Cable storage tip!

Long story short: I found a bag of ziploc baggies of various sizes while looking for a certain USB cable.

Cables are pesky. Very. They tangle up on themselves and with each other, and you never find the one you need, because it’s knotted up with one that you don’t. So here’s a little idea:
Get a bunch of ziploc bags of various sizes. Spool up your cables. Dump them (and any small gadgets like USB wifi adapters, small chargers, etc) in a ziplop each, throw them all in the same drawer/box. Repeat whenever you find a cable/charger lying around that you’re not using within the next 24 hours.

– You’ll always know where to look
– bags are transparent, so you’ll always see what’s in them, easy to locate that ONE cable
– no tangling, easy rummaging

German with Olli – naming animals

We’re probably as good at naming animals as we’re at stuff.

The German word for animal is Tier. Now you know half of naming a load of German animals.

Here’s a list of the best ones, I guess:

skunk – Stinktier – stink-animal
armadillo – Gürteltier – belt-animal
sloth – Faultier – lazy-animal
platypus – Schnabeltier – beak-animal
aye-aye – Fingertier – finger-animal

I’M NOT KIDDING YOU! Wait till I tell you about pigs!

Olli’s Saturday School – Marriage

No worries, I didn’t get married the past week without telling you. I just stumbled across this and thought I’d educate you a little on the subject of marriage and family connections that come with that. Languagewise.

The German word for marriage (the institution) is Ehe.
Sometimes that is cited as being an acronyme:

Errare humanum est

Latin for to err is human.

Important vocabulary:
husband = Ehemann
wife = Ehefrau

Often these are just abreviated to Mann and Frau which are our words for man and woman.

wedding ring = Ehering
divorce = Scheidung
widow(er) = Witwe(r)
wedding = Hochzeit (
literally high-time)

Fun fact: One of the German words for dowry is Mitgift which is interesting, since gift is etymologically connected to our word for give but means poison.
But then, dowries don’t actually play a role in Germany anymore.

Then, there’s the in-laws. Yes, we also make jokes about the mother-in-law being a Drache (a dragon, a person that guards her lair fiercely and hates her child’s spouse with a passion).

The German terminology for in-laws is also used for the family of your not-married significant other, or what we call Lebensgefährte (life-partner). Or, more modern: Lebensabschnittsgefährte = a partner for the current phase or stage of your life. Because apparently all things are temporary.

Anyway, what we do is, instead of adding the German translation of “in-law” to the terms, we use the prefix Schwieger-.

Your mother-in-law would be your Schwiegermutter. Or, sometimes endearingly, sometimes less so: Schwiegermonster.1

father-in-law = Schwiegervater

There are no terms for grandparents-in-law that I know of, though.
For siblings, it gets a little difficult:
We don’t call our brother/sister-in-law our Schwiegerbruder or Schwiegerschwester.
Those are Schwager or respectively Schwägerin.

We do have really cool terms for the brother or husband of one’s sibling-in-law though:
Schwippschwager, or Schwippschwägerin if it’s a sister/wife.

So if you ever plan to get married to a German2, you know the important things.

If you consider becoming a French husband or wife, here’s a neat linguistic tid-bit.

mother-in-law = belle-mère  = beautiful mother
father-in-law = beau-père = beautiful father
Same terminology applies to siblings.

Your in-laws are beautiful.

Footnotes
  1. it means exactly what you think it does []
  2. not that I’m thinking of anyone specific []

A fun weekend

A fun weekend is what I had a few days ago. I did what I Like doing best. Among other things. I took Friday off work1 and drove to some friends’ place where I spent the weekend. With my friends.

We ate tasty food, annoyed2 their cat, took pictures of said cat, let the cat annoy us in the wee hours when it was hungry but we were still tired. We went out for food and drinks, bought and drank Scotch and took pictures of Dinosaurs and animals3. Oh, and we went out for brunch on Sunday.

We spent loads of time just catching up, watched a few movies and in general had a bloody good time.

