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Michael Whitney :: Blog

June 29, 2012

Sunday, what a big day. No, not in the eventful way (well maybe), but in the roads are starting to become filled up with carnival rides and vendor stops. When I say big, I mean the whole town. Everywhere I go, there are hordes of trucks and trailers arriving for the upcoming festival. This is completely different from what I am used to in the states which is a parking lot filled up with a carnival or a farmer's field outside of town. Here, the festival is integrated. I didn't know there could be so many rides in one town. In addition, I believe I have seen the larges transportable ferris wheel in the world. I mean, six stories or so? Huge I tell you.

So, when in, well Darmstadt... my advisor and I finished up and ventured out to catch the 2nd half of the Germany vs Italy match. Wow, even in the rain, the public monitors had considerable crowds around them. These are die hard fans (I bet they were all Cub fans in a previous life). Unfortunately, Germany lost which had everyone head for home. However, this exodus cause a nice benefit for those non-sport fans. No lines at the Crepe vender. MMMMM - Nutella and Banana. So good. I think I might have another today.

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June 24, 2012

Oh Darmy, that one week was something. Wasn’t it? Monday – Rain. Tuesday – rain. Wednesday –rain. Well I am sure you get the rest. But I have to ask, was this a jealous thing you did just because I hung out with Eberstadt the week before? Well played as, the rain definitely made for some good times with a new found group. Yes, you remember, the couch surfers. This group is gaggle of internationals that get together multiple times a week to share social events.  The football match (Germany vs Greece) was a wonderful introduction and the Karaoke was just off the hook. Although I would have to say, that guy was not too sexy for his shirt. Oh well, getting out once that week was not too bad considering all the rain.

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June 17, 2012

Aaaahhh Darmstadt, it has been so long since I adventured out to Eberstadt. Yes, we were apart for a bit but I hope you still understand my need to find the un-findable. So, as legend has it, there are still dragons living around Castle Frankenstein. In all honesty, I am not really sure when Frankenstein moved out and the dragons moved in. Come to think of it, the dragons might have sub-leased to Frankenstein although this would not make sense because it probably would not have been named Castle Frankenstein if dragons lived there first. Although, since I have gone down this pondering road, maybe those who do not believe in dragons would not allow a castle to be named after them.

Holding on to my belief in dragons (similar to Santa - you don't believe you don't receive), I ventured south to a castle that was older than the house I grew up in (which isn't saying much). Step one, I found me a good steed. A trusty iron horse named tram. We flew through the country side to a point were tram feared venturing any further. On my own I was, with only my trusty venti in one hand and my compas in the other.

There, in the sky. What is that? Black as night it soared, swooping through the green canopy like, well, a crow. Yup, false alarm. But there, in the distance, a large creature with bolts sticking out of its neck. Could it be? Might it be the legendary great grandson of Frankenstein? Maybe he knew where the dragons were. Darn, just a really tall person with headphones around his neck.

New plan, strom the Castle. Charge!!!! Castle taken!! Now where are the dragons? What is this? A note? Possible clues? Wait, something is inscribed in here. I could barely make it out: Cheese, wine, chips, salsa, ... OMG, the dragons forgot their shopping list and it looks like they are going to have a party. Hooray!!! There are dragons here as this is proof!!! My timing is off but dragon beware, I will find you!!!

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June 08, 2012

Dear Darmstadt,

Please don’t be sad. While we are not together, we still hold close to our hearts the memories that are so dear to us. As if it was just a few days ago I recall how my strategy for paying for a transaction has its shortcomings. As we both know, I do not know the language but rely on many societal cues to survive. For bill paying, I typically have no clue what the cashier says so I just look at the register and pay that amount. When there is no register, I overpay my estimated amount. For example, if I think something is around eight euros, I just give them twenty and make note to what the actual amount is for next time.

This process works all and well until the subject of tipping arises as you so kindly pointed out. For the most part, service at the counter places like a coffee stand or bakery place will have a tip jar with no real pressure to tip. Fast food places (even if they are not a chain) do not expect tips. However, if the server comes to you and takes your food order, a small tip is appropriate. Typically, whatever change is left. However, this transaction goes a little like this. 1. Server informs patron of bill amount, 2. Patron hands over payment and informs server how much to take for themselves, 3. Server provides change. Therein lies the problem. One must speak German to complete this transaction as tips are not left on the table. As a side note, the interaction forces a form of accountability in so much as the patron must inform the server what they can have rather than finding out after the patron left the money on the table. Interesting.

But alas Darmstadt, you helped me get through this societal difference by having me learn to keep a running tab in my head and then overpay with exact change and indicate to the server that they can keep it. Thank you Darmstadt, what would I do without you.

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June 01, 2012

So Darmstadt, I just wanted to say so long and thanks for all the fish. Hopefully, the memories you have left me with will help fill the vacuum that has been created in my heart. Ah, as I reflect back on our time together, it seems like it all started just the other day. Remember that fun mobile phone catch 22 in the Frankfurt airport where neither of my phones would work (even with  a German based sim card) and the plan B communication tactic to use an internet connection didn’t work because the system text messages the password? Oh how nice Fatih was to wait at the bus station for over an hour because he did not know the plane was delayed due to Biden tromping around the Charlotte airport in his Air Force 2.

But hey, that didn’t slow us down as you welcomed me with Schlobgrabenfest2012. How did you put it?

