marathon for six hours MUCH LESS run in one... My brother recently became our immediate family's hero when he became the first one in our family to complete a marathon, the Twin Cities Marathon.



Way to go, John!

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Cool: Install XP With No Updates to Download

A great article from Fred Langa about "slip-streaming" the Windows XP install with Service Pack 2. I'll be doing this from now on...

It Can Read Your Mind...

How cool!

---

20Q.net is an experiment in artificial intelligence. The program is very simple but its behavior is complex. Everything that it knows and all questions that it asks were entered by people playing this game. 20Q.net is a learning system; the more it is played, the smarter it gets.

...

Think of an object and the A.I. will try to figure-out what you are thinking by asking simple questions. The object you think of should be something that most people would know about, but, never a specific person, place or thing.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Ex-Pats: News in English; Living in, Moving to, Working in Europe

This is just a well-done site with lots of up-to-date valuable information. I've even signed up for their daily news email - something I attempt to avoid, normally.

Expatica.Com - News in English, living in, moving to, working in Europe - Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain

Thursday, August 26, 2004

New Pictures

Just posting some new pics on my Photo Gallery. They are:

2004-08: Around Home -- It got quite hot in August. We took a trip (or two) to the nice biergarten at our local pub, Murphy's Law Irish Pub.

2004-08: Meshell @ Marlene's Wedding -- Meshell flew home to be in her Mom, Marlene's wedding in Iowa. She took Lindsey, our oldest, with her. It a tragic mishap, I deleted about half of the pictures from her trip while transferring from the camera to the PC. I felt terrible about this...

2004-08: Out With Elena -- We've gone out a few times for dinner or to the pub with our neighbor's sister, Elena. We always have a blast.

2004-08: Girls In Wedding Dresses -- Despite not being able to make it home for Marlene's wedding, the girls dressed up in the dresses at home. They really look great!

2004-08: Mannheim Bierboerse (Beer Exchange) -- With lots of vendors, breweries and food stands, this is a great local beer event situated on the Neckar River

Thursday, July 29, 2004

VIM Color Schemes

I really can't think of many people I know who still use vi(m) as a text editor, but for those that do, here are some great...

Color Schemes

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Mark Twain: The Awful German Language

It's an accurate and *very* funny 124 year-old appendix to his book "A Tramp Abroad". If you are German, or have ever tried to learn that language, check out either:
 
  The German translation: 
  Mark Twain: Die schreckliche deutsche Sprache

  ...or the English original: 
  Mark Twain: The Awful German Language (HTML) or (Text)


Friday, July 16, 2004

Let Freedom Reign!

A great montage of photos taken the day Iraq became sovereign, two days ahead of schedule. Here's the note that was handed to President Bush:

note handed to President Bush

Monday, July 12, 2004

You'd Never Guess This Actually Exists...

The Brezelfest ("Pretzel Fest") in Speyer is the biggest Volksfest in the Oberrhein ("Upper Rhein") area. On Sunday, we took the kids and met up with Ray, a buddy from work, and his daughter, Rachel.

Since we were already knee-deep into bratwurst and bier when we heard the gun for the start of the Speyer Stra├čenlauf ("marathon"), we decided to settle for looking around and letting the kids enjoy the rides. Many people actually have a life-long goal of running a marathon. Mine is less ambitious. I'd like to watch one - someday...

Check out the pictures!

My Million Dollar Wishlist

I know I should be working on *making* a million bucks instead of *spending* it, but this would be the toy I'd buy after winning the lottery (or some other more-likely scenario) and taking care of my family...

Spending $80 million on the large sub it just crazy. :) I'd take the 36-meter version and be happy with well-enough.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Family-Style Pub Crawl

What a nice, long weekend! Our Saturday kind of went like this:

  • Picked up tired Viktor early (10 AM) in the morning and left Mannheim heading towards Wiesbaden (where I was stationed for three years from 1994-97).

  • Meshell hit the Marktplatz (kind of a farmer's market) in Wiesbaden and dropped us off at the Rathaus ("city hall") where we used to hang out.

