Private homepage – Hans-Georg Michna
Copyright © 2003-2023 Hans-Georg Michna.
This page is meant for friends and relatives. I plan to leave things in here for a couple of years, then delete or maybe archive the oldest stuff. New text is added at the top, below this block.
Actually, nowadays people would perhaps call this page a weblog, or blog in modern parlance. I never thought I'd do such a thing, or, rather, I already did it years before it became a fad. Most blogs are more oriented towards the outside, this one logs personal and family events, not web events.
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My friend Thomas sent me this virtual Christmas present. After all the red male Santa Clauses I think a female green one is a very welcome change. And since virtual presents can be forwarded and kept at the same time, here you are:
It is my second week in Magdeburg now. On the weekend I bought myself an early Christmas gift—a new mobile phone. The old one couldn't provide an Internet connection—the new one has GPRS, a data protocol that optionally offers pricing by the Megabyte or by the minute. So I can leave the connection open if I like. However, it is still too expensive for everyday use. I bought a 50 MB per month (€29) plan and will have to stay within that limit, which is really not enough. I can only hope that the prices will come down soon. One of the biggest problems at those prices is the large amount of spam I receive. I have a good filter, but the filter needs to download much of the spam first, to be able to filter it. Doing this through the mobile phone Internet connection can easily gobble up several Megabytes per day.
The upside is that the GPRS connection is established quickly and reliably, works very well, and is about as fast as a normal modem connection. I had given some thought to the faster UMTS protocol with speeds up to 384 Kbit/s, which is already available in Germany, but only few phones are available for that (Samsung mostly), and the system may be too new. I don't want to be the beta tester. I'll give it a few years.
My new Nokia 6230 mobile phone
(with the lanyard already—read more about it below)
Other features of the phone are very many, so I cannot list them here completely in all detail. Let me try nonetheless:
The following are loaded Java programs:
More Java programs can be loaded into the phone.
The phone surprised me no end, and now I'm really glad I bought it. It has more features than I ever wanted or need, like a built-in radio, MP3 player, camera, but I guess they all have that these days. But he biggest surprise came today when I investigated its synchronization software and found that it works with the Windows Address Book (WAB) that is also used by Outlook Express. The problem is that I have almost 1,000 addresses in my address book, but I tried nonetheless. I cannot describe my surprise when it actually worked! I now have my entire address book loaded in the mobile phone, and I can even make independent changes on the computer and on the phone, and the software merges them intelligently. Judging from how well the software is designed and works, Nokia and the whole of Finland scored a very fat point. Should I buy Nokia stock?
To be honest, nothing is perfect. The synchronizing software sometimes hangs and has to be killed. The WAB records addresses in 5 fields, while it's only one in the phone, so city, state, zip, and country all end up in the street address when you make a change to the address in the phone. Certain fields, like the company name, are not represented in the phone and thus get lost in the phone. And the catchall remarks field is limited to 60 characters in the phone, so you have to be careful not to write anything important beyond these in the computer, because it would be cropped. As usual, all these things have the quality of a first demo version, but that's all we get these days. It's still progress.
Today I drove into the city to the Allee-Center, a two-story shopping mall that has essentially the same architecture as the new one at the Mombasa Road in Nairobi. I wanted to buy a lanyard for the tiny phone, so I can't drop it so easily, and also I wanted to have a small dinner.
A few snapshots from the Allee-Center shopping mall in Magdeburg
I went to Saturn Hansa (a big German electric appliances shop chain) first and only found a long red lanyard that's meant to carry the phone around your neck. Not too bad, but that wasn't what I wanted. So I went to the photo department and asked, showing the one on my GPS as an example. The saleswoman looked at it, thought intensely for a moment, then opened a drawer exactly in front of her and took out a tiny plastic bag with exactly the lanyard I wanted. Very gladly I asked for the price, and she said, "Nehmen Sie's einfach so." (Just take it.)
I had a fish burger for dinner, then drove back to the hotel to write this and go to bed early enough to begin working early tomorrow.
My new job leads me to Magdeburg, a city in the former DDR (east Germany). I now work for Toll Collect, a project formed by a consortium of Daimler Benz and T-Com (ex-Telekom, and mainly their daughter T-Systems). More precisely, I work for T-Systems, which is taking orders from Toll Collect and running computers on their behalf. Toll Collect is a company working on the project to collect freeway tolls from trucks driving in Germany. Of course they hope to get more business in future from expanding their service to other European countries and to other types of car.
Since the wall fell, over 100,000 people have left the city, mostly heading for the western part of Germany or Berlin, so there are lots of socialist concrete buildings and others that are empty.
Of course I'm not particularly happy to have to drive 5 hours from Munich to Magdeburg every week, having only work and no life there, then driving another 5 hours back for a brief reunion with the family.
