Archive for the 'Nerdness!' Category

Yay, construction paper, recess, picking on girls, geography and science all in one! It’s like Mrs. Hay’s 1st grade class!

The Wandering Nerd October 11th, 2007

Some days you’re on top of the world, other days the world seems to be on top of you. More to the specific point here, some days I’m feeling like I’m all over this German thing and speaking (sprechen) and understanding (verstehen) everything rather well. Then I’ll actually interact with someone other than our teacher (unsere Lernerin) and I feel like I should be wearing a safety helmet and eating paste and pulling girls’ hair - though come to think of it, I like eating paste and pulling girls’ hair.

The instructor is quite good and adamantly refuses to explain anything in any other language than German unless someone is really, really stuck. There is a strong component of being treated like a 8 year old, but hell, an 8 year old German speaks better German than I, so why not? What kills me is that I’m the only native English speaker in my class and one of only 5 in the entire current crop of 60 students. Yet whenever anyone gets in trouble, they switch to English for clarification or discussion. English speakers, and doubly so for Americans, have it all pretty lucky. Assuming I ever get a handle on this language, I think I’m going to pick up Arabic and Chinese. That should cover me for the majority of places I travel in the next 70 years.

You all have some homework, you should all take a look at learning a new language, or hell, just a few phrases of a different language and then go to an ethnic restaurant and try that shit out. They will look at you like you need a restraint, but keep trying and trying honestly. You’ll be surprised how helpful people can be when someone is seriously attempting to understand them or their culture. Well, everyone except those filthy Canadians.

If you happen to be a non-native speaker of English and you’re foolish…er…lucky enough to be reading my posts, assume that you can skip the homework. Simply seeing the deftness with which I handle my own tongue is enough for you. *snicker* I’m very accomplished with my tongue, so I’ve been told. *ahem* Moving along…


Where was I…Oh, right! German! (Deutsch!) Things do progress, I’ve learned some important old standby phrases:

Ich denke, also bin ich - I think, therefore I am

and I’m making some of them more fun:

Ich trinke, also bin ich - I drink, therefore I am

Interestingly (interessantlisch), and for your edification, to say the former in Latin is: Cognito ergo sum. As to the latter, I think it would be: Bibo ergo sum or perhaps Potum ergo sum. The closest I could find online is: Hocine bibo aut in eum digitos insero? which means - and I can’t make this up - “Do I drink this, or stick my fingers in it?” See this place is almost as good as 321 Contact. Only you have me as your charming and slightly inebriated host. I’m trying another Hofbräu as you can see, is this the right one Hoshi, or must I soldier on? That bottle of beer only cost .63€ … a bottle of Diet Coke - a .33l bottle of coke - costs 1.20€.   I’m saving money by drinking. Now how’s that for fiscal smarts?

Speaking of inebriated charm, the rudimentary knowledge I have of German isn’t much help in talking to local fauna. The limited library of adjectives - with the highlights being ‘huge’ (große) and ‘interesting’ (interessant) - has a somewhat specific effective target audience when it comes to describing … anything to a female. I mean yeah, it may work on a very certain type of girl, but mostly you’ll just end up rubbing away the pain in the jaw from the right hook and wishing the ringing would subside.

Luckily the likelihood of even getting in trouble like that is low here. There is one nightclub, and not once have I seen more than 7 (sieben) people in there at one time. Schwäbisch Hall is a nice little town, but it’s not hopping at all. The whole region is quiet as you’ll see in the photos. We had a little field trip yesterday. I only caught one out of ever 20 or so words the tour guide (Reiseführer) said so have little in the way of comments, but you can get a good idea of what the area is like.

On the nerd side, I’ve actually started using the XP Language Bar to switch my keyboard mappings back and forth between German and English. I kinda’ hate to say this, but this is twice now that Microsoft has actually produced something that’s useful and works as it should. Too bad the bent the consumer over with Vista, but XP is actually becoming a decent little OS.