“Hesse's largest music festival with loads up to 400 000 annually enthusiastic fans you again in 2012 on the last weekend in May from 24.5.-27.5. in the middle of the Darmstadt City a. This time of Pentecost. More than 100 musical acts on four stages and culinary delights from all over the world - all with free admission!

Experience a musical program with a colorful mix of almost all styles of music, full of new musical talent as well as pearls and established bands in the national and international music scene, which combines the entire artistic diversity in Darmstadt and it offers something for everyone. Look forward to a grave castle festival, which is more strongly basic idea of ​​the festival in the heart: A feast for all! For all generations, cultures and nations, which invites you to stroll and nibble. A festival that promotes bands and discover!At over 150 mobile stations restaurant you lock the grave next to the festival offers 100 concerts with free admission, delicious cuisine from around the world. Speaking of culinary delights. France, land of haute cuisine, this year is the inspiration for the annual country music changing musical focus. About 10% of this year's program are therefore related to our French friends.”

Wow Darmstadt, you went too far with this welcome. I mean, cover bands singing my favorites in German or French? What a surreal thing to experience whilst I was sleep deprived. Oh, and let’s not forget all the food. It might be possible that I need dental work due to all the chewing I did on an amazing culinary adventure. It was so good that it caused a series of food dreams that woke me up in the middle of the night chewing air and wishing I had that wonderful German pastry. Mmmm, I can taste it now.

Oooh, I almost forgot. Remember when I was locked out of the place I am staying at because my passcode was changed without my knowledge (ok, so she might have mentioned something but you know I am not all that good with German). Ahhh, like it was last night. 928904 entered - beep - denied. 928904 - denied. 904928 - denied. Grrr, late nights in the lab mean no help to be found without waking someone up. Hmmm, just for fun 8675309. Nope. Ok, time to check the number in my bag. Oh my, Darmstadt. You shouldn’t have. You wrote the new number on my receipt and put it in my bag. How will I ever repay you for such a thing?


Oh Darmstadt, I miss you. So much so that I am going to start a memoir of our times together. Yes Darmstadt, I make this pledge to you. “I hereby promise to write something about our time together at least once a week”. Please join my thoughts and memories and help me experience these amazing moments together as if they were happening for the first time.

Yours in heart and spirit

Michael

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August 13, 2011

And there it is, a wonderfully productive summer in Beijing with some amazing experiences thrown in. It is a little sad that I will be leaving in less than a week but I have made a ton of contacts that I will continue working with into the distant future.

 Farewell Beijing, it was fun.

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August 08, 2011

This weekend I had the opportunity to go rock climbing in Yangshou. I would have to say this is one of the most beautiful places in the world. The mountains are incredible limestone towers that make skyscrapers look like ants. The town is a mecca of top notch climbers from around the world that are laid back and completely supportive of visitors.  

climbing yangshou

One lesson that I have learned while here in China that I need to share is the timeliness of transportation. I had a plane ticket for six with a gauranteed ride to the airport at 3:30. I was concerned because the ride is a little over an hour and requested that we leave at 3. Assured that there is nothing to worry about,  a 3:30 ride was scheduled. Well, our driver forgot and was 40 minutes late. After a crazy ride and running through the airport, we made the flight with a handful of minutes to spare. So, my recommendation to anyone is to say that your flight is leaving an hour before it actually does for waiting an extra hour in the airport is much better than risking a missed flight while you wait for your ride far from the airport.

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July 28, 2011

Instead of being wordy this week, I believe this photo captures how cool it is to conduct research here in Beijing.  

Cloud Computations

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July 21, 2011

Hey all, I finally got my trip to Inner Mongolia and I will have to say that it was amazing. People thought my freind and I were crazy for going up there without being fluent in the language but at the core of all great adventures is risk.So, the fun starts when we hop off the train in Hohhot and start bartering with the locals to drive us up into the grasslands. An hour later and we are winding up the mountains with some insanely beautiful views. Through some third world towns and off into the middle of nowhere to our personal Yurt. Horse rides, ruins, and a driver that abandons us in yurt town. Three people on a scooter 35 mph over a rutted out gravel road for a few miles? No problem. Broken down hoopty / rickity / barely fit 20 people on bus ride down with sick 3 yr old screeming and using a newspaper to poop in the isle on the bus - check. Back in the city, we use our intuition to discover the best spinning resteraunt ever!!! The view from atop of this building was incredible and the food made me lose two belt loops!!! On the way back, randomly found a yearly cultural festival that showed off some amazing colors and sounds.

The next morning, our driver to the desert decides to pull over and tell us to get out. Um, no. We are not leaving this vehicle until we see desert. Oh heck, out we go into a cab headed for the big sand. Pushing the point of no return time envelope, we rock out the desert with some camels, hop back into the cab, barely make the train, catch the bus and dice up truck traffic for eight hours on a mix of dirt, gravel, and paved roads. Back safe at nothing in the morning with a desperate need for a shower.

Life is good!!!

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July 12, 2011

Do you ever have those days where there is no reason at all why you would be tired? I mean, you go to bed early, start the day with a nice breakfast and walk to work to get the blood flowing yet for days it seems like a low grade hang over has moved in. What could it be? Um, new food? - no. Bad water - nope. Alcohol - Don't drink. Maybe it is this thick air. Hmmm

Off to the Twitter feeds. According to BeijingAir (http://twitter.com/#!/BeijingAir) the air quality over the past few days was:

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