But jobs are scarce these days, and I had not much choice, so I accepted this job for half a year. And there's always the possibility that it gets extended. There is also a chance that I can do some of the work in Munich, where T-Systems has a branch.
I plan to add some photos later, to give some impressions of Magdeburg. For this, however, I need some daylight. So far I have always gone to work before sunrise and left after sunset. This will change when I will have to work late hours when nobody else is there to answer the telephone.
All of my sisters and my mother met already on 2004-11-12 and drove to Babelsberg, then to Potsdam. My brother couldn't join in, he had to work. We would meet up with him the next day. First we had a walk in the Park Babelsberg.
Visiting Potsdam and Babelsberg on 2004-11-12
Map of Park Babelsberg
Mother with her three daughters in front of the Glienicker Brücke
After the walk in the park my sister called one of her friends, who happened to be at home, so we visited her.
At the house of a friend
The streets where we played as children
Later we drove over to Potsdam and walked through the Dutch Quarter (Holländerviertel), past the Nauen Gate (Nauener Tor) and Café Haider, then through the pedestrian zone along Brandenburger Str. to the Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor). There we had a meal in the old fish restaurant that had been there already in communist times. Then we drove across the Glienicker Brücke back to Berlin.
Potsdam has become a quite attractive city. We were impressed by the beautiful pedestrian zone in the city center.
The next day my brother also joined in and we had our big family meeting, chatting deep into the night.
At the coffee table
The two brothers, me (left) and Daniel (right)
The memorial photo
(Deutsche Übersetzung folgt unten)
Oliver opens his first geocache
The rough plan for this trip existed in my head for at least a month, but I never got to it until last week. But now, as the fall shows its last fine weather, the pressure increased to get it going, so I wrote a first message to friends on Thursday morning, with a still unfinished plan.
With first class help and the knowledge of two of my friends, who are experienced mountain hikers, the plan was quickly finalized, and I began to study the weather forecast.
First I had thought we could do it on Monday, November 1st, which is a public holiday in Bavaria (All Saints' Day, the German version of Halloween) or perhaps a week later, but then it turned out that the day with the very best weather would be Saturday already, with some Föhn (warm, southerly wind across the Alps), much sunshine and no rain.
Among the mountains, after a short examination only one proved suitable, the Baumgartenschneid. All other mountains either had no guest house that was still open, no geocache, or they were too high and to far south in the Alps.
The Baumgartenschneid is a mountain east of the Tegernsee lake with a peak height of 1,444 m above sea level. We picked a relatively short round walk, such that we never had to go the same way back we came on, beginning and ending in the town of Tegernsee, named after the lake, directly to the north of Rottach-Egern. The meeting point was at 11 o'clock at the Tegernsee train station.
Before that, however, I had made an earlier meeting point for those who are interested in geocaching, at 9 am in front of the city hall in Holzkirchen. There is a geocache that consists of a riddle, which you have to solve first to be able to find the real geocache.
You can find background information on geocaching at www.geocaching.com, where all known geocaches are registered.
The weather turned out to be a dream come true, and Ines, one of our friendsl, found her first geocache (and wrote that into the cache log), and that was the one on the Baumgartenschneid.
Oliver, another friend, also opened his first geocache, and that was even the complicated, two-step multi-cache in the Holzkirchen area in the morning, as planned (Kokopelli No. 3, see www.geocaching.com).
The hike was perceived by the old hands as relatively easy, by the less well trained as somewhat tiresome, but that's how it should be.
We found an interesting route, which first passes by the geocache and then arcs around and leads past the geocache to the Baumgartenschneid mountain peak. At a right angle one then walks down and later reaches the alm (mountain restaurant, this one named "Zum Galaun"), where we, of course, stopped for a good meal and drink, before we continued down the final descent.
We kept to our schedule very well, better than I had thought. We started half an hour late (somebody was late), at 11:30, but returned only 15 minutes late, at 17:15. In the alm we spent about 50 minutes.
Our actual route can be seen here.
Route (yellow = ascent, violet = descent)
As you can see, we initially climbed up along the southern edge of the Alpbach valley, but not deep down in the valley (dashed line).
The route I had originally planeed had a piece of way, approximately from BH20 directly to the peak, where a footpath was shown in the topographical map, but in reality that path was not there. We simply couldn't find one. In the map you can even see a small trace of our failed attempt to find that path. However, we had thought of this possibility before, had even talked about it, and had an alternative ready, which turned out to be excellent, particularly when one wants to pass by the geocache.
So we kept walking east and thus arced back to the geocache (BAUMGARTEN in the map above) and soon thereafter to the peak (BAUMGSGIPF in the map). This is a very nice variant, because it would be unnecessarily tiresome and at the same time boring to do the steep ascent to the peak twice and walk the same way back. You can bybass the peak partly, but I prefer routes where you never have to walk the same way back, but instead always see something new.