I’m off to Stuttgart tomorrow - assuming the possible continuing union strikes with Deutsch Bahn doesn’t screw up the plan. There probably won’t be another post until next week. While I’m gone I’ll leave you with a math/physics question I worked through in my head for fun.

While we were driving around on the tour I saw numerous ‘gates’ that were made out of a long metal pipe balanced on a pin in another which is sunken into the ground. On the short end, a large amount of cement serves to balance the set up and allow for easily raising and lowering - pivoting about the fulcrum - the heavy bar/long end by hand. Now, how many pieces of information would you need to figure the necessary weight to counterbalance the above contraption? For simplicity, assume the fulcrum connects at a single point and ignore any coefficient of friction from that fulcrum. It’s just a little thought jogger - like taking your brain out for a quick jaunt around the park.

the screen is so white, and it’s so big
it’s hard to get over the feeling, you’re losing your mind
-liz phair

Nerd out with your driver out! Where’s my heat at? Lookin’ at me lookin’ at you.

The Wandering Nerd October 2nd, 2007

I had the first official day of classes today and came back promptly to fall asleep for a couple hours. The third of October is the Day of German Unity holiday, so all classes are suspended tomorrow, all shops closed. Sounds like a good time for me to just sleep. The class is small, only five people, a guy from UAE, a guy from Japan, a girl from Taiwan, and a girl from China. The class is all taught in German, so we’re all stumbling about like toddlers. Some of it is coming back to me from the depths of history, I’m hoping the floodgates will open and I’ll be passably fluent again all in one go. Everyone keep your fingers crossed.

My cold continues on unabated. I’ve never been good at being sick. I don’t ever really ‘take it easy,’ it’s just not me. So when I do get sick I’ve historically been inclined to pad about my place until I find a cozy spot and curl up under a heavy blanket, grumbling and snapping at anything that gets close to me. Seems funny that now, halfway around the world, I’d be okay with someone servin’ a brother up some piping hot chicken noodle soup and doing that dabbing the sweat off my forehead stuff. I could be all moaning and pathetic and just convalesce. Probably just the fever talking, pay no mind. I’m sure my antagonism towards the world will return hand and hand with my health. Skipping merrily back from wherever they’ve been vacationing. Someplace warm I’m sure, my health likes warmth. They’re probably sitting on the beach somewhere sipping cuba libres. Thinking about it though, my health is something of a lush, so it’s probably not sipping. It’s probably down on the beach doing body shots off some co-ed from Kansas as my antagonism sneers and shakes an ineffectual fist at the crowd. Wow, I just spent six sentences anthropomorphizing abstract aspects of my being. That should thoroughly confuse the non native English readers of the page.

Speaking of the readers of the page, I’m kind of astounded to see who all is actually reading this page. Last month’s stats show up hits from places I’ve never even been and to my knowledge never met anyone from:

Top 19 of 19 Total Countries
# Hits Files KBytes Country
1 20982 37.35% 16470 39.86% 308022 32.52% Network
2 16537 29.44% 11671 28.25% 331504 35.00% Unresolved/Unknown
3 7685 13.68% 6399 15.49% 169832 17.93% US Commercial
4 3162 5.63% 1365 3.30% 37874 4.00% US Educational
5 2010 3.58% 1027 2.49% 23553 2.49% Belgium
6 1700 3.03% 1001 2.42% 16143 1.70% Germany
7 909 1.62% 858 2.08% 11825 1.25% United Kingdom
8 882 1.57% 654 1.58% 11829 1.25% France
9 640 1.14% 543 1.31% 11034 1.16% Canada
10 632 1.12% 460 1.11% 10150 1.07% Netherlands
11 577 1.03% 577 1.40% 9435 1.00% Mexico
12 359 0.64% 285 0.69% 3393 0.36% Czech Republic
13 77 0.14% 77 0.19% 1042 0.11% Brazil
14 12 0.02% 8 0.02% 869 0.09% Seychelles
15 10 0.02% 7 0.02% 304 0.03% Japan
16 3 0.01% 3 0.01% 87 0.01% Non-Profit Organization
17 2 0.00% 2 0.00% 199 0.02% Old style Arpanet (arpa)
18 1 0.00% 1 0.00% 58 0.01% Portugal
19 1 0.00% 1 0.00% 89 0.01% Sweden

