Life is a Rabbit Pellet

Ramblings of a Zimbrindian's travels, life, and research.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Not a good weekend...

I was going to visit my favorite Romanian this weekend, when I suddenly found I didn't have enough $ to do so (even after my parents' generous loan a month ago). Well, I had enough money, but they were in different accounts. In different countries. With a week's lag time for getting money from one to the other.

A check - for my apartment's rent - had just been sent through to my Chicago account. It was for $n. There was $n-$m (where n/10 > m > 0) in my account. Trouble was, I had thought - stupidly, I admit - that this check had already been cashed, and that I had $n more than I really had. If I'd been on my financial toes (as opposed to ass), I would have transferred $m + $backup from my German account to my Chicago one - and I wouldn't have bought ... (actually, what wouldn't I have bought?)... so that I could have afforded my weekend visit. Or I wouldn't have planned it. Or something.

But I didn't... and now I have to pretty much cancel everything (bar a few drinks with friends, like with the Aussies last night) as I've got to make my remaining $ last for quite a while.

Thankfully, the bank just fined me but still allowed my check to go through (a bounced check is a very inauspicious start with any landlord) and some friends at Adler (thanks guys!) lent me some money and drove downtown to put it in my account so that another check that I wrote earlier also gets cashed. Friends and family are great...

My trip through Jez's library continues... read three more of his books the past week. Am still stuck in one of Arthur's books though - some silly slog by Saul Bellow.

On the bright side, my addiction to chocolate (specifically, Ritter Volne-Nuss) has abated. Yesterday I had an entire block (with all 16 bits). In one sitting. For breakfast. And almost threw up on the bus. I felt so sick I even bought some apples and bananas. And ate one. Of each.

And I posted a suitcase to some friends in England, so I wouldn't have to pay extra baggage charges from Stuttgart-Lisbon and Lisbon-London. It cost 32 euros to send a 20kg bag. Not bad...

Monday, August 22, 2005

Visit to Braunschweig

This weekend I shoved a few clothes and a lot of reading material into a backpack and visited an old family friend I hadn't seen since... 1991 or so. Ann's a high school teacher who used to work in Zimbabwe with my parents. I used to babysit her 2 year old kid Sim - who is now a remarkably well-adjusted 17 year old.

I got to Braunschweig with a 5-hour ride on the Mitfahrzentrale, the German Ride-Sharing System, but returned via a 12-hour cross-country rail tour (Braunschweig- Gottingen- Kassel- Frankfurt- Darmstadt- Heidelberg- Stuttgart- Tuebingen) using the 30 euro "Happy Weekend" ticket. This allows you (and four companions, should they exist) to travel anywhere in Germany for a day as long as you only use the slower local trains.

Sim had a party to prepare for (had to make a birthday present) and go to, so Ann showed me around Braunschweig. We happened to pass through an exhibition by Ernst Barlach. The guy made good lines - I'm almost a fan now :)

Then we found out that Braunschweig was the birthplace of Gauss. So I had to go into the local museum, which had an exhibit on him (2005 is Gauss year, apparently) and then to his statue (see picture above). Very cool.

Planetarium designed (but never built) by GaussPlanetarium designed (but never built) by Gauss

Gauss' Seal and RingGauss' Seal and Ring

Gauss' signatureGauss' signature. All students had to sign their name in a big book when they returned to university, and this is a page where Gauss signed in.

In the evening we went to an Irish pub called the Wild Geese where a good guitarist named Richie Harte somehow got many of the audience to join him in a medley of old songs (U2, Marley, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, etc). Ann said this was quite unusual, and was surprised that so many Germans knew all the words. She did of course, but she's an Eirophile, having visited there a dozen times and lived there several months.

It's Monday as I type this, and I've just made contact with Sr T, another old teacher friend from Zimbabwe who lives in England. Ah, looking up old friends is cool...

Sunday, August 14, 2005


Ah... writing this package seems a neverendinginging... process. I'm trying to allow for too many options and eventualities. Shiese. It's not so much the debugging as the size of the whole darn thing.


Having spent most of the week at ICML, the lab at Tuebingen has been pretty packed on Saturday, with about half a dozen scientists around. Of course, we weren't all trying to work. I was busy catching up on my Ashes reading, for instance.

Meanwhile, Den et al were trying to get the DVD to work on the big screen. They had a version of an unnamed cartoon (see title) in Real Player format, but couldn't install Real Player on the main computer since they didn't have admin rights. By the time I was recruited to help out, Art and MatS were already there. After a lot of committee work...

"Why don't we use someone's laptop and attach that to the projector?"
"Wtf is the picture showing up on the laptop and not on the projector?"
"Hey, it's showing!"
"Now resize it!"
"Aaargh! It's gone!"
"Interesting screensaver you have there."
"Stop reading my diary!"
"This really ought to be a reproducible experiment."
"Anyone remember what we did?"
"Try dragging it through that one spot where the mouse moves to the projector."
"Where's this spot?"
"Dunno, but it exists. We got it through once or twice."
"Give me a constructive proof, for Chrissake!"
"Hey, it's on again!"
"Okay, don't make it full screen!"
"We really ought to get a large multi-author paper on this..."

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Locked out...

Got woken up at 11 pm to have breakfast. Chatted with Sat & Meg, who are leaving today morning, for two hours. Said goodbye, headed to the lab. Dropped keys on the path. Couldn't find them. Didn't have a torch. Cellphone light wasn't enough. Fetched camera, and took pictures (with flash) of the path to analyze for keys. Didn't find them. Went home, read stuff, waited till daybreak. Found keys. They'd dropped further on from where I thought they'd dropped - I'd not been photographing the right place.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Links list

Eric Meyer has created a good site not to take screenshots of and link to (link).

This is a site with three very cool optical illusions: link. Satish (not the same Sat in previous blogs) tells me he's seen this before, from Ed Ad.

Mark Frauenfelder, a.k.a. ze Mad Professor, raves about the coolness of electrocuting bugs. He doesn't dine on fried keratin afterwards, so he must be mad, passing up that fine food source.

Some names are, well, just plain unfortunate. Link. Link to same story, worse headline.

Somehow, I don't think that the ancient Romans really said Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?. And certainly not "Non Erravi Perniciose!". But "Canis meus id comedit", maybe.

I really should "fac ut vivas" now. Or get back to work, at any rate.

Jason's post

Jason sent an interesting note to the local mailing list today...

Dear ***

Let me be the first to congratulate you for your scientific discoveries!

As a U.S Hygiene Inspector commissioned to "treat" the fridges of Germany to search for rare bacteria I can now announce that 638,012 previously undiscovered microbes have been found in ***'s egg and cress sandwich alone (best before date: 5/9/03). Leading scientists are hopeful that they will lead to the discovery of cures to many new diseases that were created by the very same sandwich, last year.

Someone showed me this fridge. One word "beautiful". I am recommending to the highest level of the Institute to terminate the employment of the kitchen cleaners. Please in future DO NOT clean the fridge or else it will be locked or removed, to prevent further damage to this vital scientific resource.

Thank you for your good work,

Anyway, the purported owner (***) of the sandwich came in late today, and was told that the secretary, who had posted a (justifiably) annoyed note last Friday on the state of the union, I mean fridge, was looking for him. With a sjambok. He's now in hiding, though he denies all responsibility. (His main defence being that his level of cuisine sophistication isn't high enough to include sandwiches.)

For the record, he is innocent. The email was made up.

Alastair's fridge page

Royal Chemistry Society seeks mouldy mugs