The following picture shows the altitude profile of the ascent to the peak, then the descent to the restaurant.
Each of the following route files contain two routes, BH for the ascent from the Tegernsee train station to the summit, including the geocache, and BR for the descent.
Note: If you come by car, it is a good idea to park the car at BR36 and begin your hike via BR37, Sonnleitenweg, Auerweg, Auerbauer to BH09 (see also topographic map).
We had met at 9 o'clock at the city hall in Holzkirchen, where Oliver joined up with us. At the building there is a signboard made of stone, which you can see in the left photo and which praises the digging of a well in the 15. century (before Columbus discovered America, by the way). To find the actual geocache, we had to read certain digits from the board, which could them be assembled to the target coordinates.
The second photo shows the actual find outside the town in the forest.
The first geocache in the morning
After this we drove on the the Tegernsee train station, the meeting point for the mountain hike.
Meeting at the Tegernsee train station
The second geocache was found by Ines, another friend of ours. It was a micro cache, a tablet tube. In it there was essentially a rolled-up piece of paper, the geocache log. Ines enthusiastically entered her name and our names (my first geocache), then it was carefully hidden again under a tree root.
The second geocache on the Baumgartenschneid
The following pictures show some of us at the Baumgartenschneid summit cross. On the second photo you can see lake Tegernsee in the background.
At the Baumgartenschneid summit cross
|On the way back we passed by the alm "Zum Galaun" and, of course stopped
to eat and drink. The alm is nice and recommendable.
After this nice rest we hiked more or less along the highest line of the mountain range back down to Tegernsee.
While hiking I improved the GPS waypoints and thus documented the complete route for the next time, such that this path is now easy to find.
Oliver opens his first geocache
Die Tour wurde sehr kurzfristig geplant. Ich hatte so etwas schon lange vor, bin aber nie dazu gekommen, einen richtigen Plan zu machen. Jetzt aber, wo der Herbst sich neigt, entstand ein gewisser Termindruck durch die Witterung, so dass ich am Donnerstag früh eine erste Bekanntmachung im Freundeskreis schrieb, mit einem noch unfertigen Plan.
Mit hervorragender Hilfe und den Kenntnissen zweier Freunde, die erfahrene Bergwanderer sind, entstand daraus rasch ein fertiger Plan, und ich begann, die Wettervorhersage zu studieren.
Ich hatte erst gedacht, wir könnten es vielleicht am Montag, dem 1. November machen (Feiertag Allerheiligen) oder vielleicht eine Woche später, aber dann stellte sich heraus, dass der Tag mit dem voraussichtlich allerbesten Wetter schon der Samstag sein würde, mit etwas Föhn, viel Sonnenschein und ohne Regen.
Als Berg kam nach kurzer Prüfung überhaupt nur einer in Frage, die Baumgartenschneid. Alle anderen Berge hatten entweder keine bewirtschaftete Alm zum Einkehren, keinen Geocache oder waren zu hoch und zu weit südlich in den Alpen.
Die Baumgartenschneid ist ein Berg östlich des Tegernsees mit einer Gipfelhöhe von 1.444 m über dem Meeresspiegel. Wir haben uns einen relativ kurzen Rundweg ausgesucht, so dass wir nie denselben Weg zurückgehen mussten, den wir gekommen waren, beginnend und endend im Ort Tegernsee am südlichen Ostufer des Tegernsees, direkt nördlich von Rottach-Egern. Treffpunkt war um 11 Uhr am Bahnhof Tegernsee.
Vorher allerdings hatte ich für diejenigen, die sich besonders für Geocaching interessieren, noch einen anderen Treffpunkt gemacht, vor dem Rathaus in Holzkirchen um 9 Uhr. Dort gibt es einen Geocache (englische Aussprache: djiokäsch, halb-deutsche Aussprache: geokäsch), der ein Rätsel enthält, das man erst lösen muss, um den eigentlichen Cache zu finden.
Hintergrundinformationen zum Geocaching findet man auf www.geocaching.com, wo auch alle bekannten Geocaches verzeichnet sind.
Das Wetter war traumhaft, und Ines hat ihren ersten Geocache gefunden (und das auch ins Logbuch geschrieben), nämlich den auf der Baumgartenschneid.
Oliver hat ebenfalls seinen ersten Geocache geöffnet, und sogar einen komplizierten zweistufigen Multi-Cache in der Gegend von Holzkirchen am Morgen, wie geplant (Kokopelli Nr. 3, siehe www.geocaching.com).
Die Bergwanderung wurde von dan alten Hasen als eher leicht empfunden, von den Ungeübten als etwas anstrengend, aber das muss ja wohl so sein.