    Note: They call this tradition Fruehschoppen (literally translated "early shopping") and it normally happens on Saturday mornings or on Vatertag (Father's Day). Distinguished gentlemen, such as my self, meet at a local pub for a beer or two, some traditional grub and a nice sense of gemutlichkeit (roughly translates to a warm, easy, friendly environment). American's could learn alot from the social and mental benefits from the occasional beer-related event, like this...

    This place used to be a nice brewpub, but now it's an Andechser restaurant / biergarten. [pictures] Normally this wouldn't bother me since Andech's is one of my top 3 breweries in the world and making several of my favorite beers in the respective styles. But in this instance, I was disappointed. The character that the old Ratsbrauerie had, with its dark walls, old wood and cave-like ceilings had been replaced with a well-lit dining area with new furniture, white and yellow paint and poor service. Forunately, the beer on tap redeems this place, barely.

  • We met up and went across the river, to Mainz, in search of a brauhaus we used to like to hang out at - even before we had kids. It took Meshell about five minutes (and no wrong turns) to find it, the Eisgrub Brauhaus. After a great lunch, tired Viktor was beat (and stuffed - after a plate with two big pieces of schnitzel). [pictures]

  • Meshell had one more stop to make - at the American Army base in Mainz-Kastel to pick up some bicycle gear for Lindsey's bike. This base is right around the corner from *another* old favorite hangout of ours, the Castel Brauhaus. I couldn't resist, so I took some of the kids to the biergarten and had a couple of biers. [pictures] Viktor rested his eyes in the car...

    This was the first time I've been to three (or even two) brew pubs in a single day and I don't know if I'll do it again. I was overwhelmed by the good (and fresh) beer. I didn't think that was possible!
  • Wheat For Bread, Confiscated For Expensive Beer

    Found a great write-up about the history of Weizen (Wheat) Beer. It's definitely the right time of year for this great style of beer, in Germany and any where else warm weather and good beer are found.

    Here's an excerpt - that surpised me - about Reinheitsgebot (the Beer Purity Law):

    In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Weizenbier was a privilege of the nobility. The Reinheitsgebot of 1516 was not a control relating to purity of beer for the masses, but rather a mandate to protect this "refined" style of beer for the nobility in Bavaria. No private brewer was allowed to brew beer with wheat, be it in the towns or in the country, even for home consumption, - only the nobility.
    Enjoy the article and enjoy a Weizen!

    Thursday, July 01, 2004

    Geek Post: Drop-Down Menus, Horizontal Style

    Found a great article about Drop-Down Menus, Horizontal Style from A List Apart.

    Specifically, it deals with creating a drop-down navigation menu that only requires a browser with CSS support (normally). Currently there's a bug in IE 6.x that prevents it working properly without a small JavaScript . But otherwise, this is a finely-crafted piece of work. Check out an example of his, if you're interested in this sort of thing. I definitely am. I just wish I had more time to spend on web sites - when not at work...

    Tuesday, June 29, 2004

    Root beer: What's fresh at the farmers market

    A homebrewing buddy of mine recently started selling the root beer he's been making for a few years at a Farmer's Market. There's a good article in the StarTribune. Also, Mark's home page is at Glewwe-Castle.Com.

    Monday, June 21, 2004

    Just A Great Weekend...

    Friday was Meghan's Fourth birthday [pictures]. Aside from enjoying the evening and celebrating the birthday, I get to remember the kids ages very easily for the next 3 months. You see, for these three months all the kids ages are "separated" by two years. Right now, it's 8, 6, 4 and 2. For the rest of the year, I struggle to remember if the kid has "turned" yet. I know - shame on me...

    Saturday was special since I got a keg of my favorite local beer, Bellheimer Lord, the Premium Pils from the Bellheimer brewery. I believe all beer drinkers should not only have a "favorite" beer, but one brewed locally and maybe one for each country you enjoy beer from. This one definitely is my favorite in both "Local" and "Germany" categories... Until now, I had only tried it in the bottle. I have to tell you - in the keg or the bottle - this is one fine beer.

    Sunday was just as good. It was Father's Day [pictures] and we took the whole family to the Woinemer Hausbrauerei, a great brewpub about half an hour from home. It's gotten to the point that we have to "scout" out large-family-friendly restaurants ahead of time, so we can actually go and enjoy a nice, not-so-quiet meal with the kids. This place definitely qualifies. Their brand new seasonal beer was a Pilsner. I really enjoyed it!

