To all people like me...

06/25/10 | by Charlie [mail] | Categories: The Life, The Mind

If you are having to cook on your own this summer, and A) Can't cook and B) Don't want to spend 3 hours trying to. Check this out now:
http://thestonesoup.com/blog/images/free_stonesoup_ecookbook.pdf

Have a great weekend!

Rain, Cigarettes and Mountains

06/21/10 | by Charlie [mail] | Categories: The Life

If you're on facebook, you already know that this is the title of my photo album from last weekend (Go ahead, you can click that link, I'll wait). Anyways, last weekend was a quick trip to Salzburg and Hallstatt. What follows is another one of those travelogue-type posts recanting my adventures.

Salzburg
I left directly from work after the Germany game and caught a train from the East Bahnhof which went directly to Salzburg. It's only a two hour ride, so that was nice. My first impression of Salzburg was a little underwhelming, the train tracks on the way in look like they have been bombed out, and the train station is literally made of plywood. They seem to be in the middle of a 5-year project to build a new train station, which should bring it more inline with German stations.

I stopped in at my Hostel quickly to drop off my stuff and then went out for a night on the town. At the dinner joint, I was amused to be sitting next to a group of Italians who spoke basically no English or German, so the waiter was having fun with them a bit as they tried to order. Eventually the group seemed to understand what one dish was and four fingers sealed the order. The waiter made a beer drinking motion, and another four fingers confirmed his guess. It was an amusing way of ordering, but effective.

The night was rainy, and I wandered through the streets taking pictures for awhile before stumbling upon a path up the hill which offered a nice view over the rooftops of Salzburg. The next morning, I set out early to visit the castle which rests high atop Salzburg, it has some interesting history behind it. In order to kill time, I wandered some more past various Mozart residences which were overpriced, and through a fun market in the old section of town near the Residence.

I ended my voyage through Salzburg in an absolutely beautiful garden (Which you can see in the photos). It was massive. There were literally a half-dozen or so wedding parties wandering around taking pictures, and I couldn't figure out why until I followed them back to the source. It was a city office. I think I remember this from some high-school German class, but in Germany people are married twice, once religiously and once civicly at a city office. This must have been that office (because it wasn't a church) because they were putting people through about one group every 15-20 minutes.

Hallstatt

The trip to Hallstatt was when the excitement really picked up though. After a little 50 minute ride to a transfer station, I boarded a regional train. As soon as we pulled out of the station, I knew this was going to be a treat because there was only one track. After about 5 minutes, our train lurched to a halt and I thought something was wrong until I realized that this was actually a "station". It was literally a farm which happened to have a train track running through it and some gravel.

Eventually we hit some more legitimate stations (I.E. They had huts). What was amazing was that there were actually conductors at all these stations. A couple stations along the way had multiple tracks. At these stations we usually had to wait 2-3 minutes for the train coming the opposite direction to get through. It was fun.

When I finally got to my stop, it was one of those gravel things in the middle of nowhere. I was very confused as to where the town was until I wandered far enough to find a small ferry which took you across the lake to the town. It was so quaint, but it also offered a fantastic view of the whole area. Definitely the best way to get to Hallstatt!

By the time I got there it was late, so I checked into my Gasthaus and had dinner. In the morning, it wasn't raining, so I made a trip to the nearby waterfall which was also very cool. So many of these towns are just wedged in-between two 6,000 foot sheers, it's very cool to see in person, I don't think my photos could do that aspect justice. After my hike to the waterfall, it started raining again. Nevertheless, I wandered the town and took some pics before heading to the next town over for a tour of the caves in the mountains.

Both of the caves rest in a mountain area about 5,000 feet ASL. The cable car ride up requires adamant ear popping as the ascent only takes about 5 minutes. Through a series of very unfortunate events, I was only able to tour the ice cave which was nevertheless awesome. One can easily (and should) spend a whole day on the mountain, but knowing that the last bus home leaves around 5PM. I only rode the car to the first station where the caves are, but there is actually a second segment that take you up another couple thousand feet to one of the peaks where you can find a small town, some fantastic hiking, and an incredible view of the entire region and lake (On a sunny day). A day like mine, and you can only see clouds.