Wir haben eine interessante Route gefunden, die zuerst am Geocache vorbeiführt und dann von dort auf die Baumgartenschneid. Im rechten Winkel dazu läuft man dann wieder hinunter und kommt dort an der Alm vorbei (Zum Galaun), wo wir natürlich eingekehrt sind und gut gegessen und getrunken haben, bevor wir uns an den endgültigen Abstieg machten.
Unseren Zeitplan haben wir sehr gut eingehalten, besser, als ich gedacht hatte. Wir sind eine halbe Stunde zu spät losgelaufen (jemand kam etwas verspätet), nämlich gegen 11:30 Uhr, aber nur eine Viertelstunde zu spät zurückgekommen, nämlich gegen 17:15 Uhr. In der Alm haben wir etwa 50 min verbracht.
Unsere tatsächliche Route ist hier zu sehen.
Route (gelb = Aufstieg, violett = Abstieg)
Wie man sehen kann, sind wir anfangs an der südlichen Oberkante des Alpbachtals hinaufgekraxelt, aber nicht in der Talsohle (gestrichelte Linie).
Die Route, die ich eigentlich geplant hatte, hatte beim Aufstieg ein Stück Weg, etwa von BH20 direkt zum Gipfel, das zwar auf der topografischen Karte existierte, aber nicht in der Wirklichkeit. Der eingezeichnete Pfad war einfach nicht zu finden. Man sieht noch eine kleine Spur unseres vergeblichen Versuchs, ihn ausfindig zu machen. Wir hatten aber genau diesen Fall schon vorher für möglich gehalten und besprochen und hatten daher eine Alternative parat, die sich als ganz ausgezeichnet herausstellte, insbesondere, wenn man den Geocache finden will.
Daher sind wir dann weiter nach Osten gegangen und so in einem Bogen erst zum Geocache gekommen und kurz darauf auf den Gipfel. Das ist eine sehr schöne Variante, weil es unnötig anstrengend und gleichzeitig langweilig wäre, den steilen Anstieg zum Gipfel zweimal hintereinander zu machen und dabei denselben Weg wieder zurückzugehen. Man kann zwar den Gipfel teilweise umgehen, aber ich bevorzuge Routen, bei denen man denselben Weg überhaupt nicht zweimal zurücklegen muss, sondern immer etwas Neues sieht.
Das folgende Bild zeigt das Höhenprofil des Aufstiegs bis zum Gipfel und dann des Abstiegs bis zur Alm.
Jede der folgenden Routendateien enthält zwei Routen, BH für den Aufstieg vom Bahnhof Tegernsee über den Geocache bis zum Gipfel und BR für den Abstieg.
Anmerkung: Wenn man mit dem Auto kommt, dann ist es eine gute Idee, das Auto bei BR36 zu parken und die Wanderung über BR37, Sonnleitenweg, Auerweg und Auerbauer nach BH09 zu beginnen (siehe auch topografische Karte).
Wir hatten uns um 9 Uhr schon am Rathaus Holzkirchen getroffen, wo auch Oliver zu uns stieß. Am Gebäude ist eine Tafel, die man im linken Bild sehen kann und die die Erstellung eines Brunnens im 15. Jahrhundert preist. Um den eigentlichen Geocache zu finden, musste man aus dieser Tafel einige Ziffern herauslesen, die sich dann zu den Zielkoordinaten zusammensetzen lassen.
Das zweite Bild zeigt den eigentlichen Fund außerhalb der Stadt im Walde.
Der erste Geocache am Morgen
Danach fuhren wir zum Bahnhof Tegernsee, dem Treffpunkt für die Bergwanderung.
Treffen am Bahnhof Tegernsee
Den zweiten Geocache fand Ines. Es war ein sogenannter Micro-Cache, ein Tablettenröhrchen, in dem im Wesentlichen ein Blatt Papier eingerollt war, das Geocache-Logbuch. Ines hat sich und uns alle mit Begeisterung eingetragen ("Mein erster Geocache"), dann wurde er wieder sorgfältig unter der Baumwurzel versteckt.
Der zweite Geocache am Baumgartenschneid
Die folgenden Bilder zeigen jeweils einige von uns am Baumgartenschneid-Gipfelkreuz. Auf dem zweiten Bild sieht man im Hintergrund den Tegernsee.
|Auf dem Rückweg kamen wir an der Alm "Zum Galaun" vorbei und kehrten natürlich
ein. Die Alm ist zu empfehlen.
Nach dieser Ruhepause kraxelten wir mehr oder weniger auf der höchsten Linie des Bergkammes nach Tegernsee zurück.
Ich habe während der Tour die GPS-Waypoints verbessert und die komplette Route so für die nächste Wanderung dokumentiert, so dass man diesen Weg nun leicht wiederfinden kann.
Nothing much to report, except that Franz has bought himself a scooter. Not an ordinary one, of course. This one is electric.