Here’s a few picutres from the weekend so you can all be jealous!

Warm kitty, soft kitty, not so little ball of fur…sleepy kitty…stu_2014 016

Alert kitty

stu_2014 020

The following we dubbed “Quasimeowdo”stu_2014 031

As you will see I always was that little boy who was into dinosaurs and stuff…

stu_2014 055

 

This one was kind of a weirdo, though…stu_2014 086

 

Excuse me Sir, do you have a moment to talk about our lord and saviour John Hammond? Cue Jurassic Park theme.stu_2014 059

 

And here’s one for the hedgehog nation! stu_2014 115

 

Oh my god! WOLVERINE! WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOU?stu_2014 120

 

I suppose this is art.stu_2014 106

 

More Jurassic Park like stuff.stu_2014 080

 

This one looks like a very weird Romeo & Juliet adaption.

stu_2014 144

 

Another Weirdosaurus!stu_2014 064

 

And a shark!

stu_2014 140

 

Take your time, check out a museum of stuff you are interested in, go there with friends!

Footnotes
  1. that’s always a doozy []
  2. and petted []
  3. of the fake and taxidermied or petrified persuasion []

Olli’s Saturday School – Happy German Halloween?

Kids these days probably wouldn’t believe it, but actually Germany does not have a Halloween tradition like the United States do.

All Saints’ Day or All Hallows is called Allerheiligen in Germany and one of the highest Catholic holidays. It’s also a public holiday here. No work. You’re welcome, protestants. ;-)

In some of our states or Bundesländer it is a socalled “silent holiday”. This means public parties, dances and events that do not conform to the serious character of this day are illegal on that day. When Halloween became popular in Germany, some of those rules where bent, in 2008 that was explicitly forbidden again.

My oldest memory of anything Halloween-related must have been in the early nineties when we got satellite TV at home and I started watching that animated Ghostbusters show. I vaguely remember an episode with the Jack-O’Lantern headed ghost Sam Hain.

The 90s is when sort of a German Halloween tradition started. That is we started copying what we saw in US tv shows and movies, I guess. US sitcoms like the Bill Cosby Show and Friends became popular in Germany and us kids obviously picked up a lot of US subcultural things. Like Halloween. German businesses were obviously keen to exploit that, started selling Halloween-themed candy, decorations and whatever else you could think of to commercialize a custom that was practically unknown up to now.

In the following two decades it became more and more prevalent, people started having Halloween-themed parties. Hey, lets put on ghost and witch costumes so we can get drunk in a room decorated with bats and skulls! Or let’s just get drunk and call it a Halloween party. Who cares?

The fun custom of carving stuff into pumpkins and crafting Halloween-themed decorations is something that’s occasionally done here now, but we don’t actually have a fancy name like Jack O’Lantern here. I’d have to check, but we probably call them Kürbislaterne (pumpkin lantern) if there’s an actual light in it, or maybe Kürbiskopf (pumpkin head). Or whatever description fits depending on what is carved into it. If anything.

According to common public sources, trick-or-treating on Halloween appeared in several European (and African) countries in 2010. I’d never noticed it up until last year when I saw kids walking around my neighborhood, costumed and lugging empty bags around.
I personally find that rather weird. Imagine someone oblivious of US customs opening their door to costumed kids screaming “Süßes sonst gibt’s Saures!

That is how “Trick or treat!” has been translated in movies, books, cartoons etc.

And it’s a near-literal translation. Süßes is our word for treats (literally something sweet)

Sauer means sour and Saures geben is a term meaning to give someone hell.

While Halloween as in decorations and costumes still is rather new and quite rare to encounter in most German streets, I assume the TV programme is pretty much the same as in the US or every country where US popculture has become a part of the media landscape.
There’s reruns of horror movies, marathons of the Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror episodes, Halloween specials of popular sitcoms, the usual stuff.

