Monday, July 31, 2006

You say toe-mato, I say tah-mato

A few weeks ago in the window of one of the camera stores in town we noticed that you can order "custom made" beer steins with your own personal photo on it. I made two silly photos with me, David, Greg, & Bryte on them as souvenirs of our European Road Trip.
Here we are in Venice as Goldoliers: And here we are in Vienna as the ubiquitous concert ticket sellers:

I brought in a CD with my pictures, and ordered 4 beer mugs, "vier Bierkrüge" in German. Then I waited 9 days for them to be ready, and excitedly went to pick them up...
The first mistake I made was NOT to open the package and check them out before I paid. I had my bicycle with me, and they looked so well wrapped up, I didn't want to risk them breaking on my way home. When I did open them I discovered that they were teddy bears! So, I figured the guy gave me the wrong order (I did not open them enough to see the photos). So I brought them back and explained this, only to have the guy tell me that, no, I had indeed ordered teddy bears. NO I HAD NOT!!!! It was a case of mis-communication, he just didn't understand me, and he ordered me teddy bears. Of course, he was not willing to accept responsibility. Even though "vier Bierkrüge" and "vier Teddybären" do not sound the same. I was so frustrated! I knew that if my German was better I could have reasoned with him, but he wanted nothing to do with me. I felt so helpless. So, I kept saying I did not order them, asking him to help me, and causing a scene in the store. He eventually felt sorry for me and said he'd see what he could do. In the end, it all worked out, and we got our beer mugs and returned the teddy bears. While it was happening it was a frustrating experience, but now it makes a good story and I've learned my lessons, and that's what the experience of living abroad is all about.
Here are the teddy bears:

Ahhhh... much better!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Ackern

Yesterday we went to Ackern. "Acker" in German means 1) an acre, and 2) a field. It is described on the website as "ein Freiluftwohnzimmer im Sonnenblumenfeld." Which means "an open-air living room in the sunflower field." It almost had the atmosphere of a state fair, but it was much smaller and more cozy.





Monday, July 24, 2006

Frankfurt am Main

Last week we were in Frankfurt, Germany for the 2006 World Footbag championships. We met up with Xander & Matt, who David kicks with at Columbia. They did lots of "shredding" together and I explored the city.
It was very hot last week in Frankfurt, so we chose our hotel because 1) it had air conditioning, and 2) it was near the hostel that Xander and Matt were staying in. What we did not know was that it would be in the middle of the (very busy) red light district. Here's the view out our window: The rest of the city was quite nice. It is a big financial center, so there were many sky-scrapers, which felt very different from other European cities.




There were cute old parts of town with cobble stone streets.

On Sunday we celebrated our 1-year wedding anniversary. What a great year it's been!
And, my fabulous husband gave me a beautiful sterling silver with black onyx necklace and matching earrings. :)

Footbag Worlds 2006

It was serendipitous that all the members of the "Columbia Footbag Crew" could make it to the 2006 World Footbag Championships this year, especially since it was in Frankfurt. It worked out because we're living in Austria, Xander is in Göttingen Germany for a 1-month math program, and Matt is travelling around Europe after a semester abroad in Prague. The boys got to kick together after a long break, and we got to see some of the best players in the world perform.





The "circle competition" was a big success. Click here for a video clip (30MB).




Click here for a video of the world champion, Vašek Klouda. (be patient, it's 50Mb in size, so you may do better downloading it and then watching.)
Jordan Moir from Canada won the shred-30. I didn't know it at the time, but he is from the same town, Dundas, where my dad grew up and my aunt & grandmother still live! Here is a video of his shred-30 win (14MB).
Vašek was 3rd in the shred-30. Watch here (11MB).
Here is Felix Zenger who was 4th in final routine (40MB).