    Thursday, June 17, 2004

    Sports-Related Intolerance

    I'll often hear people, sitting on barstools, trying to compare things. Often they try to compare things that shouldn't be compared - things like beer and wine or apples and oranges. Recently I've heard lots of people trying to compare American Football and Soccer.
    Before I go any further, I must disclaim that I'm an American and a huge fan of American Football. I've also developed a healthy respect for Soccer, a game played professionally around the world.

    I did a little research (actually just reading other people's research) and have determined that:

  • People have played with balls or something like balls since (nearly) the beginning of time.

  • In 1633, a game like football was played in North America.

  • In 1846, the British army was used to break up an unruly game of village football between the Derbyshire parishes of All Saint's and St Peters on Shrovetide Tuesday. Over the next 20 years, public schools and elite universities transformed football from a chaotic rural pastime into the game we know.

  • In 1869, the first intercollegiate football game was played by Princeton and Rutgers, though it was essentially a soccer match. Soccer-style football did not appeal to Harvard students. They preferred rugby-style football, and they managed in 1876 to persuade their chief athletic competitors, Yale and Princeton, to adopt rugby-style football as well.


  • I found a good paper, titled "American Exceptionalism: Soccer and American Football", written by Ivan Waddington and Martin Roderick from the Centre for Research into Sport and Society (University of Leicester). Here are two excerpts:

    ...

    Similar problems arise with the explanations offered by Mason and Sugden for the relative failure of soccer to take root in the United States. Their argument, as we noted above, is couched in terms of baseball "getting in first". However, this argument ignores the fact that the Americans did take up football in a big way, though it was not, of course, the Association game which they took up. During the 1870s, most American colleges played a game based on the rugby version of football but, as is well known, the Americans subsequently developed from this game their own, distinctively American version of football in the form of the grid iron game. A properly sociological analysis, rather than suggesting that soccer did not develop because baseball "got in first", would seek to explain why it was that, in the first place, the Americans opted for a game based on the rugby rather than the soccer version of football and why, having done so, they then developed that game in ways which took it further and further away from rugby, resulting in the distinctively American version of football. Some of these questions are taken up, and some tentative solutions offered, in the remainder of this paper.

    The two most popular sports in the United States today, at least at the senior/professional level, are of course baseball and American football. The latter is derived from the rugby code of football which, like soccer, has its modern roots in the nineteenth century English public school system. Baseball, on the other hand, developed in the early nineteenth century in New England and is probably descended from an ancient English game called "rounders", which also involves running between bases of the type found in baseball. However, a distinguishing and very important quality of both baseball and American football is that, notwithstanding the fact that both sports resemble games which had earlier been played in Europe, baseball and American football draw upon and express - or at least, and no less importantly, are commonly believed to draw upon and express - a set of values and characteristics which are uniquely American.

    ...

    There is one other respect in which, in terms of Guttmann's criteria, American football may be said to be a particularly modern game, and it is also a further respect in which it may be said to be particularly American. We refer here to the high level of quantification which is characteristic of football. Although, as Guttmann notes, the stress on teamwork is rather greater in the case of football than it is in the case of baseball, for example, so that it is difficult to attribute the result of a game to the actions of a single player, there are nevertheless numerous opportunities for the compilation of statistics in football. Thus football statistics routinely include information on yards per carry, total passing yardage, total running yardage and so forth. Books on successful teams invariably include won/lost records and team standings, while biographies of outstanding players provide lists of individual records, making it possible to compare the records of different players. Although the structure of the game probably allows for less quantification than is the case in baseball, where the process has been taken to extremes - and in this way, suggests Guttmann (1978, p.219), football may be less modern than is baseball - it is nevertheless the case that football, like baseball, involves a relatively high degree of quantification, and this, it might be noted, appears to be not only a general index of modernity, but also a particular obsession with American sports fans.