The corporate scene has embraced it for a while now, and there’s been Halloween themed candy in stores for weeks now, cafés offering pumpkin spice flavored hot drinks, so it’s probably pretty much the same as in North America, except maybe not quite as … present.

And that’s pretty much it. Hope you have a happy Halloween next week, whatever that entails for you!

 

Olli’s Saturday School – I didn’t go to Burger King

The most important thing first:

A Whopper(TM) is the same thing in Burger Kings in Germany. And if it wasn’t for Pulp Fiction, most Germans in the 90s probably wouldn’t have known that quarterpounder is a word for a certain-size hamburger.

The German word for pound is Pfund, which actually is an obsolete German unit to measure the mass of things.
Today we use Pfund as a colloquial term for “half a kilogram” especially when talking about food like butter, flour, sugar etc.
Half a kilogram, for those entirely foreign to the metric system and SI-units, is about 1.1lbs
However using the word Pfund in any official businss is a bad idea since it is not officially defined anywhere and may actually not be used in commercial or official transactions.

There used to be a customs’ pound and a pharmaceutical pound into the mid 19th century.
Historically, a Pfund had been used for anything between 373,24grams1 and 560grams in Bavaria and Austria. That’s about 0.4lbs in difference.

That said, Pfund also used to be a unit to measure area near Vienna and a grouping of either 8 or 240 in a number of German cities.

Back in the times there used to be hollow weights of 25 pounds that you could add pieces of lead to adjust for regional differences.

Don’t get me started on pints or gallons.

Instead, let’s go to inches and feet!

The English word inch comes from the Latin uncia, meaning a twelth part of something.
Makes sense, since it’s the 12th of a foot, right?
Before the metric system inches and feet were used in Germany as well, although we also used Ellen. The Elle is the ulna which is kinda practical, because you could easily measure lengths of rope or fabric with that. Also your forearm from elbow to wrist is the same lenght as your foot.2

The German word for inch is Zoll. That word derives from an old German word for a piece of cut wood that was used to measure lenght.
Even today we use something colloquially called a Zollstock = inch-stick. People occasionally frown upon the term, because it’s not actually a stick, and a lot of them don’t have markings for inches on them.
The official term for it is Gliedermaßstab which could be translated to link-ruler.
Yup. It’s a folding rule.

Back to the inches. The French word for inch is pouce wich translates to thumb. Makes sense, right? Because thumb might be about an inch long?

And here you are, wondering why we went to SI-units that have definitions, are easily converted and generally make sense.

Maybe we should redefine some things and follow the idea of Randall Munroe, redefining a foot as a light-nano-second3.

By the way, there is one thing we actually do use inches for: Measuring the size of LCD screens.
But since sometimes a 24″ screen is actually 23.6 and everybody got confused, some European law was made that we have to give a centimeter value as well. Which we’d abandoned for TVs after flatscreens became the common thing.
So we went from cm to inches for TVs, while inches had always been used for computer screens. And now we have to give a cm value for computer screens even though noone actually uses it when looking for screens.

Footnotes
  1. Troy-Pound in England []
  2. cue everyone throwing out discs while trying to verify []
  3. ~11.8 inches []

This blog post is in 2D for your convenience

I like going to the movies. I like the experience of meeting with friends, going into the theater and watching a new movie on the big screen. Okay, I do get annoyed at the occasional inconsiderate people playing around on cellphones, sometimes even taking calls1 having conversations during the movie, etc…

What kind of annoys me is the compulsion every producer seems to have with 3D. To the point where I get annoyed when I see movie posters or trailers that proudly display

RANDOM TITLE – THE MOVIE

IN 3D

How is it that this feature is so important, that it has to dominate so much of the advertisment? Sure, it’s an impressive technological feat, but in the end, it’s a gimmick. Especially the way it’s used in movies, as I’m told.
It doesn’t make a bad movie good, it doesn’t make a good movie better, it doesn’t further plot, characters or anything else but everyone is onto the Dimension-Train.

