Tuesday, July 31, 2007

My trip to Europe - Day 3

Day 3 - Outskirts of Munich

Having gotten a decent night's sleep, we got up in the morning ready to go see some of the further out parts of Munich. Lartiza had arranged to do some yarn shopping with someone she knew from Knitters without Borders, so Guilherme and I were on our own.

We headed to the Hauptbahnhof and figured out which tram we'd need to take to get to Nymphenburg, a palace on the outskirts of Munich. We boarded and were soon joined by a large number of school children who appeared to also be on their way to see the place.

When we got there, the building itself was under renovation, but we were still able to go inside and see some fancy rooms. But the real attraction there were the grounds. The gardens behind the palace are quite extensive and include a kilometer long canal surrounded by woods that surround other minor palaces and lakes. There were lots of trails through the woods and a good number of locals were taking advantage of them for jogging and walking. We also saw more school kids running around and jotting down information on various attractions. Must have been some kind of worksheet they had to fill out.

Front of Nymphenburg
Front of Nymphenburg

Swans and a fountain
Some swams in a pond in front of Nymphenburg

Nymphenburg - Grand Hall
Nymphenburg Grand Hall

Nymphenburg - Gallery of Beauties
Nyphenburg Gallery of Beauties

Looking out at the gardens
Looking out at the gardens

Swan Lake?
Another swan

Pool (right)
This photo of the pool at the end of the canal is one of my favorites. It also makes a nice desktop background, in my opinion.

Some kind of memorial rotunda in the woods

After spending a few hours at Nymphenburg, and walking nearly 5 kilometers in the gardens, Guilherme and I caught a bus over to the Olympic park, home of the 1972 Olympics that were held in Munich. You might remember a film by the name Munich that came out a few years ago, which had reference to the fact that Israeli athletes were taken hostage and killed by terrorists during the Munich games. We didn't have any kind of tour guide to explain the significance of anything to us, so we just kind of wandered through the Olympic park and paid a couple Euros to enter the stadium and walk around the concourse.

Olympic Park
The distinctive architecture of the park ensure that it certainly wouldn't be mistaken for something else.

Olympic Park
The spaceneedle-esque tower

Olympic Stadium
A look at the main stadium.

After finishing there, we took the subway back to downtown, ate lunch at a turkish kebap restaurant, where we ended up with kebap platters rather than the kebap sandwiches we were trying to get, and then made it back to the hotel where we took a nap and did a few other things before collecting Laritza and heading to a supermarket to buy a few things. We had to get to the supermarket early as all markets in Germany and Austria close at 6 pm. Laritza and I bought some food to make lunch on the road trip we had planned for the next day.

After dropping our groceries off at the hotel, we headed out to dinner at the Augustiner beer garden, which felt much less touristy than the Hofbrauhaus. Under duress in the food line, I ended up buying more hotdogs and sauerkraut and being as I didn't see any non-beer beverages there, I made do with my trusty liter-sized bottle of water. One nice thing in both Germany and Austria is the presence of numerous fountains designed for filling water bottles as you travel around.

Augustiner Beer Garden
This truck drives around picking up used beer glasses from stations located throughout the garden.

Augustiner Beer Garden
Just to give a hint at the amount of people frequenting these places.

When Guilherme and Laritza started on their 3rd beers, I left them and headed back to the hotel stopping at the Hauptbahnhof along the way to buy a Fanta and some chocolate.

Munich at Dusk
On the walk home

Munich Hauptbahnhof
In the Hauptbahnhof

More pictures of Day 3.

Coming tomorrow: Riding the rails to Fussen.

Monday, July 30, 2007

My trip to Europe - Days 1 & 2

Okay, I've had enough time to settle back in to being home and working on my research project and have uploaded all the pictures I plan to for the time being to Flickr. So I finally feel ready to give a brief travelogue of what all I did on my trip.

Day 1 - Travel

The first day, I got up around 5:30 and my mom was kind enough to pick me up and take me to the airport. My passport still is valid, even if the photo is nearly 10 years old now.

The trip was pretty uneventful. Layover in Atlanta and then an all-nighter from Atlanta to Munich. I switched to an exit row seat for the overseas flight for the extra legroom and was happy that I did, although it turned out the flight was less than full and I probably could have stretched out just as easily in the back of the plane. I slept a bit, not sure how much and the next morning we were in Munich.