Friday, July 21, 2006

Geeks

This is my life as the wife of a mathematician/neuroscientist and the daughter of a physicist...
My computer is from 2002, and at the time it was made, 20GB of memory was a lot. Of course, now your cell phone probably has more. Because of all the pictures I've been taking here, I've got less than 1 Gig left, so I decided it was time for an external hard drive. David went with me to help me pick one out.
Here is the e-mail David had me send to my dad to let him know about my new purchase. It's a puzzle (like those annoying questions on the SAT that start with "there's a train traveling west at 140mph..."):

We're in Frankfurt now. Our hotel has free WI-fi so I brought my computer. We went on a shopping spree here this afternoon and bought a new external hard drive for me!!! I'm set for life! Or, at least until I take about 640,000 pictures, and each picture will cost me .025 Euro-cents to store. A fantastic deal considering the 4GB USB-stick that we almost bought was 120 euros. The space/price ratio of the hard drive was 60 times better than the stick! so... what's the size of my hard drive, and what is the picture size setting on my camera?
Of course, my dad figured it out very quickly. And now David is quite proud of his work, and wonders if anyone else reading our blog wants to give it a shot. (if you just want the answer without all the math, just send me an e-mail)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

It's the little things (III)

A third collection of differences we've noticed between here and back home:
In the USA people traditionally wear their wedding rings on their left hand. This tradition stems back to the day when people believed there was a vein that went directly from the 4th finger on your left hand to your heart, the "vein of love." In Austria, people traditionally wear their wedding rings on their right hand. The people we've asked why didn't have an answer, just that that's the tradition over here, but here is a wikipedia answer. Television commercials are shown between shows, or as a longer break during a movie. This makes watching TV a lot more enjoyable because you get to watch so much of the movie at once or the entire show un-interrupted. Maybe this is why soccer is not shown as a prime-time sporting event in the USA; there's no time for a commercial break for 45 minutes!Glassware has precise measurements on it. When you order a large juice you know you'll get 0.5 liters, and a small juice is 0.3 liters. At home, the size of the "large" and "small" glasses depends on the choice of the individual restaurant- you could get anything from a shot-glass size to a jumbo! They recycle everything here. The main difference is the bio-waste recycling. All the busses in Graz run on biodiesel which is made from recycled cooking oil. The trash room is disgusting, as David will testify to. Mostly because of all the bio-waste. The biomass is collected and treated to turn into compost for farmers, but the amazing part is that a byproduct of this treatment is electricity! Taxes are included in the price shown on the tag. This is nice because then you know exactly how much money you will pay for something and you don't have to do any silly calculations in your head to figure out if you have enough cash first. At the grocery store, you weigh and price your own fruits & veggis before going to the check-out (the machine spits out a price sticker which you place on the bag), whereas in the USA, the person at the checkout weighs and prices them. The traffic lights are a little bit more user friendly. When you're at a red light, just before it turns green the yellow light comes on to warn you to get ready. This makes driving more pleasant because less people are honking the second the light turns. (I once heard that the definition of "a New York minute" is the amount of time between when the light turns green and the person behind you honks.) Speaking of driving... all the cars are standard shift. Apparently it is possible to fine a random automatic here and there. Good thing we both know how to drive a stick-shift, otherwise we'd have some problems renting a car. Everything is the Metric system over here. 35 degrees is a hot day! At home, it sounds impressive when David says he's just over 6'-4" tall. But over here that doesn't mean anything to anybody. When he says he's 194 centimeters, then that impresses people! One thing we've noticed is that one cannot drive 20k without coming across a village. There are just no wild, open spaces. Not to mention, very few wild animals. As an extreme example, the population of Austria is 8 million and the population of Wyoming is 500,000. But look at the comparison of land mass (Austria is orange) and think of how open and wild Wyoming feels: Of course, you could spin it the other way and say there are 8 million people squished into NYC. But the main feeling we're trying to express is the lack of large expanses of un-populated land. The only place people don't live here are the tops of the mountains (but then, they do have huts up there!).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Summer in the city

This week is the Forum of European Neuroscience in Vienna. David went to attend some lectures and I came along to hang out in the big city for a few days. Plus, it was really nice to stay in a hotel with air-conditioning! (many of the stores and museums don't have A/C, which is unbelievable since it's very hot here!)

We met up with Brendon, Andy, and Jason (from David's old lab in NYC).