Sure, with action movies and that stuff it can be more immersive, more overwhelming, but does anyone actually need that?

When 3D started to go mainstream with James Cameron’s Avatar2 I was still hoping it was a gimmick, a short-lived fad. But every movie theater and their moms started to upgrade their equipment, and it was rather popular. From what I heard, up to today Avatar is still the one movie that did 3D best.

So, good job, everyone else who made 3D movies since 2009. Way to make the best of 5 years.

I saw Avatar in good old regular 2D. Liked it well enough and didn’t miss ANYTHING.

But hey, people want to produce and watch movies in 3D? Guess what, that’s actually fine by me. I’ll just go watch the 2D version with my friends.

Let me just check the schedule of the local cinema. Oh. OH. Aw. Big surprise, all showings of the new movie out this week are in 3D. On three different screens of the 7-screen cinema. Maybe next week? No. Maybe in two weeks? Maybe.

My real issue with the whole 3D crap is that I don’t get to choose. I have to either watch in in 3D or make it a pain in the ass for my friends to schedule actually seeing a movie with me. Or wait for the bluray and watch it on my tv.

Jeez, man! You might think. Cram a sock in it, and go watch the movie in 3D if you want to see it this bad.

Ok. I’ll do it, and I’ll even stop complaining, if you promise me to go watch the next movie you see the way watching a 3D movie feels for me. No complaining allowed.

  1. I have to wear glasses. So you put on glasses, too. Even if you don’t actually have to. Even if you wear contact lenses, because those aren’t an option for me. I
  2. If the movie is 3D, you’re good. Get your 3D glasses. If not, wear a slightly bigger set of glasses over your first pair. There has to be something in it, empty frames don’t count.
  3. Now the fun part. Tape one of your eyes shut. Or wear an eyepatch3. Due to my eyesight, most of the time I have slight depth perception troubles that are even multiplied when trying to see a 3D movie. It currently doesn’t work at all on me.4
  4. Watch the movie. Hope you enjoy it. Do not take the glasses off, even if it is a full lenght triple feature of all the Lord of the Rings special editions.
  5. On the way out, open your wallet. Grab at least half of what you paid for the movie and throw it in the nearest trash can.

And THAT is why I’m so pissed off that it’s nigh impossible to even find a 2D showing of a new action movie in the first three weeks.

 

So…any good movies out recently? ;-)

Footnotes
  1. seriously, you just paid 20 bucks for the movie, dump the phone! []
  2. Thanks for nothing, James. []
  3. I feel ashamed to admit, that I typed ipatch the firet time []
  4. Used to be better with a different set of glasses, but those were so thick and heavy it wasn’t worth the bother []

The Interview – a short story and a first for me

A few days ago I came home after a rough and long day at work, and got randomly inspired by a short twitter conversation.

A few minutes later I was throwing words at my computer, forming sentences, until I had a very rough and bad short story. A bit later I’d found two wordy friends for feedback, and boy was some of it crushing. I first took care of grammarly stuff, then ironed out some of the “actual” writing, which in parts was pretty bad.

I ended up with this:

 

The Interview

The neon lights hummed and flickered.
In the past hour no-one had passed the corridor outside the conference room deep within the building.
It would have felt creepy to Samia if she had room in her head for much else besides how desperately she needed that job.
She had been horrified at the prospect of screwing something up. At the start of the interview Jim, the balding, slightly beer-bellied man conducting it had offered her a cookie. Gripping the armrests so tight her knuckles turned white, she declined.

Samia had a reputation for spilling food into her cleavage. Her bra collected more finger food than a starving wedding crasher.
Even without chocolate chip cookies tumbling down between her boobs a job interview was more than challenging for a pudgy girl makingher way towards financial independence.

About twenty minutes in, Jim had asked about her strengths and weaknesses. Opening her mouth to answer, she heard a very faint muffled scream like from the opening scene of a teeny slasher movie.