Max. speed is about 13 km/h, by far not as much as you can reach on an ordinary scooter without the electric drive. The range is about 16 km. After use you connect it to a diminutive charger and recharge the built-in batteries.
Of course it is forbidden on German streets.
After my new GPS, A Garmin GPSMAP 76C, arrived from America with Colin, our Canadian guest child (actually he's now almost an adult), I thought of geocaching again. After all, since I was the first person on earth to put a virtual geocache on the equator (at N 0° E 36°) and possibly the inventor of the virtual geocache, I might as well, years later, try to find a geocache.
Our geocaching route
The picture shows two more geocaches in the area that we have not yet found. But there are many more all around Munich. To give you an impression, here's a larger map with about 40 geocaches, not including those in or very near Munich, except the Neubiberg one.
Geocaches south of Munich
So on this very warm, sunny Friday we, the whole family including Colin, set out for our first ever geocache hunt and aimed for three caches that aren't too far away. First we looked for the Cowboy Cache, a microcache in a film cartridge.
Colin finds the first geocache
Then we continued to two more geocaches, No mexican beer, and Archäologische Ausgrabung, the latter being inside the corner of a fairly big and high Celtic square enclosure (deutsch: Keltenschanze).
Our third and last geocache for the day
So while we were treasure hunting, we learned a tiny little bit about archaeology and about the mysterious traces of our Celtic forebears.
Finally we passed by Deininger Weiher and had a good dinner at the lake. It was an interesting day.
The next robot moves into the house—a vacuum cleaner. It is the original silver Roomba.
First experiences are very good. The little thing works quite thorougly, but still speedily, makes some noise, but gets the job done. You have to remove things that it wants to eat, like thin cables and other garbage, and it can't hurt to remove chairs and other things that block its way, but after doing that, Roomba brushes and vacuums the entire room and leaves no place untouched that it can reach.
It doesn't fall down stairs either, so you can leave it running around upper floor hallways or in the attic.
Before you buy one, check iRobot's new offerings, which are improved versions of this one.
The first test runs revealed that we have to remove or safeguard some loose cables before setting the diligent robot free in any of our rooms, because otherwise it scoops them up and wraps them around its brushes.
Apart from that you have to make sure that there aren't any places where Roomba can just narrowly squeeze under and get stuck, usually when there is a carpet that can be compressed a little bit. So far it always got out on its own, but it gets scratched and wastes energy and time when it happens. Fortunately such places are rare, and pulling a carpet away a little bit or putting another obstacle in front of the problem point solves such a problem.
In one case Roomba drove onto the foot of a wooden bench and lifted itself up far enough to sound its alarm and halt. That's not a big problem—the next person passing by can pull it off and press any key to continue operation.
Apart from these little points we have no complaints. It helps if we take things up from the ground before starting Roomba, so it can clean those places, but it does circle around the legs of tables and chairs and does its best to clean such areas as well if you didn't find the time to remove them. A simple trick is to move things to different places every time or to move things around a little after Roomba has done half its job.
Please have a look at my travel report, if you like.
Hans-Georg, Franz, Tapsi, Georg. We made this photo for Mausi.
Have to show you something funny. I played a game of go on the Internet today, and the best way to win was to build a white flower in the middle of the board.
The white flower
Can you see it?
You can download the complete game record in SGF format with added comments from my server or in its original form from the KGS archive (also from this monthly game overview). I completed the flower with move 84, which is the position above, and went on to win the game by 7.5 points.
Georg, Franz, a classmate of Georg, and I went to the Munich go tournament. Some photos are here. Franz is now almost as strong (9-kyu) as I am (8-kyu). Georg doesn't play as much and is a bit out of touch at 11-kyu.
By the way, our KGS (Kiseido Go Server) names (case sensitive) are hgmichna for me, FDt for Georg, Drag0n for Franz (that letter is a zero), and stafan for Stefan, the friend.
We are having a delightful Easter holiday at home, filled with playing, reading, watching movies and being lazy.
Franz with Easter bunny at the breakfast table
We find some time to play go again. This is a photo of our go session after the Easter breakfast.
Franz and Georg in a simultaneous go session with me
I lost to Franz and won over Georg in this particular session.
Nothing of any wider interest seems to happen, except that I lost my job that I had done for many years in an insurance company. Their business isn't going all too well, so they thought they had to economize and drop most externals.
At the moment I enjoy the free time and do all the things that I had put off because of too much work. As a freelancer the amount of work is never right, it's always either too much or too little. I have stopped complaining about this.
Just wanted to remark that we're still alive and well. Nothing special to report. No plans for the summer vacation yet, although it's probably high time to make up our minds.
Mausi went skiing while I had to go to work! I'm envious!
The day was wonderful, clear blue sky, -10°C in the morning, then just below freezing during the day, but she says the sun made for a nice temperature.