After I got back I grabbed a quick dinner and joined a group of New Zealanders (Kiwis) for the World Cup game. I couldn't tell what language they were speaking for about 10 minutes. (Austrian German can be very hard to understand in the mountains). Turns out it was English. Very muttled English. But we had a great time anyways watching the game. It felt like something straight out of a press photo with the 10 of us at a very small little bar stand on the lake. After the game, I took the ferry back and embarked on my long trip back to Munich.

Debrief
As the title implies, it rained the entire time. Not heavily, just consistently. I'm sure it's even more beautiful when sunny, but it was nevertheless absolutely the most beautiful place ever. I found Hallstatt while randomly browsing the internet, but it was totally worth the time.

The one downside was, I went to a bar to try and watch a world cup game, only to discover that Austria apparently doesn't have a smoking ban indoors. In fact, literally every single person in Austria smokes. When getting off the train, teens would constantly put a cig in their mouth, grab their bag, and wait with almost comical reliability.

This trip only got me even more excited for other such mini-trips. I think two days is the perfect amount of time for me to explore a city. Unless there's something I'm really into, I usually get bored with cities in a couple days (as far as being a tourist goes...). Future destinations are still TBD, but look for more such trips soon!

The Future: Delivered

06/15/10 | by Charlie [mail] | Categories: Web, Technology

This week has been an absolute orgy of revolutionary technology. Between E3 and all the gadgets surrounding that, things might never be the same again (Mainly because of Portal 2). Anyways, today I want to highlight two changes closer to home that will forever change the way you work on the web. How do I know that? Because if you're like every other person in the world, you use Facebook and Youtube.

Let's ease you into the revolutions by starting with facebook. As I just discovered while uploading my photo album from Dachau...in the past month (Or even more recently), Facebook has finally solved one of the cruxes of the entire website: photo uploading. If you try to upload photos now, you should find a new popup message telling you about the upgrade. What it is, is a small application (At least for windows) which you can install on your computer and acts as a proxy for the photo uploader.

Put simply, you can upload photos in the background of facebook. YA RLY. Go try it. Create a new album and the new window will pop up where you can upload photos. After selecting them, you'll be taken back to the facebook homepage while your photos upload in the bottom right corner. Another minor note on these changes: If Facebook programmers are worth their wages, your uploads should be faster since resizing is done client-side (It might have been through Java too) and hopefully your photos will FINALLY auto-rotate. Someone try it and let me know!

Ok but now brace yourself for this one, because it's huge. I was unable to reproduce this on any computer other than my work computer, so it might not work for you...yet. Youtube has re-programmed a bit of their site so that if you search while watching a video, the video will continue to play alongside your search results.

Let the sink in.

Gone are the days of accedential searches where you were actually in the active window and shoot, now you have to rebuffer the whole video. Here are the days of being instantly ready to continue your late-night youtube bing in a single window. Don't believe me? I don't either, so here is a screen shot showing the new layout. I searched for something while watching a video, and that was all.

PROOF

Well that's the big news early on in the week. Go check out E3 news on a tech site if you want to see some cool video game motion-tracking (Xbox) or incredible games (Portal 2) throughout the week more is sure to come!

Peeves/Rants

06/13/10 | by Charlie [mail] | Categories: The Mind

People with SLR cameras
There are sort of two categories in this topic:
1) People who have an SLR because they think it's a "Better camera"
2) People who have more expensive cameras than me, but don't really know how to use them.

1) Let's address the first point...the DSLR market has expanded dramatically, and perhaps that's just something I have to get used to. I believe entry level DSLRs are around $400 these days, which isn't a ton more than the $300 a high end point-and-shoot costs. It irks me though, everytime I see tourists walking around with a Canon T2i ($800) and taking pictures of the sights.

Perhaps the most egregious errors I spotted were in the many churches I visited. People were constantly trying to take pictures with the pop-up flash. *Face palm*. This is a dead give away that people have no idea what they are doing. Because every single church I was in could be photographed without the use of a flash, but one would have to know what shutter speed, aperture, and ISO are to be able to do it, because the auto-mode will generally not let you push the ISO past 800.

Really, a pop-up flash is almost always useless unless you are using it to illuminate people directly in front of the camera. Almost any other situation would produce a weird fall-off line. To the point: People with DSLRs should learn what their camera can do, and how to do it. It's like using a gun, you should have to have a permit. Otherwise, "Point-and-Shoot" cameras are called that for a reason. They are optimized to take pictures without knowledge of technical settings.