‘Is there anything wrong?’ Jim asked. Samia stared at him, open-mouthed. She blushed and asked: ‘Sorry, but can you hear that?’

Jim cocked his head, puzzled, and listened. As the screaming grew louder it became clear the origin was in Samia’s purse. “Your cell phone?’ he said, a frown of disapproval showing up on his face.

‘I thought … I turned it off. That’s not even my … ringtone.’ Samia started rummaging in her her purse.

She pulled her screaming cell phone out from between tissues and make-up, the words UNKNOWN CALLER showing up on its display.

A nearly unnoticeable smile flashed across Jim’s face as he motioned the wide-eyed Samia to answer the call.

Thumbing the green button she moved the device up to her ear. The screaming ringtone stopped. ‘Hello?’ Samia said, her voice shaking.

Jim frowned as he watched all color drain out of Samia’s face within an instant. The phone slid out of her hand. As it hit the conference room’s carpet, the loudspeaker activated.  Whoever was on the other end of the call was screaming.

Before either of them could say a word, the screaming stopped. The lights around them died, leaving the phone as the room’s only source of light. After a few seconds the phone’s display briefly flickered, turned off and plunged them into utter darkness.

 

So that’s it. The first time I wrote a story from scratch unless you count that thing we had to write in 4th grade. ;-)

new camera and a trip to the zoo

Heya! Quite a few things have happened these days, and maybe I’ll blog about some of them.

My old camera1 went the way of all things and got claimed by wear and tear. It still took pictures, but some controls didn’t work the way they were supposed to anymore. Repair would’ve exceeded the current worth of it, so I thought about it for a few days and decided to go for the EOS 70D. It’s a little faster, more powerful and the control style is a little different due to the touch screen. The screen is one of those neat fold-out and angle to some sort of convenient degree if you need it. Easy on your back when taking pictures from weird angles. Also I’m looking forward to try out the wifi remote control features.

Anyway, I bought the camera and my trusty photographic needs provider even extended payment until he sold off my old camera an accessories on ebay, to deduct whatever he gets from my bill. Talk about awesome.

Anyway, let’s get to the results. I went to the zoo with friends last weekend and took oodles of pics featuring the residents. Amazed by the results I only cropped a few of those, played a little with contrast and brightness settings, maybe sharpened some, but that was pretty much it.

Now let’s see if the new wordpress update allows for flickr embedding!

Here’s a lynx!

Lynx

 

An awesomly beautiful Smoke Jaguar that made me feel sorry for leaving my polarizer at home. Still beautiful.

Smoke Jaguar

 

 

Along with the Smoke Jaguar, the Firefoxes or Red Panda were probably my favorite. This one’s really chill!

Red Panda chill

Otterly adorable was this quirky little guy!Otter

 

That was only a small selection of the pictures I took there. The way the new camera behaves and takes pictures, I’m looking forward to share more of them in the foreseeable future.

If you want to see alpacas, zebras, meerkats, servals, sloths and some other pretty fellows, just click ONE OF THESE CAPITALIZED WORDS, THEY’RE A GIANT LINK TO THE PHOTOALBUM ON FLICKR!

Footnotes
  1. my trusty EOS 40D []

Hamburg, Germany – tigers, bears and snakes

Hey guys and gals, lads and lasses, dudes and dudettes, awesome people who actually read this!

I had something else brewing for today’s post, but somehow my heart wasn’t really in it, so I chucked it in the drafts folder and hopefully come up with more some time soon. Like a new language blog for Saturday, but at least I already have a topic for that.

So I can at least relax a little, like this guy.

I probably should be all poised and alert, maybe even preparing for my trip, but I’m gonna do that tomorrow.

Packing, tidying up the place, playing around with my new camera’s controls to get the hang of them. There are many things I should or could be doing right now, but I’m all like this fella instead:

At least I already had dinner, so there’s that!

So while I waste away the evening with games and probably a book later, have a couple of pics I took this weekend in Hamburg!