Mausi in the Austrian Alps
In the morning she had pondered whether she would buy a half day ticket only and spend some of the other time in one of the nice restaurants, but as it turned out this was Ladies Day in the ski resort, and she only had to buy a childrens' ticket at half price for the whole day. We had forgotten about that. Nice treat (for ladies, anyway). I'm even more envious, because even if I had gone there too, I would have had to pay full price.
Our favorite skiing area is the Skiwelt (literally translated: ski world), the mountain range between Ellmau, Scheffau, Söll, Itter, Hopfgarten, Brixen, one valley south of the Wilder Kaiser. We can reach it in an hour by car when the traffic is light. It has 250 km of ski pistes and 93 ski lifts and is the largest in Austria.
After a warm spell it has snowed almost another 20 cm over the last weekend. We had been skiing on Saturday and stayed at home during the grey snowy days afterwards.
By the way, I reached 8-kyu on the KGS server. This was my medium term goal.
I just woke up and found that it had snowed through the night. That's about 8 inches, and it was still snowing in the morning.
Left: Our cat wades through the snow. Middle: The chestnut tree in our garden with our neighbor's house behind. Right: Georg clears a footpath along the house.
We're still playing go, and I can now fairly consistently trounce the kids, but I haven't managed to rise beyond 9-kyu. Well, that's actually not too bad for an occasional amateur player.
Have to add two movie recommendations for two outstanding Italian movies we just watched.
If you find the time, go and see them, I don't think you will regret it.
We still haven't gone skiing, because the weather was always bad.
Instead we're watching movies again. Just saw Phone Booth (deutsch: Nicht auflegen!), one of the best low budget movies I can remember. It was filmed in a mere ten days on one location at a phone booth at the edge of Times Square, New York. Not a class A movie, but a good B.
Another fairly good sci-fi action thriller was The Time Shifters (deutsch: Zeitreise in die Katastrophe), which dealt somewhat reasonably with the topic of time travel and wasn't too bad as a thriller either.
The last movie that I gave an A, just barely, was Alive (deutsch: Überleben!), a movie about air crash survivors that walked out of the high Andes after staying alive (well, some of them at least) for more than two months by eating their dead companions, a true story, very honestly filmed. Recommended.
It is almost a documentary and apparently an extremely honest and realistic movie, which gets it extra points from me because I'm tired of the overstretched and ultimately unbelievable stories of many contemporary movies. In the extras on the DVD they showed long interviews with several of the survivors, and they also stated that they felt a flashback when they first arrived at the place in the Rockies where the scene and the aircraft wreck was recreated and the movie was filmed. It was a Focker Friendship F-27, a twin engine turboprop, with which I have also flown a few times in Kenya and Tanzania. Usually it has 48 seats. Some details are at http://www.andinia.com/a02530.shtml. The story told on that web site is only too nice to the pilots and technically wrong, as the cause of the accident was clearly not turbulence but sheer pilot error. The pilots were unaware of their actual position and flew into the mountains in near-zero visibility.
Another inaccurate account on that web page is that the crash was survived because of thick snow, but that's less than half of the truth. The biggest luck factor was that the fuselage "landed" gently on a slope that happened to be nearly parallel to the "flight" path after the plane had hit the rocks and could no longer fly, and that the slope was long and snowy enough to let the remains of the plane come to a rest relatively gently, albeit in two pieces. It took the survivors a long time to find the tail of the plane, along with some more corpses. They were looking for the batteries, hoping to be able to resurrect the radio and call for help, but they could of course not master the complex wiring.
I believe that at least nine out of ten such accidents are not survivable. They had a lot of luck, but still paid with many lives. More than half died in those days, some in, some soon after the crash, 8 died in an avalanche that rolled over and into the remains of the plane, some more in other incidents. The movie recreates the story painstakingly.
Other movies we saw that got at least a B from me are two comedies with Matthew McConaughey in the main role are How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days (German: Wie werde ich ihn los – in 10 Tagen?) and The Wedding Planner (German: Wedding Planner – Verliebt, verlobt, verplant). Both are superficial comedies, light entertainment, nothing you really need to see, but they have some good acting and a kind of funny story, and The Virgin Suicides, a more serious movie by Sofia Coppola, a movie that targets bad parenting in a rather insidious way.
An honorary mention goes to the animated movie Sinbad [sic] – Legend of the Seven Seas (deutsch: Sinbad – Der Herr der 7 Meere), a very beautiful movie with a better, if well known from the book, story than Finding Nemo (deutsch: Findet Nemo) and with some stunningly beautiful scenes. Altogether it still didn't warrant an A, but I hesitated for quite some time until giving it a B. I am under the impression that animated movies are getting so much better now that we'll probably see many more of them soon. I, for one, can't wait.