Day 2 - Munich

We had no trouble getting from the airport to downtown Munich via the S-train. Our hotel was just a couple blocks from the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) and upon arriving there around 9 or so, they even had one of our two rooms ready for us, so we stashed our luggage there and headed out to see the town. I guess I should mention at this point there were three of us: myself, Guilherme, and Laritza. A pretty diverse crowd, each of us claiming different home countries and languages, and ranging in age from 28 to 47 or so.

Anyway, Guilherme had been to Munich before and steered in the direction of the Marienplatz, a several block area of shops and sites in old town Munich.

Old Gate
Entrance to Marienplatz

Towers of the biggest cathedral
Towers of the main cathedral that we went up in later.

We stopped into one of the cathedrals there and mostly just wandered around for a couple hours. We ate lunch there. I bought a pretty safe looking baguette sandwich and bought a liter bottle of water that came in handy throughout the rest of our stay in Munich. After lunch, we went back to the hotel, got Laritza checked into her room and settled in a bit. I napped for an hour or so and Guilherme talked to his wife and daughter in Brazil using Skype.

After recharging our batteries a bit, we took some pointers from the Fodors guide I'd brought and headed out on the town again. We walked through some kind of botanical garden and then went to the main cathedral where we marveled at the scale of the thing and then paid a couple Euros to climb a spiral staircase up to an elevator in one of the towers to get a nice view of the city.

From the main cathedral tower
View from the Cathedral Tower

After that, we headed out in search of the Englischer gardens, which are Munich's version of Central Park. We walked through there a bit, saw a bunch of people cooling off in the river, and then decided to head to the Haufbrauhaus, Munich's most famous beer garden, for dinner.
Englischer Gardens - Water Park style
Raging Waters - Munich. Actually its just the river in the Englischer gardens.

Statue of Maximillian we came across in our travels

Hofbrauhaus - note the 1 liter mugs that about half of the beers come in.

I ordered a bratwurst that came with some mashed potatoes and sauerkraut for dinner, and was one of the few people only drinking lemonade.

After dinner we headed back to the hotel for a good night's sleep.

More photos from Day 2.

Coming tomorrow: Day 3 - Mass Transit Extravaganza

Friday, July 27, 2007

Up and At Them!

Well, I'm kind of back on Utah time, I guess, although I did wake up around 5 this morning. I'll probably be tired tonight, but hopefully by tomorrow things will start to be feeling normal again.

Looking around my apartment last night I had to wonder what would happen to some people if they had to live on their own. When I got home there was no toilet paper in either of the bathrooms that I share with my 3 non-master-bedroom roommates, so I was glad to have kept an emergency stash last time I bought some. Additionally when I woke up this morning I realized that I was cold. Not just cool, but really cold. I went down to check the thermostat and found that it was set to well below 70 degrees. I'm all for keeping the house cool, but I'm hoping the thermostat wasn't set that low the whole time I was gone.

Anyway, I'm in the process of uploading pictures to Flickr (click here to keep an eye on what I've put up so far) and will hopefully be giving you a rundown of the trip a couple days at a time, once I take care of a few other pressing matters (laundry, figuring out how much money I spent in dollars, etc.).

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Back from Europe, Stay Tuned for Details

I got back from Europe this evening and I'm working hard at staying awake a bit longer so that I can get back to being on Utah time a bit quicker. This means that save for 2 30-minute naps that I took today, I've been up for the past 23 and a half hours. I've never really been up this long consecutively, and especially considering that the sun's been up the entire time and is just now going down.

I'll definitely be putting up a lot of pictures on Flickr, and I hope to give a fairly extensive description of my activities, especially given that I also need to write up my experience for the organization website anyway.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


You know how some girls have a guy friend who is always around, and clearly the guy is in love with her, but she either doesn't realize (how could she not?) or pretends to not realize because she either a) doesn't want to deal with the situation, or b) doesn't want to lose his friendship. I always think those guys must have no self-esteem. Usually they've either tried to date the girl and gotten shot down or haven't tried assuming they'd be shot down, and in the aftermath, are hanging on to the "lets just be friends" olive branch like a drowning man hanging on to a floating piece of debris. I like to think of this guy as the Ever-present Male Friend or EMF.