The top hits are coming from the states - y’know, where my peeps at - but what I’m curious about are the old Arpanet hits there at the bottom. Either someone is spoofing old IPs allocated from there or Larry fired back up his network. Oh, and whoever that is from Seychelles, can I come stay with you for the winter? (The average temperature there during December and January is 30C.) I’ll do tricks and stuff, I’m almost housebroken and I’ve stopped sniffing crotches…well, generally, unless it’s a really interesting crotch, you understand.

Uhm, moving right along.

While I’m being all technical, I did find the need to nerd-out again though. I needed to mount an ISO and don’t have any of the fun tools I used to so I had to go digging. It turns out that there is a surprisingly simple and useful tool from Microsoft that lets you mount ISOs as a file system in XP. It’s not as fancy as Alcohol 120 or Daemon Tools, but it’s super tiny - only about 60Kb, and only lands an 8K memory footprint when loaded and an .iso is mounted. It works like a champ as far as I’ve seen. Though it’s not what I would call intuitive or user friendly. Here’s the readme so you can see what you’ll be getting into:

Readme for Virtual CD-ROM Control Panel v2.0.1.1


System Requirements
- Windows XP Home or Windows XP Professional

Installation instructions
1. Copy VCdRom.sys to your %systemroot%\system32\drivers folder.
2. Execute VCdControlTool.exe
3. Click “Driver control”
4. If the “Install Driver” button is available, click it. Navigate to the %systemroot%\system32\drivers folder, select VCdRom.sys, and click Open.
5. Click “Start”
6. Click OK
7. Click “Add Drive” to add a drive to the drive list. Ensure that the drive added is not a local drive. If it is, continue to click “Add Drive” until an unused drive letter is available.
8. Select an unused drive letter from the drive list and click “Mount”.
9. Navigate to the image file, select it, and click “OK”. UNC naming conventions should not be used, however mapped network drives should be OK.

You may now use the drive letter as if it were a local CD-ROM device. When you are finished you may unmount, stop, and remove the driver from memory using the driver control.

It should go without saying that if you don’t understand any of that, you A, shouldn’t try it, 2, probably don’t need to use it in any event, and D, need to be aware that I’m taking no responsibility if you cock up your mom’s/wife’s/brother’s/aunt’s/neighbor’s PC, or your very own if it comes to that. I would never recommend breaking apart something solely to learn how to put it back together to anyone - but it’s always worked for me.

brother let me tell you just as sure as you’re born
you better leave that woman alone

Stretching my legs, sorting out a peace, and finally more geekly stuff.

The Wandering Nerd August 8th, 2007

Hit up the ‘hop on/hop off’ tour here in Belfast. Luckily the weather turned out well today. Though that just means my travel tomorrow will be shitty, for a number of reasons, more on that later.

Covered a lot of ground on the bus. Saw where the Titanic was built and all of the ‘urban reclamation’ of the industrial areas around it. The shipbuilding industry has long since moved on, only the two giant cranes (which can lift 16 thousand tons) remain. From there the trek out to ‘Stromont’ – the Northern Ireland Parliament building – made me question the weather again. Yeah, sure, it’s sunny here, but it’s still only about 13C, which in an open topped bus doing about 60km makes it a bit nippy.