Somebody apparently pinched the firmware of the successor to my camera, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2 (I have the FZ1), and it somehow found its way to the Internet. The funny thing is that one can load this new FZ2 firmware on the FZ1 and thus turn it into a perfect FZ2. Obviously the hardware has not changed between the two models. Panasonic is apparently selling an upgrade package in Japan, but some people are now getting it for free.
I've done it and on the sidelines developed a way to adjust the picture file numbering to any desired number, published at http://michna.com/panacount.htm. The procedure is somewhat complicated.
So now I have an FZ2 with quite a few added features like manual time and aperture priority settings, higher picture file quality (less compression in the highest quality setting, which I particularly appreciate), etc.
Winter has begun and the shortest days and longest nights are here. Today nobody of us worked. We got up late and were lazy. I played two games of go on the Internet, lost one and won one. I'm now 9-kyu on KGS, an SDK player (Single Digit Kyu :-). Then I played two games against Franz and lost both.
After lunch three of us (Franz stayed at home) went to the Hohenbrunn graveyard to hear a little concert of four trombone (deutsch: Posaune) players. They played very nicely and very well, in spite of the freezing temperatures, around -5°C under a clear blue sky, and sunshine from a sun that just barely rose above the horizon.
The trombone concert
Video in the formats
DivX or Windows Media
(DivX is better. If you can't see the DivX video, install this.)
Later in the evening:
Family at Christmas
We wish you all a good Christmas and New Year time.
I'm now at a more comfortable 10-kyu on KGS, still slowly on the way up. Rising much further would probably require real work, so I may leave it at that. But I want to give you some more hints at how to train go.
We are slowly changing over from IGS to KGS (Kiseido Go Server, www.kiseido.com è kgs.kiseido.com) because of its better and nicer user interface. My German level of 5-kyu went down to a current 12-kyu, because these servers use a different scale that is more closely related to the American and Japanese ratings.
I recommend this server. It has a Java browser interface that is easy to understand and allows you to play immediately. Beginners should choose the 9 x 9 board size.
On the weekend 14th to 16th November we had our Munich Movie Marathon again, as always twice a year, with the movies: Y Tu Mamá También, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Hitler—Eine Karriere, Planet der Affen (Planet Of The Apes), Rosemary's Baby, Die Wüstensöhne (Sons Of The Desert, 1933, Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy), Chinatown, Metropolis, Shining, No Way Out, and Manche mögen's heiß (Some Like It Hot). It was a big success again.
Nothing new for two whole months, nothing much happened. So we have taken up playing go again a bit more intensely, particularly Franz and I. I lent my camera to my neighbor who has lost his and wants to see whether he likes mine, so he'd get one like that for himself. So no pictures.
If you don't know the game of go yet, check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_(board_game)/ for a good allround introduction, then follow the links at the end of that page.
A very good hint at more go information is Sensei's (Japanese: sensei = teacher) Library at senseis.xmp.net. The information there is useful for advanced kyu level go players and there is also some for beginners.
If you want to play against the computer, download GNU Go and the graphical interface gGo for it.
Then play a few games and see if you can beat GNU Go. I can beat it, but when I give GNU Go two handicap stones, I often lose. It's good training because of GNU Go's relentless priorities and tactical perfection.
At the risk of turning this into a tech showroom, here's another new acquisition of the household—a high-tech toilet. (This is not a joke!) So far we like it a lot.
Tips for using
I think the pressure of the cleaning jet could be higher. It's adjustable in 5 steps, but I always turn it up to the stop, which indicates insufficiency. But I can live with it, and it's better than anything I've seen before, save the toilets on Dubai airport.
By the way, for those who are interested in this, there are versions that suck out the air to avoid smells (interesting) and with a hot air dryer (probably useless, takes too long), but they are twice as expensive, and we thought we should try the essentials first. But if money plays no role, go for it.
I hear the Japanese have toilets that analyze your cholesterin level. Couldn't find them here though, and even if I had, I probably wouldn't want to afford one.
Our family has another new member—don't laugh—it's a lawn mower robot.
The lawn mower robot
Today we tested it on the big lawn in the back yard after an earlier test on the smaller front yard. It passed the test with flying colors and mowed the lawn excellently. By the way, it doesn't collect the cut grass. Instead it shreds it into fine pieces and leaves them on the lawn, so the nutrients aren't continuously removed.
Anyway, the test results are excellent—I can recommend the device.
Then I tried to find out how long the battery lasts, and it mowed for a total of 5 hours relentlessly—much more than the instructions for use said—until the rechargeable battery finally ran empty. It seems we need only one hour for the front yard and around 2½ hours for the back yard.
The thing is controlled by a built-in compass, its own very limited intelligence, and by a green wire (visible near the top in the picture above) that is used as the demarcation line for the area to be mowed, so it doesn't mow down the flower beds as well. A signal generator supplies some electric signal to the wire and the mower senses this as well as any physical obstacles it happens to bump into.