I'm never quite sure how girls fall for this tactic. Here's the truth: guys don't want to be friends with girls they are attracted to. They want to date them. If you break up with a guy and he says he still wants to be friends or he agrees to still be friends, its because he hopes that there's still a chance he can make it from "just friends" back to "more than friends". Its not because he just enjoys your company and accepts the fact that you aren't interested. And now that they are "just friends" they'll jump at any chance to spend time with their "BFF". In fact they are pretty much inseparable. Girls love someone who will listen to them and can also give a man's perspective on things.

Seriously, though, don't you have to kind of pity those guys? Its just not an easy situation to be in. Its much less of an ego-swallowing ordeal to just walk away from the situation than to just be friends. Maybe, given sufficient time, a guy can get past the feelings he had for her and move on, but its not happening overnight, and even then he's not going to want to be her best friend. And until he's been able to move on, the last thing he wants is to hear her talk about guys that she's interested in or watch other guys try to make a move on her. I think this is part of what leads to the everpresent-ness of this guy. He wants to do all he can to keep her from dating other guys or for other guys to become better friends with her than he is, even though its pretty much inevitable. I always think these guys have pretty much given up on dating, and the best thing that could possibly happen for them is for her to get married. Hopefully, marriage is a sufficiently clear signal that she's not changing her mind.

On occasion, the rare fellow does manage to get back into her good graces (see the Persistence Theory), although sometimes its more because he's been so effective at scaring off other potential suitors. And honestly, its a bit of a turn-off when a girl who has some hanger-on guy always calling her up to do stuff and always there with her at everything, even though they are "just friends".

Strangely I kind of found myself in this same kind of situation in the last year or so. There was a girl that I was into, and went on a few dates and then her interest started to wane and then finally she told me that maybe it was best if we didn't date any more. "Out of fairness to [me]" of course. But could we please still be friends. Because she really thinks I'm cool and that she has a lot of fun with me.

Now in case you've already forgotten, "guys don't want to be friends with girls they are attracted to." Anyway, in the aftermath of my own "lets just be friends" moment, I've really struggled with whether its worth hanging on and being "that guy" that I've pitied in so many other instances. I mean I really do enjoy spending time with this girl, and of course I think she's attractive. But I can't feel right pretending that I only want to be friends, and my ego doesn't really want me to be that kind of guy either.

I, mean, I do still call her and email her and on occasion have a longer chat with her, and part of me still holds out hope that someday she might change her mind. But I also hope I'm not being the EMF. I hope I've been pretty clear about what my feelings are, and I would never tell her that I'm fine to "just be friends" with her, and in the meantime I've been doing my best to meet other girls and date in the hopes of finding someone I can feel the same way about. But I guess if I actually believed that the EMF strategy would ultimately be successful I'd consider it more seriously. The honest truth is I don't think I could live with myself as that guy.


Mental Aerobics

UPDATE: As of July 11th, Lumosity is no longer in Beta testing and they now want to charge exorbitant rates for their services. As a Beta user they offered me the super low special price of 2 years for $49.95, which apparently is a huge savings over the annual price and the non-Beta user price. At that kind of price I'm sure I can find better options for mental exercise.

Lately I've been enjoying a mental exercise site/game called Lumosity, where each time you come to visit it gives you a new set of exercises to do (assuming you've taken a minute to set up your login), and keeps track of your scores and overall progress on exercises from a few different categories (attention, processing speed, memory, etc.). There are 30 sessions to work through. I do one every day or so, and its fun to see how I'm doing. I've done about 20 of the sessions so far. Its kind of along the lines of things like Brain Age, but free, so if you are interested, you should check it out.

Monday, July 09, 2007

I'm checkin' in (checkin' checkin' in)

Okay, so I'm not checkin' in to a drug rehab clinic. Just checkin' in with you, loyal reader.

I had a fairly eventful weekend, including going to a rodeo and moshing at the Warped Tour in 100+ degree weather. I've got another week before I make my inaugural voyage across the sea to visit the continent from which continental breakfasts are to have originated from. And I also have an idea for what could be the most successful Big Digital weekly feature yet. Still trying to decide if I'll get the first out before the trip or if you'll have to wait until after, but either way, I think I'll enjoy it when it does show up (because after all if I don't enjoy it, why would you?).