2) On a related note, there is a second group of people who I see running around with Canon 5D Mark II's. First off, I can't help but drool a little bit everytime I see one. They are very nice cameras, although they cost twice as much as mine did (Which was a lot I think!).

That being said, like part 1), the differences between those cameras and the mid-range cameras is very small, and really only tangible to good photographers. I basically figure that if you don't do wedding or portrait photography, you shouldn't have one.

Yet there are people who seem to think that this expensive camera will kick out magic. I asked someone with one to take my picture by the arc-de-triumph, and this is what I got...it's not terrible, but:

FML.

People who ride one stop on the bus
I unfortunately have to take the absolute most pointless bus in the world to work every day. It runs every 40 minutes, all day. Yet the entire bus route is < 10 minutes long. To add insult to injury, 80% of the people who ride the bus on the entire line get off at my stop. So I take very careful note of people's riding habits.

Anyways, the other day, someone waiting at a stop (Which was not mine or the train station) decided to get on the bus. "Woah!" I thought to myself, as it's rare that people ever get on the bus outside of the two aforementioned stops. Then she proceeded to get off the bus on the next stop...

Why? I'll never know.

Can Openers
Back in my day, we had can openers...you know, the ones you put on a can and took the top off with and then your mom always told you to be careful with the top because you'd cut yourself.

Skip forward a few years, and find me in my apartment having to lookup a youtube video on how to use an Ikea can-opener. Yeah, laugh all you want, but it was really hard. Apparently, these new contraptions no longer open the can, but rather decapitate it. I've seen something like this once in a movie before, but boy does the future sneak up on you fast.

I guess sometime between the time I ate a can of Spaghetti O's everyday after class and the time I actually needed to feed myself for dinner, I got left behind technologically...god I miss Spaghetti O's...with meatballs.

-------------------------

Well glad I got all that out. Time to go enjoy my luxury dinner of Brats and canned beans...ugh, it looks like someone messed with the hue slider in photoshop on my "green" beans...needless to say I will be buying frozen vegetables from now on.

Fan Mail

06/10/10 | by Charlie [mail] | Categories: Web

I thought I'd try something different for this post and share some of the fan mail I get with you...the loyal viewers who send it.

From Maureen:

My mate referred me here, thank god he did. You have some really interesting topics just like The-very-best-of-Art-Garfunkel---Across-America-(LIVE).html Thanks!

Thanks Maureen. I've never been compared to Garfunkel before, although I did see him at a tea last year, so I'm honored by your praise. Keep reading!

From betting football:

@chels I know what you mean, its hard to find good help these days. People now days just don't have the work ethic they used to have. I mean consider whoever wrote this post, they must have been working hard to write that good and it took a good bit of their time I am sure. I work with people who couldn't write like this if they tried, and getting them to try is hard enough as it is.

Yes, I do put a lot of effort into my posts. I'm glad you bring up the topic of betting on football (I assume you mean fußball)...because my bracket for the world cup is due tomorrow, and I'd love to hear suggestions for picks!

From Windows 7 Freezes:

Hey, I attempted to email you about this post that i have some inquires, but can't seem to achieve you. Please email me when have a minute. Thanks.

Well Windows 7, first I am amused that your parents are such microsoft fanboys. I think windows 7 is great too, but I'm not sure about naming my children after it. And don't worry about not being able to "achieve" me...a lot of girls have that problem too.

From Patty:

Sounds fun...with all that talking, any sleeping on the overnight train? Look forward to hearing about the new digs!

Well Patty, thanks for submitting the most topical comment of this round. I did find the overnight train extremely difficult to sleep on. But as I mentioned, it was an experience definitely worth having.

From seks randki:

Just want to tell you that your www content is interesting, but you must improve site graphics

Thanks for the feedback seks. I'm not sure if the crawler you're using can tell or not. But I'm actually quite proud of the header graphics. Everytime you load the page, they change. But you're right, I should put up some new ones. I'll work on pulling images from my archive sometime.

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Thanks to those of you who posted the same comment multiple times, just to make sure I got it. Sorry I don't read the comments very often, but once is enough. I'll get around to reading them eventually. That's it for today! Sorry if your comment didn't make it...only those with semi-grammatical English were selected. Be sure to keep the comments coming. Remember, I always visit and repost the links you guys attach to the comments, so be sure to send interesting ones!

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A collection of musings from my time at Yale along with some thoughts about my "Freshman year of life" in San Francisco.

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