    In this paper, we have examined some of the social sources of American exceptionalism in sport, and the way in which the Americans took the rugby code of football and developed from it their own nationally distinct game. It would, however, be quite wrong to imagine that soccer has never been played in the United States for, as we saw previously, the United States entered a team in the World Cup competition a full twenty years before England did so. Moreover, in the last two decades, there have been a number of attempts to establish the game as a professional sport in America, and in recent years the game has grown rapidly in popularity as a participant sport, though it remains relatively underdeveloped as a spectator sport and at the professional level.

    However, in 1994, the United States hosted the soccer World Cup Finals. Claims were made in terms of new World Cup records being set in relation to tickets sold and cumulative audience figures, and one of the tangible legacies from this World Cup has been the creation of a new professional league. Some people associated with soccer in the United States clearly feel the World Cup has provided the basis for a rebirth of professional soccer in America. Thus Alan Rothenburg, President of the United States Soccer Federation, was moved to state that "Before long, soccer will take its rightful place among baseball, basketball, football and hockey, as the fifth professional sport in America" (Newsline, July 1994, p.2). It will indeed be interesting to see to what extent the situation changes as a result of this development.
    So, to summarize, American Football is not Soccer. We shouldn't try to compare them. They are both old. They both have distinct cultures. They both involve professional (as well as amateur) athletes. They both are very succesful in terms of fan support and entertainment. Let's try to appreciate each other's ball-related sports!

    Operation Shoe Fly

    My kids (three girls and a boy) out-grow shows faster than I can replace them... This seems like a good outlet for them:

    Sgt Hook: Operation Shoe Fly

    Wednesday, June 16, 2004

    Is Hooliganism Really A Word?

    Some friends from a pub I visit - Murphy's Law Irish Pub - were telling me about "hooliganism". Apparently this form of "soccer violence" is an international problem BBC News report. This was all news to me. Governments have had to get involved since people actually travel to international "away" games just to cause trouble... In Mannheim, here, there are "loads" of people (well more than one anyway since one is a regular at the above-mentioned pub) who have to surrender their passports and check in at a local police station TWICE A DAY!!!

    Just an interesting phenomenon since I'm a die-hard Vikings fan who follows the Vikings / Packers rivalry pretty closely...

    Tuesday, June 15, 2004

    Monday, Monday...

    It was a fine Monday; the best I've had in a while. It started great! I woke up *without* the alarm clock at 6:00 sharp! For those that don't know, I normally don't roll out of bed until forced to do so. After a shower, I got dressed and had a nice, easy cup of coffee (from my new baby, Mr. Krups) served in a normal coffee cup (not a "travel" mug) while I checked on the latest changes made to "ragnar", my linux file server running Fedora Core 2 (testing) and decided to mosey into work. The traffic at 7:00 isn't much better or much worse than that at 8:30. I guess the "rush" must come in between - not that I would know. I *hate* traffic because it's so inefficient... So I was thrilled to get to work a minute or two *before* 7:30!!!

    I started to tell myself that a new chapter had begun in my life. I've started to take care of my body a little better. Maybe it was rewarding me for it!

    I got to bed pretty early and was looking forward to a repeat the next morning. This morning when I woke up *with* the alarm clock - I remembered *why* I got out of bed so early yesterday...

    I had to pee!!!

    I must be getting old.

    There Comes A Time...

    I'm fat. I didn't used to be. When growing up, our family - consisting of 5 including my parents, my younger brother John and my younger sister, Alisha - would eat two large pizzas. For years, *they* would eat one and *I* would eat the other. The funny thing is, I was skinny.

    When I joined the Army (actually the Minnesota Army National Guard) in 1990, I had a few months to get ready before Basic Training (at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri). I knew I needed help. Even the recruiter told me. I was only 5 pounds *above* the *minimum* weight for enlisting. I was so skinny that I could circle my fingers around *any* part of my arms. Needless to say, when the first "fitness" test happened at Basic Training, the thought of doing the 13 full push-ups (for males) frightened me, since failing this test would mean spending some time, ironically, at the "Fat Farm". I can still picture it. 11... 12... 13!!! I think I was more afraid of the "Fat Farm" than anything else. I guess it goes to show you the biggest thing you learn in Basic has to do with "mind over matter".