The tour guide gave warning that there had been an attack on Stromont within the past six months. A guy came in with grenades, live grenades, and then later claimed it was a piece of performance art. He had to spend some time in jail, apparently the judge was a critic. I can only imagine the media furor had that happened in the current US police state. He’d be in Gitmo faster than you can say Habeus Corpus, and we’d be all terror alert Cyan up in the place. Where as here, in Northern Ireland, where they’ve been dealing with politically motivated urban violence (otherwise known as ‘insurgency’ SHHHH!) they had elevated security for the tour bus to get in. Now, when the tour guide said this, I’m thinking American style, everyone off the bus, metal detector, turn your head and cough brand ‘elevated.’ Nope, this kindly old security guard in a neon yellow jumper just walked up onto the bus, asked how we were all doing, and suggested, if we could manage it of course, that we all stop for a bit of the ‘ol leg stretch about the lawn as it’s such a nice day. I can only assume, by extension, that if we had not been on elevated security measures, he would have served us all tea and scones and asked about our families.

The next part of the tour went through the more contested areas. Just as a brief history, as there’s no way I could or would even begin to try to explain the true situation, historically or currently here, I think I need to cover some things. The ‘sides’ here are the people what want ‘one island, one country’ and those that want ‘one island, two counties.’ The 1:1 are the Irish/Catholics/Nationalists/Republicans/Sinn Fein/IRA, the 1:2 people are the British/Protestants/Unionists/Loyalists/Ulsters/UVA/RUC. It’s much more complicated, but that’s a very convenient lie about how it breaks down. From what I gather, it’s moved from being a religious struggle onto a more political arena so the last 40 odd years have been more regarding the governance of the area. But another convenient lie is to use the labels Protestant and Catholic, so play along for a bit. The Protestant area is based around Shankill Road, while the Catholic area is based around Falls Road. Now I’m from Kentucky, we know all about a good feud, but this is outstanding. These two roads run parallel, and only a block apart. A wall was constructed between the two areas that is referred to as the ‘Peace Line.’ At certain points it rises to over 70’, with barbed wire tops, and reinforced solid gates that are still closed every night at 1800. With the new peace accord there was talk of taking it down, but the residents expressed strong concerns to keep it in place.

In the pics you’ll see I walked back and forth between the communities, to tell the difference, generally of course, if the message is peace or unity, or if there are British flags of course, then it’s Shankill, if the message is freedom or there are cameras it’s more likely Falls Road. There’s a photo right before the kids skateboarding that is Divis Street from the ‘Divis Street Riots,’ only about 40 years later. Again it’s way more complicated than all that but I’m still trying to find some good sources on both sides to just talk about it. One of the guys in my hostel tonight is a former Belfast resident who’s been living in England for a while so I’m going to try to pick his brain about it a bit.

After all of the heavy history, even with the peace as it is now, I needed to get a break from it. I saw a billboard about the W5 center when I got into town. It’s like a big science museum/exposition center for kids…of course I had to go. I’m just saying if you have drunken monkeys, I mean children, and you happen to be in Belfast. Go. It’s well worth it. Granted I had to knock some of the little buggers off a few of the exhibits as they didn’t even understand how cool it was. There were stairs that had touch contacts build into them so they were literally musical stairs. I tried to play Tchaikovsky’s First Concerto, but my ankle was still sore you understand, so I had to settle for Chopsticks. Seeing all of the next generation of Belfastians at play melted away a lot of the images of walls and razor wire from earlier. The best parts though, get your geek pants on kids, they had a gallery of Nick Roche, he’s the artist that’s working a lot on the new Transformers comic. That’s right a Transformers Gallery. I’ve kept them separate, but even if you don’t like a) comics 2) transformers d) geek stuff, it’s still an interesting showing. Though come to think of it, if you don’t like any of this stuff, uhm…why are you even here. Not that I mind, I’m glad you’re here, you’re my favorite, honest!

While I’m showering you with adoration, I may have some bad news. I’m not sure what my connectivity is going to be like for a while, I’m heading to the Island of Islay in Scotland for a few days. So between the Scotch I intend to drink and the remote location, I have no guarantees on when I’ll post again.

But in the meantime, enjoy!





diet coke,
i’m on my knees

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