The robot is made by Friendly Robotics, a clever company in Israel. Its official name is RL500, but we're still thinking about a given name. One proposal is Yellow Grass Marine, but further proposals are still welcome.
It is also a head turner—people passing by usually stop and gaze incredulously at the yellow thing creeping autonomously across the lawn making a soft, humming noise.
2003-09-01 Addendum: Some small, but solvable problems did show up. The robot doesn't like uneven ground. It gets stuck in holes and on protruding tree roots and it cuts the demarcation wire when it isn't low on the ground (or dug in, which is possible if you want to go through that kind of work). No problem on an even surface, but little hills and valleys require more pegs, at least one in each valley. After solving these problems by filling the holes, adding some pegs, hacking away a tree root, and resoldering the cut wire, the robot now again works excellently. When you get one, take the ruler (the green and white distance indicator that comes with the robot) seriously. It is even slightly optimistic on less than perfect ground, i.e. you need an extra inch of clearance in some difficult places.
We went windsurfing on the Walchensee. We drove off at around 8 and were there a little after 9 o'clock. Mausi and one of the kids used a rented boat while the other used the surfboard, taking turns. I used mine. It was very nice, apart from some sunburn. Wind and we ather were perfect.
After the time on the lake we visited a restaurant in the late afternoon and had our dinner on the terrace overseeing the entire Walchensee.
In the evening our home movie theater reopened after our vacation in Kenya with the movie Tora! Tora! Tora!. We hadn't used it much, except for the Wednesday evening RTL2 sci-fi series and a lot of Hikaru no Go, but now we're starting again with more serious movies. Any takers? Please check the schedule at michna.com\movies.xls (or michna.com\movies.htm) and use Excel's autofilter feature to find the dates and times in the Status column. Then please call us for accurate times and come visit the home cinema.
The blackbird died in the hands of Franz. He is very sad and cannot understand why the bird died in spite of his outstanding efforts.
Until today the bird developed very well. The brown color made it clear that it is a female blackbird. Her tail and wings grew a lot during the last two weeks, and her flying became much better. We even took her out into the garden and let her fly around.
The cause of death is unclear, but it seems to have had something to do with digestion, perhaps an infection.
We buried her under the bushes in the garden.
Yesterday, Franz bought six packages of earthworms in a zoo shop, but today it became clear that the appetite of the bird is almost insatiable. He seems to eat his own weight every day, and the worms didn't last over the weekend.
Now Franz and Mausi, in spite of being sick, are digging for worms in the garden, and the bird is on the terrace in his cage. Whenever they find one, it gets eaten immediately, and the noise of the chirping bird gets a little less. But it remains difficult to satisfy his appetite.
Today two things happened. First, to my utter surprise, a little thing hopped into my garage office and chirped. He's apparently a two week old blackbird.
Franz adopted him or her. We can't determine its sex yet.
Young blackbird adopted and fed
He has apparently lost his parents somehow. Perhaps he lost his way and strayed too far from his parents' home territory, or perhaps they died.
Then Mausi got fever. Since we had been in Kenya less than a week ago and in Lamu, where malaria is endemic, about 12 days ago, and since we hadn't taken any malaria prophylactics this time, she had to take a test, and she had to take the test very quickly, as one type of malaria (malaria tropica, caused by Plasmodium falciparum) can kill just as quickly. This course of action has always been the plan. We had figured that it is unlikely that somebody gets a fever within two weeks of returning from a malaria country, so if it ever happened, a test would have to be applied immediately. But now it has happened, and now we had to put the plan in action.
Of course it happened on a Friday evening, no better time to get sick. The tropical disease center (Tropeninstitut) in Munich had already closed, but on their taped message they recommended a particular clinic in the center of Munich.
We went there, and Mausi was taken into something resembling intensive care.
Does she have malaria?
Of course, after a two hour blood test, it turned out that she didn't have malaria. But we could take no risks. Malaria is a deadly disease. Every year a few people die from it here. Now Mausi lies in bed and cures her hopefully not so dangerous infection. It looks more like a common cold now with sneezing and a sore throat.
Lion in Maasai Mara
We're back. Arrived last weekend in good shape. A travel report with many pictures is here.
Our home cinema projector had broken slowly, but surely. The warranty repair took a long time, almost two months, but when we returned, the repaired projector was there, and it seems they have really repaired it. The defect was nasty and unpredictable and led to cooling fan failures and overheating. I marked the case and the mainboard. The case is still the same, but the mainboard has been swapped. Now we'll watch more movies (please check movies.xls or movies.htm for a long list).
Today Franz is 15 years old.
I'm packing for my next departure to Kenya. This page may not see any news until I'll be back. Meanwhile please follow my movementes on my travel report at http://michna.com/kenya2003/.
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