    Any-hoo... I'm not going to start a diet. I like what I eat. I *am* however, going to start watching how much I eat in order to control my weight. Here's the method I'm using. It's not rocket science. My body burns about 2200 calories per day. I am keeping my caloric intake below that - at least several days per week.

    Don't expect to hear much more about this. I'm not weighing myself. Just check the photo gallery occasionally and let me know if I'm getting fatter! %>

    Monday, June 07, 2004

    The Road To Normandy

    Despite our last-minute (read: non-existent) plan to drive to Normandy, we had pretty accurate road maps from MSN MapPoint and ViaMichelin. The Michelin map helped us avoid the tolls associated with driving in (and out of) Paris.

    Of course, we had to make the obligatory "stop-at-one-of-the-worlds-six-remaining-Trappist-breweries" (Orval) [pictures]. Read more about the "legend" about Orval and also about Orval and Trappist Monasteries. At the end of this long day (about 500 miles... in the van... with four kids) we ended up at an IBIS hotel in Granville, France (about 80 KM) from Sainte Mere Eglise (near the D-Day invasion site).

    The next morning - which came too early - we had the obligatory "when-in-France-do-as-the-French-do" crepe on the way to the Airborne Operation at Sainte Mere Eglise [pictures]. I have to tell you that if the rest of the world appreciated their freedom *and* the service and sacrifices made by men like those involved in D-Day, things would be much different. The people of Sainte Mere Eglise (and everywhere else we went in France this weekend) gave nothing but thanks and honor to the Veterans we saw. It was very impressive. I wish I saw more Americans treating veterans with such thankfulness and high regard. We also visited the Airborne Museum in Sainte Mere Eglise.

    That evening, we visited the nearby Utah Beach [pictures]. This whole area (a forty-mile stretch) is a really long, flat piece of coast and I can see why it appealed to the Allied brass - in terms of unloading massive amounts of armor, artillery and infantry - back in the day.

    The next morning, in what may have been good luck, we arrived just in time for the roads to close (for VIPs) for the ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery. Fortunately, we arrived plenty early to visit Pointe du Hoc [pictures]. The Army Chief of Staff made reference to the now-famous speech made by Ronald Reagan on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day. It was also a sudden delivery of sad news (to us) that President Reagan had passed away. For once, I was thankful for Meshell's "gift of gab". She spent quite a while talking with (and listening to) a few of the returning D-Day Army Rangers (from 2nd Battalion, 75th Rangers). I spent most of my time with the kids and taking pictures.

    We knew we'd have to visit the Normandy American Cemetery [pictures]. We also knew that it was getting late in the day and we had 500 miles (or more) to drive to get back home. Alli (age: 6!!!) had to leave for a two-night school trip the next morning. We decided to walk around the cemetery and observe Omaha Beach from where the cemetery overlooks it (from some distance).

    I'm already looking forward to our next visit to check out Omaha Beach "up close" and visit more of the less "touristy" attractions. We have a better sense of locations, distances and accommodations now.

    All the pictures from this weekend can be found here.

    Wednesday, June 02, 2004

    This Weekend (D-Day)

    We're actually putting together last-minute plans to visit the D-Day 60th Anniversary in Normandy, France. Read more about the events. Also, there's a good map of the area.

    We're driving (with the kids) and it will probably take 8-10 hours (in reasonable traffic). I hope to avoid Paris (tolls, traffic, etc.) I can't think of anything more worthwhile - to give the kids something to remember regarding World War II and Meshell's father, William Marion Palmer, who had a handful of combat jumps (with 101st Airborne, I believe) in the area.

    Tuesday, June 01, 2004

    About My Blog

    I *really* had a tough time getting started with this blog. Finding the right combination of client-side tools (almost none), my own server-side environment (not really required) and documentation (a definite must) took me about two years. I guess it wasn't such a big priority to replace my *old* static content on MN | GERMANY jim.

    However, when I found this article, many things cleared up and I got the ball rolling...

    Nice, Easy Memorial Day Weekend...

    We really didn't do much. Grilled twice (once with Ray, my new co-worked and once with the neighbors, Ilyas and Lena). Finished latest Dick Marcinko book, "Violence of Action". Started and finished "The Last Juror" by John Grisham. Started "The Street Lawyer" by John Grisham. I guess I read alot...